The annual lecture of the Evangelical Library is always a special time and our most recent event was no exception. The 2016 lecture was given by Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society. About 30 or so were present. We sang two hymns, one by Bonar and one by M’Cheyne, from a selection compiled by Ryle himself. This year, of course, sees the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of J C Ryle. Lee helpfully took us through the details of Ryle’s life, which for most of the time was spent in small rural parishes but that closed with his sudden elevation to the new see of Liverpool. Lee spoke warmly of his churchmanship and evangelism, his church history writing and his tracts and his illustrious offspring, none of whom, sadly, appears to have shared his faith.
Perhaps the best parts of the paper were where Lee let Ryle speak for himself. He was endlessly writing tracts and his one on what we owe to the Reformation ends stirringly like this:
Work, everyone, both publicly and privately, for the defence of Christ’s truth and the maintenance of Reformation principles. But work together in an organized and systematic way, or else you will do little. Associate, unite, organize, work together, keep together, and much may be done.
Things look black in every direction, I freely admit. But there is no reason to despair. The day is not lost. As Napoleon said on a memorable occasion, “There is yet time to win a battle.” Come what will, let us not desert our position. Let us not please our enemies by spiking our guns and marching out of our fortress with-
out a fight. Rather let us stand to our guns, like Latimer and Ridley, and in God’s strength show a bold front to the foe. The Church of England has done some good in days gone by, and the Church is still worth preserving. If we fall in the struggle, let us fall with face to the foe and colours flying; but, like the gallant sentinel of Pompeii, who would not stir when Vesuvius was in eruption, let no man leave his post. My own mind is fully made up. I say the Church of England had better perish and go to pieces than forsake the principles of the Reformation, and tolerate the Sacrifice of the Mass and Auricular Confession. But whether she is to perish or not depends, under God, on the action of her members.