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PARTICULAR LAWS OF GOD FORBIDDING ALI,
COMMUNICATION WITH FALSE RELIGIONS, AND
Q. 12. What are the particular laws on this -subject ?
A. In the three general commands above mentioned God Almighty speaks, by the mouth of his holy apostle, as Lord and Master, and lays his orders upon us absolutely. In what follows, be joins the mercilul Saviour to the Sovereign; and whilst he no less strictly commands us to avoid all religious communication with those who are separated from his holy faith and Church, he, at the same time, condescends to engage our obedience, by shewing us the strongest reasons for it.
(1.) “ Beware of false prophets,” says our blessed Master, “ who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves," Matth. vii. 15. Here Jesus Christ commands his followers to “ beware of false prophets ;" that is, to flee from them, to be on their guard against them; and he adds this powerful motive, lest ye be seduced and ruined by them ; for, whatever appearance of godliness they may put on, though they come to you in the clothing of sheep, yet within they are ravenous wolves, and seek only to slay and to destroy. To the same purpose he says in another place, " Take heed that no man seduce you; for many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and they will seduce many,” Matth. xxiv. 4. “ And many false prophets shall arise and seduce many,” vers. 11. Here he foretels the cunning of false teachers, and the danger of being seduced by them, and commands us to take care
of ourselves, that such be not or fate. But how shall we escape from them? He afterwards tells us how; do not believe them, have nothing to do with them, have no communication with them.
Then,” says he, “ if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch, as to deceive (if it is possible) even the elect. Behold, I have told it you beforehand. If, therefore, they shall say to you, Behold, he is in the desert, yo ye not out; behold be, is in the closet, believe it not,” Matth. xxiv. 23. Can there be a more efficacious reason to enforce the observance of his command, than what he here uses, or a more interesting motive to induce his followers to have no religious communication with such false teachers? many will be certainly seduced by them; and so will ye, if ye expose yourself to the danger.
(2.) St. Peter, considering the great mercy bestowed upon us by the grace of our vocation to the true faith of Christ, says, that it is our duty to “ declare the praises and virtues of him who hath called us out of darkness into his admirable light,' 1 Pet. ii. 9. St. Paul also exhorts us to give thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his beloved Son," Col. i. 12.; where it is manifest, that as the true faith of Jesus Christ is the only light that conducts to salvation, and it is only in his kingdom, that is, in his Church, where that heavenly light is to be found, so all false religions are darkness; and to be separated from the kingdom of Christ, is to be in darkness as to the great business of eternity. And indeed, what greater or more miserable darkness
can a poor soul be in than to be led away by seducing spirits, and, “ departing from the faith of Christ, give heed to the doctrine of devils," 1 Tim. iv. 1. St. Paul, deploring the state of such souls, says, that they “have their understandings darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts,” Eph. iv. 18. On this account, the same holy apostle exhorts us, in the most pressing manner, to take care not to be seduced from the light of our holy faith by the vain words and seducing speeches of false teachers, by which we would certainly incur the anger of God; and, to prevent so great a misery, he not only exhorts us to walk as children of the light, in the practice of all holy virtues, but expressly commands us to avoid all communication in religion with those who walk in the darkness of error. “ Let no man deceive you,” says he, “with vain words, for, because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief; be ye not, therefore, partakers with them. For ye were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord; walk ye as the children of the light....and have no fellowship with the anfruitful works of darkness," Eph. v. 6. Here, then, we have an express command, not only not to partake with the unfruitful works of darkness, that is, not to join in any false religion, or partake of their rites or sacraments, but also, not to have any fellowship with them, not to be present at their meetiags or sermons, or any other of their religious offices, lest we be deceived by them, and incur the anger of the Almighty, provoking him to withdraw his assistance from us, and leave us to ourselves, in punishment of our disobedience.
(3.) St. Paul, full of zeal for the good of souls, and solicitous to prevent us from all danger of
losing our holy faith, the ground-work of our salvation, renews the same command in his epistle to the Romans, by way of entreaty, beseeching us to avoid all such communication with those of a false religion. He also shews us by what sign we should discover them, and points out the source of our danger from them, “ Now," says he, “I beseech you, brethren, to mark them, who cause dissensions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and to avoid them; for they that are such, serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly, and, by pleasing speeches, and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent," Rom. xvi. 17. See here whom we are to avoid ; " those that cause dissensions contrary to the old doctrine;" all those who, having left the true faith and doctrine which they had learned, and which had been banded down to us from the beginning by the Church of Christ, follow strange doctrines, and make divisions and dissensions in the Christian world. And why are we to avoid them ? because they are not servants of Christ, but slaves to their own belly, whose hearts are placed upon the enjoyments of this world, and who, by “-pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent," that is, do not bring any reasons or solid arguments to seduce people to their evil ways, so as to convince the understanding, for that is impossible ; but practise upon their hearts and passions, relaxing the laws of the Gospel : granting liberties to the inclinations of flesh and blood, laying aside the sacred rules of mortification of the passions and of self-denial; promising worldly wealth, and ease, and honours, and, by pleasing speeches of this kind, seducing the heart and engaging people to their ways.
(4.) The same argument and command the apostle repeats in his epistle to his beloved disciple Ti
mothy, where he gives a sad picture, indeed, of all false teachers, and, withal, tells us, that they put on an outward shew of piety, the better to deceive,
having an appearance, indeed, of godliness, but denying the power thereof;" then he immediately gives this command: “Now, these avoid ; for, of this sort are they that creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, who are led away with diverse desires ;” and adds this sign by which they may be known, that, not having the true faith of Christ, and being out of his holy Church, the only sure rule for knowing the truth, they are never settled, but always altering and changing their opinions, “ever learning, and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth;" and no wonder, because, as he adds, “they resist the truth, being corrupted in their mind, and reprobate concerning the faith,” 2 Tim. iii. 5. Here it is to be observed, that though the apostle says, that silly, weak people, and especially women, are most apt to be deceived by such false teachers, yet he gives the command of avoiding all communication with them in their evil ways, to all without exception, even to Timothy himself; for the epistle is directed particularly to him, and to him he says, as well as to all others, “ Now, these avoid,” though he was a pastor of the Church, and fully instructed by the apostle himself in all the truths of religion ; because, besides the danger of seduction, which none can escape who voluntarily expose themselves to it, all such communication is evil in itself, and, there fore, to be avoided by all, and especially,by pastors whose example would be more prejudicial to others.
(5.) Lastly, The beloved disciple St. John renews the same command in the strongest terms, and adds another reason, which regards all without exception, and especially those who are best instructed in their duty: “ Look to yourselves," says he," that ye lose not the things that ye have