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inasmuch as the doctrine it professes grows not upon the stock of natural principles, so as to be deducible from thence by the strength of reason and discourse, but comes derived from immediate and divine revelation ; it requires the helps and assistances of frequent inculcation, to water and keep it alive upon the understanding and the will, where nature gives it no footing from any notions within, but what it receives from the force and arts of external impression.
Now for this also, Christ made a full and glorious provision by that miraculous diffusion of the Holy Ghost, after his ascension, upon those great pastors and representatives of his church, the apostles.
In which notable passage of his conferring the Holy Ghost, we have these two things observable :
I. The time when;
II. The manner how it was given. As for the time in which it was conferred, this is remarkable in a double respect.
1. In respect of Christian religion itself, it being about its first solemn promulgation; which though it was a doctrine most true and excellent, yet certainly it was also very strange and unusual. And this we may observe, that there is no strange institution that can ever be of long continuance in the world, but that which first enters and ingratiates itself by something signal and prodigious.
The beginning of every thing has a strange and potent influence upon its duration : and the first appearances usually determine men either in their acceptance or dislike. Nothing stamps itself so deep in the memory as that which is fresh and new, and not made contemptible by a former acquaintance; and the freshness of every thing is its beginning.
Had not Christ therefore ushered in his religion by miracle and wonder, and arrested men's first apprehensions of it by something grand and supernatural, he had hindered its progress by a disadvantageous setting forth, exposed it naked to infidelity, and so rendered it first disputable, and then de. spised. It had been like the betraying a sublime and noble composition by a low and creeping prologue, which blasts the
reputation of the ensuing discourse, and shuts up the auditors' approbation with prejudice and contempt.
Moses therefore, by the appointment of God, bringing in a new religion, did it with signs and wonders, the mountain burning, and the trumpet sounding ; so that it was not so much the divine matter of the law, as the strange manner of its delivery, that took such hold of the obstinate Jews; and possibly Moses should never have convinced, had he not first frighted their belief.
And this is so necessary upon the very principles of nature, that even those impostors who have introduced false religions into the world, have yet endeavoured to do it by the same methods by which the true was established. Thus Numa Pompilius settled a religion amongst the old Romans, by feigning strange and supernatural converse with their supposed goddess Egeria. Apollonius Tyanæus, who endeavoured to retrieve gentilism in opposition to Christianity, attempted it by such strange and seemingly miraculous actions. And Mahomet is reported to have planted his impostures by the same way of recommendation. Though in all these, the sober and judicious observer will easily perceive that their miracles were as false as their religions.
But however, this shews how the mind of man is naturally to be prevailed upon; and that in the proposal of so great a thing to it as a new religion, the natural openness and meeting fervours of men's first acceptance are by all means to be secured and possessed; which is more successfully done by a sudden breaking in upon their faculties, with amazement and wonder, than by courting their reason with argument and persuasion.
2. But secondly, the time of Christ's sending the Spirit is very remarkable in respect of the apostles themselves. It was when they entered upon the full execution of their apostolic office, and from followers of Christ became the great leaders of the world.
During the time of their discipleship, and Christ's converse with them upon earth, we read of no such wonderful endowments, such variety of tongues, such profound penetration into
the mysteries of the gospel. But, on the contrary, with many instances of very thick ignorance, childishness of speech, and stupidity of conception, as appears from their many weak and insignificant questions proposed to Christ; their gross dulness to apprehend many of his speeches, in themselves very plain and intelligible: so that Christ is almost perpetually upbraiding them upon this account, as in Luke ix. 41, How long shall I be with you, and suffer you ? and Matt. xv. 16, Are ye also yet without understanding ? and Luke xxiv. 25, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have said ; with many other such increpations; which shews, that while they were yet under Christ's wing, and, as it were, in the nonage and minority of their apostleship, they were not the most seraphic doctors in the world.
But when Christ brings them forth upon the stage of a public office, to act as his commissioners and ambassadors, to gather and to govern a church in his name; immediately, like Saul upon his being anointed king, they step forth men of another spirit, great linguists, powerful disputants, able to cope with the Jewish sanhedrim, to baffle their profoundest rabbies, and to out-reason the very Athenians. · With their faculties strangely enlarged, their apprehensions heightened, and their whole mind furnished with that stock of endowments and rare abilities, that in others are the late and dear-bought acquisitions of large parts, long time, and severe study.
I confess there is something in office and authority that of itself raises a man's abilities; and the very air and genius of government does, as it were, inspire him with that largeness and reach of mind, that never appeared in the same person yet in the state of privacy and subjection : so that government oftentimes does not only indicare virum, but facere ; insensibly mould and frame the man that has it, to a fitness for it; and at length equals him to his employment; raising him above all the personal defects and littlenesses of his former condition; sublimating his parts, changing his thoughts, and widening his designs. The reason and philosophy of which I shall not inquire into, the thing itself being clear from experiNow that the apostles felt these natural influences from their apostolic employment, we have no reason to deny. Yet certainly these could not work in them such a stupendous change. This could be ascribed to nothing, but to those omnipotent assistances of the Spirit descending upon them from heaven, and investing them in their office by so magnificent and miraculous an installation.
And here I cannot but reflect upon the brutish folly and absurd impudence of the late fanatic decriers of the necessity of human learning, in order to the ministerial function, draw. ing an argument from this, tha tthe first and greatest ministers of the church were persons illiterate, and not acquainted with the academy, but utterly ignorant of the arts and sciences, the study of which takes up so much of our time, and draws after it so much of our estimation.
Which argument though they vaunt in as their greatest and most plausible, yet there is none that so directly strikes at the very throat of their cause. For whereas God found the apostles upon their first access to the ministry thus naked of those endowments, he by a miracle supplies what their opportunities permitted them not to learn, and by immediate power creates in them those abilities which others by their industry acquire.
Had not the knowledge of tongues and the force of disputation been necessary to a divine, would God have put himself to a miracle to furnish the apostles with such endowments, in themselves so useless, and in these men's judgment also pernicious ? But such persons are below a confutation, and made only to credit what they disapprove.
Now concerning the time of the effusion of the Holy Ghost, upon comparing one scripture with another, there seems to me a very considerable doubt, very near a contradiction, and therefore worthily deserving our explication.
The giving of the Holy Ghost is, by many clear scriptures, affirmed to be after Christ's ascension : nay, his ascension is made not only antecedent, but also causal to it, John vii. 39, The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified. And yet in John xx. it is said, that Christ, a little before his ascension, conferred the Holy Ghost upon his disciples, ver. 22, And he breathed upon them, and said, Receire ye the Holy Ghost. Now these places seem directly contradictory.
To which I answer, that if the giving of the Holy Ghost be in both places to be understood for one and the same thing, they certainly contradict one another. Wherefore, to avoid this, we must allow a double giving of the Holy Ghost: one, in which Christ conveys the ministerial power; the other, in which he confers ministerial gifts and abilities. Now it was the first of these that happened before Christ's ascension, as is clear from the following words in ver. 23, Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted. Which we know is the great instance of ministerial power and authority. And this, by the way, excellently explains the sense of our church, as it uses the same words in the ordination of priests, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whereby she does not profess to convey to the person ordained ministerial gifts and abilities, but only minis
But this solemn giving of the Holy Ghost after Christ's ascension, was a conferring gifts, graces, and abilities upon the apostles, to fit them for the discharge of their ministerial office and power, which had been conveyed to them by the former giving of the Holy Ghost before Christ's ascension. And thus we have given a fair accommodation to these places of scripture.
And so having considered the first thing observable in Christ's giving the Holy Ghost, viz. the time when ; I
pass now to the
Second ; which is, the manner how it was conferred. And here the more brevity is required, the thing being so eminently known to us all upon that full description of it in Acts ii. 2, 3; as, That the Holy Ghost descended and sat upon the apostles in the form of cloven fiery tongues, ushered in with the sound of a rushing mighty wind. The various significancy of which circumstances would furnish out matter for a year's discourse. And as for the popish writers and commentators, they are almost endless in this particular, so anatomizing the miracle into all its minute particles, and spinning out every circumstance into infinite allusions and metaphors : which