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“We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that
ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”—2 Peter 1. 19.
INSTANCE II. As for dreams and voices, the Scripture or the written word of God, is more excellent than those; and the light of Scripture is the best light in compare with any light that may come from them. For,
1. In many dreams there is much vanity. Eccles. v. 7: “ In the multitude of dreams, and many words (saith Solomon), there are also divers vanities; but fear thou God.” * It seems then that the fear of God doth not consist with these. Here is a check upon our attendance on these: but says the apostle, “ Let the word of God dwell in you richly;" there is no check on that.
2. Dreams are uncertain. Some are natural and some are supernatural. It is an hard thing to know whether the dream be natural or supernatural.t In case it be supernatural: supernatural dreams are either diabolical, from the devil; or divine, from God: and it is an hard thing to know whether it be of God, or from Satan. Some think, that if dreams do greatly afflict and trouble the mind with some sharp impression, then they are of God. “Because (says Pilate's wife) I have suffered many things this night in a dream:” and this dream of hers, say they, was of God. But others think rather that it was from Satan, who would have hindered the death of Christ, and so the great work of man's redemption. But if ye look into Job vii. ye shall find that he saith to God, “ Thou scarest me with dreams :" yet it was Satan that did it, for as before, when Satan by his in
* Somnia ne cures nam fallunt somnia plures. + Gregor. Moral. lib. 8.
Somnia Jeo meu la graviter animos somniantum feriebant, quod divinitus immissorum somniorum est quasi proprium.-Gerard in Gen. cap. xl. p. 705.
Somnia divinitus inspirata vehementer movent somniantem, habent impressiones valde acres, quale fait Pharaonis, in quo tanta fuit consternatio animi et eklaois et sentiret esse divinam quandam admonitionem.-Luther in Gen. 31.
Circa cognitionem humanæ mentis duo oportet considerate scil. representationem, rerum et judicium de rebus representatis si cui fiat divinitus representatio aliquarum rerum per similitudines imaginarias non est talis censendus propheta nisi illuminetur ejus mens ad judicandum.-Aquin. 22. q. 173. art. 2.
struments took all from Job, he saith, “ The Lord hath taken away;" so here, when Satan vexed and scared him with dreams, he saith to God, acknowledging his providence, 66 Thou scarest me with dreams:” and yet I say it was Satan, for he was put into Satan's hand, and whatever affliction he met with, it was from Satan and his instruments. So that the trouble and suffering of the dream, doth not argue that it is from God. It is a very hard thing to know whether it be of God, or from Satan. And in case that the dream be of God, yet it is an hard thing to know the meaning and interpretation of it. For Pharaoh had a dream, but all his magicians could not interpret it; that was a work for Joseph. And so, though Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, and that might be of God, yet neither he nor his wise men could tell the interpretation thereof; that was a work for Daniel, the work of a prophet. A wicked man may have a dream from God, but it requires the spirit of no less than a prophet to give the interpretation thereof. But now, are we at such uncertainties in reading the word? Can none but a prophet understand the Scripture? The priests and levites gave the sense of the word to the people ordinarily, yet they were no prophets. The word of the Lord is a light and lanthorn unto all our feet, plain and easy to be understood, in all those things that are absolutely necessary unto our salvation.
But may not God speak unto us by a dream now, if he will?
Without doubt he may, if he please; God is free. But where do we find in Scripture, that dreams are an ordinance of God now, wherein he hath commanded us to wait upon him for the expectance of any mercy?
And if God should speak to me by a dream, yet if I make that a sign of mine own godliness, or of God's love to me, then am I under a delusion; for even wicked men have had their dreams from God, Balaam, and Pharaoh, and Nebuchadnezzar, and others. Do I therefore dream a strange dream, and conclude that therefore I am in God's love, because he thus speaks to me? then am I deceived. What wise man is there in the world, that will or dare lay and venture his soul and salvation upon a dream, or the interpretation of it? But you may and must lay and venture your souls
and salvation upon the Scripture. Surely therefore the light of dreams is not to be compared therewith.
But suppose that I have an immediate voice, is not that to be compared with the Scripture ? An immediate voice, say you.
Either that immediate voice is from hell or from heaven: if it come from hell, to report and certify you of the torments thereof, that you may repent of your sins, then hear what our Saviour saith of that in compare with the Scripture: Luke xvi. 31, “ They have Moses and the prophets, and if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” And if that voice which you have, do come from heaven, then either it is the voice of an angel or of God himself. If it be the voice of an angel, then see what the apostle saith of that in compare with the word and Scripture: Gal. i. 8, “ Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed :” and this is that gospel which we have now written in this book of the Galatians. And if the voice which you have do come from God himself, then see what the apostle saith here of that in compare with the Scripture: verse 17, “ There came a voice to Christ, from the excellent glory, saying, This is my beloved Son; and this voice which came from heaven, we heard.” Verse 19, “ And we liave also a more sure word of prophesy, which is the written word;" for saith he, “ No prophesy of Scripture,” &c. So that ye see, this written word of God, or the Scripture, is beyond all dreams and immediate voices. It may be some will say, But may not God speak by an immediate voice to a soul now? To which I answer, What God may do is one thing; and what he doth in the way of a settled ordinance, wherein we are to wait on him and expect from him, is another thing. Ye read in Heb. i. 1, 2, thus : “ God who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken by his Son.” In time past he spake by visions, dreams and voices. If there be such an ordinance still, wherein we are still to wait on God, why doth the apostle make this difference between times past, and the present time of the Son? Nay, says Luther, but there is such a sufficiency in the Scripture, that though some men should
have visions, dreams and voices; yet the Scripture is so full, that nec curo, nec desidero, I neither care for nor desire them. I read of a certain woman, a religious lady of the empress' bed-chamber, whose name was Gregoria, that being much troubled about her salvation, did write to Gregory, that she would never cease importuning him until he had sent her word that he had received a revelation from heaven that she should be saved: to whom he returned this answer, Rem difficilem postulas, et inutilem ; Thou desirest an hard matter and unprofitable; hard for me to obtain, and unprofitable for thyself to have. And so say I, if any should come to me, desiring to implore God for such a voice, or dream, or revelation; I must answer, Man or woman, thou desirest an hard work for me to do, and a thing unprofitable for thyself to have. Thou hast the Scriptures, go search the Scriptures, wait thou upon God therein; for in them are the words of eternal life: they are a sure and a safe light, more sure, safe and certain, than all revelations, visions, dreams, or immediate voices. And thus I have done with the second instance.
Instance III. As for impressions made upon the soul, whether by a particular word or without it; the Scripture, or the written word of God, is more sure than those; and the light thereof, the best and most excellent light in compare with the light of impressions. For,
1. Impressions, though good, are not our daily food. Aqua vitæ, or strong water, is good in a quothing, fainting fit, but it is not good to make it our daily drink. So here, in case the soul be in a fainting fit, it is good to have the impression of some particular word or scripture: but this impression is not daily food; the word of God written is our appointed food, our daily food, whether it come with impression or without impression; this is that food and heritage which under God we must live upon. Ps. cxix. 111.
2. If all that light and comfort which men have from impressions be derived from the word, then the Scripture must be more excellent; for that which makes excellent, is more excellent; that which makes comfortable, is more comfortable. But look whatever light and comfort a man hath from the setting on, or impression of a particular word, is
from the word itself; for if any impression have not the impression and stamp of the word upon it, it is adulterate coin.
3. There may be much danger in walking and living by impressions, whether with or without a word. Good people are very apt and prone to walk and live by impressions, but it is a dangerous thing so to do; thereby some are nursed up in ignorance, and seek for no other knowledge in the study of the Scriptures, by comparing spiritual things with spiritual: thereby some are always kept unsettled in their spiritual state and condition; for if a word come, then they have comfort; but when none come, then doth their comfort fail: thereby also some are misled and carried from the good ways of God and his ordinances; for, I pray, what is the reason that so many, in these days of our's, have departed from the ordinances of Christ, but because they took up truths by impressions, ordinances of Christ by impressions, and the good ways of God by impressions; and so when false impressions came, they presently swallowed them, and have proved apostates; yea, and how many are there, who lie sucking the sweetness of the impression, do lose the sweetness of that very word which is impressed: as with a lamb or child that is sucking; though the child suck the teat or breast for a time, yet if you draw away the breast or teat, and give it a dry finger, it doth suck that. So it is with many; first they suck the sweetness of some particular word that is set on the soul: but when they live and walk by impressions, what do they then but suck the dry finger, the very impression ? and so do lose the sweetness of the word itself. But now take the word of God written, and there is no danger in living and walking by it; it is our duty to walk and to live thereby.
But is there no use then of impressions with or without a particular word? Is there no light that doth shine through them?
I answer, Yea, much, for they comfort in time of temptation, desertion or affliction. In case a man be in the dark, and God doth give out some particular word, setting it with power on his soul, it is much comfort to him.
Or in case a man be in some straits, not knowing which way to take. Two ways may be before him, both comfortable, both lawful; yet a man is troubled, and would fain go