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real religion which has that appearance, will be greatly deceived; and will be likely to lose their own souls thereby. “ Satan has. his religion, as well as irreligion. And his religion is no less fatal to those who embrace it, than his irreligion and open wick. edness. Indeed it is often more dangerous, because these subjects of his flatter themselves, that they belong to another prince, who is able to give unto all his subjects eternal life. If we see a man wise in his own conceit, we are taught to entertain more hope of a fool than of him.
Let all who credit the truth of God's word, enter on the investigation of this subject with a full belief, that there is such a thing as false religion; and that care is necded to distinguish it from the true. Let us. not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God. It would be pleasing to the prince of darkness, to have no such investigation made. He would wish us to buy of him gold which is not tried in the fire, without entertaining any suspicion of its genuineness; or making an essay to prove it. If he can make those whom he has deceived, view it as the height of wickedness, to doubt of their interest in the favour of God, he feels very sure of their destruction.
Our danger of being deceived and ruined, is very great, not only because Satan is very crafty, and is able to appear like an angel of light; but because our hearts are very wicked and deceitful. The word of God speaks of depraved men as being the children of the devil." If so, we are doubtless prepared, in our natural state, to relish the religion of our father, and prefer it to the religion of the Son of God. There is no reason to doubt, but that every unregenerate man in the world, would be best pleased with Satan's religion. But we know that Satan's religion will land us in hell; therefore we are afraid of it. This makes it necessary, that he should transform himself into an angel of light, and make us think, that his religion is the very religion of Christ himself. As soon as this is believed, we greedily embrace it. To make this idea more familiar, let us suppose that nothing is so sweet to our taste as a poisonous potion. The draught is pleasant, but the consequence of drinking, which will be death, is frightful. We love the poison ; but we hate to be poisoned. Now, if any body can deceive us, and make us believe, that it is not poison, but a salutary draught, the way is prepared for us greedily to drink our death. And this is the great object of him, who
like a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour. That by all means he may destroy, not only some, but many, he turns into every shape; he practises ev- , ery wile; he becomes an angel of light.
It is a deep-laid wile of Satan, to have his ministers on earth, and in the very church of Christ; who shall call themselves the ministers of Christ, and shall be set apart to the work by the same solemnities, by which Christ's ministers are set apart to their holy work; and who shall pretend to favour the cause of righteousness, as if to build up this cause was their main object. That Satan has his ministers, yea, very many of them in the world, is clear from the word of God. There is, no doubt, a great many shades of difference in their character. Some of them, we are taught to expect, shall be so wonderfully transformed as ministers of righteousness, that they shall deceive if it were possible, the very elect. There may be this difference between Satan and his ministers; Satan, when transformed into an angel of light, has not deceived himself; for he knows that he is not an angei of light: but his ministers may be, and often are, self deceived. Paul tells Timothy, that evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being de
ceived. 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 liim, 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 armn-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 the 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 Scrpent, who beguiled Eve; and who is now transformed into an angel of light. Let me entreat my reader's not to be thus beguiled, and so lose their iminortal souls !