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But, Secondly, what is imply'd in Christ's bidding his Followers to beware of them? Why, that he himself hath in some measure told us; faying, Mat. 24. Believe them not, and go not after them; that is, Be not too forward to receive their Doctrine, nor too easy to be misled by their Example.
Our Saviour had been before speaking of that disferent Dialect, that would be found among Christians in the latter days •, One faying, Lo! here is Christ ; and another, Lo .' there: to which he subjoins this Advice, Believe them not: For there stall arise salse Christs and salse Prophets, and stall shew great Signs and Wonders ; 'insomuch that, if it were pojfible, they shall deceive the very Elect. And St. John gives the fame Advice •, Beloved, believe not every Spirit, for many false Prophets are gone abroad into the World. Error is sometimes so set off by artificial Colours, that 'tis not easy for weak People to fee through the Disguise, or to discern, the Face of Truth: some mistake thro Ignorance, and others by Design, speaking things that they should not, for filthy Lucre's fake. False Teachers commonly work upon the Credulity of the Vulgar, and blindly lead them into many Errors and therefore be not too easy of Belief, nor tamely yield up your Faith to them.
Again, If any fay concerning Christ, Behold he is in the Desart! go not forth: Behold he is in the secret Chambers.' believe it not. In like manner, if any fay, Behold he is in the Conclave of Catholicks, or in the Conventicles of Sectaries•, believe them not, and'go not afier them. Be not drawn aside from the ways of Truth and Peace by such Calls or Examples. St. Paul bids us, to .mark these that cause Divisions, not to follow, but avoid them. And from such as have only a Form of Godliness without the Power of it, he warns all good Christians to turn avfay; faying as Jacob did of Simeon and Levi, Brethren in Iniquity, My Soul come not thou into their Secrets, to their Assemblies mine Honour be not thou united. In a word, it is much more fefe for the common People to give themselves up to the Guidance and Instructions of their lawful and authoriz'd Pastors, than to heap to themselves Teachers, having itching Earswho are apt to draw them from the Truth, and to turn them unto Fables. This is imply'd in the Caution here given, Beware of salse Prophets.
Vol. IV. Part 2. Q.
Now to help us herein, our Saviour acquaints us, in the next words, with the Manner and the End of their Coming. The Manner, in these words, They come to you outwardly in Sheeps-Clothing; that is, with soft and smooth Pretences: The End, in these, But inwardly they, are ravening Wolves, who come not but to despoil and to devour. A word or two of each. And,
ist, Of the Manner of their Coming; They come to you in Sheeps-Clothing. These Words are an, Allusion to the Habit and Custom used by the Prophets of old, who in the Delivery of any weighty Message were wont to wear Sheep-Skins, as a Badg of their Meekness and Innocence i in imitation whereof, the false Prophets would put on their Sheeps-Clothing on the like Occasions, to gain the greater Reverence to their Persons, and the better Reception to their Doctrines. The Sheep, you know, is a Creature noted for its Usefulness and Innocence ; it often receives, but never does any harm, and is therefore fitly, made the Emblem of Meekness and Patience. So that by, Sheeps-Clothing here we are to understand in general all those artisicial Methods and Disguises, by which Deceivers .seduce the unwary Multitude: St. Paul expresses them by good Words and sair Speeches, Rom. 16. and elsewhere by the Sleight of Men, ana the cunning Craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; Eph. 4.14. But more particularly, this Sheeps-Clothing consists in a great Show of Piety and Zeal for the Glory of God, of great Love and Affection to the Souls of Men, and of great Mortification and Selfdenial in themselves. I fay,
(1.) It consists in a great Show of Piety and Zeal for, the Glory of God. This piece of Sheeps-Clothing was visible in the Pharisees, who affected a mighty Appearance of Sanctity and Devotion, and with it cover'd many vile Enormities: Tljey made long Prayers, sometimes in the Corners of the Streets, and sometimes in private Houses, merely to be heard and seen of Men; they kept the Sabbath with a more than ordinary Strictness, and blamed our Saviour and his Disciples for not coming up to their Preciseness. Wherein they are exactly imitated by the modern Zealots and Followers of that separating Sect, who pretend to greater Purity, and cry up a more spiritual way of Worship, merely to hide the Impurity os their Lives, and the Impiety of their Divisions.
(2.) Another piece of this Sheeps-Clothing, is a Pretence of great Love to Mens Souls, and a more than ordinary Care and Tendernesi for therm This St. Paul obscrv'd of the false Teachers crept into the Churches of Galatia. , of whom he minds the Galatians , They zjalousty affett you, (faith he) but not well: meaning, that whatever Shew of Love and Kindness they make to you, there was nothing under it but Falshood aud Hypocrisy , and in all they fay or do, their Love was not to you, but themselves. For they would exclude you (faith he) that you might affett them: that is, they would shut you out of the true Faith, that you might admire their Persons, and embrace their Errors. The fame Cloke is put on and worn still by Seducers, who pretend the greatest Kindness when they intend the greatest Mischief, and cover the foullest Designs under the fairest Shew of Affection.
(3.) Another piece of this Sheeps-Clothing, is a Pretence to greater Mortification and Self-denial than othdr, Men. So St. Jerom interprets the Sheeps-Clothing of fille Prophets, by their seeming Rigour and Austerity of Li se; Indeed, all that will draw Disciples after them must pretend to something extraordinary this way ., and this hath been a known Way and Method of Deceivers, to raise an Admiration of their Persons, the better to instil their Opinions into them: for a great Appearance of Strictness and Sanctity is wont to impose upon unwary People* who are apt to think that such godly Men cannot be mistaken, and thence are easily persuaded to take all they fay for Gospel, and so implkitely imbibe all their Errors, The Pharisees frequent Fastings arid mortify'd Looks drew the People after them, and by these Arts false Teachers have deceiv'd many: which made St, Paul caution the Colo/pans. , Let none beguile you with a voluntary Humility. , intruding into things which they have not seen. , being vainly puff'd up with a sieflAy Mind; Col. 2. This'is briefly the Sheeps-Clothing* in which false Prophets are faid to comej
But what Is the End of their Coming? Why* that the next words declare; Inwardly they are ravening Wolves. Now the Wolf (you know) is a Creature of Prey, it comes not but to kill and to destroy; its chief Design is upon the harmless Sheep, whom he seeks first to divide and then to devour. The ravening Wolf is the worst of its kind, and signifies one of the greatest Rage and, Rapa
0, 3 . *«y< city. And yet oar Saviour thought this the fittest Resemblance of the Subtlety and Cruelty of false Teachers, who seek to fleece and devour the Flock they pretend to feed. Of this the Pharisees were a plain Instance, who by their long Prayers devour'd Widows Houses, and made their long Robes a Covering for all their Rapine and Oppression ; and this hath been the method of their Followers ever since, to carry on Rebellion by Pretences of Reformation, and to hide Sacrilege and Schism under a Cloke of greater Sanctity. And so tho the outward Appearance be in Sheeps-Clothing, yet inwardly they are ravening Wolves.
But how may we know and discover these false Prophets and Teachers? Why, that our Saviour informs us: Te J}?all know them by their Fruits j do Men gather Grapes of Thorns, and Figs of Thistles? Such sweet and pleafant Fruit cannot spring from a dry and disferent Stock, no more can sound Practices proceed from rotten and corrupt Principles. The Rule or Mark of Distinction here given by our Saviour, for the discovery of false Teachers, is, Te stall know them by their Fruits : 'tis not by the Leaves or Blossoms of a specious Profession, but by the real Fruits of a suitable Practice.
But what are these Fruits by which we may know them? Why, 'tis by the Fruits of their Doctrine, and the Fruits of their Lives.
1st, I fay, false Teachers may be known by the Fruits of their Doctrine ; not indeed always by the Matter of their Doctrine, for false Teachers may sometimes preach Doctrines that are found, orthodox, and true j but by the Ends, Tendencies, and Consequents of them, which are most properly ltil'd the Fruits of their Doctrine. Such as prophesy d sa!fly in God's Name, and, as some would have' them, prophesy d smooth Things, Deceits, and Lyes, sowing Pillows under mens Arms to hunt Souls; soothing them in: their Iniquities, and faying Peace when there was no Peace? . were of old stil'd salse Prophets, who daub'd with untemper'd Mortar, as we read in Jeremy and Ez!ekiel. And such are they who still flatter Men, especially great Persons, in their Vices and Follies, and deal unfaithfully with them committed to their charge, for By-ends.
There are others who perhaps may preach sound Doctrine, but not from good Principles, or for right Ends ', 'viz.. not for the Glory of God, or the Good of Merts Souls, but for their ©wn Glory, and to promote soaie worldly Interest. St. Paul speaks of some who preach'd Christ cut of Envy and Strife, not of Good-will, but of Contention, and therefore not sincerely, Phil. j. 15, 16. And we have some who vent Doctrines tending to the Breach of Peace and Unity in the Church of Christ, and to promote SediV tion, Faction, and Disobedience in it: such as these are justly reckon'd in the number of false Teachers, who serve not our Lord Jefm Christ, but their own Bellies. St. James soeaks of a fort of Wisdom, that is attended with bitter Envying, Strife, and Dissension, which leads to Confusion and every evil Work: and this Wisdom, he tells us, defeendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. But the Wisdom that is from above, is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of Mercy and good Fruits, without Partialify and -without Hypocrisy. By these Marks we may try the Fruits of Mens Doctrine, and thereby know the false Teachers from the true.
zdly, We may know them by the Fruits of their Lives; for wicked Practices flow from evil Principles, and plainly demonstrate the Falshood of them. As false Premises always infer a false Conclusion, so a bad Life discovers the Naughtiness of the Heart, and the Unsoundness of the Profession. Tis true indeed, a wicked Life doth not always denominate a Man a false Teacher, for a bad Liver may sometimes preach true Doctrine: in which cafe our Saviour's Direction is, to do as they fay, and not as they do ; for they fay and do not.
But for the most part Mens Practices are sutableto their Principles, and the Debauchery of Manners proceeds from the Debauchery of the Mind: tho this, as all other Rules, may admit of some Exception.
Again, It must be granted, that some Men may so artificially colour over and disguise their evil Deeds and Designs, that 'tis not easy to discover the Badness of them; but yet here too the Disguise often drops off, and the Wolf appears under the Sheeps-Clothing; the Cloke in time wears out, and the Hypocrisy may be seen through the Thinness of the Covering. But where Mens Wickedness is more open and scandalous, where their Lives are vicious or factious, where they manifestly sow the Seeds of Discord and Dissension, fomenting Division and Separation, and thereby kindling mutual Heats and Hatred against one another; there we may fafely conclude them, to be none of Christ's Husbandmen, to sow his good Seed, but sorys of
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