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RYLAND, JOHN COLLETT (1723–1792), divine, son of Joseph Ryland, a farmer and grazier of Lower Ditchford, Gloucestershire, and grandson of John Ryland, yeoman, of Hinton-on-the-Green, Gloucestershire, was born at Bourton-on-the-Water in the same county on 12 Oct. 1723. His mother, Freelove Collett, of Slaughter, was a collateral descendant of John Colet [q. v.], dean of St. Paul's. Ryland was baptised in 1741 by Benjamin Beddome [q. v.], who, perceiving him to be a lad of promise, sent him about 1744 to Bernard Foskett's academy at Bristol to prepare for the ministry. After undergoing much spiritual conflict he left Bristol in 1750 to be pastor of the baptist church at Warwick, where he had already preached for four or five years. Here he kept school in St. Mary's parsonage-house, rented of the rector, Dr. Tate, who, when remonstrated with on harbouring a dissenter, used to retort that he had brought the man as near the church as he could, though he could not force him into it.

In October 1759 Ryland left Warwick for Northampton, where he lived twenty-six years as minister and schoolmaster, his pupils often numbering as many as ninety. Among them was Samuel Baxter. It is his chief merit to have done more perhaps than any man of his time to promote polite learning among the baptists and orthodox dissenters. Twice his church was enlarged, and in 1781 his son, John Ryland (1753–1825) [q. v.], joined him as co-pastor. On 2 July 1784 he delivered at sunrise over the grave of Dr. Andrew Gifford [q. v.] in Bunhill Fields an ‘Oration,’ which was published, and has been twice reprinted (1834 and 1888). In 1786 Ryland resigned to his son the care of the church, and removed his school to Enfield, where it grew and flourished. Ryland frequently preached in the neighbourhood. He is said to have once addressed from a coach-box, in a seven-storied wig, holiday crowds assembled on the flat banks of the Lea, near Ponder's End. He was massive in person, and his voice in singing was compared to the roaring of the sea. The degree of M.A. was conferred upon him in 1769 by Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A. (founded 1765).

Ryland died at Enfield on 24 July 1792, and was buried at Northampton, his funeral sermon (two editions, 1792) being preached by Dr. John Rippon [q. v.] An elegy by ‘Legatus’ was published (London, 1792, 4to). He was twice married: first, on 23 Dec. 1748, to Elizabeth Frith of Warwick (d. 1779); and secondly to Mrs. Stott, widow of an officer. His sons by his first wife, John [q. v.] (1753–1825) and Herman Witsius [q. v.], are noticed separately. A portrait by John Russell (1745–1806) [q. v.], in full-bottomed wig and bands, engraved by Granger, is prefixed to his ‘Address to the Ingenuous Youth of Great Britain,’ London, 1792, 12mo.

Ryland's passion for book-making once or twice involved him in pecuniary difficulties. Neither printer, publisher, nor engraver could turn out their work half fast enough for him. As his friends James Hervey (1714–1758) [q. v.] and Augustus Toplady told him, he would have done more had he done less. With James Ferguson (1710–1776) [q. v.] he issued ‘An Easy Introduction to Mechanics,’ 1768, 8vo, and ‘A Series of Optical Cards.’ He contributed to the ‘Baptist Register,’ edited by John Rippon, wrote many of the articles for Buck's ‘Theological Dictionary,’ London, 1802, 8vo, and edited Edward Polhill's ‘Christus in Corde,’ Quarles's ‘Emblems,’ Jonathan Edwards's ‘Sermons’ (1780), and Cotton Mather's ‘Student and Preacher’ (1781).

His separate publications (all issued at London unless otherwise stated) were:

  1. ‘Memoir of J. Alleine,’ 8vo, 1766; 2nd ed. 1768.
  2. ‘Life and Actions of Jesus Christ; by Way of Question and Answer, in Verse,’ 1767, 12mo.
  3. ‘Scheme of Infidelity,’ London, 1770, 8vo.
  4. ‘A Contemplation on the Existence and Perfection of God,’ 1774, 8vo.
  5. ‘Contemplation on the Insufficiency of Reason,’ 1775, 8vo.
  6. ‘Contemplation on the Nature and Evidences of Divine Inspiration,’ Northampton, 1776, 8vo. These three, with additions, republished, Northampton, 1779, 8vo, with portrait, as ‘Contemplations on the Beauties of Creation;’ 3rd ed. 3 vols. Northampton, 1780.
  7. ‘The Preceptor or Counsellor of Human Life,’ 1776, 12mo.
  8. ‘A Key to the Greek Testament,’ 1777, 8vo.
  9. ‘Character of James Hervey, with Letters,’ 1790, 8vo.
  10. ‘A Translation of John Owen's Demonstrations of Divine Justice,’ 1790.
  11. ‘A Picture of Popery, prefixed to Luther's Discourses by Capt. Henry Bell;’ 2nd ed. 1791, fol.
  12. ‘A Body of Divinity,’ 1790, 12mo.
  13. ‘Evidences that the Christian Religion is of God;’ 2nd ed. 1798, 12mo.
  14. ‘Select Essays on the Moral Virtue, and on Genius, Science, and Taste,’ 1792.

[Ivimey's Hist. of Engl. Baptists, iv. 609; Sibree's Independency in Warwickshire, p. 128; Bogue and Bennett's Hist. of Diss. ii. 648; Gent. Mag. July 1792, p. 678; Evangel. Mag. October 1800, p. 397; Baptist Ann. Reg. 1790–3, pp. 124, 125, 329; European Mag. August 1792, p. 167; Morris's Biogr. Recoll. of Robert Hall, 1846, pp. 20–1; Newman's Rylandiana, 1835, passim; Cat. Sen. Acad. Univ. Brun. Providence, R. I., p. 47; Chaloner Smith's Brit. Mezz. Portraits, p. 685; Williamson's John Russell, R.A., 1894, pp. 47, 53, 163.]

C. F. S.