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tremendous was this power, that it sometimes extended even to the infliction of instant death, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira; and sometimes was manifested in the infliction of some particular disease, as in the instance of Elymas the sorcerer, who was struck with blindness. And, doubtless, it is to some such corporeal and judicial infliction that St. John alludes, when he excludes the mediation of prayer, and says, “ If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it;" or rather, “ It is not of that I speak that he shall pray for it” (1 John v. 16). In this passage, the word death signifies the death of the body; and the word sin, some particular crime or unholy conduct, which may have occasioned that judicial infliction; as is evident from James v. 15: “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." From the conditional if, we must conclude that the sins here alluded to must be some particular offences; for, in another sense, “ all have sinned ;” and “all unrighteousness is sin,” but not always to the death of the body, as a judicial infliction for a particular crime, because " there is a sin not unto death.” From all which it may be inferred, that the Apostle, speaking of the sin not to be prayed for, alludes to some incurable disease, publicly inflicted by the spiritual power and authority of the church upon incorrigible offenders, or else publicly acknowledged as the hand of God : and, therefore, not to be prayed for like other afflictions; the church being guided in its discernment by the Spirit of God.
It is, likewise, evident that the same description of ecclesiastical penalty is referred to by St. Paul, when he says of the incestuous Corinthian, that he had judged to deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. v. 5). That is, to inflict upon him some incurable bodily disease, by which his flesh might be destroyed by death, and his spirit, being humbled and subdued by such corporeal chastisement, might by repentance obtain salvation. And it is of the same kind of punishment he speaks, when he says, “ Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (1 Tim. i. 20).
Some commentators, falling into the modern error of rejecting all supernatural operations in the church, have contended that the delivering unto Satan means nothing more than excommunicationmi. e. the sending the offender out into the world. But how this should conduce to the saving of his soul, or to teach him not to blaspheme, is not easy to understand. But, on the
other hand, that bodily diseases may be inflicted by Satan * is evident from the facts related respecting the demoniacs, and, especially, from the example of the woman who was healed by our Lord; and of whom he says, “ And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath-day? (Luke xiii. 16.)
The corporeal punishment of sin is clearly signified in 1 Cor. xi. 30; where, in reference to the unworthy receiving of the communion, it is said, “ For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep :" i. e. many labour under bodily disease, and many have died-sleep in death; having suffered the destruction of the flesh, as the penalty of their offences, And it is this construction that the Church of England puts upon the passage, when, in the Exhortation before the Sacrament, in allusion to the same unworthy receiving of it, and its consequences, it is said, “We provoke him to plague us with divers diseases and sundry kinds of death.” Here is the bodily sickliness and sleep of death mentioned, if not in the very words of Scripture, at least in full accordance with the sentiment.
But the revival of any one of the powers of the church without a corresponding revival of discernment for the right exercise of that power, would be the occasion of peril to the souls of individuals, and tend to the weakening instead of the strengthening of the church. Could the power by which Ananias and Sapphira were struck down, be safely entrusted to the church in her present condition ? Certainly not. The church must first receive that discernment, on the one hand, by which the Holy Spirit in Peter was able to know infallibly the unpardonable sin which lurked in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira, and which God alone could discover; and the members of the church must have among them some so devoted to God as to give up every thing in the world for the kingdom of heaven; and this so heartily and sincerely, as to bear and court the all knowing eye of God to search their inmost thoughts, and deal with them accordingly. Our present standard for estimating all things is too low; our desire even after spiritual things is too selfish; God in mercy withholds his gifts, lest they should turn to evil.
In the present weak and faithless condition of the larger portion of the church, bodily afflictions should not be considered in the light of personal chastisements: they are not like local diseases, but indications of debility in the whole body; and they
* Numerous instances might be adduced from the Old Testament in support of these remarks; as, Job, Gehazi, Jehoram, the companies of fifties slain at the word of Elijah, &c.; but no reference is here given to the Old Testament, as it is intended solely to exemplify the power of the church under the Christian dispensation.
are not to be healed by local applications, but by strengthening and re-invigorating the whole system. And the member himself, again, should not seek for restoration on his own account, or to get rid of suffering, but for the sake of the whole church, and for the glory of God. This is the true reason why our prayers are not more constantly and immediately answered; this is the reason why God withholds power from the church. He cannot answer our prayers, if the answer would be injurious; if, instead of promoting His glory, it fed our vanity or selfishness. He cannot give power to the church, if it is not in a fit state to receive it, and to use it for his glory.
The glory of God, in short, is the end for which man was created. For the glory of God the church was endowed with her powers and privileges : these have become enfeebled just in proportion as she has lost sight of the end for which they were given; just in proportion as she has sought her own glory, instead of the glory of God. The recovery lies in reversing the practice; in carrying our Lord's injunction into full practice and into all circumstances, in seeking first the kingdom of God and its righteousness; and all other things shall be added thereto.
We ask and have not, because we ask amiss, that we may consume it upon our lusts; and we seek power in some such feelings as the disciples, who would have called down fire from heaven upon the cities that did not receive them, not knowing what manner of spirit we are of.
The end proposed to us is oneness with Jesus; and we must, therefore, be of one mind with him now: we must be exercised in his humiliation; we must feel his love for the souls of men ; we must be willing to forego our own ease and comfort, and even to lay down our lives, for the sake of the brethren. Unless we have this preparation in our minds, the powers of the church cannot be entrusted to our hands.
Nor can these powers be entrusted to us if we should thereby make void our necessary dependence upon God, and that life of constant faith which Jesus led, and which is the calling of every one of his members. Even in Christ, the
which he exercised and the omniscience he possessed were drawn from his heavenly Father; to do whose will he came, and who always heard his prayers; and as Son of Man he knew not the day nor the hour of certain events, which the Father kept in his own power (Mark xiii. 32). And much more doth it behove us, who are not, as he was, God as well as man, to wait in humble dependence upon our heavenly Father; seeking power only to exercise it for his glory, not for own exaltation ; content to be abased and despised, if such be his pleasure; content to know nothing, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.
It cannot be too often repeated, that no power is for private
gratification or self-exaltation, as no prophecy is of private interpretation; the power is given to the church for the glory of God, not to the individual for self-conceit. It may, in fact, be considered as a characteristic mark to distinguish the workings of Satan, that the power which he gives is for private gratification or self-exaltation, and his lying divinations promise gain of some kind to the individual. Šimon Magus, who used sorcery, bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one ; and the damsel whom Paul healed was possessed with a spirit of divination, which brought her masters much gain by her soothsaying. But the Apostles had no private ends to answer, and could always say, “Silver and gold I have none, but such as I have, give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk : ” and in every miracle they wrought took no glory to themselves, continually giving all the glory to God, and saying, “ Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this ? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One, and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses : and his name, through fuith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. . And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also
your rulers. But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts iii. 12-23). And again : “ Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even
by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in
other for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (iv. 8–12).
Let us seek to have the mind of Christ and the love of God, that we may be prepared to receive and exercise aright the powers with which the church was at first endowed, and in which she shall be reinvested ; that all the gifts may be exercised in that charity without which they would be but sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal: and that so, by that bond of perfectness, the church may become one in all things with the Head, the glorified Jesus; and attain to the perfection of manhood, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
ON THE BAPTISM OF INFANTS.
They certainly do lamentable injustice to themselves, and sorely violate the freedom of their own conscience, who admit with so much precipitation that Infant Baptism is contrary to the Scriptures ; while no one has ever pretended to know at what period the practice was introduced, unless by Christ and his Apostles.
In the first publication of the Gospel to the Gentiles it necessarily came to pass that only the transactions of adults obtained a prominent place on the page of history. For example, in Acts xvi. 25—33, the persons introduced into the narrative are three Adults ; and the other parties concerned are not mentioned, unless, as it were by implication, included of course, rather than by any special exercise of the Apostle's authority or private judgment in the particular case. For indeed it was a thing hitherto unknown in the church, and contrary to all the customs of men, or of the Almighty towards mankind, that any man's family should be dealt with contrarily to himself, unless by the extraordinary and special exercise of unquestionable prerogative and power. The operation of a law which rules alike in all the animal kingdom, in all moral government, and in all sacred history, and its observance in the particular case of the jailor's conversion and salvation, was a thing of course: the suspension or abrogation of that law, in any instance, would have been deserving of commemoration and extraordinary detail. We should expect to hear when such an anomaly first arose, and on what grounds; and whether it had its origin in the human will, or from on high : whether He who condemned our entire race in Adam, and saved it in Noah ; who chose the posterity of Shem, and preferred the families of Jacob, Judah,