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them; and if we may indulge in the figure of speech used in our text, the young foxes have old ones to train them to their arts. These false teachers, like the old Jewish pharisees, will so disfigure their faces, put on such a solemn visage, speak in such a lamenting, mournful tone of voice, use a set of solemn words, stand and speak in such a peculiar attitude, that the ear of the hearer is strangely devoted to sounds, and his eyes, set wide open at something which appears more like an imaginary spectre, than like a fellow mortal. In all this awful solemnity the people are told that they are every inoment exposed to fall into hell, and under the burning wrath of an highly offended God; that their children are naturally heirs of endless vengeance, and that there is but one way for any escape, which is to adhere strictly to their testimony, and receive it as the word of God. A fear: ful trembling now seizes weak and delicate nerves, and the power of sympathy .conveys the action to the more strong and stable, and the conclusion becomes general, that the man is sent of God, and that to reject his doctrine will expose the people to all the threatenings which are so positively denounced.
This method of deceiving the people was not introduced of a sudden ; it was brought on by degrees, and established by custom and tradition ; so that now the business goes on as regularly as other employments in society. The old foxes know exactly when the young are fitted for their labours, and the people are already prepared, wasting and longing for the deception.
As has been reinarked, the fox unites in his nature both cunning and cruelty. For this reason, Jesus called Herod a fox. He was told to depart, because Herod would kill him. To this he replied, “Go tell that fox, behold I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” This cunning and cruelty are plainly discernible in the false teachers of re
ligion. They are cunning to deceive, and cruel to torment the deceived. In the chapter where our text is recorded, the Lord accuses the false prophets of crying peace ;
" and there was no peace.” So false teachers now inform the people, that if they will receive their doctrine they will have peace; but the fact is, there is no peace in believing their testimony; for they prophesy out of their own corrupt and partial hearts, and the doctrine they preach is like the hearts which invent it, full of craft and cruelty. It affects a great deal of compassion and love for the people who are exposed to the eternal unmerciful vengeance of God, and the people think that these teachers must be remarkably kind to use such constant endeavours to deliver then rom the hands of such an enemy as God is! Being deceived, they cannot reason. If they could reflect, and calmly reason on the subject, they would see at once, that if these teachers were.in reality so much better than God, as their preaching represents, God would not have sent them. If God were an enemy to his creatures, in the room of sending such loving creatures as these foxes pretend to be, he would send his messengers of vengeance, and cut them off at once. When the deceit has succeeded, and the people believe in the false doctrines which are inculcated, have they any peace? Have they any rest ? Do they enjoy quietude ? No, they have no peace, no rest day nor night. What is the matter? The fact is, the creed in which they are taught to believe, is full of cruelty, and teaches them that they are every moment in danger of worse consequences than can be represented by any similitude in nature.
We are informed that the fox will cunningly feign himself to be dead, will stretch himself ont in a lifeless posture, by which deceit he induces the fowls to alight on, or near him, when, in a sudden and nimble manner, he snatches and devours them. So false teachers cunningly feign them
selves to be dead to the world, to have no desire for earthly riches, honour or power, by which deceit they drag the people into their very jaws, and between their sharp cutting teeth. Of all classes of the community, none have a greater thirst for riches, honour and power, than these false teachers. They are continually laying plans and contriving schemes to get power into their hands, and at the same time pretend to be dead to the world. This is acting the fox faithfully.
In delineating, illustrating and defending their creeds, false teachers resemble the cunning of the fox of the wilderness in several respects.
Where this artful animal burrows in the ground, he takes care to have several outlets, so that if he be attacked at one of them, while his adversary is looking out for him at that place, he makes his escape at another, and is gone long before his adversary knows it. Thus do false teachers ; they endeavour to hide themselves in as great obscurity as possible, but if inquiry and argument pursue and find them out, they have taken care that they have more ways than one for an escape. If they are attacked on the principle of the works of the creature, as matter of justification to eternal life, and if the argument is like to bring them out to the light, they make their escape through the wellstudied avenue of partial sovereign grace and particular election. If, on the other hand, they are questioned in a skilful manner on the doctrine of partial election, and what they call sovereign grace, and if they find no way to defend this scheme, all at once they tack short about and are pleading, in a most tender and affectionate manner for the free offers of salvation to all, and laying it down in the most solemn manner, that all are invited to come in welcome to the gospel feast. Thus the fox is gone...
The art practised by the fox to elude his pursuer in the chase, is a very fit emblem of the cunning craftiness of false teachers, “whereby they lie in
wait to deceive.” Like the serpent, the fox never runs on a straight line. He makes frequent crooks, running this way and that way, and appears to one little acquainted with his cunuing to get along but slowly, and to care but little whether he makes his escape or not. But all these crooks are designed to puzzle his pursuer and embarrass his speed. This method is employed until one more perplexing is found to be necessary, when the fox sets himself to crossing his own track, running round and round, forming the most difficult labyrinth, from which he makes a sudden leap as far as possible, leaving his pursuer to seek him in the labyrinth which he has left, while he makes the best of his way to another difficult place. In like manner do false teachers commence their discourses, by taking care to avoid a straight line of simple truth ; they run a little way, pretending that the Divine Being is all love and grace to mankind, is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever, that the most entire confidence may be safely placed in his wisdom, power and goodness; but immediately they take a turn, and represent him as capable of having his mind so changed as to burn with implacable vengeance toward those who do not conform to their doctrine. If they are followed closely, and questioned concerning the consistency of their story, they will begin to cross their paths, contradict what they have said, run into the doctrine of predestination, from that to free will, from free will to predestination, and from thence back again. In one breath they will hold to election and reprobation, in the next call on all to repent and be saved, and when called on to explain these contradictions, they take a leap into mysticism, call it all a holy mystery, which carnal reason cannot understand, and thus, like the fox, make their escape.
This kind of preaching has been practised by false teachers, until many of the sensible people in Christendom have been driven to give up all be. lief in divine revelation, and to seek for rest in
moral philosophy, without the assistance of revealed religion.
Perhaps no foxes ever represented false teachers more to perfection, than the three hundred which Sampson caught, fastened together, two and two, with fire-brands between each pair, and sent among the standing corn of the Philistines.
This was an effectual method of destroying those extensive fields of wheat on which the Philistines depended for bread. If these foxes could have agreed to run a straight course, they would have done much less damage to the fields of corn ; but agreeably to their nature, they ran crooked, and while one would attempt to go one way, his companion would take a leap the other; in this way, they went in every possible direction, while the fire-brands served to increase their efforts and to burn the corn. In this manner false teachers are covenanted together, but with nu disposition which harmonizes their hearts; and while one runs in one crooked path, another attempts to draw him in a different way, quite as crooked; whilst all the time they are rendered even furious with a sort of “strange fire,” which characterizes their docrines, and produces a zeal not according to knowledge.--This fire is scattered every where, and in every place into which these false teachers run ; while that reason, understanding and knowledge, which to moral beings is mortal bread, is all prostrated and consumed, by these false teachers and the fire they carry with them, as was the corn of the Philistines by the foxes and the fire-brands.
As has been already noticed, St. Peter has presented us with a comparison of the false prophets among the people of the Jews, and the false teachers that should arise in the Christian church; and it may be profitable for us to notice a few particulars which may serve to mark the distinction between true and false prophets and teachers. In the days of the prophets of Israel, the false prophets were vastly more numerous than the true proph