VISIONS AND RAPTURES
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago . . . such an one caught up to the third heaven. (2 Cor. 12.2).
Visions, manifestations, raptures and ecstasies of soul, though even from God Himself (which there is every good reason to suspect, unless they sink the soul in humility, and excite such love to Christ as is founded in knowledge and productive of obedience) are not to be gloried in. Paul says, ‘It is not expedient … for me to glory’. I know the danger, I fear the evil of it, from the pride and treachery of my nature. It tends to exalt one above measure, and to make others think more highly of one than they ought to think. Therefore, on these accounts, glorying of these things is to be avoided. Indeed the cause of truth may require it, and the glory of God may be promoted by it. Though on these accounts it may be expedient to glory; yet it is not expedient for the Christian’s own sake to do it. So Paul declared: yet he did glory, for necessity compelled him.
Behold, admire, and imitate the humility of this great apostle: ‘I knew a man in Christ. ..’ When he speaks of himself, it is as a poor sinner, under the most humbling, self-abased views. Then it is ‘/ myself (Rom. 7.25). But here, lest ostentation should appear, he conceals himself under the character of another man: ‘I knew a man in Christ . . . ‘. What a contrast is here between self-exalting principles and the grace of the gospel. How widely different is this from the notions many professing Christians entertain! For if they can but give a tolerable account of some vision, revelation or manifestation, which they suppose was from God, they conclude they know their sins are forgiven, and all is well. Perhaps this might pass on them fourteen years ago, more or less; but what is their frame and temper now? what their pursuit and practice? If there is no evidence of faith, hope, love and obedience; but if while sunk into carnality and the love of the world, yet strong in confidence that their sins are forgiven, and bold in hope of the safety of their state;
surely such are blinded to the hope of the gospel through the spirit of this world. Satan transforms himself from a minister of darkness into an angel of light. Luther was wont to caution against the white devil as well as the black one. The apostle John’s advice is ever needful: ‘Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world’ (1 Jn. 4.1).
William Mason (1719-1791)