Ministers, never forget that piety must be at the foundation of any long continued & cheap usefulness in the church.

So said William Swan Plumer in a sermon on the call to the ministry (found in Princeton and the Work of the Christian Ministry, edited by James Garretson). But what does he mean by “cheap” usefulness? 

He explains: “The phrase ‘cheap usefulness’ is not employed without design. For it is not impossible for a man without piety, and under the influence of ambition, or false zeal, to be useful to some extent; but it will be at a tremendous expense. In compassing some good, he will create a world of mischief. At least his good, which perhaps first appears, will be followed by a train of evils, that may not cease their operation on earth in a century. Indeed, men of some real piety may do this in many ways; and how much more, men without it!”

May the Lord daily grant me and all His ministers a cheap usefulness!

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