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The original, duration, use, and end, of extraordinary spiritual gifts.
This summary account doth the apostle give of these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost which then flourished in the church, and were the life of its extraordinary ministry. It may be mention may occur of some such gifts under other names, but they are such as may be reduced unto some one of those here expressed. Wherefore this may be admitted as a perfect catalogue of them, and comprehensive of that power from above which the Lord Christ promised unto his apostles and disciples upon his ascension into heaven, Acts i. 8; for he “ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things,” Eph. iv. 10, that is, the church with officers and gifts, unto the perfection of the saints, by the work of the ministry, and the edification of his body, verse 12: for being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he shed forth, or abundantly poured out, those things whereof we speak, Acts ii. 33. And as they were the great evidences of his acceptation with God, and exaltation, seeing in them the Spirit “convinced the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment,” so they were the great means whereby he carried on his work amongst men, as shall afterward be declared.
There was no certain limited time for the cessation of these gifts. Those peculiar unto the apostles were commensurate unto their lives. None after their decease had either apostolical office, power, or gifts. The like may be said of the evangelists. Nor have we any 475undoubted testimony that any of those gifts which were truly miraculous, and every way above the faculties of men, were communicated unto any after the expiration of the generation of them who conversed with Christ in the flesh, or those who received the Holy Ghost by their ministry. It is not unlikely but that God might on some occasions, for a longer season, put forth his power in some miraculous operations; and so he yet may do, and perhaps doth sometimes. But the superstition and folly of some ensuing ages, inventing and divulging innumerable miracles false and foolish, proved a most disadvantageous prejudice unto the gospel, and a means to open a way unto Satan to impose endless delusions upon Christians; for as true and real miracles, with becoming circumstances, were the great means that won and reconciled a regard and honour unto Christian religion in the world, so the pretence of such as either were absolutely false, or such as whose occasions, ends, matter, or manner, were unbecoming the greatness and holiness of Him who is the true author of all miraculous operations, is the greatest dishonour unto religion that any one can invent. But although all these gifts and operations ceased in some respect, some of them absolutely, and some of them as to the immediate manner of communication and degree of excellency; yet so far as the edification of the church was concerned in them, something that is analogous unto them was and is continued. He who gave “some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists,” gave also “some pastors and teachers.” And as he furnished the former with extraordinary gifts, so as far as any thing of the like kind is needful for the continual edification of the church, he bestows it on the latter also, as shall be declared.
And these gifts of the Spirit, added unto his grace in real holiness, were the glory, honour, and beauty of the church of old. Men have but deceived themselves and others when they have feigned a glory and beauty of the church in other things. And whatever any think or say, where these gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are the ornaments of the church, her “clothing of wrought gold,” and her “raiment of needlework,” are neglected and lost, and they think to adorn her with the meretricious paint of pompous ceremonies, with outward grandeur, wealth, and power, she is utterly fallen from her chastity, purity, and integrity. But it is evident that this is the state of many churches in the world; which are therefore worldly and carnal, not spiritual or evangelical. Power, and force, and wealth, — the gifts, in this case, of another spirit, — under various pretences and names, are their life and glory; indeed their death and shame. I deny not but that it is lawful for ministers of the gospel to enjoy earthly possessions, which they do attain by any commendable way among other men. Neither are they required, unless in 476extraordinary cases, to part with the right and use of their temporal goods because they are so ministers of Christ; though those who are so indeed will not deny but that they ought to use them in a peculiar manner unto the glory of Christ and honour of the gospel, beyond other men. Neither shall I ever question that wherein the Scripture is so express, namely, that those who “labour in the word and doctrine” should have a convenient, yea, an honourable subsistence provided for them, according to the best ability of the church, for their work’s sake. It is in like manner also granted that the Lord Christ hath committed all that power which, with respect unto the edification of the church, he will exercise in this world unto the church itself, as it cannot, without a virtual renunciation of the gospel and faith in Christ Jesus as the head and king of the church, be supposed that this power is any other but spiritual, over the souls and consciences of men; and therefore cannot this power be exercised, or be any way made effectual, but by virtue of the spiritual gifts we treat of: but for men to turn this spiritual power, to be exercised only by virtue of spiritual gifts, into an external coercive power over the persons, bodies, liberties, and lives of men, to be exercised by law-courts, in ways, forms, manners, utterly foreign to the gospel and all evangelical administrations, without the least pretence unto or appearance of the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Ghost therein; yea, and by persons by whom they are hated and derided, acting with pride, scorn, and contempt of the disciples of Christ and over them, being utterly ignorant of the true nature and use of all gospel administrations, — this is to disorder the church, and instead of a house of spiritual worship, in some instances to turn it into “a den of thieves.” Where hereunto there are, moreover, annexed earthly revenues, containing all food and fuel of corrupt lusts, with all things satisfactory unto the minds of worldly, sensual men, as a meet reward of these carnal administrations, — as it is at this day in the church of Rome, — there all use of the gifts of the Holy Ghost is excluded, and the church is brought into extreme desolation. And although these things are as contrary to the gospel as darkness is to light, yet the world, for many reasons not now to be insisted on, being willing to be deceived in this matter, it is generally apprehended that there is nothing so pernicious unto the church, so justly to be watched against and rooted out, as a dislike of their horrible apostasies, in the corrupt depravation of all evangelical administrations. This was not the state, this was not the condition, of the primitive churches; their life consisted in the grace of the Spirit, and their glory in his gifts. None of their leaders once dreamed of that new kind of beauty, glory, and power, consisting in numberless superstitious ceremonies, instead of religious worship; 477worldly grandeur, instead of humility and self-denial; and open tyranny over the consciences and persons of men, in the room of spiritual authority, effectual in the power of Christ, and by virtue of the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
There are many sore divisions at this day in the world among and between the professors of Christian religion, both about the doctrine and worship of the gospel, as also the discipline thereof. That these divisions are evil in themselves, and the cause of great evils, hinderances of the gospel, and all the effects thereof in the world, is acknowledged by all; and it is a thing, doubtless, to be greatly lamented, that the generality of them who are called Christians are departed from the great rule of “keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bend of peace.” He who doth not pray always, who is not ready with his utmost endeavour to remedy this evil, to remove this great obstruction of the benefit of the gospel, is scarce worthy the name of a Christian The common way insisted on unto this end is, that those who have most force and power should set up standards and measures of agreement, compelling others, by all ways of severity and violence, to a compliance therewith; judging them the highest offenders who shall refuse so to do, because the determining and settling of this matter is committed unto them. This is the way of Antichrist and those who follow him therein. Others, with more moderation and wisdom, but with as little success, do or have endeavoured the reconciliation of the parties at variance, some, more or all of them, by certain middle ways of mutual condescension which they have found out. Some things they blame, and some things they commend in all; some things they would have them do, and some things omit: all for the sake of peace and love. And this design carries with it so fair and pleadable a pretence, that those who are once engaged in it are apt to think that they alone are the true lovers of Christianity in general, the only sober and indifferent persons, fit to umpire all the differences in the world, in a few propositions which they have framed. And so wedded are some wise and holy men unto these apprehensions of reconciling Christians by their conceived methods, that no experience of endless disappointments and of increasing new differences and digladiations, of forming new parties, of reviving old animosities, all which roll in upon them continually, will discourage them in their design. “What then?” will some say; “would you have these divisions and differences that are among us continued and perpetuated, when you acknowledge them so evil and pernicious?” I say, God forbid; yea, we pray for, and always will endeavour, their removal and taking away. But yet this I say, on the other hand, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear, there is but one way of effecting this so blessed and desirable 478a work, which until it be engaged in, let men talk what they please of reconciliation, the worst of men will be reviling and persecuting those who are better than themselves unto the end of the world; and this way is, that all churches should endeavour to reduce themselves unto the primitive pattern. Let us all but consider what was the life and spirit of those churches, wherein their honour, glory, and order did consist, making it our joint design to walk in the principle of that grace of the Spirit wherein they walked, in the exercise and use of those gifts of the Spirit which were the spring of and gave virtue unto all their administrations, renouncing whatever is foreign unto and inconsistent with these things, and that grace and unity will quickly enter into professors which Christ hath purchased for them. But these things are here only occasionally mentioned, and are not farther to be pursued.
These spiritual gifts the apostle calls the “powers of the world to come,” Heb. vi. 4, 5; that is, those effectual powerful principles and operations which peculiarly belong unto the kingdom of Christ and administration of the gospel, whereby they were to be set up, planted, advanced, and propagated in the world. The Lord Christ came and wrought out the mighty work of our salvation in his own person, and thereon laid the foundation of his church on himself, by the confession of him as the Son of God. Concerning himself and his work he preached, and caused to be preached, a doctrine that was opposed by all the world, because of its truth, mystery, and holiness; yet was it the design of God to break through all those oppositions, to cause this doctrine to be received and submitted unto, and Jesus Christ to be believed in, unto the ruin and destruction of the kingdom of Satan in the world. Now, this was a work that could not be wrought without the putting forth and exercise of mighty power; concerning which nothing remains to be inquired into but of what sort it ought to be. Now, the conquest that the Lord Christ aimed at was spiritual, over the souls and consciences of men; the enemies he had to conflict withal were spiritual, even principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places, the god of this world, the prince of it, which ruled in the children of disobedience; the kingdom which he had to erect was spiritual, and not of this world; all the laws and rules of it, with their administrations and ends, were spiritual and heavenly. The gospel that was to be propagated was a doctrine not concerning this world, nor the things of it, nor of any thing natural or political, but as they were merely subordinate unto other ends; but heavenly and mysterious, directing men only in a tendency according to the mind of God, unto the eternal enjoyment of him. Hereon it will easily appear what kind of power is necessary unto this work and for the attaining of these 479ends. He that, at the speaking of one word, could have engaged “more than twelve legions of angels” in his work and unto his assistance, could have easily, by outward force and arms, subdued the whole world into an external observance of him and his commands, and thereon have ruled men at his pleasure. As this he could have done, and may do when he pleaseth, so if he had done it, it had tended nothing unto the ends which he designed. He might, indeed, have had a glorious empire in the world, comprehensive of all dominions that ever were or can be on the earth; but yet it would have been of the same kind and nature with that which Nero had, — the greatest monster of villainy in nature. Neither had it been any great matter for the Son of God to have out-done the Romans or the Turks, or such like conspiracies of wicked oppressors. And all those who yet think meet to use external force over the persons, lives, and bodies of men, in order unto the reducing of them unto the obedience of Christ and the gospel, do put the greatest dishonour upon him imaginable, and change the whole nature of his design and kingdom. He will neither own nor accept of any subject but whose obedience is a free act of his own will, and who is so made willing by himself in the day of his power. His design, and his only design, in this world, unto the glory of God, is to erect a kingdom, throne, and rule in the souls and consciences of men; to have an obedience from them in faith, love, and spiritual delight, proceeding from their own choice, understandings, wills, and affections; an obedience that should be internal, spiritual, mystical, heavenly, with respect solely unto things unseen and eternal, wherein himself and his laws should be infinitely preferred before all earthly things and considerations. Now, this is a matter that all earthly powers and empires could never desire, design, or put a hand unto, and that which renders the kingdom of Christ, as of another nature, so more excellent and better than all earthly kingdoms, as liberty is better than bondage, the mind more excellent than the outward carcass, spiritual and eternal things than things carnal and temporary, as the wisdom and holiness of God are more excellent than the folly and lusts of men.
Seeing, therefore, this was the design of Christ, this was the nature and work of the gospel which was to be propagated, wherein carnal power and outward force could be of no use, yea, whose exercise was inconsistent with, dishonourable unto, and destructive of the whole design, and wherein the work to be accomplished on the minds and souls of men is incomparably greater than the conquering of worlds with force and arms, it is inquired what power the Lord Christ did employ herein, what means and instruments he used for the accomplishment of his design, and the erecting of that kingdom or church-state 480which, being promised of old, was called “the world to come,” or the “new world,” “a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwell-eth righteousness;” and I say, it was those gifts of the Holy Ghost whereof we have treated, which were those “powers” of this “world to come.” By them it was, or in their exercise, that the Lord Christ erected his empire over the souls and consciences of men, destroying both the work and kingdom of the devil. It is true, it is the word of the gospel itself that is the rod of his strength, which is sent out of Zion to erect and dispense his rule; but that hidden power which made the word effectual in the dispensation of it consisted in those gifts of the Holy Ghost. Men may despise them or think light of them whilst they please; they are those powers which the Lord Christ in his wisdom thought meet alone to engage in the propagation of the gospel, and the setting up of his kingdom in the world.
The recovery and return of the people from the captivity of Babylon was a type of the spiritual redemption of the church by Jesus Christ; and how God effected that as a type hereof he declares, Zech. iv. 6, “Not by army, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” So, much more, was this work to be effected. So, after his resurrection, the Lord Christ tells his apostles that they were to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth;” that is, all the world over, Acts i. 8. But how shall they be able so to bear testimony unto them as that their witness shall be received and become effectual? Saith he, “Ye shall receive power for this end. I have given you authority to preach the word before, and now I will give you such an ability for it as none shall be able to withstand or resist; and this is after the Holy Ghost is come upon you, — that is, in the communication of those gifts whereby ye may be enabled unto your work.” In them consisted that “mouth and wisdom” which he promised he would give them, “which all their adversaries were not able to gainsay nor resist,” Luke xxi. 15. Wherefore, that which I shall close this discourse withal shall be a brief endeavour to declare how those gifts were the spiritual powers of the gospel unto all the ends we have before mentioned, as designed by Jesus Christ; whence it will appear how little there was of the wisdom, skill, power, or authority of men in the whole work of propagating the gospel and planting the church of Christ, as we shall afterward manifest how, by the dispensation of the other more ordinary gifts of the Spirit, both the gospel and the church are continued and preserved in the world.
First, The persons whom the Lord Christ chose, called, and designed unto this work, were by those gifts enabled thereunto. As no mortal men had of themselves any sufficiency for such a work, so 481the persons particularly called unto it by Jesus Christ lay under all the disadvantages that any persons could possibly be liable unto in such an undertaking: for, — 1. They were all of them unlearned and ignorant; which the Jews took notice of, Acts iv. 13, and which the Gentiles despised them for. 2. They were poor, and of no reputation in the world; which made them contemned by all sorts of person. And, 3. They seem in many instances to have been pusillanimous and fearful; which they all manifested when they so shamefully fled and left their Master in his distresses, the chief of them also swearing that he knew him not. Now, it is easily understood what great disadvantages these were unto the undertaking of so great a work as they were called unto; yea, how impossible it was for them, under these qualifications, to do any thing in the pursuit of it. Wherefore, by the communication of these gifts unto them, all these impediments arising from themselves were removed, and they were furnished with endowments of quite another nature, whereby they were eminently filled with that spiritual wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, which surpassed all the wisdom that was of the world or in it, by what ways or means soever it were attained. (1.) They both had and declared a wisdom which none of the princes of this world were acquainted withal, 1 Cor. ii. 1–8, 13. Those who, during the abode of Christ in the flesh with them, could not understand a plain parable, and were ever and anon at no small loss about the sense and meaning of their Master, having very low and carnal apprehensions about his person, work, and office, were now filled with a knowledge of all heavenly mysteries, and with wisdom to declare, manage, and maintain them against all opposers. Kings, princes, rulers of synagogues, were now all one to them. They had a mouth and wisdom given them which none of their adversaries could resist. Wherever they came, in all nations, to all sorts of people, of all languages, they were now enabled, in their own tongue and speech, to declare and preach the gospel unto them, being always filled with a treasure of wisdom and spiritual mysteries, whence they could draw forth as every occasion did require. (2.) Whereas they were poor, the difficulties wherewith such a condition is attended were also by this means utterly taken away: for although they had neither silver nor gold by their work or employment, but their outward wants and distresses were rather increased thereby, yet their minds and souls were by this communication of the Spirit so raised above the world, and filled with such a contempt of all the desirable things in it, and of all the pride of men upon their account, as that their want of possessions and outward enjoyments made them only the more ready and expedite for their work; whence also such of them as had possessions, [having] sold them, gave their price to the poor, that they might be no hinderance 482unto them in their design. And hence also it was that those who, even after the resurrection of Christ, were inquiring after a temporal kingdom, — wherein, no doubt, a good part of its glory, power, and advantages would fall to their share, as most do who yet continue to dream of such a kingdom in this world, — immediately upon the communication of these gifts rejoiced that they were counted worthy of shame for the name of Christ, when they were imprisoned, whipped, and despitefully used, Acts v. 40, 41. (3.) They had boldness, courage, and constancy given unto them, in the room of that pusillanimity and fear which before they had discovered. This the Jews took notice of, and were astonished at, chap. iv. 13; and they had reason so to be, if we consider the power and authority of that work wherein they were then assaulted, with the speech of Peter unto them, verses 8–12, which he spake as filled with the Holy Ghost. See also Acts v. 28–32. And in the whole course of their ministry throughout the world, the like undaunted courage, resolution, and constancy, did always and in all things accompany them. Wherefore, these gifts, in the first place, may be esteemed the “powers of the world to come,” inasmuch as by them those unto whom the work of preaching the gospel, propagating the mystery of it, the conversion of nations, the planting of churches, and in all the erection of the kingdom of Christ, was committed, were enabled by them, unto the utmost capacity of human nature, to discharge, effect, and accomplish the work committed unto them. By virtue and in the strength of these spiritual abilities did they set upon the whole kingdom of Satan and darkness in the world, contending with the gates of hell and all the powers of the earth, attempting the wisdom of the Greeks and the religion of the Jews, with success against both. They went not forth with force and arms, or carnal power; they threatened no man, menaced no man, with the carnal weapons of force or penalties; they had no baits or allurements of wealth, power, or honour, to inveigle the minds of corrupt and sensual men: but, as was said, in the warranty and power of these spiritual gifts, they both attempted and accomplished this work. And things continue still in the same condition, according unto their proportion Such as is the furniture of men with spiritual abilities and gifts of the Holy Ghost, such is their fitness for the work of the ministry, and no other. And if any shall undertake this work without this provision of abilities for it, they will neither ever be owned by Christ nor be of the least use in the employment they take upon them. A ministry devoid of spiritual gifts is a sufficient evidence of a church under a degenerating apostasy. But these things will be farther spoken unto afterward.
Secondly, By these gifts were all their administrations, especially their preaching the gospel, rendered effectual unto their proper end. 483The preaching of the word, which is the “sword of the Spirit,” was the great instrument whereby they wrought out and accomplished their designed work in the conviction and conversion of the souls of men. It may therefore be inquired what it was that gave efficacy and success unto the word as preached or dispensed by them. Now, this, as it should seem, must be either that the subject-matter of it was so suited unto the reasons and understandings of men as that they could not but admit of it upon its proposal; or that the manner whereby they declared it was with such persuasive artifices as were meet to prevail with the minds of men unto an assent, or to impose upon them against the best of their defences. But the apostle declares that it was utterly otherwise in both these regards: for the matter of the doctrine of the gospel, unto the minds of carnal men, — such as all men are until renewed by the gospel itself, — is folly, and that which is every way meet to be despised, 1 Cor. i. 18; and for the manner of its declaration, they did not therein, neither would they, use the enticing words of human wisdom, any arts of oratory, or dresses of rhetoric or eloquence, lest the effects which were wrought by the word should have seemed in any measure to have proceeded from them, chap. ii. 4, 5. Wherefore, not to mention that internal efficacious power of grace which God secretly puts forth for the conversion of his elect, — the consideration whereof belongs not unto our present design, — and I say that it was by virtue of those gifts that the administration of the gospel was so efficacious and successful; for, — 1. From them proceeded that authority over the minds of men wherewith the word was accompanied. When the Lord Christ was anointed by the Spirit to preach the gospel, it is said, “He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes,” Matt. vii. 29. Whatever was his outward appearance in the flesh, the word, as administered by him, was attended with such an authority over the minds and consciences of men as they could not but be sensible of. And so was it with the primitive dispensers of the gospel. By virtue of these spiritual gifts, they preached the word “in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” 1 Cor. ii. 4. There was accompanying of their preaching an evidence or demonstration of a power and authority that was from God and his Spirit. Men could not but conclude that there was something in it which was over them or above them, and which they must yield or submit unto as that which was not for them to contend withal. It is true, the power of the gospel was hid unto them that were to perish, whose minds the god of this world had effectually blinded, “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them,” 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4, — whence it came to pass that the word was rejected by many, — yet wherever God was pleased to make it effectual, it was by a sense of a divine authority 484accompanying its administration, by virtue of those spiritual gifts; and therefore our apostle shows that when men prophesied, or declared the mind of God from the word by the gift of prophecy, unbelievers did “fall down, and, worshipping God, reported that God was in them of a truth,” 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25. They were sensible of a divine authority, which they could not stand before, or withstand. 2. From hence also proceeded that life and power for conviction which the word was accompanied with in their dispensation of it. It became shortly to be the arrows of Christ, which were sharp in the hearts of men. As men found an authority in the dispensation of the word, so they felt and experienced an efficacy in the truths dispensed. By it were their minds enlightened, their consciences awakened, their minds convinced, their lives judged, the secrets of their hearts made manifest, as 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25, until they cried out in multitudes, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Hereby did the Lord Christ in his kingdom and majesty ride prosperously, conquering and to conquer, with the word of truth, meekness, and righteousness, subduing the souls of men unto his obedience, — making them free, ready, willing, in the day of his power. These were the forces and weapons that he used in the establishing of his kingdom, which were “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down of imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Cor. x. 4, 5. So doth the apostle describe the success of these administrations as an absolute conquest, wherein all opposition is broken, all strongholds and fortifications are demolished, and the whole reduced unto due obedience; for by this means were all things effected. All the strongholds of sin in the minds of men, in their natural darkness, blindness, and obstinacy; all the high fortifications of prejudices, and vain, proud, lofty imaginations, raised in them by Satan, — were all cast down by and before gospel administrations, managed by virtue and authority of these spiritual gifts, which the Lord Christ ordained to be the powers of his kingdom.
Thirdly, Those of them which consisted in miraculous operations were suited to fill the world with an apprehension of a divine power accompanying the word and them by whom it was administered. And sundry things unto the furtherance of the gospel depended hereon; as, — 1. The world, which was stupid, asleep in sin and security, satisfied with their lusts and idolatries, regardless of any thing but present enjoyments, was awakened hereby to an attendance unto and inquiry into this new doctrine that was proposed unto them. They could not but take notice that there was something more than ordinary in that sermon which they were summoned unto 485by a miracle. And this was the first and principal use of these miraculous operations They awakened the dull, stupid world unto a consideration of the doctrine of the gospel, which otherwise they would have securely neglected and despised. 2. They weakened and took off those mighty prejudices which their minds were possessed with by tradition and secular enjoyments What these prejudices were I shall not here declare, I have done it elsewhere; it is enough to observe, that they were as great, as many, as effectual, as human nature in any case is capable of. But yet although they were sufficiently of proof against all other means of conviction, they could not but sink and weaken before the manifest evidence of present divine power, such as these miraculous operations were accompanied withal; for although all the things which they cleaved unto, and intended to do so inseparably, were, as they thought, to be preferred above any thing that could be offered unto them, yet when the divine power appeared against them, they were not able to give them defence. Hence, upon these operations one of these two effects ensued:— (1.) Those that were shut up under their obstinacy and unbelief were filled with tormenting convictions, and knew not what to do to relieve themselves The evidence of miracles they could not withstand, and yet would not admit of what they tendered and confirmed; whence they were filled with disquietments and perplexities. So the rulers of the Jews manifested themselves to have been upon the curing of the impotent person at the gate of the temple. “What shall we do,” say they, “to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them we cannot deny,” Acts iv. 16. (2.) The minds of others were exceedingly prepared for the reception of the truth, the advantages unto that purpose being too many to be here insisted on. 3. They were a great means of taking off the scandal of the cross That this was that which the world was principally offended at in the gospel is sufficiently known. “Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” Nothing could possibly be or have been a matter of so high offence unto the Jews as to offer them a crucified Messiah, whom they expected as a glorious king to subdue all their enemies; nor ever will they receive him, in the mind wherein they are, upon any other terms: and it seemed a part of the extremest folly unto the Grecians to propose such great and immortal things in the name of one that was himself crucified as a malefactor And a shame it was thought, on all hands, for any wise man to profess or own such a religion as came from the cross But yet, after all this blustering of weakness and folly, when they saw this doctrine of the cross owned by God, and witnessed unto by manifest effects of divine power, they could not but begin to think that men need not be much ashamed of that 486which God so openly avowed. And all these things made way to let in the word into the minds and consciences of men; where, by its own efficacy, it gave them satisfying experience of its truth and power.
From these few instances, whereunto many of an alike nature might be added, it is manifest how these spiritual gifts were the “powers of the world to come,” — the means, weapons, arms, that the Lord Christ made use of for the subduing of the world, destruction of the kingdom of Satan and darkness, with the planting and establishment of his own church on the earth. And as they were alone suited unto his design, so his accomplishment of it by them is a glorious evidence of his divine power and wisdom, as might easily be demonstrated.
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