For there must be
also heresies among you,
that they which are approved
may be made manifest
1 Cor. 11:19
This work was originally published as chapters 9 11 of A Treatise of Miscellany Questions by George Gillespie (Edinburgh, 1649). This edition is based upon the text as it appears in The Works of Mr. George Gillespie (Edited by W.M. Hetherington; Edinburgh: Robert Ogle and Oliver and Boyd, 1846), Vol. 2, compared with the original edition of 1649. The text has been edited to bring it into greater conformity with contemporary spelling, punctuation, and grammatical usage.
Copyright © 1989 by Presbyterian Heritage Publications
Second Edition, 1994
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Truth and Heresy
Of Stability and Firmness
in the Truth
It is good divinity to maintain that skepticism, fluctuation and wavering, concerning those things which God has revealed to be believed or done by us, is a sin; and to be firm, fixed and established in the faith, is a duty commanded. I shall first prove it to be so; then give reasons for it; and, thirdly, some helps to this duty, and preservatives against this sin.
For proof of the thing, somewhat might be said from the very light of nature; for "hath a nation changed their gods?" Jer. 2:11. Religion has the very name of it, a religando [binding fast], so far it is a relaxando [loosening]. The heathen Greeks called a lubricious and inconstant man, [Gk.] Antropos Euripos [a tidal man]. They said also that he who errs or miscarries in his religion does [Gk.] ek tetrimmenas kulikos piein, drink out of a bored or foraminous cup [a leaking cup]. How firm and constant have heathen philosophers been in maintaining their opinions! They could not only displease their friends, amicus [friend] Plato, etc., but suffer the heaviest things for their opinions. And shall not we much more hold fast the profession of the true faith? Zonarus (Annals, tom. 3), in the reign of Michael the Emperor, the son of Theophilus, tells us, that when the sister of the Prince of Bulgaria became a Christian, and the Prince also, by her means, converted, the Bulgarians conspired against him for this change of religion. This diabolical steadfastness of theirs provoked him to a true Christian steadfastness, till, by God's assistance and blessing, they were made to turn to him, but he turned not again to them. The Athenians impeached Socrates, upon his life, for going about to innovate and change their religion.
But, to set aside nature's light, there is not any of the primitive churches to which the apostles wrote epistles, but they were expressly warned, either positively, to stand fast in the faith, to hold their profession; or, negatively, to beware of, and to avoid false teachers, and not to be carried about with diverse and strange doctrines. Now it must be not only a truth, but a most special and necessary truth, which the apostles thought fit to press upon the churches in all their epistles written to them. See Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 16:13; 2 Cor. 11:3-4; Gal. 1:6, 8; Eph. 4:14; Phil. 3:2, 18; Col. 2:6-8; 2 Thess. 2:2-3; Heb. 10:23; 13:9; James 5:19-20; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 3:16-18; 1 John 4:1; Jude 3-4. All of these texts are full and plain as to this point which I speak to, and in that respect most worthy of our frequent thoughts and observation, especially at such a time when this corner of the world is so full of new and strange doctrines.
As for the reasons, take these: 1. If we be not steadfast and immovable in the profession of our faith, we frustrate (as to us) the end for which the scriptures were written. Luke gives us this reason to his Theophilus why he wrote the story of Christ's birth, life and death, "That thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed," Luke 1:4. When Peter had mentioned the voice which came from heaven concerning Christ, he adds the certainty of the scripture as a greater certainty, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place," 2 Pet. 1:19. A voice from heaven might sooner deceive us than the written word of God.
2. To maintain and profess the true doctrine, and the true faith, is, by all Protestant orthodox writers, made one, yea, the principal mark of a true visible church. Christ himself, John 10:4-5 gives us this mark of his sheep, The sheep "follow him (their shepherd), for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers."
3. If we once forsake the way of truth, and go into an erroneous way, we shall not know where to find our paths; we shall wander from mountain to hill, and forget our resting place. As one wave comes after another, so does one error come after another. As a canker spreads, so does error, 2 Tim. 2:17; "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived," 2 Tim. 3:13; which has made some, and I hope will make more, who were too inclined to the new doctrine and practices of sectaries at first, now to fall off from them, when "they increase unto more ungodliness," and unto more error. And there is no end; one error breeds a hundred, and a hundred will breed ten thousand. What was it that made so many fall from the prelates who once joined with them? Was it not because they were growing from the old ceremonies to many new ones, and each year, almost, brought in some new superstition, and from Popish rites they grew to Popish doctrines?
4. If we waver and be led about with diverse and strange doctrines, then the prophecies which have gone before of the true church shall not be made good in us. It was promised concerning the church and kingdom of Christ, Isa. 32:4-5: "The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly. The vile person shall no more be called liberal," etc., that is, those who simply and rashly were led about with every wind of doctrine shall be so wise and knowing as to distinguish between truth and error, between virtue and vice, and call each thing by its right name. So Isa. 33:6, "And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of your times, and strength of salvation."
5. Instability and forsaking the way of truth makes us lose much that we had gained, 2 John 8; all the comfort we enjoyed, all the good that ever our souls received of such a truth, such a cause, such a ministry, all that ever we did, or spoke, or suffered for the truth, all this we lose when we turn aside after an erroneous way.
6. It greatly hinders our spiritual comfort and contentment. Col. 2:2, to be knit together in love is one mean, and to have all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of gospel truths, is another mean by which the apostle wishes the hearts of Christians to be comforted. It added much to Paul's comfort that he could say, "I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown," etc., 2 Tim. 4:7-8.
7. We run a great hazard of our souls and our salvation when we turn aside from truth to error. It is said of the unstable, that they wrest the scriptures "unto their own destruction," 2 Pet. 3:16. Like a man fallen into quicksands, the more he wrestles out the more he sinks. When the apostle has spoken of Christ's purchasing of our reconciliation, justification and sanctification, he adds an if; Col. 1:23, "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard." Not that our persevering in the true faith was a condition in Christ's purchasing of these blessings, but it is a condition without which we cannot possess and enjoy what Christ has purchased; that is, he that falls away from the true doctrine of the gospel proves himself to have no part of the benefits of Christ.
Some errors are, in their own nature, damnable and inconsistent with the state of grace or fellowship with God, 2 Peter 2:9; so 2 John 9, "Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." Sure it may be said of Arians, Socinians, Papists, Libertines, they have not God, because they abide not in the doctrine of Christ; so Gal. 5:4. Other errors there are, of which I may say, whatsoever they are comparatively, impenitency, and continuing in them, does condemn, whence it is that the apostle James reckons him who errs from the truth to be in a way of death and danger of damnation, James 5:19-20.
Now, the preservatives against wavering, and helps to steadfastness in the faith, are these: 1. Grow in knowledge and circumspection; be not simple as children in understanding. There is "sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" so speaks the apostle of those that spread diverse and strange doctrines, Eph. 4:14; and Rom. 16:18, he warns us that they do "by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." You have, therefore, need of the wisdom of the serpent, that you be not deceived, as well as of the simplicity of the dove, that you be not a deceiver, Phil. 1:9-10. Do not rashly engage into any new opinion, much less into the spreading of it. With the well-advised is wisdom. Pythagoras would have his scholars only to hear, and not to speak for five years. Be swift to hear, but not to speak or engage: "Prove all things," and when you have proved, be sure to "hold fast to that which is good," 1 Thess. 5:21; Matt. 7:15, 17. There was never a heresy yet broached, but under some fair plausible pretence: "beguiling unstable souls," as Peter speaks, 2 Peter 2:14. "The simple believeth every word," Prov. 14:15. Be not like the two hundred that went in the "simplicity" of their hearts after Absalom in his rebellion, not knowing anything, but that he was to pay his vow in Hebron, 2 Sam. 15:11.
2. Grow in grace and holiness, and the love of the truth; for the stability of the mind in the truth, and the stability of the heart in grace, go hand in hand together, Heb. 13:9. David's rule is good: Ps. 25:12, "What man is he that fears the Lord? him shall you teach in the way that he shall choose;" which is also Christ's rule, John 7:17, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself;" see also Deut. 11:13,16. Elisha healed the unwholesome waters of Jericho by casting salt into the fountain, 2 Kings 2:21. So must the bitter streams of pernicious errors be healed by getting the salt of mortification and true sanctifying grace in the fountain.
3. Be sure to cleave to your faithful and sound teachers. The sheep that follow the shepherd are best kept from the wolf. I find the exhortation to stability in the faith joined with the fruitful labours of faithful teachers, Phil. 3:16-17; Heb. 13:7,9. So the apostle, Eph. 4:11-14, from the work of the ministry draws this consequence, "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." The Galatians were easily seduced, as soon as they were made to disgust Paul.
4. Watch and be vigilant against the first beginnings of declining, against the first seeds of error, Gal. 5:9. It was "while men slept" that the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and when he had done, went his way, Matt. 13:25. Therefore "watch ye, stand fast in the faith," 1 Cor. 16:13; go hand in hand together.
5. Avoid and withdraw from the authors and spreaders of heresies and dangerous errors, Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 John 10, 11; Phil. 3:2. He that would be godly should not use ungodly company, and he that would be orthodox should not use heretical company, unless he has some good hopes to convert some who have erred from the truth, and comes into their company for that end, James 5:19-20. I remember Chrysostom, in diverse places, warns his hearers how much they endangered their souls by going into the Jewish synagogues, and there was a great zeal in the ancient church to keep Christians that were orthodox from the assemblies and company of heretics.
6. Get church discipline established and duly exercised, which is ordained to purge the church from false doctrine, Rev. 2:14, 20.
7. "Lean not unto thine own understanding," and "be not wise in thine own eyes," Prov. 3:5, 7. Let reason be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. 10:5. That which made the Antitrinitarians and Socinians fall away from the belief of the trinity of persons in the Godhead, and of the union of the two natures of God and man in the person of Christ, was because their reason could not comprehend these articles, which is the ground of their opinion professed by themselves. When I speak of captivating reason, I do not mean implicit faith. The eyes of my understanding must be so far opened by the Holy Ghost, that I may know such an article is held forth in scripture to be believed, and therefore I do believe that it is, though my reason cannot comprehend how it is.
8. Count your cost, and be well resolved beforehand what it will cost you to be a disciple of Christ, to be a constant professor of the truth, Luke 14:26-34; Acts 14:22, "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God." This is surer than to confirm ourselves with the hopes of a golden age of prosperity, in which we shall feel no affliction.
9. "Search the scriptures," John 5:39; Acts 17:11. Do not take upon trust new lights from any man, be he never so eminent for parts or for grace, but to the law and the testimony.
The upshot of all is that we ought to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and be steadfast, and even immovable in the truth, and not to give place to the adversaries, no, not for an hour, Gal. 2:4-5. I do not mean pertinacity in the least error, nor a vain presumptuous overweening conceit of our knowledge, to make us despise any light which others may give us from scripture. Pertinacity is an evil upon the one hand, and to be too tenacious of our own opinions; but that [Gk.] kenotas [emptiness] and [Gk.] kouphotas [lightness], that levity, inconstancy, wavering, skepticism, is an evil upon the other hand. "Be not soon shaken in mind," etc., 2 Thess. 2:2.
And this is the epidemical disease of the sectaries of this time, which I have now been labouring to cure. Their word is yea and nay, and not unlike to that which Sallust objected to Cicero, that he said one thing sitting, another thing standing. Yet it may be sometimes observed, that those who are the greatest skeptics and Pyrrhonians in reference to the common and received tenets are the most pertinacious and tenacious in tenets invented by themselves. I have read it observed of Socinus, that as he set at nought fathers, councils, and the whole current of ancient and modern interpreters of scripture, so vain glory made him to maintain stiffly and tenaciously any opinion or invention of his own, as if he had been infallible.
Men are sooner drawn from the truth than from error. Some are unstable in the truth, and unstable in error too; you may find among them annuas atque menstruas fides [yearly and monthly faiths] (to use Hilary's phrase); they are of a new faith and a new religion every year, if not every month. Remember Reuben's reproach, Gen. 49:4, "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel."
One sort of sectaries there is, indeed which will not engage to hold anything, but are known to believe nothing. These now pass under the name Seekers. Yet if one of the ancient fathers, or of the Reformers themselves who lived a hundred years ago, were now alive, they could tell us that these Seekers were, in their days, called Atheists; and, indeed, what other name is due to these nullisidians who are of no religion?
What is Meant in Scripture
by the Word "Heresies,"
and How We are to Understand
that There Must be Heresies, for
Making Manifest the Godly Party,
or Those That are Approved
1 Cor. 11:19
"For there must be also heresies among you," says the apostle, "that they which are approved may be made manifest among you;" or, as others read, "that they which are approved among you may be manifest."
By heresies, here, some understand no more but divisions and sects, and conceive that heresies, in point of opinion or doctrine, are not here meant. So Chrysostom, Erasmus, and others. If so, then the very divisions and sects will make a discovery of who are approved, who not, before it comes to heretical opinions, i.e., sectaries are not approved, and those who are indeed approved are none of theirs, but keep themselves unspotted and free from them. So, Titus 3:10, [Gk.] heretikon [an heretic] is rendered in the Tigurine Bible sectarum authorem, and in the margin, factiosum, i.e., a man that is an author of sects (or factions), after the first and second admonition reject; and, 1 Cor. 11:19, they read, oportet enim et sectas in vobis esse [indeed, it is right that there are divisions among you].
Sometimes the word [Gk.] heresis is taken in the New Testament for a sect, yet (to note that by the way) only for such a sect as either was indeed, or was esteemed to be, of some heretical opinion, as Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5; 26:5; 28:22. The apostle has the word [Gk.] heresis twice in his epistles, and in both places he makes some difference and distinction between heresies and divisions, or strifes and variance, 1Cor. 11:18-19; Gal. 5:20. For every division, strife, or variance, is not heresy; therefore, in the text which I now speak to, I understand heresy to be somewhat more than division.
The Arabic, 1Cor. 12:25, that is in the Greek, and our translations, 1 Cor. 11:19, repeats the word schisms out of the preceding verse, and adds, moreover, the word heresies, reading [Gk.] skismata kai heresis[schisms and heresies], for there must arise schisms and heresies among you, that those of you who are godly may be known. It seems that they who understand only divisions to be meant by the word heresies, do not observe the rising of the apostle's speech; for, after he has spoken of their [Gk.] skismata, or schismatical divisions, contrary to the rule of love, he adds,[Gk.] Dei gar kai hereseis, etc., for there must also be heresies among you. I partly believe it, says he, that there are divisions among you; for there must be not only schisms, but, worse than that, there must be heresies also. If you ask now, "What is heresy?" I shall, without any implicit following of writers, ground my answer on scripture itself. And I answer first negatively, then positively.
Negatively. 1. Heresy is neither to be so far taken at large as to be extended to every error which may be confuted by scripture, although, happily, such an error be too tenaciously maintained; nor yet is it to be so far restricted as that no error shall be accounted heretical but that which is destructive to some fundamental article of the Christian faith; if, by a fundamental article, you understand such a truth, without the knowledge and faith whereof it is impossible to get salvation. When Peter Martyr defines heresy, he makes no mention of a fundamental error, but of an error contrary to the scriptures, Loc. Com., class. 2, cap. 4, sect. 50. So Calvin (Instit., lib. 4, cap. 2, sect. 5), understands all such to be heretics as make a breach in the church by false doctrines. Walæus (tom. 1, p. 57) says heretical churches do either err in the foundation, or only in some other things built upon the foundation. When Peter speaks of such heresies as take away the very foundation, Jesus Christ, he thinks it too little to call them simple heresies, but he calls these "damnable heresies" [2 Pet. 2:1]. But if you understand by fundamental truths all the chief and substantial principles (I do not mean only the first rudiments, or A, B, C, of a catechism, which we, first of all, put to new beginners; but I mean all such truths as are commonly put in the confessions of faith, and in the more full and large catechisms of the reformed churches; or all such truths as all and every one who lives in a true Christian reformed church are commanded and required to learn and know, as they expect, in the ordinary dispensation of God, to be saved), in this sense I may yield that heresy is always contrary to some fundamental truth.
It is one thing to dispute of the absolute sovereign power of God, and what are the truths without the belief whereof it is absolutely and altogether impossible that one can be saved; which question, I doubt, is hardly determinable by scripture; nor do I know what edification there is in the canvassing of it; sure I am it is a question much abused. It is another thing to dispute what are those truths which, in a church where the gospel is truly preached, all and every one, come to years of knowledge and discretion, and having the means and occasion to learn, are bound to know; and according to the revealed will and ordinary dispensation of God, must learn, as they desire or expect to have a true fellowship with Christ in the sacrament of the Lord's supper, or to be accepted of God, and saved eternally.
2. We must not think that no man is a heretic but he who is consistorially or judicially admonished, and thereafter continues pertinaciously in his error; for where it is said, Titus 3:10, "A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject," it is intimated that he was an heretic before such an admonition.
Positively. I conceive that these six things do concur to make a heresy: 1. It is an error held by some minister or member of a church; I mean either a true church, or an assembly pretending and professing to be a true church. For both Peter and Paul, where they foretell that heresies were to come, 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 Cor. 11:19, they add [Gk.] en humin, among you, i.e., among you Christians; so, Acts 20:30, "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things." Therefore the scripture gives not the name of heretics to those who are altogether without the visible church, but it calls such by the names of heathens or unbelievers, or they that are without, or the like.
2. It is an error voluntarily and freely chosen, both in the first invention or broaching of it (which is proper to the heresiarchs), and in the maintaining of it or adhering to it (which is common to all heretics). This I collect from the very name which the scripture gives to it; for [Gk.] heresis comes from [Gk.] hereomai, I choose. Therefore we give not the name of heretics to such Christians as are compelled, in time of persecution, to profess such an error, which, peradventure, were a formal heresy, if voluntarily and without compulsion professed. They ought, indeed, to die, and to endure the greatest torments, before they profess what they know to be an error. But this their sin is not properly called heresy, for an heretic does freely and voluntarily hold that which is in his error. And, in this respect and consideration, Tertullian thinks that a heretic is said to be [Gk.] autokatakritos, condemned of himself, Titus 3:11, because he has of himself chosen that which does condemn him. The apostle there has commanded to reject an heretic. If I reject him (might one say) then I lose him, I destroy his soul. Nay (says the apostle), his perdition is of himself, for he has chosen his own ways, and his soul delights in his abominations. This interpretation is much surer and safer than to say that a heretic is called [Gk.] autokatakritos, or self-condemned, because he goes against his own light, and against the principles received and acknowledged by himself; which sense is accompanied with many dangerous consequences.
3. It is such a choosing of error as is accompanied with a rejecting of truth. A heretic puts light for darkness, and darkness for light; good for evil, and evil for good; he chooses error as truth, and refuses truth as error. They that give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, do also "depart from the faith," 1 Tim. 4:1; "resist the truth," 2 Tim. 3:8; and "turn away their ears from the truth," 2 Tim. 4:4. Their course has a terminus a quo [end from which] as well as ad quem [to which].
4. It is an error professed and maintained, and which, by that means, becomes a scandal and snare to others. For although there may be heresy (as well as other kinds of sin) lurking and hid in the thoughts, yet that belongs to God's judgment only, not to man's. The heresies which are spoken of, 1 Cor. 11:9, are certainly known, and apparently discriminative, even among men. And heretics are scandalous persons, to be avoided and rejected, Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10; which could not be except their errors were known.
5. It is an error contradictory of some chief and substantial truth, grounded upon, or, by necessary consequence, drawn from holy scripture. There was never yet any heretic in the Christian world who contradicted that which is literally and syllabically in scripture. The most damnable heretic will offer to subscribe to the scripture instead of a confession of faith, who yet will not subscribe to all truths which necessarily follow from the words of scripture. But I call not every error heresy, which is contrary to any consequential truth grounded upon scripture. As the scripture reckons not all who sin to be "workers of iniquity," so it reckons not all who err to be heretics. Although there is not any sin or error in the true nature of it venial, yet every sin is not a gross and heinous sin, and every error is not heresy. Heresies are mentioned as greater evils than schisms, 1 Cor. 11:18-19, which could not be so if every error were an heresy.
6. It is an error factiously maintained, with a renting of the church, and drawing away of disciples after it, in which respect Augustine said, Errare potero, hæreticus non ero I may err, but I shall not be an heretic." Heretics are deceivers and seducers, who endeavour to pervert others and to overthrow their faith, 2 Tim. 3:13; Acts 20:30; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; Rom. 16:17-19; 2 Pet. 2:2. All known and noted heretics are also schismatics, who make a rupture, and strengthen their own party by drawing after them, or confirming unto them disciples and followers (in so much that [Gk.] heresis often used for a sect, as Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5; 26:5). For this cause the Donatists were condemned as heretics, without imputation of heresy to Cyprian. "And, O strange turning about of things (says Vincentius Lirinensis, Advers. Hæret. [Against Heretics], cap. 11), the authors of the same opinion are judged catholic, but the followers heretics; the masters are absolved, the disciples are condemned; the writers of these books are the children of the kingdom, but hell shall receive the asserters or maintainers." This last ingredient which is found in heresy is hinted by the Arabic interpreter, 1 Cor. 11:19, where he joins schisms and heresies, as was noted before; and, indeed, in the original, the particle [Gk.] kai [and], and the rising of the speech, sets forth heresy as carrying schism with it in its bosom. I believe, says the apostle, in part, what I hear of your schisms, for "there must be also heresies," i.e., both schisms and somewhat more. Calvin, Institut., lib. 4, cap. 2, sect. 5, makes the breaking of church communion, and the making of a rent, a thing both common to heretics and schismatics: for heretics break one band of church communion, which is consent in doctrine; schismatics break another, which is love, though sometimes they agree in the like faith.
From all which scriptural observations, we may make up a description of heresy to this sense: Heresy is a gross and dangerous error, voluntarily held and factiously maintained by some person or persons within the visible church, in opposition to some chief or substantial truth or truths grounded upon and drawn from the holy scripture by necessary consequence.
But next, Why says the apostle that "there must be heresies?" This is not a simple or absolute necessity, but ex hypothesi [one that follows from supposition]. I mean not only upon supposition of Satan's malice and men's corruption, but upon supposition of God's eternal and infallible foreknowledge; and not only so, but upon supposition of the eternal decree to permit Satan and corrupt men to introduce heresies into the church, purposing, in the most wise and most holy counsel of his will, to disabuse (as I may so say) his church by these heresies; that is, to order and overrule them, for the praise of his grace and mercy, to manifest such as are approved; and from the glory of his justice, in sending strong delusions upon such as received not the love of the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. These things being so, i.e., Satan's malice and men's corruption being such, and there being such a foreknowledge, yea, such a decree in God, therefore it is that there must be heresies. And so we are also to understand Matt. 18:7, "It must needs be that offences come." These things I do but touch by the way.
That which I here aim at, is the good use which God, in his most wise and sovereign providence, can and does make of heresies. It is, "that they which are approved may be made manifest;" where, by [Gk.] hoi dokimoi they which are approved, we can understand nothing but such as are true and sincere saints, approved and accepted of God; or (as Bullinger on the place) vere pii, truly godly, in which sense the word is used, Rom. 16:10; 2 Cor. 10:18; 2 Tim. 2:15; James 1:12. The word is properly used of good money, or silver well-refined, [Gk.] argurion. It is transferred to the saints with special reference to their mortification, or to the refining of them from the dross of their corruptions, and so notes such as walk in the Spirit, and not in the flesh. The contrary word is [Gk.] hoi adokimoi, rebrobate, rejectaneous, naughty, or to be cast away like the dross of silver, 1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Cor. 13:5-6.
But how is it that by means or occasion of heresies the godly party is made manifest? Surely the meaning of the apostle is not that the authors and followers of heresies are the godly party, for he calls heresy a work of the flesh, Gal. 5:20, and will have an heretic to be rejected, as one who is of himself condemned, Titus 3:10. Therefore, most certainly, his meaning is that [Gk.] hoi dokimoi, they which are approved, are known by this as one of their characters: they hate, avoid, and resist heresies, and earnestly contend for the faith; they hold fast the truth of Christ without wavering. And those who broach or adhere unto heresies, are thereby known to be [Gk.] adokimoi, unapproved, and such as are like reprobate silver.
Whosoever, therefore, sides or engages with heresies or heretics yea, whosoever stands not fast in the faith does, ipso facto [by that very deed], declare himself to be none of Paul's godly party: so contrary is the language of the Holy Ghost to the tone of sectaries in these days. Neither is it in this scripture alone, but in diverse other scriptures, that the Holy Ghost distinguishes those that are approved of God, from such as turn from the truth after false doctrines, and believe seducing spirits, as well as from those who are of an ungodly life.
So Deut. 13:3, when a false prophet arose, and the sign or wonder came to pass, what was God's meaning in permitting these things? "The Lord your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." They, therefore, that hearkened to the false prophet, even when his sign or wonder came to pass, made themselves known thereby, that they had not been lovers of God with all their heart.
Again, Matt. 24:24, those that are elect are not deceived by false Christs and the false prophets; and, by the rule of contraries, they who are deceived by them, and go in their error to the end, are not elect, but reprobate, Gal. 5:20-21.
Heresy is a work of the flesh, and is reckoned among those things which render a person incapable of inheriting the kingdom of God. They, therefore, who walk in the Spirit, and not in the flesh, and are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, are not only no heretics, but resist and oppose heresy, as being a work of the flesh, John 8:31. They who are Christ's disciples, indeed, continue in his word; they who continue not in his word, are not his disciples indeed, 1 John 2:24, with 2 John, ver. 9. They who have fellowship with the Father and the Son abide in the doctrine of Christ; they who abide not in the doctrine of Christ have no fellowship with the Father and the Son: the like in diverse other scriptures.
If, therefore, there must be heresies, even for this reason, to make more manifest who are approved, who not, then let no thoughts arise in our hearts toward the accusing of divine providence in this particular. Justin Martyr, Quæst. et Respons. ad Orthod. [Questions and Responses on the Subject of Orthodoxy] quest. 1, answering this doubt: "If God has taken away the idolatries, superstitions, and false religions of the heathens, and has also abolished the Jewish worship, why has he suffered heresies to enter into the Christian church?" He gives this solution: that although heresies come into the church through men's negligence and slothfulness (for while men slept, the enemy sowed the tares among the wheat, Matt. 13:25), yet the providence of God was no way slothful in the business. For he foresaw and foretold that heresies should come, and has given plain warning in his word concerning the same. He adds, that the same God who did destroy the heathenish and the Jewish religion, will also destroy heresies, after he has suffered them for a time. Although we have not distinct knowledge what God intends to work of heresies, yet we ought not to censure, but humbly and reverently to adore God's most wise and most holy (though secret and unsearchable) dispensations.
If we should see somewhat which is deadly poison among some drugs, which a skilled and approved physician is making use of, we must not rashly censure the physician; for he knows how to disabuse that which is in itself poisonous, and to make it one of the ingredients in a most sovereign medicine. Or if we should come into the shop of a curious artificer, or engineer, and there see some ugly and ill-favoured instruments, which we think serve for no good, but for evil, yet it were foolishly done to censure the artificer, who knows to make an excellent good use of these things, though we know not.
How much more foolish and sinful is it, to suffer thoughts to rise in our hearts against the wisdom and providence of God, even although we know not what he intends to work out of such things? We were most of all inexcusable to accuse his providence, now when he has made known in his word to us, that, by occasion of heresies, he will make manifest who are approved, and who not. "Wherefore," says Chrysostom (de Divers. etc., tom. loc., ser. 21), "that no man might say, 'Why has Christ permitted this?' Paul says, 'This permission shall not hurt you, if you are one who is approved, for by this means you shall be made more manifest.' "
Yet all this cannot excuse either the heretics or sectaries themselves, or those who connive at them. For that which Christ says in genere [in general], of scandals, is true, in specie [in particular], of heresies. It must needs be that heresies come, but woe to him by whom they come. I add, and woe also to him who does not, according to his place and calling, endeavour the extirpation of them. The text which I now speak to, 1 Cor. 11:19, has not reference to the will of God's commandment, which is the rule of our duty, but to the will of God's decree, or the secret counsel of his will. It is God's purpose to permit heresies, and to overrule them for this end, that his graces may the more shine forth, and that even heresies (contrary to the intentions of Satan and heretics) may make manifest who are approved. Scilicet quos non potuerint depravare, says Tertullian, opening this scripture (de Præser. Adv. Hær.), to wit (says he): Such as heresies could not pervert and deprave, no other are the approved ones.
But there are two things may be here objected. 1. May not one chosen, and justified, and regenerate, be drawn away and infected with heresy, through the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive? If so, then heresies do not make manifest who are approved, who not. 2.May not many who are not approved of God be preserved from the infections of heresies yea, be forward in resisting and opposing them? If so, then preservation from, and resisting of heresies, cannot make manifest that one is approved of God. These objections are no more against me than against the text of scripture.
To the first I answer: A regenerate person may be tempted and drawn over to heresy as he may be tempted and drawn over to other great sins. Heresy does no otherwise consist with the state of grace in any person than other works of the flesh, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, or the like. Look upon an elect and justified person while lying in some great sin for instance, Noah, Lot, David, Peter even so must you look upon an elect and justified person poisoned with heresy. But then, that person, being elected, justified, and regenerate, cannot be supposed to live and die in that sinful estate; but God will certainly heal his backslidings, and rescue his soul out of the snare of the devil by repentance; for the elect cannot be deceived so as to continue and die in heresy, Matt. 24:24.
And while he continues in such a gross sin or heresy, you may truly say that, for that time, he is [Gk.] adokimos, unapproved, or like dross and unrefined silver; in which sense the word is used by the apostle, where he speaks of his bringing his body into subjection, lest he himself should be found [Gk.] adokimos. Where the old English translation reads, "Lest I myself should be reproved" which is too soft a word the new translation has, "Lest I myself should be a castaway. Beza [has], Ne ipse rejectaneus fiam [Lest I myself become rejectable]. In the same sense it is used, 2 Cor. 13:5, "Know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" Beza, Nisi rejectanei estis [Unless you are to be rejected]. H. Stephanus expones ajdovkimo", Minime probus non probandus: Item adulterinus non sincerus. [By no means should a virtuous man not be proven to be so: just as much should a false man be found insincere.] And he cites Aristotle, [Gk.] Adokimon hepoiase nomisma, [Behaviour renders one unapproved]. In this sense even an elect and regenerate person, supposed to be a maintainer or follower of heresy, while such, is certainly [Gk.] adokimos, unapproved, greatly reprovable, to be rejected and cast away to the furnace like dross and unrefined silver. And no marvel; for, in that estate, he does not act his graces, but his corruptions, and, by his great sin, does extremely grieve, and dangerously quench, the Holy Spirit once given to him.
To the other objection I answer: 1. Although the full and perfect discovery (who are approved, who not) is reserved to the great and last day, and there is no company, assembly, nor visible church in this world, without a mixture of hypocrites, yet surely the word of the Lord has been, and shall be, so far fulfilled, that, in a great measure, and according to the knowledge which the church can have of her members in this life, there is, in times of heresies and schisms, a discovery made who are the approved ones, who not.
2. We must remember it is not the scope of this text to give us a note of distinction between those who are approved, and all counterfeits or unapproved Christians, but between those who are approved, and those who are the fomenters or followers of heresies. Thus they who are indeed approved of God continue in the truth of Christ, grounded and settled, and stand fast in the faith, and contend for it; and this is one of the characters found in all such as are approved. And thus far, says Augustine, are heretics profitable to the church; for by their means those who are approved of God, and spiritual men, are stirred up to vindicate, open, and hold forth the truth, whereby they become more manifest than otherwise they could have been. Upon the other part, whoever turn away from the truth, and from the doctrine of Christ, and turn aside after heresies, do thereby infallibly declare themselves to be unapproved, whatsoever profession or show of holiness they have.
Whatsoever becomes of the white mark of those who are approved (which also holds true as I have explained it), most certainly this black mark cannot fail upon the other side. And he who supposes any person who is of an heretical belief and faction to be holy, spiritual, mortified, and approved or one that walks in the Spirit, and not in the flesh does but suppose that which is impossible. And I do not doubt but God is, by the heresies and schisms of these times, making a discovery of many unapproved, unmortified professors, who pretended to piety. So that I may transfer to our time what Chrysostom observed of his own, Ad eos qui Scandalizati Sunt [To Those Who Have Been Scandalized], lib. 1, cap. 19: "How many are there clothed with a shadow and show of godliness; how many who were thought to be some great ones, and they were not so, have been, in this time (when so many fall off and make defection), quickly manifested, and their hypocrisy detected." They have appeared what they were, not what they feigned themselves, and most falsely pretended to be.
Neither is this a small matter, but very much for the profit and edification of those that will observe it, even to know distinguishingly those who are clothed in sheeps' clothing, and not to reckon promiscuously those wolves (so hid) among the true sheep. For this time has become a furnace, discovering the false copper coin, melting the lead, burning up the precious metals. This also Paul signified when he said, "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."
Vincentius Lirinensis does also record to this purpose, that when almost the who world was infected with the Arian heresy, some being compelled to it, others cheated into it, yet every true lover and worshipper of Christ was preserved pure from it.
It is pleaded by some, who pretend to more tenderness of conscience than others, that to establish, by the law of the land, a confession of faith, or a directory of the worship of God, and of the government of the church, and to appoint penalties or punishments upon such as maintain the contrary doctrines or practices, is to hold out, and shut the door upon new light; that as the state and church have discovered the evil of diverse things which were sometime approved and strengthened by the law of the land, so there may be afterwards a discovery made by the light of experience, and a further search of the scripture, to make manifest the falsehood of those doctrines which are now received as true, and the evil of that government and way which is now embraced as good, for [Gk.] hai deuterai phrontides sophoterai [second thoughts are wiser ones].
For satisfaction in this difficulty, first of all, I do not deny but most willingly yield yea, assert, as a necessary truth, that as our knowledge (at its best in this world) is imperfect (for we know but in part), so it ought to be our desire and endeavour to grow in the knowledge of the mind of Christ, to follow on to know the Lord, to seek after more and more light, For "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," Prov. 4:18.
Secondly, I acknowledge that this imperfection of our knowledge is not only in degree, but in parts: that is, we may know afterwards not only more of that good or evil, or truth or error, of which we knew somewhat before, but we may happily come to know the evil of that whereof we knew no evil before, or the good of that in which we knew no good before; so we may come to know diverse truths which before we knew not.
Thirdly, I acknowledge there is not only this imperfection, but ofttimes a great mistake, misunderstanding, error, and unsoundness, in the judgment of Christian persons or churches, so that godly men and true churches may come to know that to be evil which they sometime thought good, and that to be false which sometime they thought true, or contrariwise; which experience has taught, and may teach again.
Fourthly, I confess it is no shame for an Augustine to write a book of retractions. It is the duty, not only of particular Christians, but of reforming, yea, the best reformed churches, whensoever any error in their doctrine, or any evil in their government or form of worship, shall be demonstrated to them from the word of God (although it were by one single person, and one, perhaps, of no great reputation for parts or learning, like Paphnutius among the many learned bishops in the Council of Nicea), to take in, and not to shut out further light; to embrace the will of Christ held forth unto them, and to amend what is amiss, being discovered unto them.
Fifthly, I also believe that, towards the evening of the world, there shall be more light, and knowledge shall be increased, Dan. 12:4, and many hid things in scripture better understood, when the Jews shall be brought home, and the Spirit of grace and illumination more abundantly poured forth. We have great cause to long and pray for the conversion of the Jews; surely we shall be much the better of them.
But, on the other hand, the greatest deceits and depths of Satan have been brought into the world under the name or notion of "new lights." Did not the serpent beguile Eve with this notion of a new light (Gen. 3:5)? Which example the apostle sets before our eyes, 2 Cor. 11:3, plainly warning us that Satan is transformed into an angel of light, and his apostles into the apostles of Christ, ver. 13-14; so Rev. 2:2.
Did not Jeroboam make Israel to sin by a false new light? "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold thy gods, O Israel," etc., 1 Kings 12:28. He would show to the ten tribes how they might, in all matters of religion, be independent upon Jerusalem; howbeit (to note that by the way) he did not erect independent churches without an independent commonwealth. He would show them also that they were abused with a pretended sacred order of priests, the ministers of the Lord, therefore no jure divino [divine right] men, but ministers dependent, 2 Chron. 11:14-15. And so he would needs make priests of the lowest of the people, 1 Kings 12:31, for all which he had a pretence of power or liberty from God, 1 Kings 11:37. His new light made an independent church, and a dependent ministry.
The Gnostics had their name from the profound knowledge and greater light which they pretended to above all others, yet the ancient writers tell us they were but a profane sect. Mohammed himself pretended that the angel Gabriel taught him his Koran, that so he might purchase the greater credit to it.
Now, it is to be observed, there are many cautions necessary, and that there is much to be said against many of those things which now go under the name of "new lights" among those who plead for liberty of conscience.
"New light" is become a beguiling word, as once among the Greeks, [Gk.] Nea xelidon. A beguiling word I may well call it; for most of those things which are now cried up as new lights are neither lights nor new. Not lights, because not according to the word, from whence all true light must be derived; not new, because the very same things have been before moved and maintained. Antinomianism, Anabaptism, universal atonement by the death of Christ, universal salvation, a temporal and earthly kingdom of Christ, and the saints' liberty of conscience, etc., have been maintained and confuted also before this age. Independency itself, if it be a light, yet it is no new one lately struck out, for it was long since a known tenet of the Arminians, that synods or councils ought only to debate, deliberate, consult, and advise, but not to exercise any jurisdiction, to inflict any censure, or to enjoin any thing under pain of censure. See the propositions offered by the Arminians in the 25th session of the Synod of Dordt; see also Episcopii Disp. Theol. [Theological Arguments of Episcopius (Simon Bishop)], part 3, disp. 54, thes. 9-10; part 3, disp. 32, thes. 4-5, 11.
But now I come to the particular cautions concerning new lights.
First, it is but a false new light which expels not only the old darkness, but much of the good old light. As in medicines the Paraclesian way is most dangerous when it is destructive to the Galenic way, and overthrows the old approved principles. Yet it is of very good use when prudently and skillfully managed, for perfecting the Galenic way, and for doing things more speedily, easily, and pleasantly, than the Galenic way could do. So in divinity, such new lights as do not expel, but retain, improve, and perfect the old, may be of singular good use; but those new lights which are destructive and expulsive of the old true lights, those new ways which lead us away from the old and the good way, are to be utterly disliked and avoided.
2 John, ver. 8, "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought." He speaks it against those deceivers who would have seduced them from the doctrine of Christ, as is evident, both from the preceding verse, and from that which follows, "Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" [vs. 9], etc. Rom. 16:17, "Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." A bishop, says Paul, Titus 1:9, must hold "fast the faithful word, as he hath been taught." Phil 3:16, "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." This he adds as a prevention of a dangerous mistake and abuse of that which he had said immediately before, "And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you" [vs. 15].
"Behold, a reserve for any new light," might some say. Nay, but take heed, says the apostle, you do not shut forth, but keep fast, the light you have already attained unto; you must not, under pretence of new light, lose what you have gained. Col. 2:6-8, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy, and vain deceit," etc. These apostolical rules are very far contrary to the academical, yea, Pyrrhonian demur and dubitation, by which some call in question the most received doctrines of the Christian church.
If skepticism be tolerable in the Christian faith, why are we bidden "stand fast in the faith?" 1 Cor. 16:13. And again, Heb. 10:23, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." And why did Jesus Christ himself write to those who had not received the false doctrines of that time, "That which you have already, hold fast till I come?" Rev. 2:25.
It was a foul error in Balaam, the false prophet, that after God had said to him concerning Balak's messengers, "Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed," Num. 22:12; yet, at the next sending of messengers, he would needs seek (forsooth) a new light from God, ver. 18-19: "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. Now, therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more." God gave him a new light, indeed, but in wrath and judgment, quite extinguishing and expelling judicially that light which the false prophet himself had not entertained, but wickedly forsaken, ver. 20, "And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up and go with them." Behold the fruit of not entertaining light once received from God! So likewise the young prophet, 1 Kings 13, for not holding fast what he had received from God, but taking in a new false light from the old prophet, was most exemplarily and severely punished for it. This is the first caution most necessary for the sectaries of this time, whose new lights are such, that among them, vetera deperdita [old abandoned matters] and nova reperta [new inventions] go hand in hand together, and are almost convertible terms, as if a man should not keep what he had, because he finds somewhat which he had not.
Secondly, many of these new lights which some brag of, not only expel much of the good old light, but bring in gross Egyptian darkness. There is a woe denounced against those who put "darkness for light," as well as against those who put "light for darkness," Isa. 5:20. I may well say that gross darkness is introduced, when the fundamental articles of faith are called question, denied, and oppugned as the Godhead of Jesus Christ, the divine authority of the scriptures, the immortality of the soul, the eternity of glory to the elect and of torments to the reprobate, etc. If the foundations be shaken, what can the righteous do? If we hold not fast this gospel, if we embrace not this Saviour, we cannot have another, 1 Cor. 3:11, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Gal. 1:6, 8, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
Thirdly, beware of those new lights which make any certain truth (although neither fundamental nor circumstantial) to be uncertain. As we ought not to say of any sin, so neither of any truth, "Is it not a little one?" Let every truth be highly valued. Buy the truth, and sell it not. Say not, "This truth is but a matter of discipline, let it go; it is not worth the buying." "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much," Luke 16:10. Melchior Adam, both in the life of Karlstadt, and in the life of Luther, observes the great evil which grew out of Luther's dislike of Karlstadt's strictness, zeal, and forwardness in abolishing auricular confession, and difference of meats, and casting out images out of churches, at which things Luther was the more offended, because done by Karlstadt in Wittenburg, during Luther's absence, and without his knowledge and counsel. Luther did also allege that Karlstadt's strictness and zeal in these things hindered and retarded the reformation in more substantial points of doctrine. However, the story notes, that hence was the first rise of that deplorable sacramentarian controversy, which has ever since made so great a rupture in Germany. I could never yet observe, or read, or hear of controversies about discipline in any Christian church, but they grew higher and higher; and those who rejected or slighted the will of Christ in smaller things, did afterwards slight it in greater things.
Fourthly, beware of those new lights which not only refuse to admit some certain truths, but refuse to admit any truth now held or professed in the reformed churches, as sure, and certain, and infallible; as if, because men's judgments are not infallible, but subject to error, therefore we cannot be sure, nor infallibly persuaded, of this or that article. The holy scripture will teach us that believers may attain to a certain and infallible knowledge of some truths; for it was no impossible thing that Paul prayed for, when he prayed that the Colossians might have "all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ" [Col. 2:2]. The mystery of God, that he is, and that he is eternal, invisible, omnipotent, etc., his nature and his attributes; the mystery of the Father, or that there is a distinction of persons in the Holy Trinity, and an eternal generation; the mystery of Christ, his person, natures, offices, birth, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession; these are things of which the apostle would have us most fully and certainly persuaded. Timothy was assured of the things he had learned, 2 Tim. 3:14; so was Theophilus, Luke 1:4.
A mariner is not infallible in his judgment; yet he may be assured infallibly, that such a thing is a rock which he must avoid, and such a way is the way he must direct his course. A physician is not infallible in his judgment concerning the symptoms, causes, and cures of diseases; yet he may be most certainly persuaded such a disease is deadly, and there is no cure for it, or such a thing may be cured, and this is the cure. So, in divinity, the obnoxiousness of men's judgment to error hinders not but they may be infallibly persuaded of this and the other truth.
Fifthly, beware of those new lights which come not from the Sun of Righteousness. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them," Isa. 8:20. When men walk in the light of their own sparks they shall lie down in darkness. New fancies are not new lights. It is no truth which cannot be grounded upon the word of truth. It was a wild fancy of the Weigelians, that there is a time to come (which they call seculum Spiritus Sancti [the age of the Holy Spirit]) in which God shall, by his Spirit, reveal much more knowledge and light than was revealed by Christ and his apostles in the scriptures. There is so much revealed in scripture, as the apostle calls the "wisdom of God," and the "hidden wisdom" of God, 1 Cor. 2:7. The things which are preached and written to us are the things which the very angels desire to look or pry into, 1 Pet. 1:12. And says not Christ, "That which ye have already hold fast till I come?" Rev. 2:25. More of this error, see in Brochmand. System. Theol., com. 1, art. 6, cap. 2, quest. 12.
Sixthly, take heed of proud, and lofty, and self-conceited new lights, 1 Cor. 14:32-33, "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." If the spirits of the prophets must be so subject, how much more the spirits of private persons. Wherefore, in a reformed church, all pretended new lights, which are against the received doctrine, government, or form of worship, ought to be, in all humility and submission, offered to be tried by a learned and godly synod. The Locrean severity was such, that no man might move for a new law but with a rope about his neck, that if his motion were thought good, he might be spared, but if bad, hanged. So Demosthenes tells us (Advers. Timocr. [Against Timocrates]). I will not allow this severity against such as offer new lights, or move for new changes in the church; but I may well apply here the Athenian law recorded by Demosthenes in the same oration. The Athenians went not so far as the Locri; yet no man might move for a new law in Athens unless the motion were offered and submitted to the senate, who were to judge whether the old or the new were better.
Seventhly, beware of separating new lights. To separate from, or gather new churches out of true reformed or reforming churches, has not the least warrant from the word of God. When we see this or that amiss in a church, we are bidden to exhort one another, and provoke one another to good, but not to separate, Heb. 10:24-25. Zwingli conferred amicably with the Anabaptists in Zurich, as with dissenting brethren, and no course was taken to suppress or restrain them by the secular power, till they grew to gather churches out of the true reformed churches. But when it came to that, they could not be suffered or forborne; it was thought necessary to restrain them.
Eighthly, beware of these new lights which dare not be seen, and are kept up in corners. Truth seeks no corners; light does not shun light. A candle is not lighted to be put under a bushel, "but on a candlestick," Matt. 5:15. John 3:20-21: "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light." Prov. 4:19: "The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble;" I add, to make up the antithesis to verse 18, their way is darkened more and more until the dark is night. I have heard, when the Arminians were put to it in the Synod of Dordt, to declare their judgment and sense which they would hold at, they declined it, and Episcopus answered in the name of the rest, "Dies diem docet [Day instructs day]." And is it not so with the sectaries of this time, from whom you cannot draw a clear model of what they hold?
Ninthly, refuse such new lights as have "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." Eph. 5:11. It is a deceitful new light which makes men forbear to reprove, speak, or petition, against those evils in a state which their consciences know to be sinful, and to wink at such things as publicly dishonour God in a nation, upon hopes that themselves shall be winked at and tolerated. But "what communion hath light with darkness?" 2 Cor. 6:14. There are some who pretend to a new light, and to tenderness of conscience, who are yet content to combine and associate themselves with those of another and different way (which themselves condemn as a sinful way), in that common cause of theirs, for crying up their great Diana, liberty of conscience, and for opposing the church government by presbyteries and synods. How they who would not assist the presbyterians, for the purging of their congregations, and keep off all scandalous persons from the sacrament, and yet do assist and strengthen Separatists, Anabaptists, Antinomians, Socinians, Erastians, Seekers, in seeking after toleration how, I say, they will answer this to God and their own consciences, let them look to it.
Again, many of the pretended new lights have communion with darkness in another respect, because they are borrowed from heresies buried in darkness. How many "new lights" are now brought from the Arians, Manichees, Novatians, Donatists, the Contemplative Monks and Friars, the Photinians, Socinians, Arminians, etc. These are no more new lights than a beggar's cloak is a new garment, being newly made up out of many old riven and rotten clouts sewn together.
Tenthly, away with those new lights which let men see nothing better, which bring no edification; those Boetia ænigmata [Boetian obscurities], those nonsense and haughty high nonsense in which some frothy spirits evanesce. "Let all things be done unto edifying," 1 Cor. 14:26. There are vain babblings, and science, falsely so called, which have made men err from the faith, 1 Tim. 6:20-21.
Lastly, take good heed of those new lights which follow new interests. Such was that of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12:26 to the end; and that of Balaam, Num. 22:15-20. There are some who suppose that "gain is godliness," says the apostle, 1 Tim. 6:5; and so there are some who suppose new interests to be new lights.
1. Tertull. de Præscrip. Advers. Hæret. Cum ideo credidisse se dictat (Apostolus) de schismalibus et dissensionibus quai scilicet etiam hæreses oporteret esse. Ostendit enim gravioris mali respectu, de levioribus se facile credidisse. [Tertullian, On Objections Against Heretics. "So when he (the apostle) says, on the subject of divisions and dissensions, that certainly he believes there should be even heresies; in fact, by consideration of the weightier evil, he shows that he easily believes it about the less serious cases."]
2. Tertull. de Præscript. Advers. Hæret. Hæreses dictæ græca voce ex interpretatione electionis, quia quis sive ad instituendas sive ad suscipiendas eas utitur. Ideo et sibi damnatum dixit hæreticum: quia et in quo damnatur sibi elegit. ["They are called heresies in the Greek tongue by a translation of 'choosing,' because one uses it for either the planting of them or an entering upon them. For this reason he called the heretic 'self-condemned,' since he chose for himself that in which he is condemned."]
3. August., tom. 1, lib. de Vera Relig., cap. 8. Sunt enim innumerabiles in eccesia sancta, Deo probati viri, sed manifesti non fiunt inter nos, quam diu imperitiæ nostræ tenebris delectatidormire malumus, quam lucem veritatis intueri. [Augustine, tom. 1, On True Religion, ch. 8. "Indeed there are countless men, approved by God, in the holy church, but they do not become apparent among us as long as we prefer to sleep, delighted by the shadows of our ignorance, rather than to give attention to the light of truth."]
4. Vin. Lirin. Advers. Hær., cap. 6. Tunc quisquis verus Christi amator et cultor exstitit antiquam fidem novellæ perfidæ præferendo, nulla contagii ipsius peste maculatus est. ["At that time, whoever stood out as a true lover and worshipper of Christ by his preference for the former faith over the just-hatched treachery, was not polluted by any of the ruin brought about by that infection."]