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essential, and necessary to correct the heart; nor than in freely following the sense and reason, which our maker hath given us, and which Christ hath often called us to the use of, in the search of religious truths. How right and just is this!
But when, as if in pursuit of these principles, he goes farther, and under a pretence of decrying ceremonies, he is for explaining away, or vilifying the sacraments, as external and superstitious; and for annulling the ministry, as burdensome and tyrannical, it is easy enough to perceive the wildness of the wolf, who kicks at every sort of discipline, by the first; and his voracious teeth, by the second, which water at the wealth of the church. No less remarkably does he discover himself, when, encouraged by the gospel invitation to a generous freedom of thought in religious matters, he sits in judgment on the plainest dictates of God, and, forcibly wresting the Scripture, bends them to those of his own reason. Here the violence of the wolf, the cunning of the fox, and the irreclaimable wildness of both, are united to pollute religion in its fountain, and to pervert every article of Christian faith. Now, if we do not take all this for an exercise of true Christian liberty, we are charged by them with breach of Christian charity; and so the second part of the sheep's clothing is used to fasten on the first, and prevent its being torn away in order to a manifest detection.
Charity, which is the most lovely and exalted of all the Christian virtues, and which our blessed Master hath therefore assigned as the distinguishing badge of his disciples, is aped by the wolf with infinite art, and paraded off to prodigious advantage ; and as between charity and zeal, whenever so little misunderstood, there appears to be a sort of natural opposition; the zeal of an orthodox advocate for Christian faith, though moderate enough, is run down and ridiculed by the wolf, as an incendiary and persecuting spirit, and that with such unhappy success, as to have extinguished, in the generality of professed Christians, the very appearance of regard for Christianity. This dead sleep affords a fine opportunity for the sower of tares; nor does he neglect to seize it with all that zeal, which he so loudly decries in his opponents. Thus zeal is blamable and uncharitable only when it is exerted on the side of truth, though herein undoubtedly is its most affectionate exercise towards men, and its most pleasing proof of itself in the sight of God, if the propagation of religious truths is of any consequence to the happiness of mankind, and if the blessed martyrs were not the most mistaken bigots, that ever laboured or died for a worthless cause.
It must be confessed, indeed, that the real principles of the wolf sit too loose on him, to admit of any sufferings, or even worldly losses, on their account, in their abettor; and therefore he hardly ever attempts to make proselytes by open declarations of, or arguments for, his opinions; but insinuates them under the mask of received truths by the basest equivocations. A fine sort of divinity, no doubt, that can be neither preached, nor heard, but in double entendres! Is it not most unchristian, most uncharitable, in us to expose it? However, that the wolf, under all his smooth words of charity, benevolence, social affection, &c. and under the oily appearance of meekness and moderation, is still a wolf, may be easily perceived by the home, but secret stabs he gives to the reputation of those who stand foremost in the controversy against him, and by the infinite pains he is at to keep them down, as men who would set the world on fire, were they in power. How artful is this species of persecution, which consists in imputing a spirit of persecution to others. How very artful this method of throwing cold water on the zeal of others, that his own may draw all the fuel to itself, and have leave to burn alone! If the world will not see the wolf here, nor shun him for being a wolf, but is resolved rather to wish for deception, let it be deceived. I beseech God, however, to preserve every well-meaning Christian from the virulence of the reigning moderation.
As to morality, or the third particular in the sheep's clothing, it sounds so like virtue, which is absolutely required by the gospel, as the principal ingredient in Christianity, or rather, as the grand effect of all its principles, that a wolf, howsoever equipped in other respects, without this, could never look like a sheep. To this therefore he affects to lay claim, as his peculiar distinction, and thereby to throw the odium of indifference for good works on the
orthodox. Allowing him now to be as good a man as his neighbours, and better, his modesty will not suffer him to say he is; do not we insist, as strongly as he, on the necessity of a good life, and on the performance of good works, in order to salvation through Christ? What then becomes of his distinction? Why, he denies faith to be as necessary, though, by the very constitution of the gospel, faith is made the principal work of God, and the fountain of every Christian virtue, the good tree, the tree of life, which is known by the good works or fruit which it produces: Yet the wolf, here too plainly discovering himself, declaims against faith as mere idle speculation, at best; and, disputing the doctrines of the Trinity, of the satisfaction, and of God's grace, as errors, advances a system of moral philosophy, rather his own too, than that of the Scriptures, as one thing needful. What a wonderful juggle is here? Will it down with common sense, that the word of God, because it calls us to repentance and newness of life, hath repealed its own principles of virtue, and sent us for both to mere morality, which, as with a brand, it calls the vain philosophy of the world ? Do you not see the pride of the wolf in his claim of heaven on the merit of his own works, while the most harmless in the flock of Christ, after doing all the good he can, is commanded to own himself but an unprofitable servant,' inasmuch as he can never repay the price laid down for him by the lamb of his salvation, in, and through whom he humbly hopes for pardon only on the best life he can lead ? Either Christ and his apostles were but maligners of human nature, and teachers only of the sourest sort of untruths, or he must surely be a false prophet, who, in compliment to our virtue and his own, bids us trust, that the few 'filthy rags' of our righteousness, mangled by great defects, and stained with gross mixtures, should atone for our many enormities, or entitle us to celestial crowds.
Notwithstanding the great stress laid on morality by the wolf in sheep's clothing, which so plainly tends to sink the necessity, and consequently the credit, of revelation ; he nevertheless pretends to the most profound veneration for the holy Scriptures.
This he insists, as we do, is the word of God, and the
rule of faith and practice. But he differs with us in maintaining, that it is the only lawful and warrantable creed, in contradistinction to those confessions of faith, that have been framed by general councils, or particular churches. These, he says, are the works of men uninspired, and therefore should have no authority. Nor have they with us, any farther, than as they may be supported with plain proofs from Scripture ; and we think it as lawful to express God's meaning, in forms like these, by words of our own, as it is to translate his word from the original into other languages, or to preach on it from the pulpit; especially as we cannot, by any other means, so well find out, whether they who demand communion with us, or ordination to the ministry among us, are real Christians or not.
But the false prophet, or teacher, in declaiming for the Bible, as the only creed, does it merely because he thinks he can, with greater ease, warp this to his own opinions, than the creeds of human composure, which he therefore protests against, because, though he swallows, he cannot so readily digest them, as is manifest by their rising so often on his stomach. That this is really his reason, may be clearly gathered from what hath been already said under the heads of Liberty and Morality, which, if true, shews he makes no difficulty of preferring his own understanding to the so highly venerated word of God. This is farther evident by his actually denying, that the whole Bible, though he will subscribe to the whole, is the product of divine inspiration; without being able, or at least willing, to point out which part of it is the word of God, and which the words of a mere man. What are the principles of this teacher reduced to ? He considers faith as bordering too closely on credulity; he looks on the creeds of the church aş erroneous, and will profess his faith, if the temporalities of the church tempt him not to do it by her creeds, by subscribing the Bible only; and, behold! he believes the Bible only in part ; treats those parts of it which he pretends most to venerate, as a nose of wax; wrests them to his own sense by artful and arbitrary interpretations ; draws but little, by way of illustration, from thence, into his short philosophical, or rather finical harangues, which he gives us for sermons, and less still by way of proof; keeps heaven and hell, the great scriptural sanctions of the divine law, as much out of the view of his hearers as possible, because, with the deist, he considers them as destructive of his favourite liberty and morality, as too coercive truly; and because he suspects, or even disbelieves, the eternity of future torments. He knows the apostles,' by the terror of the Lord, persuaded men.' He hears God saying to Isaiah, in reference to a people not more affectedly delicate, nor more hardened in wickedness, than this which we are to rouse,
Cry aloud ; spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet; shew my people their transgressions.' But then he hears these people, on the other side, saying, unto the seers, ' See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.' The false prophet I am speaking of, equally forgetting that he is the messenger of God, and that all softenings of his message are cruelty to the people, accommodates his address to their inclination, not their wants, nor the intention of his master; and, as if there were no judgment to come, no heaven or hell to follow, no motives to reformation and holiness to be drawn from a dying Saviour, nor from the shocking thought of crucifying him afresh by perseverance in sin; contents himself, and his Laodicean hearers, with prettily, but coolly, parading on the beauty of virtue, the deformity of vice, the social affections, the fitness of things, the dignity of human nature, and the moral sense ; principles canted up by the deists, as sufficient for the correction and government of our passions, in opposition to the Christian sanctions. What, but fallacy, can be learned from teachers so false? As here the tree may be known by its fruit, so the fruit may as easily be known by its tree. No' man in his right senses will go to such thorns for grapes, nor to such thistles for figs; from whence he can expect nothing but trash for his understanding, and a wound to his conscience. If it is still insisted, that wickedness is the fruit or sign of a corrupt and false teacher, pointed out by our blessed Saviour, surely one, whom we know to be guilty of the grossest prevarication in matters of religion, in case he presumes to teach religion, must be such a teacher, must be even self-condemned, as the apostle intimates. How