If you do not know J.C. Ryle, he was the slightly older contemporary of Spurgeon. In fact Spurgeon referred to him as “an Evangelical champion. One of the bravest and best of men.” Though Spurgeon was an outspoken critic of the Church of England – he recognized Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool – as a true comrade in arms in the Gospel.
Of all the things I appreciate about Ryle, and they are myriad, 2 stand out: His clarity in preaching, and his emphasis upon the nature of the Christian’s life as warfare against sin. That motif never leaves his vision. Sadly, that frame of mind is all but lost in our generation. I do pray that the Lord would see fit to recover it among us. How we need it to steer off the present American Christian zeitgeist of Christ died to give us comfortable, upper-middle-class lives, free of difficulty.
One of the many volumes to come from Ryle’s pen is his collection of “Hymns for the Church on Earth.” He didn’t write them, he collected them. And one I find particularly sweet is the following. He lists the author merely as “C.M.”
A SOLDIER’S march, from battles won
To new-commencing strife,
A pilgrim’s, restless as the sun:
Such is the Christian life.
2—The hosts of Satan yearn for spoil:
How can our warfare close?
Lonely we tread a foreign soil:
When look we for repose?
3—O let us seek the heavenly home,
Revealed in sacred lore,—
The land whence pilgrims never roam,
Where soldiers fight no more:
4—Where grief and death are sounds unknown,
Where darkness hath no sway,
But from Jehovah’s awful throne
Beams ever-living day:
5—Where friends who meet shall never part,
Where grace achieves its plan,
And God, uniting every heart,
Dwells face to face with man.
J. C. Ryle, Hymns for the Church on Earth (London: William Hunt and Company, 1876), 13–14.