So that though God Almighty can speak to a man by dreams, visions, voice, and inspiration, yet He obliges no man to believe He hath done to him that pretends it; who, being a man, may err and, which is more, may lie.
And consequently men had need to be very circumspect, and wary, in obeying the voice of man that, pretending himself to be a prophet, requires us to obey God in that way, which he in God’s name telleth us to be the way to happiness. For he that pretends to teach men the way of so great felicity pretends to govern them; that is to say, to rule and reign over them; which is a thing that all men naturally desire, and is therefore worthy to be suspected of ambition and imposture; and consequently, ought to be examined and tried by every man before he yield them obedience; unless he have yielded it them already in the institution of a Commonwealth; as when the prophet is the civil sovereign, or by the civil sovereign authorized.
For when Christian men take not their Christian sovereign for God’s prophet, they must either take their own dreams for the prophecy they mean to be governed by, and the tumour of their own hearts for the Spirit of God; or they must suffer themselves to be led by some strange prince, or by some of their fellow subjects that can bewitch them by slander of the government into rebellion, without other miracle to confirm their calling then sometimes an extraordinary success and impunity; and by this means destroying all laws, both divine, and human, reduce all order, government, and society to the first chaos of violence and civil war.
The first rainbow that was seen in the world was a miracle, because the first; and consequently strange, and served for a sign from God, placed in heaven to assure His people there should be no more a universal destruction of the world by water. But at this day, because they are frequent, they are not miracles, neither to them that know their natural causes, nor to them who know them not.
The most frequent pretext of sedition, and civil war in Christian Commonwealths hath a long time proceeded from a difficulty, not yet sufficiently resolved, of obeying at once both God and man then when their commandments are one contrary to the other . . . The difficulty therefore consisteth in this, that men, when they are commanded in the name of God, know not in diverse cases whether the command be from God, or whether he that commandeth do but abuse God’s name for some private ends of his own.