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ON THE MIRACLES OF THE APOSTOLIC AGE.
HEBREWs ii. 4.
God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders,
and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.
The Hebrews to whom this Epistle was addressed, were those Jews who, through our Saviour's own preaching, and the preaching of his Apostles afterwards, had been converted to the Christian faith. Their affected fondness for the Mosaic Dispensation, seconded by all the attempts and arguments of their unconverted countrymen to the prejudice of Christianity, had hindered them from being firmly established in the faith. They retained a secret affection for the Ceremonial Law ; because they regarded that law as a perpetual mark of their own superiority over the rest of mankind. The intention, therefore, of the Epistle before us, was, to shew that the Mosaic dispensation is altogether inferior to the dispensation of the Gospel ;—that the one is defective, and the other absolutely perfect ;—that the Law was but the shadow of what the Gospel is the substance ;-and that the dignity of Christ is as far superior to the dignity of Moses, as the New Covenant is, both as to its nature and design,-more noble in itself, more strongly authorized, and more beneficially extensive, than the Old Covenant.
In the beginning of the chapter from which the text is taken, the author of this Epistle points out to the Hebrew Christians what would be their proper line of conduct. From their former adherence to the ceremonial Law, he, by a judicious inference, exhorts them to adhere as strongly to the Christian Covenant." Therefore,” says he,
says he, “ we ought” (we Hebrews ought) “to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip ;"—i. e.- lest we make an improper use, or no use at all, of this great opportunity of salvation, and so bring ourselves to final destruction. “ For,” he goes on to say, “if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,”if those inferior and preparatory revelations made by the ministry of angels, were always ratified and firm, -if transgressing the precepts delivered by them always met with the punishment that was threatened to it, -as you know, was constantly the case, then, shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salva
tion," as, by the highest instance of Divine mercy, we are enabled to obtain through Christ? How shall we escape if we neglect the Covenant of Christ, which, at first, he himself condescended to preach publicly,—which was confirmed and handed down to us, by his apostles, who taught us what they had heard from him,—“God himself bearing witness” to the truth of their doctrine, by enabling them to work “ signs, and wonders, and divers miracles," by enduing them with extraordinary “gifts of the Holy Ghost according to his own will ;” or, in such measure and proportion as appeared to his all-seeing wis. dom most conducive to the readier diffusion of the Gospel, and to the welfare and comfort of mankind.
Hence it is plain, that the Christian religion is built upon the strongest evidence of which it is capable, or that the most scrupulous reason can require. Besides its own real, intrinsic excellence, and its exact agreement with the soundest deductions of reason --all of which declare it worthy to have come from God, there are also the strongest attestations, to prove, beyond contradiction, that it did really come from Him. Its author was Christ, who was proved to be the Son of God; not only by the miracles and the works of mercy which he wrought during his earthly ministry, but particularly, and most powerfully, and most undeniably, by His resurrection from the dead. The preachers and dispensers of it were the apostles, whom Christ himself had chosen, and to whom he sent the Holy Ghost from his heavenly
Father, to enable them to perform such wonders as he himself had wrought. In order to qualify them in all points for the effectual discharge of their office, they were divinely inspired with the gift of tongues, --that they might be enabled to preach intelligibly to all nations upon earth, and to explain to them the nature of that dispensation which was accompanied, in the first instance, with miraculous aids and circumstances for the easier propagation of divine truth.
Let us now, as a useful application of the text, consider the nature and design of those extraordinary abilities,—those immediate “ gifts of the Holy Ghost,"
- with which the Apostles and first preachers of Christianity were endowed.
Our blessed Saviour, to encourage and comfort his disciples in the discharge of the arduous office for which he had chosen them, made repeated promises that they should be supernaturally assisted by the Holy Spirit. He assured them that this Holy Spirit would “ guide them into all truth,”-or clear their minds from confusion and perplexity, so that they might see the truth of the Gospel in all its brightness, and might be free from errors and mistakes in the prosecution of their important ministry. “The Spirit of Truth,” says he, “shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” He shall pour new light upon your understandings;-he shall display to you the whole plan of my religion, with its direct and immediate tendency to display the wisdom and mercy of
interests, we receive. If, indeed, we neglect to pray, we shall gradually lose the sense of God's goodness and power, but shall at the same time be conscious of our own depravity ;-we shall have no remedy against temptations, no refuge to which we can securely flee in time of distress and difficulty,—nor can our souls be prepared for the enjoyment of heavenly happiness. Our spiritual enemy will have the dominion, and the grace of God will forsake us.
Prayer is one of the means appointed by Almighty God and by his Son Jesus Christ, for obtaining help from above, in all our wants and distresses. It sanctifies our repentance and contrition: and by soothing the fears that would otherwise oppress us, it enables us to perform our duties with a cheerful vigilance.
It has been well observed by a pious and learned Divine,* that “repentance first includes a renunciation and abolition of all evil, and then also enjoins a pursuit of every virtue, and that till they arrive at an habitual confirmation :"_“but no contrition alone is remissive of sins, but as it co-operates towards the integrity of our duty.” That we may, therefore, avail ourselves of all the aids which the establishment of the Christian religion affords, it will be necessary, besides studying the Scriptures and engaging in private prayer, to attend regularly the public services of the church. Our Saviour himself has declared that where two or three are gathered together in his name, there He is also in the midst. The spirit of devotion is nourished, our faith is quickened, and the
* Bp. Taylor. Life of Christ, part ii. $ 12 disc. ix. 130 & 33.