Published on May 20, 2019 by Joshua R Monroe

Evangelical Press, 2015 | 736 pages

A Book Review from Books At a Glance

By Bennett W. Rogers


C. Ryle (1816-1900) was born and raised in a wealthy but unspiritual home. He distinguished himself academically and athletically at Eton and Oxford. He experienced an evangelical conversion in his final year at university, the account of which has achieved a semi-legendary status among evangelicals – a testimony to the power of the public reading of Scripture. Shortly thereafter, his father’s bankruptcy ruined the family, ended his political career before it started, and forced him into the ministry of the Church of England. Although he initially became a clergyman because he felt “shut up to it,” Ryle quickly gained a reputation for being a powerful preacher, diligent pastor, popular author, and effective controversialist. He rose through the evangelical ranks to become the undisputed leader and party spokesman—the first to hold that distinction since Charles Simeon (1759–1836). He became the first Bishop of Liverpool in 1880 at an age (64) when many clergymen contemplate retirement and served as the chief pastor of the second city of the British Empire until his death in 1900. Ryle’s literary reputation rests chiefly on three works: his evangelical tracts, his spiritual classic, Holiness, and his 7-volume commentary on the Gospels, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. It is from this last series that Evangelical Press’s new collection of Daily Readings is drawn.

The editor, Robert Sheehan, has selected two reading for each day of the year – one for the morning and one for the evening. Every evening reading throughout the year is taken from Ryle’s 3-volume commentary on the Gospel of John. The morning readings are drawn from the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Since the first three gospels follow a similar outline, there is some repetition in Ryle’s commentaries. In order to avoid this in Daily Readings, the editor has wisely chosen to follow the chronological framework set out in Loraine Boettner’s, A Harmony of the Gospels, and edit Ryle’s work where necessary. So, on January first the first morning reading and commentary come from Luke 1:5-7, and the first evening reading comes from John 1:1-5.

The editor has also made two new additions that were not originally part of Ryle’s commentaries. The first are additional readings, which emphasize one of the key themes in Ryle’s expositions. The other is a closing meditation, which seeks to draw the reader’s attention to a particular point of application or meditation. For example, on May 8th, after finishing the evening reading (John 10:11-18), Sheehan encourages the reader to read Psalm 23, which ties in nicely to the theme of Christ as “the Good Shepherd.” And his closing meditation focuses on the sheep’s confidence in their shepherd.

At the close of the work, the editor offers a series of helpful suggestions on how to best use these daily readings. First, he encourages the readers to seek God’s aid in prayer. Second, he urges readers to resist the temptation to skip the Bible reading and read Ryle’s comments alone. Third, he challenges readers to read with the conscious aim of applying what is read to one’s own life. Fourth, he warns readers of the danger of a superficial skimming to quiet the conscience. And finally, he exhorts readers to endeavor to memorize some of the Scriptures that they read. Though these suggestions belong in the front of the book, instead of the back, they are well worth heeding no matter where they are placed.

I warmly recommend Daily Readings. Expository Thoughts are J. C. Ryle at his pastoral best. His writing is as clear as it is simple. His teaching is theologically robust, warmly evangelical, Christ-centered, and gospel-focused. His applications are always relevant to the text and challenging to the reader. Expository Thoughts was originally written to be used in the context of family worship and private devotional study, and Sheehan’s Daily Readings will help a new generation profit from this time-honored devotional classic in the setting Ryle intended.

I also like the new format and additions to Daily Readings. I have tried using Expository Thoughts in family worship and found the readings a bit too long for the younger members of my family. Daily Readings is far more manageable than Expository Thoughts in this respect. Sheehan’s “extras” – the extra reading and thought for meditation – are welcomed editions as well. They are well-chosen and thought provoking.

I strongly commend Sheehan’s “suggestions” for using this work profitably. It’s so easy and so tempting to skim devotional reading in order to check a spiritual box off of a busy to-do list. But such reading rarely informs the mind, warms the affections, or strengthens the will’s resolve. However, when God’s word is prayerfully read and thoughtfully explained and applied by a spiritual guide of Ryle’s caliber, real communion with God can take place.

In short, Daily Readings from All Four Gospels: For Morning and Evening by J. C. Ryle is an outstanding new offering from Sheehan and EP Books.

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Daily Readings from All Four Gospels: For Morning and Evening

Evangelical Press, 2015 | 736 pages

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