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saying to each other, if you will allow us to err from the truth, we will allow you to err from the truth. Can this be the proper way to answer the wise purpose of God in continuing the existence of heresies? He says that they must exist, that those whom he approves may be made manifest, and distinguished from those whom he disapproves and condemns. The promiscuous union and harmony among those, who hold diametrically opposite sentiments, has a direct tendency to prevent making manifest the real difference between orthodox and heterodox christians, and is calculated to spread errours, heresies, and moral corruption through the whole christian world. This the most erroneous and lax professors of christianity know, and therefore have been the most forward and bold in proclaiming their unbounded catholicism and charity towards all who differ from them in their religious opinions. Those who believe and love the pure and important doctrines of the gospel, are willing to be made manifest, and to be known and distinguished from those, who dislike and despise and reproach the most precious and important principles of the christian religion. It is, therefore, very unwise and criminal in the sincere professors of religion, whom God approves, to unite with those who are ashamed of the gospel, and wish to hide their heterodoxy, among the conflicting and undetermined sentiments of the more popular denominations. Sincere christians need to be upon their guard against those, who, by their good words and fair speeches, would persuade them to unite harmoniously with concealed hereticks and real infidels, who would either corrupt their sentiments, or obstruct their spiritual edification and growth in grace.
Nor will such a union be injurious to themselves only, but be injurious to the cause of Christ in general, and tend to spread errour and heresy through the world.
4. It appears from what has been said, that when fatal errours and heresies greatly prevail, that then is a time when God is about to purge and purify the church and make manifest those who are approved among the professors of religion. He has told us, that it is one of his good purposes, to make manifest those whom he approves, by the means of heresies. And it is easy to see, that heresies naturally tend to draw a visible line of distinction between true and false professors in the churches of Christ. There is now a trying time among his followers. Those who are with him and for him, will gather with him, while those who are against him will scatter abroad. God has always produced his designed effect, by errours, heresies, and delusions. This was the case, when Jeroboam corrupted the ten tribes by his idolatries and delusions. He drew together all the corrupt part of the Jewish Church, and made manifest the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, whom God accepted, approved, and blessed for ages. Errour and heresy had arrived to their highest pitch, in Luther's day, when God overruled errour and heresy as means of bringing about a great and general separation between the corrupt, and uncorrupt branches of the christian church. And the separation between Protestants and Roman Catholicks has continued to this day, and produced the happiest effects among the nations of the earth. Errour and heresy had risen to an enormous height in England, when they were instrumental in bringing about the memorable separation between dissenters, and the heretical clergy in the established church; the happy influence of which separation, we in this country have always felt and still feel. God's designin heresies, is not to unite, but disunite pure churches from those who are corrupt; and to purge the pure churches from their corrupt members. God now appears to be indicating his
separating the precious from the vile, those whom he approves from those whom he disapproves, by the flood of errours, heresies, and delusions, which are overflowing the land. It is now a fanning and winnowing, a purging and purifying time among the churches. God has for years been sifting other nations, and is now sifting our nation with the sieve of vanity, to make manifest those whom he approves. It is a time, not to unite with, but to separate from the erroneous and corrupt. The friends of truth are loudly called upon to show and exert themselves in the cause of truth; arrd in opposition to all heresies, errours, and delusions. Hereticks are employing all their learning, ingenuity, and subtilty, to spread heresy and errour among all the pure churches, who seem to be asleep and insensible of their danger. It becomes them to awake and stand fast in the liberty, wherewith Christ has made them free, and not be " tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”
5. We learn from what has been said, the importance of ministers preaching the gospel fully and plainly. If the gospel had always been preached fully and plainly, it is hard to conceive how heresies and fatal errours should have abounded so much in every age, and in every part of the world. The great and essential truths of the gospel approve themselves to every man's reason and conscience in the sight of God. And where they are fully and plainly taught, men are constrained to see and feel their
weight and importance, and the absurdity of believing and embracing errours, which are diametrically opposite to them. When the pure and essential doctrines of the gospel are fully and plainly taught, they cannot fail to make manifest the falsehood and absurdity of every fatal errour and heresy. But if the gospel be not fully and plainly preached, it will naturally lead men into the most fatal errours by enabling them to pervert the gospel, and to employ it to prove
and sanction the worst of errours. All nominal christians who run into the greatest errours and delusions, always employ the gospel to support their false doctrines. But if the gospel were fully and plainly preached, every one would perceive, that there is not à text in the bible, which countenances, approves, or supports any religious errour that ever was believed, or propagated. It is the indispensable duty of ministers to declare all the counsel of God, and to explain and prove all the great and fundamental truths of the
gospel, as clearly as possible. Those who object against sentimental preaching generally do it, to prevent their errours from being exposed and refuted and condemned. The present mode of preaching is perfectly suited to unite and please all, who wish to bring about a coalition between the orthodox and heterodox. While preachers omit to preach the doctrines of the gospel and insist only on the duties of it, all denominations can agree, and unite in their christian fellowship and communion. It is the cardinal and essential doctrines of the gospel, concerning which professors of religion most widely and irreconcileably differ. They cannot therefore, be united in the truth, until they are united in these doctrines. To preach these plainly is the only proper and safe way of uniting christians.
6. It appears from the nature and tendency of heresy,
that sinners at this day, are in the most dangerous situation. They are surrounded by errorists and hereticks on every side. They naturally love darkness rather than light, and errour rather than truth. And when they imbibe errour, they always imbibe it as truth. Of course they go on highly pleased with their own delusions, crying to themselves peace and safety, until they are undeceived, beyond recovery. Heresy is the most easy and deceptive path to destruction. And heresy is rapidly creeping in among us. But why? That they who are approved may be made manifest. Let those who are approved, now manifest themselves, by raising the strongest barriers against heresy. Let them study the scriptures-labour to understand and defend the peculiar doctrines of the gospel-and avoid seducers. These are the most proper means of preventing errorists from destroying themselves and others.
ACTS, xvii. 2. And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath
days reasoned with them out of the scriptures. Paul was a chosen vessel to carry the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles in various and distant parts of the world. For this great and arduous work he was eminently qualified. He was a man of genius, learning, eloquence and piety. Longinus, a learned heathen, ranks Paul of Tarsus among the most eminent of the Grecian and Roman orators ; and christian writers have not been sparing in their encomiums upon his piety and eloquence. But from some motives or other they have seldom celebrated his reasoning powers and the use he made of them in preaching the gospel. The inspired writer of his life, however, more frequently mentions his reasoning, than his declaiming on the doctrines he taught. Speaking of Paul and Silas passing through Amphipolis, and Apollonia, and coming to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews, he says, “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath-days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that . Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ." The truth, which here lies upon the face of the text, and which is proposed as the subject of the ensuing discourse is this:
That Paul usually proved the truth of the doctrines, which he taught.