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teachers of this character have actu. ally existed. Inspired men, being cotemporary with these false teachers, could detect them, and warn the Church against their destructive errors. To effect this was one important object of those epistles sent from Heaven by the Son of God himself which are recorded in the beginning of the Revelation of St. John.
2. The future existence of false teachers is predicted by the inspired writers; so that we have the spirit of inspiration to assure us, not only that teachers of this character did then exist, but also that they would exist in succeeding periods of the Church. The Saviour forewarns his Church that there would arise false Christs and false prophets, who would deceive, if it were possible, the very elect. Paul when taking leave of the Ephesian elders, delivers this affecting prediction: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." The apostle Peter is very explicit on this point, in his second epistle at the beginning of the second chapter: "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you." By the light of revealed truth it is evident, that false teachers have been in the Church since the apostolic age.
3. The present existence of heresies is proof of the present existence of false teachers. Under this head it will be incumbent on me, first to prove the present existence of heresies, and then to show how this proves the existence of false teachers.
As to the present existence of heresies in the Christian Church, it needs no other proof but this indisputable fact; that systems of faith are still extensively embraced which are not only unlike, but fundamentally different and contradictory to each other. Now if there be such
a thing as heresy, as it is manifest from the word of God there is, then it is equally manifest that heresy is still extant. Which are the heresies? is another question. All I wish now to prove is their existence.
Very different opinions are entertained in the visible Church on such interesting points as the attributes of God, his counsels, his laws, and his government. Very different opinions are entertained concerning the apostacy of man, and the extent of his depravity, and the necessity of redemption; also, concerning the person and work of the Redeemer ; also the way in which we gain and preserve an interest in his special favour. No less different opinions are entertained concerning the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment, with its endless consequences. Now is it not impossible, that we should embrace sentiments which are entirely dissimilar on points so fundamental, and yet none of us be guilty of heresy? All who believe that heresies ever existed, will not hesitate to admit, there is the fullest evidence that they still exist.
But how does the present existence of heresies, prove the present existence of false teachers? It is, in the first place, evident that heresies are originated and propagated by corrupt teachers. The origin of heretical sentiments is accounted for in this way; that “ men shall arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." First, there is a corrupt master, and then a corrupt school. It is perfectly natural to infer, that as heresies are indebted to heretical teachers for their origin, so it is by their influence they are perpetuated. IfI mistake not, Paul attributes to heretical teachers the continuance of heretical deception, in a passage in the third chapter of his second Epistle to Timothy: "Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth; men of corruptminds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed
no further; for their folly shall be made manifest unto all men, as theirs also was." It is manifest that corrupt teachers in the Christian Church are pointed out and illustrated by the case of the magicians of Egypt, who withstood Moses, and by their magical arts deceived the people. If the teachers of false doctrines were once to have their folly made manifest to all men, it would be difficult to keep up the credit of their systems. It is by the good words and fair speeches. of these that the hearts of the simple are deceived. (see Rom. xvi, 18.)
As it is evident that the Millenium has not yet come, when Satan is to be bound and Christ is to have universal dominion, so we have no reason to think that the teachers of the Christian Church are. as yet, all taught of God. It is to be one of the peculiar glories of that blessed period, that Zion's watchmen will all be united in the knowledge and love of the truth. That is the favored time when the watchmen will all see eye to eye, and lift up their voice together. But this is far from being characteristic of the present day. The watchmen are very far from seeing eye to eye. They do not merely disagree in the modes and forms of religion; they differ in things of the most vital importance.
I trust it has been made to appear, that it indicates no want of charity, because we believe that blind guides are still to be found in the Church. I shall now suggest some motives to excite Christians to pray for their conversion.
1. Prayer for the conversion of blind guides, is an expression of love to them. Their souls are precious; and there is great reason to fear that they will be forever lost. The Saviour said, "If the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into the ditch." The blind leader will not only fall into the bottomless pit; but he will sink low in it. How can we love the soul of such a man, and not pray for his conversion to God?
Could a teacher of this character have a sight of the benevolent compassion which the children of God feel for him, while they are supplicating the throne of grace for his translation into the kingdom of Christ, his conscience at least must approve, and say, 'I ought not to hate these people because they are praying for my conversion.' Thomas Scott never had any reason, and never will, to all eternity, have any reason to hate Mr. Newton, for being so importunate in praying for him as a blind guide, that his eyes might be opened.
2. When false teachers are converted, the display which is made of the power and grace of God, is very illustrious. The peculiar obstinacy and criminality of such characters, makes room for a striking manifestation of divine power to overcome such obstinacy; and of mercy, to save and bless a leader in the ranks of the enemy. The conversion of such men resembles the conversion of Saul the persecutor. And the conversion of Saul brought a great revenue of praise to the God of all grace. All the followers of Christ, when they heard of his conversion, and that he preached the faith which once he destroyed, glorified God in him. So it is now whenever a blind guide has his eyes opened, and begins to preach the truth as it is in Jesus.
3. The probable effect which the conversion of a false teacher will have on the cause of truth, is a powerful motive to draw forth prayers in his behalf. The conversion of such a sinner, would be apt to arrest an uncommon degree of attention. There is no work which the Almighty is performing on the earth, which is to be compared with that which he effects in the hearts of men, in converting them from rebels into friends: and yet it is apt to attract but little of the attention of a world buried in business of pleasure. There are times when the Captain of salvation subdues by his grace some gigantic foe, which serves to arrest more general attention. Such a conquest as
we are now contemplating, is peculiarly calculated to do it; and on this account it is greatly to be desired. Certainly it is to be devoutly wished, that the attention of creatures should be turned to the brightest display of the Creator's glory.
There is another way in which the cause of truth will be greatly benefitted by the conversion of blind guides; it will put a stop to their misguiding others. Blind guides are said to lead their fellow men into the ditch; in other words, they lead them down to hell. They are charged with taking away the key of knowledge, so as to hinder men from entering the kingdom of heaven. Their word is said to eat like a canker, to the overthrowing of the faith of their hearers. Their doctrines are called "damnable heresies," which prove destructive not only to themselves, but also to their followWho can number the souls which have been eternally undone by one heresiarch! Every false teacher is undoubtedly the instrument of ruining many. In this point of view every such conversion is unspeakably important Were such a man to be truly converted, he would cease to pervert the right way of the Lord. He would be deeply humbled with the mischief which he had already done.
The conversion of a false teacher would effect more than merely to put a stop to his doing mischief, it would prepare him to be very useful. If an heretical teacher is made a subject of divine grace, he will embrace the truth. To him truth appears to be a matter of no small consequence. And he is apt to preach it in a manner uncommonly clear and distinguishing. Whatever others may do, you cannot make this man adopt the sentiment, that it is of no importance what a man believes. He knows by his own experience that heresies are to be reckoned among other works of the flesh, The Pharisaism of Paul's early life, appeared to have a great influence on him as a preacher
of the doctrine of the cross. It remarkably qualified him to explain and enforce the doctrine of a free justification through the righteousness of God our Saviour.
There are, without doubt, many men who now sustain the office of ministers of the Gospel, who are men of superior talents and education, who are nevertheless worse than useless, on account of their ignorance of the truth. These men need nothing but a new heart to render them unspeakable blessings to the Church. Were they only to receive their sight, it cannot be a matter of doubt what they would do they would forthwith preach the faith which they have despised. Who can help but wish and pray for a host of such preachers?
It is possible that objections will arise in the minds of some against the proposal which has been made, to pray for the conversion of blind guides.
1st. It may be objected that we cannot pray for blind guides, unless we are informed who they are. This is not at all necessary. We can pray for all the sick without knowing who are now in this condition. We can pray for all the heathen without knowing the name of a single heathen. We can ask God to undeceive such as have a false hope, without being able ourselves to search the hearts of our fellow men. That there are false teachers, is perfectly evident, as we have already seen; we need not therefore hesitate to pray for their conversion.
2dly. It will be objected, that those ministers who engage in the prayer proposed, do by this very thing consider themselves as not needing the intercession of others. I do not see how this consequence will follow. If a concert of prayer should be proposed for the sick, would my engaging in such a concert amount to a declaration, that I do not consider myself included in the number for whom prayer is made ? Surely the sick ought to pray one for
another, that they may be healed.
I would further remark that the true minister of Christ may know that they are not false teachers; that they are not as many who corrupt the word of God. False teachers may boast of equal confidence; but certainly they can have no assurance, of that which is not true. Faithful teachers may doubt of their own conversion, but at the same time they will feel assured concerning the fundamental truths of the Gospel. And when they find men holding the sacred office, who, instead of preaching in favor, preach against these fundamental truths, they cannot help praying for them. (in their closets at least,) that the Lord would open their eyes that they may see.
3dly. It will be objected that this proposal is invidious and insulting, and not fraternal. How can this objection lie against the proposal? Neither the names, nor the sects of the false teachers have been mentioned. If my brethren, either in the ministry, or out of the ministry are afraid that my heart is not right with God, can I be offended with them because they plead with God in my behalf? Could they exercise any good will towards me, and do less? If I am now a blind guide, and should continue to be such until I die, it had been good for me if I had not been born.
4thly. It will be objected that this proposal to pray for the conversion of unconverted ministers is calculated to weaken the confidence of people in the piety of their ministers, and in this way prevent their being benefitted by their instructions. But would not the same objection lie against the caution which the Saviour gives us, to beware of false prophets which come to us in sheep's clothing, but are inwardly ravening wolves? And would not the objection lie against all which is said in the word of God, concerning the existence and pestilential influence of corrupt teachers? The objection supposes, that
hearers of the word ought not to be apprised there are any false teachers in the world. A sentiment more contrary to the spirit of God's word, and more prejudicial to the best interests of man, could not be broached. Let me suppose the country to be full of empirics, who make great and false pretensions to skill,-what would be duty in such a case? Would it be duty to keep the country profoundly ignorant of this fact, lest it should be the means of creating suspicion in their minds even concerning skilful physicians? No, not by any means, will be the answer of every man. Every man wishes to be apprised of the thing which endangers his natural life. But is it not as important, that he should be apprised of that which endangers the life of his soul?
I will add one other objection, which is of a complexion somewhat different from those which have been already introduced; it is this-That the effort proposed will be utterly in vain;-that if men have become teachers in the Church, without being themselves taught of God, there is no hope that they will come to others with the inquiry, What must we do to be saved? It is readily acknowledged that the case of unconverted ministers, is a very alarming case. They are generally wise in their own conceit; and we are told that there is more hope of a fool, (that is, of one who makes no pretensions to wisdom,) than of such. Still I do not think we ought to say, there is no hope that prayer for the conversion of corrupt teachers will not be of any avail. The case of Dr. Scott, is well known. According to his own statement, he was a striking example of a blind guide, who had his eyes opened. Other examples of a similar nature, have probably been known in our own country. There is a statement made Acts 6, 7, which answers the objection now before us: " And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem
greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." This circumstance, that a great comof the priests were obedient to pany the faith, through the power of divine grace on their hearts, added a peculiar glory to the triumphs of the cross in apostolic days: and who can tell but that a similar circumstance may be one of the most illustrious displays of grace which shall usher in the Millennium? Should a great company of heretical teachers be converted to the truth and become zealous preachers of the Gospel, it would be a most attractive display of the power and grace of Immanuel and would at the same time furnish some of the best instruments to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
The proposal which has now been made, is of sufficient importance to produce an explicit agreement in prayer, among all the ministers and friends of Christ in every part of the world.
It has been the particular object of this communication, to stir up the Church to pray for the conversion of heretical teachers. In this connexion, it will not be unnatural to suggest the importance of much prayer for orthodox ministers; that they may all be men of grace; and not only so, but that great grace may be upon them all. And when we look to the great Head of the Church to increase the number of teachers, let us not forget his own direction on this subject, and then we shall pray only for laborers to be sent forth into the harvest. That by means of Education Societies, and prayer for the descent of the Spirit on our public schools, and by prayer for the conversion of false teachers; the number of" laborers" may be greatly multiplied, will, I trust, be the heart's desire and prayer of all those who prefer Jerusalem above their chief joy.
Prov. xxv. 28.-He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down and without walls.
To those who are familiar with the scriptures, it is unnecessary to observe that in ancient times it was the custom to surround cities by a strong wall. Unless this were done, there was no security against the sudden irruption of enemies. With this fact in view, we shall readily perceive the beauty and force of the comparison between a "city broken down and without walls," and the condition of a man who has" no rule over his own spirit." A city without walls was exposed to every enemy : it was in constant danger of being invaded and destroyed. The man who has no rule over his own spirit resembles a city thus exposed. He has lost that subjection of himself, which is like a wall of defence, and is liable to be invaded by every enemy. Every malicious and designing man may disturb his peace, and he has no security against the temptations which may destroy his soul.
Is he subject to jealousy? Every thing he hears, or sees will disturb him.
He will be listening at every corner, and is sure to turn every thing against himself, even though he should be the most foreign from the subject of conversation.
Is he envious? He will pine in secret, at the prosperity of others. He will view the dispensations of heaven as partial; as though God designed to render him unhappy by making all around him happy. He is prepared to be wretched, with the means of happiness within his reach.
Is he passionate? Every idle word will throw him into a frenzy. His agitated passions are like the tumult of an assaulted city. Regardless of reputation, character and the claims