The first character: False teachers are menpleasers. They preach more to please the ear than to profit the heart: “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa 30:10). “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jer 5:30-31). They handle holy things with wit and dalliance(1) rather than with fear and reverence. False teachers are soul-undoers. They are like evil chirurgeons(2) that skin over the wound, but never heal it…False teachers are hell’s greatest enrichers…Such smooth teachers are sweet soul-poisoners (Jer 23:16-17).
The second character: False teachers are notable in casting dirt, scorn, and reproach upon the persons, names, and credits of Christ’s most faithful ambassadors. Thus, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram charged Moses and Aaron that they took too much upon them, seeing all the congregation was holy (Num 16:3). “You take too much state, too much power, too much honor, too much holiness upon you; for what are you more than others that you take so much upon you?” And so Ahab’s false prophets fell foul on good Micaiah, paying of him with blows for want of better reasons (1Ki 22:10-26). Yea, Paul, that great Apostle of the Gentiles, had his ministry undermined and his reputation blasted by false teachers: “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2Co 10:10). They rather contemn him than admire him. They look upon him as a dunce rather than a doctor. And the same hard measure had our Lord Jesus from the Scribes and Pharisees, who labored as for life to build their own credit upon the ruins of His reputation. And never did the devil drive a more full trade this way than he does in these days (Mat 27:63). Oh! The dirt, the filth, the scorn that is thrown upon those of whom the world is not worthy…
The third character: False teachers are venters(3) of the devices and visions of their own heads and hearts. “Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart” (Jer 14:14). “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD” (Jer 23:16). Are there not multitudes in this nation whose visions are but golden delusions, lying vanities, brainsick fantasies? These are Satan’s great benefactors and such as divine justice will hang up in hell as the greatest malefactors, if the Physician of souls does not prevent it.
The fourth character: False teachers easily pass over the great and weighty things of both Law and Gospel and stand most upon those things that are of the least moment and concernment to the souls of men. “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm” (1Ti 1:5-7). “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Mat 23:23). False teachers are nice(4) in the lesser things of the law and as negligent in the greater. “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1Ti 6:3-5)…The earth groans to bear them, and hell is fitted for them (Mat 24:32).
The fifth character: False teachers cover and color their dangerous principles and soul-impostures with very fair speeches and plausible pretences, with high notions and golden expressions. Many in these days are bewitched and deceived by the magnificent words, lofty strains, and stately terms of deceivers, viz., illumination, revelation, deification, fiery triplicity(5), etc. As strumpets paint their faces and deck and perfume their beds, the better to allure and deceive simple souls, so false teachers will put a great deal of paint and garnish upon their most dangerous principles and blasphemies that they may the better de-ceive and delude poor ignorant souls. They know sugared poison goes down sweetly. They wrap up their pernicious, soul-killing pills in gold. Weigh the Scriptures in the margin…
The sixth character: False teachers strive more to win over men to their opinions than to better them in their conversations. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Mat 24:17). They busy themselves most about men’s heads. Their work is not to better men’s hearts and mend their lives. In this, they are very much like their father the dev-il, who will spare no pains to gain proselytes.
The seventh character: False teachers make merchandise of their followers: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time linger-eth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2Pe 2:1-3). They eye your goods more than your good and mind more the serving of themselves than the saving of your souls. So they may have your substance, they care not though Satan has your souls (Rev 18:11-13). That they may the better pick your purse, they will hold forth such principles as are very indulgent to the flesh. False teachers are the great worshippers of the golden calf (Jer 6:13).
Now, by these characters you may know them, and so shun them, and deliver your souls out of their dangerous snares; which that you may, my prayers shall meet yours at the throne of grace.
1 dalliance – light, irreverent action.
2 chirurgeons – surgeons.
3 venters – those who utter or give vent to erroneous doctrines.
4 nice – precise.
5 triplicity – one of four groups of the zodiac where each group consists of three signs separated from each other by 120 degrees.
From “Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 1, reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust.
Thomas Brooks (1608–1680): Congregational preacher and author; buried in Bunhill Fields, London, UK.
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