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mortals by diabolical signs ? as if Christ himself were there, where his Word is not !
Behold! it is in this way that the mouths of the Papists ought to be stopped, who, according to their custom, so pride themselves upon their fathers, their councils, and their numerous signs and wonders: by means of which, they attempt to comfirm all these impostures :. and we ought to make them this short reply.
Let us compare both together. I have here the Word of Christ, concerning which I am fully assured, and which has now been most powerfully confirmed throughout the whole world. But thou, on the other hand, bringest forth unto me thy doctrine and signs : by which I am led away after rosaries, pilgrimages, the worshippings of saints, masses, monkery, and other selfdevised and self-chosen singular works : in all which I do not hear one word about Christ, nor baptism, nor the sacrament, nor about that obedience and those works which are to be shown forth toward my neighbour, according to my situation in life as Christ has taught me; but I hear that which is quite the contrary.-- Therefore, all these signs cannot be true: but both the signs and the doctrine are diabolical impostures!
Thus can we clearly know and judge all false signs ; and say, I am not at all moved by signs, nor should be even though thou shouldst raise the dead unto life before my eyes
: for all these things may deceive, but the Word of God cannot deceive. For the devil so knows how to work upon men, and can deceive them with such delusions, that he may for a time hold a man as if dead; and then permit him to come to life again, by allowing him the use of his senses, as if he had raised him from the dead. Or, he can also take away the sight of any ones's eye, or afflict any of his limbs with some disease, which he may afterwards permit to be healed, while men are made to think that these healings were the signs and wonders of some great saint or other!
Moreover, God also permits réal signs to be wrought as a punishment unto those who disregard the truth, (as
Paul saith,) and as an admonition unto others. For so great are the sins of ingratitude and contempt of the Werd, that no wrath is sufficiently fierce to punish them as they deserve. And this is what we shall see, if the world shall be permitted to remain a little longer. For it will involve itself in such iniquities, by the one sin of despising the Word of God, that the state of Christians will be far worse than that of all the false signs that ever have been wrought, or ever will be! For God will send an abundance of false prophets into the world, because of its utterly loathing and refusing to hear his Word, and following after other things with wonderful curiosity; by the influence of whom, it will be brought into an inextricable labyrinth and abyss of errors; as we have hitherto seen to be the case in all the churches, monasteries, and schools, where nothing else was held forth and taught; and where all their books were crammed with nothing else besides these vanities, signs, and impudent lies. Nor was their reason for so doing any other, than that such signs might continue to be wrought : as though it were not predicted with sufficient clearness, that such things would come to pass, and that men would be seduced by such signs, so awfully so, that the elect should scarcely be saved. But, all these things happened unto those justly, who suffer themselves to be so easily seduced, and will not be admonished. Whereas, Christ has freely given us his Word, wherein we are instructed how to believe and live; which Word has been fully and abundantly confirmed by signs wrought by himself; and with this Word he himself will be content; nor will he add any thing else unto it; but will defend by all his power that which he has once spoken. These characters, nevertheless, still go on to devise new doctrines, and to institute better ways of living, (as they imagine,) contrary to the Word and true signs of God.
Therefore, Christ here saith, I will not at all regard them, even though they should boastingly say, ' Lord, have we not wrought many signs, and exhibited many virtues in thy name?' but I will pronounce this sentence upon them, “ I never knew you : depart from me ye
workers of iniquity.” But they will answer, 'Why Lord ? Are there not many manifest signs and wonders that we have wrought in thy name, which cannot be denied?' But he will answer, . Why have ye set at nought my Word confirmed by my own signs, and brought in a new doctrine of which I knew nothing? and why have ye ruled the world according to your own will, following your own sensual desires ? As, therefore, ye have set at nought my Word, and have not done the will of my Father, I will not know you in a way of goodness and grace.'— But while they are going on in their own course here
upon earth, they will by no means persuade them, selves that this will be their case; imagining, that they shall have the first place at the right hand of God; though they will on a sudden experience the truth of Christ's words. —This, then, is the right meaning of these words ; which Christ speaks concerning the false signs that false prophets work for the confirmation of their doctrine ; which prophets, he will not know, not even with all their signs and prophesyings.
But, in addition to all this, there is a far deeper consideration: though I know not whether it be proper to introduce it here. It is this :That God sometimes permits evil and ungodly men to work true signs.--Hence, Caiaphas the high-priest, John xviii. prophesied: as did also Balaam, Numbers xxiv. who delivered a most beautiful prophecy concerning Christ, as Moses himself tęsa tifies : whence it is certain, that the Holy Spirit of God entered into him, and prophesied contrary to his will.: as was the case also with respect to Caiaphas. Nor can: it be denied, that Judas also wrought many signs as well as the other apostles and disciples.—What then shall we say to these things ? John himself, indeed, answers the question ; when he says of Caiaphas, that he prophesied during that year in which he was high-priest. For it may come to pass, that such a man thus placed in a public office, or any magistrate, may prophesy and work signs; and may moreover be the author of many good things; may be of the greatest utility, and may gain many men unto God; while he himself may neverthe
less be a bad and abandoned man, and one that shall certainly go down to the devil! Thus, a preacher employed in a public office, may, if we rightly examine the matter, be a man that does the greatest of works : nay, one that works signs and wonders beyond all that ever were done in the world. For, in his office he may teach thee by the Word and by the sacrament which he administers unto thee: and he may draw thee to the faith, and snatch thee out of the power of the devil and from eternal death, and make thee a partaker of the heavenly kingdom. Which are works that far exceed all external signs and wonders : though the man himself by whom these works are done, may be an ungodly man, and an unbeliever.
Wherefore, in all such cases, we are immediately to betake ourselves to the Word of God, and judge according to its rule, and not according to the person employed in the office. And thou hast already heard what was said concerning those signs which are not wrought according to the word of God, but designed only to establish something else,—that there is not one letter said about them in the scriptures, (as commanding them to be done.) But, the prophecy of Caiaphas the high-priest, signified, that Christ should by his death redeem men from death, sin, the devil, &c. And this was a true and excellent prophecy, though he who delivered it, delivered it from a virulent and malicious heart. So also the prophet Balaam, though he was a wicked man, yet prophesied truly as a prophet concerning the people of God, and concerning Christ; and God spoke by him. Therefore, where any preacher is lawfully discharging his office, and does signs by virtue of that office, he is to be heard. But if he wants to be tyrannical and to follow any other way, he is no longer to be accounted a true preacher, but a false prophet.
Thus also, while the apostle Judas taught the Gospel and did signs, (who, we know, was of the devil, upon the testimony of Christ himself,) we cannot deny that those signs were wrought by virtue of his apostolic office: namely, for the purpose of confirming Christ, in
order that people might believe in him. And do thou judge in the same way of all others, who have offices committed unto them in the Christian world. For they are not all Christians or good men who are in office and preach; nor is it the design of God that they should be so. Thus, Caiaphas prophesied, not as Caiaphas, or as a murderer and a deadly robber, but as the high-priest.
So it is also with respect to worldly things; as Solomon saith, Proverbs xvi. 10, “A divine sentence is in the lips of a king:” that is, all things which a magistrate appoints are right. Wherefore, as often as he judgeth criminals and evil-doers, and punishes them with death, it is the judgment of God which he himself pronounces in heaven, and will have to be put in force; even though, out of office, no man can kill another. And thus the scripture makes all those, to whom any office or administration is committed, prophets or mouths for God: even though frequently, with respect to their persons, they are robbers and tyrants : as Solo-' mon again testifies, Prov. viii. 15, “ By me kings reign :” that is, their laws and their sentences are mine, and whatever they do by virtue of their office, while they reign rightly. The greater part of these, nevertheless, are notorious robbers in the world, and shamefully abuse their right and power according to their mind's lust. Yet, while they remain in their office and do those things that are right, all that they do are the commands of God. Nor is it otherwise in common life when a prince or a master gives any charge to a servant, or sends out his ambassadors : for they are immediately heard and honoured, (even though those who have the embassy committed to them may be the most abandoned characters,) not however on their own account, but on account of their prince or their master, whose office and charge they bear.
But let it suffice to have spoken thus concerning persons who are in public offices, by whom signs and wonders are wrought; some of whom are good, some bad men ; which, however, neither adds any thing to, nor takes any thing from, the office. - What then