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they will enter into judgment with God, and will begin to reason with him, saying, 'Do we not most rightfully deserve heaven who have preached in thy name, and have become renowned for so many signs wrought and wonders performed ?'- But how comes it to pass, that, though they work signs and wonders in the name of Christ, they are yet numbered among the false Christians, and condemned men? I believe, and I know it to be a truth, that God never vouchsafes any sign or testimony to confirm lies. And he himself declares this, Deut. xviii. 20—22, “The prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or that speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if thou say
in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken ? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” But here, we have quite the reverse set before us--that these characters really do signs, &c. in his name, and yet, are nevertheless false and bad men.
First of all, this answer and reason may not improperly be given :-that such did in the beginning run like true Christians, taught sincerely, and wrought signs, but afterwards fell away: and this without doubt comes to pass by the wickedness of the devil. Hence, St. Paul warns even the Corinthians against growing pleased with themselves, and swelling with arrogance; which often takes place when a Christian begins to feel what he is,—that he excels others, and that he is gifted with no common understanding, wisdom, and other gifts ; and thus, he goes on, till he separates himself from the true wheat, and becomes empty chaff; that is, a vainglorious Thraso : and yet, he all the while thinks that matters are going on exceedingly well with him, and that he is a good and gracious person. Of this sort of men there have been many, and there still are not a few in this our day. For it is a trying and perilous state, when
God adorns any man with great and eminent gifts ; lest he should lift up his head haughtily, and swell with pride, instead of repressing and restraining himself, and walking with a humble mind.
This answer and reason, I say, may with propriety be given : which, however, it is not my design to pursue any farther, although it is true. For the principal thing here to be understood, is, that Christ is speaking of false prophesying and false working of miracles : as he is speaking also, Matt. xxiv. 24, “ For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders : insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect.” And Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 9, 10, saith concerning AntichRIST, “ Whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved.” From all which things it is manifest, and therefore certain, that false signs must be wrought in the midst of Christians, which false signs will, by false Christians, be considered to be true. These things have arrived at all their height in Popery: though it is also evident, that there are the same kind of priests and singular saints among the Turks also: - to see which things, let their books only be read and examined: but more especially, those books which the monks have written, which are filled with signs and wonders of this kind : which signs, nevertheless, are mere lies, and the most consummate and most insolent iniquities.
But, who can enumerate all the impostures of this kind that are practised by the devil and the monks; by which the eyes of the people are blinded under the name of Christ, Saint Mary, Saint Cross, Saint Cyrene, &c. : all which impostures, the monks have practised with the most devoted efforts, and have deluded the whole world to that extent, that no one dares to open his mouth against them. There was no pope nor bishop who would root out these superstitions by the Word of God, for all joined together and helped each other in
establishing and multiplying them. And although there were some found who resisted, yet they were soon overcome and repressed. Even as not long before their present times, it happened unto Ernestus, Bishop of Saxony, of whom they said, that when he had destroyed a certain diabolical temple of this kind, he fell into a dreadful disease as a punishment; and was compelled to hurry the rebuilding of it with all possible speed.—It was by such monstrous bugbears and diabolical impostures as these, that the fire of purgatory arose and was confirmed, together with particular masses for souls, worshippings of the saints, undertaking religious pilgrimages, and building monasteries, churches, and secluded retreats. Nay, no small number of these characters became famous for their predictions of future events; as Liechtenberg and others. But all these things are, at the instigation, and by the co-operation, of the devil ; that he might thereby confirm his abominations and lies, blind the eyes of men, and hold them captive in error, that none might escape his snares.
INDEED, it is by no means contrary to the purposes of the devil to permit himself to be cast out, when he wishes, even by the most abandoned and wicked reprobate : though in reality, he himself still remains an outcast, and, by this very means the more powerfully holds and entangles men deceived by this imposture. Nay, he even knows how to conjecture of, and divine concerning future things; being a spirit so crafty and experienced. Though, in truth, he always deludes and laughs at men by these his divinations; giving such ambiguous answers, that his oracles may be interpreted many and various ways; so that, which way soever the event may turn out, he establishes his truth : even as it was among the antients and their priests of Apollo and Jupiter, and Hammon, and the priests of other nations also. And when these priests and their wonderful signs are seen, all men become mad, and immediately fly about in all directions, crying out with one voice, 'God certainly dwells here!'. Here are miracles to be seen indeed, which are quite palpable !' But they know not how to
judge, and to perceive, that it is the devil himself that works all these things, on purpose to deceive and seduce men. Nor do foolish men consider, that Christ clearly foretold all these things long before, and forwarned us of them both by himself and by his apostles. But so it was to be: all these things have come upon us most deservedly, from our having first despised the Word of God, and refused to examine it: and therefore, we have lost Christ, and found all these signs of the devil. And moreover, this sport exactly pleases the devil; for by means of it, he has gotten a most powerful dominion throughout Christendom; which was just what he was seeking after.
Since, therefore, we have seen these things, and have abundantly experienced, to our great evil, what' great injuries the devil has brought in by means of these false signs and lying spirits, I think it becomes us, being thus rendered wiser from the evils we have suffered, to act' more prudently, and not to suffer the Word of Christ, (as those who were before us did,) to lie neglected as if it were spoken in vain; lest the same thing should happen unto us which happened unto them. For these words of Christ are a declaration, or rather, a prophecy, written on purpose to admonish us. But alas, it was too late for those who were before us. It is, however, sufficiently in time for us, if we do but embrace it: that is, if we do not suffer ourselves to be moved, what signs and wonders soever they may boast of as being wrought by Saint Mary and other saints: which signs they extol with all the pomp of words, that they may draw us away from the Word. Being, therefore, thus admonished, let us act wisely; knowing, that these false signs must be wrought, that we might learn to have no faith in any mere naked sign.
Christ has most abundantly and faithfully admonished us, where, speaking of these same kind of signs, Matt. xxiv. 25, he says,
“ Behold I have foretold you.” As if he had said, Beware, and take heed of my words, and follow them : if
you do not, ye will most certainly be implicated in errors and seduced. But,
ye have my Word: from which ye know what is the will of my Father. Ye have therein my doctrine, which shows unto you how ye ought to live, and also, what ye ought to do. Ye see, on the other hand, signs contrary to that Word. Therefore, ye can thus conclude :-Since I see on the one hand great signs, but have, on the other, a doctrine that warns me against them; therefore, I am first to observe to what these signs tend; and I am to try them in that way in which they are to be tried; to see, whether they tend to confirm my faith in this article of the Word--that Christ died for me, that I might by him be justified before God and saved; and then, that I am to live in my appointed state of life, and to do those things faithfully which he has commanded me. But, after weighing these things I find all quite the contrary:namely, that these characters endeavour by these signs to confirm their own vanities, and establish their own merchandize, teaching men thus, Run to this or that saint. Put on a hooded-cloak, or hide thyself in a desert,' &c. And this is to draw me away from Christ, out of my church and congregation, and also from baptism and the sacrament, wherein I ought to remain, and also in all the works that are commanded me in my condition of life. Therefore, I will not listen to such men nor know them, even though an angel should descend from heaven, and raise the dead before my eyes. For Christ hast taught me to cleave unto the Word and Sacraments ordained by him: and tells me, that I shall only find him where they are: and that I am to remain there, and not to seek him any where else: because he never draws nigh unto us but where baptism, the Gospel, and the office of the ministry are: by the means of which it is that he flows into our hearts and holds communion with us. Moreover, as he saith, .: Obey thou thy parents, princes, and masters, faithfully, &c. : and remain in thy station of life. It is there, therefore, most certainly, that thou hear him and find him present with thee. Why then like a madman dost thou run to stones and trunks of trees, where no Word of God is taught at all, but where men blind the eyes of