« PreviousContinue »
to their knowledge or remembrance those awful lessons which [quence of the Paraclete's former visit, than a proof of his had been communicated under the veil of mystery or parable continuance among us, it is rather the legacy of a departed than during the Messiah's abode among men.
the counsel of a present guardian ; and the Pilot who should Nor can a stronger objection he required against that which undertake to steer our vessel through the whole continuance is called the simplicity of the Unitarian system of theology, of her voyage, would ill discharge that promise if he de than that, by denying the Divinity of our Lord, as well as serted our helm in the middle passage, though he should those other awful iruths which supply the only competent leave at the same time, for our guidance, his chart and comanswer to the cavils of the unconverted Jew, it takes away pass behind him. all adequate motives for that tremendous apparatus of power But that this objection, however specious, is not unanswerand prophecy, by which the birth and life and death of Jesus able, will appear if we consider,—first, that the promise of were distinguished.
our Lord, and the office of Paraclete which that promise deAs a teacher of morality he told us little which was really fines, though they are doubtless explicit as to the points of new. As a preacher of the resurrection he inculcated no universal and continual superintendance and protection—do by more than the great majority of his countrymen believed al- no means lead us to anticipate an unceasing display of vision, ready: and it is difficult to say in what manner those under- or a perpetual and perceptible illapse of celestial knowledge. stand him to have abolished the Law of Moses, who refuse to It was foretold, indeed, that the Paraclete should abide with acknowledge, in his death, a sacrifice and propitiation for sin. u's always, but it was not expressed that the Holy Ghost
So far indeed from that simplicity, if real, being admissible should, in his capacity of Paraclete, be continually guiding as a proof of the truth of a religious system, it may be thought us into new truths,-continually introducing us to a fresh that the credit of any pretended discovery of God's will or Apocalypse. The nature of his office implies that he should nature would, if it did not contain discoveries transcending be at hand to enlighten, to defend, and to console, where human reasoti
, be, on that very account, iin paired and render- such comfort or illumination were needed ;-but the teacher ed precarious. No ghost need rise, no angel come from may pause between the lessons which he gives to his pupil
, heaven, to disclose to us those truths which we already knew,—the advocate when his plea is advanced may wait till he or those of which a competent knowledge might be acquired is called on for explanation,—the Comforter when he has by the natural process of induction or experiment. And dried our tears may sit silent and watchful for a while, till though that be an absurd refinement of the schoolmen who another relapse of grief demands fresh arguments to subdue advance a seeming impossibility as, in itself, a ground of it. But, as it will not be denied that, in the instance of faith; and though there be something still more preposter- the Apostles, the knowledge of God's will, which was superously unreasonable in the complaint of the author of Religio naturally communicated to them, was a sufficient and accurate Medici, that the Christian Religion had not enough of accomplishment of our Saviour's promise,-so may it be mystery; yet is it certain, that the garb and language of proved, that, to the Apostles themselves this inspiration was Revelation evince her to be a stranger among men; and
not a perpetual and unceasing gift,—and that the hypothesis that she demands and receives the more attention at our which maintains it to have been so, would conduct us to inhands, by bringing us such tidings as belong to nothing ferences no less at variance with the narratives of the Aposearthly.
tles themselves, than with the analogy which might be To return, however, from this short digression. The ad
expected between their endowments and those of the elder vent of the Paraclete was, inoreover, to instruct the followers Prophets, and with that natural and universal feeling which of Christ in the future fortunes of Christianity. “ He was forbids us to expect at God's hands an unnecessary miracle
, to show them things to come.”
or that he should exempt his creatures, while on earth, from Now, it is unquestionable that, with the exception of his that weakness and peccability which is the common misforown predicted sufferings, and that of the overthrow of the tune of their kind, any further than is required by the discity and polity of the Jews, no single conspicuous instance pensation committed to their charge, and the accomplishment can be found in which, according to the popular acceptation of his will through them. of the term, our Lord assumed the prophetic character. Nor,
Accordingly, it may be observed that the Prophets of the of future events, and of that general course of Providence elder Covenant were only then acquainted with future transwhich shall precede and promote the final triumph of truth, actions, when they were under the immediate influence of is any knowledge possessed by the world, which has not the spirit by whom they were favoured;—that his illapses been communicated by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost to took place at distinct and sometimes at distant periods ; and his chosen servants the Apostles. The rise of Anti-Christ, that, in the intervals of such awful visitations, they were in which has now become a matter of history; his fall to which we still look forward in faithful hope: the terrific events their brethren. Nor is there any ground in Scripture for
no respect distinguished from the weakness and ignorance of which are to occupy the latest scene of nature's drama; and supposing, with Michaelis, that John or Peter were, in this the manner in which nature herself is to be at length dis- respect distinguished from Jeremiah or Isaiah or Elijah; of solved; as they are circumstances of which our knowledge that the ordinary power which our Lord assigned them of has been derived from the Paraclete only, so are they essen- officially deciding cases of conscience, or of making laws tial features in that system of belief and happiness and and administering justice in the community over which they duties which it was his office to impart to Christians. were placed, required in them any more than in other eccleEssential they are to our belief, which, unless prepared siastical governors, an inherent and permanent infallibility
. beforehand by prophecy for the bitter trials of the church, Had this been the case, St. Peter would have been no less might faint and fail beneath the burden of our Master's an object of imitation when he dissembled with the Gentile cross ; essential to our happiness, since, without such an converts in Antioch, than when he admitted Cornelius into assurance of the final triumph of truth, our condition would the bosom of the Christian Church ; and St. Paul and St. be of all men most miserable ; essential to our duties, inas- Barnabas must have been equally correct in their opposite much as they raise our hopes and apprehensions above the judgments on the conduct of Mark the Evangelist. But
, in limits of a perishable world.
iruth, there is sufficient evidence in the New Testament itIt may be said then, with truth, that by the single discovery self, that the discoveries of God's will which the Apostles of the Christian system of atonement and peace and pardon; received were limited and occasional, and the powers with by the revelation of the will, and the mercy, and the power, which they were entrusted were, for the most part, tempo and the future counsels of God in Jesus Christ, the promise rary only. The time is marked when Peter was enlightened of a Comforter, insomuch as the Apostles were concerned, by a vision as to the removal of the ancient barrier between was exactly and most mercifully accomplished. But the the Gentile and the Jew; and till Peter had himself commupromise, it has been already shown, was not to the Apostles nicated this knowledge to the remaining disciples, they were only, but to the Universal Church of Christ in every age of strangers, at least in this particular, io the counsel
of their her duration. And as, since the time of the Apostles, no Heavenly Director. St. Paul's first mission to the Gentiles
, fresh revelation of God's will has been made to the church; his call into Macedonia, and his knowledge of things in as no new prophet has arisen to instruct, no open vision to Paradise, were all the subjects of distinct revelations, nor console her, it may be objected with much plausibility that could he predict the escape of his companions from the world has been in no wise accomplished by the gift of super- from the Angel of that God, whose he was and whom he the perpetual abiding of the Comforter with the Christian devouring ocean, till he had first received his information natural light to one out of many generations. It is true that served."—Nor should we omit to notice that the same St. we have still, in the volume of the Sacred Scriptures, the Paul, on more than one occasion, distinguishes his private results of that inspiration which the earliest teachers of our judgment from his divine instructions; and that the author faith enjoyed.—But this, it may be said, is rather a conse-Lof the Apocalypse specifies a particular Lord’s-Day, during
which he was “in the Spirit.”—It is apparent, however, It was, then, through the medium only of a few inspired inthat a person continually and in every word and action in- dividuals that, in the earliest and golden age of Christianity, spired, could, correctly speaking, have no human judgment the Holy Ghost can be said to have guided or comforted that at all ;-and that in him who was always under the super-orphan Hock which was left to his care; and it appears from natural influence of the Holy Ghost, it would have been many very remarkable passages of the New Testament, that as absurd to specify any particular moment at which that the ordinary believers of the apostolic period were no more influence overshadowed him, as it would have been to say endued with miraculous powers, and no more inspired with that he was at such or such a time alive and in the body. supernatural knowledge than the faithful in any subsequent
It is proved, then, that the Divine assistance which the age. Were all apostles, were all Prophets, did all speak apostles enjoyed was an occasional assistance only, and that with tongues in the days of Paul ? Let Paul himself decide there were periods during which the miraculous voice of the the question! Nay more; it is apparent from the writings of Holy Ghost was silent within them. But if there are peri- that great apostle, with what a holy jealousy, he vindicated ods, however short, during which a cessation of the gifts of to himself and to the rest of the Elders the peculiar privilege the Paraclete is acknowledged, without detriment to the of delivering to the Church those rules of faith and practice, Church or falsification of the Saviour's promise :-this con- which only were to be received on the authority of the Holy cession may be extended to any period which eternal wis- Ghost: and that neither man nor angel could pretend to the dom might think fit. Whether it be an hour, a day, a year, possession of a revelation independent of that which the aposa thousand years, no difference can be made in the truth of tles proclaimed, without incurring the heaviest weight of Him to whom a thousand years and one day are both alike,- anathema. nor in the interest of the Church over which his unsleeping If, indeed, the Spirit of God had communicated an immecare presides, and which, when she needs his further teach- diate and supernatural assistance to all who once embraced ing, may rest secure in faith to find it. The promise of the the Christian Faith, it is apparent that the controversial Almighty to abide in his Jewish shrine, was as express as writings which the apostles left behind (and all their writhat in which the Christian Church receives the assurance of tings may be regarded as more or less controversial) would a similar inhabitation.—Yet some intervals there were in never have existed at all; that doubts would never have which there was a cessation of supernatural endowments arisen, where every individual was alike divinely inspired; among the race of Israel, as total as that which we now de- and that no appeal would have lain to the superior authority plore.When Samuel was established as a seer, the word of of the Twelve, if the Churches of Rome or Corinth or Galatia the Lord had long been precious ;-between the appearance had inhaled, no less deeply than the apostles, the unspeakaof the different Prophets whose works are collected in our ble gift of God. canon, a considerable space of time must often have occurred. When inspiration, accordingly, was promised by Christ, And in four hundred years, from Malachi to John the Bap- and afforded by the Holy Ghost, in the earliest age of Christist, -we shall find no better pretences to inspiration than the tianity, to the collective and Catholic Church; it was not afdreams of the Maccabees, and the Bath-Col of Rabbinical forded, and doubtless therefore vot promised to the body, Fable. But if God still " dwelt in his temple,” though he otherwise than through the medium of some distinguished gave no preceptible tokens of his presence there,—if the members. And though John and Paul and Peter were, in Jews were not forsaken, though they saw “no prophet the first instance, guided and comforted by the Holy Ghost more,"'--shall we doubt that our Schekinah is with us still, himself, it was by Peter or Paul or John that such instructhough his voice be not heard in our assembly, or that he tion or consolation was dispensed to Apollos or Onesimus or may yet break silence should a case arise, in which the in- Philemon. terest of the faith require a new revelation.-But is God in- Nor can a dispensation of this kind be, with any degree of deed silent, when the sound of his words is brought to us justice, accused of inequality; nor are the inspired individevery Sabbath-day in the authentic records of our salvation ? uals more essentially favoured than those to whom their misOr do we hesitate to receive the 'comfort and counsels of sion is addressed, for whose sake and in order to whose inScripture as a daily and hourly blessing of the Holy Ghost, struction they are thus distinguished from the remainder of because we do not receive it from his immediate dictation ? mankind; and who, from them, receive a no less perfect Let us then recollect, in the second place, that, though the measure of knowledge than they have themselves derived promise be express that the Comforter should communicate from the visions or inspiration of God. By inspiration, it supernatural knowledge to the Church,—the manner of this will be recollected, in the scriptural sense of the word, neicommunication is nowhere limited to a supernatural process ther universal knowledge is implied, nor, even in religious only, and that if we continue to receive his dicta in all es- questions, universal infallibility. Of future events in getsential points unaltered,,it can make no difference whether eral the Prophet had no more knowledge than the meanest we receive them at the first or thirtieth hand.
of his audience; of the nature or will of the Almighty, (ahThere are two ways, indeed, and only two, by which, so stracted from those particular facts which it was his especial far as our experience enables us to judge,-a revelation from commission to disclose,) the apostle might himself inquire in Heaven, or any other supernatural knowledge can be con- vain. The veil was never except in part withdrawn from veyed to the human understanding. The first is by an im- mortal eyes; and, when the vision was described, and the pulse immediately communicated by God to the perceptions Gospel announced to the world, the world was as wise as its of the individual who is destined to be thus enlightened ; the teachers. Those teachers were not the objects, but the transsecond, by the intervention of some other and more favoured mitting medium of God's favours: the prophetic office was person, who is empowered and commanded to employ, for not so much a privilege as a burden imposed : the whole the instruction of his brethren, that knowledge, which he has counsel of God, so far as it was freely communicated to himself received from God. But, of a revelation which them, they were freely to impart to their uninstructed brethshould be at once universal and immediate, no instance can ren: they were the heralds to the world of those gracious ofbe found in the history of our Maker's dealings with mankind, fers which unbounded mercy made to all, and of which they on the great majority of whom he has always imposed the themselves were partakers, if (which by no means necessacondition of being taught by others of their species. rily followed from the fact of their official privileges) they
Even in the case which approaches most nearly to that of really partook in the benefits of the Gospel, nut as apostles an universal and immediate revelation, the case, I mean, in or prophets or ministers of Heaven, but as men, as sinners which the Almighly promulgated with his own voice the de- and as penitents. calogue to the assembled nation of Israel, his auditors, it is The comfort, then, of the Holy Ghost, both might be and plain, were only a single generation out of the many who was afforded to the early ages of the church through the were equally the objects of the instruction thus afforded, and means of a comparatively trifling number of inspired individof whom all the succeeding streams were bound to receive uals. And, if a succession of such individuals had been the truth on the authority and from the testimony of their raised by God's providence in the several and successive fathers.
generations which have since elapsed in our Sion; if there And, in the particular instance of the Christian Revelation, had been a prophetic school in the Christian church, such as as the fact itself on which our faith is founded, the resurrec-lis by most divines supposed to have existed in the church of tion, namely, of the Lord, was communicated not to all the Israel; or were that claim admitted to official infallibility people but to witnesses chosen of God; so were the doctrines which our fellow-Christians of the Romish persuasion have which depended on that fact revealed, in the first place, to not yet ceased to advance in favour of their universal bishop; certain selected teachers, on the credit of whose testimony we doubtless should nct hesitate to allow that by such a sucthe Universal Church was thenceforward to be guided and cession, the promise of our Saviour and the permanent resigoverned.
dence of the Holy Ghost with the church were satisfactorily
LIBRARY. accomplished and exemplified; though we neither beheld (as his might and majesty ? Surely his name is among us some of the modern Jews pretend was the privilege of their and his law is gone forth among men: he sendeth his comFathers) the glory of the Almighty visibly present in our mandment on earth, and his word runneth very swiftly: by sanctuary ; nor could reckon up with St. Paul, as incidents the sword which goeth forth from his mouth shall his enemies of frequent occurrence, that long and splendid list of miracu- be consumed before him; till all nations and people do him lous powers and graces for which the Corinthians so earnestly worthy reverence, and till the knowledge of Jehovah shall contended.
spread over the world as the waters cover the sea! Of miraculous gists, indeed, peculiarly so called ; of Nor does the case which has been urged of the pilot and tongues, of healing, of exorcism, of discerning spirits; his chart bear any real analogy to the hypothesis which I am though they were unquestionably among the most conspicu- now supporting. It was, we may observe, through the meous and frequent triumphs of the early church of God, the dium of this chart itself, or the instructions which this chart present words of Christ say nothing. The grace which the contains, (by the doctrine, that is, of the Holy Ghost, as esComforter was to bring among men, corresponds with inspira-pressed in the teaching or writings of the Apostles), that, tion and inspiration only: it was a knowledge of God's will even in the golden age of Christianity, the great body of the and of God's future intentions in relation to his church, which faithful were directed and consoled, and it is preposierous to our Lord engages to send to us; and, where this is afforded, tax the pilot with a desertion of our interests in the middle we have no reason to complain that gifts are withdrawn, of voyage, while we enjoy whatever advantages he conferred on which, whether the cessation be foretold or no, the permanence first embarking:— The promise, let it be remembered, was not is nowhere promised.
that he should steer the vessel but that he should gire us It appears, then, that the advent of the Paraclete and his knowledge to steer it for ourselves; and this knowledge is abode among men would be, during any period of Christian now and has been always afforded in those Scriptures which history, sufficiently evinced by the existence of one or more he daily offers to our attention. Those who apprehend that inspired individuals, whose authority should govern, whose the Comforter is filed from the church forget apparently by lights should guide, whose promises should console their less whose care the Sacred Volume has been preserved to our distinguished brethren; and by whom and in whom, as the time, entire and, in all essential points, uncorrupted ;-by agents and organs of his will, the Holy Ghost should be whose providential guidance all circumstances have been recognized as, in the absence of Christ, the governor and made to work together to give certainty and notoriety to his guardian of the church universal. But, if this be conceded, it oracles,—and by whom we ourselves have been conducted to will signify but very little, or (to speak more boldly, perhaps, the fountain of life,-and the mirror of God's will held up to but not less accurately) it will be a circumstance altogether our imitation and gratitude. And, while the providence of insignificant, whether the instruction afforded be oral or epis- the Holy Ghost secures to every member of Christ's church, tolary; whether the government be carried on by the author- the power of understanding mysteries which the prophets and ity of a present Jawgiver, or through the medium of rescripts kings of elder times have vainly desired to see, and which, bearing his seal, and, no less than his personal mandates, till thus revealed, surpassed the intellect of angels, it is idle compulsory on the obedience of the faithful. In every go- or worse than idle to deny that God is with us, because he vernment, whether human or divine, the amanuensis of a works through secondary causes. Though in this dark and sovereign is an agent of his will no less ordinary and effectual dangerous voyage, the lamp of our beacon be only visible, than his herald; and St. Paul both might and did lay claim and not the gracious hand which lighted first and now susto an equal deference, when, in the name and on the behalf tains it,—yet may the eye of faith behold our guide standing of that Spirit by whom he was actuated, he censured by his on the batilements of heaven, directing the beams of comfort letters the incestuous Corinthian, as if he had, when present, where they may best illustrate our course, and watching with and by word of mouth, pronounced the same ecclesiastical a parent's love our progress over the stormy waters.-Shame sentence.
on that blindness of soul which can look on the lights of the It follows that the Holy Ghost as accurately fulfilled the material firmament without blessing him who placed them engagement of Christ as the Patron and Governor of Chris- and supports them there ;-which can enjoy the Scriptures of tians, by the writings of the inspired person, when absent, as the New Testament without thankfully acknowledging who by his actual presence and preaching. And, if St. Paul, hav- he is that, by them, makes us wise unto salvation ? ing once, by divine authority, set in order the Asiatic and Nor can we be taxed with inconsistency if, having before Grecian churches, had departed for Spain or Britain or some denied that the general care of Providence over the Church other country at so great a distance as to render all subse- was that blessing which the Comforter was to bestow,-we quent communication impossible; yet still, so long as the now insist that he has perpetuated that blessing by this very instructions left behind sufficed for the wants and interests of Providence directed to a particular end. The scent of the the community, that community would not have ceased to be rose and the tone of the lyre are wasted to us by the same guided and governed by the Holy Ghost through the writings circumambient air, but it is the distinctive circumstance and of his chosen servant.
not the common vehicle which we mean to signify by the But that authority which we allow to the writings of an words “ fragrance” or “ melody.” And, by whatever concurabsent Apostle, we cannot without offending against every rence of events the Spirit of God has placed the volume of analogy of reason and custom, deny to those which a deceased his will in our hands, it is by the operation itself and not the Apostle has left behind him. For the authority of such writ-" modus operandi,” that he fulfils his office of Paraclete. ings, I need hardly observe, is of an official, and not of a In a larger sense, indeed, and, as pervaded by the influence personal nature. It does not consist in their having emanated of the Revelation of God's mercy and the Messiah's triumfrom Peter or James or John abstractedly considered, (in phant suffering, those rites of our religion which were already which case the authority of any one of them might, undoubt-instituted before the day of Pentecost, and those common edly, terminate with his life), but their authoriiy is founded dispensations of the Spirit's mercy and power which we in that faith which receives these persons as accredited agents share with other ages and nations; have all of them received of the Almighty. We reverence their communications as the through this his advent, the splendour of reflected truth, and latest edicts of the Paraclete; and we believe all further com- have gladdened the heart of the Christian with more than their munications to have ceased for a time; not because these emi- original blessedness. The Rabbinical teacher of righteousnent servants of God have long since gone to their reward, for ness has become an Evangelist of Peace and Pardon. The it were as easy for the Holy Spirit to raise up other prophets Jewish rites of initiation and thanksgiving have expanded in their room, as it was originally to qualify them for that into symbols of celestial power and tropies of the Redeemer's high office; not because we apprehend that the good Spirit is victory. The course of political events has been sanetified become indifferent to the welfare of the church, for this would by prophecy into an evidence of God's truth and wisdom. be in utter contradiction to the gracious assurance of our Sa- The light of grace which could only discover to the Gentile viour: but because sufficient light has been already afforded or the Jew the more awful attributes of their Maker's parity for the government of our hopes and tempers; and because and justice,—now flings its steady lustre on redemption no subsequent question has occurred for which the Scriptures bought for us, and merits imputed to us, and everlasting hapalready given had not already and sufficiently provided. piness promised to us,-and the same Spirit who was to the
But, are we free from the authority of an earthly Lord be-saints of older time a guardian and sanctifier, is, to the happy cause his orders are not daily repeated ? or hath the Lord follower of Christ, a Comforter. Omnipotent ceased to reign among men, because he doth not, But all these dispensations of the wisdom and right and with the frivolous inconsistency of an eastern despot, contin- grace of the Most High, derive their power of teaching and ually reverse his own decrees; or delight, as if afraid of being consoling us from a reference to Scripture only. By themforgotten, to terrify his subjects with incessant displays of selves they lead us into no truth ;-by themselves they tell
us nothing ;—their meaning and value can only be fully under-ries of our earliest teachers, to acquiesce without examination stood from a previous examination of God's word, -and it is hy in the fame of whatever was wonderful; and, from previous this book alone which his Spirit first dictated and now puts superstition, to admit the more readily a claim to supernatural into our hand, that the same good Spirit either guides us into power, from ignorance of those natural secrets which have truth, or shows us things to come,-or pleads the cause of become obvious even to the vulgar. To detect the falsehood (if Christ against the malice of the enemy and blasphemer. It any deception really lay hid) in the acts which the early is, then, as Dispenser of Supernatural truth, and as Teacher Christians through Christ's name pretended to perform, was of the Doctrine of Redemption that the Holy Ghost sustains not a task which demanded the skill of an experimental phiand has sustained his character as the Comforter which should losopher, inasmuch as the removing of an obstinate malady is come. And we conclude as Warburton concluded, (though a fact of which the reality may be ascertained by the poorest he arrived at the same truth by a process somewhat different, villager. And of the prevailing parties into which the world and though he incumbered its definition with circumstances was then divided, there were two at least who had every which I have shown to be irrelevant,) we conclude that this possible interest and inclination to unmask if possible the instruction is now conveyed to the world, in the Scriptures claims of a new religion, the heathen priests and the Epicuof the New Testament.
rean philosophers. The first of these were disturbed in that To this, however, two objections will be made: the first monopoly of wonders which they had for so many ages against the authority of those writings which are accepted peaceably enjoyed: the second, opposed, as they were from by us as divine; the second against their sufficiency to pro- principle, to every thing which marked a superintending Provide for those spiritual necessities, to which the Church of vidence, had already, in no small degree, succeeded in making Christ and the individuals of which it is composed, are col- the altars Jupiter ridiculous; and were little inclined to lectively and severally liable. The first of these objections suffer a new divinity to interrupt their dance of atoms. A proceeds from those various misbelievers who deny the authori- time of general irreligion (and such was, undoubtedly, the iy or inspiration of the several treatises which our canon of prevailing characteristic of that period of which I now am Scripture comprises; the second from such as maintain, that speaking) is, of all others, leasi favourable to a belief in the Scriptures, though divine, are of themselves a rule of miraculous powers, inasmuch as where attention is refused, wax which the prejudices and passions of mankind may warp all possibility of faith is taken away. to any system which pleases them; and, who seek, accord- Nor can a stronger proof be required of the prodigious seningly, in the jurisdiction of the Church at large, or of some sation which the wonderful works of the early Christians single ecclesiastical officer, a permanent and perceptible produced in all the civilized countries of the world, than the throne, wherein the Spirit of the Lord may dwell as the in- total and practical change, a change extending beyond the terpreter and administrator of those laws of which he is him- bounds of ihe Church, to the shrines and courts and schools self the Author.
of heathenism itself, from that general indifference to all reliThe first of these objectors deny the law to which we yion which distinguished the world from the days of Augustus appeal to be itself of sacred authority; the second demand to those of Nero; to that spirit of fanaticism which raised some aid beyond the original promulgation of the law, in up in Apollonius and lamblichus and Vespasian himself, the order, as they tell us, to render the law effectual. But the imitators at most humble distance of those works which inspiration of the Scriptures and their sufficiency to answer (they could not deny) were, in the case of the Apostles, genthe promise of our Saviour, are necessarily implied in an uine. Had not Moses first turned the waters of Egypt into hypothesis which makes that sacred volume the instrument blood, we should never have heard of Jannes and Jambres whereby the Holy Ghost continues to instruct and console essaying to do the like by their enchantments. the Church ; and I am therefore concerned to maintain both Above all, however, there is an internal evidence of the the one and the other of these assertions, against the open strongest kind in those works which are ascribed to the enemies or injudicious friends of Christianity..
Apostles, which shows that their supernatural gifts were And, in the first, there are three propositions contained circumstances of general notoriety; and that they were of a which will require to be severally defended. First, the per- nature which, had they been so inclined, it would have been soual inspiration of the reputed authors of our sacred voluine: utterly impossible to counterfeit. For not only did they assecondly, that the works which bear their names are with sert the power in their own persons of healing the sick, of good reason received as their composition: thirdly, that the speaking with unknown tongues, of foretelling things to come; authors were actually inspired at the time of composing the they asserted also, (and, in all the Epistles of St. Paul, we treatises in question, and that the rules of faith and practice find incidental references to this fact,) that others, through which they contain are, consequently, entitled to be received them and by the imposition of their hands, became partakers as the living dictates of Almighty Wisdom.
of the same Spirit with themselves, and performed the same On all these subjects I am well aware, indeed, that, as or greater miracles. And many of those Epistles contain from the multitude of my precursors but little of novelty is to specific and detailed directions for the use and improvement be expected, so the approaching termination of the present of such extraordinary powers, addressed to those who, in Lectures affords a very insufficient scope for doing justice common with the writer, possessed and employed them. even to any single branch of the inquiry. But, if it be allow- Now, supposing it to be possible, that a religious empiric ed me to conduct those doubts, which I want room to satisfy, might so far impose on the credulity of his admirers as to into channels where satisfaction may be best obtained, if instil into their minds the notion that he was himself a prosome principles of inquiry may be, at least, established, which phet and a worker of miracles; yet is it utterly preposterous may be improved by future diligence; neither my pains norio suppose, that such a deceiver would attempt at all, much your attention will be altogether ill bestowed. It is some more that he should attempt successfully, to make his folibing to point the way to truth, though it be a path which we lowers believe that they themselves were inspired with mimust travel separately.
raculous faculties. To persuade me into an erroneous opinion, The first of those assertions, which our former proposition that Paul has the gift of tongues, is not beyond the compass contains, has been often and satisfactorily proved from the of possibility; but it is neither in the power of Paul nor of an miraculous powers with which the Apostles are said to have angel from heaven to induce me to believe, in contradiction been endued, and to the reality of which not Christian writers to my own sensations and experience, that I myself have such only, but the earliest and most formidable antagonists of a faculty. But the greater part of Paul's addresses to the Christianity appear to have borne an ample testimony. Thus Corinthians proceed on the supposition that those whom he Celsus does not deny the fact that the fonnders of Christiani- addresses, had, since their conversion to Christianity, both ty had a power of working miracles; he only argues against possessed and exercised this faculty or faculties equally wonthe inference which, fron this acknowledged faci, the Chris- derful. So that either St. Paul, if he were an impostor, must tian sought to establish. The same admission is made by have done that which would have immediately detected his Julian the Apostate, as quoted by St. Cyrill. And the “Tol- imposition; or the miracles of the ancient Christian Church dos Jeschu," of all the Jewish sibels on our faith the most are established as perfectly authentic. virulent and outrageous, which (though in its present form it Is it supposed that the Corinthian converts were accomdoubtless belongs to a far later period) contains some tradi- plices with the Apostles in their deceptions on the ignorant tions not unknown to Celsus himself, is full of the miracles majority of mankind? To what purpose then does St. Paul both of Jesus and the Apostle Peter.
thus gravely address them in a letter intended for their priNor can the credence which was given to these early mir- vate instruction, as if those powers were real which both he acles by the converts and even the enemies of our religion be and they sufficiently knew to be counterfeit? Do not conjustly ascribed to any peculiar readiness in the contempora-federates, when together in private, make haste to lay aside
the mask? or do the kings and prophets of tragedy address ourselves the utter incompetency of Clemens or Hermas or each other in ordinary life with the same lofty language Polycarp to have counterfeited the narrations of St. Luke, which they employ on the public theatre?
St. Matthew, or St. John; or the masterly train of reasoning For, the Epistles of St. Paul are none of them, we may which runs through the polemical writings of St. Paul observe, immediately intended to enlarge the fame of Chris- What monstrous fables would have filled our Gospel history, tianity among those who were as yet without its pale, or to had Papias been its compiler! What endless refinements of attract from the Synagogue or the Academy an increasing allegorical and cabbalistic learning would have disfigured the harvest of converts. They are not, like the apologies of a Epistles, if the Fathers of the second century had palmed later age, designed to obviate the objections and remove the their own compositions on the world as the works of St. prejudices which the Heathen entertained against Christian- Peter and St. John! ity; but they are addressed exclusively to those by whom that I will go yet farther: when we find the Apostolic Scripreligion had been already adopted. Their differences are totures so greatly superior to all other Christian writings of be appeased; their errors to be corrected ; their firmness in the any sect or period whatever, can we forbear inquiring, from faith to be encouraged and preserved; and their exertions di- what peculiar circumstance should this pre-eminence arise, rected in the proper path to victory. The Epistles to the unless from that inspiration in which only the Barbarian Corinthians, in particular, (though they contain truths which teachers of our faith can be supposed to have excelled their are interesting to all, and counsels by which all may profit,) Grecian converts ? do not seem to apply in the first instance to the whole body On the nature and extent, however, of this inspiration, a of the Achæn Church, but are a series of private instructions great but very natural difference of opinion has, in every age for the conduct of the Bishops and Presbyters in that opulent of the Church, prevailed: and not only have the open eneand factious province.
mies of our faith attempted to reduce the Apostolic writings And so little do we find of empirical ostentation in the tone to the level of merely human productions; but men, whom it with which the Apostle speaks of these extraordinary facul- would be uncharitable and unjust to accuse of disaffection to ties, that the object of his address is expressly to lower the the general cause of Christianity, have sought, nevertheless, high opinion which such persons entertained of the gift of to further the views of their particular party by diminishing, tongues and prophecy; to remind them that these powers, as far as possible, the authority of such parts of Scripture as however extraordinary and brilliant, were of an utility only have appeared least favourable to their claims; or, in their temporary; and that it was better and more blessed to excel in controversies with the infidel, have so greatly narrowed the common virtues of mutual temper and forbearance, than their definitions of the Divine assistance accorded to the to attract by their miracles the gaze of mankind, and to win earliest preachers of the Gospel, as to deprive our hope of over others to salvation, while their own hearts continued un- the corner-stone of its foundation, and to leave hardly more improved.
of efficacy to the written oracles of everlasting truth, than to İf, then, the writings of the New Testament be really the the dictates of earthly prudence, and the recollection of mortal production of those whose names they bear, the fact is cer- and fallible witnesses. tain, that their authors were men approved by God as in- It is not, on the other hand, to be concealed, that this low structors of mankind, and designated by him, through signs opinion of inspiration is the consequence, in some degree, of and wonders, to be prophets of his Son and organs of his that natural revulsion which an opposite and overstrained inspiration.
hypothesis is apt to occasion in acute and inquiring minds; And that these writings are really genuine, is a fact which and that, if modern Christians be in the habit of receding too rests on the united authority of internal evidence at once the much, the claims and language of some earlier doctors were most minute and pervading; of tradition primitive and uni- considerably too high and unbending. To state and to mediversal ; of the acknowledged reluctance which Christians ate between the several schemes which have, on this imhave, in every period of their history, exhibited to affix, portant subject, excited and divided the attention of mankind, without long examination and accumulated weight of testi- must be the work of a future Sermon. mony, to works laying claim to divine authority, the seal of approbation and reverence. It is in this manner that the rejection by the Church of those numerous pretended Acts and Gospels, and Epistles, reckoned up by Beausobre, and the very difficulty with which some of the works contained in our present canon were admitted to that honourable station,
LECTURE VIII. may prove not only the indisputable authority of those in whose reception all ages and parties agree, but will also I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I show that none, even of those which were longest doubted, go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I dewere received without probable testimony.
part, I will send him unto you. ---John xvi. 7. Nor is this all: the Scriptures are yet more satisfactorily distinguished from the productions of more recent imposture Having established, from the fact of those miraculous by the weight of argument, the simplicity of narration, the gifts wherewith the power of God endued the earliest teachdignity of devotion, the peculiar grace of candour and au- ers of Christianity, the consequent fact of their prophetic thority, which every where may be seen to shine through mission, it might seem, at first sight, to follow as a necessary the rudeness of their Hellenistic dialect; and which, as they corollary, that. to all their assertions, whether oral or comwould have baffled the imitation of the most artful impostor, mitted to writing, no less à deference was due than to the so none of those impostors whose works have descended to sacred oracles of God; that the entire New Testament, as our time have, in reality, attempted to copy:
their undoubted and genuine composition, must be received We have yet some spurious works which were offered, in as the embodied dictates of eternal truth and wisdom; and their day, to the reverence of the world, as productions of that, by this single present to the Christian world, the Holy Apostles and Evangelists; and we have fragments of many Ghost has sufficiently redeemed his gracious pledge of bemore, which the lapse of time and the merited contempt of coming through every succeeding age cur-Guide, our Guardthe Church have long since consigned to oblivion. But ofian, and our Comforter. how different materials are these composed from those which For, though two of the Gospels, and the narration of the distinguish the books of our present canon! Unnecessary Acts of the Apostles, are composed, indeed, by men who and childish miracles; discourses tedious and ill-constructed"; were not themselves of that number, and to whom we have and a temper altogether alien from that which is displayed no sufficient grounds for ascribing the gift of personal inspiin the genuine New Testament; sufficiently mark out the in-ration, yet were Mark and Luke the companions and amantfinite difference between the authentic oracles and human enses of the two most considerable elders, and the histories counterfeits of inspiration; and evince their hopeless daring, which bear their name were written, if we believe the almost who, with mortal flames, would strive to emulate the force universal voice of antiquity, under Apostolic dictation
and and brightness of Heaven's own inimitable lightning. revisal. They even bore, among the writers, of the primi
When we compare, indeed, the acknowledged composi- tive Church, the names respectively of those two illustrious tions of the uninspired though primitive Fathers of the Church, teachers whose sentiments they were supposed to convey; themselves distinguished ornaments of Christianity, the pupils and were known no less as the Gospels of St. Peter and St. of the Apostles, and possessed, in all but supernatural aid, Paul than as the works of their familiar attendants. of equal or even superior advantages to the Apostles them- Had the case, indeed, been different, we have every reason selves ; when we compare their writings with those ascribed to suppose, from the acknowledged conduct of the Christia to their illustrious teachers, is it possible to conceal from world in other and similar instances, that these works would