« PreviousContinue »
But it is obvious, that, in these respects, the office and circumstances of the Apostles and their first disciples were peculiar, and that nothing can be inferred from them, in reference to the later periods of the church.
3. This divine assistance was originally given to the first heralds of the Gospel, not in accordance with the 'wishes or efforts of the individuals ; but they spoke and acted as they were moved by the holy spirit. They appear to have been entirely passive in the reception of this miraculous influence. But under the Gospel dispensation, now that it is established, man is not permitted to consider himself as a passive recipient merely of any heavenly gist; but is called upon to seek, to ask, to toil, to coöperate with his own best endeavours to render available to his own benefit the provisions of a Divine Beneficence. He may only hope for aid to his own endeavours, and not a boon, by which self-exertion may be dispensed with.
4. These miraculous gifts appeared to be promiscuously imparted to the first converts to Christianity, without reference to their previous characters. Can they, in like manner, be expected to be promiscuously received in these later times ?
5. Now that Christianity is established, the only assignable purpose of divine illumination is the religious progress, improvement, in one word, the sanctification of the individual. This illumination in the time of the Apostles was so little connected with the character of the individual, that we are expressly told that many who possessed it, in an eminent degree, should not be partakers of the salvation they made known.
On all these accounts, it seems to us, that a clear and palpable distinction is to be taken between the character and condition of the first heralds and converts of Christianity and its professors in subsequent times; so that it is wholly irrational and indefensible to infer, that what is applied to the one should also be ascribed to the other. *
In further illustration of these remarks we shall cite a single example. And we shall take one which is very
often quoted by the advocates of a supernatural influence in the
* We refer the reader for a fuller examination of the differences between “ The Ordinary and Extraordinary Operations of the Spirit” to an Essay, thus entitled, by Thomas Ludlow, A. M. Lond. 8vo. 1797.
conversion of man to holiness, in whạt are called " revivals at the present day.* It is the divine illumination imparted to the hearers of St. Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost.
On this occasion the Apostles of our Lord were present in a certain spot, by his direction, and for a certain specified object. They were then and there to be furnished with an especial power from on high to enable them to become the promulgators of a new religion. The presence of a supernatural power was authenticated by an open, visible, palpable miracle. The multitudes, on witnessing this miracle, “were all amazed and marvelled.” Peter, availing himself of this roused and excited state of their minds, showed to them from their own sacred books, that it was Jesus whom they had crucified, who, “being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” This fact being thus authenticated, they could no longer resist its evidence, and three thousand on the same day renounced their Jewish faith and were baptized into the religion of Christ. These are the substantial facts in the case. But, in no single one of these particulars, is there any thing parallel or even analogous in those modern excitements which are now called “revivals of religion.” There is not a particle of proof, that the miraculous agency was imparted, on this occasion, to any but the Apostles of our Lord. This influence, as we have said, was indicated by a palpable outright sign for a specific object. The change wrought in the minds of others was a change from the faith they had hitherto held, to a faith in Christianity, and not a “change of heart” merely; and it was not owing to any supernatural influence exerted upon their minds, but was a natural effect of the calm, solid, convincing argument of Peter on the facts there presented to their minds. And, finally, the whole drift of this appeal was totally different from those which are veheinently urged in the production of modern "revivals,” since it was that Jesus," a man approved
* Thus in the “Lectures on Revivals of Religion, by William B. Sprague, D. D.," before quoted, the author (p. 2) considers “the wonderful effects of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost," and those “movements” which in these latter days we are accustomed to denominate revivals of religion, as pointed out by the same prediction of the Prophet Isaiah. The same position is again taken, p. 24, and indeed repeatedly throughout the book.
VOL. XVIII. N. S. VOL. XIII. NO. I.
by God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you,” whom He“ hath made both Lord and Christ." We cannot but be astonished, therefore, at that hardihood of assertion which attempts to authorize or palliate these modern movements by a reference to the transactions of the day of Pentecost. And we conclude this topic by stating, what no one authorized to judge on this subject, and whose mind is not trammelled by his preconceived opinions, will venture to deny, that there is not the least authority for supposing that the supernatural or miraculous era of our Religion extended an hour beyond the Apostolic age; but that it ceased when the great object for which it was appointed was secured, namely, the establishment of the religion of Jesus in the world; and that to expect, on any Scriptural authority, any supernatural interposition now, in the conversion of the soul to God, is an indication of strong delusion and of
There is one other general remark on the language of Scripture, in reference to this subject, which is too important to be wholly omitted, but which, for the reasons already assigned, we cannot stop to illustrate at length. It is, that, while the language is highly figurative, by which the spiritual change from sin to holiness is spoken of, it also contains two distinct thoughts; - first, that this change is very great and obvious; and, second, that it is effected in entire harmony and congruity with the natural powers of man. Thus it is compared to the flowing of a fountain ; to the opening of the deaf ear; to the gift of sight to the blind eye ; to the upspringing of hitherto inert seed; and to the progress of the wind, which is known only by its effects. And to adduce the most remarkable of all these emblems, this spiritual change is compared
new birth," and resurrection from the dead. In this it is plainly implied that a divine agency is the source of the change, that this change is great, but that nevertheless it is one which is in perfect agreement with the preexisting nature of man, since it is only a new principle of vitality that is imparted, and not an essential change in his natural powers and capacities. Our spiritual nature is quickened, and endued with new life, and not another and a different nature given.
IX. Our concluding objection to the doctrine of a supernatural illumination of the spirit, at the present day, is derived from the natural and necessary effects of the doctrine. These will,
course, differ according to the peculiar character of the mind which adopts it. Those, who have persuaded themselves that they have been the subjects of this supernatural illumination, will naturally, if not necessarily, be tempted to indulge in spiritual pride; to claim an irreverent alliance and communion with the Deity; and to arrogate to themselves an unwarranted superiority over those who they may choose to think are less favored than themselves with divine communications. — Those, on the other hand, who are more susceptible, timid, and self-distrustful, will find it difficult to realize that such a heavenly boon as this can be communicated to such as they; and pass life in hopeless despondency that the heavenly light, which is necessary to the salvation of all, is yet withholden from them. And a third class, whose minds are of a stronger and hardier cast, but who have not been the subjects of any strong religious impressions, will be prone to infer that they may easily submit to forego what no efforts of theirs can secure, and thus recklessly give themselves up to a hardened indifference to all religion. So that the natural, if not the necessary effect of a belief in the doctrine of a supernatural influence as a prerequisite to salvation, as it operates upon different minds, will be spiritual pride, or spiritual gloom, or spiritual indifference. A doctrine, whose tendency is like this, should not be easily received as coming from God.
For these reasons, then, which, in the conclusion of this paper, we shall comprise in a brief summary, we feel ourselves compelled to reject the prevailing doctrine, that the divine influence is supernaturally imparted to the minds of men:
First. — Those, who believe themselves to be the subjects of this supernatural illumination, have not in their own minds, and cannot afford to others, any sufficient evidence of the fact.
Second. — Many persons who give the highest scriptural proof of their being moved by a divine influence, are yet conscious of no such supernatural impression on their minds.
Third. — This supernatural illumination is claimed by persons who hold extremely various and even opposite opinions concerning divine truth, but who have yet equal claims to be believed Does it then belong to both ? — if not, to which ?
Fourth. — The kind of aid in question, is opposed to all the analogies of God's moral government, since it is represented as operating independently of the agency of means or second causes.
Fifth. - The doctrine implies that an uncalled for and gratuitous use of divine power is made, since, in the formation of our minds, provision is made for a divine, access to them in countless ways.
Sixth. - It renders comparatively unimportant or useless the ordinary means of religious improvement.
Seventh. The effects, which are relied upon as evidences of this divine illumination, may all be accounted for without resorting to this hypothesis. They are all resolvable into natural effects of natural causes.
Eighth. The doctrine is unsupported by any sufficient authority in Scripture.
Ninth. - Its tendencies and frequent effects upon the characters, both of those who do, and of those who do not, receive it, are such as render the divine origin of the doctrine very questionable.
In our next Number, we shall be obliged to pursue a little further the unwelcome duty of showing what we consider to be the mistakes which prevail in reference to the manner, in which the divine influence is imparted to the human mind; and then conclude the discussion by presenting those views of the subject, which seem to us to be the correct ones.
Art. IV. - The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius PamphiART
lus, Bishop of Cesarea, in Palestine. In Ten Books. Translated from the Original by the Rev. C. F. CRUSE, A. M., Assistant Professor in the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia : Rev. R. Davis & Brother. New York : Swords, Stanford, & Co. 1833. 8vo. pp. 439.
The name of Eusebius will be ever honored, though less perhaps for his intrinsic merit, which, however, is by no means small, than on account of the position he occupies as the father of ecclesiastical history. He is not the oldest Christian historian, for he was preceded by Hegesippus, a writer, in all respects, it would seem, his inferior. But of Hegesippus only a few small fragments remain, preserved by the diligence of Eusebius. To the latter we are indebted for a multitude of facts relating to Christian antiquity, which but for him would have been buried in oblivion.