He grew prayerless, unwatchful, self-confident, worldly and proud!
(Octavius Winslow, "Eminent Holiness Essential to an Efficient Ministry")
Although the evidences of a deteriorating piety in a minister may not be so conspicuous to the eye — they are not the less decided in their character, and painful in their consequences.
Externally, there may be nothing tending to awaken suspicion that the life of God in our soul is passing through a process of decline.
The appropriate functions of our office are going forward with the utmost regularity and zeal;
the study witnesses to the wearisome hours of hard reading and severe thought;
the pulpit is regularly and ably filled;
the ordinances are duly and seriously administered; and
the pastoral duties are systematically and affectionately discharged.
And yet a faithful, honest, and close examination of our souls would probably detect . . .
an alarming distance from God in the habitual frame of our mind,
but little real, close communion with Him in secret prayer,
coldness and deadness, gathering and congealing around the spirit,
a waning love for, and delight in, our work,
a decreasing sense of individual and ministerial responsibility, and
a lessening apprehension of the nearness and solemnity of eternity.
To so great a degree may the anointing oil have evaporated from our minds — so formal, cold, and mechanical may be the spirit with which the duties of our office are discharged — we shall be found to go forward in a work that might "fill an angel's hand, and that filled a Savior's heart" — with but the slow and dying vibrations of the pendulum, when the power which first set it in motion has ceased to exist.
And oh! my brethren . . .
with no power to move us, but that which is artificial;
with no love to our work, but that which is professional;
with no interest in its discharge, but that which is selfish;
and with no desire of success, but that which spreads far our own petty fame —
to what low, contemptible drudgery is our high office reduced! No galley slave could be more pitiable than we!
The falls of so many ministers, are awful and affecting warnings to those who think they stand. The bleak shores of eternity are strewed with the fragments of many a beautiful wreck — men who once stood high in the church — too high for their own safety — but who made shipwreck of their profession and their faith, and now serve as beacons of warning to those who follow.
What do I see yonder? A spectacle over which demons have exulted, the church has mourned — and, if it is possible, angels have wept!
I knew him well. He was my compeer in age, my associate in study, the companion of my walks, the confidant of my bosom. His fine mind was redolent of thought, his bright eye gleamed with genius, his tall and manly form was fascinating in its appearance. Few men ever entered the Christian ministry with higher prospects, or awoke in the hearts of friends, and of the church — richer, fonder hopes. He bid fair, as his sun arose to its zenith, to be a bright and a shining light. Distinguished posts of labor were offered to him. Crowds, eager to receive his instructions, clustered around his pulpit, drawn together by the tender, subduing eloquence of his lips.
But — he fell! and fell deeply, awfully! The church entrusted to him the keeping of the vineyards — but his own vineyard, he kept not. Laboring for the salvation of others, he labored not for his own. He grew prayerless, unwatchful, self-confident, worldly and proud — and by slow but certain and fatal degrees, he descended from his lofty eminence! His sun went down while it was yet day, and around him is now gathered in thick and solemn folds — the dark pall of guilt, of infamy, and of shame! "Bemoan him, all you who are around him; and all you who know his name. Say: How the strong staff is broken, and the beautiful rod!" Jeremiah 48:17