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doctrine, and to fupport an infant, ftruggling caufe against that opposition which was then so powerfully exerted against it. Among thefe gifts we find that of divers tongues; a gift abfolutely neceffary, to fupply the defects of an incompetent education, and to qualify illiterate men for the immediate discharge of an office, which, according to the commiffion delivered to them, was cc to go and make difciples
in all nations.”
But the Apostles were not only to preach and propagate the religion of a crucified JESUS, but were, moreover, to leave behind them a standing revelation for the future direction and government of the church. To enable them to collect the materials for this work, from the detached converfation of their bleffed Master, and the incidental circumstances of his life, with a correctness effential to its perfection, extraordinary affistance was deemed neceffary. One part, therefore, of the Holy Ghoft's office, as advocate for the church, was to qualify the Apostles for this undertaking; by "leading them into all truth; and bringing all things to their remembrance which JESUS had faid unto them." John xiv. 25, 26. By this fupernatural affiftance, ignorance and error were effectually guarded against; and every truth expe
dient to be known was delivered to the world, with that authority and conviction, proper to accompany a revelation, defigned to be the standard of Christian faith to all future ages.
To thofe, therefore, who in these days despise the ordinary means of attaining divine knowledge, from a dependence upon that extraordinary affistance from the Holy Spirit, which was vouchsafed to the Apoftles and first Christians, we have to obferve; that the ftate of the Chriftian world does not at this time render fuch affiftance neceffary. The standard of Christian faith being fixed, we have no new revelation to expect. It remains only, that we now make ourfelves acquainted with that which has been vouchfafed unto us; and this is to be done by the ufual methods of study and application, accompanied with that ordinary afsistance of the Holy Spirit, which we are taught to believe will accompany all fincere endeavours exerted in such a cause.
The church ftands no longer upon that ground on which it originally stood, when the weak things of the world and the foolish things were chofen to confound the wife. Kings and Queens are now become her nurfing fathers and nursing mothers; and the wisdom of the wife is now engaged in her caufe.
The figns and wonders, which accompanied the preaching of the Gofpel in its early days, have therefore ceased; because the end for which they were granted having been answered, the continuance of them is no longer neceffary. For a fimilar reafon, all the extraordinary affiftance of the Holy Spirit to qualify the firft teachers of Chriftianity for their office, by the effect of immediate infpiration fupplying natural incapacity, has long fince ceased; because men have it now in their power, in a great degree, to qualify themselves for the discharge of the minifterial office by a proper employment of those faculties which God has given them for the purpose.
As much important work was to be completed within a fhort period, the whole world being to be converted by the Apostles and their immediate deputies to the knowledge of the true GOD, fuch means were neceffary as would tend to give a ready reception to their preaching, by producing a powerful and inftantaneous effect upon their hearers. Miracles were exprefsly calculated for this purpose. And had the state of the church still continued to be what it was when the Holy Ghoft firft undertook the charge of it, the fame extraordinary means would still have been neceffary for its fupport. But in propor
tion as the ordinary means of promoting Chriftian knowledge increased upon the world, extraordinary means were withdrawn; and the external evidence for the credibility of the Gofpel, from the figns and wonders which attended its early promulgation, gradually gave way to that internal evidence, which the study of the facred writings, when put into the hands of Chriftians, was calculated to furnish; an evidence which, though lefs quick in its operation than what' acts upon the understanding through the medium of the fenfes, has yet this advantage in its favour, that it is more permanent in its effect.
Whilft, therefore, the fober Chriftian looks for that affiftance of the Holy Spirit which is ftill neceffary for his condition, to enable him to "fight the good fight of faith," and which he certainly will obtain, provided he do not ask amiss; he does not expect to receive affiftance which the circumftances of his cafe do not require.
Should extraordinary events take place in the Christian world, he refts affured, from the experience of former times, that the fame Holy Spirit who "divideth to every man feverally as he will," and to whofe truft the fpiritual concerns of Chriftians have been committed, will not be wanting to the occafion,
A distinction is, therefore, to be made between the ordinary and extraordinary affistance of the Holy Spirit; each being adapted by Divine wisdom to the particular condition of the party concerned. In the present day, the extraordinary affiftance which attended the infant church is not expected, because it is not wanted. That it is not granted, can be no fubject for controversy; whilst those who pretend to it, are unable to produce a proof of it. They neither work miracles, nor do they poffefs the gift of tongues; though from a want of knowledge of the languages in which the Scriptures were originally written, they are frequently leading their hearers into error; which certainly they would not be permitted to do, if, like the Apostles, they were, as they pretend to be, under the immediate direction of the Holy Spirit.
All pretence, therefore, to this extraordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit, which tends to supersede the use of those general methods of attaining Divine knowledge, which are fuited to the present state of things in the world, and calculated to establish the faith and practice of the Chriftian profeffor on the firm ground of found argument and rational conviction, is the offspring of enthusiasm; which has been productive of more difgrace to the Christian cause,