of False Teachers1
by Thomas Brooks
labors might and main, by false teachers,
which are his messengers and
ambassadors, to deceive, delude,
and forever undo the precious souls of men.1
"Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: they prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray."2
"...the prophets who lead my people astray..."3
They seduce them, and carry them out of the right way into by-paths and blind thickets of error, blasphemy, and wickedness, where they are lost forever.
"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves."4
These lick and suck the blood of souls. "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision."5
These kiss and kill; these cry, Peace, peace, till souls fall into everlasting flames.6
Now the best way to deliver poor souls from being deluded and destroyed by these messengers of Satan is, to discover them in their colors, that so, being known, poor souls may shun them, and fly from them as from hell itself.
Now you may know them by these characteristics following:
1. The first characteristic
False teachers are men-pleasers.7
They preach more to please the ear than to profit the heart.
"Who say to the seers. 'You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions.'"8 "An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?"9 They handle holy things rather with wit and dalliance than with fear and reverence. False teachers are soul-undoers. They are like evil chirurgeons,10 that skin over the wound, but never heal it. Flattery undid Ahab and Herod, Nero and Alexander. False teachers are hell's greatest enrichers. Not bitter, but flattering words do all the mischief, said Valerian, the Roman emperor. Such smooth teachers are sweet soul-poisoners.11
2. The second characteristic
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.12 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.13
Yea, Paul, that great apostle of the Gentiles, had his ministry undermined and his reputation blasted by false teacher. "For they say, 'His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible."14 They rather view him with contempt 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 laboured 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.
Oh! the dirt, the filth, the scorn that is thrown upon those of whom the world is not worthy! I suppose false teachers mind not that saying of Augustine: He that willingly takes from my good name, unwillingly adds to my reward.
3. The third characteristic
False teachers are venters of the devices and visions of their own heads and hearts.15
"Then the Lord said to me, 'The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.'"16
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.'"17
Are there not multitudes in this nation whose visions are but golden delusions, lying vanities, brain-sick 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.
4 The fourth characteristic
False teachers easily pass over the great and weighty things both of law and gospel, and stand most upon those things that are of the least moment and concernment to the souls of men.18
"But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand wither what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions."19
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others."20
False teachers are nice in the lesser things of the law, and as negligent in the greater. "If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain."21 From such you must withdraw yourself.
If such teachers are not hypocrites in temperament, I know nothing.22 The earth groans to bear them, and hell is fitted for them.
5 The fifth characteristic
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, and fiery triplicity. As [whores] paint their faces, and deck and perfume their beds, the better to allure and deceive simple souls,23 so false teachers will put a great deal of paint and garnish upon their most dangerous principles and blasphemies, that they may the better deceive and delude poor ignorant souls. They know sugared poison goes down sweetly; they wrap up their pernicious, soul-killing pills in gold.
In the days of Hadrian the emperor, there was one Ben-Cosbi gathered a multitude of Jews together, and called himself Ben-concuba, the son of a star, applying that promise to himself,24 but he proved Bar-chosaba, the son of a lie. And so will all false teachers, for all their flourishes prove at the last the sons of lies.
6 The sixth characteristic
False teachers strive more to win over men to their opinions, than to better them in their conversations.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."25 They busy themselves most about men's heads. Their work is not to better men's hearts, and mend their lives; and in this they are very much like their father the devil, who will spare no pains to gain proselytes.26
7 The seventy characteristic
False teachers make merchandise of their followers.
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep."26
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.27 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.28
Now, by these characteristics you may know them, and so shun them, and deliver your souls out of their dangerous snares. I pray that you may be delivered from them. My prayers shall meet yours at the throne of grace.
Thomas Brooks, (1608-1680). Puritan preacher, from Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices."Seven Characters of False Teachers."
1 Acts 20:28-30; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Eph. 4:14; 2 Tim. 3:4-6; Titus
1:11, 12; Peter 2:18,19.
2 Jer. 23:13.
3 Micah 3:5.
4 Matt. 7:15.
5 Phil. 3:2.
6 Prov. 7.
7 But so are not true teachers; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:1-4.
8 Is. 30:10.
9 Jer. 5:30,31.
10 A surgeon who operates with his hands.
11 Jer. 23:16,17.
12 Num. 16:3.
13 1 Kings 22:10-26.
14 2 Cor. 10:10.
15 Matt. 24:4,5; 11:14; Titus 1:10; Rom. 16:18.
16 Jer. 14:14.
17 Jer. 23:16.
18 Luther complained of such in his time as would strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. This age is full of such teachers, such monsters. The high priest's spirit (Matt. 23:24) lives and thrives in these days.
19 1 Tim. 1:5-7.
20 Matt. 23:23.
21 1 Tim. 6:3-5.
22 Rom. 2:22.
23 Gal. 6:12; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rom. 16:17,18; Matt. 16:6,11,12; 7:15.
24 Num. 24:17.
25 Matt. 23:15.
26 For shame! says Epictetus to his Stoics; either live as Stoics, or leave off the name of Stoics. The application is easy.
27 Rev. 18:11-13.
28 Jer. 6:13.