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Many bad men live in these stations and conditions : and all the things which thou mentionest are worldly.'And with these words he betakes himself away; and having put on his hooded-cloak, or his grey jacket, he returns; and considers that life to be the most precious, and that state the most perfect, where such a way of living is pursued. But thou, instructed by the Word of God, canst soon judge of him, and say, ' But where has God commanded thee to choose out to thyself, and to follow, such a singular way of life, and such works, contrary to all those conditions and situations of life which he has himself ordained ?--I know, indeed, quite well that there are in every situation of life not a few bad men, but yet there are some good; and what matters it to me if some men abuse those conditions and situations? I nevertheless still cleave to the Word: wherein I am taught, that such conditions are good although bad men fill them: and I set that Word before me to follow, that I may direct my life according to it. Since, therefore, it is evident that the condition itself is good, it is equally certain that the works and fruits thereof, which are done according to the Word of God, are good also. But when thy condition of life is confirmed by no Word of God, then, of necessity, neither can the works that are done therein be good; but the tree and the fruits, are alike rotten and nothing worth.'
Thus, thou hast in this scripture a certain standard ; by judging and discerning according to which, thou wilt never be deceived; for Christ has here taught thee that these characters are to be known by their fruits.—I myself also, when I have endeavoured to search out the origin, the principles, and tenets, of all heretics and sects, have always found, that they have ever brought forward something new and contrary to the Word of God, which God never enjoined nor commanded to be done; and that one has done it in this point, and another in that. One has taught that certain things are not to be eaten another has forbidden matrimony: a third has condemned the civil magistrate. And every one has devised something new of his own so that, it
is certain that they have all erred from the true way. Wherefore, as I said, our main point lies here:that we become well instructed in, and acquainted with, what Christ calls good works and fruits.-That is a good work which is enjoined in the Commandment and Word of God, and which lies in that Commandment. Thus, any one woman who is married to a man, and retains constantly her faith in marriage, can say and boast, that her station in life was instituted of God, and that she has the righteous, pure, and sincere Word of God, and pleases God from her heart: and therefore, her works are purely good works.
Therefore, that is not to be considered good which merely seems so according to our own opinion, but that which God calls and pronounces good. Let this be thy brazen wall, and thou wilt not err from the right way; as they err who follow their own opinions. For this truth stands firm,-that they can teach no good work or fruit. Moreover, God withstands them, and prevents them from teaching any thing in their assemblies than merely works of their own devising, and those frivolous and ridiculous. And since they despise good fruits and works, because they are such as do not carry much splendid show with them, God also despises their rotten works, while they set forth with an allattracting splendour, and attempt to frame out better things than he ever heard or thought of.
There is an old proverb that is continually applied to ministers, which, (if I mistake not,) men got from the devil himself. It is this- When God was making a priest, the devil was there as a spectator; and he immediately set to work to make one exactly like him, to see if he could not make a priest also. But when, in so doing, he made the crown a little too large, he turned him into a monk and hence it was, that those diabolical creatures derived their origin.'-Which fabulous story is ridiculous, and used in a way of contempt, but it is at the same time most true. For wherever the devil sees God to enjoin obedience, and mutual love among men, and to institute a pious and religious private life; he cannot
help setting to work too, to build and institute his holy secluded retreat, and to teach his monkery, his obedience, and his difference of garments and meats, &c. Therefore, in every age and time, monks are the priests of the devil; seeing that, they deliver nothing but mere devilish doctrine unto men, or, as Paul calls it, a doctrine chosen by their own opinion; whereby they vainly attempt, with an impious purpose of mind, to improve upon those works which are commanded of God.
What, therefore, Christ here intends is this;- If your mind is to know false prophets, and to judge of them, then, embrace the pure Word of God with your whole heart, that ye may be certain about what are right fruits, may be able to see how their life and doctrine accords with those fruits, and may thus find out to a certainty that such persons teach far different things from those which God has commanded. In which way, ye will be enabled to prove the tree itself; and discover that it is not good but rotten.
PROPHETS AND WORKERS OF MIRACLES REJECTED.
Matt. vii. 22.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?
These are mightily great and excellent men; and yet, they are awfully deceived, and on a sudden are cut down and fall headlong into hell! The former of these characters, of which Christ is here speaking, go down to hell as jolly fellows, if they be not previously converted to the faith; (but I hope, not a few of them are converted in the agony of death, are brought to acknowledge their error, and are saved.) These men will have it, that they are sure of heaven, and satisfied of their state:
they will enter into judgment with God, and will begin to reason with him, saying, 'Do we not most rightfully deserve heaven who have preached in thy name, and have become renowned for so many signs wrought and wonders performed?'-But how comes it to pass, that, though they work signs and wonders in the name of Christ, they are yet numbered among the false Christians, and condemned men? I believe, and I know it to be a truth, that God never vouchsafes any sign or testimony to confirm lies. And he himself declares this, Deut. xviii. 20-22, "The prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or that speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." But here, we have quite the reverse set before us-that these characters really do signs, &c. in his name, and yet, are nevertheless false and bad men.
FIRST of all, this answer and reason may not improperly be given :—that such did in the beginning run like true Christians, taught sincerely, and wrought signs, but afterwards fell away: and this without doubt comes to pass by the wickedness of the devil. Hence, St. Paul warns even the Corinthians against growing pleased with themselves, and swelling with arrogance; which often takes place when a Christian begins to feel what he is, that he excels others, and that he is gifted with no common understanding, wisdom, and other gifts; and thus, he goes on, till he separates himself from the true wheat, and becomes empty chaff; that is, a vainglorious Thraso: and yet, he all the while thinks that matters are going on exceedingly well with him, and that he is a good and gracious person. Of this sort of men there have been many, and there still are not a few in this our day. For it is a trying and perilous state, when
God adorns any man with great and eminent gifts; lest he should lift up his head haughtily, and swell with pride, instead of repressing and restraining himself, and walking with a humble mind.
This answer and reason, I say, may with propriety be given: which, however, it is not my design to pursue any farther, although it is true. For the principal thing here to be understood, is, that Christ is speaking of false prophesying and false working of miracles: as he is speaking also, Matt. xxiv. 24, "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders: insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect." And Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 9, 10, saith concerning ANTICHRist, "Whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved." From all which things it is manifest, and therefore certain, that false signs must be wrought in the midst of Christians, which false signs will, by false Christians, be considered to be true. These things have arrived at all their height in Popery: though it is also evident, that there are the same kind of priests and singular saints among the Turks also:to see which things, let their books only be read and examined: but more especially, those books which the monks have written, which are filled with signs and wonders of this kind which signs, nevertheless, are mere lies, and the most consummate and most insolent iniquities.
But, who can enumerate all the impostures of this kind that are practised by the devil and the monks; by which the eyes of the people are blinded under the name of Christ, Saint Mary, Saint Cross, Saint Cyrene, &c. all which impostures, the monks have practised with the most devoted efforts, and have deluded the whole world to that extent, that no one dares to open his mouth against them. There was no pope nor bishop who would root out these superstitions by the Word of God, for all joined together and helped each other in