페이지 이미지

private. If the benefit we propose be to others, it is always our interest to make it public; and it is the interest both of ourselves and others, to make public those marks of distinction whence may clearly be known who corrupt the Word of God, and who preach it in sincerity.

[ocr errors]

The first and great mark of one who corrupts the Word of God, is introducing into it human mixtures; either the errors of others, or the fancies of his own brain. To do this, is to corrupt it in the highest degree. To blend with the Oracles of God, impure dreams fit only for the mouth of the devil! And yet it has been so frequently done, that scarce ever was any erroneous opinion either invented or received, but Scripture was quoted to defend it. And when the imposture was too bare-faced, and the texts cited for it appeared too plainly either to make against it, or to be nothing to the purpose; then recourse has usually been had to a second method of corrupting it, by mixing it with false interpretations. And this is done, sometimes, by repeating the words wrong: and sometimes, by repeating them right, but putting a wrong sense upon them. One that is either strained and unnatural, or foreign to the writer's intention in the place from whence they are taken. Perhaps contrary either to his intention in that very place, or to what he says in some other part of his writings. And this is easily effected: any passage is easily perverted, by being recited singly, without any of the preceding or following verses. By this means it may often seem to have one sense, when it will be plain, by observing what goes before and what follows after, that it really has the direct contrary. For want of observing which, unwary souls are liable to be tossed about with every wind of doctrine, whenever they fall into the hands of those who have enough of wickedness and cunning, thus to adulterate what they preach, and to add now and then a plausible comment, to make it go down the more easily.

A third sort of those who corrupt the Word of God, though in a lower degree than either of the former, are those who do so, not by adding to it, but by taking from it.

Who take either the spirit or substance of it away, while they study to prophesy only smooth things, and, therefore, palliate or colour what they preach, in order to reconcile it to the taste of the hearers. And that they may do this the better, they commonly let those parts go that will admit of no colouring. They wash their hands of those stubborn texts, that will not bend to their purpose, or that too plainly touch upon the reigning vices of the place where they are. These they exchange for those more soft and tractable ones, that are not so apt to give offence. Not one word must be said of the tribulation and anguish denounced against sinners in general: much less of the unquenchable fire, which, if God be true, awaits several of those particular offences that have fallen within their own notice. These tender parts are not to be touched without danger, by them who study to recommend themselves to men: or if they are, it must be with the utmost caution, and a nice evasion in reserve. But they may safely thunder against those who are out of their reach, and against those sins which they suppose none that hear them are guilty of. No one takes it to heart, to hear those practises laid open which he is not concerned in himself. But when the stroke comes home, when it reaches his own case, then is he, if not convinced, displeased, or angry and out of patience.

These are the methods of those corrupters of the Word, who act in the sight of men, not of God. He trieth the hearts, and will receive no service, in which the lips only are concerned. But their words have no intercourse with their thoughts Nor is it proper for them that they should. For if their real intention once appeared, it must make itself unsuccessful. They purpose, it is true, to do good by the Gospel of Christ, but it is to themselves, not to others. Whereas they that use sincerity in preaching the Gospel; in the good of others, seek their own. And that they are sincere and speak as commissioned officers, in the sight of him whose commission they hear, plainly appears from the direct contrariety between their practice, and that of the dissemblers above described.

First. Consider, it is not their own word they preach, but the Word of him that sent them. They preach it genuine and unmixed. As they do not only profess, but really believe, that, "If any man add unto the Word of God, he will add unto him all the plagues that are written in it;" they are fearful of doing it in the least instance. You have the Gospel from them, if in a less elegant manner, yet fair and as it is: without any mixture of errors to pollute it, or misinterpretation to perplex it: explained in the most natural, obvious manner, by what precedes and what follows the place in question; and commented upon by the most sure way, the least liable to mistake or corruption, the producing of those parallel places that express the same thing the more plainly.

In the next place, they are as cautious of taking from, as of adding to the Word they preach. They dare no more, considering in whose sight they stand, say less, than more, than he hath assigned them. They must publish, as proper occasions offer, all that is contained in the Oracles of God, whether smooth or otherwise, it matters nothing since it is unquestionably true, and useful too: "For all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable either for doctrine, reproof, correction, or instruction in righteousness." Either to teach us what we are to believe or practise, or, for conviction of error, or reformation of vice! They know that there is nothing superfluous in it, relating either to faith or practise; and, therefore, they preach all parts of it, though those more particularly, which are more immediately wanted where they are. They are far from abstaining from speaking against any vice, because it is fashionable, and in repute in the place Providence has allotted them; but for that very reason they are more zealous in testifying against it. They are so far from abstaining from speaking for any virtue because it is unfashionable and in disrepute where they are placed, that they therefore the more vigorously recommend it.

Lastly, they who speak in sincerity, and as in the sight VOL. XI.



of him who deputes them, shew that they do so, by the manner in which they speak. They speak with plainness and boldness, and are not concerned to palliate their doctrine, to reconcile it to the taste of men. They endeavour to set it always in a true light, whether it be a pleasing one or not. They will not, they dare not, soften a threatening, so as to prejudice its strength, neither represent sin in such mild colours, as to impair its native blackness. Not that they do not choose mildness, when it is likely to be effectual. Though they know the terrors of the Lord, they desire rather to persuade men. This method they use, and love to use it, with such as are capable of persuasion with such as are not, they are obliged, if they will be faithful, to take the severer course: let the revilers look to that it harms not them: let the hearers accommodate themselves to the word: the word is not in this sense to be accommodated to the hearers. The preacher of it would be no less in fault, in a slavish obsequiousness on one side, than in an unrelenting sternness on the other.



If then we have spoken the Word of God, the genuine unmixed Word of God, and that only. If we have put no unnatural interpretation upon it, but taken the known phrases in their common obvious sense; and when they were less known, explained Scripture by Scripture. If we have spoken the whole Word, as occasion offered, though rather the parts which seemed most proper to give a check to some fashionable vice, or to encourage the practice of some unfashionable virtue : and if we have done this plainly and boldly, though with all the mildness and gentleness that the nature of the subject will bear; then, believe ye our works, if not our words, or rather, believe them both together. Here is all a preacher can do; all the evidence that he either can or need give of his good intentions. There is no way but this to show that he speaks as of sincerity, as commissioned by the Lord, and as in his sight. If there be any who after all this, will not believe, that it is his concern not our own, we labour for: that our first intention in speaking, is to point him the way to happiness, and to disen

gage him from the great road that leads to misery; we are clear of the blood of that man, it rests on his own head. For thus saith the Lord, who hath set us as watchmen over the souls of our countrymen and brethren, "If they warn the wicked of his way to turn from it ;"-much more if we use all methods possible to convince him that the warning is of God: " If he do not turn from his way," which certainly he will not, if he do not believe that we are in earnest," he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thine own soul."

« 이전계속 »