Page images


SERM. and atheistical Principles, who make XVIII. Riches and Grandeur the chief End of

their Lives ; so long we must expect that Religion should be their chief Engine, and the most Holy Thing in the World, made Use of to furnish their Devilish Designs : They will not fail to debase the Notions of Religion, or to forge new Opinions, when they find it profitable so to do. Thus Jeroboant set up Calves at Bethel, to secure the Kingdom to himself, that the People might have no Occasion to go up and worship at Jerusalem ; Jesabel proclaims a Fast, when she designs to deprive Naboth of his Life and Vineyard ; and it is St. Peter's Prediction, that there fhould arise false Prophets, who, through Covetousness, and that they may

make Merchandize of their Profelytes, shall 2 Pet. ii. bring in damnable Herefies

, even denying the Lord that bought them.


II. HERE is the Character of these false Prophets.

1. From their Out-side they come in Sheeps-Clbathing, εν ενδύμασι προβάτων; fome Critics upon

the Place think it should be written εκδύμασι. Ignatius has it κωδίοις όμHe'. xi. Preouévou: The Author to the Hebrews, Év swois; denoting Garments made of



[ocr errors]

Sheeps-Wool, i.e. counterfeiting Poverty, Serm. Humility, and Innocency of Life; the Ex-XVIII, pression is an Allusion to the Habit of the ancient Prophets, who used white Garments, and, in Times of Persecution, the Skins of Beasts ; thus these false Prophets shall pretend Humility and Sanctity of Life, perhaps, profess Chastity, voluntary Poverty, and a Contempt of the World, and yet mean nothing less ; for the second part of their Character is,

2. That they are ravening Wolves, that is such as seek to gratify their own rapacious Appetites, though with the Ruin and Damnation of others; their tures are bloody and cruel, contrary to the Genius of the Gospel, and the End and Design of the Christian Religion ; they make Use of their utmost Diligence and Industry, to destroy the Souls of Men, as Wolves do the harmless Sheep; they compass Sea and Land to make one Profelyte, and, when he is made, they make him twofold more the Child of Hell than themfelves. This is their Character, which indeed Thews us our Danger, but not the Means to escape it ; for since these false Prophets are so like the true ones in all outward Appearance, since they are such vast Masters as to counterfeit not only VOL. II, Еe


very Na

SERM. the Garb and Habit, but even the Graces
XVIII. of true Prophets, there can be no Way

of distinguishing them by it, unless we
take in the following Words for our Di-
rection, in which our Saviour has laid
down a plain and signal Mark, to know
them by, and to discover to whom this
Character doth of Right belong :

3. YE fall know them by their Fruits.
Our Saviour doth not affix this Character
upon any Church, Sect, or Party of Men;
he doth not confine it to any one Sort
of People; neither doth he take this
Mark of Distinction from their Profession,
but from their Practices, ye shall know
them by their Fruits, i. e. ye shall know
the Men by their Lives and Conversations,
and ye shall judge of the Truth of their
Doctrines, by considering what are their
genuine Effects, and what is the Tenden,
су of them; whether to make Men tem-
perate, and just, and peaceable, and holy ;
or debauched, dishonest, turbulent, and

(1.) YE shall know the Men by their Lives and Conversations; it is God alone can judge of the Heart, Man must judge

the outward Appearance; and there, fore let Men make never fo fair Pretences to Holiness and Purity, let them


[ocr errors][ocr errors]


fess themselves Members of the true Ca- SERM. tholic Church ; or of any particular Con-XVIII. gregation of Christians, though never fo exactly reformed ; let them fast never fo often, or pray never fo fervently.; yet if they are proud, contentious, envious, and malicious; if they do not live soberly, quietly, and justly; they are but Hypocrites and Diffemblers, they have only the Form, but not the Power of Godliness; but now because wicked Men may teach wholsome Doctrine, and Hypocrites speak and profess well: Since Balaam, though a wicked Man, was a Prophet of the Lord, and the Scribes and Pharisees (against whom our Saviour pronounced so many Woes) yet fat in Moses's Chair, and the Jews were commanded to hearken unto them: Therefore,

(2.) We must consider the Fruits of Men's Doctrines, i:e. we must consider what is the Design and Tendency of the Doctrines which they teach ; for we have good Reason to suspect all those Opinions, and that those Men who teach them are false Prophets, which tend to the Palliating Men's Vices, Disturbing the Peace of Kingdoms, the Encouragement of Looseness and Debauchery, and the Taking Men's Minds off from all that is grave and serious; which



Serm. aim mainly and principally to promote the XVIII. Grandeur and Power of their Professors

in this world, and allow of any unjust Means whatsoever, for the Attainment of this End. This is that pretended Religion, which cometh not from Above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. On the Contrary, those Articles of Faith which tend to promote Holiness of Life, Devotion towards God, brotherly Love and Charity towards our Neighbour, Temperance and Sobriety in the Government of ourselves, and a peaceable Demeanour towards those who are set over us, either in Church or State, are true and genuine. The Wifdom that is from Above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of Mercy and good Fruits, without Partiality, and without Hypocrisy ; and it was to this Test that our Saviour himself submitted his Doctrines and Miracles; for when the Jews, blafpheming, faid, that he cast out Devils by the Power of Beelzebub the Prince of the Devils, he tells them, that the Holiness of his Doctrine was a fufficient Confutation of their Objection, and evidently proved it came down from Heaven, for a Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, i. e. fince the End and Design of the Doctrines of Chri


« PreviousContinue »