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and gave them Reverence, faith the Apoftle. This likewife is in the highest measure due to our heavenly Father, which we are therefore daily to pay him in all our Words and Works: If I then be a Father, where is mine Honour? If a Mafter, where is my Fear? faith the Lord of Hofts, Mal. 1. 6. both which he juftly expects and challenges from us.
Moreover, Children owe Obedience to their Parents; Children, obey your Parents (faith the Apoftle) as it is fit in the Lord. And this Obedience is to be fhew'd by obferving their Commands, hearkning to their Counsel, and kindly receiving their Admonitions and Corrections; knowing that they proceed from Love, and aim only at their Welfare.
Now this Obedience is moft eminently due to our Maker and Father in Heaven: Hath not the Potter power over the Clay (faith the Apostle) which he made and formed?. And hath not God much more the power over his Creatures, the Works of his own Hands? who are therefore infinitely oblig'd to ferve and obey him, especially confidering that his Commandments are never grievous, and his Corrections are always for our Good.
Once more, Children owe a Truft and Confidence in their Parents, and a Dependence upon their Care and Provifion for them: And this we are call'd upon to do in a more especial manner as to our heavenly Father, for we are bid to caft all our Care upon him, who careth for us, and to rely upon his Providence at all times without Anxiety and Diftruft. This Leffon our Saviour teaches us at large in his Sermon on the Mount, Mat. 6. where he ufeth many Arguments to take us off from all follicitous Care of Food and Raiment, with a Promife, that if we feek firft the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness, all the Necef faries of Life fhall be added to us.
4. From God's making all his Sons Heirs, we learn the exceeding great Honour and Dignity that Christianity brings its Followers to; it makes them Heirs at prefent,: and will fhortly enter them into the poffeffion of a Kingdom, and that not an earthly fading Kingdom, that foon vanishes away, but a Kingdom in Heaven, that can never be mov'd or taken from them. Now are we the Sons of God (faith the Apoftle) but it doth not yet appear what we fhall be; this we know, that when he thall appear, we shall appear with him in Glory.
Laftly, Since Chrift obtain'd this Kingdom for us by his Sufferings, let us not be afham'd of the Cross of Chrift, but, with St. Paul, rather glory in, than groan under it; and then we may with him reckon the Sufferings of this prefent Life not worthy to be nam'd or compar'd with the Glory that hall be reveal'd in us. In fhort, we fee the Duty of our Chriftian Profeffion, which is to abftain from all the finful Lufts of the Flefh, and to follow the Fruits and Dictates of God's Holy Spirit; and likewife the Dignity of our high Calling, to be the Sons and Heirs of God, and Joint-Heirs with Jefus Chrift of his Heavenly Kingdom. To which God of his infinite Mercy bring us all, &c.
The GOSPEL for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity.
St. Matthew vii. 15 —— 22.
Beware of falfe Prophets, which come unto you in Sheeps-Clothing, but inwardly, they are ravening Wolves. Te ball know them by their Fruits: Do Men gather Grapes of Thorns, or Figs of Thif tles? Even fo every good Tree bringeth forth good Fruit, but a corrupt Tree evil Fruit, &c.
HIS Gospel for the Day is another Part or Portion of our Bleffed Saviour's Sermon on the Mount, wherein he cautions his Difciples and Followers against false Prophets and Teachers; letting them know the Manner and Ends of their Coming, and giving them fome Marks of Diftinction to discover and difcern them by.
The Collect for the Day prays to be preferv'd from all burtful things: to which end,
The Epiftle directs against all fleshly Lufts, which are burtful to the Body:
The Gofpel against falfe Prophets and Teachers, which are hurtful to the Soul.
The Caution against these is in these words; Beware of falfe Prophets. Where we are to inquire,
First, Who are here meant by falfe Prophets. And, Secondly, What is imply'd in bidding us to beware of them. For the
First, The falfe Prophets, against whom this Caution is given, were falfe Chrifts, falfe Apoftles, and falfe Teachers: of all which we read in the Apoftles days, and fome of which we have the fad experience of in ours.
The falfe Chrifts were thofe that pretended to be that great Prophet, which was to come into the World, to teach and to fave Mankind; and fo affumed to themselves the Dignity and the Office of the Meffias. Of these our Saviour himself foretold, Mat. 24. 5. Many (faith he) shall Come in my Name, Jaying, dam Chrift, and hall deceive many. Thefe he after ftiles falfe Chrifts and falfe Prophets, ver. 24. Of this fort were Theudas, Judas of Galilee, Barchocebas, and others, in the beginning of Chriftianity, fuch likewife was Eldavid in the fixth Century, who gave out that he was Chrift, and drew many after him; and fuch were David George, Hacket, and Naylor in later days.
The falfe Apostles were thofe who pretended to be fent by Chrift, and boafted of Miracles to confirm their Miffion. Of this fort were Barjefus, Elymas the Sorcerer, and Simon Magus, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apoftles, thefe gave out themselves to be fome great Perfons, and bewitch'd many with their Sorceries, Acts 8, 9, 10. St. Paul tiles them falfe Apoftles, deceitful Workers, transforming themfelves into the Apostles of Chrift; and no wonder (faith he) for Satan himself is transform'd into an Angel of Light. 2 Cor. 11. 13.
The falfe Teachers were thofe that own'd the Doctrine of Chrift, but corrupted it by Errors, and undermin'd it by Divifions; building Hay and Stubble upon the Foundation of Chriftianity, and blending the Truth with many impure and corrupt Mixtures. Such were the Gnofticks of old, who pretended to greater Knowledg than others; and fuch are the Sectaries and Separatifts of our days, who by boasting of new Lights and Inspirations feduce and beguile the Hearts of the Simple. Thefe are the falfe Prophets and Teachers, against whom this Caution is given.
But, Secondly, what is imply'd in Chrift's bidding his Followers to beware of them? Why, that he himself hath in fome meafure told us; faying, Mat. 24. Believe them not, and go not after them: that is, Be not too forward to receive their Doctrine, nor too eafy to be misled by their Example.
Our Saviour had been before fpeaking of that different Dialect, that would be found among Chriftians in the lat ter days; One faying, Lo! here is Chrift; and another, Lo! there to which he fubjoins this Advice, Believe them not: For there fhall arife falfe Chrifts and falfe Prophets, and fall Shew great Signs and Wonders; infomuch that, if it were poj fible, they hall deceive the very Elect. And St. John gives the fame Advice; Beloved, believe not every Spirit, for many falfe Prophets are gone abroad into the World. Error is fometimes fo fet off by artificial Colours, that 'tis not eafy. for weak People to fee through the Difguife, or to discern the Face of Truth: fome miftake thro Ignorance, and others by Defign, fpeaking things that they fhould not, for filthy Lucre's fake. Falfe Teachers commonly work upon the Credulity of the Vulgar, and blindly lead them into many Errors, and therefore be not too eafy of Belief, nor tamely yield up your Faith to them.
Again, If any fay concerning Chrift, Behold he is in the Defart! go not forth: Behold he is in the fecret Chambers! believe it not. In like manner, if any fay, Behold he is in the Conclave of Catholicks, or in the Conventicles of Sectaries, believe them not, and go not after them. Be not drawn afide from the ways of Truth and Peace, by fuch Calls or Examples. St. Paul bids us, to mark thofe that caufe Divifions, not to follow, but avoid them. And from fuch as have only a Form of Godliness without the Power of it, he warns all good Chriftians to turn away; faying as Jacob did of Simeon and Levi, Brethren in Iniquity, My Soul come not thou into their Secrets, to their Afemblies mine Honour be not thou united. In a word, it is much more fafe for the common People to give themfelves up to the Guidance and Inftructions of their lawful and authoriz'd Paftors, than to heap to themselves Teachers, having itching Ears, who are apt to draw them from the Truth, and to turn them unto Fables. This is imply'd in the Caution here given, Beware of falfe Prophets.
Vol. IV. Part 2.
Now to help us herein, our Saviour acquaints us, in the next words, with the Manner and the End of their Coming, The Manner, in thefe words, They come to you outwardly in Sheeps-Clothing; that is, with foft and fmooth Pretences : The End, in thefe, But inwardly they are ravening Wolves, who come not but to defpoil and to devour. A word or two of each. And,
Ift, Of the Manner of their Coming; They come to you in Sheeps-Clothing. Thefe Words are an Allufion to the Habit and Custom ufed by the Prophets of old, who in the Delivery of any weighty Meffage were wont to wear Sheep-Skins, as a Badg of their Meeknefs and Innocence: in imitation whereof, the falfe Prophets would put on their Sheeps-Clothing on the like Occafions, to gain the greater Reverence to their Perfons, and the better Recep tion to their Doctrines. The Sheep, you know, is a Creature noted for its Usefulness and Innocence; it often receives, but never does any harm, and is therefore fitly made the Emblem of Meeknefs and Patience. So that by Sheeps-Clothing here we are to understand in general all thofe artificial Methods and Difguifes, by which Deceivers feduce the unwary Multitude: St. Paul expreffes them by good Words and fair Speeches, Rom. 16. and elsewhere by the Sleight of Men, and the cunning Craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; Eph.4. 14. But more particularly, this Sheeps-Clothing confifts in a great Show of Piety and Zeal for the Glory of God, of great Love and Affection to the Souls of Men, and of great Mortification and Selfdenial in themselves. I fay,
(1.) It confifts in a great Show of Piety and Zeal for the Glory of God. This piece of Sheeps Clothing was vifible in the Pharifees, who affected a mighty Appearance of Sanctity and Devotion, and with it cover'd many vile Enormities: They made long Prayers, fometimes in the Corners of the Streets, and fometimes in private Houses, merely to be heard and feen of Men; they kept the Sabbath with a more than ordinary Strictnefs, and blamed our Saviour and his Difciples for not coming up to their Precifenefs. Wherein they are exactly imitated by the modern Zealots and Followers of that feparating Sect, who pretend to greater Purity, and cry up a more fpiritual way of Worship, merely to hide the Impurity of their Lives, and the Impiety of their Divisions.