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tropological, and theorical : or, in more familiar terms, the literal, moral, and sublime. The first of the three looked only to the grammatical meaning of the words, for the information of the hearers: the other two aimed at improving their morals and elevating their affections : which ends might be, in a good measure, answered by apposite meditations upon the text, though they should not happen to be true interpretations. And it was that consideration chiefly, as I conceive, which made the Fathers take the more freedom in moralizing and spiritualizing (if I may so speak) the letter of sacred Writ. See the last passage which I quoted from St. Austin, intimating as much.
P. 334. Men of as great sense, learning, and piety, to all outward appearance, as any in their times, have sometimes fallen into heresy. I might mention Tertullian, Apollinaris, and several more X. But it has been suggested by some persons, that according to the Scripture account of heresy, none were chargeable with it, but men who knowingly espoused false doctrine, who were directly self-condemned as teaching what they knew to be wrong, men of vile and dishonest principles, and of a flagitious character; in short, monsters of lewdness or impiety. And all this is grounded upon the scattered descriptions given of several kinds of heretics, in several parts of the New Testament. I have not here room to consider this whole matter at large; nor is it necessary I should, since I have obviated the main of it in the preceding sheets: but to prevent any person's being imposed upon by such suggestions, I may here throw in a few brief, and, I hope, pertinent considerations.
1. All heresies mentioned in Scripture were not of equal malignity. It is not right to apply to all what was true of some only; or to draw together all the ill features of several sects, or men, into one picture of deformity, and to make it serve for the picture of every individual.
futurorum beatitudine et cælestibus disputamus, ut præsentis vitæ meditatio umbra futuræ beatitudinis sit. Hieronym. ad Hedib. tom. iv. p. 186. edit. Bened.
* Vid. Vincent. Lirinens. cap. xv. xvi. xxiii. xxiv.
2. The Apostles do not charge all the false teachers with flagitious, or openly scandalous lives, and lewd doctrines, but the Nicolaitans chiefly, if not solely.
3. Some others are charged with secularity and selfish views, but not all. The Apostles, having the gift of discerning spirits, and writing by the Spirit of God, might justly so charge them: otherwise many of them might have passed, and would have passed, as persons of a fair character, full of godly zealy, and ministers of righteousness z. It was to prevent their passing for such, that the Apostles took the advantage they extraordinarily had, to expose the secret views of the men, lest they should deceive whole churches by a fair outward deportment.
4. As to those whom the Apostles so charged with sinister views, or corrupt motives, it cannot be proved that they taught what they knew to be false, or believed to be wrong: but their inclinations governed their faith, and they easily believed what their passions, pride, vanity, or popularity suggested to them ; which is a very common casea. So that it does not appear that those false Apostles were formally self-condemned, or any otherwise than as all false teachers and evil doers are self-condemned, when they might know and do better; though many of them enjoy great self-satisfaction.
5. Whatever the motives of such men were, the Apostles did not anathematize them for their corrupt motives, but for their corrupt doctrines; which would have deserved the same anathema, though taught with the best intention, and most upright views, either by the Apostles themselves, or by an angel from heavenb. St. John, in particular, does not say, whosoever upon ill motives abideth not in Christ's doctrine, or bringing not this doctrine, “ receive him not;" but simply,“ whosoever transgresseth, " and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, or bringeth
y Gal. iv. 17.
? 2 Cor. xi. 13, 14, 15. • “Men are apt to believe what they desire: and the weakest reasons “ which persuade them appear like demonstrations." See Le Clerc's whole chapter on this head, in his Parrhasiana, chap. vii. p. 226. Compare Causes of Incredulity, part i. c. 1, 2, 3.
b Gal. i. 8.
not this doctrinec:" there lay all the stress.
6. Ill motives would corrupt even the best works : so the throwing all the malignity of heresy upon the ill molives, is making no fault of the heresy at all, nor specifying any difference, in moral account, between preaching the truth of the Gospel, and subverting it: for to do either upon wicked motives is undoubtedly a wicked thing.
7. The design of the Apostles in exposing the corrupt views of heretics, was not to justify their anathema, or censure, (which was just without, because of the corrupt doctrine,) but to prevent the deception of the simple, who were in danger of being beguiled by flattering professions of love and tenderness towards men, and of zeal and conscience towards God: as is plain in the case of the Judaizing heretics, who were believing Pharisees, and who plausibly pleaded the law of Godd. To obviate such plausible and ensnaring pretences, it was very proper to acquaint the unwary, that those false teachers were really men of selfish views and secular aimse, and were not to be implicitly trusted upon ever so many smooth speeches, or artful professions, whether of friendliness or godliness.
8. Lastly, let it be noted, that open declared libertines are not the most dangerous of heretics; neither are the wildest heresies, though worst in quality, the most destructive in their consequences. Some things are too gross to deceive many, and too shocking to prevail much, or long. There is vastly greater danger of the Christian world's running into an half religion, than there is of their taking up with none, or with one that is plainly scandalous : and infinitely more, in all likelihood, will at length perish for not being good enough, than for being monsters of lewdness or impiety.
d Acts xv, 5.
e 2 John 9, 10.