Billeder på siden

the right way. And this our Saviour here particularly cautions us against. Pride and covetousness, luft and intemperance, ambition, malice, and the like, abound in all corners of the world. The serving and indulging of these is the principle by which the generality of men direct and form their own lives, whatever the word of God commands to the contrary. And when the greatest part live at such a rate as this, their example will have a mighty force upon others, to move them to live after the same manner.'t Be not deceived, says St. Paul, evil communications corrupt good manners. And St. Peter gives this warning to the Christians, to whom he wrote, # Beware left ye also, being led away by the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfájtness. Imitation is natural unto men, so that we are enclin'd to do like others, and are insensibly led into it: And while in some vices, fashion has almost made them reputable, or at least gives countenance and encouragement to thein ; in others, men are apt to think they cannot be safe, without doing the same things, and using the fame arts, which they see others do and use. Custom either renders truth and virtue singular and ridiculous, or makes them seem dangerous and unsafe. So that men chuse rather to follow a multitude to do evil, than ftraiten their own measures by the flighted and unfashionable maxims of religion; and they find it very hard to bring themselves to make a-better choice; so fatal a temptation is ill example. And upon all these accounts above specified, well might our blessed Saviour affirm, that wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat; while at the same time, strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

[ocr errors]

to Cor. xv. 33.

$ 2 Pet. iii. 14.


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

MATTH. vii. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, Beware of false prophets, which come to you

in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ra

vening wolves, Te shall know them by their fruits : Do men

gather grapes of thorns,' or figs of thistles? Even fo every good tree bringeth forth good.

fruit : But a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit, A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit : Nei

ther can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit,

is hewn down and cast into the fire, Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

UR blessed Lord, drawing to the close

of his sermon, concludes it in this and the following paragraph, in such a manner as should most effectually enforce the

observation of the whole. And first, as a guard or fence to that most necessary practical


Сс 4

[ocr errors]

scheme of religion, now advanced by him, he warns his Disciples against false teachers; who for ends and interest of their own, would directly or indirectly debauch the morals, as well as corrupt the doctrine of the Church. His caution given us hereupon seems to be to this effect.

66 The duties and virtues I have here taught you, “ are of the last importance to the pleasing of God, « and to the faving of your own souls; and be66 cause they are so, the enemy


salvation " will labour by all possible means to divert you “ from attending to them. For this purpose he u will raise up false teachers among you, who with RC plausible shews of zeal and sincerity shall be for

tracing you out new ways to heaven. Beware “ of them therefore, and affure your felves, that whatever commission they pretend from me,

if " they teach any thing contrary to what I have “ taught, or lay the stress of religion any where, 66 but where I have laid it, they are doing the c devil's work, not mine and whatever ap

pearances they may make of sanctity, or zeal, " or wisdom, they are building the interests of " their own vanity or avarice upon your creduli

ty, weakness and corruption: Examine the fruits S of their doctrine, and ye will soon discover them. “ If it'tend not to charity, peace, and purity, to

an inward as well as outward holiness, in all the “ branches of it; according to my Gospel ye may

as well expect to gather grapes of thorns, or “ figs of thistles, as expect falvation by such a doc

If what they teach you were good, " 'twould lead you to a

you to a good life; but if it amusé you with other things which serve not to this “ purpose, or lead you contrary thereto; this wif« dom is not from above, but is earthly, sensual, « devilish. The nature of a tree is known by its

« fruit.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]



46 trine.



“ fruit. And as every tree that brings not forth “ good fruit, how fair soever it appears in leaves

or blossoms, is good for nothing but the fire: So “ shall that prophet, notwithstanding his seeming w zeal and fair pretences, have his lot amongst the " wicked in eternal fire; who does not both by « his life and doctrine, labour to recommend reli“ gion in that sincere and genuine practice of it, " as it is here laid down by me.

In explaining this paragraph farther, I will fhéw.

warns us.

I. What kind of false prophets they are, of

whom our Saviour here particularly foreII. The marks or tokens whereby they may

be known. I shall begin with the first. I. WHAT kind of false prophets they are, of whom our Saviour here particularly forewarns his Disciples. 'Tis plain by his description of them, as coming in floeep's clothing, that they are no profess’d and open enemies to Christianity; but luch as under the disguise of owning it, yea, and the pretence of teaching it too, would corrupt the simplicity of it.. From the first ages of the Gofpcl, there have been many erroneous and heretical doctrines scatter'd abroad, and some of them in the moft effential and fundamental points; as concerning the divinity or the humanity of Christ, the union of the two natures, and the like; about which some ignorant and some philosophical men vented most absurd and false opinions. So did the Simonians, the Cerenthians, the Ebionites, the Nicolaitans, and other hereticks,even while the Apostles liv'd; as appears by the frequent admonitions and warnings left upon record, in their Epistles, against such doctrines. Thus early the enemy fow'd his tares; and the virgin


Church under the tuition of those inspired guardians, the Apostles themselves, could no more be secured from heresies within, than persecutions from without: And if the canker spread farther, and eat deeper in the following ages, it is not at all to be wonder'd. To such false prophets as these, this iv caution of our Saviour may be extended. But confidering that his whole discourse foregoing was upon precepts purely praćtical, the morals of a virtuous christian life, as necessary to salvation ; if we will suppose any connexion of this paragraph with all that went before, we must conclude ħe more particularly points at such false teachers as fhould corrupt mens morals, or (whether directly or indirectly) draw their minds from the simplicity and practice of those duties he had taught them. And amongst these may be reckoned,

(1.) Those who indulging the corrupt nature of man, interpret away the

frictness of our Saviour's precepts. Who by any mis-conduct in their preaching, loosen the bonds of christian morality, and countenance a greater latitude in manners than the instructions of their Lord will justify. 'Tis not to be supposed that any of them will openly and plainly fet themselves against religion, or commend or patronize any vice, but there are abundance of ways of doing the same thing in effect. As when they palliate any sinful and immoral habits under the stile of frailty and infirmitics, which are not really fo. When by a lax interpretation, they enervate the force of such prohibitions or commands in Scripture, as are really in the genuine sense and design of them, very strict and extensive; when they industriously avoid preaching against such particular fins, as they know some persons of their audience. whom they have an interest to please, or fear to disoblige, are guilty of; or upon the like principle avoid insisting upon a severe and disagreeable duty :


« ForrigeFortsæt »