Some will revolt from the faith. It is uncertain whether he speaks of teachers or of hearers; but I am more disposed to refer it to the latter; for he afterwards calls teachers spirits that are impostors. And this is (ejmfatikw>teron) more emphatic, that not only will there be those who sow wicked doctrines, and corrupt the purity of faith, but that they can never want disciples whom they call draw into their sect; and when a lie thus gains prevalence, there arises from it greater trouble.
Besides, it is no slight vice which he describes, but a very heinous crime — apostasy from the faith; although, at first Sight, in the doctrine which he briefly notices there does not appear to be so much evil. What is the case? Is faith completely overturned on account of the prohibition of marriage, or of certain kinds of food? But we must take into view a higher reason, that men pervert and invent at their pleasure the worship of God, that they assume dominion over the consciences, and that they dare to forbid that use of good things which the Lord has permitted. As soon as the purity of the worship of God is impaired, there no longer remains anything perfect or sound, and faith itself is utterly ruined.
Accordingly, although Papists laugh at us, when we censure their tyrannical laws about outward observances, yet we know that we are pleading a cause of the greatest weight and importance; because the doctrine of faith is destroyed, as soon as the worship of God is infected by such corruptions. The controversy is not about flesh or fish, or about a black or ashy color, or about Friday or Wednesday, but about the mad superstitions of men, who wish to appease God by such trifles, and, by contriving a carnal worship of him, contrive for themselves an idol instead of God. Who will deny that this is revolting from the faith?
To deceiving spirits. He means prophets or teachers, to whom he gives this designation, because they boast of the Spirit, and, under this title, insinuate themselves into the favor of the people. This, indeed, is true at all times, that men, whatever they are, speak under the excitement of the spirit. But it is not the same spirit that excites them all; for sometimes Satan is a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets, in order to deceive unbelievers, who deserve to be deceived. (<112221>1 Kings 22:21-23.) On the other hand, every one that renders due honor to Christ speaks by the Spirit of God, as Paul testifies. (<461203>1 Corinthians 12:3.)
Now that mode of expression, of which we are now speaking, originated at first from this circumstance, that the servants of God professed to have from the revelation of the Spirit, everything that they uttered in public. This was actually true; and hence they received the name of the Spirit, whose organs they were. But the ministers of Satan, by a false emulation, like apes, began afterwards to make the same boast, and likewise falsely assumed the name. On the same grounds John says,
“Try the spirits, whether they are of God.” (<620401>1 John 4:1.)
Moreover, Paul explains his meaning by adding, to doctrines of devils; which is as if he bad said, “Attending to false prophets, and to their devilish doctrines.” Again observe, that it is not an error of small importance, or one that ought to be concealed, when consciences are bound by the contrivances of men, and at the same time the worship of God is corrupted.
2. Speaking lies in hypocrisy. If these words refer to “demons,” then this word will mean men deceiving through the instigation of the devil. But we may also supply the words, “of men speaking.” He now descends to a particular instance, when he says that they “speak lies in hypocrisy,” and have their conscience seared with a hot iron. And, indeed, it ought to be known that these two are so closely Joined together that the former springs from the latter; for consciences, that are bad and seared with the hot iron of their crimes, always flee to hypocrisy as a ready refuge; that is, they contrive hypocritical presences, in order to dazzle the eyes of God; and what else is done by those who endeavor to appease God by the mask of outward observances?
The word hypocrisy must therefore lie explained agreeably to the passage in which it now occurs; for, first, it must relate to doctrine, and, next, it denotes that kind of doctrine which adulterates the spiritual worship of God by exchanging its genuine purity for bodily exercises; and thus it includes all methods contrived by men for appeasing God or obtaining his favor. The meaning may be thus summed up; first, that all who assume a pretended sanctimoniousness are led by the instigation of the devil; because God is never worshipped aright by outward ceremonies; for true worshipers
“worship him in spirit and truth,” (<430424>John 4:24)
and, secondly, that this is a useless medicine, by which hypocrites mitigate their pains, or rather a plaster by which bad consciences conceal their wounds, without any advantage, and to their utter destruction.
3.Forbidding to marry. Having described the class, he next mentions two instances, fa68 namely, the prohibition of marriage and of some kinds of food. They arise from that hypocrisy which, having forsaken true holiness, seeks something else for time purpose of concealment and disguise; for they who do not keep from ambition, covetousness, hatred, cruelty, and such like, endeavor to obtain a righteousness by abstaining from those things which God has left at large. Why are consciences burdened by those laws, but because perfection is sought in something different from the law of God? This is not done but by hypocrites, who, in order that they may with impunity transgress that righteousness of the heart which the law requires, endeavor to conceal their inward wickedness by those outward observances as veils with which they cover themselves.
This was a distinct threatening of danger, so that it was not difficult for men to guard against it, at least if they had lent their ears to the Holy Spirit, when he gave so express a warning. Yet we see that the darkness of Satan generally prevailed, so that the clear light of this striking and memorable prediction was of no avail. Not long after the death of the apostle, arose Encratites, (who took their name from continence,) Tatianists, fa69 Catharists, Montanus with his sect, and at length Manichaeans, who had extreme aversion to marriage and the eating of flesh, and condemned them as profane things. Although they were disowned by the Church, on account of their haughtiness, in wishing to subject others to their opinions, yet it is evident that those who opposed them yielded to their error more than was proper. It was not intended by those of whom I am now speaking to impose a law on Christians; but yet they attached greater weight than they ought to have done to superstitious observances, such as abstaining from marriage, and not tasting flesh.
Such is the disposition of the world, always dreaming that God ought to be worshipped in a carnal manner, as if God were carnal. Matters becoming gradually worse, this tyranny was established, that it should not be lawful for priests or monks to enter into the married state, and that no person should dare to taste flesh on certain days. Not unjustly, therefore, do we maintain that this prediction was uttered against the Papists, since celibacy and abstinence from certain kinds of food are enjoined by them more strictly than any commandment of God. They think that they escape by an ingenious artifice, when they torture Paul’s words to direct them against Tatianists or Manichaeans, or such like; as if the Tatianists had not the same means of escape open to them by throwing back the censure of Paul on the Cataphrygians, and on Montanus the author of that sect; or as if the Cataphrygians had it not in their power to bring forward the Encratites, in their room, as the guilty parties. But Paul does not here speak of persons, but of the thing itself; and, therefore although a hundred different sects he brought forward, all of which are charged with the same hypocrisy in forbidding some kinds of food, they shall all incur the same condemnation.
Hence it follows, that to no purpose do the Papists point to the ancient heretics, as if they alone were censured; we must always see if they are not guilty in the same manner They object, that they do not resemble the Encratites and Manichaens, because they do not absolutely forbid the use of marriage and of flesh, but only on certain days constrain to abstinence from flesh, and make the vow of celibacy compulsory on none but monks and priests and nuns. But this excuse also is excessively frivolous; for, first, they nevertheless make holiness to consist in these things; next, they set up a false and spurious worship of God; and lastly, they bind consciences by a necessity from which they ought to have been free.
In the fifth book of Eusebius, there is a fragment taken out of the writings of Apollonius, in which, among other things, he reproaches Montanus with being the first that dissolved marriage, and laid down laws for fasting. He does not say, that Montanus absolutely prohibited marriage or certain kinds of food. It is enough if he lay a religious obligation on the consciences, and command men to worship God by observing those things; for the prohibition of things that are indifferent, whether it be general or special, is always a diabolical tyranny. That this is true in regard to certain kinds of food will appear more clearly from the next clause,