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teach and rule, and, in the wide- recovered still. But if the possesspread capacity, to prophesy, to heal sion of the Spirit depended on the the sick, and even to raise the dead. purity of the Church, it is passing
It is to these gifts of the Spirit strange that the most corrupt of all that the Apostle apparently alludes. the Apostolic churches possessed the What they all were we shall never, most striking gifts; whereas, in the perhaps, be able to affirm. Some midst of the fires of persecution, the were altogether miraculous. In some gifts declined as the piety grew, the supernatural shaded off into the and it was only in the darker ages of natural ; and in others, were it not the Church that the claim was ever that the Spirit of God made all revived. supernatural and divine, we should The explanation is much rather to be disposed to say that there was be found in the fact that they had nothing supernatural at all. It was, really done all their work, and their throughout, a wondrous stage in the continuance would have done harm. Church's history, when every man The extraordinary was now to subfelt a divine afflatus within him, and side into the ordinary, and the wben effects like these bore imme- miraculous to be brought within diate testimony to the Spirit within. the category of regular law. Was It was a grand epoch. It met a this a loss of power ? No doubt great need. It bore witness to the
many think so.
There are always presence of a mighty power, and it men to be found who can see no produced stupendous results.
force except in a storm, and always But with the first age these died look for God in the earthquake, the -away. I say " the first age,” not
whirlwind, and the fire. And many, that I think we are warranted in doubtless, are ready to affirm that asserting that they were all buried the first Christians, with their inin the tomb of the last of the spired teachers and their gifts of Apostles ; or, that it is possible to prophecy and tongues, must have determine now the precise date at been better off than we; and to cry which they came to an end. But out, almost in despair, “Oh, for some die out they did, and that before very inspiration to settle our differences ; long. It is true that the Church of and some miraculous power to comRome has ever laid claim to a pel the indifferent to listen to our continued and infallible inspiration, word!” and even to miraculous powers; but Has the Church, then, suffered any her inspired infallibility bas uttered loss ? Was the Church of the first too many absurdities, and has too days better off than we are now ? Or, often contradicted itself for her asser- had it really anything of which we tions to be worthy of regard ; and are deprived? Unquestionably, no! her pretended miracles are too far- The Church has gained, not lost; fetched and extravagant to bear a and all it ever had it possesses still. moment's comparison with those of The inspiration to bring out new earlier days.
truth may have gone ; but it has But why did they all die out as gone simply because we have all the they did ? Was it that the Spirit truth. The revelation itself is here. was itself withdrawn? The con- When the world was all in darkness, tinued and growing triumphs of the God filled the heavens with sun, Gospel proved the very opposite. moon, and stars; and who ever imaWas it that the piety and faith of gines that it is any loss to us if He the Church declined ? Many think does not go on creating still ? They so, and believe that they could be are there for all time, and all we want is good eyes with which to see work miracles, but to do greater them, and improving telescopes to things than these. Still is it in bring them near. And inasmuch as every Christian as truly and fully as in this Bible we have the full light in any early temple of the Holy of Divine truth, and in the Christ of Ghost. Still is it here to lead the the Bible the Light of the world-- sons of God to their Father's home ; with the Bible in our hand and the to sanctify those who believe; to Spirit of God in our hearts, we have make words of weakness into words all that inspiration itself ever did or of mighty power ; to lead the thinkcould do for the Church of old. And ing and inquiring from truth to though some few may then have truth, till words have life, and creeds climbed to heights we have not are really believed. Still have we reached, and scanned a clear horizon here, in the Spirit of God, the living far broader than our own, the Church stream that cleanses—the golden as a whole, was never in a position half chain that draws up to heaven-the so favourable for taking a full survey power that sanctifies and saves. of the entire plain of Divine revela- 2. Quenching the Spirit, the standtion, and never had a finer oppor. ing danger of the Church.-It tunity for entering into possession follows, from what has been already of all the truth.
said, that the danger referred to not The miracles may have ceased. only is not always the same, but may But what if some saints sleep quietly vary from age to age.
The nature in Jesus, whom we should be of the danger changes; the danger tempted to call back from their itself remains. We cannot quench graves ? and what if it is only by the Spirit as they could : and they improved surgery that the sick are were not exposed to the dangers healed, and by improved education which beset ourselves. Inspired men that the ignorant are taught, and may have had their temptations to after careful study that we can speak suppress the truth in face of dangeror in other tongues? Is this so great from the power of prejudice, or even a loss? We can heal the sick, to pervert it for the sake of reward. secure good teachers, and learn the And had they done this—had Peter, languages of all the world : and it is when the sheet was drawn up, reonly a morbid taste that desires from fused to learn the lesson that it a miracle what we can obtain in taught, and sent the messengers of other ways. All that those early Cornelius away; had Paul held back n.iracles were really meant to accom- from the heathen, to whom he plish can be accomplished still. preached Christ, the freedom he was Eighteen centuries of Christian work commissioned to proclaim, and are to those who have eyes to see a preached circumcision instead; had far stronger evidence of the Divinity the Apostles, for fear of any conseof Christianity, than all the miracles quences, allowed a Judaizing gospel to of the New Testament times. What be proclaimed,—they would, indeed, though the eyes of the blind are not have quenched the Spirit with most opened by our touch, and the graves disastrous results. We have no do not give up their dead! the Spirit such inspiration; no such results of God is still here to open blind are dependent on the course we take; eyes and quicken those that are dead no new truth is revealed for us to in trespasses and sins. The same keep back ; we cannot in this
way Spirit which dwelt in the Church at quench the Spirit. Or had the Corinth is dwelling in the Church Church itself, by any arbitrary law, still, not to speak with tongues and decreed that the rules of the old synagogue should still be rigidly ob- down by old creeds, fettered by served; had all speaking with authoritative articles, or hampered tongues, all irregular prophesying, by the fear of some imaginary all unofficial working of miracles heresy, they make their own Bible been studiously suppressed ; this as they go along. The Spirit of would have been the very quenching God may still be prayed for, and its of the Spirit to which the Apostle teaching still be desired; but even refers. But we have no miraculous while they pray for it, they take powers to suppress; no speaking with care to bind it down by conditions tongues to put down; no prophesy.
of their own.
The earnest prayer ing to silence; we cannot in this of one man is that he may be led way quench the Spirit. Neverthe- into all the truth, provided it does not less, the possibility still remains, and contradict the Thirty-nine Articles, the danger still exists.
or the Athanasian Creed; the We quench the Spirit, then, Calvinist is open to conviction on (1) If ever we wilfully suppress or
every point, provided always he is hide the truth.
kept clear of Arminianism; and the
Arminian will follow the Spirit We all admit that if inspired wherever He leads, unless it should Apostles had seen a whole truth and be into Calvinism. The Baptist kept back half; had seen both sides admits his need of further light on themselves, and shown us only one- every point except the subject of they would to that extent have ex- baptism; and many of those who tinguished the light, or quenched differ from him equally hold that the Spirit. And what is true of subject sacred, as a settled point that them must be no less true of others. is never to be opened again. Now, The fact of inspiration cannot make I am not indifferent to the worth of all the difference. It matters little creeds, or the importance of sound whether I light half the lamps in- doctrine ; and though I do think we stead of the whole, or lock up one have ridden our sectarian differences half when others have lighted the too far, and made our denominational whole. And so it would make but walls too strong and unyielding, yet little difference whether an inspired I suppose even these must be reman refused to speak the truth, or garded as “good for the present one uninspired kept it back when distress." The old creeds have done spoken. And this has been done good service in their time, in throwagain and again. For some time the ing up intrenchments against the Church of Rome deliberately kept foe. Well-defined doctrines have the Word of God locked up in a helped many a wayfaring man to language that few could read, while know where he really was, and teaching for doctrines the command- sectarian differences have brought ments of men. And even now that out truths which would otherwise it has been thrown open, and we can have been neglected or forgotten. sit under our own vine and fiy-tree But if creeds are to be retained, and read for ourselves, there are when the chief purpose they serve is many ways in which the truth is to block out the view of fields hidden, and the Spirit quenched. beyond ; if well-defined doctrines How
many there are who never take really mean that the Spirit of God the Bible in their hands with an must make us think precisely as our honest resolution to find out what fathers thought before us; and if really is the mind of the Spirit, or the only effect of sectarian differthe meaning of the words. Bound ences is to prevent the ranks on one
side from ever seeing the distinctive parted by the Spirit, did so far truths the others hold so firmly, and quench the Spirit. so dearly love,—then it were better But does the same law hold good far that we could all read the Bible still? To my mind it certainly does ; ourselves, with nothing but the and there are few truths that we Spirit of God to guide us, and that need more strongly to enforce, than creeds, confessions, and sects were that
Christian has received a all swept away.
If we once say Divine call, is endowed with a Divine in our hearts, the Spirit of God itself Spirit, and is in possession of some shall open no new road to carry me Divine charisma or spiritual gift. off the rails on which my fathers Does this imply that the Church were content to run; shall let in no has, therefore, no further need of light to shake my implicit faith in pastors, teachers, ministers, in the the creed my fathers taught me; ordinary sense of the word ? By no shall never bring me to believe that
In my opinion we cannot in any point some other sect may overrate the importance of good possibly be right and I may possibly government and good teaching, and, be wrong,- we are so far quenching therefore, of good pastors and good the Spirit of God. And better far a teachers. The two are not incomChurch without a creed, than a patible. We are none of us minisChurch without the Spirit. And ters apart from the Church, but infinitely better a union of all Chris- simply as part of the ministering tians, led simply by the Spirit of the Church, There is no distinction Lord, than rigid sects whose divisions between God's laos, or laity, and His fetter their freedom, strengthen their kleros, or clergy. Your ministry is prejudices, contract their horizon, on precisely the same level as our and so quench the Spirit.
and since the ministry of
visiting the sick and teaching the (2) By unduly restricting the use- young, and the ministry of giving fulness of others.
and of getting too, are as sacred as
that of bishop or pastor, it is greatly In the early Church the possession to be desired that this fact were re. of the Spirit was often manifested cognized by all our churches, and immediately by special signs. Every the one as thoroughly organized as believer had the Spirit. And the other. I believe in no special whether the possession of the Spirit call to ministry in the Church, becommunicated some new power, or
cause I believe in the call of every strengthened, refined, and exalted Christian, and the gift of the Spirit one already possessed; in either case to them all. God has not endowed it involved responsibility, whilst the us all alike, but He has endowed us special gift determined the duty or all. And whether your peculiar ministry that each had to perform. talent lie in the head or the hand, One of the earliest, clearest, and to whether it be capacity for the desk my mind dearest principles upon or the pulpit, for teaching or for which the Church was founded was trade, that gift, sanctified by the the universal ministry of believers Spirit of God, determines your in Christ. There were “diversities ministry in the Church of Christ. of gifts, but the same Spirit;" and Suppress that talent, pervert its the “manifestation of the Spirit purpose, or waste your time, and was given to every man to do good you so far quench the Spirit. If with." Whoever then restrained, ever we are to realize the true ideal forbade, or silenced the gifts im- of a church, we shall not have a
church without pastors and teachers, tried hard in past times to compel and universal exhortation taking the Spirit of God to adopt its Shibtheir place; nor shall we have the boleth, and convey all the water of man of business neglecting the life through the pipes that it had work for which he is well qualified, laid down. It would have silenced for the performance of duties for a Bunyan, rather than admit that a which he is not qualified at all. But separatist of any kind could convey we shall have, I think, the far nobler the light of life to the world. And spectacle of men of business trading now that such men are shining for Christ, and getting, to have the through their works as stars in the more to give; students of all kinds firmament of heaven; now that the studying for Christ; and men of power of tens of thousands of free science bringing their resources to churches is felt through the land to bear inore directly upon
cause; be a power for good, cold is the while all, both rich and poor, unite encouragement that many give them, with gifts of endless variety to and timid
timid the recognition they spread His kingdom in the world. receive. And whatever hinders this, whether But why speak of others? Is it it spring from superstitious notions not the fact that there is a power for of what the ministry of the Gospel good locked up in many of our own really is, or from the still more super- churches, which ought to be called stitious notion that business is too forth, and by the suppression of secular to form a branch of the which, whether by official jealousy Saviour's work, or from priestly
on our own part, or by selfish indojealousy on the part of those in office, lence on the part of those who ought or from the dread of study and re- to work, the Spirit itself is quenched search, --is to that extent quenching or extinguished ? I do not know the Spirit of God.
exactly how we should set to work Of all the dangers that beset the to remedy the evil, but I do think Church in this respect, one of the that we who are pastors have not greatest is that of extinguishing yet got the right knack of fulfilling light, or quenching the Spirit, by the one of the most important duties of official assumption that the Spirit of our office, viz., to perfect the saints God must be restricted to certain un- for the work of their ministry. We varying modes and forms.
do far too much ourselves ; just bedisciples forbade a man to cast out cause it is always much easier to do devils, because he was not one of a thing yourself than to set others themselves; and it took some time to do it. But the busy pastur is not to persuade the Church at Jerusalem always the best. As the most sucthat it was a right thing for a church cessful general would not be one to grow up at Antioch in so irre- who ran about in the vain attempt gular a way
Had not the Spirit of to fire off every gun and defend God been stronger than the Church, every post himself, but one who Luther and the other reformers could put the right man in the right would never have published the place, fill other hearts with enthuBible to the world ; Carey would siasm and courage, and direct them not have carried the Gospel to with the requisite wisdom and skill; the heathen; and Wesley would so the successful pastor is not one never have preached a simple warm- who tries, beyond all human strength, hearted gospel through the length to do all the visiting, all the preachand breadth of the land. The ing, all the thinking, all the working national Church of our fatherland for his people, but one who can dis