« AnteriorContinuar »
Satan's Emissaries and Instruments to plant his Tares.
Again, Where Men persuade to do Evil that Good may come, casting off known Duties, and allowing themselves in apparent Violations both of Divine and Human Laws -, these are all evil Fruits, and they whose Doctrines or Practices lead to the Growth of them, are some of the false Prophets or Teachers, that we are here exhorted to beware of and to avoid.'
But our Saviour goes on to illustrate these things by the Similitude of a Tree and its Fruit: for having before intimated, that Men do not gather Grapes of Thorns, but of the Vine:, nor Figs of Thistles, hut of the Fig-tree-, he adds, Even fa every good Tree hringeth sooth good Fruit, but a corrupt Tree hringeth forth evil Fruit: meaning, that the Fruit, partakes of the Nature and Goodness of the Tree from whence it proceeds; so that if the Tree be good, the Fruit will be good also; but if the Tree be evil or corrupt, the Fruit will be so too. Even so good Principles, if firmly rooted in the Mind, will bring forth the good Fruits of found Doctrine and a suitable Practice ; but evil Principles, if got there, will produce the bad Fruits of Error and unsound Practices. St. James explains it by the Similitude of a Spring or Fountain ; where if the Waters are pure and clean, it will send forth, clear and wholesom Streams; but 'if the Waters be foul and polluted, the Streams that issue from it must be so too, for a Fountain cannot at the same place fend forth sweet Waters and bitter, James 3. ir. In like manner, a good Man out of the good Treasure of the Heart hringeth forth good things, and an evil Man out of the evil Treasure of his Heart hringeth forth evil things; for out of the Abundance of the Heart the Mouth fpeaketh: Luke 6.45, So that as a Tree is known by its Fruit, so is the Man by his Manners: which is so true, that our Saviour adds, A good Tree cannot bring forth evil Fruit, neither can a corrupt Tree bring forth good Fruit, But here we must note, that what is here faid of the Tree and its Fruit, must not be apply'd always to Persons, but mostly to Principles: for if we apply it to Persons, it will sometimes prove otherwife - for the best of Men having something of Evil in them? sometimes bring forth evil Fruit; and the worst of Men having something of Good in them, sometimes bring forth good Fruit: This is so evident from the Failings of good Men, and the good Works of bad Mtfn, that it needs no farther Proof, But if we apply it to Principles, it wilj ever hold trne for we may siy of evil and corrupt Practices, that fthey always come of evil Principles ; and of good and found Doctrines, that they always come from good Principles: no Opinion truly good can promote any moral Evil, and no Opinion truly evil can advance any moral Good. In this cafe it hath been rightly obscrv'd, that the Tree that is once corrupt will always be so, and nothing but Corruprion can come from it; and the Doctrine that is once good will still continue such, and never degenerate into Evil. In a word, all that is good cometh from God, the Author and Fountain of all Good ., and all that is evil cometh of the Devil, who is the Father and Fountain of all Evil. So that by the Goodness or Badnese of the Fruit, we may be able to judg both of Teachers and their Doctrines, whether they come from God, or proceed from the Evil one.
And this we are the more narrowly to search and look into, because our Saviour tells us in the next words, that every Tree that bringeth not forth good Fruit, shall be hewn down and cast into the fire: that is, every one's Principles and Practices shall shortly undergo a Trial; they who have built upon the Foundation of Christianity, sound Doctrines, and the Fruits of a holy Life, which the Apostle compares to Silver and Gold, and precious Stones; all such shall receive a Reward: but they who build upon it the Hay and Stubble of Errors and Divisions, and other corrupt Fruit, shall suffer Loss, and both they and their Works shall be cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their Fruits ye siiall knotP them, faith our blessed Saviour: that is, by the Fruits of their Doctrines and their Lives. This is the Test or Touchstone here given us to try false Teachers by; 'tis not by their Words or specious Pretences: for not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord ! shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven ; but he that doth the Will of my Father, who is in Heaven. Where by laying Lord, Lord! is meant the making an outward or open Profession of Christ, either by being call'd by his Name, as in Baptism, wherein we own him for our Lord and Mastery or by calling upon his Name, as in our Prayers, wherein we fay, Lord, Lord! in token of our Subjection to and Dependence upon him. Now this outward Profession, or faying Lord, Lord! is not of it self sufficient to bring us to Heaven ., for this may come only from the Tongue or the Teeth outward, without the real
O A Service Service and Subjection of the Heart: and therefore our Saviour adds, that 'tis the doing the Will pf our Father in Heaven, that can alone bring us there. 'Tis a sincere, entire, and univerfal Obedience to God's Laws, that only intitles to the Kingdom of Heaven, without which neither Pastor nor People by any other. Methods or Pretences shall ever arrive thither.
Thus we fee who are the false Prophets or Teachers we are bid to beware of, what is the Manner and End of their coming, together with the Marks and Tokens to discover or discern them by.
It remains only to exhort you to use your greatest Cau'tion and Circumspection in this weighty Affair. Both Christ and his Apostles tell us, that many false Prophets are gone out into the World, and that they use all possible Arts and Devices to impose upon and deceive the People: 'tis therefore seasonable Advice, to watch and guard your selves against their Delusions. Remember that 'tis both easy and dangerous to be deceiv'd by them j the SheepsClothing they put on makes it easy, and the ravening Wolf that lies under it makes it dangerous. The Sheep, you know, may be easily betray'd, if the Wolf come in the habit and disguise of a Sheep: and 'tis no hard matter for the unthinking Vulgar to be impos'd upon, when the Seducer comes in the Appearance of a Saint. A plausible Show of Zeal, a loud Cry of Reformation, of greater Purity of Worship, of better Means of Edification, and the like, have cheated many into Schism and Sedition. When these Impostors have insinuated themselves into the Esteem and Affections of the People, and brought them to a fond Admiration of their Persons, they then lead them where they please, by an implicit Faith and blind Obedience ., and the People become ready to receive and swallow whatever they prepare for them.
And as the Deceit is easy, so is .it exceeding dangerous , for false Teachers are faid in Scripture to have the Windings and Doublings of the Serpent, the Subtlety of the. Fox, and the Rapacity of the Wolf, from all which there cannot but be great danger to the Flock of Christ: which should make them fake heed of wandrihg from the Fold, but keep together, as Sheep are-wont to do, when any Danger feem,s to threaten or annoy them.
Lastly, From the Rule here given to know false Teachers by their Fruits, let us learn to bring their Doctrines and Practices to this Test, and fee whether they tend to promote the Fruits of the Spirit, which are Love, Joy, Peace, Long-suffering, Meeknels, Patience, and the like; or whether- they lead to the Works of the Flesh, which are Wrath, Strife, Hatred, Variance, Heresies and Divisions; and accordingly receive or reject them : so shall we avoid the Ways of Error and Dissension, and be kept in the Paths of Peace and Truth, which lead to eternal Life; to which God of his infinite Mercy bring us all, for the Merits of Jesus Christ.
The Epistle for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity.
j Cor. x. 1 14.
Brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our Fathers were under the Clouds and all passed through the Sea, and were all baptized unto Moses, in the Cloud and in the Sea, and did all eat the fame spiritual Meat, and did all drink the fame spiritual Drink, &C. But with many of them God was not well pleased, &c.
THE Collect for this Day beseeches God to grant to us the Spirit, to think and do always such things as be rightful•, that we who cannot do any thing that is good without him, may by him be enabled to live according to his Will. Accordingly,
The Epistle for the Day teaches us to think aright concerning the Church, both under the Law and under the Gospel i and likewise to do aright by the Directions of it under both Dispenfations.. And because of our selves we can neither think or do as God would have us, we are to '"'' implore implore the Assistance of his Holy Spirit, to enable us to please him in both. Lest Christians now should boast of higher and greater Privileges than the Jews had of old, and so be exalted above measure by the Abundance of the GospelRevelations; the Apostle tells them, that the Israelites of old were the People of God as well as we, and had the like Favours and miraculous Works vouchfafed to them under the Law, as are now afforded to us under the Gospel: and as they were punish'd for their Ingratitude and Abuse ©f God's Mercies, so we may not hope to go unpuniflVd, if we run into the like Enormities.
This is the Drift of this Day's Epistle, where the Apostle, in the first Verse, would not have m ignorant, how that all our Fathers were under the Cloud, and aU pajfed through the Sea. By our Fathers here are meant the antient Israelites., to whom we succeed in the Covenant made with them, and in the Title of his Church. By these Fathers being under the Cloud, is meant their being under the particular Care and Conduct of the Divine Providence •, that they had the Favour of a Cloud to overshadow them, to keep them from the Scorchings of the Sun, and the Injuries of the Weather. The Expression refers to what is faid of the Israelites in their Pasfage thro the Wilderness, via. that God went before them by day in a Pillar of a Cloud to lead them t\,e way, and by night in a Pillar of Fire, to give them Light to go by day and night; Exod. 13. % 1. And the fame is affirm'd by the Pfalmist, Pfal. 78.14. Where by the Pillar of a Cloud and of Fire, we are not to understand any solid Body of a Pillar moving and leading the way before them, but of a hollow and luminous Body (hining and hovering over their Heads like a Dove, at once directing and overshadowing of them: to which the Psalmist refers, faying, Under the shadow of thy Wings will I rejoice, and thou shalt hide me under the shadow of thy Wings. So that the Expression here signifies God Almighty's great Care in protecting and preserving the Israelites from all Dangers.
This the Apostle would have these Corinthians and all Christians to know concerning them ; and likewise that they all passed thro the Sea, meaning, that they went lafe through the Red Sea, the Waters standing like a Wall on each side to give them a secure Passage 1 which Pharaoh and his Host, who were then pursuing them, attempting to do, were overwhelms and drown'd in the Waters.