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They may have possessed genius, acuteness, or fancy, of an elerated order; but these, without piety, would have been inert or mischievous. They were mainly animated and impelled in their philanthropic career by superior faith in the divine testimony-love to God and man-realising anticipations of future glory-in short, by those graces of the Spirit which are accessible and indispensable alike to teachers and taught. If, too, we inquire by what hinderances their efficiency was mostly impaired, it will appear that these were not so much intellectual as moral. The glaring transgressions of David and Peter need not to be mentioned appalling violations of universally incumbent duty, by which the wicked, to this day, embolden and excuse themselves in the commission of their wickedness.
To adduce less flagrant examples, no character appears more blameless and amiable in the inspired annals of imperfect men, than that of Daniel. No specific act of iniquity is recorded against him. Yet he participated largely in prevalent calamity. And why? Was it from any defect in his prophetic powers ?-any shortcoming in extraordinary endowments ? His own explanation is, 'Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the cath that is written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.'* The
* Dan. ix. 10, 11.
apostle of the Gentiles laboured abundantly, and with distinguished success. If, in the view of his mighty achievements, one could ask why he did not accomplish still more? the answer would be found in such sayings as these : “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not: for the good that I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.' *
Modern history furnishes similar attestations. Not to speak of such lapses as Cranmer's recantation of Protestantism, or Calvin's alleged participation in the cruel death of Servetus- the irijuriousness of which to the cause of truth is too obvious and notorious to require more than passing mention—we find all the Reformers, in their autobiographical sketches, lamenting their defective piety, and ascribing to this cause their dispiriting repulses and disappointments. I have done somewhat,' says Knox, “but not according to my duty.' 'He acknowledges,' says M. Crie, abridging his MS. letters, that in public ministrations he had been deficient in fervency and fidelity, in impartiality and diligence; and, that his conscience now accused him of not having been sufficiently plain in admonishing offenders.'t Similar citations might be adduced in great numbers, all showing that these great and good men partially failed, not from wanting ability and facilities, but by relaxing application, or resenting injury, or compromising conviction, or in some such way transgressing the common law of Christ. * Rom. vii. 18, etc. † M'Crie's Life of Knox, vol. i. p. 25.
It is one of the saddest tokens of ecclesiastical de clension, when ungodly ministers and elders come to be relished or endured. Even in these cases, it is not so much that piety is wholly and avowedly dispensed with, as that the practical standard of it is reduced and shrivelled. Apostacy veils its favour for these reprobate functionaries, under a professed disapproval of their accusers as acrimonious and uncharitable--all implying that genuine piety is necessary in such office-bearers; that respect is due to them only on the supposition of its being possessed ; and that a disproval of its existence would divest them, even in the estimation of the profligate, of all title to excuse or sufferance. Those elders among us who labour in word and doctrine, would do well to lay solemnly to heart these admonitory considerations. If we be not pious, and if this were known, our ministrations would be abhorred. Suppose a minister, by some infallible criterion, shown to be irreligious, a total stranger to vital godliness, and the prey, as all unrenewed men are, of depraved sentiments and lusts, could such an instructor, amid the certain knowledge of his true character, obtain a hearing or preserve his station? Allow him the finest genius, the most finished oratory, yea, application the most insense, and energy the most indomitable, still, what would all these avail the acknowledged and convicted impostor? Think of the sorrow or scorn which must pervade an assembly, in hearing him elaborately prove what they know him not to believe, and earnestly recommend
what they knew him not to. esteem, and awfully denounce what they knew him not to dislike, and imploringly inculcate what they knew him habitually to neglect! A comedian or buffoon may be applauded; he performs to spectators like himself; he arows his dissimulation, of which the perfection is his praise ; and his admitted aim is simply to amuse. But how sball the man be borne with, who, in practising as thorough mimicry, perverts religion into his mask, and the pulpit into his stage, and the church of Christ into his auditory, arowing all the while simplicity and godly sincerity, citing revelation as his sanction, and God as his witness! Were such a man to appear in his true colours, his exhibition would be detested by all; 'men. would clap their hands at him, and hiss him out of his place.'* The delineation applies with scarcely diminished force to ruling elders. If their piety were disproved, how could their presidency be tolerated, and who could see, without shuddering, a profane hand bear the symbols of Christ's sacrifice to the guests at his table?
Such an exposure can rarely occur. A measure of dubiety is wisely cast over our state and condition, to bound alike our approval and condemnation of fellow-men, either of which might do injury by ex
But though the outward effect is thus modified, the case is not essentially changed. That conduct is not less nefarious for being obscured, which, if it were only developed in its naked and vivid deformity, would elicit such execrations. Though man cannot
* Job xxvii. 23.
discern it, God can; and what are the plaudits of a world worth, while he who made all worlds is beholding and abominating the secret fault? The day, too, is coming, when he shall remove the veil that is upon all faces, when he shall try every man's work of what kind it is, and disclose its hidden elements to an observant universe. Then shall the profane usurpers of sacred office, who, like Satan, transformed themselves into angels of light, stand publicly detectedthe detection more tremendous for having been der ferred, presenting the more guilt and incurring the more anguish and ignominy; and while the Judge of all convicts the holiest pretensions of basest hypocrisy and perfidy, and glorious saints and seraphs contemplate the conviction with indignant loathing, commensurate with their faultless purity, how shall the miserable culprits, who used to court ostentatious, publicity and celebrity, call upon the rocks and roountains to cover them, and feel as if hell itself would be desirable, if its closing mouth would somewhat shelter them from such divine, universal, and overwhelming reprobation !
This is strong language; but God forbid we should seek relief from dreadful realities in gentle designations. Let our comfort be found in Aeeing from the wrath to come,' and 'laying hold on eternal life,' in making personal and habitual application to the blood of sprinkling,' and proving the genuineness of our interest in Christ, by the excellence and amplitude of its fruits,
We are much in danger of taking our piety too