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The Christian Pentecost: or the solemn effusion of the Holy Ghost; in the several miraculous gifts conferred by him upon the Apostles and first Christians;
SET FORTH IN
PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY, 1692.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
OUR blessed Saviour having newly changed his crown of thorns for a crown of glory, and ascending up on high took possession of his royal estate and sovereignty, according to the custom of princes, is here treating with this lower world (now at so great a distance from him) by his ambassador. And, for the greater splendour of the embassy, and authority of the message, by an ambassador no ways inferior to himself, even the Holy Ghost, the third Person in the blessed Trinity, in glory equal, in majesty co-eternal; and therefore most peculiarly fit, not only as a deputy, but as a kind of alter idem to supply his place and presence here upon earth: and indeed had he not been equal to him in the Godhead, he could no more have supplied his place than he could have filled it: which we know, in the accounts of the 519world, are things extremely different; as by sad and scandalous experience is too often found.
Now the sum of this his glorious negotiation was to confirm and ratify Christ’s doctrine, to seal the new charter of the world’s blessedness given by Christ himself, and drawn up by his apostles: and certainly, it was not a greater work first to publish, than it was afterwards to confirm it. For Christianity being a religion made up of truth and miracle, could not receive its growth from any power less than that which first gave it its birth. And being withal a doctrine contrary to corrupt nature, and to those things which men most eagerly loved, to wit, their worldly interests and their carnal lusts, it must needs have quickly decayed, and withered, and died away, if not watered by the same hand of Omnipotence by which it was first planted.
Nothing could keep it up, but such a standing, mighty power, as should be able upon all occasions to countermand and control nature; such an one as should, at the same time, both instruct and astonish; and baffle the disputes of reason by the obvious overpowering convictions of sense.
And this was the design of the Spirit’s mission: that the same Holy Ghost, who had given Christ his conception, might now give Christianity its confirmation. And this he did by that wonderful and various effusion of his miraculous gifts upon the first messengers and propagators of this divine religion. For as our Saviour himself said, John iv. 48, Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe; so that sight was to introduce belief: and accordingly, the first conquest and conviction was 520made upon the eye, and from thence passed victorious to the heart.
This therefore was their rhetoric, this their method of persuasion. Their words were works: divinity and physic went together: they cured the body, and thereby convinced the soul: they conveyed and enforced all their exhortations, not by the arts of eloquence, but by the gift of tongues; these were the speakers, and miracle the interpreter.
Now in treating of these words, I shall consider these three things.
First, What those gifts were, which were conferred by the Spirit both upon the apostles and first professors of Christianity.
Secondly, What is imported and to be understood by their diversity. And,
Thirdly and lastly, What are the consequences of their emanation from one and the same Spirit.
First. And first, for the first of them. These gifts are called in the original χαρίσματα, that is to say, acts of grace or favour; and signify here certain qualities and perfections, which the Spirit of God freely bestowed upon men, for the better enabling them to preach the gospel, and to settle the Christian religion in the world: and accordingly we will consider them under that known dichotomy, or division, by which they stand divided into ordinary and extra ordinary.
And first for the ordinary gifts of the Spirit, these he conveys to us by the mediation of our own endeavours. And as he, who both makes the watch, and winds up the wheels of it, may not improperly be said to be the author of its motion; so God, who 521first created, and since sustains the powers and faculties of the soul, may justly be called the cause of all those perfections and improvements, which the said faculties shall attain unto by their respective operations. For that which gives the form, gives also the consequents of that form; and the principle, with all its appendant actions, is to be referred to the same donor.
But God forbid, that I should determine God’s title to our actions barely in his giving us the power and faculty of acting. Durandus indeed, an eminent schoolman, held so, and so must Pelagius and his followers hold too, if they will be true to, and abide by their own principles.
But undoubtedly, God does not only give the power, but also vouchsafes an active influence and concurrence to the production of every particular action, so far as it has either a natural or a moral goodness in it.
And therefore, in all acquired gifts, or habits, such as are those of philosophy, oratory, or divinity, we are properly συνεργοὶ, co-workers with God. And God ordinarily gives them to none, but such as labour hard for them. They are so his gifts, that they are also our own acquisitions. His assistance and our own study are the joint and adequate cause of these perfections: and to imagine the contrary, is all one, as if a man should think to be a scholar, barely by his master’s teaching, without his own learning. In all these cases, God is ready to do his part, but not to do both his own and ours too.
Secondly. The other sort of the Spirit’s gifts are extraordinary. Which are so absolutely and entirely from God, that the soul, into which they are conveyed, 522contributes nothing to the obtaining of them but a bare reception: as when you pour some generous wine or liquor into a cask or vessel, that affords nothing to its own fulness, but a mere capacity; the rest it owes wholly to the liberal hand that infused it: and no doubt, from an allusion to this, such endowments are said to be by way of infusion from the Holy Ghost.
Of which kind were the gift of miracles, the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy and of speaking with tongues; which great things might indeed be the object of men’s admiration, and sometimes also the motive of their envy, but never the effect or purchase of their own endeavours.
Now concerning these gifts we must observe also, that there was no small difference amongst them, as to the manner of their inexistence in the persons who had them.
For one of them, to wit, the gift of tongues, after its first infusion by the Spirit, might be in a man by habitual inherence, as a standing principle or power residing in the soul, and enabling it upon any occasion to express itself in several languages. There being no difference between the acquired and the supernatural knowledge of tongues, as to the nature and quality of the things themselves, but only in respect of their first obtainment, that one is by industrious acquisition, the other by divine infusion.
But then for the gifts of healing the sick, raising the dead, and the like; inasmuch as these were immediate emanations from, and peculiar effects of an infinite and divine power. Such a power could not be made habitually to inhere and reside in the apostles; nor indeed in any created being whatsoever. 523But only by an exterior assistance, the power of God was ready at hand, upon special and emergent occasions, at their invocation, or word, (as God should think fit,) to produce such miraculous effects: for if this power of healing had been habitually lodged in the apostles, so that they might exert and make use of it when they pleased, it will be hard to give a satisfactory reason, why St. Paul should leave Trophimus at Miletum sick, as we find he did, 2 Tim. iv. 20.
And then, lastly, for the gift of prophecy, and foretelling future events; neither was this in the soul by constant inhesion and habitual abode; but (as we may not unfitly express it) only by sudden strictures, by transient immissions, and representations of the ideas of things future, to the imagination. In a word, it was in the mind, not as an in habitant, but as a guest; that is, by intermittent returns and ecstasies, by occasional raptures and revelations; as is clear from what we read of the prophets in the Old Testament. And thus much I thought good to discourse of the nature of these gifts, and to shew what kind of things they were; how they qualified and affected the apostles and primitive Christians, in the exercise of them; that so we may not abuse our understandings by an empty notion of the word, without a clear and distinct apprehension of the thing.
And here, I doubt not, but some will be apt to inquire, how long these extraordinary and miraculous gifts continued in the church: for the resolution of which, the very nature of the thing itself will suggest thus much, that the conferring of these gifts being in order to the establishment of a church, 524and the settling of a new religion in the world, their duration was to be proportioned to the need which that new religion had of such credentials and instruments of confirmation. For when Christianity first appeared in the world, it found it under the mighty prejudice and prepossession of two contrary religions, but both of them equally bent, and set against that, to wit, Gentilism and Judaism. Which prejudices nothing could conquer but the arm of Omnipotence itself, as it were, made bare before them, in such stupendous works, as could not but convince them to their face, that it was a religion which came from God. But when these prejudices were once removed, by the actual entertainment of and submission to the Christian faith, there could not be the same use or need of miracles then, which there was before. For still we must remember, that the state of a church in its infancy and first beginnings, and in its maturity and continuance, is very different, and consequently that the exigencies of it under each condition must equally differ too. It is a much harder work first to advance and put a thing into motion, than to continue and keep up that motion being once begun. For though indeed, as we observed before, there is an omnipotence required to maintain, as well as first to set up the Christian church; yet it does not therefore follow that this omnipotence must still exert itself to the same degree, and after the same way, in one case, that it does in the other.
Wherefore the use and purpose of miracles being extraordinary, and to serve only for a time, they were not by their continuance to thwart their design, nor to be made common by their being perpetual. 525The exact period of their duration can hardly be assigned; but manifest it is from all history, that they, or at least some of them, continued long after the apostles time; as we may gather from the several ages of those eminent fathers and Christian writers, who have so freely given in their testimony concerning the ejecting of evil spirits from persons possessed, as very common in their time in the Christian church; a power no doubt supernatural, and therefore miraculous: such as were Justin Martyr, who lived something before the middle of the second century, and Irenaeus, who lived about thirty years after, and Tertullian, who lived in the latter end of the second and the beginning of the third, and Minutius Felix thereabouts, and St. Cyprian about the middle of the third, and Lactantius about the beginning of the fourth. All these, I say, according to the times they lived in, speak of this power of casting out devils (but more especially Tertullian in the twenty-third chapter of his Apologetic) with so much assurance, that it must needs prove it to have been very frequent amongst the Christians in those days; as several passages in those forementioned writers particularly declare: which might easily be produced and rehearsed by us, could we spare room enough for them in so short a discourse.
But however, certain it is, that now these extra ordinary and miraculous powers are ceased, and that upon as good reason as at first they began. For when the spiritual building is consummate, and not only the corner stone laid, but the superstructure also finished, to what purpose should the scaffolds any longer stand? which when they leave off to 526contribute to the building, can serve for little else but to upbraid the folly of the builder. Besides, that by so long a continuance miracle would almost turn into nature, or at least look very like it; the rarities of heaven would grow cheap and common, and, (which is very preposterous to conceive,) they would be miracles without a wonder.
The Papists indeed, who, having swallowed and digested the belief of so many monstrous contradictions, would do but very unwisely, and disagreeably to themselves, if, for ever after, they should stick at any advantageous absurdity; these, I say, hold, that the gift of miracles still continues ordinary in their church; and that the Christian religion has still the same need of such miraculous confirmations as it had at first.
Where, if by the Christian they mean their own popish religion, I am so fully of their mind, that I think there is need, not only of daily, but even of hourly, or rather continual miracles, to confirm it; if it were but in that one single article of transubstantiation. But then, we know whose badge and character the scripture makes it, to come in lying wonders; and we know also, that lying wonders are true impostures: and theirs are of that nature, that the fallacy is so gross, and the cheat so transparent in them, that, as it hardens the Jews and Mahumetans with a desperate, invincible prejudice against Christianity, as a thing as false as those miracles which they see it recommended by; so, I am confident, that it causes many Christians also to nauseate their own religion, and to fall into secret atheism; being apt to think (as even these impostors also pretend) that the very miracles of the apostles 527might be of the same nature with those which they see daily acted by these spiritual jugglers: so that hereby the grand proof of Christianity falls to the ground, and has no force or hold upon men’s minds at all. Whereas our Saviour himself laid the main stress and credit of his gospel, and of his mission from God, upon his miracles. The works that I do, says he, bear witness of me, John x. 25. And, Believe me for my very works’ sake, John xiv. 11. And, Had I not done amongst them the works which no other man did, they had not had sin, John xv. 24. So that we see here, that the credit of all turned upon his miracles, his mighty and supernatural works.
But as, we know, it often falls out, that when a man has once got the character of a liar, even truth itself is suspected, if not absolutely disbelieved, when it comes from the mouth of such an one; so these miracle-mongers having alarmed the world round about them to a discernment of their tricks, when they came afterwards to preach Christianity, especially to infidels, and to press it upon men’s belief in the strength of those miraculous works which were truly and really done by Christ; yet, since they pretend the same of their own works too, (which all people see through, and know to be lies and impostures,) all that they preach of Christ is presently looked upon as false and fictitious, and leaves the minds of men locked up under a fixed, obstinate, and impregnable infidelity. Such a fatal blow has the legerdemain of those wretches given to the Christian religion, and such jealousies have they raised in some men’s thoughts against it, by their false miracles and fabulous stories of the romantic 528feats of their pretended saints. In all which there is nothing indeed strange or miraculous, but the impudence and impiety of such as report and make them, and the folly of such as can believe them.
2. Pass we now to the second thing proposed, which is to shew what is meant by this diversity of gifts mentioned in the text. It imports, I conceive, these two things:
1. Something by way of affirmation, which is variety.
2. Something by way of negation, which is contrariety.
1. And first, for the first of them. It imports variety; of which excellent qualification, it is hard to say, whether it makes more for use or ornament. It is the very beauty of providence, and the delight of the world. It is that which keeps alive desire, which would otherwise flag and tire, and be quickly weary of any one single object. It both supplies our affections and entertains our admiration; equally serving the innocent pleasures and the important occasions of life. And now all these advantages God would have this desirable quality derive even upon his church too. In which great body there are and must be several members having their several uses, offices, and stations: as in the 28th verse of this chapter (where my text is) the apostle tells us, that God has placed in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly preachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues: the particular function and employment of so many parts subserving the joint interest and design of the whole. As the motion of a clock is a complicated motion of 529so many wheels fitly put together; and life itself but the result of so many several operations, all is suing from and contributing to the support of the same body. The great help and furtherance of action, is order; and the parent of order is distinction. No sense, faculty, or member must encroach upon or interfere with the duty and office of another: for, as the same apostle discourses in the two next verses, Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? No; but as in the natural body the eye does not speak, nor the tongue see; so neither in the spiritual is every one who has the gift of prophecy endued also with the gift and spirit of government; every one, who may speak well, and pertinently enough upon a text, is not therefore presently fit to rule a diocese; nor is a nimble tongue always attended with a strong and a steady head. If all were preachers, who should govern? or rather indeed, who could be governed? If the body of the church were all ear, men would be only hearers of the word, and where would then be the doers? For such, I am sure, we are most to seek for in our days, in which, sad experience shews that hearing of sermons has, with most, swallowed up and devoured the practice of them, and manifestly serves instead of it; rendering many zealots amongst us as really guilty of the superstition of resting in the bare opus operatum of this duty, as the Papists are or can be charged to be in any of their religious performances whatsoever. The apostle justly reproaches such with itching ears, 2 Tim. iv. 3. and I cannot see, but that the itch in the ear is as bad a distemper 530as in any other part of the body, and perhaps a worse.
But to proceed: God has use of all the several tempers and constitutions of men, to serve the occasions and exigences of his church by. Amongst which, some are of a sanguine, cheerful, and debonair disposition, having their imaginations, for the most part, filled and taken up with pleasing ideas and images of things; seldom or never troubling their thoughts, either by looking too deep into them, or dwelling too long upon them. And these are not properly framed to serve the church either in the knotty, dark, and less pleasing parts of religion, but are fitted rather for the airy, joyful offices of devotion; such as are praise and thanksgiving, jubilations and hallelujahs; which, though indeed not so difficult, are yet as pleasing a work to God as any other. For they are the noble employment of saints and angels; and a lively resemblance of the glorified and beatifick state; in which all that the blessed spirits do, is to rejoice in the God who made and saved them, to sing his praises, and to adore his perfections.
Again, there are others of a melancholy, reserved, and severe temper, who think much, and speak little; and these are the fittest to serve the church in the pensive, afflictive parts of religion, in the austerities of repentance and mortification, in a retirement from the world, and a settled composure of their thoughts to self-reflection and meditation. And such also are the ablest to deal with troubled and distressed consciences, to meet with their doubts, and to answer their objections, and to ransack every corner of their shifting and fallacious hearts, and, in a word, to lay 531before them the true state of their souls, having so frequently descended into, and took a strict account of their own. And this is so great a work, that there are not many whose minds and tempers are capable of it, who yet may be serviceable enough to the church in other things. And it is the same thoughtful and reserved temper of spirit which must enable others to serve the church in the hard and controversial parts of religion: which sort of men, (though they should never rub men’s itching ears from the pulpit,) the church can no more be with out, than a garrison can be without soldiers, or a city without walls, or than a man can defend himself with his tongue, when his enemy comes against him with his sword. And therefore great pity it is, that such as God has eminently and peculiarly furnished, and, as it were, cut out for this service, should be cast upon and compelled to the popular, speaking, noisy part of divinity; it being all one, as if, when a town is besieged, the governor of it should call off a valiant and expert soldier from the walls, to sing him a song, or play him a lesson upon the violin at a banquet, and then turn him out of town, because he could not sing and play as well as he could fight. And yet, as ridiculous as this is, it is but too like the irrational and absurd humour of the present age, which thinks all sense and worth confined wholly to the pulpit. And many excellent persons, because they cannot make a noise with chapter and verse, and harangue it twice a day to factious tradesmen and ignorant old women, are esteemed of as nothing, and scarce thought worthy to eat the church’s bread. But, for all these false notions and wrong measures of things and persons, so scandalously prevalent amongst 532us, wisdom, as our Saviour tells us, is and will be justified of her children.
But then again, there are others besides these, who are of a warmer and more fervent spirit, having much of heat and fire in their constitution: and God may and does serve his church even by such kind of persons as these also, as being particularly fitted to preach the terrifying rigours and curses of the law to obstinate daring sinners; which is a work as absolutely necessary, and of as high a consequence to the good of souls, as it is that men should be driven, if they cannot be drawn off from their sins; that they should be cut and lanced, if they cannot otherwise be cured; and that the terrible trump of the last judgment should be always sounding in their ears, if nothing else can awaken them. But then, while such persons are thus busied in preaching of judgment, it is much to be wished that they would do it with judgment too; and not preach hell and damnation to sinners so, as if they were pleased with what they preached. No; let them rather take heed that they mistake not their own fierce temper for the mind of God; for some I have known to do so, and that at such a rate, that it was easy enough to distinguish the humour of the speaker from the nature of the thing he spoke. Let ministers threaten death and destruction even to the very worst of men in such a manner, that it may appear to all their sober hearers that they do not desire, but fear that these dreadful things should come to pass: let them declare God’s wrath against the hardened and impenitent, as I have seen a judge condemn a malefactor, with tears in his eyes: for surely much more should a dispenser of the word, while he is pronouncing 533the infinitely more killing sentence of the divine law, grieve with an inward, bleeding compassion for the misery of those forlorn wretches whom it is like to pass upon. But I never knew any of the Geneva or Scotch model (which sort of sanctified reprobationers we abound with) either use or like this way of preaching in my life; but generally whips and scorpions, wrath and vengeance, fire and brimstone, made both top and bottom, front and rear, first and last, of all their discourses.
But then, on the contrary, there are others again of a gentler, a softer, and more tender genius, and these are full as serviceable for the work of the ministry as the former sort could be, though not in the same way; as being much fitter to represent the meekness of Moses, than to preach his law; to bind up the broken-hearted, to speak comfort and refreshment to the weary, and to take off the burden from the heavy laden. Nature itself seems peculiarly to have fitted such for the dispensations of grace. And when they are once put into the ministry, they are, as it were, marked and singled out by Providence to do those benign offices to the souls of men, which persons of a rougher and more vehement disposition are by no means so fit or able to do. These are the men whom God pitches upon for the heralds of his mercy, with a peculiar emphasis and felicity of address, to proclaim and issue out the pardons of the gospel, to close up the wounds which the legal preacher had made, to bathe and supple them with the oil of gladness; and, in a word, to crown the sorrows of repentance with the joys of assurance. And thus we have seen how the gospel must have both its Boanerges and its Barnabas, sons of thunder, 534and sons of consolation: the first, as it were, to cleanse the air and purge the soul, before it can be fit for the refreshments of a sunshine, the beams of mercy, and the smiles of a Saviour.
David had shewn himself but a mean psalmist, had his skill reached no further than to one note: and therefore, Psalm ci. 1, we have him singing of judgment as well as mercy; and so raising the sweet est harmony out of the seeming discord of the most disagreeing attributes. There can be no composition in any thing without some multiplicity and diversity of parts: and therefore we have a catalogue of those gifts, which did, as it were, compound and make up the primitive church, in the 8th, 9th, and 10th verses of this 12th chapter of the 1st to the Corinthians; where the apostle tells us, that to one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another faith; with many more such like gifts there reckoned up; and indeed so many and various were the gifts poured out by the Spirit of God upon the first preachers of the gospel, that there is need almost of the gift of tongues to rehearse them.
Of which great variety, as we have hitherto observed the use, so it is intended also for the ornament of the church. I say ornament: for I cannot persuade myself that God ever designed his church for a rude, naked, unbeautified lump, or to lay the foundations of purity in the ruins of decency. The entrance and gate of Solomon’s temple was called beautiful: and as there were several orders of priests and Levites belonging to it, so they had their several offices, their several chambers and apartments in that temple. It was a kind of representation of heaven; in which, our Saviour tells us, there are many mansions. 535But, behold! there are wiser, much wiser than Solomon amongst us, who will have it quite otherwise in the Christian church. Nothing of order or distinction, nothing of splendour or dress, must be allowed of here. No, they are all for lying in the dust before God, (as their word is,) and therefore will have nothing but dust and nastiness for the church’s furniture. To attempt a confutation of such persons would be superfluous; and indeed I have no more to say for those who contend for such a sordid and mean condition of the church, but that in this they do not so much speak their devotion as their education; it being generally found that a slovenly way of breeding disposes men to a kind of slovenly religion.
Much might be spoken by way of analogy between the internal and external, the spiritual and the material ornaments of the church; but both of them serve to dress and set off the spouse of Christ; the first to recommend her to his own eyes, and the latter to the eyes of the world.
Where would be the beauty of the heavens themselves, if it were not for the multitude of the stars, and the variety of their influences? And then for the earth here below, and those who dwell therein, certainly we might live without the plumes of peacocks, and the curious colours of flowers, without so many different odours, so many several tastes, and such an infinite diversity of airs and sounds. But where would then be the glory and lustre of the universe, the flourish and gayety of nature, if our senses were forced to be always poring upon the same things, without the diversion of change, and the quickening 536relish of variety? And now, when matters stand thus, may we not justly say, If God so clothes the fields, so paints the flowers, and paves the very places we tread upon, and with such curiosity provides for all our senses, which yet are but the servants and under-officers of the soul; shall he not much more provide for the soul itself, and its own service there by, in the glorious economy and great concernments of the church? And moreover, does not such a liberal effusion of gifts equally argue both the power and the bounty of the giver? Number and multitude are the signs of riches, and the materials of plenty; and therefore, though unity in the government and communion of the church is indeed a great blessing, yet in the gifts and endowments of it, it would be but penury and a curse. But,
Secondly, as this diversity of the Spirit’s gifts imports variety, so it excludes contrariety: different they are, but they are not opposite. There is no jar, no combat or contest between them; but all are disposed of with mutual agreements, and a happy subordination: for as variety adorns, so opposition destroys; things most different in nature may yet be united in the same design; and the most distant lines may meet and clasp in the same centre.
As, for instance, one would think that the spirit of meekness and the spirit of zeal stood at that distance of contrariety, as to defy all possibility either of likeness or reconcilement; and yet (as we have already shewn) they both may and do equally serve and carry on the great end and business of religion. And the same Spirit which baptizes with water, baptizes also with fire. It is an art to attain the 537same end by several methods; and to make things of a quite contrary operation to concur in one and the same effect.
Come we now to the third and last thing proposed from the words; which is to shew what are the consequences of this emanation of so many and different gifts from one and the same Spirit. I shall instance in four, directly and naturally deducible from it: as,
First, If the Spirit works such variety of gifts, and those in so vast a multitude, and for the most part above the force of nature, certainly it is but rational to conclude, that it is a Being superior to nature, and so may justly challenge to itself a deity. There have been several who have impugned the deity of the Holy Ghost, though not in the same manner; but the principal of them come within these two sorts:
1. Macedonius and his followers, who allowed him to be a person, but denied his deity; affirming him to be the chief angel, the supreme and most excel lent of those blessed spirits employed by God in administering the affairs of the church, and conveying good suggestions to the minds of men, and for that cause to be called the Holy Spirit; and sometimes simply and κατ᾽ ἑξοχὴν, or by way of eminence, the Spirit. And the same was held by one Biddle, an heretic of some note here in England, a little before the restoration; that is to say, while confusion and toleration gave countenance to almost all religions, except the true.
2. But secondly, Socinus and his school deny both the deity of the Holy Ghost and his personal subsistence too; not granting him to be a person, but only the power of God; to wit, that vis, or ἐνέργεια, 538by which he effects or produces things. And amongst those who assert this, none have given such bold strokes at the deity of the Holy Ghost as Crellius, in his book de uno Deo Patre, and his other de Spiritu Sancto.
Now to draw forth and insist upon all the arguments and texts of scripture which use to be traversed on both sides in this controversy, would be a thing neither to be done within this compass of time, nor perhaps so proper for this exercise; and therefore let it suffice us, upon the warrant of express scripture, not sophisticated by nice and forced expositions, but plainly interpreted by the general tradition of the church, (to which all private reason ought in reason to give place,) to confess and adore the deity of the Holy Ghost.
Now this Holy Spirit is in the church, as the soul in the natural body: for as the same soul does in and by the several parts of the body exercise several functions and operations; so the Holy Ghost, while he animates the mystical body of Christ, causes in it several gifts and powers, by which he enables it to exert variety of actions. And as in the river Nilus, it is the same fountain which supplies the seven streams; so when we read of the seven spirits, Revelation iv. 5, they are but so many several gifts of the same Spirit, all bearing the name and title of their donor; as it is usual for so many several volumes to bear the single denomination of their author; and we say, properly enough, that such an one has read Cicero or Plutarch, when he has read their works.
But now surely this glorious Person or Being, who thus enlightens the minds of all men coming into 539the world, in some measure, and of the church more especially, cannot be in the rank and number of created beings. The heathens attributed a kind of divinity or godhead to springs, because of that continual inexhaustible emanation from them, resembling a kind of infinity. But here we see the very gifts of the Spirit to be divine: and where we find such a divinity in the stream, certainly we may well ascribe it in a more transcendent manner to the fountain. Besides, if the Holy Ghost were not God, I cannot see how our bodies could be well called his temples; since none but God can challenge to himself the prerogative of a temple. And so much for the first consequent. But,
Secondly, This great diversity of the Spirit’s gifts may read a lecture of humility to some, and of contentment to others. God indeed, in this great scheme of the creation, has drawn some capital letters, set forth some masterpieces, and furnished them with higher abilities than ordinary, and given them gifts, as it were, with both hands: but for all that, none can brag of a monopoly of them, none has so absolutely engrossed them all, as to be that thing of which we may say, Here we see, what and how much God can do. No, God has wrote upon no created being the utmost stint of his power, but only the free issues and products of his pleasure. God has made no man in opprobrium naturae, only to overlook his fellow-creatures, to upbraid them with their defects, and to discourage them with the amazing distance of the comparison. He has filled no man’s intellectuals so full, but he has left some vacuities in them, that may sometimes send him for supplies to minds of a much lower pitch. He has 540stocked no land or country with such universal plenty, without the mixture of some wants, to be the ground and cause of commerce: for mutual wants, and mutual perfections together, are the bond and cement of conversation. The vast knowledge and ruling abilities of Moses might yet stand in need of Aaron’s elocution: and he who speaks with the tongue of angels, and the greatest fluency of spiritual rhetoric, may yet be at a loss when he comes to matters of controversy, and to assert the truth against the assaults and sophistry of a subtle opponent. God indeed can, and sometimes happily does, unite both these gifts in the same person: but where he does not, let not him who can preach, condemn him who can only dispute; neither let him who can dispute, despise him who can only preach: for (as we have shewn before) the church is served by both, and has equally need of some men to speak and declare the word, and of others to defend it: it being enough, and too often more than enough, for one man to maintain what another says. In which work, the speaking part is indeed the more easy, but the defensive the more glorious.
And, as this may give some check to the presumption of the most raised understandings, so it should prevent the despondency of the meanest: for the apostle makes this very use of it in the 21st and 22d verses; where he would not have even the lowest and poorest member of the church to be dejected upon the consideration of what it wants, but rather be comforted in the sense of what it has. Let not the foot trample upon itself, because it does not rule the body, but consider, that it has the honour to support it: nay, the greatest abilities are 541sometimes beholding to the very meanest, if but for this only, that without them they would want the gloss and lustre of a foil. The two talents went into heaven as easily as the five: and God has put a peculiar usefulness even into the smallest members of the body, answerable to some need or defect in the greatest; thereby to level them to a mutual intercourse of compliance and benefaction; which alone can keep things equal, and is indeed the very poise and ballast of society. And thus much for the second consequent. But,
Thirdly, The foregoing doctrine affords us also a touchstone for the trial of spirits: for such as are the gifts, such must be also the spirit from which they flow: and since both of them have been so much pretended to, it is well for the church, that it has the rule of judgment, and a note of discrimination. There is none, who is not wilfully a stranger to the affairs of our Israel, but has had the noise and blusters of gifted brethren, and of persons pretending to the Spirit, ringing in his ears. Concerning which plea of theirs, since we all know that there are spirits both good and bad, it cannot be denied, but that in some sense they might have the spirit, such a spirit as it was, and that in a very large measure: but as for their gifts, we must examine them by the standard of those here mentioned by the apostle.
And first, for that of prophecy: these men were once full of a prophecy that the world should be destroyed in the year 1656; because, forsooth, the flood came upon the old world in that year reckoning from the creation. And again, that the downfal of Pope and Antichrist, together with that of monarchy and episcopacy, (which they always accounted 542as limbs of Antichrist,) should be in the year 1666. And that because some remarkable mention is made of the number 666 in the Revelation; with many other such like predictions: the event of all which has shewn, that those men were not of God’s privy council; but, on the contrary, that all their prophecies were like those of almanacks, which warn every wise body to prepare against foul weather, by their foretelling fair.
And then, for the gift of healing, let a bleeding church and state shew, how notably they were gifted that way. They played the chirurgeons indeed with a witness, but we never yet heard that they acted the physician; all their practice upon the body politic was with powder and ball, sword and pistol. No saving of life with those men, but by purging away the estate.
And likewise for the gift of discerning of spirits: they had their triers, that is, a court appointed for the trial of ministers; but most properly called Cromwell’s inquisition; in which they would pretend to know men’s hearts, and inward bent of their spirits (as their word was) by their very looks. But the truth is, as the chief pretence of those triers was to inquire into men’s gifts; so if they found them but well gifted in the hand, they never looked any further; for a full and free hand was with them an abundant demonstration of a gracious heart; a word in great request in those times.
And moreover, for the gift of diverse tongues, it is certain, that they scarce spake the same thing for two days together. Though otherwise it must be confessed, that they were none of the greatest linguists; their own mother tongue serving all their 543occasions, without ever so much as looking into the fathers, who always spoke the language of the beast to such as could not understand them. Latin was with them a mortal crime, and Greek, instead of being owned for the language of the Holy Ghost, (as in the New Testament it is,) was looked upon like the sin against it; so that, in a word, they had all the confusions of Babel amongst them without the diversity of tongues.
And then, lastly, for the gift of interpreting; they thought themselves no ordinary men at expounding a chapter; if the turning of a few rational, significant words and sentences into a loose, tedious, impertinent harangue could be called an exposition. But above all, for their interpreting gift, you must take them upon Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Revelation; and from thence, as it were, out of a dark prophetic cloud, thundering against the old cavaliers and the Church of England, and (as I may but too appositely express it) breaking them upon the wheels in Ezekiel, casting them to the beasts in Daniel, and pouring upon them all the vials in the Revelation. After which let any one deny it who durst, that the black decree was absolutely passed upon those malignants, and that they were all of them, to a man, sons of reprobation.
And thus, I think, I have reckoned up most of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and compared them with those of our late gifted brethren. Amongst all which divine gifts, I must declare, that I cannot find the gift of canting and whining, and making faces; that is, of speaking bad sense with worse looks; which yet those men used to call the language of Canaan. Nor can I find the gift of uttering 544every sudden, crude, undigested thought coming over their minds, and of being impudently bold and familiar with Almighty God in prayer.
I cannot find the gift of exploding the mysteries, and peculiar credenda of the Gospel, in order to the turning Christianity into bare morality.
I cannot find the gift of accounting tenderness of conscience against law, as a thing sacred, but tenderness of conscience according to law, as a crime to be prosecuted almost to death.
In a word, I cannot find the gifts of 1616 Notwithstanding the sanctified character they bear in the republicans’ new Gospel, viz. Ludlow’s Memoirs; and in the judgment of those who like such practices, and therefore publish such books, to the manifest affront of the monarchy they live under: a strange unaccountable way doubtless of supporting it.rebelling, plundering, sequestering, robbing churches, and murdering kings, and all this purely for the sake of conscience and religion.
These things, I say, (whether it be through the weakness of my discerning faculties, or whatsoever else may be the cause,) I cannot, for my life, find amongst the primitive gifts of the Spirit.
And therefore, wheresoever I do find them, let men talk never so much of inward motions and extraordinary calls of the Spirit, of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and of the public good, of moderation, and of an healing spirit, and the like; yet, long and sad experience having taught us the true meaning of all these fine and fallacious terms, I must needs say, both of them, and the spirit from which they proceed, in those words of St. James iii. 18, that they descend not from above, but are earthly, sensual, and devilish. These are the names which 545God knows and calls them by, though schismatics and hypocrites may call them reformation. But,
Fourthly, In the fourth and last place, this emanation of gifts from the Spirit assures us that knowledge and learning are by no means opposite to grace; since we see gifts as well as graces conferred by the same Spirit. But amongst those of the late reforming age, (whom we have been speaking of,) all learning was utterly cried down. So that with them the best preachers were such as could not read, and the ablest divines such as could not write. In all their preachments they so highly pretended to the Spirit, that they could hardly so much as spell the letter. To be blind was with them the proper qualification of a spiritual guide, and to be book-learned, as they called it, and to be irreligious, were almost terms convertible. None were thought fit for the ministry but tradesmen and mechanics, because none else were allowed to have the Spirit. Those only were accounted like St. Paul, who could work with their hands, and in a literal sense drive the nail home, and be able to make a pulpit, before they preached in it.
But the Spirit in the primitive church took quite another method, being still as careful to furnish the head as to sanctify the heart; and as he wrought miracles to found and establish a church by these extraordinary gifts, so it would have been a greater miracle to have done it without them.
God, as he is the giver of grace, so he is the father of lights; he neither admits darkness in himself, nor approves it in others. And therefore those who place all religion in the heats of a furious zeal, without the due illuminations of knowledge, know 546not of what spirit they are; indeed of such a spirit as begins in darkness, leads to it, and ends in it.
But certainly we shall one day find, that a religion so much resembling hell, neither was nor could be the readiest way to heaven. But on the contrary, that the Spirit always guides and instructs before he saves; and that, as he brings to happiness only by the ways of holiness, so he never leads to true holiness, but by the paths of knowledge.
To which Holy Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, three Persons and one God, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.547
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