Anyone reading through lists of second-hand Christian books will soon come across the name of the author ‘S(amuel) Ridout’. He and Frederick Grant were, in their day, the leading Bible scholars associated with the Exclusive Brethren in the USA and Canada. They were contemporary with the leading British equivalent brethren, such as J. N. Darby and W. Kelly. As we shall see below, Ridout’s extensive publications are readily available today, either online or as hardcopy and are generally well worth reading.
Samuel Ridout was born in 1855 into a Presbyterian family in Annapolis, an Atlantic port in Maryland, USA. He was the son of Dr Samuel Ridout and his wife, Anne. Sadly, when Samuel junior was about one year old his father died, and then, about four years later, his mother also. His grandfather, a godly man, then became responsible for young Samuel and certainly brought him up ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord’, Eph. 6. 4. His childhood was spent in Annapolis until about the age of twelve, when Samuel was sent to Tennant’s School, a Presbyterian boarding school in Pennsylvania. Then, he returned to Annapolis to attend St. John’s College, and he finished his secondary education there when he was eighteen years old.
About this time, his state of health gave cause for concern and, perhaps surprising to us, it was arranged for him to go to sea! He finished his naval career at about twenty-two years of age, having sailed as far as the Mediterranean. Importantly, it was during his three years at sea that Samuel began to show a deeper interest in spiritual things, seeking Christian fellowship whenever possible and attending Christian gatherings at his various ports of call.
Then, for a short time, he taught in the coal mining districts of Western Maryland. Here, working among many poor and comparatively illiterate people, and often having to teach ‘rough and ready’ people of his own age - but far from his refined background -he learned patience and determination to get things over to all kinds of people.
Encouraged by his grandfather, he then attended the Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey (now part of the prestigious Princeton University), which had been established in 1812 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, making it the second oldest theological seminary in the USA. Samuel graduated in 1880 and, shortly afterwards, was ordained into the Presbyterian ministry and he subsequently took up a pastorate for a year or so.
It was about this time that Samuel became aware of what we understand as ‘assembly truth’. This led to much exercise as to the path he should take. He eventually separated from the Presbyterian Church to enter upon what he now firmly believed was the scriptural path for God’s people. He identified himself with the Exclusive assembly then meeting in Baltimore, and took his place in a lowly, humble manner.
To finance his daily needs, he took a job as a railway clerk, and he also tutored in his spare time. However, he became ‘full-time’ for the last forty years of his life. In 1883, he married Anna Elizabeth Newark and continued living in Baltimore, where their three children were born. In 1903, they moved to Boyertown, Pennsylvania, and stayed there until 1912, then finally, the family moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, and lived there until his death in 1930.
Ridout began writing in Baltimore, first for magazines, but he is most well-known for his many books that followed.
Many of the dozen or so books by Ridout are still available:
Some of these can be bought new as reprints or second hand in Bible bookshops. Otherwise, they can be read online at Stem Publishing.1
A typical quotation from his book, How to Study the Bible, is helpful: ‘We know God through His word, not merely intellectually, but as born, cleansed and nourished by that word. We know Christ thus, also; and thus, in a special and real way, the written word is the mind of the living, the Divine Word … we press forward to see our Lord on high, may we also seek Him in His word, forgetting our past attainments which are behind, reaching forth to those that are before, and pressing forward ever for the prize which, while it is on high, awaits our reverent, diligent, persistent search in the precious word of God … God’s word is so perfect that we can never grasp all its fulness here, but we shall go on to know Him and the power of His resurrection, yea, and the fellowship of His sufferings too, in that measure in which His word fills mind and heart and possesses and controls our lives’.2
We could do no better in ending our brief look at Samuel Ridout’s life than to quote the last words of his will: ‘Lastly, I gratefully declare my personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, my beloved Saviour, whose I am for time and eternity; to whose infinite grace alone I owe my all. I most affectionately press upon my beloved children to make the Lord their chief Object, to live in love and peace, and to serve Him’.
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