« PreviousContinue »
and reconcile it to the mind to hear, consider, digest, judge; and treasure it up as a pearl of great price; the spiritual lifegiving word of the reigning Prince of Peace. These are the ends for which a gracious God instituted the Gospelit produces these effects by its instrumental operations. Every article of practical faith has the same obstacles to encounter, and the same opposition to surmount. Hence there is a necessity for records, "line upon line, precept upon precept;" ordinances, and providences; pains, and sorrows; and the certainty, as well as the fear of death, and an eternity to come. The blind, and stupid insensibility, as well as the natural indisposition to spiritual things, make the pains, and sorrows of this life, which are the effects of sin, as necessary to awaken attention, and sensibility to the truths of the Gospel, and to break the force of appetites, passions, and wordly interests, as the free, and extensive application of blistering plaisters is necessary, in low stages of the nervous fever, for exciting the system, in order to its being susceptible of the restorative operation of medicine. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is medicine to the soul; its belief heals moral diseases, it supports the disconsolate heart, and pours consolation into its bleeding wounds"the words that I speak, said Christ, they are Spirit, and they are life"-through them the great head of influences, and author of ordinances, gives faith in Jesus Christ, which is, the light of life to the soul, as it is the earnest of that glorious immortality which he has promised to confer at the resurrection from the dead. We know not the power of Spirits, or how they work upon bodies. By the same reason that a Spirit can lift a straw, he may a mountain, for ought that I know. All we have to trust to, in this case, is the restraining power of God. Were it not for this, I doubt not but the devil could take away my life, or inflict terrible diseases upon me, as upon Job. Herein the great power, and goodness of God, is manifest, that he has never yet permitted the devil to work miracles in opposition to any whom he sent, except when the remedy was at hand, and to shew his power the more, as in the case of Moses, and the magicians, &c. That the death of Christ has had a great effect in restraining the influences of satanical beings
over men, is evident from what appears in profane histo ry, as well as the declaration of the scriptures. The Pagan world, before the coming of Christ, and before his death, was greatly afflicted by satanical influences; as appears from the Pagan writings. The following may be taken as some of the scripture evidences upon this subject:-"And the seventy returned again, and with joy, saying Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld satan as lightning falling from heaven-behold I give you power over all the power of the enemy." Luke 10. 17-19. Jesus said, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour-Father glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, BUT FOR YOUR SAKES. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me. (This said he, signifying what death he should die) John 12. 27-28. 30-33-chapt. 5. 22. 27, and 14. 30. He will reprove the world of judgment-because the prince of this world is judged. John 16. 8-11. For this purpose the Son of God was made manifest that he might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3. 8. For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil. Heb. 2. 14. Having spoiled principalities, and powers, (by his cross) he made a shew of them, openly triumphing over them in it. Colos. 2. 15. Acts 26. 18. Ephes. 2. 12. Acts 20. 2. Luke 13. 16. The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." Jude 6. These restraints upon satan, and evil spirits, by virtue of the meritorious death of the Saviour, under the mediatorial government of Jesus Christ, are of a very dissimilar character from those which are supposed to be exerted immediately upon the minds of men. The restraining power, exerted upon the prince of darkness,
in preventing his violence upon the minds of men, is necessary to their possessing the powers, and sustaining the relation of moral, and accountable beings, under a gracious government. By virtue of God's love to mankind, and the death of Christ, this is effected, as it is on the same account that the proclamation of grace is made, with heavy penalties against those who reject it, and glorious promises to those who accept of it, and obey it.
I may be told by those who advocate the immediate agencies independent of the word or distinct from it, that they do not pretend to hold any opinion upon the subject of the operations, that is not according to the scripture. To this I answer, that all these notions are unsupported by the scripture, and are in opposition to it. The promises of which the prophets speak, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." Jerem. 31. 33; and also Ezek. 11. 19-20, and 36. 26-27; Zach. 12. 10; and also Joel 2. 28. are explained by the promises of Christ in respect to the gifts of the Spirit; and, in a particular manner, by their fulfilment as detailed in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 1. 15. is stated the number of disciples upon whom the Holy Ghost fell in Acts 2. 2-4, 33. 38-39, and 5. 32, and 10. 44; also Gal. 3. 14. Eph. 1. 13: all these scriptures go to prove, expressly, that the Spirit was only received in consequence of faith. There have been but two OUT-POURINGS of the Spirit. The first was on the Jewish day of Pentecost, and he fell upon none but the disciples before Peter began to preach. The second was upon Cornelius, and friends, after they believed. Acts 11. 17.
As the scriptures are express upon this subject, in restricting the out pourings of the Spirit in the Apostolic day to believers, and as no new order of things has been established by God, of which he has given us any information, those who profess (and are sincere in that profession) to regulate their opinions by the Scriptures, may easily, and with confidence correct this their great error, by the word, in respect to the objects, and subjects upon whom the Spi-rit, who is the official promulgator of the Gospel, operates. They whose province it is to teach, will also perceive the
necessity of using more simplicity, and earnestness in urging the evidences of the Gospel, in order that their hearers might believe it true, and feel its influences-they will perceive very plainly that the proof upon which the faith of the Gospel rests is intelligible. John 20. 30-31; and they will also understand, practically, the channel through which it is acquired. Rom. 10. 17. They will have no difficulty in settling the correct doctrine upon these subjects; and in doing of it, they will pay but little court to their imaginations, passions, and appetites; but will thank God that the Gospel is the mean by which their intelligent nature is not only illuminated by the Spirit; but, that it is also the rule by which the understanding subdues passion, appetite, and imagination to the obedience of faith, and makes them subservient to the honour, and glory of God, and the happiness of society.
There are some very zealous teachers who profess to be taught (on account of the regular succession from the Apostles, and of the imposition of hands, I suppose, as the christians, and particularly the disciples were in the first century) by the immediate teachings of the Spirit; to have the things of Christ shewed unto them, and by the same monitor to have spiritual things brought to their remembrance immediately, according to Christ's promise to his disciples, who had been with him from the beginning. John 14. 26, and 15. 26-27. To such persons I would observe, that by the evangelist, John 21. 25. we are informed that Christ did a vast number of miracles which are not written, and of which those persons in our day, (of whom I profess to be one) who are only taught the things of God by his word, know nothing: Now, if those persons, who are immediately taught according to Christ's promise to his twelve disciples, can, and will tell what those things were which are not written, and prove that their teaching in this respect is true, then they will deserve with confidence to be believed in this article of their divine illuminations. I mention this case, merely to suggest the possibility of their being mistaken. I think for the most part, there is much greater correctness, and consistency amongst the lawyers in their recollection, and application of the law by the use of their faculties, than
are evinced by those teachers of christianity, who profess to be immediately taught by the Spirit, and to have things brought to their remembrance by his suggestions. His immediate teachings in the days of the Apostles, by which they wrote the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelations, were very different from what they have been since. His revela tions to the Apostles were consistent, and uniform. Since that period they have been diverse, and contradictory. Then, they produced unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. Since that period, they have produced disunity wrangling, and violence. In the Apostolic day, the gifts of the Spirit were imparted to those who believed in Jesus Christ, after they believed, by the imposition of hands. It is now stated by good authority, that in Great Britain, out of nearly twenty thousand clergymen upon whom the bishop's hands have been laid, nine tenths are deists.-Seo Simpson's Appeal. Our only security for correct knowledge upon divine subjects, and the proper recollection, and use of it for the instruction of others, and for our own benefit, is in an humble dependance upon the word of God as the medium of his communications, and the right use of our faculties with which he has blessed us. At the same time, we with earnestness endeavour to obey the divine command, to work out our salvation with fear, and trembling, we should not forget, (in order to excite a due sense of dependance upon God, of his goodness, and mercy,) that it is God, who inwardly worketh in us from benevolence (as Macknight translates it,) both to will, and to work effectually; for in him we live, and move, and have our being. By the Gospel, he commandeth all men every where to repent, because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousnes by Jesus Christ; of which he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead: Him hath God excedingexalted, upon whom he hath bestowed a naine, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, (the angelic hosts) of things upon the earth, (mén) and of things under the earth, (all who are in the state of the dead); and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father, who hath