J.C. Ryle’s Death
From Evangelical Bishop by Peter Toon and Michael Smout:
Ryle had chosen Lowestoft [England] as the scene of his retirement, along with his daughter, Jessie Isabella. He had learned to love the seaside town during his time in Suffolk and so it was appropriate that he should name his new home, ‘Helmingham House.’ The Ryles were due to arrive in Lowestoft on March 6th, 1900, but it was the middle of the month before they arrived, further illness having delayed them. The house was pleasant and overlooked the North Sea, but Ryle was in no condition to appreciate the view. He slept badly and had little energy to talk. The end came suddenly. It was June 9th, a Saturday evening, when the doctor was called. He found Ryle partly unconscious. His sons were sent telegrams asking them to come immediately but only Herbert, not far away in Cambridge, came in time. At 2:15 p.m. on the Sunday afternoon, the Lord’s Day, John Charles Ryle went to be with that same Lord.
J.C. Ryle’s Funeral
On Wednesday morning a small crowd gathered at Lowestoft station to pay its last respects. The huge oak-paneled coffin was put in a special funeral car attached to the 7:57 a.m. train for Liverpool. Arriving in Liverpool the coffin containing the old Bible from which he had preached was taken to All Saint’s Church, Childwall. As yet there were no crowds; only the Vicar and Bishop Royston were there to receive it. The ivy-clad church stood on the slope of a hill looking out south over the Mersey [river] and into Cheshire. The Bishop had known it well for he had visited the grave of his wife there each week since she had died [in 1889].
The morning of the day of the funeral began grey and drizzly but by the afternoon the weather had brightened up and people in their thousands came out from the center of Liverpool in the special trains. The service was quite simple. Archdeacon Taylor read the first lesson from Psalm 90. ‘Rock of Ages’, Ryle’s favorite hymn, was sung. The second lesson was from I Corinthians 15 read by Archdeacon Madden. It had been planned to end the service by the graveside but the rain came on. Therefore after the service in church only the words of committal, said by Bishop Royston, and the benediction, given by Bishop Chavasse, were said by the graveside. The body of J. C. Ryle, with Bible clasped in his hands, at last lay next to that of his third wife.
J.C. Ryle’s Gravestone
On the gravestone were engraved two texts. The first was a reminder of the conversion which set him off on the Christian pilgrimage; Ephesians 2:8, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith.’ The second testified that he had now finished that earthly pilgrimage; II Timothy 4:7, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.’ In a memorial sermon Canon Hobson declared that ‘few men in the nineteenth century did so much for God, for truth and for righteousness among the English speaking race, and in the world, as our late Bishop.’ More simply, his successor, Bishop Chavasse, described him as a man ‘who lived so as to be missed.’
(see original article for photos.) The gravestone on the left (below) marks the grave of Bishop Ryle. The stone on the right (below) marks the grave of his third wife Henrietta (Clowes) Ryle. His first marriage was to Matilda C. L. Plumptre on Oct. 25, 1845. Matilda died in June 1847. On Feb. 21, 1850, Ryle married his second wife Jessie Elizabeth Walker. Jessie died in May 1860 from Bright’s disease. In Oct. 1861, Ryle was married to Henrietta, who died in 1889.
J.C. Ryle’s Legacy
From Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle, p. 13, 14:
Three days after Ryle’s burial, Richard Hobson, a senior clergyman who had been at the Liverpool diocese from its foundation in 1880, declared:
“He [J.C. Ryle] was great through the abounding grace of God. He was great in stature; great in mental power; great in spirituality; great as a preacher and expositor of God’s most holy Word; great in hospitality; great as a writer of Gospel tracts; great as a Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Protestant Church in England, of which he was a noble defender; great as first Bishop of Liverpool. I am bold to say, that perhaps few men in the nineteenth century did as much for God, for truth, and for righteousness, among the English speaking race, and in the world, as our late Bishop.”