[ocr errors]

tions, that are either uncertain, or of little impor

How many such teachers are there in the world, who think themselves happy enough, if they can but start some new speculation to spend their zeal upon; and holy enough, if they do but seriously advance in their instructions fome point of doctrine (perhaps a mere opinion) which happens in their time to be deny'd by other's, or oppose what others have asserted, though the point in debate is lana caprina, an inconsiderable insignificant thing to salvation, which a man may know or be ignorant of, believe or disbelieve, without being at all nearer to, or farther off from the kingdom of heaven? And what's the consequence of this teaching? It fublimates religion to such niceties, as to make it wholly evaporate at length in a set of airy and useless notions ; and draws off the application of men's minds, and the warmth and vigour of their fpirits, from the practice of christian duties and virtues, to things that are not only little to the purpose of their eternal happiness, and which will never enter into account at the examination in the day of judgment, whether they held the one fide, or the other; but which really have a consequence directly opposite ; as these opinions prejudice them with a furious and uncharitable biggotry, and perhaps a spirit of perfecution, (if it lye in their power to exert it,) against those that think not as they do. I speak not here of such doctrinal points, as the divinity of Christ; or any other which

may be clearly proved from Scripture, to be essential to the christian religion, and consequently to our salvation by Christ. To preach up these steddily and zealously, is but earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the faints ; but I speak of matters as are more disputable, more uncertain, and of less concern, I will not name them. Let every teacher carefully and impartially examine his doctrine by the word of God, and let none of us be wise above what is written there, nor trouble our selves, nor amuse our audience with * do&trines which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. I proceed now to Thew,

II. THE marks whereby a falfe prophet may be discerned. As to these I have in a great measure fore-stalled

my self, in what I have said already ; for describing the false teachers, I could no other way do it, than by describing those doctrines which denominate and shew them to be such. The evil tendency therefore of their doctrines, and of their way of teaching, to divert men from the esteem and practice of holiness, being pointed out by our Saviour himself, as the chief mark whereby to difcover these false prophets, (For by their fruits, says he, ye mall know them,) and this being sufficiently spoken of under the foregoing head; I shall not need to infift upon it here again. But there are two other marks, that may help us in the difcovery of them, worthy to be considered, pride and covetousness: The one or the other of these being the governing principle, that induces such men to their corrupt teaching, will some way or other shew it self in their conduct, if it be well obseryed, and therefore they may stand for farther tokens, to distinguish them from the true ministers of Christ.

(1.) PRIDE is very conspicuous in them, notwithstanding their great diflimulation. A secret thirst of being famed and talk'd of, makes them uneasy to be restrain’d to the ordinary road of preaching up a good life, according to the plain and practicable tenor of the Gospel. They have here no latitude to fhew their parts, or recommend

* Heb. xiii. 9.



their learning, and raise themselves a reputation, which they are vain enough to believe they merit, and therefore they affect either novelties in doctrine, that their understanding and wisdom may seem to be much above the level of their brethren, or a disputative and eager zeal for some party, or some opinion already advanced by others, which they know is a popular way of entertaining an audience, whose passions are more easily and more acceptably gratified than their reason, and who had rather be taught to rest themselves upon the borders of religion, than to be led into the heart and bowels of it, in such duties as they do not care to practise. They know that the vicious part of mankind is much the greatest, and consequently to obtain a general applause, they must not bear too hard upon vice : They must few pillows under mens armholes, and bolster them up in an easy sort of religion, that will bring them only to the surface of morality, and even this for form-fake, for corrupt nature it self can hardly be content without it; but to tell men roundly of their fins, to press them to a thorough repentance and amendment; to put them upon the necessary exercise of all christian virtues and duties, and to tell them plainly, there is no falvation, but in the way of sincere and serious holiness; this they imagine would spoil their credit with the people, and therefore they preach to them what is infinitely less to the purpose of religion, but much more to their own. Sometimes indeed, when religion happens to be in repute, their affectations must correspond with it; and then it is observable, they carry things to an extream: They screw religion up to superstition, and even their garb, their gesture, their voice, their phraseology or expression, and every thing else about them, is affected, that they may by these means come to be taken notice of, and pafs for men of extraordinary


strictness and holiness, knowledge and spiritual gifts;
these singularities being mighty apt to strike people
with a veneration for them. And thus the vanity
of being admired, will shew it self in different
Shapes; in some more directly, by an haughty air,
an imperious conversation, a positive and pompous
way of preaching, a vain-glorious boasting migh-
ty things of themselves, and an affectation of thew-
ing their parts and learning: In others more craf-
tily, by an affected false humility, put on only to
excite the rest of the world, to praise and cry them
up. Be ever jealous therefore what a proud man
teaches, compare it carefully with the Scriptures,
and the explications of better men, and if it agree
not with the latter, 'tis reasonable to be suspected;
if it agree not with the former, he is certainly a
false teacher. But if nothing of pride, or its con-
sequences appear in him, let it be well considered,
whether there is not,

(2.) COVETOUSNESS, or a worldly in-
tereft, driving on, in his doctrine, and discernable
in his behaviour. That this is a principle very na-
tural to false teachers, by which they are most com-
monly acted (and whereby they may easily be dif-
covered) St. Paul intimates to us, when he speaks
of fome in his time, *Who subverted whole houses,
teaching things they ought not, for filthy lucre sake.
And so in his Epistle to the Romans also, he fore-
warns them, t Now I beseech you, brethren, mark
them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to
the doctrine which ye have learn'd, and avoid them:
for they that are such, serve not our Lord Jesus
Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and
fair Speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple. St.
Peter also has left it upon record, that such there)
would be in after ages of the Church. There
Mall be false teachers among you, who privily Mall
Tit. i. 11.

+ Rom. xvi. 17. # 2 Pet. ji. I.
Dd 2



shall bring in damnable heresies, &c: And through covetoufness mall they with feign'd words make merchandize of you. The love of riches makes them teach what will please, rather than what will edify; puts them forward to a disputative and party zeal, as more for their purpose, than inculcating piety and a good life : Dependance /makes them afraid to speak out plainly against fin, or the sordid thirst and prospect of some gain, induces them to flatter the vices of their audience, by unfaithful and corrupt interpretations of the word of God; or the like greedy humour stirs them up to frame such new doctrines, or advance such convenient superstitions, as make to their own profit and

advantage. Whereas a true minister of Christ, * seeks not his own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. + Wrongs no man, corrupts no man, defrauds no man. Neither at any time uses flattering words, nor a cloke of covetousness, il as false teachers do, but preaches the word of God with all boldness; whether it shall please or displease, and be an advantage or disadvantage to him. :. In all things Mewing himself a pattern of good works; in doctrine Jhewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« ForrigeFortsett »