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Justin Martyr, A.D. 140, also vouches the same in his Apologies, p. 45, 302. "Even now, we who believe in JESUS, exorcising all the demons and wicked spirits, have them subject to us;" and this, he adds, "throughout the world."
Heathen testimony also confirms their report.
Strabo, that judicious historian, contemporary with CHRIST, says, "Divination and oracles were more in estimation among the ancients, but are now held in much indifference: wherefore the oracle at Ammon, which was formerly esteemed, has almost ceased. And the sacred oracle at Delphi is neglected, which before was exceedingly esteemed," p. 818, 419.
Plutarch also, who died A.D. 119, says, "It is needless to enquire or debate here about the cessation of oracles, since we see a failure of them all, except one or two; the rest being silent or wholly deserted," p. 411.
These are curious and valuable testimonies. They go to establish the former prevalence of demoniacal possession and oracular divination; to distinguish that from ordinary diseases, and this from mere priestcraft.
2. THE GIFT OF TONGUES.
This amazing and astonishing gift was peculiar to the last commission. It was a miracle new and unheard of in former ages; and "greater," or more decisive, than any wrought by OUR LORD himself during his ministry. Possessions or diseases might be counterfeited; even death might be only apparent; the reality, therefore, of such cures, and restorations to life, might be questioned by gainsayers, and denied by infidels *: but to inspire a company of "unlettered Galileans," who knew only their mother tongue, and whose dialect was proverbial for its vulgarity, suddenly and instantaneously with the knowledge and expression of sixteen or eighteen different languages or dialects; when in the ordinary course of things, the acquisition of a single new language is a work of so much time and pains to understand, and still more to speak it with fluency and correctness, was indeed a miracle of the most stupendous size, carrying with it the most overpowering and irresistible conviction, the simplest and plainest in itself, and the most impossible
• See Lord Barrington's excellent observations on this head, Miscellan. Sacra. Vol. I. p. 318.
to be counterfeited.
No wonder then that the effect was so prodigious, as the conversion of three thousand prejudiced Jews in one day to the faith of a CRUCIFIED SAVIOUR, at Jerusalem, the scene of his disgrace, and only fifty-two days after, on the memorable day of Pentecost, Acts ii.
As the confusion of tongues at Babel was produced by the agency of the HOLY SPIRIT, to perplex and punish the rebellion of the first colonizers of the earth after the flood, by defeating their impious project, and hiding from them that primæral language in which the knowledge and worship of the TRUE GOD, and the mysterious dispensations of his providence, had been till then conveyed to righteous Noah and his family; so was the SAME SPIRIT graciously pleased to rescind that curse, in the fulness of time, 2500 years afterwards, and once more bring the benighted Gentile world from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto GOD; by enabling his chosen instruments, the Apostles, to publish "the wonderful dispensations of GOD" to all these nations, in their own languages and dialects, to their infinite amazement; not only for the manner, but also for the matter of these extraordinary communications.
The gift of tongues, conferred on the Apostles, and probably also on their original company of 120 persons, assembled with them on the day of Pentecost, and afterwards on Paul, &c. was various and manifold. To some was granted the faculty of speaking in several languages to foreigners, more or fewer; to others the faculty of interpreting what was so spoken to natives, as remarked by Paul, who spoke a greater variety of languages than any of the Apostles, as he had intercourse with a greater variety of foreign nations, 1 Cor. xii. 10, xiv. 18.
This is the only gift noticed in our Lord's commission, as being the principal and the most brilliant of all the gifts of the SPIRIT, and the most necessary to convince unbelievers, 1 Cor. xiv. 22, but it was accompanied with others no less necessary for the discharge of their arduous ministry; 1. " the word of wisdom," 1 Cor. xii. 8, or revelation of the scheme of the Christian dispensation and future fortunes of the Church, conferred on the Apostles, fulfilling our Lord's promise to them, John xiv. 26, xvi. 13; Luke xxi. 15. 2. The word of knowledge, 1 Cor. xii. 8, which, as distinguished from the preceding, may denote an extraordinary insight into the meaning and drift of the prophecies of the OLD TESTAMENT, relating to the Christian dis
pensation; respecting which oUR LORD himself began to open their minds, on the day of the resurrection, Luke xxiv. 27—45, and with these was connected, 3. an extraordinary spirit of boldness or courage, to publish the Gospel, in defiance of all dangers or persecutions, so different from that spirit of fear which had possessed them before. And an earnest of it was that "Holy Spirit" with which CHRIST inspired them on the evening of the resurrection, John xx. 22, the immediate effect of which appeared in their first act of calmly and deliberately filling up the vacancy made in their number by the treason and death of Judas, Acts i. 15-26; and more plainly, when filled with the Spirit, on their subsequent conduct. And these were crowned, 4. by the discerning of spirits, 1 Cor. xii. 10, or the faculty of distinguishing impostors and false brethren from the faithful, so necessary to guard the infant Church from imposition and ruin; and in order to punish such, 5. the Apostles were empowered to deliver offenders to Satan, and to smite them with diseases, and even with death, as exercised by Peter in the death of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts v. 1-13, and by Paul in the blindness of Elymas, the sorcerer, Acts xiii. 8-12, and disease of the incestuous person at Corinth, 1 Cor. v. 1—5.
These extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, were shed or poured forth most abundantly on the Apostles and original disciples, on whom the HOLY SPIRIT visibly descended and rested, on the day of Pentecost; and they were not only permanent, or lasted during their lives, but the Apostles had the further astonishing privilege of conferring the gifts of the Spirit on baptized converts, by the imposition of their hands, as on the first fruits of the Church at Jerusalem, Acts ii. 38; in Samaria, Acts viii. 17, and at Ephesus, Acts xix. 1—7.
These gifts of the Spirit were exercised, not in obscure corners, but in the capital, and most populous cities of the world, Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, Antioch, Ephesus, &c. in which the Gospel was first preached. Of their frequency, therefore, and notoriety, there cannot be a doubt. Paul enquired of the Ephesian converts, who had been disciples of the Baptist, as a matter of course, "Received ye the HOLY SPIRIT since ye believed?" Acts xix. 2. And we may collect from his Epistles, that the two greatest Gentile Churches, of Rome and Corinth, abounded most in spiritual gifts, Rom. i. 11, viii. 16, xii. 3, 1 Cor. i. 5-7, xiv. 1-22. Clemens Romanus, A.D. 97, in his
Epistle to the Corinthians, asserts, that "there was a full effusion of the HOLY SPIRIT upon them all;" Ignatius, A.D. 107, declares, that "the Church of Smyrna was favoured with every gift, and was deficient in none. See the original passages in Grotius on Mark xvi. 18; and Whitby's excellent preface to the Epistles.
3. HANDLING SERPENTS.
Of this we have a remarkable instance in the viper that fastened on St. Paul's hand, after his shipwreck, on the island of Melita, which he shook off again, without receiving any harm, to the amazement of the natives, who then looked upon him as a god, Acts xxvii. 3—6.
The Jerusalem Talmud, Avoda Sara, relates a remarkable tradition of R. Eleazer, the son of Dama. When he had been bitten by a serpent, James, a man of Cepharsama, came to him, and offered to cure him, in the name of Jesus, the son of Pandira. But his uncle, R. Ismael, forbad it, saying, Son of Dama, it is not lawful for thee to do so. The son of Dama answered, I will prove out of the law, that it is lawful. But R. Ismael would not permit him to prove it, until he died. Then R. Ismael rejoiced and said, Blessed art thou, son of Dama, because thy soul departed in purity, and thou didst not break through the fence of the sages; for whosoever breaketh the fence, the Serpent shall bite him; and he was bitten [in this world,] to the end that the Serpent might not bite him in the world to come. And what text is in his favour, that he should not die therein ?-Levit. xviii. 5. "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments, and keep my ordinances; which if a man do, he shall live by them: I am THE LORD."
This instance is curious and valuable; it is a concession from a hostile quarter, of our Lord's enabling his disciples "to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy," the old Serpent, as foretold of CHRIST, Psalm xci. 13, Luke x. 18. See this Vol. p. 147. While it proves, that by the old Serpent, the Jewish Church understood the Devil; and that they held the eternal as well as the temporal sanctions of the Mosaical law, in its genuine spirit. See the foregoing articles, Vol. II. p. 219, 255.
4. DRINKING DEADLY POTIONS.
The NEW TESTAMENT affords no example of this. But we learn from ecclesiastical tradition, that in the Heathen persecutions, the Apostle John drank a cup of poison unhurt. Eusebius, in his History, mentions other instances, of Barsabas, Sabinus, &c. p. 112.
The Jerusalem Talmud has also preserved a remarkable tradition of the son of R. Joshua ben Levi. This boy drank a deadly potion, but was cured by an incantation in the name of Jesus, the son of Panthera. "When he had escaped [death,] his father enquired what the enchanter had said? Who answered, that he had invoked the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Then his father said, it would have been better that he had died, rather than heard this name. And immediately it happened so," [the boy died.] See Wetstein on Mark xvi. 18, for these and other Talmudic legends.
This instance also, is extremely curious; it vouches the custom of invoking the name of JESUS among Jewish exorcists and enchanters, noticed in Scripture, Mark ix. 38, Acts xix. 13; and records the punishment of an unbelieving father in the death of his son.
5. CURING DISEASES.
It is remarkable that our LORD places this the last in the list, as if thereby, the more clearly to distinguish it from the first, the dispossession of Demoniacs. Of this, several signal instances occur in the Acts, and their frequency is intimated in the Epistles. The most remarkable are the following.
1. Peter cured a cripple at the temple gate....Acts iii. 1–9. acknowledged by the Jewish council iv. 14-16.
2. His shadow cured many
3. He restored Dorcas to life..........
4. Paul cured a cripple at Lystra...........
5. Handkerchiefs from his body performed
xix. 11, 12.
distant cures 6. He restored Eutychus to life 7. The prayer of faith healed the sick........James v. 14-16. The power of raising the dead was probably confined to the Apostles. Nor do they, at all times, appear to have possessed the gift of healing. Otherwise Paul would not probably have