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curious to observe, when any new teachers did arise, what kind of lives they lived; and if they pretended severely and to a strict life, then they knew their danger doubled ; for it is certain all that teach doctrines contrary to the established religion delivered by the apostles, all they are evil men. God will not suffer a good man to be seduced damnably, much less can he be a seducer of others : and, therefore, you shall still observe the false apostles to be furious and vehement in their reproofs, and severe in their animadversions of others : but then if you watch their private, or stay till their numbers are full, or observe their spiritual habits, you shall find them indulgent to themselves, or to return from their disguises, or 80 spiritually wicked, that their pride or their revenge, their envy or their detraction, their scorn or their complacency in themselves, their desire of pre-eminence and their impatience of a rival, shall place them far enough in distance from a poor carnal sinner, whom they shall load with censures and an upbraiding scorn; but themselves are like devils, the spirits of darkness, “ the spiritual wickednesses, in high places.” Some sects of men are very angry against servants for recreating and easing their labours with a less prudent and unsevere refreshment: but the patrons of their sects shall oppress a wicked man and unbelieving person ; they shall chastise a drunkard and entertain murmurers; they shall not abide an oath, and yet shall force men to break three or four. This sect is to be avoided, because although it is good to be severe against carnal or bodily sins, yet it is not good to mingle with them who chastise a bodily sin to make way for a spiritual ; or reprove a servant, that his lord may sin alone; or punish a stranger and a beggar, that will not approve their sin, but will have sins of his own. Cona cerning such persons, St. Paul hath told us, that “they shall not proceed far, but their folly shall be manifest;" 'Oréyov χρόνον δύναιτ' άν τις πλάσασθαι τον τρόπον τον αυτού, said Lysias: “ Citò ad naturam ficta reciderunt suam.” They that dissemble their sin and their manners, or make severity to serve looseness, and an imaginary virtue to minister to a real vice; they that abhor idols, and would commit sacrilege ; chastise a drunkard, and promote sedition ; declaim against the vanity of great persons, and then spoil them of their goods; reform manners, and engross estates; talk godly, and do impiously;
these are teachers which the Holy Spirit of God hath, by three apostles, bid us to beware of and decline, as we would run from the hollowness of a grave, or the despairs and sorrows of the damned.
11. The substance of all is this : that we must not choose our doctrine by our guide, but our guide by the ductrine ; and if we doubt concerning the doctrine, we may judge of that by the lives and designs of the teachers : “ By their fraits you shall know them;" and by the plain words of the Scripture, by the apostles' creed, and by the commandments, and by the certain known and established forms of government. These are the great indices, and so plain, apt, and easy, that he that is deceived, is so because he will be so; he is betrayed into it by his own lust, and a voluntary chosen folly.
12. Besides these premises, there are other little candles that can help to make the judgment clearer; but they are such as do not signify alone, but in conjunction with some of the precedent characters, which are drawn by the great lines of Scripture. Such as are: 1. When the teachers of sects stir up unprofitable and useless questions. 2. When they causelessly retire from the universal customs of Christendom. 3. And cancel all the memorials of the greatest mysteries of our redemption. 4. When their confessions and catechisms and their whole religion consists εν γνώσει, “in speculations' and ineffective notions, in discourses of angels and spirits, in abstractions and raptures, in things they understand not, and of which they have no revelation. 5. Or else if their religion spends itself in ceremonies, outward guises, and material solemnities, and imperfect forms, drawing the heart of the vine forth into leaves and irregular fruitless suckers, turning the substance into circumstances, and the love of God into gestures, and the effect of the Spirit into the impertinent offices of a burdensome ceremonial: for by these two particulars the apostles reproved the Jews and the Gnostics, or those that from the school of Pythagoras pretended conversation with angels, and great knowledge of the secrets of the spirits, choosing tutelar angels, and assigning them offices and charges, as in the church of Rome, to this day, they do to saints. To these add, 6. That we observe whether the guides of souls avoid to
suffer for their religion ; for then the matter is foul, or the man not fit to lead, that dares not die in cold blood for his religion. Will the man lay his life and his soul upon the proposition? If so, then you may consider him upon his proper grounds; but if he refuses that, refuse his conduct sure enough. 7. You may also watch whether they do not choose their proselytes among the rich and vicious; that they may serve themselves upon his wealth, and their disciple upon his vice. 8. If their doctrines evidently and greatly serve the interest of wealth or honour, and are ineffective to piety. 9. If they strive to gain any one to their confession, and are negligent to gain them to good life. 10. If, by pretences, they lessen the severity of Christ's precepts, and are easy in dispensations and licentious glosses. 11. If they invent suppletories to excuse an evil man, and yet to reconcile his bad life with the hopes of heaven; you have reason to suspect the whole, and to reject these parts of error and design, which in themselves are so unhandsome always, and sometimes criminal. He that shall observe the church of Rome so implacably fierce for purgatory and the pope's supremacy, for clerical immunities and the superiority of the ecclesiastical persons to secular, for indulgences and precious and costly pardons, and then so full of devices to reconcile an evil life with heaven, requiring only contrition even at the last for the abolition of eternal guilt, and having a thousand ways to commute and take off the temporal; will see he hath reason to be jealous that interest is in these bigger than the religion, and yet that the danger of the soul is greater than that interest; and, therefore, the man is to do accordingly.
Here, indeed, is the great necessity that we should have the prudence and discretion, the ožudeguès of serpents,
magis ut cernamus acutum
Quàm aut aquila, aut serpens Epidaurius For so serpents, as they are curious to preserve their heads from contrition or a bruise, so also to safeguard themselves that they be not charmed with sweet and enticing words of false prophets, who charm not wisely but cunningly,
• Hor. Sat. 1. 3. 56.
leading aside unstable souls: against these we must stop our ears, or lend our attention, according to the foregoing measures and significations. But here also I am to insert two or three cautions.
1. We cannot expect that by these or any other signs we shall be enabled to discover concerning all men, whether they teach an error or no: neither can a man by these reprove Lutheran or a Zuinglian, a Dominican or a Franciscan, a Russian or a Greek, a Muscovite or a Georgian; because those that are certain signs of false teachers, do signify such men who destroy an article of faith or a commandment. God was careful to secure us from death by removing the lepers from the camp, and giving certain notices of distinction, and putting a term between the living and the dead: but he was not pleased to secure every man from innocent and harınless errors, from the mistakes of men and the failings of mortality: the signs which can distinguish a living man from a dead, will not also distinguish a black man from a brown, or a pale from a white: it is enough that we decline those guides that lead us to hell, but not to think that we are enticed to death by the weaknesses of every disagreeing brother.
2. In all discerning of sects, we must be careful to distinguish the faults of men from the evils of their doctrine; for some there are that say very well and do very ill ; cioi ràp
Δή ναρθηκοφόροι πολλοί, Βάκχριδέ γε παύροι,
Many men of holy calling and holy religion, that are of unholy lives: “ Homines ignavi opera, philosophi sententia.” But these must be separated from the institution : and the evil of the men is only to be noted, as that such persons be not taken to our single conduct and personal ministry. I will be of the man's religion if it be good, though he be not; but I will not make him my confessor, Moow Coplotiv, ÖOTIS oud' autã copós. If he be not wise for himself, I will not sit down at his feet, lest we mingle filthiness instead of being cleansed and instructed.
3. Let us make one separation more, and then we may
'Eurip. Beck, tom. ii. p. 487.
consider and act according to the premises. If we espy a design or an evil mark upon one doctrine, let us divide it from the other that are not so spotted. For indeed the public communions of men are at this day so ordered, that they are as fond of their errors as of their truths, and sometimes most zealous for what they have least reason to be so. And if we can, by any arts of prudence, separate from an evil proposition, and communicate in all the good, then we may love colleges of religious persons, though we do not worship images; and we may obey our prelates, though we do no injury to princes; and we may be zealous against a crime, though we be not imperious over men's persons; and we may be diligent in the conduct of souls, though we be not rapacious of estates : and we may be moderate exactors of obedience to human laws, though we do not dispense with the breach of the Divine; and the clergy may represent their calling necessary, though their persons be full of modesty and humility; and we may preserve our lights, and not lose our charity. For this is the meaning of the apostle, “ Try all things, and retain that which is good :" from every sect and community of Christians take any thing that is good, that advances holy religion and the Divine honour. For one hath a better government, a second a better confession, a third bath excellent spiritual arts for the conduct of souls, a fourth hath fewer errors; and by what instrument soever a holy life is advantaged, use that, though thou grindest thy spears and arrows at the forges of the Philistines; knowing thou hast no master but Christ, no religion but the Christian, no rule but the Scriptures, and the laws, and right reason: other things that are helps, are to be used accordingly.
These are the general rules of Christian prudence, which I have chosen to insist upon: there are many others more particular indeed, but yet worth not only the enumerating, but observing also, and that they be reduced to practice. For the prudence of a Christian does oblige and direct respectively all the children of the institution, that we be careful to decline a danger, watchful against a temptation, always choosing that that is safe and fitted to all circumstances; that we be wise in choosing our company, reserved and wary in our friendships, and communicative in our charity ; that we be silent, and retentive of what we hear and