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things of God;" and says the apostle Paul, “ I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” And how did Satan beguile Eve, but by persuading her to high things, that she should be like to God? And thus I fear many are beguiled even at this day amongst Or would
know a revelation of God's from the delusion of Satan by the event, in that some future thing is revealed to you, which doth fall out accordingly? then read what the Lord says in Deut. xii. 1; “ If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign, or a wonder, and the sign or wonder come to pass, saying, Let us go serve other gods, which thou hast not known; (verse 2) thou shalt not hearken to the words of that prophet, for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord
suffer a revelation to come to pass, and yet it may not be from the Lord, but to prove you, whether you love him, and will cleave unto him.* Or will ye know a true revelation from a delusion by your taste, per saporem, which is said to be the way whereby they did know that thing was of God? Then what an uncertainty will here be, that your whole salvation shall hang upon, and be ruled by your own taste. But now the written word of the Lord is certain, sure and stedfast; “ Heaven and earth shall pass, but not one tittle of the word shall pass ;” the least apex and tittle of it is more established than the mountains.
There is no danger in tending upon and taking heed to this Scripture light. 1. But if men do attend to revelations and visions, how easily may they be drawn to despise the Scripture, and such as do wait thereon. There were a generation of men, in Luther's days, that pretended unto great discoveries and revelations; men of great parts, and of high language; insomuch as Bucholcerus says of them, That they neither understood themselves nor others, nor others them,
* Sancti autem viri inter illusiones atque revelationes, ipsas visionum voces aut imagines quodam intimo sapore discernunt ut scient vel quid a bono spiritu percipiant vel quid ab illusore patiantur nam si erga hæc mens cauta non fuerit per deceptorem spiritum multis se vanitatibus immergit, qui nonnunquam solet multa predicere, ut ad extremum valeat animam ex una falsitate laqueare.—Gregor. Dialo. Lib. iv.
but were always speaking of revelations, visions, deifications, &c.* As for other men that kept close to the Scripture, they called them vocabulists, literalists, grammatists, and creaturists. And so now it will be also, if men once do attend, and take heed unto visions, they will easily despise the Scriptures and such as do take heed thereto. Yea, 2. And if men do attend to these visions and revelations, how easily may they be drawn into popery and superstition? How did Mahomet set up his Alcoran? but by persuading the people to attend unto revelation. And how did the papists so much prevail upon the nations of the world? but by their visions and revelations. Search the stories, and you shall find that both the Turkish Alcoran and the popish religion had their foundations here: and if Luther had hearkened to revelations and visions, and not kept close to the Scripture, what had become of his reformation ? Nay, but says he, Pactum feci cum domino Deo meo, fc. I have made a covenant with the Lord my God, that he may not send me visions, or dreams, or angels; Contentus enim sum hoc dono, quod habeam Scripturam: I am content with this gift, that I have the Scripsure, which doth abundantly teach and supply all those things that are necessary for this life and for the future. Yea, 3. If a man do once come to attend and take heed unto visions and revelations, how easily may he slide and depart into atheism; for what difference is there between an atheist, or a pagan infidel, and a Christian, but only this, that the Christian is for the Scripture, and doth adhere to that, the other not? Take away the Scripture from me, and there will be little difference between me and an infidel. But now the more a man doth attend unto visions, the more his heart and hands will be loosed from the Scripture. Surely, therefore, there is a danger in this ; but Scripture light is a sure and a safe light.
Why but, you will say, may not God speak by extraordinary visions and revelations, in these days of ours?
* Swenckfeldiani sunt ter miseri, nec se nec alios intelligunt, non se que non intelligunt se dicere pugnantia non alios idque non tam naturali sua tarditate ingeniorum quam eo quod tenentur irretiti suis quibusdam enthusiasticis laqueis unde se extricari summum putant impietatem, dementabant multot magnifecis istis verbis quæ semper illis in ore illuminatio, revelatio, deificatio hominis interioris et spiritualis, &c.—Scultet. Anual. an. 1525, pages 269, 270.
Yes, without all doubt he may: God is not to be limited, he may speak in what way he please. If God will, he may say to a man, as he said to Abraham, “Go and offer up thy son Isaac to me:" but is not that commandment, “ Thou shalt not kill,” a more sure and certain rule for me to walk by? God
may, if he will, say to a man as he once said to Hosea, “ Go and take thee a wife of fornications :" but is not that commandment, “ Thou shalt not commit adultery,” a more sure and certain word and rule for me to walk by ? What God may do I will not dispute: he may thus speak to men, if it please him; yea, and if we may give credit unto known histories, the Lord hath spoken in this way sometimes to some of his servants since the apostles' time. Cyprian tells us of four revelations, which the Lord gave him, before that persecution did come upon them. Mr. Fox, in the Book of Martyrs, tells us of many visions which one Gallus, a French martyr, had; and of one which Mr. Philpot had : Scultetus also, and Sleiden tell us that God did reveal it to Luther, that there should be no war in Germany whilst he lived. Yet there is a great deal of difference between faith in the promise and a vision or revelation. Possibly, then, the Lord may speak in such a way as this is to some of his servants. But now, that you may have a boundary in this matter, ,
Though God may thus speak to some of his servants, yet if I have an itching desire after visions and revelations it is ill. The Lord may work a miracle, and being wrought, I am bound to receive it; but I may not put God upon the working of a miracle. So here, if God will speak in this way to me, he may; but I may not put him on it without tempting of him; yea, I am to be so far from desiring God to speak in this way of a vision, as I am bound rather to be backward to it. For as Alvarez observes well,* If a master be abroad in the night, and the servant be backward to open the door unto him, and to let him in, lest some thief should counterfeit his voice; the master will not take it ill at the servant's hands, that he made him stay so long before he did open
the door, but will rather commend that servant. So, saith he, though a man be backward to receive these revelations, yet knowing what deceit there is abroad in the world, God will
* Revelationes caute recipiendas. Alvarez de vita spirituali de discretione spirituum. Lib. v. Cap. 4.
not take it ill at his hands, but will commend him for it. An itching desire after visions, argues that a man is not content with the Scripture; and is it not enough for us to see Christ in heaven? Gersom tells us * of an ancient father, who when the devil did appear to bim, in the shape and image of Christ, saying, I am come in person to visit thee, for thou art worthy; did with both his hands shut his eyes, saying, Nolo hic Christum videre; I will not see Christ here, it is enough for me that I may see him in heaven.
Though God may possibly speak in this way to some of his servants, yet if the revelation be contrary to, or diverse from the Scripture, it is not God's but the devil's; for says the apostle, “ Though we, or an angel from heaven, do preach
any other gospel to you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” Gal. i. 8; which he repeats again, and therefore good for us to mark again: “I say now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that which ye have received, let him be accursed,” verse 9.
Yea, though the revelation or vision be not contrary to the Scripture, yet if it be brought to try or confirm the doctrine of the gospel, it is not the Lord's; for the doctrine of the gospel is confirmed already, and that sufficiently. We read, indeed, Heb. ii. 4, that when Peter was at first to go and open a door to the gentiles, then the Lord did appear to him in way of a vision ; but after that truth was confirmed, that the gentiles should be called, then God appeared no more by vision for the confirmation thereof. Now the doctrines of the gospel are all confirmed by miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost; and therefore if any man have a revelation, to try or confirm any gospel doctrine, it is a delusion of Satan, not a revelation of God.
Though God may sometimes lead a man in extraordinary ways, and work by ways and means extraordinary; yet if a man's heart be drawn off from the ordinary means by what is extraordinary, it is not right. Mr. Greenham, famous for resolving cases of conscience, being once asked, as his book tells us, Whether there might now be visions, agreeable to
* Alter sanctorum patrum dum sibi dæmoni transfiguratus in Christum, diceret, Ego sum Christus personalitur te visitans qui dignus es; confestim clausit oculos utraque manu vociferans, nolo hic Christum videre, satis est ipsum in gloria si videro.-Gersom. de Probatione Spirituum.
the word ? he said, there might be such extraordinary; but, saith he, whoso is moved with them, and not with the word, wherewith he is charged to be moved, and is not drawn the more by the vision to the true means, that man's faith is suspicious. And I pray, what is the reason why the Lord will not have us to believe the prophet, in Deut. xiii., that doth foretell such things as do come to pass
? The reason is, because he seeks to turn you to other gods, whom ye have not known; and because he hath spoken to turn you from the Lord your God, and from keeping his commandments. Do I therefore come unto you, and pretend visions and revelations, that I may thereby turn a people from the good ways and ordinances of Christ ? then I am a deceiver, and if you receive me, or the pretended revelation, you are deceived also.
Though God did speak to his people of old by visions and revelations, and those were not always examined by the word written; yet now the Lord speaketh nothing to us in this way, but what he will have examined by the word : for says the apostle, “ If an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than what I have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” * Surely therefore the very revelations are to come under the examination of this word and gospel. And therefore, if there be any revelation that refuses to be examined by the word, it is a thief and a robber, an illusion of Satan, a vagrant, and not sent by God. And if the Scripture be that only lydius lapis, that touch-stone, whereby all our gold is to be tried; that light, whereby we are to try all our revelations and visions; then this Scripture light is the more excellent light in compare with the other.
And thus now I have done with the first thing, which doth pretend to much light in these days of ours; namely, visions and revelations. The Second followeth, namely, that of dreams and voices.
* Est autem moneta ista spiritualis revelationis tanquam aurea in quinque principaliter examinanda, scil in pondere, in flexibilitate, in durabilitate, in configuratione et colore ; quartum signum est veritas; est namque sacra Scriptura locus vel officina ubi cunus regius moentæ spiritualis reconditur, quod si cum aliquo vel minimo puncto denarius discrepet in sua figuratione, et super Scriptionem ad hoc cuno regis absque ulla dubitatione falsatus est.-Gersom de distinct verat. vision, a fal. page 584, tom. i.