Summary: This Sermon is #28 from Rev. Andrew Lee’s SERMONS published in 1803 by Isaiah Thomas, Jr. at Lisbon, Connecticut.
The entire book of Andrew’s Lee’s Sermons is available free at Project Gutenberg as e-Text #15031.
The Danger of Deviating from Divine Institutions.
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
ST. PAUL was the apostle of the Gentiles. The care of the churches gathered among them devolved particularly on him. At the writing of this epistle he had no personal acquaintance with the church to which it is addressed.* Epaphras, a bishop of the Colossians, then his fellow prisoner at Rome, had made him acquainted with their state, and the danger they were in from false teachers, who, during the absence of their minister, labored to turn them from the duplicity of the gospel; and this letter was written, through divine influence, to guard them against those deceivers, and persuade them to abide in Christ.
*Verse 1. SERM. 28.
TO this end he counselled them to keep to the divine directions, carefully avoiding every alteration, or addition, which might be urged upon them by uninspired men, though they might come with a shew of wisdom and humility, and profession of regard to the honor of God and happiness.
MANY of the most successful attacks on God’s earthly kingdom have been made in this way. Open rebellion against God, is found chiefly on those who have no faith in him; who are therefore devoid of his fear. Others are tempted mostly to other sins, and induced to make indirect opposition to the divine government, from them, the tempter hides the truth, and leads them into error, and thus causes them to pull down the cause which they aim to build up, and fight against God with a view to serve him.
SO much of God appears in his works, that comparatively few can be made to doubt his existence, or his providential government. Hence few are prevailed with to renounce his fear and rise directly against him; but many are deceived, and consequently engaged to act with his enemies.
HERE a common source of seduction hath been suggesting improvements on divine institutions--that _this_ and _that_, which God hath not ordered, would help his cause and promote his interest. Sometimes the improvements are attempted under pretence of divine order, and urged with his authority; but this veil is not always spread over endeavors to change his institutes. They are often urged as means adapted to help his cause, without pretence to divine order requiring the use of them; Much, it is alleged, is left to human discretion. This taken for granted, the rest is easy. It is only to say _these measures_ are wise and good, calculated to help on the cause of God, and whoever denies it, is considered as fighting against God.
THUS men are led away from the divine institutions to those of human invention. Human wisdom is exalted above divine; and all with a view to glorify God!
THUS was the tempter laboring, through the instrumentality of his agents, to seduce the Colossians, when this epistle was written, and it is chiefly intended to counteract their influence, and prevent that church from being moved away from the hope of the gospel, which they had received.
IN discussing the subject, We shall first _glance at the measures used by those deceivers_--then consider _the success which hath attended this mode of fighting against God, and seducing mankind, adding a few observations on the influence of tradition and the rudiments and customs of the world_.
THE Colossian seducers appear to have been of two kinds--Jewish and Gentile. The former seem not to have differed from those at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and those in Judea. They were Jewish Christians, who were so attached to the Mosaic ritual, that they wished to continue it, and graft Christianity upon it, rendering the religion of Christ only an appendage to that of Moses. They insisted that the ceremonial law remained in force--insisted especially on the observance of circumcision; and probably on the traditions so highly valued by the Pharisees. But the apostle assured this Gentile Church, that they were complete "in Christ", and needed nothing of this kind to recommend them to God, or to secure his favor--that "Christ had blotted out the hand writing of ordinances, and taken it away, nailing it to his cross"--that the ceremonial law, being only "a shadow of good things to come," was fulfilled in Christ, and no longer obligatory; and warned them to stand fast in their Christian liberty, and suffer no man to judge them respecting such things, or impose such burdens upon them.
THE Gentile seducers were converts from Paganism, and no less eager to introduce the tenets and rites of their superstition. One of the errors, which, from the particular mention made of it, they seem to have urged, was the worshipping of angels, "Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." *