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Whereas the Prophet Isaiah was commanded (and’tis the part
christian teacher) * to cry aloud, not to spare, to lift up his voice like a trumpet, and New the people their transgresions and their fins; which surely may and ought to be done, without any rude and personal reflections; the sin and not the finner muff be firuck at; religion be promoted, but without malice or faction. Another way whereby 'tis poflible to encourage sin, instead of preaching against it, is, exalting the mercy of God in such an absolute manner, as to leave men under a vain dependance upon it; or not plainly and exprefly to contradict those hopes, while they continue under the wilful practice and indulgence of their fins. Such were those false prophets whom God complains of, by the mouth of Jeremiah, t They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people sightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. I shall only instance in one other method, which is a great injustice to the severe morality of the Gofpel, and I'm afraid has often proved of very ill consequence in buoying men up in a fatal security under a vicious course of life; and that is the flattering eulogies and characters given in funeral sermons, to persons who with the credit perhaps of one or two virtues, have lived under the guilt of many notorious vices: Or the crying up others for faints and perfect patterns of goodness, who lived but the common life of men, or but a little better; sober, and perhaps honest; constant at Church, and fair in their dealings; but of whom nothing elso appears, fo exemplary either in positive virtues, or in their exercise of piety, as may justify such a canonization. Now what must the audience naturally imagine hereupon, they knew the perfon decealed, he was one of their neighbourhood; they knew him to have given himself many liberties, whilft he lived in what they call good fellowship, or in profane swearing, or in lewdness, or at best, we'll suppose they knew no harm by him? What must they conclude, when they hear the minister so extravagant in his praise, but that, according to the doctrine of their spiritual guide, if a man signalize himself but in some one virtue, he is in a safe way enough to heaven, though he indulge himself in a course of many grievous fins ? A Lord have mercy, when he is departing, shall be callid repentance ; and a confident ill-grounded presumption, shall pass for faith in Chrift; and then all is well with him, as if he had lived the most strict and sanctified life that could be. Or on supposition of the latter case, the harmless honest man, who in all outward appearance was neither very good, nor very bad; must not the audience conclude, when they hear him cry'd up for a faint, that such a life as his, is even more than enough to bring them to heaven; that to be so good, is a fort of supererogation, and that they are abundantly secured of being happy hereafter, though they should fall a little short of him, when yet comparing all that appear’d in him, with the strict rules of the Gospel, we are far from being sure, that he himself is happy; and therefore should not be told with so much confidence that he is? But whatever secret virtues he had, which do not appear to us, they may avail ( and we may charitably suppose there were such) as to his own salvation; yet what we did not fee, we cannot imitate, and therefore his outward conversation only will be no fafe guide for
* Isa. Iviii. 1.
† Jer. vi. 14.
(2.) ANOTHER fort of false teachers, whom doubtless our Saviour had in view, when he
gave this caution, are those who with greater appearances of sanftity and devotion, will be refining upon his
scheme by superstitious additions of their own. Men cannot be too holy, or too devout; but they may be seduced to place devotion and holiness in that which really is not so. Sincerity and fervency, together with an humble, decent, unaffected seriousness in posture, make devotion in prayer. rent attendance upon God's word and facraments; a strict consciencious obedience paid to all his laws; an uniform love and practice of every virtue, and every duty towards God, our neighbour, and our selves, according as they are traced out to us in the holy Scriptures, is religion. But what have some men substituted in the room of these, who teach men to place devotion in the number or length of prayers, instead of fervency; and to place religion in a round of pompous formalities, and superstitious observances, which God has never commanded ? This may be fancy and , folly, but it cannot be religion ; 'tis going out of the plain road to heaven, which Christ has shewn us," into the by-paths of human invention, which a jealous God will never countenance; and those that teach men to do thus, are certainly false teachers and seducers. There is indeed a principle within us, which will not suffer men to be without a concern for pleasing God in some way or other: They must have a religion, whatever it is.
And therefore consulting their own lusts and appetites as much as they can, they are most easily persuaded to take up with a mechanical religion, consisting chiefly in an outward road of performances, how laborious and expensive foever they may be, than in such a genuine devotion, and stričt virtue, as the laws of God prescribe: And thus they vainly think to compound with God, and their own consciences, by abundance of the form, to supply their deficiencies in, and their neglect of the vital power of godliness. Thus did the Pharisees, who to ease themselves of
the harder duties of loving God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength, and loving their neighbours as themselves, found a way to be fatisfied with an outward ceremonious purity, the washing of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, with many other the like trifling observances, instead of the weightier matters of the law; postponing the commandments of God, and rendring them of no effect, by placing religion where God had never placed it. Well may it be ask'd of such, at the great day, Who has required these things at your hands ? I must add a third sort of false teachers, equally included in this caution.
(3.) Those who teach and require any doctrine or doctrines to be received, as a necessary condition of salvation; which were not taught and enforced as such, by our Saviour and his Apostles. Now whether it be in faith or practice, or both, to preach or publish a doctrine as an essential part of the christian religion, and a necessary term and condition of Salvation, which was not so taught by Christ and his Apostles, though not a doctrine confrary to what they taught, is to pervert the christian religion, and to corrupt the professors of it. Christ has not left it in the power of the ministers or officers of his Church, to add any new doctrine to his religion. St. Paul, who was an Apostle (as he describes himself in the beginning of his Epistle to the Galatians) not of men, neither by mang but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father; to whom, as he says farther, even the known pillars of the christian Church, James, Cephas, and John, gave the right hand of fellowship, viz. received him as a companion equal to themselves; even this great Apostle
; disclaim'd all power of teaching any other doctrine than what the Apostles had preach'd, and the Churches received. But though we, or an angel from heaven, says he, preach any other gospel unto you, than that
we have preach'd unto you, let him be accursed. Which shews, that the foundation of the christian religion was already laid, and that the Gospel which was then preach'd, was not only immutable, but also sufficient : And that neither the inspired Apostles, nor the unsinning angels might either add to it, or take away from it. But here I must interpose this caution, that though the essential parts of the christian religion cannot be altered, nor cán there be any thing added thereto, nor taken away by any power upon earth : Yet our Saviour has committed into the hands of the ministers of his kingdom, a power not only to proclaim and divulge, to enforce and urge, to maintain and defend, but also to explicate and unfold those effential articles, according to occasions and emergencies, and in proportion to the rule of Scripture, and the analogy of faith. Moreover, our Saviour has entrusted with the ministers of his Church, a power to make constitutions and canons relating to the external regiment thereof, as also to frame liturgies, and public offices, for the solemn worship of God, and the administration of the facraments; to appoint times and places of worship, to determine smaller controversies for peace and unity fake, and to prevent schism and division. All this the ministers of Christ may do, and be true and faithful teachers; but to teach any doctrine, contrary to the doctrines of the Gospel, or to add any thing new, as an essential part of the christian religion, which was not 'made so by Christ and his Apostles, is to be a false prophet.
(4.) And lastly, Such also may be look'd upon as false teachers, or seducers from the true way of falvation, the practical piety and virtue of the Gofpel, who are continually entertaining their congregation with unnecessary disputes in religion, and turning their heads and hearts to an over-eager zeal for no