Review of "How Do You Read the Bible" by J.C. Ryle

·  Date Reviewed: Jul 2023

·  Book Reviewed: “How Do You Read the Bible” by J. C. Ryle

·  Number of Pages:  55


If you’ve never read anything written by J.C. Ryle, this short book is a delightful way to get your feet wet. I’ve read a number of J.C. Ryle’s books over the years and every time I pick up another one of his, I have yet to be disappointed.  He always has such a straight-forward, clear, and well-rounded way of explaining things so that you stand to gain much by way of exploring his discourses.   With regards to this particular book, here is a short overview of what you can expect:

“According to J.C. Ryle, next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading.  God in His mercy has given us a book ‘which is able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 3:15).  By reading the Bible we may learn what to believe, what to be, and what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace. Can anything, therefore, be more important than being in possession of a Bible?  However, to have a Bible is one thing, to read it is quite another. Happy is the one who not only has a Bible but who reads it, obeys it, and makes it the rule of one’s faith and practice!  In this little book, Ryle clearly explains why we ought to value the Bible highly, to study it regularly, and to make ourselves thoroughly acquainted with its contents.”

As Christians, we never outgrow our need for the simple basic truths that undergird our faith…things we may take for granted or maybe things we’ve made into a duty but one lacking joy or things we do out of habit but without revisiting our reasons for doing it or perhaps things that we truly love but need reminding of the reasons why we know it’s so important.  Reading the Bible, studying the Bible, meditating on the Bible, learning from the Bible, applying the Bible, growing from the Bible…this is something many of us do regularly, as we rightly should, but it can be helpful to consider again the many ways in which a person might consider what great duty and importance it is to read their Bible. The primary reasons Ryle presents include these (which he addresses in detail):

-         No book is written in such a manner as the Bible;

-         That knowledge of the Bible is absolutely necessary to salvation;

-         That no book contains such matter;

-         That no book has done so much for the world generally;

-         That no book can do so much for everyone who reads it aright;

-         That this book is the only rule of faith and practice;

-         That it is, and always has been, the food of all true servants of God;

-         And that it is the only book which can comfort men when they die.

He always ends each of these sections with several similar questions such as these: “Give me an honest answer to my question. What are you doing with the Bible? Do you read it? HOW DO YOU READ IT?”  These are excellent questions to consider for each of us.  It’s also helpful that Ryles pends a little time addressing “every class of readers” such as those who can read, but never do read the Bible at all, those who are willing to begin reading the Bible, but need advice on the subject, those who love and believe the Bible, yet read it but little, and those who read the Bible much, but fancies they are no better for their reading, as well as those who really love the Bible, live upon the Bible, and read it much. His helpful guidance is made relevant for anyone and everyone and I found this section to be both enlightening and helpful.  However, my favorite section of the book was the one explaining how the Bible is the only book which can comfort a man in the last hours of his life.  It’s a subject I feel as if the saints of old were well-acquainted with and understood how to guide and comfort one another and a subject they have done well to pass on to us to learn from, since subject matter in our day and age tends to be somewhat lacking.  Here are two excerpts from that section:

-         “I do not say whether it is probable that he who has been unbelieving and neglectful of the Bible in life, will at once believe and get comfort from it in death.  But I do say, positively, that no dying man will ever get real comfort, except from the contents of the word of God.”

-          “Other mistakes may be corrected or retrieved, but not a mistake on our deathbeds.  As the tree falls, there it must lie!  No conversion in the coffin!  No new birth after we have ceased to breathe!  And death is before us all.”

If you are one who does not enjoy large, heavy books full of deep doctrine but benefits exceedingly from small yet powerful books that equally drive us to the foot of the cross, then this would be an excellent book for you to consider reading!  If you are an avid reader of all sorts of reputable books, long and short, then this book is also for you!  If you are a mature Christian who also recognizes the importance of foundational truths, if you area new believer who is eager to learn more about how to practically live out your faith, or if you are somewhere in between, then, by all means, check this book out!  If you are looking for a simple but hard-hitting book to give to someone who is considering Christianity or even an unbeliever who is open to engaging with you on the subject, this might be a helpful book to have a copy of to give away.  In any case, this book is worth the 3-4 days it takes to read (well, that’s about how long it took me to read it, though I’m sure others could accomplish it much faster!) and I commend it to you for your consideration!

Some other great books by J.C. Ryle include Thoughts for Young Men, A Call to Prayer, Happiness, Children’s Stories, and Ancient Paths: Negotiating Life Wisely.  In addition, those who finish this book and would like to learn more on this subject, may I also recommend the excellent Profiting from the Word by A.W. Pink.  

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