Half the diseases of Christianity
(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel
of Matthew" 1856)
"These are the names of the twelve apostles . . .
and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him." Mt. 10:2-4
We are taught here, that all ministers are not
necessarily saved men. We see our Lord choosing
a Judas Iscariot to be one of His apostles. We
cannot doubt that He who knew all hearts, knew
well the characters of the men whom He chose.
And He includes in the list of apostles one who
was a traitor!
We shall do well to bear in mind this fact.
Ordination does not confer the saving grace of the
Holy Spirit. Ordained men are not necessarily
converted. We are not to regard them as infallible,
either in doctrine or in practice.
We are not to make popes or idols of them,
and insensibly put them in Christ's place. We
are to regard them as "men of like passions"
with ourselves, liable to the same infirmities,
and daily requiring the same grace.
We are not to think it impossible for them
to do very bad things, or to expect them to
be above the reach of harm from flattery,
covetousness, and the world.
We are to prove their teaching by the word
of God, and follow them so far as they follow
Christ, but no further.
Above all, we ought to pray for them, that they
may be successors not of Judas Iscariot; but of
James and John. It is an dreadful thing to be
a minister of the Gospel!
Ministers need many prayers.
It is plain that the life of a faithful minister of
Christ cannot be one of ease. He must be ready
to spend body and mind, time and strength, in
the work of His calling. Laziness and frivolity are
bad enough in any profession, but worst of all in
that of a watchman for souls.
It is plain, for another thing, that the position
of the ministers of Christ is not that which
ignorant people sometimes ascribe to them,
and which they unhappily sometimes claim for
themselves. They are not so much ordained
to rule as to serve. They are not intended so
much to have dominion over the Church, as
to supply its needs, and serve its members.
Happy would it be for the cause of true religion,
if these things were better understood! Half the
diseases of Christianity have arisen from
mistaken notions about the pastor's office!
Money can hire workers.
Universities can give learning.
Congregations may elect.
Bishops may ordain.
But the Holy Spirit alone can
make ministers of the Gospel.