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language is, “ BUT THOUGH WE, OR AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, PREACH ANY OTHER GOSPEL UNTO YOU THAN THAT WHICH WE HAVE PREACHED UNTO YOU, LET HIM BE ACCURSED.” We are taught in the Scriptures, by men's moral fruits, to judge whether they are true disciples of the true doctrine ; but we are not allowed, merely by their fruits, to judge of their doctrine itself. We must bring this to the test of the Scriptures as well ; and, rejected by this test, whatever the comparative excellence of deportment in the teachers, they and their doctrine are disallowed. The apostle puts the case, in favor of a false teacher, into the most authoritative form, surrounding him with the highest splendor of moral character and the most plausible show of a heavenly mission. He imagines his own appearance as the promulgator of a new gospel. Should the convert whom Christ's glory smote down on the highway to Damascus—he who had been in labors more abundant, and in deaths oft, whose were miraculous tongues and miraculous works-should he bring to the Galatian charch “another gospel,” they were to turn from it and from its teacher without hesitation. He proceeds further: as if to put the decision into the strongest possible form, he imagines a teacher, possessing not merely the imperfect sanctity of erring man, but one invested with the holiness of an angel from heaven. His words do not describe Satan coming up out of the pit, and disguised as an angel of light; but he conceives an event yet more dazzling in its seductions, yet more perplexing and ensnaring to the mind of the learner. Should an angel from heaven, one yet recent from those glorious courts, and with the brightness of its moral splendor and its “ beauty of holiness” still clinging about him, venture to sin, and commence his fall by preaching to our race another gospel, let him be accursed.
V. Paul did not think lightly of those benign and blessed spirits that are ministering to the heirs of salvation. They had often appeared to the apostles, and interposed effectually in their behalf. Paul knew their might and wisdom ; he admired and emulated their holiness, their zealous obedience, their untiring diligence; but, in comparison with Christ and his truth, Paul loved not even angels. One of these beings had appeared to Peter, sleeping in the inner prison and chained between two soldiers, and rousing him, had led him forth
through guards and barriers to liberty. When Paul was him self on ship-board, sailing towards Rome, an angel of God appeared to him, promising him the preservation of his own life and the lives of all his companions; and the promise was kept: but had Peter's deliverer, on their way after passing through “the iron gate that led into the city," commanded him to preach another gospel than Christ's, Peter would have rebuked his deliverer, and used to the tempter the rebuke he had once received himself from his Master, “ Get thee behind me, Satan." Had the ministering Spirit who cheered Paul on his voyage stayed to preach to Paul's fellow-voyagers another gospel, Paul would have denounced the new system as a doctrine of devils : for no angel appearing from heaven could bring for his revelation the force of evidence we have for Christ's revelation, in its countless miracles, its accomplished prophecies, and the moral renovations wrought by its influence. And no angel has been promised those full influences of the Holy Spirit that were assured to the apostles for the benefit of the church. Were it possible, then, for one of these holy beings to fall away and become a preacher of heresy, great as might have been his splendor and wisdom, and his former holiness, Paul, the sinner-Paul, the forgiven persecutor, would have withstood and cursed him. The apostle was but a frail man; his body, like ours, a tabernacle of clay, crushed before the moth; yet, in all his weakness, had he met an angel of the highest rank in heaven, one of those “that excel in strength," returning from a mission like that to Sennacherib's camp, his right hand yet red with the blood of a hundred thousand warriors, and had that angel sought to turn the apostle from the truth as it was in Jesus, Paul would not have feared to denounce him in the name of their common Lord, and dust and ashes would have confounded the archangel.
What cause have we for gratitude that angels have not endeavored thus to subvert our faith. They have, on the contrary, given their constant attestation and subjection to Christ. They with songs announced his birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem. They ministered to him in the wilderness of temptation, and in the sorer agony of Gethsemane. Had he but summoned them, twelve legions had flown to his side ; they guarded his tomb, and when it was visited by the weeping disciples,
they testified his resurrection. When he ascended on high, they attended him ; and when he shall return to judgment, they will troop around him. Meanwhile the mighty angel seen by John flying through heaven, was not seen denying, but publisbing the everlasting gospel ; and such is their attachment to our Lord, that every sinner believing in him has angels to rejoice in his conversion, and angels to minister to his onward course, to guard his departing spiris and to reclaim his deserted clay from the sepulchre. Their testimony, then, is ever for Christ : they enforce the witness of apostles, and by all their demeanor they bid man do what they have themselves done at the bidding of the Father-worship the Son; for," when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him.” (Heb. 1 : 6.) Rejecting that adoration when profferred to themselves, they cheerfully yield it to the Redeemer. He, then, that substitutes another gospel for that of Paul, cannot plead angelic patronage or instruc tion. They adore where he blasphemes.
If true at all, then the gospel is unmingled and immutable truth : no events can occur, no evidence be adduced authorizing us to modify that system which was given of God, and which God guards, and that, like his Divine Author, claims a perfection that admits neither amendment nor decay, the one unchangeable gospel " WHICH IS NOT ANOTHER.”
VI. Those perverting the gospel are accursed, not because fallible man has willed it, but God the Holy Ghost has pronounced the curse ; and who may annul and dispute it? The fearful doom is not unmerited. Whatever the external recommendations of any such system, or of its advocates, did their show of excellence equal that of an angel, as yet but in the first hour of his fall, they inherit a fearful curse, because of the crime they commit and the mischief they occasion.
1. Of the greatness of the crime we form but inadequate conceptions, from the blindness produced by our share in the guilt of our race, and also from the faint and remote views we have of God. Yet what arrogance is it, evidently, to alter the teachings of the Unerring and the Omniscient, the Holy One of Israel,—what the fearfulness of the presumption, that would correct infinite wisdom and contradict the God of truth.
There is something most daring and portentious in the ingratitude of the creature that would dictate and prescribe to the Creator who has made him, and the unwearied Benefactor whose sleepless vigilance protects him from destruction, and whose untiring bounty is daily supplying him. And how ag. gravated the sin of rejecting, on any pretext, the plans, and the gifts of that Redeemer who has died for us, and of grieving that Spirit which would have reconciled and sanctified us. And what language can describe the aggravated cruelty of thus counter working God's designs of mercy in the gospel ? It is a revelation of grace, in which wrath was to be appeased, that mercy might have its free course over the miseries of a groaning world. They who set aside this gospel, remove or clog the channel of God's mercy, that his vengeance may have its original scope, and roll its consuming deluge over a world of sin. The man who would cut off the supplies of food from his famished fellow-creatures in a besieged town—the wretch who should in wantonness destroy all the remedies provided for a hospital in which crowds were tossing in agony-agony that, unrelieved, must issue in death, but which these remedies could not only relieve but remove-such a destroyer, such a traitor were surely not as cruel as the man who sets aside the true gospel. For the religion of Christ is the food of the soul and the bread of heaven ; and the atonement of Christ, as Paul preached it, is the one remedy for the wretchedness and sin of our race, and apart from it there is no salvation for the soul to all eternity.
2. The greatness of the mischief is necessarily incalculable. For all earthly powers must fail to span and to guage that eternity, into which death ushers us, and for which the Gospel is to prepare us. To pervert that Gospel is to aid Satan in thrusting down our race to misery unremitting and unimaginable. What is a conflagation that lays a city in ashes, or a plague sweeping over the breadth of the land, what is loss of freedom, or reputation, or life, compared with the loss of the soul? And he who sets aside the gospel ruins not one soul but many.
Their world will eat as doth a canker." Error is contagious. The victim of delusion will seek to quiet his conscience, and increase the influence of his system, by swelling the number of proselytes to his party from every side. Who
can calculate the blind, led by the blind, that have already entered the pit, and are now even, rejoicing on their way thither? To have any share in producing such mischief, is to aid in feeding the worm that never dies, and to heap fuel on the flame that is never quenched. May the mercy of God save us from such sin. Better were it to beg crumbs with Lazarus, and sit with Job on the dunghill, than to share riches, honor and power here, on condition of preaching another gospel, and prophesying smooth things, and crying “ peace, peace," while God's own voice proclaims, “ There is no peace to the wicked."
With these views, then, of the character of the gospel, let us ask ourselves, as in the sight of God, Have we the gospel that Paul preached, or do we receive another? If we receive that which he preached, do we obey it? If it be our hope and guide, let us hold it fast with an unwavering confidence, and defend it by a fearless profession, though man cavil at, or an angel coniradict its testimonies; content with the assurance that what the Scriptures teach and the spirit seals shall stand, though the elements melt with fervent heat, and the heavens pass away as a scroll when it is rolled together.
1. It is evidently the interest and duty of every hearer of the gospel to ascertain that he is receiving that system of truth which the apostles taught. The word of God allows not, nor will his bar acquit those who have trusted indolently in the numbers attached to their sect, or in the wisdom or piety of their teachers, while careless as to their own personal experience of religion, and neglect the earnest study of those Scriptures that are to try every doctrine and judge every spirit. In Paul's time the gospel had its opposers among the Jews who sought after signs, and among the Greeks who looked for wisdom. And men now reject or modify the gospel for the same causes. Should modern systems, therefore demand our faith and claim to supplant the gospel of Paul, either because of the signs and wonders that attest them, and the new revelations they boast to have received, on the one hand, or because of the superior wisdom, refinement and philosophy of those who defend them, on the other hand; we do well to remember that we receive such systems at our peril. And the woe that smites the teachers of these errors, will not spare their followers.