Richard Baxter on how to test those who claim to have a prophecy

Quest CLXIV. How is a pretended prophet, or revelation, to be tried?

Answ.1. If it be contrary to Scripture, it is to be rejected as a deceit.

2. If it be the same thing which is in the Scripture, we have it more certainly revealed already; therefore the revelation can be nothing but an assistance of the persons faith, or a call to obedience, or a reproof of some sin; which every man is to believe according as there is true evidence that indeed it is a divine revelation or vision; which if it be not, the same thing is still sure to us in the Scripture.

3. If it be something that is only besides the Scripture, (as about events and facts, or prophecies of what will befall particular places or persons) we must first see whether the evidence of a divine revelation be clear in it or not: and that is known, 1. To the person himself, by the self-attesting and convincing power of a divine revelation, which no man knoweth but he that hath it(and we must be very cautelous lest we take false conceptions to be such). 2. But to himslef and others it is known, (1.) At present by clear, uncontrolled miracles, which are God’s attestation; which if men show, we are bound (in this case) to believe them. (2.) For the future, by the event, when things so plainly come to pass, as prove the prediction to be of God. He therefore … is to be heard with a suspended belief; you must stay till the event show whether he say true or not: and not act any thing in the mean time on an unproved presumption either of the truth or falsehood of his words.

4. If you are in doubt whether that which he speaketh be contrary to God’s word or not, you must hear him with a proportionable suspicion, and give no credit to him till you have tried whether it be so or not.

5. It is a dangerous snare and sin to believe any one’s prophecies or revelations merely because they are very holy persons, and do most confidently aver or swear it. For they may be deceived themselves. As also to take hysterical or melancholy delirations or conceptions for the revelations of the Spirit of God, and so to father falsehood upon God.

Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory (1673; repr., Morgan, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1996), cited in W.Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today 2nd ed (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), 355-6.

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