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But to the purpose, he taught his followers to ask of God a sign, whereby he might testify that he cared for them, and that they were of the true religion ; and albeit he shewed not a token soon, yet must they nevertheless proceed, pray still, expostulate, yea, complain loudly of God, that he dealt not well with them. Oh blasphemy! “ This expostulation and anger,” saith he, “ is of God well accepted, for that he perceivcth hereby our earnest mind and zeal, and then no doubt, being thus urgently solicited, he will declare himself by some notable sign, and quench the thirst of our minds, dealing with us as he did in times past with the old fathers.” And then he makes a long speech to his followers, who were eight thousand, tells them they must not be afraid of their adversaries' guns: “ For all the bullets they shoot,” saith he, “ I will receive with my coat. Behold,” saith he, “ what a merciful God we have, behold a sign or token of his everlasting good-will towards us, lift up your eyes, and see the rainbow in the sky, for seeing we have the same painted in our ensign, God declareth plainly, that he will aid us in battle, and destroy the tyrants, wherefore set upon them with a bold courage.” They sung a song, and thereby call for the help of the Holy Ghost ; but when the ordnance played upon them, they were amazed and overwhelmed, saith the historian, neither defending themselves, nor seeking safety by flight, trusting to Munster's promise, and looking for help from heaven ; but they were miserably deceived, they were scattered, three thousand were slain, three hundred beheaded, Frankuse taken, and Munster put upon the rack. This story I mention to shew the danger of a delusion, and imagination of tokens from heaven, as in their case :
1. In open rebellion against lawful magistrates. 2. For confirmation of their religion.
3. Importuning and wrangling with God without a word of promise.
4. Charging God foolishly if he deny, &c.
We may call these truly fanatics, as Calvin oft doth ; and whoever build their religion upon the like weak and sandy foundation, will find it insufficient, and themselves deceived. God's children own none but a Bible religion, and dare not expect any thing of God, but what they have a scripture war
rant for in precept or precedent: but how far believers in succeeding ages may imitate the saints in scripture story, asking of God a sign, and enjoying it, I shall not at present discuss. It is true, history tells us of the nobles of Bohemia, * being to suffer the next day for the testimony of Christ, spent the night in prayer, singing the eighty-sixth Psalm, oft repeating the last petition, “Shew me a token for good;" one of them said, “Be of good cheer, for even in this God hath heard your voice, to-morrow he will shew some wonderful sign, whereby he will witness that we suffer for his cause." In the morning presently after sun-rising, a beautiful bow appeared, and compassed the heavens, the martyrs looked out at a window, and saw a rainbow of an unusual colour, though the heavens were clear, and there had been no rain for two days before; on which they fell on their faces, lifted up their hands and voices, praised God for this sign shewed from heaven, and afterwards suffered cheerfully that day for the truth. Another in the Marian days cried out at the stake, “Son of God, shine upon me;" immediately the sun in the firmament shone on him, though it was a dark and cloudy day. Many other instances I might produce, with which church histories abound, which it becomes not us to question, since God may grant peculiar dispensations to his suffering servants, in extraordinary cases, out of his usual course, but it is not safe for us to prescribe, or to expect that God should gratify our curiosity; we have a more sure word of prophecy contained in the holy scriptures,f which are able to make us wise unto salvation, yea, to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work. If we leave this scriptural way, and look for tokens from God in any other way, we expose ourselves to the danger of being deceived by lying wonders, and Satanical delusions. The devil would have persuaded Augustine to seek a sign from God, but he would not, because he saw many deluded by such apparitions, and therefore saith, “He that now expects miracles, is himself the greatest miracle," that is, of unbelief. Satan hath often transformed himself into an angel of light, and imposed upon credulous superstition. Gerson tells how Satan appeared to a
• Clark's Martyr. p. 170. + 2 Pet. i. 19. Eph. ii. 20. 2 Tim. iii. 15, 17. * 2 Thess. ii. 9.
holy man in a most glorious manner, * professing himself to be Christ, saying, he appeared to him because he deserved respect before others, but he acswered I desire not to see my Saviour in this vale of tears, it shall suffice me to see him in the heavens, Sit, in alio sæculo non in hoc, visio tua, merces mea, “let in the other world, not in this, the vision of thee be my reward.” The same we find appeared to Luther, in the form of a crucified Christ upon the wall, but on his solemn protestation the apparition immediately vanished.
It becomes God's people to adhere to the law and testimony, and to desire al welcome such tokens of God's favour as these :
1. God's holy ordinances. God gave the Sabbath to Israel as a sign of his being their God; Exod. xxxi. 13. The ark was a token of his presence, so are the word and sacraments to
God forbid such a day should come on us, not to see our signs ; Psal. lxxiv. 9. Better, said the people of Antioch, want the shining of the sun, than the preaching of Chrysostom.
2. The fruit of ordinances. If this and that man be born in Zion, it is a good sign of God's favour, and that God will establish it; Psal. lxxxvii. 5. Oh! where is the spirit of the Lord ? where is the Lord God of Elijah ? It would be a rich mercy to see a day of his power when people are made willing.
3. A spirit of adoption, of grace and supplication stirred up. When God prepares the heart, it is a sign he will cause his ear to hear ; Psal. x. 17. A spirit of sloth in this respect is a sad token of God's anger and absence; Isa. lxiv. 7.
4. A penitent reforming spirit. This was a token of good to Israel, Hag. i. 14, also to Nineveh, Jonah iii. 8. An unmalleable, unframeable spirit in a people, portends greater blows, Amos iv. 11. 12. And in our own individual cases,
let us be earnest with God for sanctifying grace, which is a singular token of his special favour, and a sign the second death shall not have power over us, Rev. xx. 6. His Spirit being in us is a sign of our interest in him, and resurrection with him, Rom. viii. 9, 11. Let us beg of him direction; some token for a way-mark to keep in God's way, the King of heaven's high road to the new Jerusalem, for this is a covenant mercy, Isa.
. De Probatione Spiritus.
xlviii. 17. Let us beg a special pledge for our protection and preservation, so far as is consistent with his heavenly pleasure, to be a mourner's mark in an evil day, Ezek. ix. 4. Let us beg of God some token of his affection for our satisfaction, some incomes of his grace, and sealings of his Spirit, which may be a blessed earnest of our future happiness, Eph. i. 13, 14. The earnest is part of the payment, so these comforts of grace are grapes of Canaan, morsels of the upper table, preludes and foretastes of eternal enjoyments. Suppose we were all malefactors, and the king offers a sealed pardon, and withal declares, that such as have not the great seal to shew, must suffer at the next assizes ; but such as have, must be received to favour, and
: honoured. The case is ours: O with what running, seeking, using friends, begging, enduring difficulties and trials, should we be content, that we may have a sealed evidence of the King of heaven's favour. Let the mocking Michals, and scoffing Ishmaels of the world say what they please, it is worth seeking, striving for, prizing and admiring: when God saith, “ Seek my face," why should not our souls echo, “ Thy face, Lord, will I seek," Psal. xxvii. 8.
This is the design of the small Treatise now put into your hands; and O that God would accompany our endeavours with his blessing, and second our preaching and printing, to begin and complete the great match between Jesus Christ and poor sinners; he hath drawn up the articles, and proposed them to you by us, his holy words speak his willingness, these want nothing now but your consent, and the match is made. O sinners, we bring you letters of love and kindness from our beloved, we shew you his excellency, we disclose the large dowry he offers you, the fair house you shall dwell in with him, the pains he hath taken for you ; whether all this will prevail we cannot tell, but if this be the last sentence I must write, or you read, I do by these presents summon you to answer this address before the dread tribunal of the great Judge at the last day, when this amongst other witnesses shall stand on record against you. If you entertain not this our gospel, and be not found in God's favour, ministers that warned you, at that day must say, Amen to your just condemnation.
But we would rather present you
THE EPISTLE TO THE READER.
as chaste virgins to Christ, as accepted of God and approved
It is our work to preach and write, yours to hear and read, and God's work to give success; we therefore follow these poor endeavours with our prayers to the Father of spirits, for converting and confirming grace, that thou Reader mayest increase in favour with God and man, as our Saviour did, that we may at last give up our account with joy, and not with grief, and that those who sow, and those who reap, may rejoice together ; which is the earnest prayer of,
Thy soul's friend,
November 9th. 1678.