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selves to be in the wrong, because they resemble the many; they choose the broad road, because it is broad; perversely fancying, that the breadth of it is the mark, rather that it is the right path, than that it is the contrary. But let us tremble, if we are living, as others live; if we are thinking, as others think; if we are saying, as others say and doing, as others do. There are two parties in the world: there is a religious party, which is small; whose ways are unpopular, and particular; who differ from the common class of men; who lead such a life of piety and strictness, that they are thought by the generality to carry things much too far. And there is another large and numerous party, who seem to themselves, as if they were the whole world; who are travelling securely through life; who are not afraid of temptation; who feel little dread of sin; who meet with no spiritual difficulties, or troubles; who, for the most part, follow natural inclinations; to whom the example of other men forms the great rule of action, the world not being suspected of being an enemy. The very religion of such men is the customary religion. The foundation of their hope is the largeness of their body. "If we are not saved," say they, a large part of the world must be condemned: and this it is impossible to admit, even for a moment, since GOD can never be so harsh as to condemn to punishment so great a portion of His creatures." On this ground, multitudes are content to build their expectations of happiness in eternity. "CHRIST," they say, "died for us, and he will surely save us ;" forgetting that the same CHRIST, in whose words they pretend to trust, is He who hath also said, that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."


Now to which of these two parties do we belong? To the large, or to the little flock? "Fear not," says our SAVIOUR, "little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."*"Take heed," said the apostle, St Luke xii. 32.

"that ye be not condemned with the world."* Noah was a just man in his generation: but Noah only and his family, out of all the multitude, who lived with him on the earth, found favour in the sight of GOD. At a later time, not ten righteous were to be found in a whole city. There was a period when only seven thousand men of all the kingdom of Israel refused to bow the kneel to Baal: and in the days of CHRIST, the whole multitude, both of teachers and of the people, set themselves against Him. Thus the historical, as well the perceptive, part of Scripture warns us not to trust to this fatal and delusive argument of numbers. How, indeed, is reformation ever to begin in any one corrupted nation, sect, or party, or circle of persons, if the current practice be to form the standard by which men are to judge of their acceptance at the bar of THE ALMIGHTY? The road to destruction will only cease to be that broad road, which it is here described to be, when men shall learn to take the word of God for their rule and the ground of their confidence; and when they shall cease to think, that the circumstance of their numbers shall save them.


ST. MATTHEW, VII. 15, 16.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

OUR SAVIOUR, when He said, "Beware of false prophets," had a particular eye no doubt to the Scribes and Pharisees; whom, at another time, He termed hypocrites, and blind leaders of the blind; which come to you he * 1 Corinth. xi. 32.

said, "in sheep's clothing." The Pharisees made clean the outside; they were, in appearance, harmless as sheep. The people did not suspect them of enmity to God; or to His servants. They saw in them a remarkable scrupulosity; much outward sanctity; great regard to the forms of religion; and several other qualities, which were then likely to constitute respectability, in the eyes of superficial men. But though the Pharisees appeared to the people, in sheep's clothing; yet, inwardly, they were ravening wolves. They were more opposed to the truth than any class of persons; they were the chief antagonists of Christ, and of His followers. St. Paul, before his conversion, remarkably exemplified the practice of a Pharisee: touching the righteousness of the law, he was blameless; yet he beyond measure persecuted the Church of GOD, and wasted it. But the precept of our SAVIOUR,—to beware of false prophets, which should come in sheep's clothing,-ought not to be limited to the Pharisees. Many deceivers appeared in the first ages of the Church. The great apostle of the Gentiles remarks to the elders at Ephesus: "For I know this, that, after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."* And this expectation,—of the false prophets which should appear,-constituted a chief source of his anxiety; "therefore watch," said he, " and remember, that, by the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every one, night and day, with tears." The same apostle guarded the Corinthians against certain false apostles-deceitful workers transforming themselves into the apostles of CHRIST; "for Satan himself," he added, " is transformed into an angel of light." In his epistle to the Galatians, he complains of certain Judaizing teachers, by whom he had been supplanted in their esteem. St. Jude, also, in his epistle, speaks of certain men, who had crept in unawares, "turning the grace of our GoD into lasciviousness; and

*Acts xx. 29, 30. † Acts xx. 31. 2 Corinth. xi. 13, 14.

denying the only LORD GOD, and our LORD JESUS CHRIST."*
They are, further, described as despising dominion;† as
"speaking evil of dignities ;" and as going "in the way
of Cain ;"" and after the error of Balaam for reward;"
and as perishing in the "gainsaying of Core." We have
made these several quotations from Scripture, in order to
show, that the intrusion of false prophets or teachers into
the church constituted one of the great evils of the first
ages. Well, therefore, might our SAVIOUR say to the peo-
ple, "Beware of false prophets." But how was the simple
multitude to distinguish the true prophets from the false?
"Ye shall know them," says CHRIST, "by their fruits. Do
men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ?" This is.
the great test by which the pretensions, both of public
teachers, and of private Christians, are to be examined.
Common sense, indeed, dictates this mode of judging: and
there is often a remarkable agreement between the sayings
of our SAVIOUR and our own common sense.
As the na-
ture of a tree is known by its fruits, so is the nature of a
man's religion. "Bring forth," said John the Baptist to
the pretenders who gathered round him, "fruits meet for
repentance." "I have chosen you, and ordained you,"
says CHRIST to his Apostles, "that yo should go and
bring forth fruit."** We are become dead to the law, says
St. Paul, and joined or married to CHRIST," that we should
bring forth fruit unto God." In the time of the Reforma-
tion, the mode of judging resorted to was that which is here
recommended by CHRIST. The people perceived that the
Reformers were a strict and self-denying people, while the
body of the Popish priesthood were abominably corrupt.
Undoubtedly the people in some measure compared the
doctrines of the two parties; but many of them judged, in
a still greater degree, by a comparison of the lives of each.
By their fruits, the true and the false prophets were then

* St. Jude 4.

St. Jude 11. ** St. John xv. 16.

† 2 St. Peter ii. 10.
St. Matt. vii. 16.
†† Rom. vii. 4.

2 St. Peter ii. 10. T St. Matt. iii. 8.

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And thus our SAVIOUR'S maxim was the means of guiding the multitude safely (even in a dark age) into the true paths; and of re-establishing a more pure religion in the world. The precept reaches also to us; and is of standing use in the church. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing." The multitude are always easily imposed upon; those especially become dupes in matters of religion, who are not very religious themselves.

There is a superstition, in whose eye the mere name, or dress, of a minister exhibits all the sanctity which is required; they reverence the robe, and the robe only. The Pharisees acquired much respect after this manner. Others require that to the sacred robe a little outward decency of character should be added. There is another class, who think that bold pretensions to inspiration, or apostleship; that zeal, as ardent as that of Paul, and strong confidence, like his; (though without his faith and love, his humility and patience, his gentleness and meekness, his prudence and wisdom, and discernment, and all his other graces,) are sufficient marks of a true prophet. But by their fruits, says CHRIST, they shall be known. Paul himself used often to appeal both to his doctrine; and to his manner of life, conversation, faith, charity; and he, by living among his converts, afforded to them an opportunity of being thoroughly acquainted with his character. "I have coveted," he said, "no man's silver, or gold, or apparel: yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered to my necessities." As he was foremost in authority and rank in the Church; so also was he foremost in labours, in sufferings, and self-denials. To these, when competitors arose and endeavoured to undermine him, he was accustomed to make appeal; insomuch that he sometimes would appear guilty of vanity, or at least of too much egotism; if he had not pleaded the necessity for boasting, under which these false teachers had laid him. Ministers, in all ages


*Acts xx. 33, 34.

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