In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with
new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any
deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.
How shall we proceed here that we may preserve the truth
of this passage? The Lord says all these signs shall accompany
them. Now we know that the apostles did not present all the
signs, and if the passage shall stand literally, then few believers
will be cleared and few saints be entitled to heaven; for these
signs, one and all, have not accompanied them, though they have
had power to work signs, and have exhibited some of them.
These words, therefore, do not refer to the Church as a whole,
but to persons separately. If there is a Christian who has faith,
he shall have power to do these accompanying miracles, and
they shall follow him. Christ says, "He that believes in me,
the works that I shall do, shall he do also." The Lord has
given Christians power also against the unclean spirits. There
was once a patriarch in the wilderness, who, when he met a
serpent, took it in both hands and tore it in two, saying, What
a fine thing it is to have a clear and guiltless conscience. So,
where there is a Christian, there is still the power to work these
signs if it is necessary.
But no one should attempt to exercise this power if it is not
necessary. The apostles did not always exercise it, but only
made use of it to prove the Word of God, to confirm it by
miracles. "They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord
working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following."
Since the gospel has now been spread abroad, and
made known to all the world, there is no need of working miracles
as in the apostles' time. Then let no one without pressing
need undertake to work wonders. I know not what I shall say
about those who venture to do signs where they are not necessary.
I know that it is a dangerous undertaking. The devil,
indeed, lets himself be driven out, but he does not intend to
suffer for it; he allows it only that he may strengthen the sign worker
in such error. I would not like to trust him. But
wherever a Christian dies in Christ with cheerful heart, Satan
has been truly cast out and deprived of his power and kingdom.