Liverpool’s Best Bishop

This week, we studied the life and times of John Ryle, the first and greatest Anglican Bishop of Liverpool. The older he got, the more he was regarded as a dinosaur by the younger clergy, and the more pertinent his warning calls became. He contended against the growth of ritualism in the Church of England, a battle which was clearly lost. Furthermore, he fought against the growing popularity of Biblical criticism, a reading of scripture emanating from an assumption that its words are from men, not God. With the Anglo-Catholics adding to scripture on the one hand and the liberals detracting from it on the other, there’s little wonder he beheld the twentieth century through dark spectacles. And he was right. A declining church and sparsity of gospel preaching characterises are own time. What he saw in seed, we see in fuller bloom. 

In His Warnings to the Churches, he writes:


Many things combine to make the present inroad of false doctrine peculiarly dangerous. There is an undeniable zeal in some of the teachers of error: their ‘earnestness’ (to use an unhappy cant phrase) makes many think they must be right. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge: many fancy that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe guides. There is a general tendency to free thought and free inquiry in these latter days: many like to prove their independence of judgment, by believing novelties. There is a wide-spread desire to appear charitable and liberal-minded: many seem half ashamed of saying that anybody can be in the wrong. There is a quantity of half-truth taught by the modern false teachers: they are incessantly using Scriptural terms and phrases in an unscriptural sense. There is a morbid craving in the public mind for a more sensuous, ceremonial, sensational, showy worship: men are impatient of inward, invisible heartwork. There is a silly readiness in every direction to believe everybody who talks cleverly, lovingly, and earnestly, and a determination to forget that Satan is often ‘transformed into an angel of light.’ (2 Corinthians 2:14) There is a wide-spread ‘gullibility’ among professing Christians: every heretic who tells his story plausibly is sure to be believed, and everybody who doubts him is called a persecutor and a narrow-minded man. All these things are peculiar symptoms of our times. I defy any observing man to deny them. They tend to make the assaults of false doctrine in our day peculiarly dangerous. They make it more than ever needful to cry aloud, ‘Be not carried about.’ 

This could have been written in 2019 rather than 120 years ago. 

You can read the whole book here for free:

My own hand-out is here: 

Image by sue davies from Pixabay