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thinkest thou is to be said concerning those who do signs and prophecy, and yet are not in any office? For we read of certain persons, Luke ix. 49, who wrought signs, and yet were not the disciples of Christ: and the apostles told Christ this and made it known to him : saying, “ Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him, because he followeth not us.” To whom he answered, “Forbid him not : for he that is not against us is for us.” Now this was a private person to whom the office of teaching had not been committed by Christ : and yet he said, that such an one should not be forbidden; and he gave the reasons also, Mark ix, “ For there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.”Hence, that is true which we said at the first : that God never permits any miracle to be wrought by an evil and iungodly man under his sanction, unless he be in a jpublic office: and even then, he does not permit the -miracles to be wrought on account of the persons,
but on account of the office. But where true signs are wrought by a private man, it is to be believed that he is a righteous and good man: even as there are private revelations made unto such by visions and dreams, &c.
But all such signs will tend to this :--the glorifying and promoting Christ and the Gospel.
Thus thou hast two kinds of signs. First, those which are good and real, and which are wrought by good men and Christians. · And then, those which, iwicked men work, but who are men engaged in office, and who teach what is right. But, all must be brought to this touchstone to be proved : according to which also, all persons must be tried, whether good or evil, whether in office or not in office :--that is, whether the signs wrought tend to the praise and glory of Christ, and to the commendation of faith. But, if thou perceive that thou art by these signs drawn to something else; that is, to visit saints and to worship and to pray unto them, to deliver souls from purgatory, and, in a word, unto a trusting in thine own works, and to a cleaving unto thy own righteousness; then, immediately say,
Even though thou shouldst work all miracles, so that I might even see and touch them, yet I will not lend any faith unto thee; for Christ has sufficiently warned me to beware of all such signs.
This rule also God himself has given, Deut. xiii. 1-3, and has set it before us in these words, that we might follow it, “ If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them ; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams,” &c. In which words he has stated the grand criterion by which they are to be known, that they may be avoided : which is this : -- when they contend that new ways, of worshipping God are to be instituted: that is, when they do not continue in the one only pure sincere doctrine, but begin to introduce a something else that is new : for here all faith and credit are to be denied them, even if they should daily show forth signs innumerable. For God himself has moreover explained the above-cited passage; adding, “ For the Lord you God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul ! As if Moses had said, For God will try your faith, whether ye will hold that doctrine constantly, which is already delivered unto you and prospers.
But, to sum up the whole in few words, no sign is to be received against the confirmed doctrine, how great soever it may be. For the Commandment of God unto us, is, to “hear him," that is, CHRIST! Moreover, it has been foretold us in numberless passages, that false prophets will come and will shew forth great signs and wonders, but that by these they will only draw us away from Christ into error and into their vanities. Therefore, there is no remedy more wholesome, than that we well understand the true doctrine and have it ever before our eyes; and then, according to it judge rightly and skilfully of all things ;-whether they teach us the Gospel,
and that faith which we daily mention in our prayers ; which is, I believe in Jesus Christ, that he suffered for me, and that he died, and was buried,' &c.; or, whether they teach any thing else that is contrary to Christ.
Thus then we are now sufficiently pre-admonished, if any one will but listen to the admonitions. But the inculcating of these things will have but little effect upon the common multitude
of men, even as hitherto it has been of no avail. And I am fully persuaded, that if any one should come forth in Wittemberg, and should shew forth one sign, all would immediately flock unto him. For this is the way of the world, that when any thing new or unheard of before comes out, they are immediately turned away into a wondering at it, and accounting every thing else naught, that is, the Word and doctrine ; and they go with open mouths after this new thing only, how diligently soever we may exclaim against it. Even as they have ever hitherto yielded themselves up to be deceived and led away by the most palpable and most impudent lies; and, as it were, have permitted themselves to be made to swim in a whole sea of such lies, just where any vagabond has wished, when he has risen up and broached any new falsehoods concerning some new relicts of saints : and men being caught with such an one, have flocked to him in crowded roads and streets. And all that led them on, was, an inconsiderate curiosity and headlong impulse of mind; and also pride, under the influence of which, they have despised and loathed the Word. And in addition to all this, the devil also has come in with his goads : by whose workings upon men's minds, false signs have ever drawn more followers after them than true. For no one either sees or regards the signs which were wrought by Christ and his apostles : but if any one casts out a devil, that exceeds all miracles ! Therefore, if they will not receive admonition, they cannot lay the blame of their destruction upon us.
CONCERNING FALSE PROPHETS.
Matt. vii. 15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Christ had hitherto been rightly establishing the true doctrine and life, and warning us against all those things that are contrary to that life and doctrine, and that may be offensive unto them and destructive of them. And now, in addition to all that, he here uses another exhortation; that we may take heed again and again, lest, even after the true doctrine and life have been rightly established and have flourished, teachers should rise up amongst us, who, under the name of true preachers of the Gospel, may bring in some other doctrine, and may pervert, and even sap the foundations of, both the true doctrine and life. For it cannot be, but that the true, right, and sincere doctrine of the Gospel will be fought against by the devil every where, every way, and by all possible means, both external and internal : even as Christ said at the beginning of this sermon of his, that it would come to pass, that he who would be a Christian must have all men his enemies. First, those who are placed out of the pale of Christianity; who will hate, persecute, and afflict him, either by beating and killing him, or by accusing, execrating, and condemning him, as much as lies in their power. And therefore, the conclusion is certain, that he who has no haters, calumniators, and persecutors, is not yet a Christian, or has not openly confessed his faith by external works : for as soon as ever he begins to make his confession, he will stir up the hatred and envy of men against himself, who, as much as lies in their power, will devote him to death. Thus, those are his open enemies who are without the pale of Christianity: and these every one can see and feel.-- But, in addition to these (as Christ would say) ye shall have other enemies : not those who are
without and who deny the doctrine, but those who grow up among you, and usurp, and boast of, your name and title : these will produce a mighty havoc, and will be the destruction of many. As to the former kind of enemies, they, although they may rage to the utmost extent, can do no more than strip those who trust in this life and the things thereof: they cannot by any violence take away from me my heart and ту
faith. But these latter do not at all lay any snares for the life and property : they allow my substance to remain untouched : but they insidiously strike at the true doctrine, in order that they may plunder my heart of its inestimable treasure: namely, of the Word of God : for the sake of which, we endure every kind of persecution from the former kind of enemies. And this is the height of the miserable calamity,—that those who are our brethren, and who boast of the Christian doctrines, should rise up in furious arms against us, and, under the name of the Gospel, take away the true doctrine, and introduce another doctrine in its place! Concerning which Paul also, when departing from Asia, admonished the Ephesians, Acts xx. by foretelling them that men should rise up among them who would speak perverse things,' &c. And this
is what may deservedly raise the lamentations and complaints of many, that those should attempt these things, who are among us and of our company : whom we considered to be sincere, and of whom we never thought of bewaring, till we received the injury from them.
This is that persecution against Christians which is foretold us throughout the whole scripture, and which has prevailed ever since the beginning of the world : for the same happened unto Moses himself from among his people, and the same befel also Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham in ther families. And though there were in the family of Adam only two children, yet sedition, &c. was to be raised by one of them. And I believe we also have experienced the same in no common instances. For what a number were there in the beginning who stood by us, and enforced with us the preaching of the Gospel,