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Faith and Religion of their Parents, and that they sucked it in with their Education; but to be able to satisfy our own Consciences, or to answer the Arguments of an. Adversary, or indeed to enter at all into the Merits of the Cause, and to give the rational Grounds of their Religion, this is what the greater Part never so much as attempt; and therefore it is no Wonder, if such a slight. Faith immediately fails them, whenever it is assaulted with any Strength of Argument from a false Prophet.
5. But in the mean time, till we are better grounded and rooted in our Religion, let us not expose ourselves to grapple with an Adversary upon our own unequal Strength, but taking the Help of our spiritual Guides, let us arm ourselves as well as we can against all the Arts and Insinuations of such as would instil into us their false Doctrines. This is no Disparagement, but a Thing which is done daily in the like Cafes. If our civil Rights are encroached upon, we count it no Disparagement to take the Assistance of an able Lawyer, concerning the best Way of defending them - and why we should not make use of the same Precaution to guard ourselves against the Encroachments of false Prophets and Teachers, I can fee no manner of Reason.
And till we have attained such a Measure of spiritual Knowledge and Understanding in the Truths of Religion, that they will not suffer through the Weakness of our Defence, it will be but Prudence, neither to read the Books, nor to frequent the Company of such Persons, as we think design to unsettle us in our Principles, without fortifying ourselves with the proper Antidotes tidotes of what we may be furnished with from the Books and Conversation of learned Men on the other Side. And this, I think, is far from a Design of training Men up in an implicit Faith in their Teachers, as the Way is in the Church of Rome; but only allowing the fame fair Play to the Religion they have been instructed in, as to that for which they are tempted to change it. And I think all this is very suitable to the Caution in my Text: Beware of false Prophets and to the Advices of St. Paul in the like Cafes: Rom. xiv. 1. Him that is weak in the Faith, receive ye, but not to doubtful Disputations. And I Tim. vi. 3. If any Man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholsome Words, even the Words of cur Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Doctrine which is according to Godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing; but doting about Questions and Strifes of Words, whereof cometh Envy, Strife, Railings, evil Surmistngs, perverse Disputings of Men of corrupt Minds, and destitute of the Truth, supposing that Gain is Godliness ; from such withdraw thyself. And, Rom. xvi. 7. Now I beseech you, Brethren, mark them which cause Divisions and Offences contrary to the DoSlrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such, serve not our Lord J'esus Christ, but, their own Belly, and by good Words and fair Speeches deceive the Hearts of the Simple.
So much for the first Thing I observed in this Text, the Caution against false Prophets.
The next is, the Mark whereby we may know them, Te Jhall know them by their Fruits. But this is a Business of Difficulty, and will require a longer Consideration than can be now afforded;
and and therefore I shall refer it to another Opportunity. S E R M O N XVIII.
In the mean time, observing our Saviour's Caution, let no Unsteadiness of Principles, let no itching of Ears, or Curiosity after Novelties; let no Plainness and Freedom of true Prophets, or Flattery of false ones; let no Deceivableness of Unrighteousness, or Pretensions to (hew you easier Ways to Heaven; let no contrary false Maxims or Customs of the World seduce you from the firm Belief, and sincere Profession, and uniform Obedience of the Truth; but be ye Jledfajl, untnoveable, always abounding in the Work of the JLord, forasmuch as ye know that your Labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Now to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all Praise, Honour, and Glory, Might, Power, and Dominion, for ever and ever. Amen.
Mat. VII. 15, to 21.
Beware of false Prophets, which come to you in Sheeps Clothing, but inwardly they are ravening Wohes.
V. 16. Te Jhall know them by their Fruits, 6cc. The Third Sermon on this Text.
THERE were three Things I formerly observed from these Words.
1. A Caution against false Prophets or Teachers; Beware of false Prophets, which come to you in Sheeps Clothing, but inwardly they are ravening Wolves.
2. A Mark whereby to know them. Te Jhall know them by their Fruits.
3. The Illustration of this Mark, from the various Fruits of good and bad Vines and Trees.
Now having in two former Discourses considered the first of these, the Caution against false Prophets or Teachers, I proceed now to the Second and Third.
II. The second, which I judge to be a very difficult Enquiry, is the Mark whereby to distinguish these false Prophets from true; that is, by their Fruits. Te Jhall know them by their Fruits, In explaining of which Words, it will be necessary to clear these three Things.
1. That there is a necessary Distinction to be made between true and false Teachers.
2. That the making of this Distinction falls within the Duty and Capacity of private Christians, Te Jhall know them.
3. What Fruits these are, from which even private Christians may know the Difference between true and false Teachers.
1. There is a necessary Distinction to be made between true and false Teachers; for as it concerns us mightily in a Journey by Land, to commit ourselves to skilful and honest Guides, such as will lead us the safest Way to our Journey's End, and the clearest from Robbers and Enemies; and in a Voyage by Water, to commit our selves to a skilful Pilot, that will conduct us clear of Rocks and Shoals, and all other Dangers; an Error in these endangering our whole Undertaking; it certainly concerns us much more in the Voyage of Life, which will end in everlasting Happiness or Misery, to take Care that we chuse wise Directors, such as will not mislead us into the By-Paths of Sin or Error, but conduct us safely in the straight Way of Truth and Duty. But I need not dwell on this, it being so obvious to the meanest Capacity, that a Distin