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“ casting out devils," he will be one that, in this sense, “followeth not us;”-that is not of our opinion. It is scarce to be imagined he will be of our mind in all points, even of religion. He may very probably think in a different manner from us, even on several subjects of importance; such as the nature and use of the Moral Law, the eternal decrees of God, the sufficiency and efficacy of his grace, and the perseverance of bis children.
4. He may differ from us, fourthly, not only in opinion, but likewise in some point of practice. He may not approve of that manner of worshipping God, which is practised in our congregation; and may judge that to be more profitable for his soul, which took its rise from Calvin, or Martin Luther.. He may have many objections to that Liturgy, which we approve of beyond all others; many doubts concerning that form of Church-government, which we esteem both Apostolical and Scriptural. Perhaps he may go farther from us yet: he may, from a principle of conscience, refrain from several of those, which we believe to be the ordinances of Christ. Or, if we both agree that they are ordained of God, there may still remain a difference between us, either as to the manner of administering those ordinances, or the persons to whom they should be administered. Now the unavoidable consequence of any of these differences will be, that he who thus differs from us, must separate himself, with regard to those points, from our society. In this respect, therefore, “he followeth not us:" he is not (as we phrase it) “ of our Church."
5. But in a far stronger sense, “ he followeth not us,” who is not only of a different Church, but of such a Church as we account to be in many respects anti-scriptural and anti-christian; a Church which we believe to be utterly false and erroneous in her doctrines, as well as very dangerously wrong in her practice; guilty of gross superstition as well as idolatry. A Church that has added many articles to the faith which was once delivered to the saints; that has dropped one whole commandment of God, and made void several of the rest by her traditions ; and that, pretending the highest veneration for, and strictest conformity to, the ancient Church, has nevertheless brought in numberless innovations, without any warrant either froin antiquity or Scripture. Now most certainly “he followeth not us,” who stands at so great a distance from us.
6. And yet there may be a still wider difference than this. He who differs from us in judgment or practice, may possibly stand at a greater distance from us in affection than in judgment. And this indeed is a very natural and a very common effect of thc other. The differences which begin in points of opinion, seldom terminate there. They generally spread into the affections, and then separate chief friends. Nor are any animosities so deep and irreconcileable, as those that spring from disagreement in religion. For this cause the bitterest enemies of a man are those of his own household. For this the father rises against his own children, and the children against the father; and perhaps persecute each other even to the death, thinking all the time they are doing God service. It is therefore nothing more than we may expect, if those who differ from us, either in religious opinions or practice, soon contract a sharpness, yea, bitterness towards us; if they are more and more prejudiced against us, till they conceive as ill an opinion of our persons as of our principles. An almost necessary consequence of this will be, they will speak in the same manner as they think ofus. They will set themselves in opposition to us, and, as far as they are able, hinder our work; seeing it docs not appear to them to be the work of God, but either of man or of the Devil. He that thinks, speaks, and acts in such a manner as thuis, in the highest sense, “ followeth not us.”
7. I do not indeed conceive, that the person of whom the Apostle speaks in the text (although we have no particular account of him, either in the context, or in any other part of Holy Writ) went so far as this. We have no ground to suppose, that there was any material difference between him and the Apostles; much less that he had any prejudice either against them or their Master. It seems we may gather thus much from our Lord's own words, which immediately follow the text: “There is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.” But I purposely put the case in the strongest light, adding all the circumstances which can well be conceived ; that, being forewarned of the temptation in its full strength, we may in no case yield to it, and fight against God.
III. I. Suppose, then, a man have no intercourse with us, suppose he be not of our party, suppose he separate from our church, yea, and widely differ from us, both in judgment, practice, and affection ; yet if we see even this man “ casting out devils, Jesus saith, Forbid him not. This important direction of our Lord, I am, in the Third place, to explain.
2. If we see this man casting out devils :-But it is well, if,
in such a case, we would believe even what we saw with our eyes, if we did not give the lie to our own senses. He must be little acquainted with human nature, who does not immediately perceive, how extremely unready we should be to believe that any man does cast out devils, who“ followeth not us," in all or most of the senses above recited. I had almost said, in any of them ; seeing we may easily learn even from what passes in our own breasts, how unwilling men are, to allow any thing good in those who do not in all things agree with themselves.
3. But what is a sufficient, reasonable proof, that a man does (in the sense above) cast out devils ?' The answer is easy. Is there full proof, 1. That a person before us was a gross, open sinner? 2. That he is not so now; that he has broke off his sins, and lives a Christian life ? And, 3. That this change was wrought by his hearing this man preach? If these three points be plain and undeniable, then you have sufficient, reasonable proof, such as you cannot resist without wilful sin, that this man casts out devils.
4. Then “ forbid him not.” Beware how you attempt to hinder him, either by 'your authority, or arguments, or persuasions. Do not in any wise strive to prevent his using all the power which God has given him. If you have authority with him, do not use that authority, to stop the work of God. Do not furnish him with reasons, why he ought not any more to speak in the name of Jesus. Satan will not fail to supply him with these, if you do not second him therein. Persuade him not to depart from the work. If he should give place to the Devil and you, many souls might perish in their iniquity, but their blood would God require at your hands.
5. "But what if he be only a Layman, who casts out devils ? Ought I not to forbid him then ? '
Is the fact allowed ? Is there reasonable proof, that this man has or does cast out devils? If there is, forbid him not; no, not at the peril of your soul. Shall not God work by whomi he will work? No man can do these works unless God is with him; unless God hath sent him for this very thing. But if God bath sent him, will you call him back? Will you forbid him to go ?
6. But I do not know, that he is sent of God.' “ Now herein is a marvellous thing,” (may any of the seals of his mission say, any whom he hath brought from Satan to God,) “ that ye kuow not whence this man is, and, behold, he hath
opened mine cyes! If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” If you doubt the fact, send for the parents of the man: send for his brethren, friends, acquaintance. But if you cannot doubt this, if you must needs acknowledge, « that a notable miracle hath been wrought;" then with what conscience, with what face, can you charge him whom God hath sent, “not to speak any more in his name?”
7. I allow, that it is highly expedient, whoever preaches in his name should have an outward as well as an inward call; but that it is absolutely necessary, I deny.
Nay, is not the Scripture express ? “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron ? ” (Heb. v. 4.)
Numberless times has this text been quoted on the occasion, as containing the very strength of tl:e cause: But surely never was so unhappy a quotation. For, first, Aaron was not called to preach at all: He was called “to offer gifts, and sacrifice for sin.” That was his peculiar employment. Secondly, These men do not offer sacrifice at all, but only preach ; which Aaron did not. Therefore it is not possible to find one text in all the Bible, which is more wide of the point than this.
8. But what was the practice of the Apostolic age ?' You may casily see in the Acts of the Apostles. In the eighth chapter we read, “ There was a great persecution against the Church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles.” (Ver. 1.) “ Therefore they that were scattered abroad, went every where preaching the word.” (Ver. 4.) Now were all these outwardly called to prcach? No man in his senses can think so. Here, then, is an undeniable proof, what was the practice of the apostolic age. Here you see not one, but a multitude of lay preachers, men that were only sent of God.
9. Indeed so far is the practice of the apostolic age from inclining us to think it was unluwful for a man to preach before he was ordained, that we have reason to think, it was then accounted necessary. Certainly the practice and the direction of the Apostle Paul was, to prove a man before he vas ordained at all. “Let these,” (the Deacons,) says he, “ first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon :" (I Tim. iij. 10:) Proved? How? By setting them to construe a sentence of Greek, and asking them a few commonplace questions? () amazing proof of a Minister of Christ! Nay; but by mahing a clear, open trial, (as is still done by most of the Protestant Churches of Europe,) not only whether their lives be holy and unblameable, but whether they have such gifts as are absolutely and indispensably necessary, in order to edify the Church of Christ.
10. But what if a man has these; and has brought sinners to repentance; and yet the Bishop will not ordain him? Then the Bishop does forbid him to cast out devils. But I dare not forbid him: I have published my reasons to all the world. Yet it is still insisted, I ought to do it. You who insist upon it, answer those reasons. I know not that any have done this yet, or even made an attempt of doing it. Only some have spoken of them as very weak and trifling: and this was prudent enough; for it is far easier to despise, at least seem to despise, an argument, than to answer it. Yet till this is done, I must say, when I have reasonable proof that any man does cast out devils, whatever others do, I dare not forbid him, lest I be found even to fight against God.
11. And whosoever thou art that fearest God, “ forbid him not,” either directly or indirectly. There are many ways of doing this. You indirectly forbid him, if you either wholly deny, or despise and make little account of, the work which God has wrought by his hands. You indirectly forbid him, when you discourage him in his work, by drawing him into disputes concerning it, by raising objections against it, or frighting him with consequences which very possibly will never be. You forbid him, when you show any unkindness toward him, either in language or bebaviour; and much more when you speak of him to others, either in an unkind or a contemptuous manner; when you endeavour to represent him to any, either in an odious or a despicable light. You are forbidding him all the time you are speaking evil of him, or making no account of his labours. O forbid him not in any of these ways; nor by. forbidding others to hear him; by discousaging sinners from hearing that word, which is able to save their souls.
12. Yea, if you would observe our Lord's direction in its full meaning and extent, then remember his word, “ He that is not for us is against us; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth :” He that gathereth not men into the kingdom of God, assuredly scatters them from it. For there can be no neuter in this war. Every one is either on God's side, or on Satan's. Are you on God's side? Then you will not only not forbid any man that casts out devils, but you will labour, to the uttermost of your power, to forward him in the work.