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the Jewish and Gentile world. In spite of all the false prophets by whom it has been disturbed ; in defiance of all the enemies by which it has been encountered; notwithstanding the numerous heresies by which it has been debased, it has nevertheless existed in its purity for two thousand years, and like a mighty river that augments the body of its waters as it pursues its course, it still flows placidly onward through all the sundry changes of time, increasing its volume as it proceeds, and affording us just grounds, upon the faith of prophecy, to expect that all other religions, like so many tributary rills, will at length augment its current, until it finally flow in one universal stream into the illimitable ocean of eternity : when the voices of the saints shall be heard in Heaven, saying, “ Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever!”
Such is the religion which we profess; but which even now, notwithstanding the splendour of its triumph over the powers of Hell and the vain assaults of infidelity, there are still found false teachers daring enough to assail. We must not imagine that our security is not to be shaken, because our faith has not yet been subdued. We cannot be aware of the strength of that faith until it has been tried. The skill of a subtle disputant or plausible gainsayer may weaken it, if we do not earnestly and constantly seek the divine grace to continue “a right spirit within us.” Let us not imagine that there is no danger from without, because we feel secure in our principles from within. If we “grieve the holy spirit of God” by slighting his solicitations, he may abandon us to the designs of the wicked, and we may soon fall into “ a spirit of unbelief,” if we neglect “to obey from the heart “ that form of doctrine which has been delivered to us.” Let us remember, it is to the “ faithful in Christ Jesus” that the Apostle gave this impressive warning, “ be not high-minded, but fear;" well, therefore, will it behove us to stand upon our guard against false prophets. The influence which false teachers may
obtain over weak and credulous minds, is sufficiently discernible in the confusion and dissensions which they caused among the first Christian converts : nor will it astonish us, that even the purest doctrines should be perverted to unholy purposes, or that the disciples of the only perfect teacher that ever appeared upon earth, should be deluded from the purity of their religious profession, when we consider how much less difficult it is to corrupt the human heart, than to fortify it with the principles of virtue. Vice will always retain her majority of votaries, until the spiritual views of mankind become more universally fixed; until their propensities to sensuality decrease, and their hearts become animated with a love of righteousness. He who would persuade“ a multitude to do evil,”
has simply to encourage their selfish inclinations, to flatter their vanities and to foster their predilections, to extenuate their follies and applaud their vices, and he will easily procure disciples, because, in general, men are more readily disposed to listen to the encouragement of their passions and their pleasures, than to the stern interdiction of what is most agreeable to their feelings and inseparable from their inclinations. But he who would actuate the mind to virtue, has much more formidable difficulties to encounter. He has frequently to oppose the most vehement excitements of the human heart; to combat obstinate prejudices; to root out false principles ; to correct propensities long and fondly cherished; to overcome the influence of old and familiar habits; to subdue strong and influential inclinations ;-in short, to draw the mind in a direction contrary, for the most part, to its natural tendency—to alter perhaps its whole frame and temper; and therefore it is, that the false teacher will often meet with more success than the true, because his difficulties are less and his pretensions greater. Persons of this character have been most expressively described by the Apostle, as “clouds without water carried about of winds, trees whose fruit withereth, twice dead, plucked up by the roots ; raging waves of the sea foaming out their own shame; wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”
Let us not imagine that such“ deceitful workers" are unknown among us. They still infest society, disseminate their unhallowed dogmas, and the poison of their principles frequently operates unseen, even when the outward man seems perfectly uncorrupt. While they assume the garb of candour, dissimulation and artifice are the treacherous engines which they but too often and too successfully set at work, to seduce the unwary to rally round the standard of falsehood, and to unite in her boisterous, but vain, acclamations of triumph over truth. They “ come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." For what are they really conspicuous, but for the mischief which they do in corrupting the weak and confirming the profligate in their evil courses ? “ They change the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator.” They practise upon the ignorant, excite the passions, harden the heart, sear the conscience, and blind the judgment. They render truth repulsive, by stripping her of her attractions, and, arraying falsehood in this alluring disguise, decoy to her temple a host of worshippers. They affect virtues which they never practise, broach pretensions which they never realize, and promulgate doctrines in which they have no faith. They are ever supple, plausible, insinuating, and under the mask of integrity, scatter the baleful seeds of misery and ruin.
On the other hand, he who is anxious to proclaim the truth, from a love of God and a desire to do his will, is open and undisguised. He admits of no compromise betwixt right and wrong, of no concessions to appease, of no false glosses to conciliate, of no quibbles to reconcile opposition or to obviate difficulties. He does not so qualify and adapt the principles of religious truth, as to make them square with the doctrines of mere heathen morality, or torture them into a plea for the unrepressed infirmities of its advocates. He is ever uniform in his principles, moderate in his sentiments, simple in his views, inflexible in opposing wrong; temperate, ingenuous, persuasive; addressing himself to the judgment rather than exciting the fancy, neither making the passions nor the sensibilities of the heart subservient to that cause which the mind is not fully prepared to recognize and avow. Thus it is that the true teacher is often discarded as too austere and uncompromising, while the “ false prophet,” from the lax morality which he advocates, is received with eager welcome. The dangers to be apprehended from these latter, are by no means to be despised, nor should we stand too fast in our security against them, since even among us, as in the times of the Apostle, “ there be false teachers, who privily bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”