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FALSE PROFI ESSORS DESCRIBED.
FALSE PROFESSORS DESCRIBED. Tit. i. 16. They profess that they know God; but in works they
deny him. AT a time when the profession of godliness is everywhere abounding, it is of peculiar importance to lay down marks whereby the upright may be distinguished, and the hypocritical be put to shame. There have ever been in the Church, many, whose characters would not bear investigation, and whose conduct was the very reverse of what their profession required. In the days of the Apostle there were “ many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, who subverted whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre sakea," and of these he hesitated not to declare, that “whilst they professed that they knew God, they in works denied him.”
Now, as such persons abound in all ages, I will enter into a fuller consideration of the character here delineated; and observe respecting it, that it is, I. A common character
As all who were the natural descendants of Abraham were considered as professing the faith of Abraham, even whilst they were living altogether without God in the world ; so all who name the name of Christ are considered as Christians, though they never think of departing from any iniquity which
a ver. 10, 11.
their hearts affect. But it is not of such persons that I intend to speak. The persons mentioned in my text evidently wished to be regarded as religious: and therefore it is to persons of that description that my attention shall be confined. These, indeed, embrace a great variety of character: for, whilst some take up religion in a formal kind of way, as a means of gaining a reputation for sanctity, others vaunt themselves in an experience of its power upon their souls. Of the former class are those whom St. Paul speaks of, when he says, “ Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident, that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law b.” Of the latter class are they whose hearts have been impressed in a measure with divine truth, and brought in some degree under the power of religion, but who yet hold fast some secret lusts which they will not part with. Of such the Prophet Isaiah speaks: “ They call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel." Of such also God speaks by the Prophet Ezekiel: “ They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words; but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness d.”
Now, of both these classes there are very many in the present day. At a former period, the pharisaical class were the more numerous; but at this time the hypocritical. In some respects they differ widely from each other, and hold each other in contempt: but, in the main point, they are agreed; namely, in not walking agreeably to their profession. Neither the one nor the other give themselves up wholly to their God: some hidden abomination, like a worm at the root, impedes their fruitfulness in good works, and prevents them from “bringing forth any fruit to perfection.” Were I to distinguish between them, I should say, the one profess religion generally; the others profess religion of a superior cast: but, when the whole of their spirit, and temper, and conduct, are compared with the Scripture-standard, they shew that their hearts are not right with God; and that, whilst " they draw nigh to him with their lips, their hearts are far from hime."]
It is also,
b Rom. ii. 17-20. c Isai. xlviii. 2.
• Isai. xxix. 13.
In two respects do these persons fearfully betray their extreme folly and wickedness : 1. They grievously dishonour God
[In proportion as they profess a zeal for God, is God implicated, if I may so say, in the evils which they commit. Not that God has indeed any responsibility on their account: but an ungodly world, who hate religion, will take occasion to condemn religion itself for the faults of those who profess it, yea, and to "blaspheme the very name of God himself on their account.” Unreasonable as it is that “ the way of truth should be evil spoken of” on account of those who walk not according to its dictates, still this is what men will do, in vindication of themselves, and for the purpose of decrying all serious godliness'. But this greatly aggravates the guilt of those who thus expose religion to contempt, and cast a stumbling-block in the way of a perishing world. Truly it were “ better that a millstone were hanged about the neck of such persons, and that they should be cast into the sea,” than that they should continue to involve themselves in such tremendous guilt.] 2. They fatally deceive their own souls
[No persons are less disposed to suspect themselves than these. Their profession stands with them in the place of practice. They think only of what they do; but never reflect on what they leave undone. If they “ say, Lord, Lord,” it never comes into their minds to inquire how far they “ do the things which he requires of them.” The godly themselves express not a greater confidence of their state before God, than these. Hence it is that they are so frequently warned against self-deceit; “If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself8." And again; “If any man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, that man's religion is vainh." Of such persons there is little, if any, hope : because they imagine themselves already possessed of all that the Gospel offers, and therefore are deaf to the invitations and entreaties which they deem applicable only to persons less favoured than themselves.]
Such an one is truly, III. A pitiable character
In the midst of light “ they walk on still in darkness ”_
1 2 Pet. ii. 2. Rom. ii. 23, 24. 1 Tim. vi. 1. & Gal. vi. 3.
h Jam. i. 26.
[Professing that they know God, they take, of course, the Scriptures for their guide: but, with respect to the real life of godliness, they are yet ignorant, because that “ darkness has blinded their eyes.” In truth, they see every thing through a wrong medium, and as it were with a jaundiced eye; and the very principles which they profess serve only to beguile them to their ruin. Unhappy souls ! " whose very light is darkness," and whose knowledge causeth them to err!!]
With all imaginable opportunities for salvation, they improve not any for their good
[They have the ordinances of religion, yea, and take pleasure in them toom; but they remain unhumbled, and is uncircumcised both in heart and life.” The very word they hear, which to others is “a savour of life unto life," proves to them only “a savour of death unto death"." The more formal of these characters satisfy themselves with a mere round of duties; and the more enlightened of them place their own feelings and conceits in the stead of vital godliness; and thus both the one and the other turn the very means of salvation into occasions of augmented guilt and misery. The very sun and rain, which ripen others, do but prepare them for fuel in the fire of hello.]
Buoyed up with the most glorious hopes and prospects, they have nothing awaiting them but the most fearful disappointment
[They dream of heaven at the termination of their earthly pilgrimage : but, alas ! what horror will seize hold upon them at the instant of their departure hence! It is not only the tree which bears bad fruit, but that which bears not good fruit, that will be cast into the fireP: not those only who had no lamps, but “ those whose lamps were destitute of oil, that will be cast into outer darkness, where is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth 9.” They will carry their delusive hopes even to the bar of judgment: but their claims will be disallowed, and their pleas be of no avail”. Their eyes will then be opened to see their folly; and they will be left to reap for ever the fruit which they have sowns."] Let me now entreat you to INQUIRE into,
1. Your profession
i 1 John ï. 11.
k Matt. vi. 23. | Isai. xlvii. 10.
Gal. vi. 7, 8.
[Think not that a merely speculative knowledge, however extensive it be, will suffice. To know God aright, you must know him, as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus; and must so know him, as to renounce every other hope, and to rely altogether on Christ alone. Then only do we know him aright, when we “cleave unto Christ with full purpose of heart.”]
2. Your practice
[It is to little purpose that we hear and approve of the word, " unless we be doers of it alsot:" nor can we have any satisfactory evidence that we know God, except by obeying his commandments“. See, then, that with your profession there be also a holy consistency of conduct: and take care to “shew forth your faith by your works."] + Jam. i. 22–25.
u 1 John ij. 3.
SOBER-MINDEDNESS. Tit. ii. 6. Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded.
THE first object of a Christian minister is, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, in all its freeness and in all its fülness. This is the foundation of a sinner's hope: and unless this foundation be firmly laid, it will be in vain to attempt any superstructure ; since from the Gospel alone, and from Christ as revealed in it, can we obtain that strength which is necessary for the production of any good work whatever. But, when we have made known “the truth as it is in Jesus," we must go on to inculcate holiness in all its branches; and not in general terms only, but with a special reference to every particular person whom we may have occasion to address. Titus, though but a youth, was enjoined to officiate with all the authority of a divinely-appointed minister; and to address with equal fidelity the aged and the young, on the subject of their respective duties : “ Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:" exhort alike “the aged men, and aged women,” “ the young women also, and the young men,” giving to each the instruction suited to his own peculiar state