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Sunday, October 02, 2016

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 16

Frightful ... are the mistakes and disasters which have come from being led by untried impressions. To keep from the discriminating light of the detecting proof tests which God has provided, Satan has devised many ingenious and deceptive expedients. As the rightful judges never will render a decision in his favor, but always detect the slightest error, he makes a desperate effort to prevail upon persons to appeal to other judges whom he can bribe to decide as he wishes. If possible, he will push people to act upon doubtful impressions without trying them at all; but if they will "try the spirits, whether they be of God," then he insists that they shall be tried before a court of his dictation. The following are among the judges which he recommends, and which have betrayed multitudes:

1. Feelings. People who are duped by this judge follow their feelings instead of their convictions. Impressions which harmonize with their feelings are fondled, and other impressions are given a cold reception. If their feelings are crossed they raise such a cry as to drown the whisperings of the still small voice within, and then seek their selfish gratification. They sometimes do very unscriptural things because they "feel like it," and for the same reason avoid the cross and the self-denial which it imposes. They mistake the voice of their own feelings for a message from above, and following the decisions of this judge, they are betrayed into wrong action. Well did Wesley exhort his followers to "trample under foot the enthusiastic doctrine that we are to do good only when we feel like it." He who tests his convictions by his feelings, instead of God's judges, is as foolish as a man who would take his case out of a wise and righteous court and put it in the power of a crying child.

2. Imagination. Fancy is often quick to seize an impression, paint it and make it appear as real and beautiful as a blooming rose. The Christian, of course, renounces all imaginations that are known to be wrong; but in order to divert from the work and the life-plan which God has marked out, imagination will often paint another work and point to another plan which some wrong impression has suggested, and thus seek to lead from the path where duty calls.

A person sometimes has an impression that he ought to have a certain desirable appointment [to a position]. In fact, a number often feel "strongly impressed" that they should have the same place. Then they imagine themselves there, and when the appointments are made and their fancy bubble bursts they weep like children because the voice of their imaginations did not prove to be the voice of God. Sometimes imagination takes foreboding of evil and makes it seem as real as fact, and goads to worry over what never comes.

Every "imagination" that does not stand the tests above mentioned should be "cast down." He who substitutes it instead of them will find himself in as sad a plight as the student who might seek to make a paint-brush light his room instead of turning on the gas. The burden of Jeremiah's message against God's people was that they followed "their own imaginations" instead of heeding the voice divine.

Who is there that has not sometimes had a "strong impression" that an absent friend was sick, or in danger, or dying, and afterwards found that it was all imagination?

The devil is called the "Tormentor," and he loves to tantalize by this or any other means.

"Beware," wrote Wesley, "of a heated imagination. . . . . Some charge their own imaginations on the will of God, and that not written but impressed on their hearts. If these impressions be received as a rule of action instead of the written Word, I know nothing so wicked or absurd but that we may fall into, and that without remedy."

3. Chance Texts. The habit of turning to some chance text and hinging action upon that, has prevailed with some. This is as if a physician should prescribe for his patient by opening his books at random and writing out the first [prescription] which catches his eye! Or as if a lawyer would open a book of legal lore and give his client the chance counsel which he thus might find! Is spiritual indolence or ignorance less pardonable than medical or legal?

The come-outer is impressed that he should leave the church. He urges the divinity of his impression by taking as a test the first text which meets his eye as he opens the Bible. It chances to be, "Come out from among them and be ye separate." With this text Satan blinds his eyes to the whole teaching of Scripture in regard to the organized church, and on it he drifts down the stream of "come-outism," over the falls of final fanaticism.

Another person is impressed that women ought not to do public work. He opens his Bible, and by chance his eye catches, "Let the women learn in silence." The whole question is settled in an instant! And so easily, too! And thus wresting this Scripture from its proper place, he peacefully pillows his head upon it, and lies down on the railroad track of the facts of Scripture, right and sense in the matter, and is crushed by the wheels of truth as it steams with triumph on its destined way. "Search the Scriptures," not "fool" with them, is the divine command.

4. Dreams. God has spoken to men by dreams, but this is not His usual way. There is, under the spirit's dispensation, no Scripture warrant for depending upon them for guidance. Jeremiah called them "chaff" when compared to the revealed Word. He who substitutes the chaff of dreams for the wheat of Bible truth will soon become a spiritual starveling. Many people have allowed themselves to be alarmed because previous impressions were strengthened by dreams which were merely born of bad digestion. The Bible speaks of "false dreams" and "filthy dreamers," and complains of those who caused the people to forget God by "their dreams which they told every man to his neighbor."

A certain person received me very coldly where I was once engaged in revival work because of a striking dream he had had of an evangelist which he thought referred to me. Before the meeting closed he changed his mind, and thought it must have meant some other person.

A Christian lady of whom I knew, after losing her husband, dreamed that a relative came to her home and brought a man, and said to her, "I have brought you this man for your husband." The dream made a very deep impression, and the features of the promised husband were vividly fixed in her mind. She actually expected the fulfillment of the dream, but looked for it in vain to the day of her death.

All impressions made by dreams which do not meet the approval of the rightful tests should be allowed to vanish. To follow them may prove as fatal as for an engineer, because of "a strong impression made by a dream," to run his train without orders from headquarters. In either case fearful wreckage may be the result.

Mr. Wesley wisely warns: "Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, or revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the devil. Therefore believe not every spirit, but 'try the spirits whether they be from God."'

From Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

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