John Newton, while master of a slave-ship, blinded by the darkness of his times, said that while enjoying intimate communion with God, "he never had the least scruple as to the lawfulness of the slave-trade;" and the seraphic piety of George Whitefield did not deter him from pleading before the trustees of Georgia for the introduction of slaves, on the ground of "the advantage of the Africans." Hence a man whose heart is full of love, and whose intellect is darkened by ignorance, may appear unconscientious to one favored with high moral culture.
You should constantly bear in mind this fact, that a man can never appear above the criticism of his fellow-men. Did Christ, the absolutely sinless man, escape hostile criticism? Was he not called a winebibber, a Sabbath-breaker, a Beelzebub, and a subverter of the law? The difficulty was not in Jesus, but in his green-eyed critics.
You may be stumbling over the glaring imperfections of some who profess to be walking in this higher path of Christian life. Perhaps this is the solution of your perplexity about the imperfect exemplifications of the love "that passeth knowledge."
God once said to Abraham, "Walk before me and be thou perfect." He did not command him to be perfect in the estimation of fallible men. Suppose that Abraham had interpreted the command to include men as well as the heart-searching Jehovah? He is commanded to go to Mount Moriah, and to offer Isaac in sacrifice. He goes and exhibits to God a heart perfectly obedient, as proved by the severest test. God is satisfied. But suppose that some of Abraham's jealous neighbors wonder what the mysterious three days' journey means, and that they follow on the patriarch's track afar, and, at last, they see him actually seize his son and cruelly bind him hand and foot; and then, O horrible! he draws out from his belt a great sheath knife and raises it on high and attempts to plunge it into the throbbing heart of innocence. But something seemed to prevent the wicked purpose — the spies are too far away to see what it was but they saw enough of Abraham's harsh conduct in his family to satisfy them that his profession to be an especial "friend of God" is a stupendous piece of hypocrisy. "Perfection on earth," say they, "is all a myth; we have proved it." Yet, while this damaging misconstruction of Abraham's conduct is whispered from one to another of the neighboring Canaanites, the patriarch is in the enjoyment of the inward testimony that his ways please Jehovah; he walks before him and is perfect.
It may be thus with many a living friend of God, maligned of men, while approved of Heaven.
— Edited from Love Enthroned, Chapter 19.
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