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was extraordinary ; the grace bestowed upon him was abundant. But on neither of these grounds did he assume the work of the preacher. He waited till he was regularly called and authorized to it. He was first informed by Ananias, that he was one whom Christ had chosen to bear his name among the Gentiles. But he did not venture to act on this information, before he had evidence that it was from heaven. To prove this, Ananias performed a miracle. Paul's first ministrations were among the disciples at Damascus, who had been witnesses of the remarkable circumstances of his conversion and call. He afterwards joined himself to thc Apostles. But, in order to his admission into their fraternity, he adduced competent testimony. For a while he was with them coming in, and going out at Jerusalem. Before he went forth to preach the gospel among the Gentiles, he was solemnly separated to the work by the prophets and teachers at Antioch, who fasted, and prayed, and laid their hands on him, and sent him away. Paul, being thus ordained, afterward ordained others ; and he charged them to commit to faithful men the things which they had received from him.
Paul, you see, did not rely on a secret, internal call, as what alone would warrant him to commence a preacher. He carefully conformed to the order which Christ has instituted in his church. He instructed Timothy and Titus to do likewise. Ministers, then, in this day, are not to ground their warrant to preach the gospel on any immcdiate revelation. Nothing of this kind is now to be expected. If they should pretend to this, it would be no warrant for others to receive them in their assumed character, and consequent. ly, no warrant for them to assume it, unless they can by miracles prove to the world the reality of the pretended revelation.
The gospel has pointed out the qualifcations necessary for teachers of religion, and the manner in which “ God by rev.
they are to be inducted into office.
When a man desires the office of a bishop, possesses the requisite qualifications, and is not only called thereto by the brethren, but recommended also by the elders of the church, then he is warranted to act in the character of a gospel bishop.
IV. Paul speaks of the knowledge of the gospel as communicated to him by revelation. elation made known to me the mystery, which, in other ages, was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit.”
We are not to suppose, that every thing, which the Apostles preached or wrote, was communicated to them by immediate inspiration. Many things they learned from the writings of the Old Testament; and from the personal instructions of Christ. And the Spirit was sent to bring all things to their remem. brance, as well as to teach them all things, which they should farther need to learn. Many of Christ's personal instructions were doubtless communicated to Paul, by those Apostles who conversed with the Lord in the days of his flesh.
In the 7th chapter of the first epistle to the Corin. thians, our Apostle uses such expressions as these ; " I speak by permission--not by commandment.” “ I speak, not the Lord."-" I have no commande ment, but I give my judgment.” Hence some would infer, that Paul often spake only by the dictates of his own reason, and without any divine influence ; so that he was in doubt himself, whether he spake agreeably to the will of God. But this certainly cannot be his meaning ; for he says, “I give my judgment as one who hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithfulas one that hath the Spirit of God and the mind of Christ—and the things which I write, are the com. mandments of the Lord.”—But he means that Christ, in his personal instructions, had given no deci. VOL. III.
sion on the subject in question, but had left it to be determined by his Apostles under the direction of the Spirit, which was to lead them into all truth. He speaks, not by way of distinction between his own private judgment, and divine inspiration ; but by way of distinction between that which was taught by the Spirit, and that which Christ taught by commandment when he was on earth. In the last verse, he think I have the Spirit of God.” This is not an inti. mation of doubt, whether he had the Spirit ; but an expression of his confidence, and an appeal to the Corinthians, that he had it ; for the word should be rendered, not, I think, but I appear to have the Spirit. This appeal to them he again renews.
" Am I not an Apostle ?—If I am not an Apostle to others, doubt. less I am to you ; for the seal of mine Apostleship are ye in the Lord.”—“Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in wonders and mighty deeds."
God was not at the expense of inspiration to teach Apostles those things which they knew, or might know, by other means in their hands. But where actual knowledge, and the means of obtaining it were wanting, there inspiration supplied the defect.
It is not necessary for us to know the nature of this inspiration, or the manner in which the Apostles were assured of its divinity. If we believe there is an infinite and all perfect Spirit, which possesses our reins, and even pervades universal nature, we must believe, he can reveal his will to men, by such an immediate influence, as shall carry its own evidence, and leave on the mind no' possible doubt of its reality. We can speak to men in such a manner, that they shall certainly know we speak to them, and shall perfectly understand our mcaning. If we deny the possibility of a certain inspiration from God, we deny that power te bim, which we ourselves possess. But,
V. Whatever might be the manner in which the Apostles knew their own inspiration, the manner in which they proved it to others is taught in our text. This was by the power of miracles.
St. Paul says, “ I am made a minister of the gospel according to the gift of the grace of God by the effectual working of his power. To this evidence he often appeals for the truth of his Apostleship, and the divinity of his doctrine.
When God gives a revelation he gives sufficient demonstration that it is from him. Otherwise it could have no authority with rational and inquiring minds. He gave the dispensation of grace to the Apostles, that they might cominunicate it to the world ; and he endowed them with the power of miracles, that their word might be received as divine, and might work effectually in them who heard it.
How wonderful is the love of God! We see his goodness in the common course of his Providence ; but more gloriously is his mercy displayed in the gospel, which opens a marvellous plan for the salvation of sinners. This plan was communicated to the Apostles by the inspiration of his Spirit, and confirmed by di. vers miracles according to his will.
What reverence is due to the sacred scriptures, which have been thus authenticated by a divine seal ?
If God has been at such expense to give us a revelation, and to convince us of its authority, we ought to receive it with unwavering confidence, and to obey it with unreserved submission.
What we there find expressly taught and commanded, that let us believe and obey, how much soever it might have baffled the invention, or now surpasses the comprehension of human reason. We are not to believe without a reason for our faith, nor to act without a reason for our conduct ; but we are bound to believe what God reveals, and to do what he commands, when we have evidence, that the command or revelation is from him, even though the reason of the command should be unknown, or the matter revealed should be incomprehensible to us.
How absurd is it to imagine, that God will communicate to men, by inspiration, the knowledge of religion, since this may be obtained from the standing rev. elation which he has given us ? The scriptures are able to make us wise to salvation, and to furnish us unto every good work.
If neglecting these, we expect that religious knowledge will be communicated to us in a cheaper and easier way, we insult the divine good. ness, and expose ourselves to fatal delusions. Even in the days of the Apostles, God was not lavish of inspi. ration. He did not endow men immediately wi hat knowledge, which might be acquired by ordinary means. Cornelius was directed by a vision to send for Peter, who should teach him words, by which he might be saved. God could as easily have revealed to Cornelius the things by which he should be saved, as send an angel to inform him, where he might find an instructor. But God will honor his own institutions ; and where these are sufficient, he will not supersede them by higher and more extraordinary measures.
Christians are dependent on, and indebted to a holy, divine influence in the religious life ; but this ordinary influence of the Spirit does not immediately reveal to them new truths ; it rather disposes their minds to regard and obey the truths already revealed. We are nev. er, therefore, to follow implicitly an impression made on our minds ; much less the impressions, which others pretend have been made on theirs ; but we are to examine, by the word of God, every suggestion which is started within us, or communicated to us, and to obey or reject it, as it agrees, or disagrees with this standard. "Believe not every Spirit, but try the Spirits." The scripture is to be our guide. The suggestions, or excitations of the Spirit are not to im