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glorious kingdom: but love, freed from the trammels of sin and the temptations of Satan, shall then live and sing and triumph throughout eternity; for God is our salvation, and God is love. Love is the more excellent way. O follow after love. Desire spiritual gifts indeed; but follow after love. I show you a more excellent way—" Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts."
This is no new doctrine. Have I any Jews in this congregation that hear these words? This doctrine was taught of old: it was taught in the tabernacle service: it was commented upon in the book of Psalms. "Behold," says the Psalmist, "how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments." Now, how is this?
0 ye who value the Old Testament Scriptures, ye children of Abraham, how is it that brethren dwelling together in unity is like the ointment flowing upon Aaron's beard? There is no natural similitude between the two things. Ointment flowing down the beard of Aaron, even to the skirts of his garments—how is that like brethren dwelling together in unity? Now,
1 will shew you the meaning of that Psalm. Aaron was the type of Jesus Christ the great High Priest of the Church; and that ointment was the type of the Holy Ghost, with which Jesus Christ our great High Priest is anointed; and the Holy Ghost descending from him to the members, is the Spirit of love by whom the brethren dwell together in unity. Therefore the brethren dwelling together in unity was beautifully exhibited by the ointment poured upon Aaron's head and flowing down to the skirts of his garments. Behold, I show you a more excellent interpretation than your Rabbies can give of this Psalm.
But to proceed. Having thus dwelt upon the fruits of the Spirit comprehended in this love, and having insisted upon it as a more excellent way, the Apostle returns to the spiritual gifts: and then he makes a preference, a choice amongst them of Prophecy as the most important; and goes on
to show upon what principles he declares prophecy to be the most important. By prophecy here we understand teaching by the Spirit, an immediate gift of teaching by the Spirit for the edification of the Church.
I now call your attention to the fourteenth chapter. "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts; but rather that ye may prophecy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edificth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the Church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied; for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the Church may receive edifying." The main point in striking a balance between the comparative value of valuable gifts—the main point taken into the account was, benefit to the Church: that gift which is most valuable to benefit the Church is the most to be desired. Therefore, said the apostle, Prophesy rather, because by prophecy the Church is edified: whereas by the other gift the man only is edified. This is the meaning of the whole of the remainder of the chapter. He says, If there be no interpreter let a man speak to himself and to God: and at the conclusion of the chapter his language marks the comparative estimate of the two things; —" Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order."
Now we have seen from the prophecy of Christ, from the fulfilment of that prophecy in the history of the infant Church, from the language of the Apostle to the Gentile Church—we have seen this great truth, that God the Holy Ghost was given to the Church of Christ—given to exercise gifts—given to produce fruits—given for power—given for holiness. Now, has that Spirit ever been removed from the Church? has the gift ever been recalled? Is it possible in the very nature of the thing that it should be? Could there be a Church if the Spirit were taken away ?" No man can call Jesus Lord but by the Spirit." "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." There might be an apparent Church; there might be a political engine made use of by a government, and called a Church; but there could be no Church if there were no Spirit. The best informed observers of the state of things on the Continent of Europe tell us something of this sort: there is the outward and visible appearance of such a Church as our Optimists desire, formed after the model of what men call liberty; but there is no Spirit of God in it; and there is no power of God amongst the people. And, my brethren, just in proportion as the Spirit leaves us there is no Church; and if the Spirit were withdrawn there could be no Church at all. If the Holy Ghost be taken away, how shall a man be converted? If the Holy Ghost be taken away, why what is Baptism? It is water. If the Holy Ghost be taken away, why what is the Lord's Supper? It is bread and wine. If the Holy Ghost be taken away, what is my preaching? Sound, a tinkling cymbal. And what is your hearing? Mere curiosity and vanity. And can this be? This cannot be: for Jesus Christ said that all the gates or powers of hell should not prevail against his Church. And he said to his disciples, " Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Now in person he is not with us; for he said, "It is expedient that I go away." But he explains this difficulty in his language concerning the Comforter; for he says, promising the Holy Ghost, "I will not leave you comfortless." He is with us by the Spirit; the Holy Ghost is upon the earth in the Church of Christ; it has never been removed. Has any part been removed? Is the Spirit divided? Is not the Holy Spirit God? and how can any part of the Spirit be removed? Is the Spirit in the Church for fruits? and is he not in the Church for gifts? Now mark what I say. Look into the enumeration of gifts in the twelfth chapter
of this epistle; there is wisdom—knowledge—faith for the working of miracles—gifts of healing—the working of miracles — prophecy — unknown tongues, and interpretation of tongues. What shall we say to these things ?— Are these things withdrawn from the Church? Were they but of temporary application? Were they but for the establishment of the religion of Christ, and then removed, as our Commentators tell us?
It is an important question I ask. What is your judgment concerning this chapter? Are the blessings of the Holy Ghost in this chapter temporary blessings, or permanent blessings? Answer from your own hearts, and judgments, and convictions, that you may be instructed. If you say they arc but temporary blessings for a special purpose, and then withdrawn, mark what follows. The Apostle enumerates them in one chapter; in the next he enumerates, as from the same Spirit, love—long-suffering, kind, patient, gentle love. If you say that the twelfth chapter is but of temporary application, how can you deny me saying that the thirteenth chapter is also of temporary application, and that therefore there is no more right to look for love in the Church than there is to look for the gifts of healing? Upon what principle is it you will select a part of what the Apostle describes as belonging to the Spirit in the Church, and say it is temporary, and that you will take another part as belonging to the same Spirit, and say it is permanent? It is a fair argument which I offer—it is a simple argument—it is an intelligible argument. If you are prepared to stand for it, that love should be a permanent characteristic of the Church, how can you resist the conclusion that the gifts should have permanent application in the church? If you say, There are no such gifts, I may answer you mournfully by saying, in the same sense, and perhaps with the same degree, There is no love.
How is it as a matter of fact? We cannot with any great clearness point out the historical details of the declension of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit in the Church of Christ. That they both did exist largely in the Church in its infant state is a matter of notoriety to all who are acquainted with the Scriptures. That they do not exist now, in any large measure, is equally a matter of notoriety. But at what periods, and in what degrees, the declension took place is a matter of extreme difficulty: it seems to have been gradual and intermitting; sometimes all seemed darkness—then a few bursts of light—and again darkness greater than before. A reference to some of the circumstances which took place during the Arian persecution in the fifth century, will make more clear what I intended by this last observation.
In the second volume of Milner's Church History, at page 505, he says, "In the Arian persecution under Huneric at Typasia, the Secretary of Cirila was ordained Bishop by the Arians. The inhabitants seeing this transported themselves into Spain, as the distance was but small: some who could meet with no vessels remained in Africa. The new Bishop laboured by courtesy to win their favor; but they, in contempt of his ministry, assembled themselves in a private house for public worship." They would not compromise with the Arian Bishop: they were not of that stamp that could make light of truth for the sake of peace. These men, according to the historical account, loved peace if they could have truth with it; but when peace and truth were put the one against the other, they held for truth though war should follow. This was right. "Huneric hearing of this by a message from the Bishop, ordered their tongues to be cut out, and their right hands to be cut off, in the public market place." Now, Mr. Milner says, and I marvel at such a man having condescended to say it in his History—" Shall I, in compliance with modern prejudices, throw a veil over the rest, or proceed according to historical veracity?" Why, proceed according to historical veracity to be sure, if you are an historian: and so he does. He says, "A miracle followed worthy of God, whose majesty had been so daringly insulted, and which must at that time have much strengthened the hearts of the faithful, who needed indeed some consolation amidst such scenes of horrible persecution. The miracle itself is so well
attested that I see not how it can be more so. The reader shall have both the fact and its proofs. Though their tongues were cut out to the root they spake as well as before. 'If any one doubt the fact,' says Victor of Vita, 'let him go to Constantinople, where he will find a Deacon, called Reperatus, one who was thus treated, who speaks plainly, and who has a particular respect shown him in the palace of the Emperor Zeno, especially by the Empress.' ^Eneas of Gaza, a Platonic philosopher, a cautious and prudent man, was at that time at Constantinople, and writes thus in the conclusion of his Dialogue on the Resurrection :—' I myself saw them, heard them speak, and wondered that their utterance could be so articulate. I searched for the organ of speech, and not trusting my ears, was resolved to have the proof of the eyes. Causing them to open their mouths, I saw that their tongues were plucked out even by the roots, and was then more surprised that they could live than that they could speak.' Is this sufficient evidence? Hear more: Procopius the historian, in his History of the Vandalic War, says, 'Huneric ordered the tongues of many to be cut out, who were afterwards seen in the streets of Constantinople when I was there, talking without any impediment, or feeling any inconvenience from what they had suffered.' Count Marcellinus, in his Chronicons, says, 'I have seen some of this company of faithful confessors at Constantinople, who had their tongues cut out, but spoke nevertheless without any impediment in their utterance.' To name only one more witness: the great Emperor Justinian, in a Constitution published by him for Africa, after it had fallen into his dominion, testifies that he had beheld the same."
This was in the year 483. I mention it to show, that, as far as historical evidence goes, there is not the slightest foundation for the common opinion circulated amongst us, that the miracles wrought by the Holy Ghost ceased with the apostol ic age: and I believe th at that error, that great error, has gained circulation amongst the Protestant Churches for want of knowing how rightly to meet the Popish pretensions to miracles; and that because they were not fairly met and rightly understood, our Commentators have taken the short way of denying there were any miracles at all; which they could not prove. I believe that the devil, who has from the beginning imitated the works of God, did imitate the miracles of the Spirit in the Church by false and lying wonders amongst the Papacy—that when Moses and Aaron went in before Pharaoh, and Aaron's rod became a serpent, the devil did cause the magicians to do the same, and their rods were turned into serpents—that when God commanded the first born to be set apart from the matrix for himself, the devil imitated it in causing the idolaters to pass through the fire to idols— that when God caused a blessing to rest on his infant Church, moved them to have all things in common, and caused brotherly love to abound, and Barnabas the son of consolation did sell his possession, and brought the money and laid it at the Apostle's feet, the devil stirred up Ananias and Sapphira to proceed to do the same, but to keep part of the price back. And when God did work miracles in his Church by the power of the Holy Ghost, in testimony of the truth, the devil stirred up false wonders, to deceive, if it were possible, the elect, in support of the fables of Popery. It is not by denying the miracles, but by going into the subject fully, we shall honestly meet the Popish pretensions.
Now how is it? In the time of the Reformation many glorious works were done in the Church by the Spirit of God, both as to the exhibition of the fruits of the Spirit, and also of his gifts amongst them: and I have no doubt, that at the time of the ministry of Whitfield and Wesley, God wrought many signs and wonders in the Church in the name of his holy child Jesus.
How is it now, my brethren? Let us examine ourselves as a component part of that Church to which the Spirit was given, and promised to abide for ever with it. How stand we respecting the gifts and the fruits? How stand we as inheritors of the promised power, as the inheritors of the promised holiness, which God gave to his Church? It is commonly said we are without the gifts of the
Spirit wholly; but it is false; we are not wholly without the gifts: for what are they f To one is given the word of wisdom by the Spirit; to another the word of knowledge by the Spirit. There is much knowledge amongst the members of the Church at this moment—knowledge, too, unaccompanied by sanctification—knowledge of things which man cannot learn himself, which flesh and blood cannot discern, which the Spirit alone teacheth. There is much of this knowledge; and in some instances it is made clear to be the gift of the Spirit. Look at some of the poor labouring men in this land, who have not yet advanced in the progress of education, which is advancing so rapidly, who know nothing of any other subject, who cannot read a word, but are utterly ignorant and unlettered in every respect except religion. The knowledge which is in some of you and me would be no gift of the Spirit, because much may be acquired by the natural power of the understanding, in learning, and reading a variety of books; but the knowledge these poor men have on the subject of religion, the clearness with which they can speak on spiritual things, even the elegance of the language they will use on spiritual things, compared with the dulness and vulgarity that cleaves to them on every other subject, is a proof to any discerning mind, that the gift of the Holy Ghost is thus the word of knowledge by the Spirit of God. We are not left without witness—it is small, but there is some— that the Spirit of God has not forsaken his Church, even in point of gifts.
Now, another gift of the Spirit to the Church was that of prophecy, or teaching. Are there not men in the Church who have gifts of teaching, of preaching unto the edification of the people, as wholly distinct from the individual's Christianity as the shape of their head is from the shape of their body? The gifts which the Lord haa given me, and which I am now exercising, are not connected with the Christianity of my heart; they are utterly distinct; they are the gift of God for the edification of his Church which I may have, and after exetl cising it be damned myself. I spealt thus plainly that I may get the subject to your apprehensions; and I am willing to transfer this part of it in a figure to myself, for your sakes.
There are gifts, then, of the Holy Ghost in the Church still. I have said, and repeat now, that they are but small indeed. There are fruits of the Spirit; but they are few and far between. Alas! it is only a little love; it is cold and feeble; the atmosphere by which it is surrounded is uncongenial to it. There is a qualifying of Christian honesty among us, a mingling of Christian truth with error, a denial by many of the immediate inspiration even of the Holy Scriptures by the Holy Ghost. There is an ascribing of it to the natural wisdom of man, merely superintended by the Spirit: and the plenary inspiration of the very language of the word of God by the Holy Ghost, is colled fanaticism by some of our professors. Then in point of practice there is suspicion abroad; Christians are hardly able to trust one another and exercise love, lest they should be taken advantage of, and their secret betrayed. There is so much of bearing false witness against our neighbours, that we can scarcely treat them as brethren ; and so suspicion has frozen up the very sources of love. This should not be.
Yet still, there is a little of this love. We see occasionally in families and small circles, where the leaven of wickedness has not exalted itself, something of what the Church of Christ should be, something that gives a proof the Spirit of God is here. We know that men by nature are hateful, and hating one another—that they cannot love one another with pure hearts, but by the Holy Ghost: and in this respect we have occasional proof that the Holy Ghost is still on the earth in the Church. But instead of the Church being filled with the Spirit as it was, and instead of its being seen to be the power of God in the earth, alas, my brethren, the power of the Church is driven back; the holiness of the Church is restrained; the Church herself is despised; she has been so long quenching the Spirit, that she has all but filled up her unpardonable iniquity by sinning against the Holy Spirit. And her Lord and Mastei is about to come to take back that nation which
sinned against the Son of God, and to cast into hell those apostates who are sinning against the Holy Ghost.
My beloved brethren, " follow after Charity, and desire spiritual gilts," says the Apostle in our text. Have you ever been exhorted to desire spiritual gifts? Have you ever been exhorted to seek for all that the Holy Ghost did in the Church? You hesitate not to ask upon the thirteenth chapter of this epistle—you hesitate not to ask of the Lord to give you that love which suffereth long and is kind: hesitate not, then, to ask of the Lord to give to one amongst you the word of knowledge, and to another amongst you the word of wisdom, and to another amongst you faith, and to another amongst you the gift of healing. Will you stop there? Will you ask of God for knowledge, and wisdom, and faith, and the gift of healing; and will you stop there? Will you separate what God has joined? Will you not ask for all the gifts? If you do not, how then can you expect to have them? The Holy Ghost is restrained by your unbelief; just as when Jesus went down to Nazareth, it is written, " He could do there no mighty work because of their unbelief;" he mourned at their unbelief. So the Holy Ghost is come down among you, but can do no mighty work among you because of your unbelief. O, ask of God to bestow on one among you the word of knowledge by the Spirit; to another the word of wisdom by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing by the same Spirit: and ask for another of you to have the working of miracles by the same Spirit; and for another among you the gifts of teaching, prophecy, by the same Spirit; and for another the discerning of Spirits: and ask of God for another, that he would grant to speak with divers kinds of tongues; and for another that he would give the interpretation of tongues. Let it not be asked, What is the use of these things. He, who has described them as the gifts of the Spirit, knows what use he intended to be made of them, and would make of them if they were asked in faith.
I have set now before you, my dear brethren, a most important subject. I have opened to you from the Holy