What about false prophets?

Or succinctly, caveat emptor, O man.

 
 

 


 

"Try the Spirits" The Prophet's (a true prophet of the time) Editorial in the Times and Seasons (1839) 

Recent occurrences that have transpired amongst us render it an 
imperative duty devolving upon me to say something in relation 
to the spirits by which men are actuated. 


It is evident from the Apostles' writings, that many false spirits 
existed in their day, and had "gone forth into the world," 
and that it needed intelligence which God alone could impart to 
detect false spirits, and to prove what spirits were of God. The 
world in general have been grossly ignorant in regard to this 
one thing, and why should they be otherwise -- for "the things 
of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." 

The Egyptians were not able to discover the difference between 
the miracles of Moses and those of the magicians until they came 
to be tested together; and if Moses had not appeared in their 
midst, they would unquestionably have thought that the miracles 
of the magicians were performed through the mighty power of God, 
for they were great miracles that were performed by them -- a 
supernatural agency was developed, and great power manifested. 

It would have been equally as difficult for us to tell by what 
spirit the Apostles prophesied, or by what power the Apostles 
spoke and worked miracles. Who could have told whether the power 
of Simon, the sorcerer, was of God or of the devil? 

There always did, in every age, seem to be a lack of intelligence 
pertaining to this subject. Spirits of all kinds have been manifested, 
in every age, and almost among all people. 

If we go among the pagans, they have their spirits; the Mohammedans, 
the Jews, the Christians, the Indians -- all have their spirits, 
all have a supernatural agency, and all contend that their spirits 
are of God. Who shall solve the mystery? "Try the spirits," 
says John, but who is to do it? The learned, eloquent, the philosopher, 
the sage, the divine -- all are ignorant. The heathens will boast 
of their gods, and of the great things that have been unfolded 
by their oracles. The Mussulman will boast of his Koran, and of 
the divine communications that his progenitors have received. 
The Jews have had numerous instances, both ancient and modern, 
among them of men who have professed to be inspired, and sent 
to bring about great events, and the Christian world has not been 
slow in making up the number. 

"Try the spirits," but what by? Are we to try them by 
the creeds of men? What preposterous folly -- what sheer ignorance 
-- what madness! Try the motions and actions of an eternal being 
(for I contend that all spirits are such) by a thing that was 
conceived in ignorance, and brought forth in folly -- a cobweb 
of yesterday! Angels would hide their faces, and devils would 
be ashamed and insulted, and would say, "Paul we know, and 
Jesus we know, but who are ye?" Let each man of society make 
a creed and try evil spirits by it, and the devil would shake 
his sides; it is all that he would ask -- all that he would desire. 
Yet many of them do this, and hence "many spirits are abroad 
in the world." 

One great evil is, that men are ignorant of the nature of spirits; 
their power, laws, government, intelligence, etc., and imagine 
that when there is anything like power, revelation, or vision 
manifested, that it must be of God. Hence the Methodists, Presbyterians, 
and others frequently possess a spirit that will cause them to 
lie down, and during its operation, animation is frequently entirely 
suspended; they consider it to be the power of God, and a glorious 
manifestation from God -- a manifestation of what? Is there any 
intelligence communicated? Are the curtains of heaven withdrawn, 
or the purposes of God developed? Have they seen and conversed 
with an angel -- or have the glories of futurity burst upon their 
view? No! but their body has been inanimate, the operation of 
their spirit suspended, and all the intelligence that can be obtained 
from them when they arise, is a shout of "glory," or 
"hallelujah," or some incoherent expression; but they 
have had "the power." 

The Shaker will whirl around on his heel, impelled by a supernatural 
agency or spirit, and think that he is governed by the Spirit 
of God; and the Jumper will jump and enter into all kinds of extravagances. 
A Primitive Methodist will shout under the influence of that spirit, 
until he will rend the heavens with his cries; while the Quakers 
(or Friends) moved as they think, by the Spirit of God, will sit 
still and say nothing. Is God the author of all this? If not all 
of it, which does He recognize? Surely, such a heterogeneous mass 
of confusion never can enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

Discerning of Spirits by Power of Priesthood
Every one of these professes to be competent to try his neighbor's 
spirit, but no one can try his own, and what is the reason? Because 
they have not a key to unlock, no rule wherewith to measure, and 
no criterion whereby they can test it. Could any one tell the 
length, breadth or height of a building without a rule? Test the 
quality of metals without a criterion, or point out the movements 
of the planetary systems, without a knowledge of astronomy? Certainly 
not; and if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit 
of this kind, who can describe an angel of light? If Satan should 
appear as one in glory, who can tell his color, his signs, his 
appearance, his glory, or what is the manner of his manifestation? 
Who can detect the spirit of the French prophets with their revelations 
and their visions, and power of manifestations? Or who can point 
out the spirit of the Irvingites, with their apostles and prophets, 
and visions and tongues, and interpretations, etc. Or who can 
drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false 
spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day 
Saints? We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood, 
and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; 
for as no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God, 
so no man knows the spirit of the devil, and his power and influence, 
but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having 
unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysteries operations 
of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified 
look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by 
him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, 
the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, 
which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious 
windings. 

A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into 
daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in 
all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing 
is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the 
influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit 
of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power 
and baneful effects. Long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances 
endured, and pain, misery and ruin have followed in their train; 
nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid 
waste, and blood, carnage and desolation are habiliments in which 
it has been clothed. 

The Spirit of God the Spirit of Knowledge


As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lies in the ignorance 
of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, 
and the signs by which they may be known; if it requires the Spirit 
of God to know the things of God; and the spirit of the devil 
can only be unmasked through that medium, then it follows as a 
natural consequence that unless some person or persons have a 
communication, or revelation from God, unfolding to them the operation 
of the spirit, they must eternally remain ignorant of these principles; 
for I contend that if one man cannot understand these things but 
by the Spirit of God, ten thousand men cannot; it is alike out 
of the reach of the wisdom of the learned, the tongue of the eloquent, 
the power of the mighty. And we shall at last have to come to 
this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without 
it we can neither know nor understand anything of God, or the 
devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this 
principle, it is evident from the multifarious creeds and notions 
concerning this matter that they understand nothing of this principle, 
and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication 
they must remain in ignorance. The world always mistook false 
prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they 
considered to be false prophets and hence they killed, stoned, 
punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide 
themselves "in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth," 
and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished 
them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored 
and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the 
basest of men. 

The Gift of Discernment of Spirits


A man must have the discerning of spirits, as we before stated, 
to understand these things, and how is he to obtain this gift 
if there are no gifts of the Spirit? And how can these gifts be 
obtained without revelation? "Christ ascended into heaven, 
and gave gifts to men; and he gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, 
and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers." And 
how were Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists 
chosen? By prophecy (revelation) and by laying on of hands -- 
by a divine communication, and a divinely appointed ordinance 
-- through the medium of the Priesthood, organized according to 
the order of God, by divine appointment. The Apostles in ancient 
times held the keys of this Priesthood -- of the mysteries of 
the Kingdom of God, and consequently were enabled to unlock and 
unravel all things pertaining to the government of the Church, 
the welfare of society, the future destiny of men, and the agency, 
power and influence of spirits; for they could control them at 
pleasure, bid them depart in the name of Jesus, and detect their 
mischievous and mysterious operations when trying to palm themselves 
upon the Church in a religious garb, and militate against the 
interest of the Church and spread truth. We read that they "cast 
out devils in the name of Jesus," and when a woman possessing 
the spirit of divination, cried before Paul and Silas, "these 
are the servants of the Most High God that show unto us the way 
of salvation," they detected the spirit. And although she 
spake favorably of them, Paul commanded the spirit come out of 
her, and saved themselves from the opprobrium that might have 
been heaped upon their heads, through an alliance with her, in 
the development of her wicked principles, which they certainly 
would have been charged with, if they had not rebuked the evil 
spirit. 

The Gift Held by the Prophets


A power similar to this existed through the medium of the Priesthood 
in different ages. Moses could detect the magician's power, and 
show that he [himself] was God's servant -- he knew when he was 
upon the mountain (through revelation) that Israel was engaged 
in idolatry; he could develop the sin of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, 
detect witches and wizards in their proceedings, and point out 
the true prophets of the Lord. Joshua knew how to detect the man 
who had stolen the wedge of gold and the Babylonish garment. Michaiah 
could point out the false spirit by which the four hundred prophets 
were governed; and if his advice had been taken, many lives would 
have been spared, ((2 Chronicles 18) Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, 
Ezekiel, and many other prophets possessed this power. Our Savior, 
the Apostles, and even the members of the Church were endowed 
with this gift, for, says Paul, (1 Corinthians 12), "To one 
is given the gift of tongues, to another the interpretation of 
tongues, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, 
to another the discerning of spirits." All these proceeded 
from the same Spirit of God, and were the gifts of God. The Ephesian 
church were enabled by this principle, "to try those that 
said they were apostles, and were not, and found them liars." 
(Revelation 2:2.) 

Difference Between Body and Spirit


In tracing the thing to the foundation, and looking at it philosophically, 
we shall find a very material difference between the body and 
the spirit; the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the 
spirit, by many, is thought to be immaterial, without substance. 
With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ, and 
state the spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that 
it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the body; that 
it existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist 
separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the 
dust; and will in the resurrection be again united with it. 

Spirits Eternal


Without attempting to describe this mysterious connection, and 
the laws that govern the body and the spirit of man, their relationship 
to each other, and the design of God in relation to the human 
body and spirit, I would just remark, that the spirits of men 
are eternal, that they are governed by the same Priesthood that 
Abraham, Melchizedek, and the Apostles were: that they are organized 
according to that Priesthood which is everlasting, "without 
beginning of days or end of year," -- that they all move 
in their respective spheres, and are governed by the law of God; 
that when they appear upon the earth they are in a probationary 
state, and are preparing, if righteous, for a future and greater 
glory; that the spirits of good men cannot interfere with the 
wicked beyond their prescribed bounds, for Michael, the Archangel, 
dared not bring a railing accusation against the devil, but said, 
"The Lord rebuke thee, Satan." 

Wicked Spirits Restricted in Power


It would seem also, that wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, 
and laws by which they are governed or controlled, and know their 
future destiny; hence, those that were in the maniac said to our 
Savior, "Art thou come to torment us before the time," 
and when Satan presented himself before the Lord, among the sons 
of God, he said that he came "from going to and fro in the 
earth, and from wandering up and down in it;" and he is emphatically 
called the prince of the power of the air; and, it is very evident 
that they possess a power that none but those who have the Priesthood 
can control, as we have before adverted to, in the case of the 
sons of Sceva. 

Having said so much upon the general principles, without referring 
to the peculiar situation, power, and influence of the magicians 
of Egypt, the wizards and witches of the Jews, the oracles of 
the heathen, their necromancers, soothsayers, and astrologers, 
the maniacs or those possessed of devils in the Apostles' days, 
we will notice, and try to detect (so far as we have the Scriptures 
for our aid) some few instances of the development of false spirits 
in more modern times, and in this our day. 

False Prophets


The "French Prophets" were possessed of a spirit that 
deceived; they existed in Vivaris and Dauphany, in great numbers 
in the year 1688; there were many boys and girls from seven to 
twenty-five; they had strange fits, as in tremblings and faintings, 
which made them stretch out their legs and arms, as in a swoon; 
they remained awhile in trances, and coming out of them, uttered 
all that came in their mouths. [see Buck's Theological Dictionary] 

Now God never had any prophets that acted in this way; there was 
nothing indecorous in the proceeding of the Lord's prophets in 
any age; neither had the apostles nor prophets in the apostles' 
day anything of this kind. Paul says, "Ye may all prophesy, 
one by one; and if anything be revealed to another let the first 
hold his peace, for the spirit of the prophets is subject to the 
prophets;" but here we find that the prophets are subject 
to the spirit, and falling down, have twitchings, tumblings, and 
faintings through the influence of that spirit, being entirely 
under its control. Paul says, "Let everything be done decently 
and in order," but here we find the greatest disorder and 
indecency in the conduct of both men and women, as above described. 
The same rule would apply to the fallings, twitchings, swoonings, 
shaking, and trances of many of our modern revivalists. 

Johanna Southcott professed to be a prophetess, and wrote a book 
of prophecies in 1804, she became the founder of a people that 
are still extant. She was to bring forth, in a place appointed, 
a son, that was to be the Messiah, which thing has failed. Independent 
of this, however, where do we read of a woman that was the founder 
of a church, in the word of God? Paul told the women in his day, 
"To keep silence in the church, and that if they wished to 
know anything to ask their husbands at home;" he would not 
suffer a woman "to rule, or to usurp authority in the church;" 
but here we find a woman the founder of a church, the revelator 
and guide, the Alpha and Omega, contrary to all acknowledged rule, 
principle, and order. 

Jemimah Wilkinson was another prophetess that figured largely 
in America, in the last century. She stated that she was taken 
sick and died, and that her soul went to heaven, where it still 
continues. Soon after, her body was reanimated with the spirit 
and power of Christ, upon which she set up as a public teacher, 
and declared that she had an immediate revelation. Now the Scriptures 
positively assert that "Christ is the first fruit, afterwards 
those that are Christ's at His coming, then cometh the end." 
But Jemimah, according to her testimony, died, and rose again 
before the time mentioned in the Scriptures. The idea of her soul 
being in heaven while her body was [living] on earth, is also 
preposterous. When God breathed into man's nostrils, he became 
a living soul, before that he did not live, and when that was 
taken away his body died; and so did our Savior when the spirit 
left the body, nor did His body live until His spirit returned 
in the power of His resurrection. But Mrs. Wilkinson's soul [life] 
was in heaven, and her body without the soul [or life] on earth, 
living [without the soul, or] without life! 

Irvingites


The Irvingites are a people that have counterfeited the truth, 
perhaps the nearest of any of our modern sectarians. They commenced 
about ten years ago in the city of London, in England; they have 
churches formed in various parts of England and Scotland, and 
some few in Upper Canada. Mr. Irving, their founder, was a learned 
and talented minister of the Church of Scotland, he was a great 
logician, and a powerful orator, but withal wild and enthusiastic 
in his views. Moving in the higher circles, and possessing talent 
and zeal, placed him in a situation to become a conspicuous character, 
and to raise up a society similar to that which is called after 
his name. 

The Irvingites have apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, 
and angels. They profess to have the gift of tongues, and the 
interpretation of tongues, and, in some few instances, to have 
the gift of healing. 

The first prophetic spirit that was manifested was in some Misses 
Campbell that Mr. Irving met with, while on a journey in Scotland; 
they had [what is termed among their sect] "utterances," 
which were evidently of a supernatural agency. Mr. Irving, falling 
into the common error of considering all supernatural manifestations 
to be of God, took them to London with him, and introduced them 
into his church. 

They were there honored as the prophetesses of God, and when they 
spoke, Mr. Irving or any of his ministers had to keep silence. 
They were peculiarly wrought upon before the congregation, and 
had strange utterances, uttered with an unnatural, shrill voice, 
and with thrilling intonations they frequently made use of a few 
broken, unconnected sentences, that were ambiguous, incoherent, 
and incomprehensible; at other time they were more clearly understood. 
They would frequently cry out, "There is iniquity! There 
is iniquity!" And Mr. Irving has been led, under the influence 
of this charge, to fall down upon his knees before the public 
congregation, and to confess his sin, not knowing whether he had 
sinned, nor wherein, nor whether the thing referred to him or 
somebody else. During these operations, the bodies of the persons 
speaking were powerfully wrought upon, their countenances were 
distorted, they had frequent twitchings in their hands, and the 
whole system was powerfully convulsed at intervals: they sometimes, 
however, (it is supposed) spoke in correct tongues, and had true 
interpretations. 

Under the influence of this spirit the church was organized by 
these women; apostles, prophets, etc., were soon called, and a 
systematic order of things introduced, as above mentioned. A Mr. 
Baxter (afterwards one of their principal prophets) upon going 
into one of their meetings, says, "I saw a power manifested, 
and thought that was the power of God, and asked that it might 
fall upon me, and it did so, and I began to prophesy." Eight 
or nine years ago they had about sixty preachers going through 
the streets of London, testifying that London was to be the place 
where the "two witnesses" spoken of by John, were to 
prophesy; that (they the church and the spirit were the witnesses, 
and that at the end of three years and a half there was to be 
an earthquake and great destruction, and our Savior was to come. 
Their apostles were collected together at the appointed time watching 
the event, but Jesus did not come, and the prophecy was then ambiguously 
explained away. They frequently had signs given them by the spirit 
to prove to them that what was manifested to them should take 
place. Mr. Baxter related an impression that he had concerning 
a child. It was manifested to him that he should visit the child, 
and lay hands upon it, and that it should be healed; and to prove 
to him that this was of God, he should meet his brother in a certain 
place, who should speak unto him certain words. His brother addressed 
him precisely in the way and manner that the manifestation designated. 
The sign took place, but when he laid his hands upon the child 
it did not recover. I cannot vouch for the authority of the last 
statement, as Mr. Baxter at that time had left the Irvingites, 
but it is in accordance with many of their proceedings, and the 
thing never has been attempted to be denied. 

All This Is Wrong


It may be asked, where is there anything in all this that is wrong? 

First. The church was organized by women, and God placed in the 
Church (first apostles, secondarily prophets,) and not first women; 
but Mr. Irving placed in his church first women (secondarily apostles,) 
and the church was founded and organized by them. A woman has 
no right to found or organize a church -- God never sent them 
to do it. (Wow! Is this ever politically incorrect! Could it be 
that Israel's God is not politically correct?) 

Second. Those women (Eleanor Smeal) would speak in the midst of 
a meeting, and rebuke Mr. Irving or any of the church. Now the 
Scripture positively says, "Thou shalt not rebuke an Elder, 
but entreat him as a father;" not only this, but they frequently 
accused the brethren, thus placing themselves in the seat of Satan, 
who is emphatically called "the accuser of the brethren." 

Third. Mr. Baxter received the spirit on asking for it, without 
attending to the ordinances, and began to prophesy, whereas the 
scriptural way of attaining the gift of the Holy Ghost is by baptism, 
and by laying on of hands. 

Fourth. As we have stated in regard to others, the spirit of the 
prophets is subject to the prophets; but those prophets were subject 
to the spirits, the spirits controlling their bodies at pleasure. 

But it may be asked how Mr. Baxter could get a sign from a second 
person? To this we would answer, that Mr. Baxter's brother was 
under the influence of the same spirit as himself, and being subject 
to that spirit he could be easily made to speak to Mr. Baxter 
whatever the spirit should dictate; but there was not power in 
the spirit to heal the child. 

Satan May Give Manifestations in Tongues
Again it may be asked, how it was that they could speak in tongues 
if they were of the devil. We would answer that they could be 
made to speak in another tongue, as well as their own, as they 
were under the control of that spirit, and the devil can tempt 
the Hottentot, the Turk, the Jew, or any other nation; and if 
these men were under the influence of his spirit, they of course 
speak Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Italian, Dutch, or any other language 
that the devil knew. 

Some will say, "try the spirits" by the word. "Every 
spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh 
is of God, and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ 
is come in the flesh is not of God." 1 John 4:2, 3. One of 
the Irvingites once quoted this passage whilst under the influence 
of a spirit, and then said, "I confess that Jesus Christ 
is come in the flesh." And yet these prophecies failed, their 
Messiah did not come; and the great things spoken of by them have 
fallen to the ground. What is the matter here? Did not the Apostle 
speak the truth? Certainly he did -- but he spoke to a people 
who were under the penalty of death, the moment they embraced 
Christianity; and no one without a knowledge of the fact would 
confess it, and expose themselves to death, and this was consequently 
given as a criterion to the church or churches to which John wrote. 
But the devil on a certain occasion cried out, "I know thee, 
who thou art, the Holy One of God!" Here was a frank acknowledgment 
under other circumstances that "Jesus had come in the flesh." 
On another occasion the devil said, "Paul we know, and Jesus 
we know" -- of course, "come in the flesh." No 
man nor sect of men without the regular constituted authorities, 
the Priesthood and discerning of spirits, can tell true from false 
spirits. This power they possessed in the Apostles' day, but it 
has departed from the world for ages. 

False Spirits in the Church


The Church of Jesus Christ has also had its 
false spirits; and as it is made up of all those different sects 
professing every variety of opinion, and having been under the 
influence of so many kinds of spirits, it is not to be wondered 
at if there should be found among us false spirits. 

Soon after the Gospel was established in Kirtland, and during 
the absence of the authorities of the Church, many false spirits 
were introduced, many strange visions were seen, and wild, enthusiastic 
notions were entertained; men ran out of doors under the influence 
of this spirit, and some of them got upon the stumps of trees 
and shouted, and all kinds of extravagances were entered into 
by them; one man pursued a ball that he said he saw flying in 
the air, until he came to a precipice, when he jumped into the 
top of a tree, which saved his life; and many ridiculous things 
were entered into, calculated to bring disgrace upon the Church 
of God, to cause the Spirit of God to be withdrawn, and to uproot 
and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed 
for the salvation of the human family. But when the authorities 
returned, the spirit was made manifest, those members that were 
exercised with it were tried for their fellowship, and those that 
would not repent and forsake it were cut off. 

At a subsequent period a Shaker spirit was on the point of being 
introduced, and at another time the Methodist and Presbyterian 
falling down power, but the spirit was rebuked and put down, and 
those who would not submit to rule and good order were disfellowshiped. 
We have also had brethren and sisters who have had the gift of 
tongues falsely; they would speak in a muttering, unnatural voice, 
and their bodies be distorted like the Irvingites before alluded 
to; whereas, there is nothing unnatural in the Spirit of God. 
A circumstance of this kind took place in Upper Canada, but was 
rebuked by the presiding Elder; another, a woman near the same 
place, professed to have the discerning spirits, and began to 
accuse another sister of things that she was not guilty of, which 
she said she knew was so by the spirit, but was afterwards proven 
to be false; she placed herself in the capacity of the "accuser 
of the brethren," and no person through the discerning of 
spirits can bring a charge against another, they must be proven 
guilty by positive evidence, or they stand clear. 

There have also been ministering angels in the Church which were 
of Satan appearing as an angel of light. A sister in the state 
of New York had a vision, who said it was told her that if she 
would go to a certain place in the woods, and angel would appear 
to her. She went at the appointed time, and saw a glorious personage 
descending, arrayed in white, with sandy colored hair; he commenced 
and told her to fear God, and said that her husband was called 
to do great things, but that he must not go more than one hundred 
miles from home, or he would not return; whereas God had called 
him to go to the ends of the earth, and he has since been more 
than one thousand miles from home, and is yet alive. Many true 
things were spoken by this personage, and many things that were 
false. How, it may be asked, was this known to be a bad angel? 
By the color of his hair; that is one of the signs that he can 
be known by, and by his contradicting a former revelation. 


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