Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

4. DRINKING DEADLY POTIONS. The NEW TESTAMENT affords no example of this. But we learn from ecclesiastical tradition, that in the Heathen persecutions, the Apostle John drank a cup of poison unhurt. Eusebius, in his History, mentions other instances, of Barsabas, Sabinus, &c. p. 112.

The Jerusalem Talmud has also preserved a remarkable tradition of the son of R. Joshua ben Levi. This boy drank a deadly potion, but was cured by an incantation in the name of Jesus, the son of Panthera. “When he had escaped [death,) his father enquired what the enchanter had said? Who answered, that he had invoked the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Then his father said, it would have been better that he had died, rather than heard this name. And immediately it happened so,” (the boy died.] See Wetstein on Mark xvi. 18, for these and other Talmudic legends.

This instance also, is extremely curious; it vouches the cus. tom of invoking the name of JESUS among Jewish exorcists and enchanters, noticed in Scripture, Mark ix. 38, Acts xix. 13; and records the punishment of an unbelieving father in the death of his son.

5. CURING DISEASES.

v. 15.

It is remarkable that our LORD places this the last in the list, as if thereby, the more clearly to distinguish it from the first, the dispossession of Demoniacs. Of this, several signal instances occur in the Acts, and their frequency is intimated in the Epistles. The most remarkable are the following. 1. Peter cured a cripple at the temple gate....Acts iii. 1-9.

acknowledged by the Jewish council iv. 14-16. 2. His shadow cured many 3. He restored Dorcas to life..........

ix. 36-40. 4. Paul cured a cripple at Lystra.............

xiv. 8-11. 5. Handkerchiefs from his body performed distant cures

xix. ll, 12. 6. He restored Eutychus to life

XX. 12. 7. The prayer of faith healed the sick ........James v. 14-16.

The power of raising the dead was probably confined to the Apostles. Nor do they, at all times, appear to have possessed the gift of healing. Otherwise Paul would not probably have

left behind him his friend Trophimus, sick at Miletus, 2 Tim. iv. 20, nor prescribed “wine” for his favourite pupil, Timothy's many infirmities," 1 Tim. v. 23, if it rested solely on his own option to cure them, any more than himself, 2 Cor. xii. 8.

THEIR DURATION.

How long these miraculous gifts and powers lasted in the Church, is not ascertained in ecclesiastical history. We have strong grounds, however, to think, that they did not extend, in general, beyond the end of the first century.

1. Their continuance longer was unnecessary after THE GosPEL had been preached and received throughout the known world. They naturally ceased with their uses, 1.“ to confirm the word by signs co-operating,Mark xvi. 20; 2. to arrest the attention of unbelievers, Acts xiv. 11, and 3. to overcome their prejudices, 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25.

2. Our LORD and his Apostles frequently forewarn the faithful, by the spirit of prophecy, against false prophets, and false teachers, who should propose great signs and wonders, so specious, that if it were possible, they should deceive even the elect, Matt. xxiv. 24. That an apostate power should appear in the Church itself, according to the energy of Satan, with all false power, and signs, and wonders, whose deluded followers should believe a lie, 2 Thess. ii. 3—9. That many false prophets, and many Antichrists had gone forth, even in the Apostle John's days, 1 John ii. 18, iv. 1-3.

This leads us to infer the cessation of the true gifts and powers at an early period, which during their continuance had extinguished the false.

The Fathers of the second and third centuries, frequently report their continuance, but apparently from hearsay, and not from actual knowledge or observation. Thus Irenæus, A.D. 178, says, “We hear (akovouev) of many brethren in the Church, having many prophetic gifts, and speaking all sorts of tongues by THE SPIRIT, and exposing the secret intentions of men for the (public) good, and expounding the mysteries of God.” Euseb. Hist. Eccl. v. 7. And Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, A.D. 181, declined the proposal of a noble Greek, to embrace Christianity, if the Bishop would shew him a single person raised from the dead. When it was objected to Chrysostom, A.D. 398,“ Why are not miracles performed at this day ?” he evidently admitted the fact in his answer," for want of faith, and virtue, and piety in these times.” Middleton's Enquiry, p. 130—137. And yet this same Father was a zealous advocate for the Monkish miracles. “ There is no region, says he, where new and unthought of miracles are not famous; which, if they were forgeries, could never have gained such admiration."

And he gravely relates, that“ the coffins and bones of the martyrs had great virtue and power;" that even Devils were tormented by the bones of the martyrs." He, and the rest of the Monkish Fathers, even the most celebrated, Athanasius, Augustine, Ter. tullian, Hilary, Cyprian, &c. first attested these lying wonders, to support the credit of their own inventions and innovations, concerning the worship of saints and veneration of reliques ; and then, when brought into repute, upon the credit of their testimony, as holy and religious men, they urge this very repute as an argument of their truth! Such lying wonders being implicitly swallowed by their superstitious and credulous followers.

The natural and necessary consequence of these pious frauds, to uphold the corruptions of Christianity, was the revival of the doctrine of Demons," and admission of the reality of Pagan miracles, and miraculous cure of diseases wrought by Demons in confirmation of Paganism. These same Fathers of the Church all admit, that the Heathen magicians and jugglers performed many wonderful things, surpassing human powers, by the as. sistance of Demons; thus betraying the cause of CHRISTIANITY, and degrading the true miracles wrought in its support, to a level with “lying wonders,and thereby lessening their credibility.

Hence we are warranted to conclude, that the true miracles ceased, before the false ones sprouted up in the Church ; because their continuance would even have been prejudicial to the cause of Christianity, by the mistaken and mischievous zeal of the Fathers, confounding both together, and thereby, as far as in them lay, setting the seal of God to false doctrines, and the worship of false mediators, and introducing that grand apostacy, expressly foretold by THE SPIRIT, 1 Tim. iv. 1. And we scruple not to agree with Mr. Gibbon, in “ limiting the gift of supernatural powers to that happy period, exempt from error and deceit," the age of the Apostles, and of the first succession of apostolical Fathers, to whom the gifts of the Spirit had been

imparted by the Apostles. See Henry Taylor's Thoughts on the grand Apostacy, p. 92–95.

V. THE ORDINARY AIDS OF THE GOSPEL.

Though the extraordinary aids of Christianity, or the gifts of the SPIRIT, and other miraculous powers, were not probably of long duration, CHRIST, “ the Father of the everlasting age," did not leave his faithful disciples “orphans,” (John xiv. 18,) after they were withdrawn; He solemnly promised them his sufficient aid, all the daysof their ministry," to the end of the world,in the last clause of his commission; in continuation of his former promises, that “where two or three should meet together in his name, there would he be present with them," to grant their requests; that "he would pray THE Father to send them ANOTHER ADVOCATE, who should remain with them for ever," John xiv. 16-18, Matt. xviii. 20. Thus putting them under the joint protection of the FATHER, Son, and HOLY SPIRIT, to whose service they were jointly dedicated in baptism.

THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT.

These also are the gift of God no less than the extraordinary, but given, like our food and raiment, as the encouragements and rewards of our own industry. “In his ordinary operations THE SPIRIT works with us, not for us, offers his assistance, but forces it not upon us; accompanies, not excludes our endeavours *." And the genuine fruits of the SPIRIT are these, pious and virtuous dispositions of mind, and settled habits, which the HOLY SPIRIT gradually produces in the regenerate, together with those good works which spring and grow out of them, as naturally as the tree produces its proper fruit. They are thus enumerated by the Apostle Paul.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is lovetoward God and our neighbour ; “joy,or delight in God, arising from a cheering sense of our interest in Him and His love to us, shed abroad in our hearts; " peace," or tranquillity of mind, springing from a

[ocr errors]

For The Spirit co-operating, helpeth our infirmities," or feeble endeavours of obedience, (συναντιλαμβανεται ταις ασθενειαις ημων,)- .“ for we know that He cooperateth (in) all things, for good, with them that love God, who are called, according to His purpose,” (τοις αγαπωσι τον θεον [κατα] παντα συνεργει εις αγαθον,) Rom. viii. 26-28.

[ocr errors]

conscience void of offence toward God and man; “long suffer. ing,or patient endurance and forgiveness of provocations and injuries; kindness," or readiness to assist and serve others; goodness,” or benevolence of disposition, liberality of mind; ' fidelity,or faithfulness in adhering to truth, and performing our engagements, even to our own loss; “ meekness," or mildness of disposition; “ temperance,or self government, continence with regard to sensual pleasures of every kind, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts,Gal. v. 22–24.

This gracious“ fruit of the light #," or illumination of the HOLY SPIRIT, shining forth in the hearts and lives of the faithful, who walk as children of light, and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather abhor and reprore them, --constitutes that “wisdom from above,” descending ultimately from THE FATHER OF LIGHTS, which “ first, is pure,or free from all pollution of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God ;“ then peaceable,” disposed to promote peace and good will among men; gentle," or accommodating to others in things not sinful ; easy to be persuaded," or ready to admit a reasonable excuse; full of mercy and of good fruits" springing from mercy, such as beneficence, liberality, &c. “ impartial,not unduly respecting persons, parties, or sects; without hypocrisy,free from all affectation of superior sanctity, purity, or orthodoxy. James iii. 17.

This heavenly wisdom, as contrasted with “the earthly," which is “ carnal, demoniacal, abounding in bitter zeal and contention, subversive of order, and productive of every eril work," James iii. 14-16, coincides with that first and choicest fruit of the Spirit, Christian love, or charity, which was defined before ; and which is thus described by its distinguishing properties t.

Instead of the received reading, Ephes. v. 9, ó kapros TOU avevparos, Griesbach has restored ó kapłog TOU OWTOs, which is required by the context, and supported by several ancient MSS.

+ In this admired description of Christian love, or charity, (ayaan,) denoting, according to Sir Thomas More, “a good, virtuous, well ordered love," as distinguished from the passion of sensual love, (epws *,) so frequent in the Heathen classics, and deified in

It is remarkable, that the classic noun, epws, amor, and the verb Epaw, amo, do not occur in the New TESTAMENT; their places are supplied by entupia, cupido, and επιθυμεω, cupίο.

« VorigeDoorgaan »