« AnteriorContinuar »
thankfully believe and experience: the question is simply whether the text in Matthew xxviii, 20. “ Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” refer to all the ministers of Jesus Christ in this and every future or past age, or only to the apostles of Christ, that is, those to whom it was primarily addressed. That it refers only to the apostles is my assumption, and to prove it are all my following reasons adduced. Permit me also to say, that it was never my intention to assert that the word awww can never in any place mean eternity, still less to assert that it never means the whole period of this life. I am well persuaded that when used in the plural number it often signifies eternity, in the same manner as the English words of a similar import, “ age after age,” may be used with propriety for eternity, though the literal meaning of the singular word i age," be only equivalent to alwv, that is, a period indefinitely long, a generation, a dispensation. Nor do I assert that awwv, even in the singular number, is never used for eternity, though I confess I do not remember an instance of its occurring in that sense. My point in regard to the word alwv is sufficiently obtained if I can prove that it is sometimes used in Scripture to signify a limited portion of time, and next, if I can also prove that it must in this particular text be taken in that limited sense because otherwise some absurdity or some mutually acknowledged error would inevitably follow. I select the following instances only of the word being used to signify a time less than the whole period of the duration of the world from many of a similar kind, because I would not unnecessarily lengthen this discussion, and promising your correspondent to increase them to a very ample number if the present selection shall not satisfy him. Matt. xii. 32. - But whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come,”- év TÓTW Tŷ aíūve öte év Tū uéxlovri, that is, neither under the Jewish dispensation is there provided a proper sacrifice, nor in the Christian is there a promise of pardon for such a sin. To understand it as speaking in the last clause, of a future world, is to admit the absurdity of the possibility of pardon in the next world for some sin which was not pardoned in this.
1 Cor. ij. 8. 6. Which none of the princes of this world (Tôv åpxóvtwv Tš atūroc Toro) knew ; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." But our blessed Lord was not crucified by the princes of this world, but by the rulers of this age or dispensation, that is, by the Jewish high priest and the council of the nation. The only other principal person particularly concerned in it was not an åpxwv, he was merely an inferior officer; and even granting he was a prince, he was but one, but the text speaks of many.
But as to the fact that the word is used for an age, a dispensation, the universally acknowledged sense of the term in Heb. vi. 5, “ the powers of the world to come,” (δυνάμεις το μελλόντα αιώνος) will be sufficient. Let my answerer refer to the Greek Concordance, and I doubt not he will spare me the trouble of farther proof on this part of my subject.
Having thus, I think, proved that the word may signify a limited
time, I pass on to prove that it must, in this place, be taken in this sense, or some of the following absurdities will follow :
Either, first, That the apostles were to live for ever ; for if the word signify the whole period of the world's existence, that would follow necessarily. But this my answerer will not assert. Or,
2dly. That some persons are included under this word “ you," and made the subjects of a very extraordinary promise, who are neither grammatically included under the progoun “ you,” (not being present when the promise was delivered,) nor have any of the characteristics of the original subjects qualifying them to receive the said promise, not being apostles, nor have any of that work to perform for which that promise was originally and specifically given; and, finally, who are never heard of in any past age, and certainly are not known at present to have the powers here granted.
I find no instance of a promise so extraordinary as this having ever been given to eleven particular individuals, and given to them under one common pronoun" you,” those eleven individuals being the possessors of certain extraordinary powers, as appears from Matthew x. passim, and in consequence of that having a particular name, when yet it was the intention of the speaker that such promise should extend for ever to certain persons who should entirely differ from those eleven individuals in the most material part of their character. These eleven individuals were the apostles of our Lord (Matt. x.); to qualify them for that office the power of working miracles was given them (x. 1,) and an infallible wisdom in teaching the infant church, for Christians were “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets." Eph. ii. 20. But the other individuals pretending to be so included have never worked a single miracle, and we have every reason to believe never will. How they can then profess to be included in this promise is unaccountable. If the promise is to be understood as conveying the power of working miracles to the apostles, but not to their pretended successors, then it is no longer the same promise. No intimation of any such diminution in the efficiency of the promise is afforded in the text itself, and I confess I can see "no reason to believe that God intends one kind of blessing to some persons, and another of a very different kind to other persons, but that both kinds are included under the identically same expressions? Do the promises of God lose any portion of their efficiency by length of time?
3dly. If neither of the above cases be conceded, it must follow that ministers now can work miracles. That the apostles had miraculous powers appears from John xx. 23, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained :” and Matt. xviii. 18,“ Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;" and that the apostles used these powers is shown in Acts v. 5, 10, and 1 Cor. iv. 21; v. 3. compared with 1 Cor. v. 4, “ Shall I come unto you with a rod ?" “For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit;" &c. * When ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ." The text itself also may be brought forward as giving to these apostles a miraculous power. The parallel passage to
Matt. xxviji. 20, is Mark xvi. 15–18, and we are told there, as the effect of the apostles' preaching in consequence of this commission, “ And these signs shall follow them that believe ; in my name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues," &c. &c. And lest, even under these expressions, the bestowment of some miraculous power should not be understood, the obvious truth is proclaimed in the verse immediately following, by a sentence which is the explanation of the Lord's promise, “ And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." Mark xvi. 20. The Lord being with them, and working with signs (miraculous powers) is the evangelist's explanation of the Lord's assertion, 6 Lo, I am with you.” That the apostles really received and imparted this power by the efficacy of this promise, appears from Acts viii. 14. 6. The apostles heard that Samaria had received the word of God they sent unto them Peter and John; who, when they came down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost;" intimating that the apostles alone could impart that gift, and the historian adds, as the reason for this conduct, (“' for as yet he" (the Holy Ghost) “ was fallen upon none of them.”) The same truth also appears from 1 Cor. i. 5, 6; the utterance and knowledge, mentioned in the 5th verse, were the miraculous gift of speaking in various tongues mentioned in 1 Cor. xiii. 1, and the gift of miraculous knowledge, mentioned in 1 Cor. xiii. 2; but the apostle Paul says, that the utterance and knowledge referred to, 1 Cor. i. 5, confirmed the testimony of Christ in them. (Verse 6.) But we hear of no other particular testimony of Christ which was confirmed amongst the Corinthians, but that which affirmed that they who should believe, by the apostles' instrumentality, should have especial and miraculous gifts, Mark xvi. 17, 18; for there the very same miraculous powers possessed by some of the Corinthians are particularized. But ministers of the gospel cannot perform miracles of this nature now; ergo, this promise does not belong to them in all its efficiency, therefore not in any, for the promise contains no limitation. By the promise, therefore, in Matt. xxviii. 20, miraculous power was given to certain individuals specified in verse 16 of the same chapter; and if this promise was given to all ministers of the present, and of every past and future day, it necessarily follows that all ministers have the power of working miracles.
Or, 5thly, that the same promise, in precisely the same words, is given to two very different classes of individuals, and yet the said promise is fulfilled to the two different classes in degrees, or rather kinds, utterly distinct one from the other; for surely no distinction can be broader than the capability of erring in delivering points of instruction even of the most important kind, and the incapability of working miracles, which my answerer will acknowledge to be characteristics of those for whom he claims this promise, and the possession of miraculous powers by the apostles.
Or, finally, that a promise is here given of a presence utterly unintelligible, to persons undefined, to enable them to do what confessedly cannot be explained ; and when if it be given to any person, it certainly is to those who, possessing the promised blessing, do utterly incapacitate my answerer, or indeed any protestant from enjoying it. I shall consider each of these consequences separately.
Because this presence is utterly unintelligible. There are, I conceive, but three ways in which the Almighty may be said to be with his creatures.
Either, first, essentially, as he gives existence and support to all creatures; but in this sense he is present in hell, Ps. cxxxix. 8, and therefore this presence is not that of the promise, for that, on my answerer's principles as well as my own, is something peculiar to certain ministers of God, either all, or some only.
Or, secondly, graciously, as he is with his saints, his church, that is, by peculiar love, enlightening, sanctifying the souls of his own people; this is not the sense of the promise, for that, according to my answerer, is peculiar to ministers.
Or, thirdly, miraculously, or in that manner in which Christ was with his prophets, and apostles, and other inspired men ; but neither, according to my answerer, is this the sense of the controverted promise. The promise is, on the assumption of T. K., something higher than the second, but lower than the third degree; that is, in my apprehension, not intelligible. What kind of presence can this be ?
Secondly, The promise is to persons undefined. For either these persons are all classes of God's faithful ministers, or some only. T. K. will allow that in many bodies of Christians differing from each other there are faithful ministers. Now how can God be equally present with all these otherwise good men and faithful ministers who differ entirely from each other on points of great importance? Or the promise must be to some particular class. But how can we determine what difference of sentiment incapacitates one order of ministers to enjoy this presence, whilst another difference does not prevent that blessing? How can we draw the line? Or if T. K. insists that only one class of ministers have this presence, to whom will he allow this privilege? or why to them? to them only? Every sect will, of course, apply the promise to its own ministers; but is that an intelligible promise which confers no definable privilege, and is given to those respecting whom no two sects can agree? Is T. K. prepared to say that no minister holding Arminian sentiments can possibly be a faithful minister, or is he prepared even to say so of a Catholic? I confess I am not, and I cannot think so harshly of T. K.
Thirdly, This promise enables some or all ministers to do what cannot be explained. It does not keep them merely in the favour of God, for that blessing is implied in God's gracious presence with his people generally, and this promise regards ministers only according to T. K.'s sentiment.
Finally, if this promise do regard any other ministers besides the apostles, it must regard principally and primarily the successors, the men who occupied the places where the apostles laboured, and who follow them in an uninterrupted succession. Now, on this principle, the gentlemen who plead the verity of apostolical succession, and
whose plea we cannot disprove by any historical argument as far as regards the reality of their succession, are the primary objects of this promise; or, to go a little further, the Pope being, as far as mere succession is concerned, the undeniable successor of some apostolic man, and, if this be so, he claiming and having claimed, certainly for fifteen hundred years, perhaps for a greater period, the presence of Christ with him, and as he has rendered this plea at least consistent by connecting with it the power of working miracles according to its undoubted meaning in respect to the apostles, the plea must be allowed on the principle of T. K., for valid, and if so, as two or more persons, differing totally in points of essential doctrine cannot be equally blessed with the fulfilment of the promise mentioned in the controverted text, it follows that he who really has this presence, has it exclusively of all who differ from him, and his judgment is given unhesitatingly, plainly, and completely, that all who differ from him are heretics and deceivers, and, though pretending to Christ's especial presence, are devoid of all grace and all hope of salvation. To this point my opponent must be driven, by forsaking the principle which alone proves that he enjoys the presence and blessing of Christ in his ministerial work the consonancy of his doctrine with the doctrine of Christ as delivered in his word, and framing another plea, which, if it prove any thing, proves that he has no ministry, no religion, no hope.
I conclude, then, that this promise regarded the apostles alone; that it gave to them miraculous gifts; that it gave them those gifts for the period, the age, the apostolic acúv, and when that age was passed, the ministry was left in the full possession of that moral power which always attends truth through the wise appointment of its divine Author, but totally destitute of any miraculous power in operating on the souls of men; in fine, with that influence which we behold that ministry still possessing as the appointed instrument of conversion and sanctification, but unattended with any thing miraculous or necessitating in the character of its operation. That these miraculous gifts of utterance and knowledge were to cease at a period anterior to the glorious state of the church, compare together i Cor. xiii. 1, 2, with 8 and 13.
Thus I would endeavour to persuade my dear brother that I have no wish to deprive him of the real presence of his Great Master, which, I trust, he and his brethren really enjoy, with all that holiness and peace which that presence imparts, but to lead him to found his ministry, and indulge a hope of success in that ministry, on a basis which papists never can hope to wrest from him, and to which, certainly they cannot as papists aspire,—the consistency of his ministerial instruction with the pure word of God.
Let my brother examine what I have said. Truth is dear to my heart, and if I did not believe that this truth were exceedingly important, I would not have trespassed on his patience with so long an epistle, nor have rendered myself obnoxious to so much objection from many who are wedded to old opinions rather than to truth. However, I have counted the cost: I have delivered my sentiment. May the great and good God enlighten us all to know more tho. N.S. VOL. III.