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Chapter VI.

What assurance men extraordinarily called can give to others that they are so called in the former way.

The next thing to be considered is, what assurance he can give to others, and by what means, that he is so called. Now, the matter or subject of their employment may give us some light to this consideration; and this is, either the inchoation of some divine work to be established amongst men, by virtue of a new and never-before-heard-of revelation of God’s will, or a restoration of the same, when collapsed and corrupted by the sin of men. To the first of these: God never sendeth any but whom he doth so extraordinarily and immediately call and ordain for that purpose; and that this may be manifested unto others, he always accompanieth them with his own almighty power, in the working of such miracles as may make them be believed, for the very works’ sake which God by them doth effect. This we may see in Moses and (after Jesus Christ, anointed with the oil 32of gladness above his fellows to preach the gospel) the apostles. But this may pass, for nothing in such a way shall ever again take place, God having ultimately revealed his mind concerning his worship and our salvation, a curse being denounced to man or angel that shall pretend to revelation for the altering or changing one jot or tittle of the gospel. For the other, the work of reformation, there being, ever since the writing of his word, an infallible rule for the performance of it, making it fall within the duty and ability of men partaking of an ordinary vocation, and instructed with ordinary gifts, God doth not always immediately call men unto it; but yet, because oftentimes he hath so done, we may inquire what assurance they could give of this their calling to that employment. Our Saviour Christ informs us that a prophet is often without honour in his own country. The honour of a prophet is to have credence given to his message (of which, it should seem, Jonah was above measure zealous); yet such is the cursed infidelity and hardness of men’s hearts, that though they cried, “Thus saith the Lord,” yet they would reply, “The Lord hath not spoken.” Hence are those pleadings betwixt the prophet Jeremiah and his enemies; the prophet averring, “Of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you,” and they contesting that the Lord had not sent him, but that he lied in the name of the Lord. Now, to leave them inexcusable, and, whether they would hear or whether they would forbear, to convince them that there hath been a prophet amongst them, as also to give the greater credibility to their extraordinary message to them that were to believe their report, it is necessary that “the arm of the Lord should be revealed,” working in and by them in some extraordinary manner. It is certain enough that God never sent any one extraordinarily, instructed only with ordinary gifts and for an ordinary end. The aim of their employment I showed before was extraordinary, even the reparation of something instituted by God and collapsed by the sin of man. That it may be credible, or appear of a truth that God had sent them for this purpose, they were always furnished with such gifts and abilities as the utmost reach of human endeavours, with the assistance of common grace, cannot possibly attain. The general opinion is, that God always supplies such with the gift of miracles. Take the word in a large sense, for every supernatural product, beyond the ordinary activity of that secondary cause whereby it is effected, and I easily grant it; but in the usual restrained acceptation of it, for outward wonderful works, the power of whose production consists in operation, I something doubt the universal truth of the assertion. We do not read of any such miracles wrought by the prophet Amos, and yet he stands upon his extraordinary immediate vocation, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son, but the Lord took me,” etc. It 33sufficeth, then, that they be furnished with a supernatural power, either in, — 1. Discerning; 2. Speaking; or 3. Working. First, The power of discerning, according to the things by it discernible, may be said to be of two sorts: for it is either of things present, beyond the power of human investigation, as to know the thoughts of other men’s hearts, or their words not ordinarily to be known, — as Elisha discovered the bed-chamber discourse of the king of Syria (not that by virtue of their calling they come to be καρδιογνώσται, “knowers of the heart,” which is God’s property alone, but that God doth sometimes reveal such things unto them; for otherwise no such power is included in the nature of the gift, which is perfective of their knowledge, not by the way of habit, but actual motion in respect of some particulars; and when this was absent, the same Elisha affirmeth that he knew not why the Shunammitish woman was troubled); or, secondly, of things future and contingent in respect of their secondary causes, not precisely necessitated by their own internal principle of operation for the effecting of the things so foreknown; and, therefore, the truth of the foreknowledge consists in a commensuration to God’s purpose. Now, effects of this power are all those predictions of such things which we find in the Old and New Testament, and divers also since. Secondly, The supernatural gift in speaking I intimate is that of tongues, proper to the times of the gospel, when the worship of God was no longer to be confined to the people of one nation. The third, working, is that which strictly and properly is called the gift of miracles, which are hard, rare, and strange effects, exceeding the whole order of created nature, for whose production God sometimes useth his servants instrumentally, moving and enabling them thereunto by a transient impression of his powerful grace; of which sort the holy Scripture hath innumerable relations. Now, with one of those extraordinary gifts at least, sometimes with all, doth the Lord furnish those his messengers of whom we treat; which makes their message a sufficient revelation of God’s will, and gives it credibility enough to stir up faith in some, and leave others inexcusable. All the difficulty is, that there have been Simon Maguses, and there are Antichrists, falsely pretending to have in themselves this mighty power of God, in one or other of the forenamed kinds. Hence were those many false prophets, dreamers, and wizards mentioned in the Old Testament, which the Lord himself forewarns us of; as also those agents of that man of sin, “whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders,” 2 Thess. ii. 9. I mean the juggling priests and Jesuits, pretending falsely by their impostures to the power of miracle-working, though their employment be not to reform, but professedly to corrupt the worship of God. Now, in such a case as 34this, we have, — 1. The mercy of God to rely upon, whereby he will guide his into the way of truth; and the purpose or decree of God, making it impossible that his elect should be deceived by them. 2. Human diligence, accompanied with God’s blessing, may help us wonderfully in a discovery whether the pretended miracles be of God or no, for there is nothing more certain than that a true and real miracle is beyond the activity of all created power (for if it be not, it is not a miracle); so that the devil and all his emissaries are not able to effect any one act truly miraculous, but in all their pretences there is a defect discernible, either in respect of the thing itself pretended to be done, or of the manner of its doing, not truly exceeding the power of art or nature, though the apprehension of it, by reason of some hell-conceived circumstances, be above our capacity. Briefly: either the thing is a lie, and so it is easy to feign miracles; or the performance of it is pure juggling, and so it is easy to delude poor mortals. Innumerable of this sort, at the beginning of the Reformation, were discovered among the agents of that wonder-working “man of sin,” by the blessing of God upon human endeavours. Now, from such discoveries a good conclusion may be drawn against the doctrine they desire by such means to confirm; for as God never worketh true miracles but for the confirmation of the truth, so will not men pretend such as are false, but to persuade that to others for a truth which themselves have just reason to be persuaded is a lie. Now, if this means fail, — 3. God himself hath set down a rule of direction for us in the time of such difficulty: Deut. xiii. 1–5, “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: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death.” The sum is, that seeing such men pretend that their revelations and miracles are from heaven, let us search whether the doctrine they seek to confirm by them be from heaven or no. If it be not, let them be stoned or accursed, for they seek to draw us from our God; if it be, let not the curse of a stony heart, to refuse them, be upon us. Where the miracles are true, the doctrine cannot be false; and if the doctrine be true, in all probability the miracles confining it are not false. And so much of them who are immediately called of God from heaven, [as to] what assurance 35they may have in themselves of such a call, and what assurance they can make of it to others. Now, such are not to expect any ordinary vocation from men below, God calling them aside to his work from the midst of their brethren. The Lord of the harvest may send labourers into his field without asking his steward’s consent, and they shall speak whatever he saith unto them.

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