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SERM ON LXXXVI.
The fin and danger of adding to the doctrine of the gospel.
GALAT. i. 8, 9.
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 accurfed. As we faid before, fo fay I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accurfed.
EFORE I Come to handle the words, for the better understanding of them, I fhall give a brief account of the occafion of them, which was this. Some falfe Apoftles had made a great difturbance in the churches planted by the Apoftles of Chrift, by teaching that it was neceffary for Chriftians, not only to embrace and entertain the doctrines and precepts of the Chriftian religion, but likewife to be circumcifed, and keep the law of Mofes. Of this difturbance which was raised in the Chriftian church, you have the history at large, Acts xv. and as in feveral other churches, particularly in that of Galatia, thefe falfe Apoftles and feducers had perverted many, as appears by this epiftle; in the beginning whereof St. Paul complains, that those who were fo feduced into this error of the neceffity of circumcifion, and keeping the law of Mofes, had, by this new article of faith, which they had added to the Christian religion, quite altered the frame of it, and made the gofpel another thing from that which our Saviour delivered, and commanded his Apoftles to teach all
For he tells us, ver. 6. of this chapter, that he mar velled, that they were fo foon removed from him that called them by (or through) the grace of Chrift, unto another gospel, that is fo different from that which VOL. V.
they had been inftructed in by thofe who firft preached the gospel unto them: for the making of any thing neceffary to falvation, which our Saviour in his gofpel had not made fo, he calls another gospel. marvel, that ye are so foon removed from him that called you by the grace of Christ, unto another gospel, which is not another, o oun Esiv dano, which is no other thing, or by which I mean nothing else, but that there are fome that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Chrift; as if he had said, when I fay that ye are removed to another gospel, I do not mean that ye have renounced Chriftianity, and are gone over to another religion, but that ye are feduced by those who have a mind to pervert the gofpel of Chrift, by adding fomething to it, as a neceffary and effential part of it, which Chrift hath not made fo: This the Apoftle calls a perverting or overthrowing of the gofpel; becaufe, by thus altering the terms and conditions of it, they made it quite another thing from what our Saviour delivered it.
And then at the 8th and 9th verfes he denounceth a terrible anathema against thofe, whoever they fhall be, yea, though it were an Apoftle, or an Angel from heaven, who by thus perverting the gospel of Chrift (that is, by making any thing neceffary to be believed or practifed, which our Saviour in his gofpel hath not made fo) fhould in effect preach another gofpel; 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 anathema, an accursed thing, and then to exprefs his confidence and vehemency in this matter, and to fhew that he did not speak this rafhly, and in a heat, but upon due confideration, he repeats it again in the next verse, As we faid before, fo say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accurfed.
From the words thus explained by the confideration of the context, and of the main scope and defign of this epiftle, these following obfervations do naturally arife.
Firft, That the addition of any thing to the Chrifti
an religion, as neceffary to be believed and practifed in order to falvation, is a perverting of the gospel of Chrift, and preaching another gospel.
Secondly, That no pretence of infallibility is fufficient to authorife and warrant the addition of any thing to the Chriftian doctrine, as neceffary to be believed and practifed in order to falvation.
Thirdly, That Chriftians may judge and difcern when fuch additions are made.
Fourthly, And confequently, that fince the declaration of the gofpel, and the confirmation of it, there is no authority in the Chriftian church to impofe upon Chriftians any thing as of neceffity to falvation, which the gospel hath not made fo.
Fifthly, That there is no vifible judge (how infallible foever he may pretend to be) to whofe definitions and declarations in matters of faith and practice neceffary to falvation, we are bound to fubmit, without examination whether these things be agreeable to the gospel of Chrift, or not.
Sixthly, and lastly, Whofoever teacheth any thing as of neceffity to falvation, to be believed or practifed, befides what the gofpel of Chrift hath made neceffary, doth fall under the anathema here in the text, because in fo doing, he perverteth the gospel of Chrift, and preacheth another gofpel. Now the Apoftle exprefly declares, that though we (that is, he himself, or any of the Apoftles) or an Angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than what we have preached unto you, let him be accurfed: As we faid before, fo fay I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that you have received, let him be accurfed.
I. That the addition of any thing to the Chriftian religion as neceffary to be believed or practifed, in order to falvation, is a perverting of the gospel of Christ, and preaching another gospel.
This is evident from the inftances here given in this epiftle; for the Apoftle chargeth the falfe Apoftles with perverting the gospel of Christ, and preaching another gospel, upon no other account, but because they added to the Christian religion, and made cirA 2 cumcifion,
cumcifion, and the keeping of the law of Mofes, an effential part of the Chriftian religion, and impofed upon Chriftians the practice of these things, and the belief of the neceflity of them, as a condition of eternal falvation.
That this was the doctrine of those falfe teachers, we find exprefly, Acts xv. 1. And certain men. which came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and faid, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Mofes, ye cannot be faved; and ver. 24. in the letter written by the Apoftles and Elders at Jerufalem, to the churches abroad, there is this account given of it; forafmuch as we have heard that certain which went out from us, have troubled you with words, fubverting your fouls, faying, ye must be circumcised, and keep the law, to whom we gave no such commandment. Where you fee that this doctrine is declared to be of pernicious confequence, tending to fubvert the fouls of men, and likewife to be an addition to the doctrine of the gospel which was delivered by the Apoftles, who here with one confent declare, that they had given no fuch commandment; that is, had delivered no fuch doctrine as this, nor put any fuch yoke upon the necks of Christians; but on the contrary had declared, that the death of Chrift having put an end to the Jewish difpenfation, there was now no obligation upon Chriftians to obferve the law of Mofes.
And from the reafon of the thing it is very plain, that the addition of any thing to the Chriftian religion, as neceffary to be believed or practifed in order to falvation, which the gospel hath not made fo, is preaching another gospel; because it makes an effential change in the terms and conditions of the gofpel-covenant, which declares falvation unto men upon fuch and fuch terms, and no other. Now to add any other terms to these, as of equal neceffity with them, is to alter the condition of the covenant of the gofpel, and the terms of the Chriftian religion, and confequently to preach another gospel, by declaing other terms of falvation, than Chrift in his gofpel hath declared, which is to pervert the gospel of Chrift. II. No
II. No pretence of infallibility is fufficient to authorize and warrant the addition of any thing to the Christian doctrine, as neceffary to be believed or practifed, in order to falvation. After the delivery of the gofpel by the Son of God, and the publicatíon of it to the world by his Apoftles, who were commiffioned and infpired by him to that purpose, and the confirmation of all, by the greatest and most unquestionable miracles that ever were, no perfon whatever that brought any other doctrine, and declared falvation to men on any other terms than those which are declared in the gofpel, was to be credited, what pretence foever he fhould make to a divine commiffion or an infallible affiftance. The Apoftle makes a fuppofition as high as can be, though we (fays he) or an Angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be an anathema. If the Apoftles themfelves, who were divinely commiffioned, and infallibly affifted in the preaching of the gofpel, fhould afterwards make any addition to it, or declare any other terms of falvation, than thofe which are declared in the gospel which they had already published to the world, they ought not to be regarded.
And the reason is plain; becaufe what claim foever any perfon may make to infallibility, and what demonftration foever he may give of it, we cannot poffibly believe him, if he contradict himself, and deliver doctrines which do plainly clafh with one another: For if he spake true at first, I cannot believe him declaring the contrary afterwards: And if he did not fpeak true at firft, I cannot believe him at all; because he can give no greater proof of his divine commiffion, and infallible affistance and inspiration, than he did at firft.
And the reafon is the fame, if an Angel from heaven fhould come and preach a contrary doctrine to that of the gospel, he were not to be believed neither; because he could bring no better credentials of his divine commiffion and authority than thofe had who publifhed the gofpel, and, confequently, he ought not to be credited in any thing contrary to what they A 3