—God in person, and also Man in person ; nevertheless, as God, He

is one.


Permanent Revelation of God to


Heb. i. 1.


But the Almighty has not limited his modes of communication to

sensible objects, to voices and visions. He has also addressed himChristians. self immediately to the mind, to the affections and understandings of

In this kind of communication effected by the Spirit, the vehicle is not material, nor an object of the senses. Its effects, indeed, have been made visible in the miraculous gifts of the apostles, and in the prophetic monuments of the Church in all ages; its effects we still see in the behaviour of individuals and of nations, and still hear, in those sounds which are going forth into all lands; but, according to our Lord's illustration, like the wind, we cannot tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth.

For us is this mode of Divine communication appointed. To us the Spirit speaks, as the man Christ Jesus did to his followers ; as the voice or vision from between the cherubim addressed itself to them of older time; as, in short, each different organ of communication hath spoken at sundry times to the several generations of God's people; for He, says the apostle, hath spoken “in divers

But then, where are we to seek for the appendage to this, as to the other appointed and regular vehicles of Divine communication? Where, asks the Christian, is our Shechinah? Where the ensign to which is attached this unheard voice, this unseen vision? To be sure it may be said, that God is not to be found here or there, but is omnipresent. So He was before the flame of the Shechinah was lighted, or the Word was made flesh; nor was He less so during either manifestation. It is not his presence,

but the sign of his presence we ask for. To the Heathen themselves,

from whom the Jewish ensign was removed, He was indeed present,ts xvii 27. “ not far from any of them, as their apostle told them; but it is

the privilege of his peculiar people to have this Sign to resort to. See then, Christian, whether we have it not as distinct and as accessible, nay, more accessible and more distinct, than ever before was given. Remember, that the mode of communication is no longer by sound or by sight,—no longer a sensible medium, but spirit. The corresponding ensign, also, is not addressed to the eye nor to the ear, but to the mind. It is not a flame, which, however brilliant, illumines only the holy of holies. It is not a man, whom only a small portion of the human race can see, and hear, and follow. But it is, what better suits an unlimited dispensation, it is a MIRACULOUS RECORD. The Bible and the Sacraments are our Shechinah, our Sign; not, indeed, to be recognised as such by gazing at them, lifting them up, and carrying them about; but by humbly reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting. We, unlike God's people of old, walk by faith, and not by sight.

61 The text is a difficult one, and no interpretation given of it is perhaps free from objections; the term Mediator is generally referred to Moses.

Acts xvi 16.


It appears, then, that besides the occasional communications made by God to his servants and to others, he has, in the course of his ordinary and perpetual dealings with his Church or people, appointed three distinct modes of communication, whereby he was to be accessible to those who should seek him; and that appended to each was the sign of his presence in such modes of intercourse.

To prevent the error of attributing the Divine agency to three different Beings, in consequence of this difference, we are instructed in the Unity of God, and baptized in his name as the Father, in his name as the Son, and in his name as the Holy Ghost. Again, as under this threefold dispensation, we observe that the Almighty has in each manifestation assumed to himself certain characteristics, we presume not to confound God the Father who created us, with God the Son who redeenied us, and with God the Holy Ghost who sanctifies us; but, agreeably to the sense and language of the Christian Church from the earliest times, we worship Him as one in three Persons.62

ST. PAUL AND THE PYTHONESS. The foregoing remarks may serve to guide us in another question ; Concerning that, namely, concerning the knowledge we possess of the evil Being.

knowledge With his origin and his absolute nature we are wholly unacquainted. of the

Evil Spirit. Our view of him, like that of the Author of all good, is chiefly negative. Whence he too is called a spirit; that is, his real nature is incapable of being perceived by our senses; and even the modes whereby he has been manifested to us are accommodated, not to the sight, the hearing, or to any external perception, but only to the immaterial part of man. But, as God himself has vouchsafed so also to address himself to us, it was necessary, in contradistinction to Him, to designate the author of evil by the term evil spirit.

According to the Scriptures, he has been to us the author of those two original evils, the effects of which the whole world still daily experiences; sin and death. In perpetuating these, his ordinary and continual agency appears to have been ever exerted; as to counteract the effects of these, has been the objects of God's ordinary dealings with mankind. But the evil spirit has also displayed His extrahis extraordinary and occasional operations on the objects of his opdraaien

operations. malice. He has sometimes vexed men's minds and bodies, as in the instances of Job, of Saul king of Israel, and of those who laboured under that peculiar malady which is called in the Gospels demoniacal possession. On the reality of these possessions some observations were offered, in treating of our Saviour's ministry, under the head of miracles, and under that of the temptation. But besides the infliction of pain and disease, which was there especially His power of noticed, he seems to have exercised a power of delusion,-inspiring

foretelling agents, over whom he had obtained control, to foretel future events. events.


62 See The Three Temples of the One God.

xiv. 30.


The most obvious, although by no means the only great mischief produced thereby, was, that to him were ascribed the power and praise which were due only to God. Foreknowledge was considered as a peculiar attribute of the Deity; and the Being therefore who

enabled his agents to foretel events, was regarded as the one who John tili. 44. ordained and dispensed them. Hence he is called in Scripture “the

prince of this world,” and “the father of lies.” This by no means implies, that with demoniacal inspiration commenced the various superstitious arts which have obtained in the world, or that they were altogether kept up by this influence. It is more consonant with what is observed of the rest of the evil one's agency, to suppose, that finding these corrupt devices to have sprung out of his original depravation of man's heart, he ever and anon supported them by extraordinary interposition. Why this was ever permitted, the source of goodness being almighty ;-why, indeed, such a Being ever existed, are questions which the inquirer of the present day has learned to consider in their true light, as vain, unprofitable, and presumptuous.

During our Saviour's ministry, He often exercised his power over at Philippi. the former class of evil manifestations, namely, demoniacal posses

sions. Of the latter class none are mentioned, until we find Paul at Philippi exercising a similar authority over the possession of a Pythoness; a sort of fortune-teller, whose master made a gain of her gift, or rather of her curse; and who, regarded simply from the account of her way of life, might appear in the light of a common impostor. Her interview with the apostle, however, contains circumstances, which render it unquestionable, that in her case, as in that of the demoniacs, the agency of the devil was manifested,

Philippi was the first place in which Paul, after his departure from Troas, found "a door opened unto him;" and of the results of his ministry there, this miracle, and the conversion of Lydia, a devout Gentile, are the main circumstances recorded. It is worthy of remark, that in this, as in the cases which occurred during the Saviour's personal ministry, the evil spirit acknowledged in Christ the

agency of the most high God. It was through his name still that these miracles were performed. Agreeably to the account

which his commissioned servants gave him, whilst he was yet with Luke x. 17. them, “In thy name we cast out devils,” Paul now addressed the

spirit of divination, and found it, as Christ had foretold, obedient unto him.

The believer hopes and expects to discover a beautiful propriety in every part of the Christian scheme; and where he does not perceive it, still he infers its existence. Thus, observing that of the two kinds of demoniacal possession, our Saviour frequently exercised his

power in person over those afflicted with the malady so characterized, while the exercise of a similar power over those visited by a spirit of divination was reserved for his apostle to the Gentiles; one is naturally prompted to look for some mark of propriety and consistency in the arrangement. Such may, perhaps, be found by contemplating the difference of character in the ministry of Christ, and of his apostles guided by his Spirit. It was the business of the former to do the work of redemption, of the latter to instruct men in it. The ministry of Christ, therefore, would be directed generally against all the evil and hurtful agency of the Devil; the ministry of the apostles more particularly against the propagation of falsehood. The former would naturally counteract the works of Satan; the latter his words, as conveyed through agents, such as was the rescued Pythoness.

It was during the apostle's third journey, however, that his success in this branch of his ministry appears to have been greatest. At Ephesus, among the eminent miracles (Auvepels tos tuxovods) which he displayed, some appear to have been of this character ; 43 and to have operated so powerfully on the minds of many who witnessed them, that they came forward and burned publicly their books of magic. The high valuation of these, marks at once the extent of the evil, and also the wonderful success of the apostle. This whole portion of his ministry proves, too, that demoniacal possession was not, as some have hastily asserted, confined to the Jews.

St. PAUL AT ATHENS. The apostle and his company, when dismissed by the magistrates from Philippi, passed through Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, and Beræa; and in each left traces of their inspired agency. At Thessalonica, as we know from the Epistle soon after addressed to the converts there, their labours wero remarkably successful, even among the idolaters. Athens is next in the list of places which received thus early a summons from the Holy Spirit to repent, believe, and be baptized. Athens was still the principal seat of learning, and of those arts which furnished the chief attraction of idolatry. It was the University of the Roman empire and of the world. At Athens therefore it might be expected, that argument, not force, would be opposed to the efforts of the Christian orator ; and that on his part, as dealing with a people accessible in a high degree through their reasoning powers, the words more than the works of the Spirit would be employed. It is not, however, merely to point out the propriety of the Holy Spirit's ministry there although, like every other instance, it affords a strong presumption of the truth of the Bible narrative, and ought not to be overlookedbut it is not merely on this account, nor yet for the sake of that interest which the name of Athens inspires, that Paul's arrival there

Acts xvii.

63 The attempt of the Jewish exorcists took upon them to call over them that to imitate Paul, proves that these cures had evil spirits the name of the Lord were wrought, like that of the Pytho- Jesus, saying, We adjure thee by Jesus,

whom Paul preacheth."-Acts xix. 13. “ Then certain vagabond Jews, exorcists,


in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Paul attracts

is noticed; but on account of two circumstances which occurred while he was there, and which, admitting each of different views, may not be regarded at first by all in that which seems to be the correct one.

Preaching, in the first instance (as his custom was) to the Jews the Philoso- and devout Gentiles of the place, his discourses were so much noised f hers.

abroad, as to attract the attention, not of the magistracy, but of the philosophical idlers. Idlers, I say, because at Athens these specusators formed a body of literary loungers, and presented in the porches and other places of public resort a whimsical scene of fashionable relaxation, of which the amusements and conceits were metaphysical and moral discussions. Surrounded by company like this, and possibly unable, from the variety and number of the questions addressed to him, to make his meaning understood, Paul was conducted—not as a criminal, for of this there is no intimation—but

as the promulgator of a new system, to Mars' Hill, and was there His speech desired publicly to explain his views. His speech, accordingly, bears Areopagus. no marks of a defence, nor was it followed up either by acquittal or

condemnation,-by sentence from a court, or violence from the multitude. At his mention of a resurrection from the dead, the doctrine seems to have struck his audience as so monstrous and preposterous, that he could no longer proceed for the jests and witticisms which it occasioned. His speech is doubtless, therefore, only a part of what he intended to say to them, and what might thus have proved more generally effectual, had his auditors “ had ears to hear” him out.64 As St. Paul's examination has been most commonly represented in the light of a judicial proceeding, these remarks will not be useless, if, by determining more precisely the circumstances, they shall make his celebrated harangue appear more natural, and more fully adapted to the occasion. One consideration too should be borne in mind, that at Athens, the chief, if not the only, persuasive which he chose to employ was eloquence—the very weapon in the use of which the Athenians were most skilful. With miracles he had confounded the people whose boast was an image that fell from heaven," and he now pleads for Christianity in the city of Demosthenes.

In the speech itself there is only one topic which will be noticed ; it is the allusion to an altar erected to “the unknown God.”

Some few, who have considered St. Paul's behaviour here as an eminent illustration of the character which he has given to himself, of being “all things to all men,” have so far departed from the common acceptation of the passage, as to imagine that “the unknown God” was no one particular object of worship which the

64“ Some mocked, and others said, We possible for him to proceed; others, as will hear thee again of this matter.". This Dionysius and Damaris, encouraging may be understood to imply a division of him, and telling him that they at least sentiment among the auditory; some would continue to hear him. mocking him, so as to render 'it im

The unknown God.

« VorigeDoorgaan »