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But leaving the exact period of their cessation undetermined, we assert with confidence, that miraculous gifts have now, for many ages, ceased altogether. It has been forcibly and conclusively asked, “When the spiritual building is consummate, and not only the foundation laid, but the headstone of the corner has attested the completion of the superstructure, to what purpose should the scaffolds remain standing ?5 besides, that by so long continuance, miracle would almost cease to be miracle, and become that which is a contradiction in terms, a miracle without a wonder.”
s South, II. p. 525. His words are these : “ Certain it is, that now these extraordinary 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 contribute 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 preposterous to conceive) they would be miracles without a wonder.” I have altered his language in quoting it, because he has given a wrong meaning to the word corner stone : λίθος ακρογωνιαίος is not the foundation stone, but the finishing stone, kepalri ywvías, as it is called in Ps. cxviii. 22. The commentators for the most part have explained it, the foundation stone; some, however, more correctly, the stone which, being placed at the angle of a building, binds together the two walls. But I do not find that any have given it its full signification, not only a corner stone, but the head or top corner stone.
We therefore not only believe that miraculous gifts have ceased in the Church of Christ; but we maintain, that a corrupt branch of that Church, by asserting their continuance in itself, does an injury and discredit to the Gospel; inasmuch as it virtually declares that the Gospel is not even yet firmly established in the world, but still needs the same miraculous confirmation as at first ; and by the frequency, and absurdity, and questionableness of its pretended miracles, whether we regard the occasion, the mode, or the success of their performance, it debases and disparages the majesty of the Holy Spirit ; giving occasion to the infidel and the scoffer to blaspheme, and to call in question those undoubted miracles which are the solid foundations of our faith. Not many years have elapsed since the extravagancies which were acted in a neighbouring country, at the tomb of a weak enthusiast, afforded to one of the subtlest adversaries of the Christian faith, an argument against the credibility of its genuine miracles. Yet this spiritual juggling (for in this enlightened age it deserves no better name,) is still carried on, not only in the wilds of an ignorant and half-civilized people, but in this very metropolis, in the citadel and stronghold of the Protestant faith.
I love not to make the teacher's chair the seat of religious controversy. Nevertheless, a word must be spoken in season, in vindication of the truth, and for the honour of God; whether against the unbeliever, the enthusiast, or the superstitious. This day is consecrated by the Church to the more particular consideration and honour of that Holy Spirit, who spake by the prophets, and wrought miracles by the hands of the Apostles, for the everlasting confirmation of the truth as it is in Jesus. On such an occasion, and in speaking with all reverence and humility on such a subject, can I, while looking to the present aspect of the Christian Church, forbear from protesting against those gross attempts at delusion which are now again made, with an equal mixture of impiety and folly? We protest against them, from a regard for the souls of men, remembering that the working of Satan is with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. We protest against them, as doing an injury to the cause of true religion ; for since those, who now pretend to effect these miracles, claim that supernatural character for their own works, which is claimed for the works done by
6 2 Thess. ii. 9.
Christ and his Apostles, every blow, which is given to the credit of one, redounds to the discredit of the other; and we know how
and common the transition is, when a partial light all at once breaks in upon long continued darkness, from a blind uninquiring superstition, to a fixed and impregnable infidelity.
But that, which is true of the miraculous powers conferred by the Holy Spirit, is equally true of all his extraordinary gifts. The former we deny to superstition, the latter to enthusiBefore we
can fairly be required to believe the reality of those inward motions and special calls of the Holy Spirit, which some Christians pretend to feel, and perhaps believe that they feel them, we may require of them the same proof, which the Apostles and first believers were able to give, that of doing something which is undeniably beyond the unassisted powers of human nature. I mean, however, unassisted by the Holy Spirit in a special and peculiar manner; for, properly speaking, no Christian is unassisted. He who first created, and who sustains the essence and faculties of the soul, is the source and cause of all its energies and acts. He gives the power, and he concurs by his influence in every action which has in it any particle of goodness. The child which obeys its parents, as well as the faithful and obedient Christian of maturer age, is, although in a different degree, moved by the grace of God. The different stages of moral and intellectual improvement, through which the mind passes, in the process of learning, and labour, and research, are to be ascribed to the grace of God: yet not so to be ascribed, as to exclude the necessity, or the efficacy of our own exertions. These are necessary, because without them, God does not vouchsafe his aid; they are efficacious, not of themselves, but because he uniformly blesses them. But it may be said, that these very exertions of our own cannot be made, except by the power of God. True ; and it is equally true, that we cannot utter a word, or lift a finger, but by his power, or permission ; yet he has implanted in us a conscious feeling of our own ability to originate an action; he deals with us in all his revealed Word as with responsible agents possessing that ability ; he commands us to act as though we had it; and, practically speaking, we have just as much reason to say, that we cannot set one foot before the other without the direct interposition of his power, as to maintain that we