26 August 2009

Having a Personal Vision for the Church?

We do not deny that the spirit of prophecy still lives, that He rules and works, that the gift of prophecy is still in the Church; but we hold that all prophecy must be according to the analogy of faith, -- namely, in the New Testament, must be related to the Word of the Lord as the particular to the universal, as the conclusion to the proposition, as the bud to the plant. A prophecy that does not confirm the true doctrine, or that is not in connection with it, is empty and worthless (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 [Open in Libronix (if available)] ). Further, a prophecy that rests on merely human foundations, or does not proceed from the Holy Spirit, even though it be ever so correct a conjecture, is not a prophecy; as, for instance, Balaam's, Numbers 24, or Caiaphas's, John 11:51 [Open in Libronix (if available)] , is no testimony to the man that said it. Therefore we must be just as critical of prophecies as of miracles, and must hold firmly that all prophecies must accord with the faith once delivered to the saints (Romans 12:7 [Open in Libronix (if available)] ).

This distinction, which has to be made with reference to miracles and prophecies, shows that they cannot be characteristic marks of the Church. They need to be sifted and tried by the pure Word and the Scriptural Confession of the Church; they do not give a clear testimony; they, according to their nature, call to inquiry, -- and this so much the more because it is not the church only that has these uncertain witnesses; but heretics too, heathen, and Antichrist, boast and will boast of them.

Besides, it is not easy to see why our opponents glory so in miracles. The miracles which occurred in the first centuries did not occur in the service of the Roman Church -- and if in the missions of later times wonderful things occurred, it was not in the service of Romish error. If, however, something wonderful actually occurred in connection with the doctrine that contradicted the Scriptures, it certainly was not of divine origin, for God would not help error to victory by miracles. And, as to later times, what can they tell of? Miracles like that at Ratisbon can easily be explained even if it were not condemned by the worship of images; and miracles such as are claimed for the holy coat at Treves, an imposing personality -- whether Jewish or Mohammedan or heathen -- could produce upon neurotic people. How many things of this sort could be alleged, if there were any reason. We need not go back to Luther, for did many a wonderful thing for the sake of which, if he had been a Romanist, Rome would have canonized him. Every period of our Church has had occurrences enough of the sort, far surpassing the image of the Madonna at Ratisbon and the coat at Treves. And this is the case with prophecy too, of which our opponents in our times have indeed little enough reason to boast.

Let the ministers of our Church become conscious of the wonderful gift which is bestowed upon them in the pure Word and prayer; let them cease to dismiss the melancholy, the tempted, or those who seem to be possessed, and to treat them like fools, turning their own parishioners over to the Romanists to be sprinkled with holy water; let them cease on account of their indolence and indifference towards those who seek their help to give the Romanists occasion to boast of miracles done upon their flocks. It is time to use God's Word in prayer and to make use of the prayer of the Church for blessing upon all who are in need. The gift of God can sleep, but it can be waked up again. The Lord has not left our Church without the gift of prayer; He hears her cry. If the gift be used, help and answer will come, through which the pure Word, and a great blessing through it, will more and more be commended to the people. -- The Lord be with us; His blessing and the gifts of His grace be and abide with us; that men may know that the true God is in Sion!

Wilhelm Loehe. Three Books Concerning the Church: Offered to friends of the Lutheran Church, for Consideration and Discussion. Translated from the German by Edward T. Horn. [Reading, PA: Pilger Publishing House, 1908] pages 148-150

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