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the gospel of Christ. The Bereans were accordingly commended, because they searched the scriptures daily, to ascertain for themselves whether those things were so as the apostles taught. And the consequence was that many of them believed 16 In this search, or while they were engaged in it, they doubtless sought and obtained the aid of the Spirit of God, who opened their minds to receive the truths of His holy word, and applied them to their hearts by His almighty power and grace.
The next gift is, To another faith, by the same Spirit. Faith to believe in Christ, and to appropriate His merits to the soul for our benefit, is the gift of God. So the apostle taught the Ephesians: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves ; it is the gift of God.17 It is from Him that we must seek to obtain it. It was therefore said to the Philippians, Unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, to believe on Him.18 This gift had been bestowed upon them of the riches of His grace, so that they believed to the saving of their souls. But the faith here spoken of, as well as the gifts afterwards mentioned, may relate to the extraordinary operations of the Spirit of God, which were vouchsafed to the church of Christ in its infancy, for the confirmation of the truth of the gospel. This miraculous faith is spoken of in the following chapter, where the apostle says, Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. The Spirit of God was the Author of this faith. It was granted for the benefit of the church of Christ, and to promote the belief of the gospel among mankind. But a man might be endowed with this miraculous faith, or power to work miracles, without being the better for it as to his own soul.
16 Acts xvii. 11, 12.
17 Eph. ij. 8.
18 Phil. i. 29.
So likewise with regard to the other spiritual gifts here mentioned : To another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit ; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues ; to another the interpretation of tongues. All these miraculous gifts were bestowed on the primitive church of Christ, for the purpose of affording evident proof of the Divine origin of Christianity, that it was indeed a religion which proceeded from God. That diseases of various kinds were miraculously healed, that future events were foretold, that the gospel was preached in foreign languages by persons who had not been previously instructed in or acquainted with those languages, we have evidence in the history of the Acts of the Apostles. And there is reason to believe that these miraculous powers continued for a time to be manifested in the church of Christ. But they ceased with the occasion for them ; as Christianity was to be spread by ordinary means, under the Divine blessing, when its Divine origin had been fully demonstrated. It is folly indeed to look for the renewal of these miraculous powers in the present day. They would answer no useful purpose, since the evidence of the truth of Christianity has long been shown to rest on a sure foundation. The translation of the holy scriptures into all the known languages of the world, and the printing of the sacred volume in these divers kinds of tongues, and its distribution among all nations, answers the great end for which the gift of tongues was bestowed in the apostolic age. The various languages of the earth may now be learned by ordinary means; and wherever missionaries go forth with the word of God in their hands, to communicate the knowledge of it in the languages of the people to whom they are sent, the blessing of God will attend them; their labours have not any where been hitherto in vain; and the blessing of God may at all times be expected to accompany them. It should be our prayer that the word of the Lord, which is now translated and printed in one hundred and fifty languages and dialects, may have free course and be glorified; and we should contribute as far as our means and circumstances may admit, to the promotion of this great work; and rejoice in the success which attends the circulation of the sacred volume in all parts of the globe.
In the first ages of the Christian church, those who were favoured with the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, did not receive them on account of any superior personal excellence which they possessed over others, not for their own holiness, as St. Peter said, not because they were better than others; for the apostle was obliged to reprove the Corinthians for their folly in desiring to exhibit their gifts, that they might procure admiration from their fellow creatures. These spiritual gifts were entrusted to the persons who received them, for the benefit of the church of Christ, and for the advancement of true religion, and the promotion of the glory of God among mankind in general. It is an awful thing to make use of the gifts of the Spirit of God, to minister to the pride or vanity of man. Yet this is what fallen creatures are continually prone to do.
In order to show that whatever gifts were bestowed upon the members of the church of Christ, those who received them were indebted to God alone, and were bound to use them to His glory; the apostle concludes in the text, All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will. From the nature of the miraculous powers and gifts which have been described, it is evident that He who was the Author and Dispenser of them, must be a Divine Person. This is plainly taken for granted. It is however also expressly stated at the close of
the chapter, that these things were the gifts of God Himself to His church. God hath set some in the church ; first, apostles; secondarily, prophets ; thirdly, teachers; these three orders of ministers of the church of Christ are of Divine appointment; and for the purpose of making them extensively useful, after that they were enabled to work miracles; then gifts of healings were bestowed upon them; helps, governments, diversities of tongues; which most excellent gifts the apostle exhorts them to covet earnestly, that they might excel to the edifying of the church; and to the conviction and conversion of those who were ignorant of the gospel of Christ.
The Spirit spoken of in the text then is God Himself; and it is said of Him, that He divideth to every man severally as He will; or according to the counsel of His own will; which shows His personality. The source from whence spiritual gifts are derived is stated, in order to lead us to apply to Him for those blessings which we need for our own welfare; and which are needful to promote the diffusion of the gospel of Christ, and the glory of God in the world.
We are to consider the end for which spiritual gifts were vouchsafed in former ages, that we may be led to pray that such gifts as are required for the advancement of the honour of God in the world, may be granted to the church of Christ in our day. The extraordinary operations of the