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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 themselves 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 testifies 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 Solomon 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
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 ungodly man under his sanction, unless he be in a public 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 wicked 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,