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Thoughts for Young Men

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J. C. Ryle

John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was the first Bishop of Liverpool. This little book (62 pages) is chock full of seasoned wisdom and truths that are no less relevant today than when they were first written in 1886. I first read this book as a sophomore in college. In small but powerful ways the Lord used it, along with Ryle’s Holiness, to sober me up to life and renew my commitment to walk closely with the Lord.

The book is divided into four sections. In section one, Ryle begins with reasons for his exhorting young men:

“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).

In section two, Ryle focuses on five specific dangers which young men to be warned of (e.g., pride, the love of pleasure, the fear of man, etc.). In section three, he outlines some general suggestions and then in section four he lays down some practical “rules of conduct” for young men to follow. Ryle then concludes with the results for those who heed his exhortations.

A few 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).
  • “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).

Perhaps that’s enough of a taste to whet your appetite for more. If you’re a young man, then take me at my word and pick up this little book. It wouldn’t be surprising if, after reading it, you become all Ryle-ed up and a better man for it.

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