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Q. What do you mean by visions? A. A vision is the supernatural representation of an object to a man when waking, as in a glass which places the visage before him; by which he has as clear a view of the things thus represented, as if they were the things themselves, and not the images and appearances of them. Thus St. Paul as clearly saw our Saviour by a representation or vision when he was in a trance in the temple, as he did when our Saviour actually and visibly appeared to him at mid-day, on the way to Damascus. By this means what sight, presence, and knowledge is to us in things sensible when we are awake, that vision is to such as are in an ecstasy. So that when the name of vision is given in Scripture to this way of revelation, it is not from any use made of corporeal sight, or that the eye is entertained with corporeal objects, but because of the clearness and evidence of what is represented, and by reason of the conformity it therein bears to outward and corporeal sense.
Q. What is revelation by dreams?
A. A revelation by a dream was the representation of an object made to a man in his sleep, and though it be as natural to a man to dream as to sleep, yet in this case the dream or revelation was supernatural. For to dr of such things then doing, or of such things to come, as are altogether independent upon the body, nor by any methods of nature or presumptive arts, to be known or foreseen, is supernatural. Thus to dream was natural to Pharaoh as to others, and his dream of the seven fat and lean kine might have passed under that character; but by such a dream to be made to understand, that there should be successively seven
Acts xxii. 17, 18. ix. 4. xxvi. 13. 1 Cor. XV.
years of great plenty, and then seven years of famine, could proceed only from a divine revelation.
Q. What do you mean by Prophecy?
A. The foretelling of things to come, which might be communicated either by vision or dream; for the Jews observe that prophecy was always received one of these two ways; grounding their opinion upon the declaration of God himself: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and speak to him in a dream. The Jewish doctors further tell us, that prophecy was a clearer revelation, and carried greater assurance along with it than either a vision or a dream without prophecy; and that this was common to all the three, that there was something of ecstasy or transport of mind in them. Indeed, the primary notion of a prophet seems to lie in declaring and interpreting to the world the mind of God, which he receives by immediate revelation; and hence it is that in Scripture the patriarchs, as Abraham and others, are called prophets, who were not so famous for any predictions uttered by them, as for declaring the mind of God from the frequent revelations they received. For it is altogether accidental and extrinsical to the nature of prophecy what time it has a respect to, whether past, present, or to come; but because future contingencies are the farthest out of the reach of human understanding, therefore the foretelling of things to come hath been chiefly looked upon as the main note and character of a prophet, as being apprehended to be the strongest evidence of the truth of divine revelation.
Q. What was the punishment of counterfeiting a prophetic spirit under the law?
b Numb. xii. 6.
4. To deter men from counterfeiting a prophetic spirit, or from hearkening to such as did, God appointed that every such pretender, upon legal conviction, should be put to death. But the prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak or that shall speak in the name of other Gods, shall surely die. The Jews generally understand this of strangling, as they do always in the law, when the particular manner of the death is not expressed. And by this punishment the false prophet was distinguished from the seducer, who was to be stoned to death by a sufficient testimony; the seducer being a person who sought by cunning persuasions and plausible arguments, to draw men off from the worship of the true God, but the false prophets always pretended divine revelation.
Q. What is revelation by oracle?
A. This was called Urim and Thummim, which was a rendering answers to questions by the High Priest, placed before the mercy-seat, looking upon the stones in the breast-plate; which, how it was done, is not agreed by those who have treated of this matter.
Q. What is revelation by a voice?
A. When the matter of the revelation was communicated immediately or occasionally by a voice. The former of these was vouchsafed to Abraham, and above all to Moses, to whom God is said to have spoke face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend. The other, which was altogether occasional, was for some particular direction, as to Hagar and others; or for testimony, or confirmation, as was that mentioned in the gospel, when
it was audibly proclaimed from heaven, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Q. What are the peculiar characters of a divine revelation?
A. The proofs of a divine revelation vary according to the different cases of those it doth concern; for they may relate either to the person himself that is inspired, or to those that receive the matter revealed immediately from the persons inspired, or to those that live remote from the age of the inspired persons, as in the case of all Christians since the times of our Saviour and his Apostles.
Q. How can the person inspired be satisfied himself of the truth of such a revelation?
A. When God Almighty thinks fit to make a revelation to any man, to manifest and discover any truth or thing to him of which he was before ignorant; it is not unreasonable to think, but that he will, some way or other, satisfy the person concerning the reality of it; for it cannot possibly signify any thing, or have any effect upon the man, unless he be satisfied it is such; and the assurance of a divine revelation, as to the person himself, is most probably wrought by the great evidence it carries with it of its divine original; for no man can doubt but that God, who made our understandings, and knows the frame of them, can accompany his revelations with so clear and empowering a light as to discover to us the divinity of them, and that they came from him. Consequently, in God's manifesting himself to the prophets, there was such a powerful representation on the part of the divine agent, and that clearness of perception on the part of the person inspired, as did abundantly make good
Mat. iii. 17.
those phrases of vision and speaking, by which it is de-
Q. But does not this make a stubborn belief and obstinate conceit of a thing to be a divine revelation?
A. I think not; because a good man, when he is inspired, and reflects upon it, and diligently considers the assurance which he finds in his mind concerning it, and can give a rational account of it to himself, he must have reason to believe himself inspired, which the deluded person wants; and therefore the positiveness of the pretender may arise from pride and self-conceit, which have no small influence: but more especially from a disordered imagination or fancy, which interrupts the operations of the mind; whereas a true inspiration will bear the test of the prophet's reason, which will give him satisfaction concerning it. Thus he finds it a foreign impression, that it doth not spring from himself, nor hath its rise from thence; and therefore ascribes it to some spirit without himself, and believing that there is a God that can communicate himself to the minds of
Judges vi. 21, 37. vii. 13, 14.
Exod. iv. 3, 6.