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ing, (for it is totally blind to these things,) that all works of this kind most widely differ and depart from the Word of God. And if you ask her how it is that she knows that such works really are as precious as she makes them to be; she has no other answer to give, than, that they appear to be so unto her.' But, O reason ! rather go thou to perdition, together with thy opinion, than that I should trust my salvation unto thee. A man must be certain, not merely think; and must have an infallible foundation and testimony confirmed by the Word of God, which shall assure him that his work is agreeable to that Word; that he may with certainty say, 'This work is a good work :' or * This state pleases God.' And of that I am to be certain ; not according to what seems good or evil to my own natural light and blinded reason; but because it is done according to the Commandment and the Word of God. For, as to myself, I am sure to think that no father or mother of a family, no prince, no judge, nor any other person, can be so great a saint as he who lives in some secret corner, or passes his life in a desert. But I am not to judge according to my own opinion. And although any one should cast out devils, and should perform all the miracles that ever were performed by the apostles, yet I am rather to choose to be a cobbler's drudge, or wash dishes in a scullery, according to the Word of God, than be such an one. And I am to prefer such a low station to all a man's opinion of himself, even though he could call souls out of hell upon earth again. Wherefore stand thou fast in this truth, and know, that to bring forth good fruit, is to do those works, and to live that life which spring from the Word and Commandment of God.
These words, therefore,“ By their fruits ye shall know them,” are set up as a standard, and held up as a mark by which we are to be directed. If we be deceived, the fault is our own, and no one's else. For Christ has not left us in doubt, but has painted out all false characters, in their own colours, with the utmost exactness. If (saith he) ye know not how to judge of
them because of the sheep's clothing coming in the way, then look at their fruits and works, whether they be good and sincere. But you will say, “How am I to know them? for those works may impose upon the most wise and discerning man?'-I answer: Thou doubtlessly knowest what are the Commandments of God. Mark then, whether their works are consistent with, and agreeable unto, them. For I will venture to aver as a certainty, that no Anabaptist will come, without leaving such traces behind him, as shall make it manifest that the devil was with him. No false doctrine or heresy ever arose, which did not carry with it that mark which Christ here gives ;-that is, which did not command, ordain, and teach, those works as necessary to be done, which God never commanded. And the reason why the world is seduced as it is, is none other, than because it -suffers itself to be led by maddened reason, and permits the Word of God to fall into disuse, as if hidden under a bench, or laid up in rust; not at all regarding what that Word saith, but following the deluded sight of its own eyes, wherever it perceives any thing new uncommon.
Let him, therefore, who would rightly judge in these matters, do as Christ bids him. Let him set the works of these characters before him, and judge of them. Let him examine their fruits, and compare them with the Word and Commandments of God. He will then soon see, to 4, certainty, how far they agree with them, and will be enabled to give them an answer? - In this way only view a most holy monk of the order of the Carmelites, with his strict and rigid profession : and, on the other hand, the apostle Paul with the Ten Commandments. You will here find Paul teaching thus,— When ye have apprehended Christ by faith, then, be subject to all the higher powers, exercising mutual charity among yourselves in all stations and conditions. - Behold! Here thou hast a true picture of the Christian life, according to the Commandments and ordinances of God.
But here, the Carmelite will insolently cry out, • These things that thou commandest are quite common.
Many bad men live in these stations and conditions and all the things which thou mentionest are worldly.'– And with these words he betakes himself away; and having put on his hooded-cloak, or his grey jacket, he returns ; and considers that life to be the most precious, and that state the most perfect, where such a way of living is pursued. But thou, instructed by the Word of God, canst soon judge of him, and say, “ But where has God commanded thee to choose out to thyself, and to follow, such a singular way of life, and such works, contrary to all those conditions and situations of life which he has himself ordained ?--I know, indeed, quite well that there are in every situation of life not a few bad men, but yet there are some good; and what matters it to me if some men abuse those conditions and situations? I nevertheless still cleave to the Word : wherein I am taught, that such conditions are good although bad men till them : and I set that Word before ine to follow, that I may direct my life according to it. Since, therefore, it is evident that the condition itself is good, it is equally certain that the works and fruits thereof, which are done according to the Word of God, are good also. But when thy condition of life is confirmed by no Word of God, then, of necessity, neither can the works that are done therein be good; but the tree and the fruits, are alike rotten and nothing worth.'
Thus, thou hast in this scripture a certain standard ; by judging and discerning according to which, thou wilt never be deceived; for Christ has here taught thee that these characters are to be known by their fruits.—I myself also, when I have endeavoured to search out the origin, the principles, and tenets, of all heretics and sects, have always found, that they have ever brought forward something new and contrary to the Word of God, which God never enjoined nor commanded to be done; and that one has done it in this point, and another in that. One has taught that certain things are not to be eaten : another has forbidden matrimony: a third has condemned the civil magistrate. And every one has devised something new of his own: so that, it
is certain that they have all erred from the true way. Wherefore, as I said, our main point lies here : --that we become well instructed in, and acquainted with, what Christ calls good works and fruits.-That is a good work which is enjoined in the Commandment and Word of God, and which lies in that Commandment. Thus, any one woman who is married to a man, and retains constantly her faith in marriage, can say and boast, that her station in life was instituted of God, and that she has the righteous, pure, and sincere Word of God, and pleases God from her heart: and therefore, her works are purely good works.
Therefore, that is not to be considered good which merely seems so according to our own opinion, but that which God calls and pronounces good. Let this be thy brazen wall, and thou wilt not err from the right way; as they err who follow their own opinions. For this truth stands firm,—that they can teach no good work or fruit. Moreover, God withstands them, and prevents them from teaching any thing in their assemblies than merely works of their own 'devising, and those frivolous and ridiculous. And since they despise good fruits and works, because they are such as do not carry much splendid show with them, God also despises their rotten works, while they set forth with an allattracting splendour, and attempt to frame out better things than he ever heard or thought of.
There is an old proverb that is continually applied to ministers, which, (if I mistake not,)men got from the
vil himself. It is this— When God was making a priest, the devil was there as a spectator ; and he immediately set to work to make one exactly like him, to see if he could not make a priest also. But when, in so doing, he made the crown a little too large, he turned him into a monk : and hence it was, that those diabolical creatures derived their origin.'—Which fabulous story is ridiculous, and used in a way of contempt, but it is at the same time most true. For wherever the devil sees God to enjoin obedience, and mutual love among men, and to institute a pious and religious private life; he cannot
help setting to work too, to build and institute his holy secluded retreat, and to teach his monkery, his obedience, and his difference of garments and meats, &c. Therefore, in every age and time, monks are the priests of the devil ; seeing that, they deliver nothing but mere devilish doctrine unto men, or, as Paul calls it, a doctrine chosen by their own opinion; whereby they vainly attempt, with an impious purpose of mind, to improve upon those works which are commanded of God.
What, therefore, Christ here intends is this; - If your mind is to know false prophets, and to judge of them, then, embrace the pure Word of God with your whole heart, that ye may be certain about what are right fruits, may be able to see how their life and doctrine accords with those fruits, and may thus find out to a certainty that such persons teach far different things from those which God has commanded. In which way, ye will be enabled to prove the tree itself; and discover that it is not good but rotten.
PROPHETS AND WORKERS OF MIRACLES
Matt. vii. 22.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?
These are mightily great and excellent men; and yet, they are awfully deceived, and on a sudden are cut down and fall headlong into hell! The former of these characters, of which Christ is here speaking, go down to hell as jolly fellows, if they be not previously converted to the faith ; (but I hope, not a few of them are converted in the agony of death, are brought to acknowledge their error, and are saved.). These men will have it, that they are sure of heaven, and satisfied of their state :