Declaring what deceipts men lye open to in judging those things to be works of the Spirit, which indeed are not.
1 JOHN 4. 1.
THe Apostle having asserted immediately before, in the verse precedent of the former chapter, a true and sure sign of our state of Grace, viz. The sa∣ving and sanctifying operations of Gods Spirit, by which the Spirit disco∣vers it self, as the sun doth it self by its beams and heat, or as the rational soul manifests it self by rational operations: He doth in this verse regulate us in our proceeding about this sign, advertising us not to be too credulous, or overhasty in believing every thing that may seem to be of the Spirit. Where by the way you may see it's no good argument against the use and truth of signs, That men may be deluded, and think they have them, when they have them not: For the Apo∣stle at the same time saith, We know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he hath given us, and yet addeth, believe not every spirit, taking Spi∣rit in both places Metonimically, the effects of the Spirit either real or pretended, for the efficient cause, the Spirit it self: So that in the words you have a cautiona∣ry admonition, set down
First, Negatively, Believe not every spirit: That is, every Doctrine or Doctor, pretending Revelations from the Spirit, and by consequence not thy own heart, either in Doctrine, or Consolation that may seem to be of the spirit: for although the words following argue spirit, to be meant of Doctrinal positions, yet the words going before in the former chapter, are to be understood of the operations and consolations of Gods spirit; and therefore we may understand it universally of all the works of Gods Spirit, whether relating to Doctrinals or Pra∣cticals.
In the next place the duty is set down Positively, Try the Spirits, which is to be meant thus, by the word of God: for all tryal supposeth some rule by which the thing tryed is to be examined: and this duty is imposed upon all believers, who though they have not a judgement of Decision, yet have of Discretion for their own selves.
Page 130 In the Third place you have the reason of this Examination, Because many false Prophets are gone out into the world; Many who shall boast of the Spirit, and say, It lodgeth with them: And that we may be the better guided in this Examina∣tion, he layeth down one rule as it concerneth Doctrine, verse 2. Hereby we know the spirit of God, if it confesseth that Jesus Christ is come into the flesh: which may be understood either largely, as acknowledgeing all matters that pertain ei∣ther to the person and office of Christ; so that although we may acknowledge Christs incarnation; yet if we deny his offices, we offend against this rule, and so have the Spirit of Antichristianism, as in Popery; or else more strictly, for that de∣terminate particular point of Christs incarnation; for though a man be heretical in other points, and so have the spirit of Antichrist, yet so far as it acknowledgeth this truth, it is of God. And thus Austin said, Hereticks and Schismaticks are of the Church, so far as they hold any thing that is true and good: but wherein they are divi∣ded from truth, they are divided from the Church, and wherein they are united in truth, they are united to the Church.
Obs. That a man may much delude, and deceive his own soul, about his spiritual estate, by judgeing those things to come from the spirit of God, which indeed*do not.
We may think indeed we have revelations, raptures, spiritual consolations from the Holy Ghost, when we are all the while in great delusions: this point deserveth many things introductory for Explication.
First, The spirit of God doth in and by the word, comfort, assure, or instruct the soul so certainly, that the true believer is not, or cannot be deceived. Therefore the Scripture calls it, The testimony of the spirit, and the sealing of the spirit: and it would be horrid blasphemy to make the spirit of Truth, the spirit of Falshood: Hence Faith, which is the work of Gods spirit, is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, words that signifie a sure and certain establishment: we must not there∣fore with the Papist, who commendeth doubting for humility, prophanely make such scoffing interrogations as these: one man thinketh he hath the spirit, another thinketh he hath the spirit, and yet anathematize one anothers spirit: therefore there is no certainty about our knowledge of having the spirit in us: For howso∣ever hypocrites may be deluded, and hereticks deceived about the spirit, yet those that indeed partake of the Holy Ghost, they are not deceived. It is true, this evi∣dence and perswasion cannot be made clear to another: and no wonder, for God giveth not this perswasion to assure others, but that heart in whom it is. Take we heed therefore, that because there have been miserable and sad instances of hor∣rible delusions by men boasting of Revelations, and spiritual raptures, that we fall not into Atheistical, or Sceptical thoughts about the true works of Gods spirit.
Secondly, Therefore to make you afraid herein, it is an high sin to attribute those*works which are done by the spirit of God, to impostures and diabolical delusions. Al∣though we are to Examine the spirits, whether they be of God, whether in our selves, or others: yet to make that coming from the Divel, which is indeed of God, is a sin of the greatest magnitude. Therefore take heed least that which thou sayest is hypocrisie, and dissimulation in the Godly, be not indeed true Godliness in them, and so thou do despight to the spirit of Grace. It is a great dispute, What is the sin against the holy Ghost? Austin said, Forte in omnibus Sanctis Scripturis nulla ma∣jor quaestio, nulla difficilior invenitur, it may be there is no more difficult question in all the Scripture: Yet Math. 12. 32. It seemeth to lie much in this, when a man doth wilfully, and maliciously attribute those works that are done by Gods spirit, to the Divel, as they said, Christ cast out Divels, by the Prince of Divels. Hence Mark, 3. 30. giveth the reason why Christ spake of this sin to the Pharisees, because they said, He hath an unclean spirit. It would be like boldness, said Atha∣nasius, if we should attribute the Creation of the world to Beelzebub. And howso∣ever Page 131Cajetan and Jansenius take the words Holy Ghost essentially, as if it were to be understood of blasphemy against God, and so any of the Persons, because its spo∣ken oppositely, and by way of distinction unto a sin against the son of man, yet it is more ordinarily understood of the third Person, yet not as the third Person, but as it is his proper work to enlighten or sanctifie. Therefore as we must take heed we do not embrace Diabolical delusions for the spirits Operations, so also take heed of calling the spirits Operations, Diabolical Suggestions; and this especially con∣cerneth some of Gods own children, who will not take notice of the graces of Gods spirit in themselves, but reject all as hypocrisy and falshood: know that in this thou callest good evil, and light darkness: hence the Schoolmen make despair one part of the sin against the Holy Ghost, because unbelief doth immediately op∣pose the spirit of God comforting and sanctifying of thee. Be therefore afraid how thou deniest Gods work in thy soul, this is a greater sin then thou thinkest of in do∣ing so.
Thirdly, The Divel is Gods Ape, and imitates him in all those waies or worship that God hath appointed. Hence there hath been no true way of God at any time, but * there hath also been a counterfeit way of Satan at that time. How wonderfully was Jesus Christ demonstrated to be the son of God by signs and miracles, yet our Saviour himself said, There should be many false Christs: so there are false Pro∣phets, and false Apostles, all which did boast of the spirit, and that they had re∣ceived doctrines from Christ: Some learned men say, The History of Apollonius Thyaneus with his strange wonders, was writ on purpose to obscure Christs wonder∣full signs, Salm. Tract. 2. de virtute signorum Christi. 2 Thes. 2. 2. The Apostle ex∣horteth the believers, Not to be shaken in minde about the day of Christs coming, neither saith he, By letter or word, as from us, nor by the spirit. Some there were that told the Church they had Revelations, and secret illuminations of Gods spirit about this: 2 Cor. 11. 13. There are false Apostle transforming themselves into the Apostless of Christ; and no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an An∣gel of light. Thus wheresoever that Christ or the Spirit is in the Church of God, Satan hath his juglings and cosenings: and therefore as God is said to have his 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, deep things, so have they the depths of Satan also.
Fourthly, These delusions of Satan may be, and are as large as the works of Gods*spirit. The spirit of God, is the spirit of Truth, and leadeth into all Truth: Now Satan hath his delusions about Doctrines: hence come all those Heresies in the Church of God: As Christ hath his Apostles, and Pastors in his Church, To build up in the most holy Faith; so the Divel hath his false Apostles, and his Instruments of darkness. Again the spirit of God is our comforter, and joy is a proper fruit of the Holy Ghost: Now the Divel by delusions and suggestions, can fill the heart with much consolation: hence he is called an Angel of light. Now light in the Scripture, signifieth not onely Truth, but joy and gladness: whence have those joys and consolations flown, which have been in those that have been manifestly in Satans waies, but from Satan? Again the spirit of God doth perswade, and im∣bolden the heart by believing against all discouragements whatsoever. Thus the Divel also doth imbolden, and harden a man in a false way, that he hath no fear at all. Hence the Divel is said To fill Ananias his heart: that is, as learned De Deiu sheweth by a parallel place out of Ecclesiastes, obfirmed and made his heart audaci∣•us: so that as in the Godly there is, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, so in deluded men there is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Their Spirits and hearts are raised, and fitted for bold∣nesse to any false way.
Lastly, The spirit of God doth foretell things that are to come: And this is proper∣ly to Prophesie: and this the Prophets did; Agabus and others in the New Testa∣ment. Now the Divel also may use his instruments to foretel something to come: not that of his own nature he can foretel things to come, for so it's Gods property; but by Revelation from God, God justly permitting this for to punish those that shall be seduced: thus the Divel told Saul what should befall him. And in the story Page 132 of the Anabaptists in Munster, when a Law was made, That all the Citizens should bring their goods into the common stock, there were maids that could tell certainly how much every man had hidden at home of his goods: Now this is like that of Ananias and Saphira: and this Revelation (very probably) was by the just judgement of God made to the Divel; for seeing the Divel is an instrument to execute Gods justice and wrath, what should hinder him from knowing that which God on purpose imployeth him about for the judgement of others. Aemulantur di∣vinitatem dum furantur divinationem. This is clearly confirmed, Deut. 13. 1, 2. Where a false Prophet is said, To give a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder is supposed to come to pass: So that false Prophets may by Gods permission and Re∣velation foretel some things to come: but mark the reason why God permits this, The Lord your God doth this to prove you. Oh therefore with what holiness, humi∣lity, and circumspection ought the children of God to walk in the midst of such Delusions: In so much that it is called, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 The efficacie of de∣ceiving.
Fifthly, As the Divel in a Church corrupted, and defiled with Idolatry and Su∣perstition, doth there prevail by humane Traditions, and Forms of will-worship,* whereby all spiritual worshipping of God is wholly neglected: so in times of re∣formation, then he seduceth men in another Temptation, under the pretence of seting up the spirit, and its revelations, it crieth down the word of God, and all the ordinary Ministerial Officers Christ hath appointed. The first worthy Reformers, and glorious instruments of God, found a bitter conflict herein; so that they were exercised not onely with Formalists, and Traditionary Superstitious Papists on one side, but men that pretended themselves to be more enlightened, then the Refor∣mers were, on the other side: hence they caled those that did adhere to the scripture & would try revelations by it, Vocalistas & Literistas Let•erists & Vowallists, as men acquainted with the words and vowels of the scripture, having nothing of the spirit of God. And wheresoever in any Town the true Doctrine of the Gospel brake forth to the displacing of Popery, presently such opinions, like Tares, came up a∣mong the good Wheat, whereby great divisions were raised, and the Reformati∣on made abominable, and odious to the world; as if that had been the Sun to give heat and warmth to those Worms and Serpents to crawl out of the ground. Hence they inveighed against Luther, and said, He had onely promulged Carnale E∣vangelium, a carnal Gospel. And that the Protestant Doctors did onely Carna∣lia sapere, by them indeed aliquot fr•ndes de Antichristianismo succis•, s•d arborem & radices adhuc superesse. They burnt all books but the Bible, and said, That hap∣py time was come when all should be taught of God. Many remarkable passages I might further relate but this may suffice to shew, That as the Divel in one time of the Church in the deformation of it, deceiveth by superstitious, pompous, and visible worship; so at another time, in the reformation of it, doth he delude by re∣velations, and pretended high Teachings of the spirit of God, even above the Scri∣pture.
Sixthly, That therefore we may not split our selves upon inevitable Rocks, God hath left us his Word as a Rule, by which all revelations, and operations of his spirit*are to be tryed. All the Scriptures are 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉by Divine inspiration; and there∣fore the breathings of Gods spirit, are to be expected in this Garden: and those commands of attending to the Scripture onely, and to observe what is written, is a plain demonstration that God hath tyed us to the Scriptures onely: so that as the child in the womb liveth upon nourishment conveighed by the Navel cleaving to it, so doth the Church live onely upon Christ by the Navel of the Scripture, through which all nourishment is conveighed: Hence the Apostles Doctrine, though in∣spired by the Holy Ghost, Yet was examined by their hearers, whether agreeable to the Scriptures: And for this their zeal was commended: hence it is, That because these erronious persons could not prove all their dogmatical assertions by scri∣pture, they accuse the scripture as insufficient and imperfect.
Page 133 As the word of God is the Treasure of all revealed truth, so God also implant∣ed a Natural truth in our consciences; so that the Spirit of God doth suggest no∣thing that is contrary either to revealed Truth, or implanted Truth, The Anabap∣tist instanced in by Spanhemius in his History, pretended he had a revelation to kill his brother, which accordingly he did: this revelation could not be of God, because against natural light, but of the Divel. Whatsoever is either against revealed, or implanted light in Men, cannot be thought to come from the Holy Ghost.
Seventhly, As the operations of the spirit of God, are discovered by the rule of Truth, so also by the concomitants and effects of them: Which are two especially, *holiness of life, and humility.
If you examine the course of the false Prophets in the Old Testament, and of those recorded in the New, their fruit was corruption in manners, and worship, encouraging those that were ungodly in their evil ways: It was Michaiah onely, not the other 400 Prophets that Ahab hated, because he only faithfully reproved him for his sin: so the Prophetess suborned by Nehemiahs adversaries, was to discou∣rage him in the work of Reformation. Humility also will quickly manifest the spirit of God working in a man: Paul had a great rapture, even into the third heavens, but least he should be lifted up with the multitude of revelations, there was a thorn in the flesh, and buffettings of Satan continually afflicting of him. The holy Ghost descended in the form of a Dove upon Christ, to shew how meek and humble the operations of it are in those where it dwels.
Lastly, Not onely suggestions from Satan may delude us, as if coming from the * Spirit, but also violent motions, and strong imaginations of our own hearts; we may take them as coming from Gods Spirit, which flow onely from the violence of our own spirits: Thus the false Prophets, they speak of themselves, and according to the strong inclinations of their own heart: so great a matter is it to difference that which is humane in us, from that which is divine. Now the reason, why in delusi∣ons we are so confident, Is
First, From the violence of all false motions, whether from our selves, or of Satan. They being 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 irregularities, do hurry the soul beyond all bounds and limits; so that the Divel worketh in mens souls, as he did on their bodies, with violent and sudden alterations: and these must needs produce strong passions and affections in us, of love, joy, or hope; whereas the spirit of God working conformably to the rule, is more sedate, and orderly. Indeed the efficacy of Gods spirit is demon∣strated by that apparition of fiery •loven tongues, and by a mighty rushing •ind; but at another time appearing in the form of a Dove, demonstrateth that it is such fire and power, as also is consistent with other graces of meekness and humility. Hence the people of God, who are partakers of the Holy Ghost, are also possessed with an holy fear and trembling in themselves, whereas others are not so.
Secondly, Therefore are men confident in these, Because they are admired by others,*and they draw a multitude of disciples. Many times even godly men have been drawn aside too much after those, who have pretended to Revelations, and Extasies. The Apostle speaks 1 Cor. 2. 4. That he was among the Corinthians, not in enticing words of mans wisdom, but in the demonstration of the spirit. But how was that? because his Doctrine was consonant to Gods word, and it was companied with an efficacious power to raise up to all Godlines. Now false Apostles, that they may also be applau∣ded, would gladly come in some demonstration of the spirit; nothing so prevailing as such resemblances: It is known in Ecclesiastical story, how fouly Tertullian was deluded by admiring of Montanus and Priscilla as Prophets, contemning all others as meer natural men: It is said of Swinkfeldius, who so much magnified Revelati∣ons, and debased Scripture, That Caput regulatum illi defuit, cor bonum non de∣fuit, he had a good heart, though not a sound head: so easily are good men tempted away, with that which seemeth to be more spiritual then ordinary.
Page 134 Lastly, Therefore are men so confident in these things, Because to many these delusions come by way of a judgement for abusing former light, and not receiving the*truth in the love of it. Those four hundred false Prophets in Ahabs time, are thought by the learned to be true Prophets at first, and such as were in the company and Colledge of the other Prophets; but abusing that gift to the pleasing of men, and seeking themselves, they were justly by God delivered up to such a false way. And that they were hardened in this deceitfull way, appeareth by Zedekiahs im∣pudence, 1 King. 12. 24. When he strook Michaiah upon the cheek, saying, which way went the spirit from me to thee? Thus if there be Revelations among the Pa∣pists, as they bragg of them, What is the fruit of them, but to confirm them more in believing of a lye? And where spiritual judgements are, they make secure, and full of self-flattery.
Now the reasons why we are not to rely on these, are *
First, Because that cannot be the mark of a Godly man, which is not the note of a Church. Now although Bellarmine make Lumen Propheticum, Prophetical light a mark of the true Church, and would prove that we are not the true Church, because we have no Prophets, or Revelations amongst us, as they have: yet the Orthodox do reply, that even false Prophets may have prophetical illustrations, as is before quoted, Deut. 13. 1. and certainly Balaam was a wicked man, yet for all that, he had a spiritual Revelation from God. Yea, and Caiaphas, one of the worst of men, yet it is said he prophesied, because he was high Priest that year: Therefore though thou hadst predictions, divers Raptures, and extatical illuminations, yet these are no sure mark of thy good condition: and seeing men unsanctified, may by the Holy Ghost work wonderfull things, is it such a strange thing if they may also have several raptures?
Secondly, Neither may these be regarded, Because such pretended illuminati∣ons,*are consistent with the works of ungodliness, and injustice, as appeareth Math. 7. Those that prophesied in Christs name, were yet workers of iniquity. Spanh•imius out of Sleidan hath several instances like wise to confirm it, In his short history of the A∣nabaptists. Therefore the surest discovery of Gods spirit in us, is not by any pre∣tended Revelations, raptures, or secret conference with God, but by holiness, hu∣militie, and a conversation justifiable by Scripture-rules: Therefore what the Apo∣stle said of all outward ceremonial worship, Bodily exercise profiteth little, and op∣poseth it to godliness; so we may say, This soul exercise profiteth little, and op∣pose it to godliness: but godliness is profitable to all things.
Use of instruction, to direct us between two rocks: Take heed of being found in the number of those that scoff at the Spirit, and the workings thereof, con∣demning * all the godly for Enthusiasts and Illuminists. This is the rode of pro∣phane and superstitious men, that cannot abide the very word of the Spirit. This is to go far on in the way to the sin against the Holy Ghost: and then on the other side take heed of a contrary error, that under the pretence of Revelations, thou despise the Scriptures, the Ministry, and the Ordinances. If Satan cannot seduce thee the former way, then he sets upon thee in the latter way. We might out of Ec∣clesiastical history, give you large instances of the sad ruins that have come upon many, being thus carried away: though upon some God had mercy, and recover∣ed them out of such delusions. Be not therefore credulous; be afraid lest God should leave thee; take great counsel and advice, that thou mayst not be seduced.