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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

Nor the many lesser antichrists


HEAD I.

_Where the sufferings of many, for refusing to acknowledge a corrupt ministry, are vindicated; and the question of hearing curates is cleared._

This question, though it may seem nice, and of no great moment, to persons of Gallio's or Laodicea's temper, indifferent and lukewarm dispositions, consulting their own more than the things of Christ, which make it pass without any enquiry with the most part of the world; yet, to all who are truly tender in keeping a good conscience, free of the times contagion, to all who have the true impression of the fear of God, who is jealous, especially in the matters of his worship; to all who have the true zeal of God eating them up, in a just indignation at the indignities done to him, in usurping the office and corrupting the administration of the ministry; to all who truly love the gospel, and put a due value on the ordinances of Christ, the corruptions whereof this question touches, it will be accounted of great importance.

There are three questions about the duty of hearing the word, concerning which the Lord Jesus gives us very weighty cautions, to wit, what we should hear, Mark iv. 24. how we should hear, Luke viii. 28. and whom we should hear. The last of which, though it be not so expressly stated as the other two, yet the searcher of the scriptures will find it as clearly determined, and as many cautions to guard from erring

in it, as in any other case, and that the concern of conscience in it is very weighty. And certain it is, if there had been more advertency in this point, there would not have been such inconsideration and licentiousness in the matter and manner of hearing. Nor would that itching humour and luxuriancy of lust, in heaping up teachers to please the fancy, have been so much encouraged, to the great detriment of the church, disgrace of the gospel, and destruction of many poor souls. But through the ignorance and neglect of this duty of trying whom we should hear, by seeking some satisfying evidence of their being cloathed with authority from Christ, the world hath been left loose in a licence to hear what they pleased, and so have received the poison of error from the mountebanks, instead of the true and wholesome potions of Christ's prescripts from them that had power and skill to administer them. Hence the many sects, and schisms, and errors that have pestered the church in all ages, have in a great measure proceeded from this latitude and laxness of promiscuous hearing of all whom they pleased, whom either the world's authority impowered, or by other means were possessed of the place of preaching, without taking any cognizance whether they had the characters of Christ's ambassadors or not. If this had been observed, and people had scrupled and refused to hear these whom they might know should not have preached; neither the great antichrist, nor the many lesser antichrists, would have had such footing in the world as they have this day. It is then of no small consequence to have this question cleared. Neither is it of small difficulty to solve the intricacies of it, what characters to fix for a discovery of Christ's true ministers; whom we should submit to and obey in the Lord, and love and esteem them for their work's sake, and for their qualities sake, as standing in Christ's stead, having the dispensation of the word of reconciliation committed to them; and how we may discern those characters; what judgment is incumbent to private Christians, for the satisfaction of their own consciences in the case; and how they ought to demean themselves


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