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tute of foundation, the history itself must be proved fabulous, which has never yet been, nor ever can be done. Let us then consider how peculiarly proper and necessary it was, that the immediate power of God should be thus exerted, on an occasion of such vast importance to the happiness of his rational offspring, as the establishment and propagation of Christianity.
The first remarkable effect of the pouring forth of the spirit, was the communication to the apostles of the ability to speak, with fluency and propriety, in languages which they had never learned; and the advantage to be derived from it was great and most apparent. The event took place at one of the principal Jewish festivals, when there were at Jerusalem devout men out of every nation under heaven, where any Jews resided. All these heard, every one in their own tongues, the apostles speaking of the wonderful works of God." These, we may easily suppose, were the accomplishment of ancient prophecies, the character and kingdom of the Messiah, the doctrines he taught, the mighty works which God did by him, his resurrection, his ascension, and his appointment to be the judge of the world. And thus was that promise of Christ to the apostles fulfilled-that they should be witnesses unto him not only in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, but to the uttermost parts of the earth." Thus the gospel was at once revealed to every nation; and these strangers, at their return home, would become preachers of it, and lay a foundation for converting the world to the knowledge and worship of the one living and true God. Another wonderful consequence of this divine communication, was, the courage with which it in
spired the apostles; a company of men who but a few days before, when they saw their master in the hands of his enemies, all forsook him and fled. Instead of repeating such pusillanimous conduct, we now find them vindicating his claim to be the Messiah-charging the guilt of his murder upon its perpetrators-asserting his resurrection from the dead, and appealing to what was now seen and heard as evidence of the fact. The like boldness was manifested, and similar language held by Peter and John, when examined before the council, touching the cure wrought upon the lame beggar at the gate of the temple. And when, unable to say any thing against it, but dreading the consequences of an influence which might be thus acquired among the people, they commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus, they nobly replied Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Thus, in the face of threatening, in spite of suffering, and in the certainty of detection if their assertions were unfounded, did they discharge the commission their Lord had given them, and by virtue of the powers with which they were invested.
✨ Finally, if the divine wisdom was conspicuous in conferring miraculous gifts on the apostles, for the confirmation and speedy diffusion of the gospel, we must see the like propriety in not confining their exercise to them alone, but in admitting others to a participation of them, till such time as the end proposed should be fully answered.
Various and conclusive were the reasons why these extraordinary powers should cease in an early age
of the Christian church. Having roused mankind from the torpor into which idolatry, ignorance, and vice had sunk them, and called, irresistibly, their attention to the doctrines of the gospel, their immediate purpose was answered; and it was sufficient for posterity that authentic records of them should be preserved; for, had they continued, they would no longer have been considered otherwise than as matters of course, which would excite no uncommon degree of regard. We see also in Simon the magician an early instance of the disposition there was, in worldly-minded men, to convert the supposed possession of them to base and avaricious purposes. It is notorious that the clerical character, asserted to have been derived by lineal descent from the apostles, has laid claim to an inheritance of their superior illumination and authority; and, in the church of Rome, has laid the foundation of an enormous mass of abuses and corruptions. And scarcely in others, who assume the title of Reformed, are pretensions to extraordinary spiritual endowments abandoned. And although, perhaps, it would not, at this day, be seriously contended that imposition of hands does really convey any qualifications which were not antecedently possessed, it is still retained, with a manifest allusion to the gift which Paul tells Timothy was imparted to him by prophecy," with the layingon of the hands of the presbytery." Hence also the power, still claimed, to decree rites and ceremonies, and to regulate the articles, and decide in controver sies of faith, grounded on that passage at the end of Matthew's gospel-❝ Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." But it ought to be known to those who make this appeal (and to every
one else and one can scarcely imagine that the reverend and learned translators themselves should have been ignorant) that this is not the real meaning, It is not to the end of the world, but of the age, or, as we are authorised to conclude from fact, and from the corresponding passage in Mark, the period during which miraculous powers were to continue in the church.*
Another error, and that of a very serious nature, arising from the supposed continuance of extraordinary influences, is, that such internal illuminations have been thought to supersede the use of that revelation which we possess in the books of scripture ; and this has actually occasioned expressions of a very contemptuous kind for those inestimable oracles. So that it would seem as if these persons had learned, from the bible itself, to undervalue the bible. The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." I reverence it as of his kindling; and when fed with the oil of divine revelation, it burns with that clear and steady light which cannot fail of conducting him to truth and happiness. But, certainly, we have no facts before us to authorise the conclusion that it is now to be received by immediate communications from heaven. It is abundantly sufficient for us to know that such has been the case, and to be assured of it by au
* Good Doctor Doddridge seems to have been aware on what disadvantageous ground the true translation of this passage would place the claims of the clerical order. He therefore adheres to the common version, and adds (somewhat peevishly) in a note, taking the thing to be proved for granted, “As Christ's presence with his surviving apostles was as necessary after the destruction of Jerusalem as before it, nothing seems more unreasonable than to limit these words by such an interpretation."
thentic and indubitable testimony. To these records let us adhere; and make the noblest and best use of our reason, by diligently studying them, and endeavouring to become acquainted with their true import. Between the wild ideas I have just now mentioned, and absolute infidelity, there seems to be but a single step; so nearly do extremes approach each other.
To some notion, however indistinct, of the continuance of spiritual suggestions, is to be ascribed the fondness of several different sects of Christians for extemporaneous effusions, both in prayer and preaching. While many, at least, of these do not afford, either in matter or manner, any unequivocal proofs of a supernatural origin, it cannot be denied, that when delivered with ability and correctness, they have greatly the advantage over precompositions, in fixing the attention of an audience. On the other hand it must be granted that the latter, particularly as applied to discourses, have the advantage in the use they may be of to posterity, while the benefits of the most eloquent extempore address are confined to the immediate hearers.
Before I proceed further to notice the errors and abuses which have been engrafted upon, and have grown up from, this principal article of Christian faith, and to show what I conceive to be the proper views, which, in present circumstances we ought to entertain of divine influence and assistance, I apprehend it will be proper to fix the true meaning of the term SPIRIT, as we find it in the sacred writings. It is used there in a great variety of senses, to particularise which, would lead me far beside my present purpose. I shall merely observe, that when ap