Thoughts for Young Men


John Charles Ryle

62 pages

First Published in 1886
Charles Nolan (2002)

Recommend: Yes

Genre: Christian Living/Men


J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) was the first Bishop of Liverpool (Anglican Church). This book is a short yet passionate plea of a man in the latter years of life who was no doubt qualified to address young men. Page after page one finds that this booklet is full of truths that are no less relevant today than as when they were written more than a hundred years ago.

Book Structure:

The books is divided into four sections with a conclusion. In section one, Ryle begins with reasons for his exhorting young men. In section two, he then focuses on five specific dangers which young men to be warned of (e.g. pride, the love of pleasure, the fear of man’s opinions, etc.). In section three, he outlines some general suggestions which he entreats young men to receive and then in section four he lays down some practical specific “rules of conduct” which he strongly advises young men to follow. Ryle then concludes with the results of heeding such exhortations as he has laid out.

Notable Quotes:

  • “Youth is the seedtime of full age—the mouldering season in the little space of human life—the turning point in the history of man’s life. By the shoot we judge the tree—by the blossoms we judge the fruit—by the the spring we judge the harvest—by the morning we judge the day—and by the character of the young man, we may generally judge what he will be when he grows up” (p.11).
  • “It is terrible to observe the power which it has over most minds, and especially over the minds of the young. Few seem to have any opinions of their own, or to think for themselves. Like dead fish, they go with the stream and tide: what others think right, they think right; and what call wrong, they call wrong too . . . . They dread the idea of going against the current of the times. In a word, the opinion of the day becomes their religion, their creed, their Bible, and their God” (pp.29,30).
  • “Of ourselves we are all poor, empty creatures—empty of righteousness and peace—empty of strength and comfort—empty of courage and patience—empty of power to stand, or go on, or make progress in this evil world. It is in Christ alone that all these things are to be found—grace, peace, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It is just in proportion as we live upon Him, that we are strong Christians. It is only when self is nothing and Christ is all our confidence, it is then only that we shall do great exploits” (p.35).
  • “Think for a moment what you were sent into the world for. Not merely to eat and drink, and indulge the desires of the flesh—not merely to dress out your body, and follow its lusts whithersoever they may lead you—not merely to work, and sleep, and laugh, and talk, and enjoy yourselves, and think nothing but time. No! you were meant for something higher and better than this. You were placed here to train for eternity. Your body was only intended to be a house for your immortal spirit. It is flying in th face of God’s purposes to do as many do—to make the soul a servant to the body, and not the body a servant to the soul” (p.37).
  • “A hasty glance at the Bible now and then does little good. At that rate you will never become familiar with its treasures, or feel the sword of the Spirit fitted to your hand in the hour of conflict. But get your mind stored with Scripture, by diligent reading, and you will soon discover its value and power. Texts will rise up in your hearts in the moment of temptation. Commands will suggest themselves in seasons of doubt. Promises will come across your thoughts in the time of discouragement. And thus you will experience the truth of David’s words, ‘Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee’ (Ps. 119:11) . . .” (p.42).
  • “Nothing darken the eyes of the mind so much, and deadens the conscience so surely, as an allowed sin. It may be a little one, but it is not the less dangerous for all that. A small leak will sink a great ship, and a small spark will kindle a great fire, and a little allowed sin in like manner will ruin an immortal soul. Take my advice, and never spare a little sin” (p.46).
  • “Godliness has indeed the promise of this life, as well as of that to come. There is a solid peace in feeling that God is your friend. There is a real satisfaction in knowing that however great your unworthiness, you are complete in Christ—that you have an enduring portion—that you have chosen that good part which shall not be taken from you . . . . Young men, these things are true. Suffer the word of exhortation. Be persuaded. Take up the cross. Follow Christ. Yield yourselves unto God” (p.62).


I read this book on a bus ride to the mall . . . and I’m so grateful that I did. In the preface to the book, J.C. Ryle wrote this:

“I am growing old myself, but there are few things I remember so well as the days of my youth. I have a most distinct recollection of the joys and the sorrows, the hopes and the fears, the temptations and the difficulties, the mistaken judgments and the misplaced affections, the errors and the aspirations, which surround and accompany a young man’s life. If I can only say something to keep some young man in the right way, and preserve him from faults and sins, which may mar his prospects both for time and eternity, I shall be very thankful” (p.5).

Well J.C., you did your job with me—thanks. While I know men such as him are not popular nowadays, I cannot do justice to my own conscience if I do not say that his exhortations are more practical and timely than many of today’s most popular authors.