« ForrigeFortsæt »
slender arts either of eloquence or persuasion, but on the surer foundation of the testimony of the Holy Ghost-upon those great and wonderful operations which they performed to prove the truth of their Christian mission, and the divinity of its Author; and finally, to testify the blessed effects which were the consequence of so extraordinary an effusion of the holy Spirit of God. On occasion where it was necessary or expedient, they displayed their great powers by showing a courage beyond almost the nature of man; they were armed with patience, and their hearts were cheered with inward joys and consolations, and their minds influenced by the great and sole object of their mission-Gospel-salvation,
That this cool consistent vigour of character was not the consequence of any natural temper or disposition of the apostles, but owing to the influence of the Holy Spirit, will be evident if we compare their conduct and feelings before and after the communication of the heavenly Comforter. Before, they were of fearful and suspicious tempers, terrified and affrighted, and, in a moment of distress, deserting their Master. But after this great event had taken place, and they had been satisfied by supernatural means of the truth of all that had been promised-what was then their conduct? They stood undaunted before tyrants and kings-they sang in dungeons, and resisted unto death.
To what could such an extraordinary change of
conduct be attributed, but to the extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit of God? How could we otherwise believe that plain uneducated men, men untaught to reason upon any subject, timid in their natural characters, and afraid of suffering, should suddenly change to the most opposite dispositions, be enabled to discuss the most difficult points of Christian divinity, and resolutely press forward to death itself in the Gospel-cause? How could they have borne this decided testimony to the great truths which they established, but by means of the great Advocate of fallen man, the Mediator and Intercessor of the whole human race? The Holy Ghost, the Comforter, stood by them in all their trials, refreshed them by his presence, and supported them in every extremity of trouble and distress. It was indeed the experience of a lively and energetic faith which rooted from their hearts every base principle of action, and implanted in their souls the strongest marks of character, holy resolution, inward peace, and Christian courage.
Such was the earliest history of the Church of Christ-and so long as the extraordinary gifts and demonstrations of the Spirit were necessary, so long were they continued by its blessed Founder. But when the records of Christianity became fixed, when the writings of the apostles and evangelists were fully and finally completed, when the books of Scripture, as we now receive them, were in the hands of every member of the Church, either personally, or through
the medium of an ordained ministry, the word of God may be said to have stood in the place of the first apostles, and to be transmitted, safe and secure, through every future age, and delivered as a rule of Faith to the remotest generations. Immediate inspiration and immediate miracle could no longer be expected. There was no new doctrine to be taught; men were neither to be converted by novelties in religion, nor astonished into conviction. Salvation by Christ, and by Christ only, was the corner-stone of Faith; therefore nothing new, or contradictory, could be engrafted on it. I speak not of the wildness of men's fancies, or the dreams of a warm imagination. Pure religion never was derived from such sources. And if we have one argument sounder than another to confirm us in our belief, it is that the Church of Christ has continued in the line of the apostles, and that the doctrine and form of ministry have descended together." Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers orders in thy Church; give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all those who are called to any office or administration in the same; and so replenish them with the truth of thy doctrine, and endue them with innocency of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great name, and the benefit of thy Holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen 1."
III.-The ordinary Divine influence of the Holy Spirit.
Is there any one who has ever felt that sweet complacency of spirit which arises from a pure contemplation of heaven and heavenly things, who is not inclined to believe that such an high gratification of mind is derived from the very source of his contemplation, disengaged from every earthly thought and worldly care; rising into superior regions, where dark clouds have passed away, and all is serenity and love? A reflection of this nature, though often perverted by the designing, mistaken by the ignorant, and not always clearly understood even by the pious and well-meaning Christian, comprehends a doctrine abounding in comfort, and derived from the most intimate union of God himself. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." But before we indulge in so pleasing a speculation, let us reflect on the foundation which supports it, on the solid ground which the revealed word of God only can supply.
In the case of the apostles, who received an immediate and overpowering impulse of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, we can draw no argument applicable to ourselves; that is to say, no argument of
1 Rom. viii. 16.
expectation that might induce us to believe ourselves to be the objects of a similar visitation. The primitive conversion of a race of people to the Lord, the establishment of a select body of persons to perpetuate the holy doctrines, then decidedly and particularly promulgated, spoke the intention of the Almighty, and gave this sign that the great plan of salvation was in progress, and would not cease till the whole purpose of Providence should be completed. The apostles were the instruments by whom he declared his will, and the miracles which they performed in the name of their Master, undeniably established their mission. The nature of the revelation which they preached, manifested the spirituality of their mission; and in fact declared that although it was now accompanied by outward splendour and extraordinary communications, it would be continued by the ordinary means of the same Spirit, and consummated by an universal distribution of Divine gifts; gifts spiritual in their nature, perpetual in their duration. "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, and it shall come to pass in the last days, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh-and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved 1." It is clear from this prophecy, and the interpretation of it by St. Peter on the very day, and in the presence of those who had witnessed the miracle, that this was the commencement of a