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ccived. Because men do not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved, God, in judgment, sends them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. There is no reason to doubt, but that many of Satan's ministers, who have been employed by him, and have been made great instruments in supporting his unrighteous cause, and preventing the conversion and salvation of sinners, have really supposed themselves to be great friends to Christ, and great instruments in his hand of the conversion and salvation of sinners.
The reader may wish to know how he shall distinguish between the ministers of Satan, and the ministers of Christ. No rules can be laid down, by which we can with certainty distinguish between a sanctified, and an unsanctified minister. When the apostle Peter sent one of his epistles by Sylvanus, a christian minister, he introduces him to those to whom he wrote as a faithful brother, as he supposed. As far as it is necessary and important that we should judge in this matter, the rule laid down by Christ is this, “ By their fruits ye
shall know them." Their fruit is their doctrine, the effect of their ministry, and their personal benevolence. The apostle Paul speaks of those whose word did eat like a canker;
and John speaks of some who must not be received, because they did not bring the true doctrine. The false prophets in the church of Israel were evidently in the devil's service : and this was a distinguishing characteristic of them, that they prophesie smooth things; that they sewed pillows un. der arm-holes, and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not turn from his wicked way, by promising him life. Ezek. xiii. 22. All those preachers, whose main drift is to prevent the enemies of God from being alarmed, and to lay them to rest in an unconverted state, are manifestly the ministers of Satan. They may say much in favour of the goodness of God, and tho merits of the Redeemer, and their love to the souls of men; but this is their mask; this is their transformation into the ministers of righteousness: In this we see the old Serpent, who beguiled Eve; and who is now transformed into an angel of light. Let me entreat my readers not to be thus beguiled, and so lose their immortal souls !
If preachers even sound an alarm in the ears of the enemies of God, and then preach in such a manner, as
directly calculated to build them up on their own self-righteous performances, still the adversary of souls is well pleased. Pharisaic scribes taught, that something was necessary to be done to enter into life. They taught men to make clean the outside of the cup and platter : but the Divine Teacher taught those who heard him; that except their righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, they could in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. It does no good to wound sinners, and then heal their wounds slightly. Those who do not make regeneration a radical change, and who dò not lead sinners to go out of themselves, and build their hopes on the chief corner stond which God hath laid in Zion, are not the ministers of Christ, but the ministers of Satan. If these pretend to make regeneration a radical change, but do not in reality do it; if they pretend to destroy the selfrighteous system; but do in every sermon build it up; this is their covering; this is their being transformed as the ministers of righteousness. Let all, who hold the Bible in their hands, beware what they hear. Let them imitate the Bereans, who daily searched the scriptures, to see whether those things which they heard were so. Acts xvii. 11.
Another fruit by which you are to judge of those, who call themselves gospel minis. ters, is the effect produced by their minis:
try. The apostles were proved to be Christ's ministers, and not Satan's, by the effect produced by their preaching, which was to turn men from Satan unto God. But if the uniform effect produced by any particular sort of preaching, is to make men light and vain, instead of making them serious, and with concern to inquire, What must we do to be saved ? it is not the min. istry which Christ has established in his church ;-it is Satan's ministry. If the uniform effect of any preaching is to make men proud and self-sufficient, instead of making them humble and believing, it has not the seal of Christ upon it. When the true gospel is preached with power, it casts down imaginations, and every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. It makes us do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
Another way, by, which we are to distinguish between the ministers of Christ, and the ministers of Satan, is by their personal behaviour, i. e. by the manner in which they live. Christ's ministers will live godly lives; and some of Satan's ministers may be expected to affect an uncommon degree of piety; for they will transform themselves into the apostles of Christ. Pharisees trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others; and yet they had n such righteousness as God approved. Bui though they were righteous overmuch in some things, they were quite deficient in other things relating to practice. The Saviour told them that they devoured widows houses. They, who are truly pious, have respect unto all God's commandments, while they, who affect the character of piety, resemble a monstrous production in nature, some of whose parts are too large, while others are proportionably too small, or wholly deficient.”
Finally, if the many ten thousands who profess religion, yet are in the full pursuit of riches, are unfeeling to the poor, love God for the sake of recompense, avoid sin to escape hell, follow Christ for the loaves and fishes if these enjoy religion, I must confess I do not know what true religion is. For my part, till I live free from every sin, I will not profess to be a saint; but will rather continue in the station, and use the language of the penitent publican, “God be inerciful to me a sinner."