On this day in 1753, John Ryland, Baptist pastor, educator and mission enthusiast, was born in Warwick, England. His father was John Collett Ryland, the local Baptist pastor and a man described as ‘burly and explosively Calvinistic’. A brilliant child, Ryland taught himself to read Psalm 23 in Hebrew by the age of five and learned all the classics. By the age of fifteen, he was teaching in his father’s school. By the age of twenty-eight, he was the co-pastor of his dad’s church and four years later, he took control of the entire ministry. He would later take a the pastorate at a church and college on Bristol.
In 1783, Ryland baptized a man named William Carey. These two men, who would become great friends, would have a profound impact on each others’ lives. Ryland strongly encouraged Carey in his missionary dream and the two spent hours discussing the need to form a society for the Baptist churches to send out missionaries. But soon, their talking and planning became a reality. Together with pastors John Sutcliff and Andrew Fuller, Ryland formed the Baptist Missionary Society. William Carey was their first missionary commisioned and sent out.
Soon after the BMS was founded, Ryland took a major role in promoting it among the baptist churches of England. Many of them were bound by the hyper-Calvinism that killed evangelism and felt that missionaries were not needed. Many felt the same was that Ryland’s own father felt when he first heard Carey: “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.” But Ryland was able to help many of the churches realize the error in this idea and soon many of the Churches began to get behind the work being done by the Baptist Missionary Society.
Why did men like Ryland work so hard to get the churches behind the mission movement? Because they realized that unless the churches got involved, it would fall apart. If a simple man carried on a vision, it dies when he dies. Carey, Ryland, and the other lived in fear of this. In fact, Carey wrote a letter that said:
I fear dear Bro. Pearce is dead. You, Bro. Ryland, and a few of the most active to provide funds for the Mission may soon die; and the work may fall through for want of active persons who will feel interested in it as you do.
The Publick mind may tire soon, especially if success is much longer delayed. In that case the Mission must be broken up for want of funds to support it and then all that is done will be lost…
I have written so much about our temporal concerns in all our Letters, because I fear some of them (may) miscarry and also because I much wish to see this Mission settle on a permanent foundation.
Ryland gave his life to see that permanent foundation established!
Larsen, T., Bebbington, D. W., & Noll, M. A. (2003). Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (571–572). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
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