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tions, that are either uncertain, or of little importance. How many fuch teachers are there in the world, who think themselves happy enough, if they can but start fome new fpeculation to spend their zeal upon; and holy enough, if they do but feriously advance in their inftructions fome point of doctrine (perhaps a mere opinion) which happens in their time to be deny'd by others, or oppofe what others have afferted, though the point in debate is lana caprina, an inconfiderable infignificant thing to falvation, which a man may know or be ignorant of, believe or difbelieve, without being at all nearer to, or farther off from the kingdom of heaven? And what's the confequence of this teaching? It fublimates religion to fuch 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 chriftian 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 oppofite; as thefe opinions prejudice them with a furious and uncharitable biggotry, and perhaps a fpirit of perfecution, (if it lye in their power to exert it,) against those that think not as they do. I fpeak not here of fuch doctrinal points, as the divinity of Chrift; or any other which may be clearly proved from Scripture, to be effential to the chriftian religion, and confequently to our falvation by Chrift. To preach up these fteddily and zealously, is but earneftly to contend for the faith once delivered to the faints; but I fpeak of matters as are more difputable, 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 wife above what is written there, nor trouble our felves, nor amufe our audience with doctrines which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. I proceed now to fhew,
II. THE marks whereby a falfe prophet may be difcerned. As to these I have in a great measure fore-stalled my felf, in what I have faid already; for defcribing the falfe teachers, I could no other way do it, than by defcribing thofe doctrines which denominate and fhew them to be fuch. The evil tendency therefore of their doctrines, and of their way of teaching, to divert men from the eftecm and practice of holiness, being pointed out by our Saviour himself, as the chief mark whereby to difcover these falfe prophets, (For by their fruits, fays he, ye shall know them,) and this being fufficiently 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 confidered, pride and covetousness: The one or the other of thefe being the governing principle, that induces fuch men to their corrupt teaching, will fome way or other fhew it felf in their conduct, if it be well observed, and therefore they may ftand for farther tokens, to distinguish them from the true ministers of Chrift.
(1.) PRIDE is very confpicuous in them, notwithstanding their great diffimulation. A secret thirst of being famed and talk'd of, makes them uneafy to be reftrain'd to the ordinary road of preaching up a good life, according to the plain and practicable tenor of the Gofpel. They have here no latitude to fhew their parts, or recommend
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 difputative and eager zeal for fome party, or fome opinion already advanced by others, which they know is a popular way of entertaining an audience, whofe paffions are more eafily and more acceptably gratified than their reason, and who had rather be taught to reft themfelves upon the borders of religion, than to be led into the heart and bowels of it, in fuch duties as they do not care to practife. They know that the vicious part of mankind is much the greateft, and confequently to obtain a general applause, they must not bear too hard upon vice: They muft few pillows under mens armholes, and bolfter them up in an eafy fort of religion, that will bring them only to the furface of morality; and even this for form-fake, for corrupt nature it felf can hardly be content without it; but to tell men roundly of their fins, to prefs them to a thorough repentance and amendment; to put them upon the neceffary exercife of all chriftian virtues and duties, and to tell them plainly, there is no falvation, but in the way of fincere and ferious 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 muft correfpond with it; and then it is obfervable, they carry things to an extream: They fcrew religion up to fuperftition, and even their garb, their gesture, their voice, their phrafeology or expreffion, and every thing elfe about them, is affected, that they may by thefe means come to be taken notice of, and pafs for men of extraordinary ftrictness
strictness and holinefs, knowledge and fpiritual gifts; these fingularities being mighty apt to ftrike people with a veneration for them. And thus the vanity of being admired, will fhew it felf in different fhapes; in fome more directly, by an haughty air, an imperious converfation, a pofitive and pompous way of preaching, a vain-glorious boafting mighty things of themselves, and an affectation of fhewing their parts and learning: In others more craftily, 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 fufpected; if it agree not with the former, he is certainly a falfe teacher. But if nothing of pride, or its confequences appear in him, let it be well confidered, whether there is not,
(2.) COVETOUSNESS, or a worldly intereft, driving on, in his doctrine, and difcernable in his behaviour. That this is a principle very natural to falfe teachers, by which they are most commonly acted (and whereby they may easily be difcovered) St. Paul intimates to us, when he speaks of fome in his time, *Who fubverted whole houses, teaching things they ought not, for filthy lucre fake. And fo in his Epiftle to the Romans alfo, he forewarns them, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which caufe divifions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learn'd, and avoid them: for they that are fuch, ferve not our Lord Jesus Chrift, but their own belly, and by good words and fair fpeeches, deceive the hearts of the fimple. St. Peter alfo has left it upon record, that fuch there would be in after ages of the Church. + There fhall be falfe teachers among you, who privily fhall 2 Pet. ii. 1.
* Tit. i. 11.
Rom. xvi. 17.
fhall bring in damnable herefies, &c: And through covetoufnefs fhall they with feign'd words make merchandize of you. The love of riches makes them teach what will pleafe, rather than what will edify; puts them forward to a difputative and party zeal, as more for their purpose, than inculcating piety and a good life: Dependance makes them afraid to fpeak out plainly against fin, or the fordid thirst and profpect of fome 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 fuch new doctrines, or advance fuch convenient fuperftitions, as make to their own profit and advantage. Whereas a true minister of Chrift, *feeks not his own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be faved. + Wrongs no man, corrupts no man, defrauds no man.
Neither at any time ufes flattering words, nor a cloke of covetousness, as falfe teachers do, but preaches the word of God with all boldness; whether it fhall please or displease, and be an advantage or difadvantage to him. .. In all things Shewing himself a pattern of good works; in doctrine fhewing uncorruptness, gravity, fincerity.
* I Cor. x. 33. Acts iv. 29.
2 Cor. ii. 7. .. Tit. ii. 7.
Thef. ii. 5.