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· Sometimes we are led to this reflection, BY OBSERVING MULTIPLIED INSTANCES OF FALSE PROFESSION. These are to be found in every period of the church : our own age abounds with them, and some of these unhappy characters excite our surprise, as well as our forrow. They promised fair ; they “did many wonderful things" ; for a while they bore cheerfully “ the 6 reproach of the cross;” they passed us on the road, and reproved the sluggishness of our steps. By and by we met them on their return, laughing at that which once made them tremble, and loathing that which was once esteemed by them like life from the dead. Our entreaties were despised; as far as the eye could reach, we watched them with tears and alarm; sat down « discouraged because of the way," and " said in our hafte ALL men are liars.”—“ Take 6 ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not 66 in any brother: for EVERY brother will utterly sup6 plant, and EVERY neighbour will walk with slan.66 ders.” But it was in our haste we said this ; it was a rash conclusion. What, because there is counterfeit coin, is there no genuine gold? Were all the disciples false, because one of them was a devil ? “ They went o out from us, but they were not of us : for if they “ had been of us, they would no doubt have continued "" with us : but they went out that it might be made 6 manifest they were not all of us.” But, alas ! the falling star strikes every eye, while few observe the fixed and the regular orbs. The apostacy of one pretender often excites more attention than the lives
of many folid and steady christians. They who would * never mention the excellencies of professors, will be
forward enough to publish their disgrace. It gratifies the malignity of those who only wait for our halting, and occasions a triumph in the enemy's camp: “aha ! 66 aha! so would we have it.” · The inference is still more frequently derived from the RIGHTEOUS THEMSELVES. There are five things which will be found to have their influence in producing it: THE OBSCURITY OF THEIR STATIONS; THE DIFFIDENCE OF THEIR DISPOSITIONS; THE MANNER OF THEIR CONVERSION; THE DIVERSITY OF THEIR OPINIONS, and THE IMPERFECTIONS OF THEIR CHARACTER.
I. THE OBSCURITY OF THE STATIONs in which many of the righteous are placed, hides them from observation. When the rich and the honourable become pious, they are not long concealed. A thousand eyes are drawn towards the elevation ; the eminence of their condition causes their virtues to shine like the reflection of the sun from the tops of high mountains, seen by many, and from afar. They are like a city set on a hill, which cannot be hid. But much more religion than is necessary to canonize them, would be even unobserved among the shades of poverty, and in the common operations of life. Here persons have little opportunity or ability to display their character; they are often sanctified and removed, unknown to any but a few neighbours involved in the same indigence. Their excellencies are of the common, sober, unsplendid kind; or if they possess those virtues which distinguish and strike, they are rendered incapable of exercising them by their circumstances. Courage demands
danger. Where there is no dignity, there can be no condescension. Where there are no distinctions to elate, humility cannot shine ; and where there is nothing to give, benevolence cannot appear. God indeed “ looketh to the heart," and " where there is “ first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what 66 a man hath, and not according to what he has not.” In forming his estimate of the services of his people, he considers not only what they do, but what they wish to do. He fees many a benefactor where there is nothing done, many a martyr where there is nothing suffered. But we can only know them by “ their “ fruits :" and their good works, as far as they are obfervable, are few ; their principles, however well established, are checked and limited, both in their effect and discovery. Such are God's “ hidden ones ;" hidden by the obscurity of their situations, and the restrictions of their circumitances; they are candles, but candles put under bushels.
The poor are too generally overlooked, whereas by christians they should be principally regarded. The dispensation of the gospel is peculiarly their privilege ; the most extensive provinces of religion are occupied by them, and were we to open a more familiar intercourse with them, it would often rectify our mistakes. All exertions to render the GREAT religious have hitherto proved ineffectual; and the bible holds forth a language, sufficient to fill all those who aim at their conversion with despair. Few comparatively are called from the higher orders of society. He who was poor himself, whose kingdom is not of this world, and of whom it was said, “have any of the rulers believed on
“ him ?” generally selects his followers from the lower ranks of life; and there we are to seek them. “I “ am left alone!" But perhaps, complaining prophet, you have been only'at court; walking through palaces or mansions; examining the high places of the earth. 66 What dost thou here, Elijah ?” Who led thee here in search of religion ? “ Not many wise men after “ the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are 6 called.” “How can ye believe who receive honour “ one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh “ from God only?” “How hardly shall they that “ have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven! it is “ easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, " than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of “ God.” The voice of Heaven calls you away from the “gold ring, and the goodly clothing.” “Hearken, “ my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor 6 of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom " which he hath promised to them that love him ?” Follow him. He will lead you in another direction. Go through yonder village; mingle with the poor and needy. Their necessities have compelled them to feek relief and folace in religion, and they have found them there. Enter that cottage: “ The voice of rejoicing 6 and of salvation is in the tabernacle of the righteous." “ Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a 6 stalled ox with hatred and strife.” “A little that a c righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many “ wicked.” Enter yonder fanctuary : the common people hear him gladly. The congregation withdraws. Observe those who approach and assemble around the table of the Lord. Ah! well says God in the language of prophecy, “ I will leave in the midst of thee « an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust “ in the name of the Lord.”
II. A TIMID DISPOSITION conceals many. A bold mind will soon obtrude a man into notice ; he will signalize himself by his forwardness on every occasion; he will be the first to speak, and to act. Eager to engage in every duty, and always talking on religious themes, many will remark him as a lively soul, and say, “ come, behold his zeal for the Lord of hosts.” ... We will not deny that this disposition may sometimes be connected with sincerity ; but instances of an opposite nature are much more common, and a mind dealing in professions, and fond of publicity, is generally, and deservedly to be suspected. It has been justly observed, that when of old the angels descended, they assumed the form and likeness of men; but when Satan appeared, he transformed himself into an angel of light. The pretender exceeds the real character; the actor surpasses nature, and goes beyond life. Where a man regards show only, he can afford to be more expensive and magnificent in appearances, than those who are concerned for the reality. Empty vessels found loudest; religion runs along like a river, noiseless in proportion as it is deep.
True piety affects no unnecessary exposure ; its voice is not heard in the street ; it does not found a trumpet before it ; the left hand knows not what the right hand doeth. It rather eludes public observation, and retires from the applause of the multitude. It does not act to be seen of men, or to make a fair show