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LUKEWARM MINISTERS AND FALSE APOSTLES.
CHAPTER I. The essence of painting consists in a happy mixture of light and shade, from the contrast of which an admirable effect is produced, and the animated figure made to rise from the canvass. Upon this principle we shall oppose to the Portrait of St. Paul, that of lukewarm ministers and false apostles, whose gloomy traits will form a back ground peculiarly adapted to set off the character of an evangelical pastor.
If the primitive Church was disturbed and misled by unfaithful minis. ters, it may be reasonably presumed that, in this more degenerate period
of its existence, the Church of God must be miserably overrun with • teachers of the same character. There is, however, no small number of ministers who form a kind of medium between zealous pastors and false apostles. These irresolute evangelists are sincere to a certain point. They have some desire after the things of God, but are abundantly more solicitous for the things of the world: they form good resolutions in the cause of their acknowledged Master, but are timid and unfaithful when called upon actual service. They are sometimes actuated by a momentary zeal, but generally influenced by servile fear. They have no experience of that ardent affection, and that invincible courage with which St. Paul was animated. Their wisdom is still carnal, 2 Cor. i, 12; they still confor « with flesh and blood,” Gal. i, 16. Such was Aaron, who yielded, through an unmanly weakness, to the impious solicitations of his people. Such was Jonah, when he refused to exercise his ministry at Nineveh. That this prophet was possessed of a holy confidence in God, and a desire for the salvation of his fellow creatures, we have every reason to believe: but we find, that neither the one nor the other was sufficiently powerful to engage him in a service which appeared likely to endanger his reputation among men. Such were also the apostles before they were endued with power from on high. To every pastor of this character, that expression of Christ, which was once addressed to the most courageous man among his disciples, may be considered as peculiarly applicable : “ Thou art an offence unto me, for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men," Matt. xvi, 23.
Lukewarmness, false prudence, and timidity, are the chief characteristics by which ministers of this class may be distinguished, Perceiving the excellence of the Gospel in an obscure point of view, and having little experience of its astonishing effects, they cannot possibly discover that religious zeal which is indispensably necessary to the character they affect to sustain.
The pious Bishop Massillon gives the following representation of these unqualified teachers, and the ill effects of their unfaithfulness. “Man. ners are every day becoming more corrupt among us, because the zeal of ministers is daily becoming colder; and because there are found arnong us few apostolical men, who oppose themselves, as a brazen wall, to the torrent of vice. For the most part, we behold the wicked altogether at ease in their sins, for the want of hearing more frequently those thundering voices, which, accompanied with the Spirit of God, would effectually rouse them from their awful slumber. The want of zeal, so clearly discernible among pastors, is chiefly owing to that base timidity which is not hardy enough to make a resolute stand against common prejudice, and which regards the worthless approbation of men, beyond their eternal interests. That must needs be a worldly and criminal consideration, which makes us more anxious for our own glory than for the glory of God. That must truly be fleshly wisdom, which can represent religious zeal under the false ideas of excess, indiscretion, and temerity : a pretext this, which nearly extinguishes every spark of zeal in the generality of ministers. This want of courage they honour with the specious names of moderation and prudence. Under pretence of not carrying their zeal to an excess, they are content to be entirely destitute of it. And while they are solicitous to shun the rocks of imprudence and precipitation, they run, without fear, upon the sands of indolence and cowardice. They desire to become useful to sinners, and, at the same tirne, to be had in estimation by them. They long to manifest such a zeal as the world is disposed to applaud. They are anxious so tò oppose the passions of men, that they may yet secure their praises ; so to condemn the vices they love, that they may still be approved by those they condemn. But when we probe a wound to the bottom, we must expect to awaken a degree of peevishness in the patient, if we do not extort from him some bitter exclamation.”
“Let us not deceive ourselves," continues the same author; “if this apostolical zeal, which once converted the world, is become so rare among us, it is because, in the discharge of our sacred functions, we seek ourselves, rather than the glory of Christ, and the salvation of souls. Glory and infamy were regarded by the apostle with equal indifference, while he filled up the duties of his important office. He knew it impossible to please men, and to save them; to be the servant of the world, and the servant of Christ. Nevertheless, there are many among us who are seeking to unite these different services, which the apostle believed to be irreconcilable." .
Mons. Roques agrees with the pious bishop in condemning those ministers who neglect to copy the example of St. Paul. “The little piety that is to be found among ministers,” says this excellent writer, “is the most effectual obstacle to the progress of the Gospel. By piety, I mean that sincere and ardent love for religion, which deeply interests a man in all its concerns, as well as in every thing that respects the glory of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ. If this Divine love were found reigning in the hearts of those who proclaim Christ; if every preacher of the Gospel were enabled to say, with the sincerity of Peter, “ Lord ! thou kpowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee,” John xxi, 15; thou knowest that I have no ambition but for thy glory, and that my high
est pleasure consists in beholding the increase of thy kingdom-we should then perceive the sword of God in their hands like a two-edged sword, cutting asunder the very deepest roots of sin. But as the Gospel is preached more through contention, through vain glory, and through the desire of getting a livelihood by serving at the altar, than through an ardent zeal to advance the glory of God; hence it is that ministers fall into several errors, giving evident proofs of that indolence and unconcern, which afford matter of scandal rather than of edification.”--Evangelical Pastor.
. . Mons. Ostervald speaks the same language in his Third Source of the Corruption which reigns among Christians. “A great part of our ecclesiastics,” says this writer, “ may be justly charged with the corrup, tion of the people, since there are among them many who oppose the re-establishment of a holy discipline; while others render the exercise of it totally useless, by an ill-timed softness, and a shameful indulgence.”
“I except those," continues this venerable pastor, “who ought to be excepted. But on a general view, in what do ecclesiastics differ from other men? Do they distinguish themselves by an exemplary life? Their exterior, indeed, is somewhat different : they lead a more retired life; they, in some degree, save appearances; though all do not go thus far. But beyond this, are they not equally attached to the world, as much engaged with earthly things, as wholly taken up with secular views, as constantly actuated by interest and passion, as the generality of mankind ?” - Christian prudence required that these portraits of lukewarm ministers should be exhibited as the designs of pastors who have been eminent for their piety, their rank, and experience, and who, on that account, had a peculiar right to declare those truths, which might give greater offence were they to come from less respectable persons.
The portrait of false apostles. BETWEEN the state of careless ministers, and that of false apostles, there is not, in reality, so vast a difference as many are apt to imagine. An unworthy labourer in the spiritual vineyard gives speedy proofs of a lukewarm temper in the service of his Lord; shortly after his heart becomes entirely cold with respect to piety; and what is still more lamentable, he frequently manifests as warm a zeal for error and vice as the true minister can possibly discover in the cause of truth and virtue. Such is the state of those who may properly be termed preachers of the third class, and who are spoken of by St. Paul under the title of « false apostles,” 2 Cor. xi, 13.
These unworthy ministers are known by their works. Like many of St. Paul's unfaithful fellow labourers, 2 Tim. i, 15, they prefer the repose and pleasure of the world before the service and reproach of Christ. Like Judas and Simon the sorcerer, they love the honours and revenues of ministers, while they abhor the crosses and labours of the ministry. Like Hophni and Phinchas, they are sons of Belial, and know not the
Lord. Their sin is very great before the Lord. For, on their account, many “abhor the offering of the Lord," 1 Sam. ii, 12, 17. Like the wicked servant, described by their reputed Master, instead of providing “meat for his household in due season, they begin to smite," or to per. secute those of their fellow servants who are intent upon discharging their several duties; while they pass away their time in mirth and festivity with the riotous and the drunken, Matt. xxiv, 48, 49. They may justly be compared to lamps extinguished in the temple of God. “Instead of shining there to his praise," says Bishop Massillon, “they emit black clouds of smoke which obscure every object about them, and become a savour of death to those who perish. They are pillars of the sanctuary, which, being overthrown and scattered in public places, become stones of stumbling to every heedless passenger. They are the salt of the earth, and were appointed to preserve souls from corruption. But having lost all their savour, they begin to corrupt what they were intended to preserve.” They are physicians who carry to their patients infection instead of health. From the spiritually diseased they withhold the heal. ing word of God, Psalm cvii, 20, while they distribute among them the dangerous poison of a lax morality, setting before them an example of bitter zeal against the truth, puffing them up with that wisdom which is "earthly, sensual, and devilish,” James iii, 14, 15.
“A false pastor,” says Mons. Roques, or a false apostle, “is a minister whose heart is not right before God, and who lives not in such a manner as to edify his flock. He knows the holy course of life to which Chris. tians in general, and ministers in particular, are called; but in spite of all his knowledge and his apparent zeal, he fears not to trample under foot those very maxims of the Gospel which he has publicly established and preached with the utmost energy. Every day he performs acts of the most detestable hypocrisy. Every time he preaches and censures, be bears open testimony against his own conduct. But he publicly accuses, without ever intending to correct himself. He is a constant declaimer against vice in the pulpit ; but a peçuliar protector of it while he is engaged in the common concerns of life. While he exhorts his hearers to repentance, he either imagines himself above those laws which he proposes to others on the part of God; or he believes himself under no other necessity of holding them forth, except his own engagements to such a work, and the salary he receives for the performance of it.”
Mons. Ostervald, in a work already referred to, makes mention of these pastors in the following terms : “How many do we see who regard their holy vocation in no other light than the means of procuring for them a comfortable maintenance. Are there not many who bring a scandal upon their profession by the licentiousness of their manners? Do we not see them hasty and outrageous? Do we not observe in them an extreme attachment to their own interests? Are they careful to rule their families well? Has it not been a subject of complaint, that they are puffed up with pride, and are implacable in their hatred ? I say nothing of many other vices and defects which are equally scandalous in the clergy, such as vain and loose conversation, an attachment to diversion and pleasure, a worldly disposition, slothfulness, craft, injustice, and slander."
“ It is impossible to find a person,” adds Mons. Ostervald, “ surrounded with more powerful motives to piety, than a man whose ordinary occupation is to meditate upon religious things, to discourse of them among others, to reprove vice and hypocrisy, to perform Divine service, to'administer the holy sacraments, to visit the afflicted and the dying ; and who must one day render to God an account of the souls com. mitted to his charge. I know not whether it be possible to find any stronger marks of impiety and hypocrisy than those which may be discovered in the character of a person, who, in the midst of all these favourable circumstances, is, nevertheless, an unrighteous man. Such a one may be said to divert himself with the most sacred things of reli. gion, and to spend the whole of his life in performing the part of an impostor. And this he does to his cost ; since there is no profession in the world that will more eflectually secure a sentence of condemnation than that of the priesthood, when exercised in so unfaithful a manner.”
But it is chiefly in the Holy Scriptures where these unworthy pastors are portrayed in so strong a point of view, that every attentive inquirer may readily discern their distinguishing features. “Son of man,” saith the Lord, “ prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, and say unto them : Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed ; but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ve brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost : but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds ; and I will require my flock at their hand,” Ezek. xxxiv, 2, 10. “As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth. Men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith,” 2 Tim, iii, 8. « Wo unto them; for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah. Clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame ; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever,” Jude il, 12.
St. John has not only drawn the character, but has likewise given us the name of a certain tyrannical teacher, who began to disturb the peace of the primitive church : “ I wrote unto the Church,” saith he to Gaius, concerning the reception of stranger evangelists; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not. If I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with mali. cious words. And not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the Church,” 3 John. Behold a striking description of proud and per. secuting ecclesiastics!
But, perhaps, the most complete description of these is given by our Lord himself, where he treats of worthless pastors in general, under the particular names of scribes and Pharisees. Here a Divine and impartial hand delineates the jealousy, the pride, the feigned morality, the malice, and the persecuting spirit which characterize this class of men in every age of the world. “Do not ye,” saith Christ, “after their works, for they say, and do not. All their works they do to be seen of men. They