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ought not to be answered, but upon the calmest thought, the most deliberate reflection. For many years I have been almost afraid to speak at all concerning it; being unable to determine one way or the other, or to give any judgment upon it. Many reasons there are which readily occur, and incline me to say, “Hear them not.” And yet what our Lord speaks concerning the false Prophets of his own times, seems to imply the contrary. “Then spake Jesus unto the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat,"--are the ordinary, stated Teachers in your Church : “ All therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. But do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not." Now that these were false Prophets, in the highest sense, our Lord hath shown during the whole course of his ministry; as indeed he does in those very words, “They say, and do not." Therefore by their fruits his disciples could not but know them, seeing they were open to the view of all men. Accordingly he warns them again and again, to beware of these false Prophets. And yet he does not forbid them to hear even these: nay, he, in effect, commands them so to do, in those words : “All therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do :” For unless they heard them, they could not know, much less observe, whatsoever they bade them do. Here then our Lord himself gives a plain direction, both to his Apostles and the whole multitude, in some circumstances, to hear even false Prophets, known and acknowledged so to be..
7. But perhaps it will be said, 'He only directed to hear them, when they read the Scripture to the congregation ?' I answer, at the same time that they thus read the Scripture, they generally expounded it too. And here is no kind of intimation that they were to hear the one, and not the other also. Nay, the very terms, “ All things whatsoever they bid you observe,” exclude any such limitation.
8. Again : Unto them, unto false Prophets, undeniably such, is frequently committed (0 grief to speak! for surely these things ought not so to be) the administration of the Sacrament also. To direct men, therefore, not to hear them, would be, in effect, to cut them off from the ordinances of God. But this we dare not do, considering the validity of the ordinance doth not depend on the goodness of him that administers, but on the faithfulness of Him that ordained it; who will and doth meet us in his appointed ways. Therefore, on this Vol. I. No. 9.
account, likewise, I scruple to say, 'Hear not even the false Prophets.' Even by these who are under a curse themselves, God can and doth give us his blessing. For the bread wbich they break, we have experimentally known to be “the communion of the body of Christ :" And the cup wbich God blessed, even by their unballowed lips, was lo us the communion of the blool of Christ.
9. All, therefore, which I can say, is this: In any particular case, wait upon God by humble and earnest prayer, and then act according to the best light you have : ict according to what you are persuaded, pon the whole, will lic most for your spiritual advantage. Take great care that you do not judge rashly; that you do not lightly think any to be falsc Prophets : Aud when you have full proof, see that no anger or contempt have any place in your heart. After this, in the prescuce and in the fear of God determine for yourself. I can only say, If by experience you find that the hearing them hurts your soul, then hear them not; then quietly refrain, and licar those that profit you. If, on the other hand, you find it does not hurt your soul, you then may hear them still. Oniy, “take heed how you hear:” beware of them and of their doctrine. Hear with fear and trembling, lest you should be deceived, and given up, like them, to a strong delusion. As they continually miugle truth and lies, how easily may you take in both together! Hear with fervent and continual prayer to Him who alone teacheth man wisdom. And see that you bring whatever you hear "to the law and to the testimony." Receive nothing untried, nothing till it is weighed in the balance of the sanctuary: beliere nothing they say, unless it is clearly confirmed by plain passages of Holy Writ. Wholly reject whatsoever differs therefrom, whatever is not confirmed thereby. And, in particular, reject, with the utmost abhorrence, whatsoever is described is tlic way of salvation, that is either different from, or short of, the way our Lord has marked out in the foregoing Discourse.
10. I cannot conclude without addressing a few plain words to tlose of whom we have now been speaking. Oye false Prophets! () ve dry bones! hear ye, for once, the word of the Lord! How long will ve lic in the name of God, saying, “God hath spoken;" and Ciod hath not spoken by you? llow long will ye pervert the richt ways of the Lord, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness? How long will ye teach the way of death, and call it the way of life? How long will ye deliver to Satan the souls whom ye profess to bring anto God?
11. “Woe unto you, ye blind leaders of the blind! for ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men! Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." Them that would strive to enter in at the strait gate, ye call back into the broad way. Them that have scarce gone one step in the ways of God, you devilishly caution against going too far. Them that just begin to hunger and thirst aster righteousness, you warn pot to be righteous overmuch. Thus you cause them to stumble at the very threshold; yeu, to fall and rise no more. O wherefore do ye this? What profit is there in their blood, when they go dowu to the pit? Miserable profit to you! “They shall perish in their iniquity; but their blood will God require at your hands!”
12. Where are your eyes ? Where is your understanding ? Have ye deceived others, till you have deceived yourselves also? Who hath required this at your hands, to teach a way which ye never knew? Are you "given up to (so) strong a delusion," that ye not only teach, but “believe, a lie? And can you possibly believe that God hath sent you? That ye are His messengers ? Nay; if the Lord had sent you, the work of the Lord would prosper in your hand. As the Lord liveth, if ye were messengers of God, he would " confirm the word of his messengers.” But the work of the Lord doth not prosper in your hand: you bring no sinners to repentance, The Lord doth not confirm your word; for you save no souls from death.
13. How can you possibly evade the force of our Lord's words? So full, so strong, so express? How can ye evade knowing yourselves by your fruits? Evil fruits of evil trees? And how should it be otherwise? “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? " Take this to yourselves, ye to whom it belongs ! O ye barren trees, why cumber ye the ground : “ Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit." See ye not, that here is no exception ? Take knowledge then, ye are not good trees; for ye do not bring forth good fruit. “But a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit;” and so have ye done from the beginning. Your speaking, as from God, has only confirmed them that heard you in the tempers, if not works, of the Devil. O take warning of Him in whose name ye speak, before the sentence he hath pronounced take place : “Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hevo down and cast into the fire."
14. My dear Brethren, harden not your hearts! You have too long shut your eyes against the light. Open them now before it is too late ; before you are cast into outer darkness ! Let not any temporal consideration weigh with you ; for eternity is at stake. Ye have run before ye were sent. O go no farther! Do not persist to damn yourselves and them that hear you! You have no fruit of your labours. And why is this? Even because the Lord is not with you. But can you go this warfare at your own cost ? It cannot be. Then humble yourselves before him. Cry unto Him out of the dust, that he may first quicken thy soul; give thee the faith that worketh by love; that is lowly and mcek, pure and merciful, zealous of good works, rejoicing in tribulation, in reproach, in distress, in persecution for righteousness' sake! So shall “ the Spirit of glory and of Christ rest upon thee,” and it shall appear that God hath sent thee. So shalt thou indeed “ do the work of an Evangelist, and make full proof of thy ministry.” So shall the word of God in thy mouth be "an hammer that breaketh the rocks in pieces !” It shall then be known by thy fruits, that thou art a Prophet of the Lord, even by the children whom God hath given thee. And having “ turned many to righteousness, thou shalt shine as the stars for ever and ever!"
UPON OUR LORD'S SERMON ON THE
“ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of
my Father which is in heaven. “ Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not
prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name have done many wonderful
works? “ And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you : depart
from me, ye that work iniquity. “ Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth
them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his
house upon a rock : “ And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds
blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not : for it was
founded upon a rock. " And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth
them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built
his house upon the sand : " And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds
blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Matt. vii. 21-27.
1. Our Divine Teacher, having declared the whole counsel of God with regard to the way of salvation, and observed the chief binderances of those who desire to walk therein, now closes the whole with these weighty words; thereby as it were setting his seal to his prophecy, and impressing his whole authority on what he had delivered, that it might stand firm to all generations.
2. For thus saith the Lord, that none may ever conceive