Temptation of Christ
Every heresy began at one time with some little departure from the truth. You might begin with a little vague talk about “love” that ends with the doctrine of universal salvation and denies the existence of hell. A small seed may grow into a giant tree. J. C. Ryle writes of the danger of false doctrine in the church:
False doctrine does not meet men face to face, and proclaim that it is false. It does not blow a trumpet before it, and endeavor openly to turn us away from the truth as it is in Jesus. It does not come before men in broad day, and summon them to surrender. It approaches us secretly, quietly, insidiously, plausibly, and in such a way as to disarm man’s suspicion, and throw him off his guard. It is the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and Satan in the garb of an angel of light, who have always proved the most dangerous foes of the Church of Christ. . . .
I consider the most dangerous champion of [false doctrine] is not the man who tells you openly that he wants you to lay aside any part of the truth, and to become a free-thinker and a skeptic. It is the man who begins with quietly insinuating doubts as to the position that we ought to take up about religion, doubts whether we ought to be so positive in saying “this is truth, and that falsehood,” doubts whether we ought to think men wrong who differ from us on religious opinions, since they may after all be as much right as we are.
It is the man who tells us we ought not to condemn anybody’s views, lest we err on the side of the lack of love. It is the man who always begins talking in a vague way about God being a God of love, and hints that we ought to believe perhaps that all men, whatever doctrine they profess, will be saved. It is the man who is ever reminding us that we ought to take care how we think lightly of men of powerful minds, and great intellects (though they are deists and skeptics), who do not think as we do, and that, after all, “great minds are all more or less, taught of God!”
It is the man who is ever harping on the difficulties of inspiration, and raising questions whether all men may not be found saved in the end, and whether all may not be right in the sight of God. It is the man who crowns this kind of talk by a few calm sneers against what he is pleased to call “old-fashioned views,” and “narrow-minded theology,” and “bigotry,” and the “lack of liberality and love,” in the present day. But when men begin to speak to us in this kind of way, then is the time to stand upon our guard. (“Pharisees and Sadducees”)
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