encountered from without, were others - more insidious and dangerous - arising from within. Of these, false teachers, corrupters of doctrine, and preachers of licentiousness in the name of the holy Saviour, are denounced as proofs of the power of sin, and as signs of a coming judgment.
I. THE WAYS IN WHICH PROFESSING CHRISTIANS DENY THEIR MASTER.
1. Some take an unscriptural and dishonouring view of his nature, and deny him by denying his claims to Divine dignity and authority. From the early Gnostics onwards there were those who assailed Christ's account of himself, and his inspired apostles' account of him. It is well known that many of the early heresies related to the Person of Christ, and that early Councils were occupied with defining dogmatically the Divine and human natures. By way of opposition and correction, it may be said that to errors of the kind referred to we are indebted for our precious heritage, the Nicene Creed, in which orthodox doctrine was finally and sufficiently fixed. Still, the general determination of truth is no bar to the continuance of sin and error; and there has been, perhaps, no age in which there have not arisen either individuals or communities who have denied their Master.
2. Some repudiate Christ's rightful authority. There are many who have not the theological interest which would lead them to discuss Christ's nature, who nevertheless resent the claim advanced on his behalf to be the Legislator and Judge of human society. The Church, on the one hand, the individual reason on the other, may be put into competition with the Lord Christ.
3. Some deny Christ by practically disobeying his precepts. To such as these Jesus referred when he asked, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Profession of allegiance only renders real rebellion the more hateful to our Lord.
II. THE UNREASONABLENESS AND GUILT OF THOSE WHO THUS DENY THEIR MASTER.
1. In view of the claim established by redemption, such are guilty of base ingratitude. The introduction of the clause, "the Master that bought them," gives point to the condemnation. They who deny Christ deny One who lived, suffered, and died for them, and whom accordingly they ought to regard and treat with a tender and reverential gratitude. They are like enfranchised slaves turning round upon their liberator, speaking of him with scorn and derision, treating him with neglect and indifference, if not with hatred and hostility.
2. In view of their own profession of subjection and indebtedness to him, there is gross inconsistency.
3. In view of the doom declared against deniers of Christ, their conduct is the uttermost degree of infatuation. They bring upon themselves swift destruction. The time shall come when they who deny him shall be denied by him. - J.R.T.
Many shall follow their pernicious ways.I. AN ATTRACTION.
1. The ringleaders.(1) The necessity of a head to every schism and faction; never was breach made in the vineyard of Christ but some principal beast led the whole herd. If their reward in heaven be so great that save one soul from death, how great shall their torment be in hell that pervert many souls to destruction!(a) The way to suppress a schism is to cut off the head; it will be hard for a body to move headless.(b) Seeing there are such corrupters of our truth, and disturbers of our peace, let us be sure to hold the truth in peace, cleaving to our Head, Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:19).(2) The great force of example.(a) Let this teach men of place to look unto their exemplary lives, lest, as they have made themselves examples of transgression, God make them examples of destruction.(b) Seeing we are all apt to be followers, let us seek out the best patterns (Philippians 3:17; Psalm 16:3).(3) Their mischiefs.(a) There is a plurality, diversity of their "ways." Truth is but one, errors are infinite. Goodness is a uniform simple, sin a multiform compound. Satan baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish. He studies many ways to make you wretched; do you study one way to make yourselves blessed.(b) These ways are pernicious or damnable. The wicked never rest till they meet with final ruin.
2. The rabble.(1) Their multitude "many." Wickedness is never scant of followers.(2) Their tractableness — "shall follow." There is a pliable disposition in all men naturally to evil, in these a desperate precipitation.(a) The greediness of the ungodly to sin, that they scarce tarry for temptation.(b) Sin is strong when it meets with a weak resister. How easy is it for error to domineer over ignorance!(c) Observe the power of evil men over their associates, whether in perverting the higher faculties of the soul, reason, and understanding, and conscience, or in corrupting the lower will and affections.(d) We must not fall off from the faith and Church of Christ because multitudes travel another way.(e) Seeing there is such certain danger in following after common copies, let me avert you from all these pestilent examples, and propose to you one worth your imitation.
II. A DETRACTION.
1. The patient that suffers.(1) The singularity — "the way," that excellent way. There is only one way of truth and of salvation by it.(2) The sincerity — the way "of truth."(a) It is certain. It is called "the testimony" (Isaiah 8:20) because it bears witness unto itself; so is it called "the truth "because it shall accomplish itself.(b) It is excellent, as being the letters patent of our salvation.
2. The injury that is offered to it.(1) "By whom." The instruments or occasioners of this scandal — those misled proselytes. The seminaries of infection have poisoned them, and they spread that pestilence, to the dishonour of Christ and the scandal of His gospel.(a) Not only the principals, but even the accessories in schism are guilty of sin, and liable to punishment.(b) The authors of this seducement are not discharged, though their scholars have dissipated the evil.(2) "The way of truth shall be evil spoken of." The aspersion laid upon the gospel by their means is blasphemy, the worst kind of evil speaking.
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