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from their Christian fellowship and communion. Hence says the apostle, “ An heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject.” Not only the nature, but the tendency of heresy, shows that heretics ought to be shut out of a Christian church. For they are not only unworthy, but corrupt members, who are disposed to corrupt and destroy the church. And in reference to such persons the apostle says, “ A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” A church cannot discharge their duty to Christ, nor to themselves, nor to heretics, unless they exclude them from their Christian communion and fellowship.
3. If it be one design of God in continuing heresies, to distinguish real christians from false and erroneous professors, then there is a palpable impropriety and absurdity in attempting to unite those together in Christian harmony and communion who differ essentially in their religious sentiments. Many, at this day, are zealously engaged to bring about a coalition, harmony and connection, among almost all who profess the Christian name, though they widely differ in their opinions respecting the great and important doctrines of the gospel. It is, indeed, much to be desired, that all denominations of christians should be brought to believe, and love, and profess the first principles of the oracles of God. But it is not to be desired that they should visibly unite, while they are visibly disunited upon the most important religious subjects. Such a union would imply something more than mutual charity and condescension to each other; it would imply a mutual combination in error. It would be practically 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 purposes 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 errors, 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 heretics 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 to the cause of Christ in general, and tend to spread error and heresy through the world.
4. It appears from what has been said, that, when fatal errors and heresies greatly prevail, 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 errors, 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. Error and heresy had arrived to their highest pitch in Luther's day, when God overruled them as the 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 Catholics has continued to this day, and produced the happiest effects among the nations of the earth. Error 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 infiuence of which separation, we in this country have always felt, and still feel. God's design in heresies is not to unite, but to 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 purpose of separating the precious from the vile, those whom he approves from those whom he disapproves, by the flood of errors, 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 sisting 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 corupt. The friends of truth are loudly called upon to show and exert themselves in the cause of truth, and in opposition to all heresies, errors and delusions. Heretics are employing all their learning, ingenuity and subtilty, to spread heresy and error 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 errors 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 errors 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 error and heresy. But if the gospel be not fully and plainly preached, it will naturally lead men into the most fatal errors; by enabling them to pervert the gospel, and to employ it to prove and sanction the worst of
All nominal christians who run into the greatest errors and delusions, invariably 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 a text in the Bible, which countenances, approves, or supports any religious error 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 doctrinal preaching, generally do it to prevent their errors 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 its duties, 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 irreconcilably 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 heretics on every side. They naturally love darkness rather than light, and error rather than truth. And when they imbibe error, 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 when 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, labor 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.
SERMON X VII.
NEUTRALITY RESPECTING CHRIST IMPOSSIBLE.
He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scat.
tereth abroad. - MATTHEW, xii. 30.
The occasion of these words was this. There was brought unto Christ a man possessed with a devil, who was both blind and dumb; and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. Though the miracle excited the admiration of the people in general, yet it raised the enmity and opposition of the Pharisees, who maliciously charged him with casting out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. Christ completely refutes this charge, by showing the absurdity of supposing that Satan should cast out Satan, and act against the interest of his own kingdom, for the sake of joining with him in building up the kingdom of God; and by showing the still greater absurdity of supposing that he should act in concert with Satan, whom he knew to be his most malignant and powerful enemy. For
says he, “ He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad." To be with Christ, or against him, naturally signifies to be with him or against him in some design. Merely loving or hating a person, is not commonly considered as being with him, or against him. But this phrase generally signifies being united with, or opposed to a person, in some design he has formed and is pursuing. And in this sense Christ evidently meant to be understood in the text. For he was then actually carrying on that great and important design, which always has employed his thoughts, and always will employ them, until it is finally accomplished. In reference to this design he said, “ He that is