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Whereas the Prophet Ifaiah was commanded (and 'tis the part of every chriftian teacher)* to cry aloud, not to fpare, to lift up his voice like a trumpet, and fhew the people their tranfgreffions and their fins; which furely may and ought to be done, without any rude and perfonal reflections; the fin and not the finner muff be firuck at; religion be promoted, but without malice or faction. Another way whereby 'tis poffible to encourage fin, inftead of preaching againft it, is, exalting the mercy of God in fuch an abfolute manner, as to leave men under a vain dependance upon it; or not plainly and exprefly to contradict thofe hopes, while they continue under the wilful practice and indulgence of their fins. Such were thofe falfe prophets whom God complains of, by the mouth of Jeremiah, † They have healed the burt of the daughter of my people flightly, faying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. I fhall only inftance in one other method, which is a great injustice to the fevere morality of the Gofpel, and I'm afraid has often proved of very ill confequence in buoying men up in a fatal fecurity under a vicious courfe of life; and that is the flattering eulogies and characters given in funeral fermons, to perfons 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 goodnels, who lived but the common life of men, or but a little better; fober, and perhaps honeft; conftant at Church, and fair in their dealings; but of whom nothing elfe appears, fo exemplary either in pofitive virtues, or in their exercife of piety, as may juftify fuch a canonization. Now what muft the audience naturally imagine hereupon, they knew the perfon deceased, he was one of their neighbour
*Ifa. lviii. I.
† Jer. vi. 14.
hood; they knew him to have given himself many liberties, whilft he lived in what they call good fellowship, or in profane fwearing, or in lewdness, or at beft, we'll fuppofe they knew no harm by him? What muft they conclude, when they hear the minifter fo extravagant in his praife, but that, according to the doctrine of their spiritual guide, if a man fignalize himself but in fome one virtue, he is in a fafe way enough to heaven, though he indulge himself in a courfe of many grievous fins? A Lord have mercy, when he is departing, fhall be call'd repentance; and a confident ill-grounded prefumption, fhall pafs for faith in Chrift; and then all is well with him, as if he had lived the moft ftrict and fanctified life that could be, Or on fuppofition of the latter cafe, 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 fuch a life as his, is even more than enough to bring them to heaven; that to be fo good, is a fort of fupererogation, and that they are abundantly fecured of being happy hereafter, though they should fall a little fhort of him, when yet comparing all that appear'd in him, with the ftrict rules of the Gofpel, we are far from being fure, that he himself is happy; and therefore fhould not be told with fo much confidence that he is? But whatever fecret virtues he had, which do not appear to us, they may avail (and we may charitably fuppofe there were fuch) as to his own falvation; yet what we did not fee, we cannot imitate, and therefore his outward converfation only will be no fafe guide for
(2.) ANOTHER fort of falfe teachers, whom doubtlefs our Saviour had in view, when he gave this caution, are thofe who with greater appearances of fanctity and devotion, will be refining upon his
fcheme by fuperftitious additions of their own. cannot be too holy, or too devout; but they may be feduced to place devotion and holiness in that which really is not fo. Sincerity and fervency, together with an humble, decent, unaffected ferioufnefs in pofture, make devotion in prayer. A reve rent attendance upon God's word and facraments; a ftrict confciencious obedience paid to all his laws; an uniform love and practice of every virtue, and every duty towards God, our neighbour, and our felves, according as they are traced out to us in the holy Scriptures, is religion. But what have fome men fubftituted in the room of thefe, 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 a thoufand fuperftitious obfervances, 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 Chrift has fhewn us, into the by-paths of human invention, which a jealous God will never countenance; and thofe that teach men to do thus, are certainly falfe teachers and feducers. There is indeed a principle within us, which will not fuffer men to be without a concern for pleafing God in fome way or other: They must have a religion, whatever it is. And therefore confulting their own lufts and appetites as much as they can, they are most easily perfuaded to take up with a mechanical religion, confifting chiefly in an outward road of performances, how laborious and expenfive foever they may be, than in fuch a genuine devotion, and frict virtue, as the laws of God prefcribe: And thus they vainly think to compound with God, and their own confciences, by abundance of the form, to fupply their deficiencies in, and their neglect of the vital power of godliness. Thus did the Pharifees, who to cafe themfelves of
the harder duties of loving God with all their heart, with all their foul, and with all their ftrength, 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 veffels, with many other the like trifling obfervances, inftead of the weightier matters of the law; poftponing the commandments of God, and rendring them of no effect, by placing religion where God had never placed it. Well may it be afk'd of fuch, at the great day, Who has required these things at your hands? I must add a third fort 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 falvation; which were not taught and enforced as fuch, by our Saviour and his Apoftles. Now whether it be in faith or practice, or both, to preach or publish a doctrine as an effential part of the chriftian religion, and a neceffary term and condition of Salvation, which was not fo taught by Chrift and his Apoftles, though not a doctrine contrary to what they taught, is to pervert the chriftian religion, and to corrupt the profeffors of it. Chrift has not left it in the power of the minifters or officers of his Church, to add any new doctrine to his religion. St. Paul, who was an Apoftle (as he describes himself in the beginning of his Epiftle to the Galatians) not of men, neither by man, but by Jefus Chrift, and God the Father; to whom, as he fays farther, even the known pillars of the chriftian Church, James, Cephas, and John, gave the right band of fellowship, viz. received him as a companion equal to themselves; even this great Apoftle difclaim'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, fays he, preach any other gofpel unto you, than that
we have preach'd unto you, let him be accurfed. Which fhews, that the foundation of the chriftian religion was already laid, and that the Gospel which was then preach'd, was not only immutable, but alfo fufficient: And that neither the infpired Apoftles, nor the unfinning angels might either add to it, or take away from it. But here I must interpofe this caution, that though the effential parts of the chriftian religion cannot be altered, nor can there be any thing added thereto, nor taken away by any power upon earth: Yet our Saviour has committed into the hands of the minifters of his kingdom, a power not only to proclaim and divulge, to enforce and urge, to maintain and defend, but alfo to explicate and unfold thofe effential articles, according to occafions and emergencies, and in proportion to the rule of Scripture and the analogy of faith. Moreover, our Saviour has entrusted with the minifters of his Church, a power to make conftitutions and canons relating to the external regiment thereof, as alfo to frame liturgies, and public offices, for the folemn worship of God, and the adminiftration of the facraments; to appoint times and places of worship, to deter mine fmaller controverfies for peace and unity fake, and to prevent fchifm and divifion. All this the minifters of Christ may do, and be true and faithful teachers; but to teach any doctrine, contrary to the doctrines of the Gofpel, or to add any thing new, as an effential part of the chriftian religion, which was not made fo by Chrift and his Apoftles, is to be a falfe prophet.
(4.) AND laftly, Such alfo may be look'd upon as falfe teachers, or feducers from the true way of falvation, the practical piety and virtue of the Gofpel, who are continually entertaining their congregation with unneceffary difputes in religion, and turning their heads and hearts to an over-eager zeal for no