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of the whole scheme and distribution of the divine agency under the Gospel covenant, the Apostle adds, and there are diversities of operations ; but the same God, which worketh all in all, There is a variety of ways in which the divine power is manifested, for the stablishing and edifying of his Church; all wonderful, though different in object and effect: but whether they are to be more immediately referred to the agency of the Holy Spirit, or to that faith by which the members of the Church abide in Christ, and derive their spiritual life and energy from him, God the Father is in all, and through all, and worketh all in all: that is, all things in all men ; it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure. The Apostle's doctrine, then, in few words is this : Refer all your spiritual gifts and relations and energies to one source and author, the Spirit, the Lord, and the Father, who are one God. St. Paul himself has briefly and emphatically summed up the same doctrine in his Epistle to the Ephesians, There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism ; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
Eph. iv. 4.
3 Phil. ii. 13.
Such, generally, was the spiritual constitution of the Christian Church, while its members were comparatively but a little flock in the midst of an unbelieving and hostile world; while the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers took counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed; while the direct and manifest interposition of divine power was required, to prevent the failure of that promise, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Such also is its constitution still, as to the essential points of its relation to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The same supreme and universal dominion and operation; the same headship and sovereignty, the same distributive and effectual agency, are still exercised over the Lord's heritage, according to the circumstances and requirements of its condition. It is still true, that there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. But as the gifts were then different amongst themselves, so were they different from those which the Spirit now dispenses to the Church; yet different in degree rather than in kind.
The word, which, with reference to its end, is properly rendered gifts, means literally, acts of grace and favour ; and signifies those qualities and perfections, which the Spirit of God freely and largely bestowed upon men who were otherwise wholly incompetent to the task assigned to them; enabling them to preach the Gospel, and to prove its truth; to awaken the consciences, and to convince the understandings of mankind. These are termed, the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit ; such as are not ordinarily vouchsafed to men, nor for ordinary purposes; but only upon special emergencies, and for particular ends, which could not have been accomplished without them; gifts, absolutely and exclusively emanating from the Holy Spirit; infused into a passive recipient from the divine abundance of power. Such were the gifts of miracles, of healing, of prophecy, of tongues ; and of these some were vouchsafed to the Apostles, and first teachers of the Gospel as it were in perpetuity : and continued to reside in them after the first infusion. Others, as the gift of prophecy, were communicated to them from time to time, as occasion required, and the special purposes of God were to be answered. These were all, in the strict sense of the words, gifts ; effects of mere grace and favour to those who received them; not laboured for, nor derived to themselves from the Source of light and power, by their own efforts; but freely and spontaneously communicated to them, not for their own advantage or enjoyment; but for the accomplishment of God's eternal purposes, the redemption, sanctification, and salvation of mankind.
When the Church of Jesus Christ was once firmly planted in the world, and the ministry of its founders had been recorded in imperishable monuments, it no longer required those signal and extraordinary interpositions of the Holy Spirit, which in the first instance attested its divine original. A revelation, once proved to be authentic, is proved for ever; and all that is required, for the satisfaction of after ages, is the uninterrupted continuance of its memorials, and a security for the integrity of its records.
To establish in the world a new religion; to plant the eternal vine in a soil, barren, and hard, and overrun with the luxuriant and noxious weeds of vice, and prejudice, and error; to convince mankind of the truth and certainty of a revelation, which professed to disclose the counsels and decrees of the Most High, the duties and the destinies of man; which spoke of a judgment to come; of heaven and hell; of an incarnate God; of one final and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; to confirm the doctrines, and to sanction the precepts of such
a religion as this, miraculous gifts were indispensable to its first preachers. But miracles, in attestation of the truth, were requisite only till the truth had been sufficiently attested. Afterwards, an authentic record of their performance was all that was necessary. Now that the truth of Christianity has been long ago sufficiently attested, is a point which no believer will dispute. If, in the opinion of our Lord himself, the records of the Mosaic dispensation so completely proved its truth, that he, who believed them not, would not have been convinced though one had risen from the dead, would not have yielded to the evidence of a miracle performed before his eyes, it is surely impossible to deny, that the Christian Scriptures, once proved to be authentic, and preserved by a continued succession of teachers, precluded the necessity of all other proofs of the truth of Christianity; and that therefore miracles were no longer necessary, after the reception and recognition of those Scriptures by the Church. But it is on all hands acknowledged, that miracles continued no longer than there existed a necessity for them; and therefore we may conclude that they ceased in the Church, either at the death of the Apostles and first preachers of the Gospel, or shortly afterwards.