John Ryland D.D. was born Jan. 29, 1753, at Warwick, England, where his father, the able and scholarly John Collett Ryland, was pastor of the Baptist church.
The study of Hebrew was his father’s ruling passion as a teacher, and Mr Ryland was not a little elated at his child’s early proficiency in the language, for when only five years old he was able to read and translate the twenty third psalm to the celebrated Hervey, with whom his father was intimately acquainted.
When he was about fourteen years old his religious impressions became fixed, and he was baptized by his father on Sept. 13, 1767. He was recommended to preach by vote of the church at Northampton, to which his father had removed from Warwick, when he was about eighteen years of age, and was fully engaged in the villages around for several years. During this time he assisted his father in his private school, which had stood high under Mr Ryland’s management.
In 1781 the church invited him to become co-pastor with his father, and five years later sole pastor, Mr. Ryland, Sr., having removed to the neighbourhood of London. His labours at Northampton were greatly blessed.
He took a deep interest and a leading part in the formation of the Missionary Society, and at the close of his life he became its secretary. In April 1792, he received a unanimous invitation to the two offices of pastor of the Broadmead church, Bristol, and president of the Baptist college in that city. After prolonged consideration he at length decided to accept the call, and entered upon his duties at Bristol at the beginning of 1794. For upwards of thirty years he was the most eminent Baptist minister in the west of England, and was greatly esteemed by men of all ranks and denominations. The college flourished under his presidency, and for a long time he exercised by common consent a kind of Episcopal supervision over a large number of churches.
His correspondence was extensive. An ardent Liberal in political and ecclesiastical principles, he felt a lively interest in American matters, and had frequent communications with American correspondents respecting them, and also concerning missionary work. He wrote and published a considerable number of special discourses and tractates on important subjects, and also several hymns now in general use in public worship.
John Foster says of him, that as a preacher “he excelled very many deservedly esteemed preachers in variety of topics and ideas. To the end of his life he was a great reader, and very far from being confined to one order of subjects, and he would freely avail himself of these resources for diversifying and illustrating the subjects of his sermons. The readers of the printed sketches of his sermons, who never heard him, can have no adequate idea of the spirit, force, and compulsion on the hearer’s attention with which the sermons were delivered”.
He died at Bristol on May 25, 1825, in his seventy-third year. The funeral sermon, preached by Robert Hall, is well known as one of the choicest specimens of pulpit eloquence in our literature.
Source: William Cathcart’s “The Baptist Encyclopedia”