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and all this they ground chiefly* upon the following remarkable words of our Lord to his disciples after his resurrection : “ These signs shall follow them that believe : in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
The first point, then, upon which we join issue with the persons of whom we speak, is this, They explain this passage as a promise of Christ to his people throughout all time, “ These signs shall
* The Author does not think it necessary to allude to the often quoted promise of Joel, chap. ii. 28, 29, because the Holy Ghost having declared, in Acts ii. 16, that it was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, before it can be available in the present case, it must not merely be asserted but proved, that this promise is to receive a double accomplishment.
† Mark xvi. 17, 18.
follow them that believe.” Yes, say they, shall at all times, and throughout all ages, follow them, for there is no limitation. We acknowledge that there is no limitation actually expressed in the words before us, but we contend that there is one implied. For if not, if, because there is no limitation of time expressed, we are to believe that there is no limitation of time implied, then must this be equally true with regard to persons, and we must understand that the promise means that these signs shall at all times follow all persons who believe; yes, every individual who believes to the saving of his soul. There is no escape from this conclusion, for the promise is no more limited as to persons, than as to times; it says simply, “ These signs shall follow them that believe,” and they who plead for its extension to all the periods of the Church, cannot consistently disallow that it extends to all the persons in the Church,
Yet it is evident from Holy Writ, that this never was the case; that even in the days of the apostles themselves, many of their own converts, although abundantly partakers of the ordinary gifts of the Spirit, were not in every case partakers of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. In proof of this, let us refer to a passage often quoted by those to whom I allude, as favourable to their views of this question, viz., the miraculous conversion of the three thousand persons on the day of Pentecost, in the second chapter of the Acts. St. Peter there expressly tells his hearers, that if they repent and are baptised in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, they “ shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” By God's grace three thousand persons accepted the Gospel invitation, and gladly received his word, and were baptised, and no doubt were made partakers of the promised gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Having stated this, the Evangelist proceeds to describe the effects of this “ gift of the Holy Ghost” upon the new converts. We shall, therefore, in this description, trace, without much difficulty, by its visible effects, the nature of this gift. They continued,” says the Apostle in the 42d verse of the chapter, “ They continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers." You will observe there is not one syllable to lead us to imagine that they had received any miraculous gifts of any sort or kind. And, surely, if they had received such an astonishing gift, the Apostle could not in such a passage have been silent upon it. They had been promised, and they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost;" and how was this manifested ? He assures us, that from ignorant heathens, they became enlightened Christians. He even thinks proper to state that they not only received the apostles' doctrine, but continued stedfastly in it, and in partaking of the Christians' sacra
ments, and of the Christians' prayers ; he, therefore, evidently alludes, not only to the immediate effect of that gift, but to its influence upon their after-life. Now, I would ask, is it possible, that in so minute a description, the Evangelist could have omitted that, which, if true, would have been by far the most remarkable feature in the change which had taken place ? could he have failed to have added, They healed the sick, spake with tongues, prophesied, cast out devils, raised the dead, and did many wonderful works”?
Surely, had this been true of the three thousand real converts of the day of Pentecost, the Apostle could not have omitted every allusion to it. No! the very omission appears to be proof most full and most convincing, that the only reason why he did not mention it, was because he could not mention it. That “the gift of the Holy Ghost,” which all, without exception received, and from which no true believer