Oct 17, 2008

More info on J. C. Ryland


"If someone told me of a pastor who went to a church of 30 members and in the course of his ministry at that church over twenty-five years it took in 320 members, and further, if my informant told me that that pastor supported one of the greatest evangelists of the century in his open-air preaching in the town on a number of occasions, how would I describe such a man? The epithet Hyper-Calvinist would not be at all appropriate, would it?

Yet, this man—and I am blogging about John Collett Ryland (d.1792)—has been frequently so described because of a withering rebuke he once gave to William Carey (1761-1834) and his idea of cross-cultural missions. I am more and more convinced that Ryland was not a Hyper-Calvinist. He was converted in a revival under the evangelical Calvinistic ministry of Benjamin Beddome (1717-1795) and went to the strongly evangelical Calvinistic school of the Bristol Baptist Academy, where he was taught by Bernard Foskett (1685-1758) and Hugh Evans (1712-1781)—who was a forebear of H.C.G. Moule—neither of whom were Hyper in their Calvinism. And he delighted in the preaching of George Whitefield (1714-1770), who preached in his town of Northampton, England.

What myths have been perpetrated in the teaching of Baptist history!

What then of his rebuke of the young Carey? The heart of that rebuke had to do with eschatological timing: Ryland had adopted the end-times thinking of John Gill (1697-1771), where the gospel could not be taken unhindered to the nations till the two witnesses of Revelation 11 were slain, which would not happen till well into the nineteenth century! Wrong thinking, yes. But not the Hyper-Calvinist bogeyman of far too many treatments of Baptist history."


A commenter left this comment

"Indeed, there are many myths in Baptist history, but the existense of hyper-Calvinism is not one of them. Moreover, let us be sure to separate John Collett Ryland (1723-1792) from his son, John Ryland (1753-1825).
John Collett Ryland, the father, indeed was at Bristol, but he was also ordained by no less a hyper-Calvinist than John Brine. Moreover, he has been described as a “burly and explosive” Calvinist “who was suspicious of any suggestion of Arminianism.”

Moreover, John Ryland, the son, notably moved away from the hyper-Calvinism that he was taught in order to help establish the Baptist Missionary Society. Who taught him such hyper-Calvinism, if it was not his father? After all, they were co-pastors in Northampton from 1781-1786. And it apparently was not until his father left the pastorate that Ryland could help build the evangelical Calvinism wherein he found Andrew Fuller and Robert Hall Sr. and William Carey compatriots.

Hyper-Calvinism in Baptist life was no bogeyman. The question is, “Is it still kicking?” (Malcolm Yarnell)


1 comment:

Ian D. Elsasser said...


I wrote to Michael Haykin, who is a friend, and ask him about sources for his assessment that Ryland's comment to Carey was driven from an eschatological outlook. He says the documentation is found on pages 193-196 and respective footnotes in his book, One Heart and One Soul: John Sutcliff of Olney, his friends and his times. I have seen the book but do not have a copy. It is published and sold by Evangelical Press and is also available through Christian Book Distributors.

I appreciate the discussion since Ryland's comment is oft quoted. It is important to ascertain context in order to understand what he was saying and why he was saying it.