The Ancient Faith
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
It is not our purpose to write a dissertation upon the nature, origin, or relationships of the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” 2 Tim. ii:23. We are persuaded that there can be but little known of these subjects because there is but little revealed concerning them. “Secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.” Deut. xxiv:29. Why, then, should we worry ourselves over
questions which our Father never revealed to us, and therefore never intended us to know? There are more practical questions connected with the Holy Spirit of which we may know something, because God has spoken to us more definitely concerning them, and it is of them we propose to write. We are aware, too, that even these are not to be comprehended without effort; nor are we vain enough to suppose that we are able to write an unexceptionable essay concerning them. Strong minds and devoted hearts have prayerfully perused the sacred pages of Holy Writ until their eyes have grown dim in age; and, after all their toil, have closed their labors confessedly ignorant of the modus operandi of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the incomprehensibility of the subject is the theory advocated by many very able pens. By such, those who claim to understand the subject, are at once suspected of denying the influence of the Spirit in conversion entirely. If you deny an incomprehensible influence of the Spirit, they know of no other, and hence conclude that you deny all spiritual influence. They are ever ready to quote John iii:8; “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” In vain may you call their attention to the fact that the passage does not say “so is the Spirit,” or “so is the operation of the Spirit.” They have learned to so interpret it, and this is quite sufficient to end the investigation of the subject. They will regard it presumptuous in us to even attempt an examination of it. They will quote the old adage, “Fools rush on where angels fear to tread.” But we beg them to remember that if we are ignorant of the subject, we will not be more likely to remain so, than those who do not examine it at all. If they and we close our Bibles and cease to investigate, we will all remain ignorant together. The divine volume contains many lessons on the subject, and surely our Father would not have said so much to us on a subject of which He intended us to remain entirely ignorant. We are, therefore, encouraged to pursue our study of the sacred pages with all the assistance we can get, in the hope that we may, at least, acquire a sufficient knowledge of what is taught concerning the Holy Spirit, to enable us to enjoy its comforting influences in God’s appointed way.
Our Bible teaches us that there is not only one God and Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ the Son of this Father, but also that there is one Holy Spirit which proceeded from God, divine as is God from whom it proceeded. As the sun is the great center of the solar system from which emanate light and heat to the natural world, so God is not only Spirit, but the great center of the spiritual world from whom emanated the Holy Spirit, giving light and comfort to the denizens of earth through the inspired word and the institutions and service appointed therein.
John the Baptist said to those who came to be baptized of him in the Jordan: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Matt. iii:11. Paul says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” And again: “Now there are diversities of gifts but
the same Spirit.” 1 Cor. xii:1, 4. After Jesus had told His disciples that it was needful for them that He should go away, in order that the Holy Spirit might come to and remain with them as an abiding Comforter. He said to them: “When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John xvi:8. Paul, in his epistle to his brethren at Rome, said: “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Rom. viii:15. And again: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.” Rom. viii:16. Thus we find the Scripture speaking of the baptism of the Holy Spirit; secondly, of the gifts of the Spirit; thirdly, the operation or work of the Spirit in reproving the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, the reception of the Spirit by the children of the Father, and the witness of the Spirit. Paul charged Timothy, saying: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Tim. ii:15. We know of no subject to the study of which this admonition is of more importance than that of the Holy Spirit. If we can rightly divide and apply the word of truth to the subject in hand, we will be aided much in attaining to a knowledge of it. If we fail to do this, we may correctly learn something concerning it, but understand the subject as a system we never will.
We have seen five separate departments of our subject spoken of in the passages quoted. Let us draw the line deep and wide between them, that we may keep them well apart until we examine them in the light of the Scriptures. Should we indiscriminately apply what was written with reference to anyone of them, teaching of the Spirit and make an incomprehensible logomachy of the whole subject. Let us rightly divide our subject, and apply the Scriptures accordingly.
First in order we examine:
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
That God promised the baptism of the Holy Spirit to certain persons, through John the Baptist and also through Jesus His Son, is not disputed by anyone; and that this promise was verified on the day of Pentecost, and at the house of Cornelius, is believed by all. The matter in controversy is as to whether or not the baptism thus promised was to be special or general, temporary or perpetual. In other words, was it confined to the day of miracles? or was it designed for, and promised to, the Christians of our day, yea, of all time?
First, then we will examine the Scriptures relied on, to prove that persons are now baptized with the Holy Spirit. The first passage we will examine may be found in the prophecy of Joel ii:28-30. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants, and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit; and I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke.” That this prophecy had reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, to take place on the day of Pentecost is certain, from the fact that Peter quotes it as fulfilled in the events of that day. Acts ii:16-19. As it is here said that the Spirit was to be poured out upon all flesh, it is insisted that those living now are a part of all flesh as well as those who lived then, and hence it must require all time to fulfill the prophecy, because if its fulfillment was restricted to the events of that day, it was not poured out upon all flesh. But if there are to be no restrictions placed upon the phrase “all flesh” then the passage will prove entirely too much. Paul tells us that “All flesh is not the
same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.” 1 Cor. xv:39. Therefore, if the phrase “all flesh” is not to be limited, we not only have all men baptized with the Spirit, but also all beasts, birds, and fish. “Well, but it means all human flesh.” This proves too much yet; for this would include the most wicked man of earth, as well as the best Christian. “But it means all Christians.”
Stop; you set out with the POSITION that there are no restrictions to be put on the phrase all flesh; now you cut off not only all beasts, birds, and fish, but also the larger portion of human flesh, for few go the narrow path, while the many go the broad road; and these you will not allow to be baptized with the Spirit at all. This is doing pretty well. These restrictions are right; may there not be others? The sons and daughters who were the subjects of this baptism were to prophesy, the old men were to dream dreams, and the young men were to see visions. Are these phenomena exhibited by all Christians now? If not, the phrase all flesh must be pruned down until it embraces such, and only such, as can do the things spoken of. When Peter said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel,” (Acts ii:16) the disciples were prophesying, speaking with tongues, and doing the things spoken of by Joel; hence we feel authorized to restrict the phrase “all flesh” to such as exhibited the signs predicted in the prophecy.
Again: We have the fulfillment of this prophecy to take place at a specified time. “It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, that I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” Acts ii: 17. Certainly the last days here spoken of cannot be the last days of time, for more than eighteen hundred years have gone by since Peter said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” And it would require great boldness to affirm that the phrase last days was intended to include all the days from the day of Pentecost to the end of time; yet such must be the interpretation given to it, to make the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy include the Christians of all time, and therefore those of this day. The last days here spoken of by Joel must have been the last days of the Jewish dispensation, for it was in them that Peter tells us, “This is that which was spoken.” The argument drawn from this prophecy to support the notion that persons are now baptized with the Holy Spirit is, therefore, evidently defective.
The language of John the Baptist next claims our attention. He said to those demanding baptism of him in the Jordan: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier that I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matt. iii:11, 12. This address is recorded by Luke (iii:16, 17) in very nearly the same words. Mark records an abridgment of it, thus “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” Mark i:7, 8. It is not important to our investigation that we stop to inquire who were to be the subjects of the baptism of fire spoken of in the records by Matthew and Luke, as it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which concerns us at present; nor will we stop to inquire whether this was to be a figurative or a literal baptism in the Holy Spirit. That it was literal is all that can be claimed, and this we are not only willing to grant, but firmly believe. But do these quotations prove that persons are now baptized with the Holy Spirit? If they prove it at all, they must do it in one of two ways. First, the language employed must be sufficiently comprehensive to include us, or the principle taught must be applicable to us. First, then, who were the persons represented by the pronoun you in the sentence “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost”? That this word could not have included even all John’s audience is clear from the fact that some of them were wicked — comparable to chaff and to be burned with unquenchable fire. But even had it embraced everyone to whom he spake, both wicked and good, it would still require very elastic rules of interpretation to make it embrace the Christians of all time. “I indeed baptize you with water … he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Can any fair rules of interpretation make the last you include more than the first you? Surely not. Then it follows that those who were here promised the baptism of the Holy Ghost were among those baptized by John in water. Again: We have a rule of grammar saying: “Pronouns must agree with the nouns for which they stand, in gender, number, and person.” If we respect this rule at all, how can we make these pronouns include more, or other, persons than their antecedents in the preceding part of the chapter? Once more: In oral discourse, the persons indicated by pronouns of the second person are always present with the speaker. This rule knows no exception. In written communications, persons represented by pronouns of the second person may be absent from the writer, but to a speaker they must be present. Let us apply this rule to the speech made by John the Baptist to the multitude on the banks of the Jordan. “I indeed baptize you with water but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” How can these pronouns of the second person embrace any persons not present before John when he used them? If we apply this promise to other persons, we must derive authority for doing so from other sources than the language employed, for evidently it is not there.
Then is there a principle taught applicable to us? If so, we cannot see it. The passage was a prophetic promise made to certain persons, to be fulfilled to them, and when so fulfilled, there was no general principle remaining applicable to any persons only such as are shown to be subjects of the baptism in question. That Christians are now such subjects is the matter to be proved — to assume it is to assume the whole controversy. We have seen that the language of John is incapable of proving it, either expressly or by implication. We would not be understood, however, to deny that any were baptized with the Holy Ghost who were not of those baptized by John the Baptist in water. We know that others were so baptized, but this is not quite sufficient to prove that the language employed by John included them. We have been seeking to test the power of this passage to prove the doctrine in question. We know that it is confidently relied on to sustain the theory; hence we have sought for the extent of its application and the time of its fulfillment. When Jesus was assembled with the apostles on one occasion, He “commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me; for John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts i:4, 5. As Jesus here associates this promise of the Father with John’s baptism, it is next to certain that He here refers to the same promise which the Father made by John. This being so, we can scarcely fail to recognize its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem, where they were commanded to wait for it. And though, in the three recorded accounts of John’s discourse, we have no specific allusion to the time of its fulfillment, yet when Jesus quotes it, He says it shall be not many days hence, and commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem until it was fulfilled. When, therefore, we connect these passages together, we see not how it is possible to look beyond the day of Pentecost for the complete fulfillment of the promise of the Father made through John concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But we may be told that Peter quoted this language at the house of Cornelius as applicable to the Gentiles, saying: “As I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” Acts xi:15, 16. This is sufficiently near the language quoted from Acts i:4, 5, to make it probable that both passages refer to the same conversation. As God baptized the disciples with the Holy Spirit when the gospel was first proclaimed to the Jews, it was proper, for reasons which we will see in due time, that He should attend its introduction to the Gentiles by the like gift. But if the baptism of the Holy Spirit was then bestowed upon all converts, as we are told it now is, why did Peter associate it with the beginning? Why not have said: “As I began to speak the Holy Spirit fell on them as on all others converted?” Surely, some such style would have been appropriate. Many thousands had been converted from the day of Pentecost to that time, yet the language employed is calculated to make the impression that such an event had not come under their notice from the beginning until that time.
We will notice one more passage only. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Cor. xii:13. Although this passage was written in close proximity to Paul’s explanation of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, yet we are willing to admit the principle taught in it to be applicable to Christians generally, but it falls very far short of proving that they, or any of them, are baptized with the Holy Spirit. So far from it that it says not one word about it. By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body. There is one body (Eph. iv:4); This is the church (Col. i:18 and 24). There is one baptism (Eph. iv:5), by which we enter this one body. Are we now prepared to see the import of the passage? By (the teaching of) one Spirit (the Holy Spirit) we are all baptized (in water) into one body (the church). This seems to be the obvious import of the passage, and it is in harmony with the whole tenor of the Spirit’s teaching on the subject. But if we insist that it means “in one Spirit we are all baptized into one body,” then we make Paul contradict himself, saying there is “one baptism.” When he says: “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,” he as clearly teaches that there is but one baptism, as he does that there is but one Lord or but one God and Father of all. The denominations themselves agree that by water baptism we enter the church; if, therefore, they make this passage mean Holy Spirit baptism, they not only contradict Paul, but they contradict themselves. Surely, they will not do this. It is admitted by all that God’s works, everywhere, are a most wonderful exhibition of harmony and order. He has a place for everything and everything in its place — an office for everything to fill, and everything filling its own office. It is altogether probable, then, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was designed for some appropriate work, and not given to accomplish anything, everything, or nothing, as might chance to happen. It is, then, of the first importance that we seek for the office assigned it in the gospel plan of salvation. What say you, gentle reader, on this subject? What do you want with it? What do you expect it to do for you?
The first work usually assigned it in the theories of modern times, is the removal of the depravity or corruption of nature supposed to have been inherited from our illustrious progenitors as a result of their
sin, or rather, our sin in them. It is assumed that man comes into the world totally depraved, wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body, opposed to all good and wholly inclined to all evil, in consequence of which he cannot will or desire anything good accompanying salvation until this depravity is removed or modified by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. For an examination of this assumption the reader is referred to the chapter on Hereditary Depravity.
Suppose, however, that this is really a true picture of man’s nature, and he can do nothing until God enables him to do it by baptizing him with the Holy Spirit. What then? If God has to administer it, and man can do nothing until it is done, and it is never done at all, who is to blame for it? Will God sentence the sinner to hell and there punish him forever for not obeying the gospel, when it was no fault of his that he did not do it? The baptism of the Holy Spirit was a miracle, emphatically a miracle, performed by Jesus Himself. If, therefore, all converts of our day are baptized with it, it follows that there is a miracle performed every time a conversion takes place, and miracles will continue as long as there is a subject converted to God; and the conversion of every man is suspended upon the performance of a miracle of which he has not the slightest control, for until it is performed he cannot even desire it, or will any good thing accompanying it. But was the removal of depravity the object to be accomplished by the baptism of the Spirit anciently? The first case, of which we have a record, took place on the day of Pentecost, and the disciples were the subjects of it on that occasion. Had the apostles been more than three years with the Lord, and been sent by Him to preach the approach of the kingdom “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. x:5-7), with power to perform miracles in His name, and, finally, to preach the gospel to every creature, with power to bind and loose on earth, with the assurance that their acts should be ratified in heaven, and yet their hearts totally depraved, wholly disposed to evil and opposed to all good until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost? Are we prepared for this?
But we are told that the three thousand converts of that day were also baptized with it. Is there any proof of this? The record says: “Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, the number of names together were about a hundred and twenty.” Acts i:5. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. … And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Who were with one accord in one place? The disciples. Who were all filled with the Holy Ghost? The disciples. Who began to speak with other tongues as moved by the Holy Ghost? The disciples. Not a word about anyone else being with them. But “when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together.” ver. 6. Then it was not until after the baptism of the disciples with the Holy Spirit that the multitude came together, from among whom the three thousand were converted. Not a word in the narrative about their having been baptized with the Holy Ghost. They were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit if they would “repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;” but even this was not until they had heard and believed Peter’s preaching, and were cut to the heart by it, which modern teachers insist they could not have been until they were baptized with it.
We will next examine the case of Cornelius. Please notice his character before he was baptized with the Holy Spirit. He was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” Acts x:2. And was his heart totally depraved, wholly corrupt, the opposite of all good? Really, it seems he had good thoughts and did good deeds before he was baptized, either with Spirit or water. Then it follows, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not intended to remove his depravity and make him devoted, charitable, or prayerful, for he was all these before. We insist that if you purify the heart by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you thereby annul the office of faith. With reference to the Gentiles, Peter says: “God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Acts xv:8, 9.
Here we find, that in cases where the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, it was not to purify the heart, for this was done by faith. Suppose you have a clock, the machinery of which is propelled by weights. You remove the weights from their place, and propel the machinery of the clock by springs, what further use have you for the weights? So, if you purify the heart by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, what further use have you for faith? But we are sometimes told that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to produce faith. Then
when Paul said, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. x:17), he should have said, “So then faith cometh by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
Again: It is insisted that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for, or in order to, the remission of sins, and that this is its office in the gospel plan of salvation. Then it follows, that the apostles were three years the chosen companions of Jesus, sent by Him to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, with power to perform miracles in His name, and still unpardoned until baptized on the day of Pentecost. “John did baptize in the wilderness and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” Mark i:4, 5.
Thus John made “Ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke i:17. Jesus selected His apostles from the material thus prepared for him. Does anyone believe that, when they were baptized by John for the remission of sins, that they were still unpardoned until baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost? If not, then the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not for the
remission of their sins. Paul informs us that there is “one Lord, one Faith and ONE Baptism.” Eph. iv:5. That this one baptism is for the remission of sins, we believe, is admitted by all. All agree that the one Body, Spirit, Hope, Lord, Faith, Baptism, God, and Father of all, spoken of in this connection, by the apostle to his Ephesian brethren, are essential to the remission of sins, spiritual growth, and final happiness of intelligent men and women in a land of Bibles. But those who would disparage the worth of baptism in water always insist that this one baptism is “Holy Ghost baptism.” If we can dispel this delusion, we will have done much to settle the unfortunate controversy, with regard to the design of baptism in water. First, then, we would inquire of those who advocate this theory, and believe themselves to have received this one baptism in the Holy Spirit, why they still submit to baptism with water in any form? Surely, if they have been baptized with the Holy Ghost, that is one baptism; yes, verily, if their theory be true, it is the one baptism; hence, if they subsequently add to this another, in water, they have not one, but two baptisms, and Paul should have said: “There is one Lord, one faith, and two Baptisms.” But we may be told that “Cornelius was baptized with the Holy Spirit and was subsequently baptized with water, in obedience to the command of God through Peter, which proves that we may have two baptisms.” If this proof is conclusive, will the objector be so good as to assist Paul in extricating himself from the difficulty in which he is placed by saying “There is one baptism.” If he will say, with us, that the
baptism of the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, with the Holy Spirit, was a miracle, such as has not occurred from that time to the present (of which we have a record), and allow that, when Paul said “There is one baptism,” he alluded to the baptism to which the taught of all nations are to submit (Matt. xxviii:19), and that was enjoined upon “every creature” who would believe the gospel and be saved (Mark xvi:16), which was connected with repentance for the remission of sins (Acts ii:30), that now saves the people who rightly submit to it (1 Peter iii:21), and to which all must submit, or fail to enter the kingdom of God (John iii:5), then we can see perfect harmony in the Scriptures, and a fitness in Paul’s language saying: “there is one baptism.”
Again: When persons were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts ii:4. There was an absolute impact of the Holy Spirit with the human Spirit; and hence, being filled with the Holy Spirit, their spirits were energized — inspired by the Holy Spirit, which took possession of them — and through them spake forth the wonderful and mighty works of God in languages hitherto unknown to them. The same cause produces the same effect on all occasions, if surrounded by the same circumstances. Baptism with the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, enabled those who received it to speak with tongues, hence, if we can find another case on record, we may expect the same results; for of this law in nature God is as much the author as he is the author of the Bible. Accordingly, when Cornelius and his house were baptized with it, “they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” Acts x:46. Now, as this law obtained in the cases recorded, we must insist that those who claim to have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, must, under its influence, speak in languages before unknown to them; or give us some good reason why their cases are exceptions to the rule. And, were they even to speak with other tongues, this would not be conclusive, for although this always followed the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and its absence would bar the claim to such baptism, yet there were persons enabled to speak with tongues, and prophesy, who had not been baptized with the Spirit. This we will see more clearly when we come to examine the subject of spiritual gifts. As Paul tells us that there is “one baptism,” we have only to show that baptism in water is enjoined upon all nations, and every creature who believes the gospel and would be saved, in order to show that there is now no such thing as Holy Spirit baptism, and hence, that there is not a man, woman, or child, alive to-day who has been the subject of it. In the commission, Jesus says, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. xxviii:19. Now, here is a baptism to which the taught of all nations are to submit; for it would have been anomalous had Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize them without, at least, an implied obligation on their part to submit to it. Hence, if there be one baptism, and only one, this is THE baptism, besides which there is not another. There is no escape from this POSITION. Then, the only remaining question to be settled is, did the Saviour here allude to water baptism? Does anyone doubt it? If so, from whence comes their authority to baptize with or in water, in the names here set forth; that is, in the names of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? And as Jesus was to baptize with the Holy Ghost, and no human being ever had power to administer this baptism; and as the apostles were commanded to administer one, it is certain that it was not Holy Ghost baptism. Once more: This was to be administered in the name of the Holy Ghost; and as it is not probable that the baptism of the Holy Ghost would have been administered in its own name, it is not probable that this was that kind of baptism.
We have seen that there was an implied command in the commission to the taught of all nations to submit to this baptism, and in keeping therewith we find the apostles commanding persons to be baptized: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you.” Acts ii:38. “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Acts x:48. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was not a command but a promise. “And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but
wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me.” What promise? “For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts i:4, 5. As baptism in water is a command, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a promise and not a command, it follows, that when the apostles commanded baptism, they meant water baptism. Paul speaks of himself and Roman brethren as having been buried with Christ by baptism, and finally tells them, “ye have obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine which was delivered you; being then made free from sin.” Rom. vi:17, 18. When were they made free from sin? When they obeyed the form of doctrine. What form of doctrine? He was speaking of a baptism in submission to which they obeyed, and were then made free from sin. Was this Holy Ghost baptism? No; there was no obedience in that — it was a promise, not a command. Promises may be enjoyed, but cannot be obeyed. Commands are to be obeyed in order that the promises connected therewith, if any, may be enjoyed. Water is the only element in which the Romans were commanded to be baptized; and hence baptism in it was the only baptism they could have obeyed in order that they might be made free from sin. This form of doctrine we have already examined. But it is insisted that we must have the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidence of pardon and acceptance with God. Then we ask had the apostles, who received it on the day of Pentecost, no evidence of their acceptance during their personal intercourse with the Saviour prior to that day? And did it give evidence to Cornelius of his acceptance before he obeyed the gospel?
Now, we propose to show that persons were pardoned under the gospel dispensation, and had reliable evidence of the fact, who had not been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Let us see. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them.” Acts viii:5. “When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.” Ver. 12. Now are they saved? Does anyone doubt it? Do the advocates of modern Holy Ghost baptism command men and women to be baptized, whom they regard as unsaved, when they have been baptized? Nay, verily! So far from it, that they believe them pardoned before baptism. Then, according to their own theory, these persons were saved. If men are saved by faith only, before baptism they believed and were therefore saved; and if it required faith and baptism, they had believed and been baptized and were still saved. So they were saved in any aspect of the case. But they had still further evidence of pardon. Jesus had said “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Mark xvi:16. This language is not ambiguous, we cannot fail to understand it. Luke says they did believe and were baptized, hence, if Jesus spake truly when He issued the proclamation, and Luke correctly recorded what they did, it follows, unmistakably, that they were pardoned, and had the word of the Lord as evidence of the fact. Were they yet baptized with the Holy Ghost? “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem, heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who when they were come down prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts viii:14, 16. While it is true that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not the measure of it which Peter and John designed to confer upon the disciples at Samaria, yet the context clearly shows that it had not fallen upon any of them in any form, they having only received what ordinarily followed adoption into the family of God; still they were pardoned — saved beyond a peradventure. Then if the Samaritans could and did believe the gospel, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and have His word as evidence that they were saved without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, why may we not do the same thing? If anyone supposes himself to have been baptized with the Holy Spirit in order to his conversion, then we would like to know whether or not he supposes himself to have been converted as were the Samaritans? Should he claim to have been pardoned in a different way, then we would inquire how many ways of pardon are there for the same class of persons?
But we have not yet found the purposes for which the baptism of the Holy Spirit was administered in the cases of which we have a record. Soon after His baptism, Jesus selected twelve men, to whom it was His purpose to commit the first proclamation of the gospel which was to be the power of God for the salvation of men; these he required to forsake parents, friends, occupations — everything — and follow Him, that their minds might be free to receive the instruction necessary to a thorough preparation for the work
assigned them. For three and a half years He ceased not to instruct them in the things pertaining to His kingdom; and though they had left all to follow one so poor that He had not where to lay His weary head, He comforted them, saying: “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke xxii:29, 30. Knowing the events that were soon to occur in their presence — that He should be put to death, and go to His Father, leaving them to plead His cause in the midst of persecution and death — He faithfully told them of all that should befall them, but that He would remember them in prayer to His Father: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever: even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John xiv:16, 17. This Comforter was not, like Him, to be taken from them, but to remain with them forever. But said He: “Because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart’ I will send him unto you.” John xvi:6, 7. Why was it expedient for them that He should go away? “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” John xv:26. They “trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” Luke xxiv:41. But when He was crucified their hopes died with Him, and, in despair, they went, each one, to his former occupation. When He gave them proof that He had risen from the dead, they took courage, and determined to await the promised power from on high. But when the Holy Spirit came from heaven, bearing to them the glorious tidings of His coronation as King of kings and Lord of lords, it filled their hearts with joy and gladness; yea, they rejoiced to know that He was at His Father’s right hand, as their adorable High Priest and Mediator, and would there remain to make intercession for His children, until His foes should become His footstool. Truly did the Comforter, on that day, bear witness of Him, for then were they bold to declare that he was “by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” Acts ii:33.
Again: Notwithstanding He had been with them, and had faithfully instructed them in the great scheme of man’s salvation still they were human, and liable to forget the important lessons He had given them; hence He told them that “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John xiv:26. Though He had many things to say to them which, in their weakness, they were not able to bear, and which, for their good, He graciously declined then to reveal, he assured them that “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John xvi:13); and thus He prepared them to eventually receive what He could not then tell them. Once more: their commission required them to “preach the gospel to every creature,” to “teach all nations.” How could these ignorant Galileans preach the gospel among all nations, to every creature in the numerous languages then spoken? “There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” Acts ii:5. Truly, here was a difficulty. But they were to “tarry at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high.” This power they were to receive after that the Holy Ghost came upon them. This completed the preparations. How could they then err? They could not despair, for the Spirit gave them comfort from heaven. They could not forget anything, for the Spirit was to strengthen their memory. What Jesus lacked of perfecting their instructions the Spirit supplied by guiding them in all truth. Were there many nations and divers languages? The baptism of the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak to every man in his own tongue wherein he was born, and thus they were enabled to preach to every creature among all nations; and the Comforter through them reproved the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Only one thing more and the scheme is complete. Other sheep have I which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John x:16. But how shall this be done? The Jews then, like the Calvinists now regarded themselves as the favored few for whom Jesus died, and thought it not meet to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs. Hence, it took a miracle to convince Peter that it was his duty to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Six of his Jewish brethren accompanied him to the house of Cornelius, where God poured out the Holy Ghost on the Gentiles as on the disciples at Jerusalem on Pentecost. “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” Acts x:45, 46. This satisfied those of the Jews who were with Peter and witnessed it; and when he rehearsed the whole matter from the beginning to the apostles and brethren who were at Jerusalem, “they held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts xi:18. Thus we see a necessity for God to baptize the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius with the Holy Spirit — not to convert those who received it, or in any way benefit them — but that the Jews might “perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts x:34, 35.
We wish, in conclusion, to call attention to the striking difference in the forms of speech used with reference to water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. “Go teach all nations, baptizing them.” “Preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and IS baptized shall be saved.” Every creature, among all nations, who is capable of hearing and believing the gospel, may be baptized with the baptism connected with faith as a condition of salvation. How very different the style when speaking of Holy Spirit baptism! “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” When speaking of that coming down to us and designed to be perpetual, the style is all nations, every creature; but when speaking of Holy Spirit baptism it is you, ye, and this is the extent of it. Kind reader, is not this significant?
THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Speaking of the Son of God, John the Baptist said: “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” John iii:34. This language clearly implies, as stated elsewhere, that God gave the Spirit by measure to others. Indeed, it may be safely said that Jesus was the only person who ever possessed the Spirit without measure – who was always speaking and doing the things suggested by it. The prophets and apostles spake and acted under it occasionally, He always. But we have seen that there was a baptism with the Spirit which was a measure of it sufficient to temporarily possess and inspire those who received it. This measure of the Spirit was the promise of the Father, and was given by Him through His Son to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius. See Acts xi:17.
But we must be careful that we do not confound the Spirit with the gifts of the Spirit. The inspiration and energizing influences of the Spirit are not the Spirit. But there was another measure of the Spirit which was capable of imparting extraordinary gifts to the disciples, which we propose to examine for a time. That this measure of the Spirit was different from the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is evident from the fact that the latter always required a divine administrator, while the measure under consideration was imparted by the laying on of apostolic hands.
That this measure of the Spirit was different from the ordinary measure received by all Christians is clear from several considerations. First: “It was imparted by the apostles through the imposition of their hands, as before stated, while the ordinary measure was received by the hearing of faith. See Gal. iii:2. Second: Miraculous power was always imparted by it, and manifested by those who received it, while no such manifestations attend the ordinary measure. Third: At Samaria and other places, persons believed the gospel and were baptized, and, therefore, enjoyed the ordinary measure of the Spirit for some time before this measure was imparted to them by the apostles. The power to impart this measure of the Spirit was what Simon sought to purchase with money, and was called by Peter the gift of God” (Acts viii:20), because God gave it to the apostles, who alone possessed it. Though this power of imparting the Spirit by the imposition of apostolic hands was the gift of God, it was neither the Spirit nor the gift of the Spirit. And the Spirit itself, though given in different measures, at different times, to different persons, in different ways, for different purposes, was always the gift of God and the same Spirit.
There is one Spirit, and only one; hence, Paul says: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” 1 Cor. xii:4. We have seen that baptism with the Holy Spirit required a divine administrator, hence on the day of Pentecost and at the house of Cornelius it came from heaven in its amplitude — “the self-same Spirit dividing to every man severally as he would” the measures and manifestations appropriate to each. The phrase “the gift of the Holy Ghost” occurs Acts ii:38, and x:45, and in both places must be understood as equivalent to “the Holy Spirit as a gift,” yet we are persuaded that the same measure of the Spirit is not alluded to in both places. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost; for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Acts x:44-46. That this was that measure called the baptism of the Holy Spirit is plain from the fact that when Peter rehearsed the matter before his brethren, he said: “As I began to speak the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts xi:15, 16); thus, quoting the language of the Lord concerning baptism with the Holy Ghost as applicable to this event. But it was not until after the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the disciples “at the beginning,” on the day of Pentecost, that the multitude came together, to whom Peter promised the Holy Ghost as a gift; hence, it could not have been the baptism of it to which he referred when he said: “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts ii:38. But did Peter here mean the Holy Spirit itself, in some measure of it, or did he mean that they should receive something imparted to them by the Spirit? Paul says: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” Peter did not say: “Ye shall receive a gift, some gift, or any gift of the Spirit, but the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He uses the singular number and definite article; hence we conclude he must be understood to mean some measure of the Holy Spirit.
But to what measure of the Spirit did the apostle allude? We have seen that he did not allude to the baptism of it; then it only remains for us to inquire whether he alluded to the ordinary measure which always follows as a necessary result of adoption into God’s family; or did he mean to promise them an extraordinary endowment of it peculiar to the apostolic times? We cannot regard it very important to settle this matter in favor of one question or the other. All agree that there were extraordinary endowments of the Spirit conferred upon those, or at least many of them, who believed and obeyed the gospel in the apostolic times; and all agree that all Christians, from then until now, receive the Spirit of adoption – that all Christians may unite in saying: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Rom. v:5. While good and true men differ as to how the Spirit is received, all agree that he is received and in some sense dwells in every Christian.
It is not important, therefore, whether Peter referred to this or that measure of the Spirit; yet it may not be amiss to state that, as the apostles had power to communicate the Spirit in an extraordinary measure to such as believed and obeyed the gospel under their ministry, and as they deemed it so important that the primitive Christians should thus extraordinarily receive it, as to send Peter and John from Jerusalem to Samaria to confer it upon the disciples first made there, we are inclined to think that Peter intended to promise something more than the ordinary measure of the Spirit to those he addressed at the beginning. Surely, it was as important that the first disciples made at Jerusalem should receive the extra-ordinary endowment as it was that those of Samaria, Ephesus, and other places should receive it. Nay, more; there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven, and it is fair to suppose that some of every nation were converted on that occasion; and it is more than probable that it was through these men that the commission was carried out. The apostles preached to all nations on that day; and when the persons there converted returned to their homes, bearing the gospel to every creature, the commission was carried out — “their sound went into all the earth and their words unto the ends of the world.” Rom. x:18. Surely, if these gifts of the Spirit were for the confirmation of the Word in Jerusalem, Samaria, and Ephesus at its first proclamation, it was not less important that these converts, who were to go into all the world with the gospel, should be able to confirm its truth when they first preached it in their respective countries. Hence, we conclude that Peter promised the Spirit to such as would believe and obey the gospel there in as ample measure as he had power to impart it to them. Why should he not thus amply bestow it upon them, having the power to do so? And why should he not thus amply promise it to them? Did he wish to bestow it upon them without apprising them of it, that he might afford them an agreeable surprise? But as a settlement of this matter could have no practical bearing upon our investigation, the subject is not worth debating, and we will not consume further space with it. Our purpose is, more particularly, to show that there were extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit in the apostolic times, what they were, and how they were conferred, that they were to cease, have ceased, how and when they ceased, and consequently need not be expected now.
Jesus said, in the final commission: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And 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.” Mark xvi:15-18. By this we see that signs were not confined to the apostles alone, but were to follow them that believe. This has been a sweet morsel to infidels from the time miracles ceased until now. The Mormon claims to exhibit these signs now; and he sneeringly tells you that you do not believe your own book. It says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” You believe that; oh yes! but when it says “these signs shall follow them that believe,” you do not believe that. Yes, we believe it all; but we will not allow an infidel to divide and interpret it for us. We were once asked by an infidel why these signs do not follow them that believe. Jesus said they should follow them that believe. Persons profess to believe, and still we do not see the signs following. What is the reason? Until such persons learn to discriminate between things ordinary and extraordinary — until they can “rightly divide the word of truth” — it will ever be unintelligible to them. They never will understand it, and therefore never will have any well-grounded faith in it. Nor do we think it at all strange that persons should fail to understand the subject of the Spirit’s influence, and therefore teach that it is enveloped in mystery — entirely incomprehensible to finite minds, who mix up the baptism, gifts, reception, and operation of the Holy Spirit. Nor is it strange that they fail to understand us and continue to misrepresent our teaching; for when we deny them the baptism of
the Holy Spirit, which they have failed to distinguish from the operator of the Spirit, and therefore regard them as one and the same thing, it is natural that they should understand us to deny the operation of the Spirit in denying the baptism of it. But Jesus said these signs should follow them that believe. Did they follow? At Samaria “the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.” Acts viii:68. Here we find that the very things which Jesus said should follow, really did follow.
We next propose to show that these signs which Jesus said should follow them that believe, and which we have seen did follow, were among the gifts of the Spirit. What were the gifts? “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; 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: but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” 1 Cor. xii:8-11. Thus, we see that these gifts of the Spirit were the same things which Jesus said should follow them that believe, and which we have found, at Samaria and other places, did follow. Before leaving this quotation, it may be well to remark that no one man possessed all the gifts, but they were given, one to this, and another to that man — “the self-same Spirit dividing to every man severally” the gifts appropriate to each. How, then, was the Spirit imparted by which these gifts were conferred? As the baptism of the Holy Spirit enabled those who received it to speak with tongues — and speaking with tongues is here said to be one of the gifts of the Spirit — is it true that all these miraculously-endowed persons were baptized with the Spirit? We think not. The baptism of the Spirit was the gift of the Father (Acts ii:4), sent from heaven by the Son. No human being was ever entrusted with the administration of it; but when these spiritual gifts were to be manifested, “then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Acts viii:17-19. Then it was through the laying on of the apostles’ hands that God gave the Holy Ghost to believers, by which these extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were conferred. And it is expressly said that Simon “had neither part nor lot in this matter” (Acts viii:21); and we suppose he had as much part and lot in it as had anyone else save the apostles.
That these spiritual gifts were uniformly imparted by the laying on of apostolic hands, is made probable by the fact that the presence of an apostle was indispensable to the reception of them. Had it been possible for the apostles to have imparted these gifts by prayer, it occurs to us that a useless trip from Jerusalem to Samaria was imposed upon Peter and John. Certainly, their prayers would have been as efficacious in that city as in this: they would have been addressed to God, who could hear in one place and answer in another — and did so in numerous instances (see Matt. viii:5-13). He was God afar off as well as nearby. Paul said to his brethren at Rome: “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift.” Rom. i:11. This shows, most clearly, that, however much Paul desired to impart spiritual gifts, he had not the power until he could visit those to whom he would impart them. When he passed through the upper coasts of Asia and came to Ephesus, he found certain disciples, of whom he inquired: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” By this it seems to have been customary for the apostles to impart this endowment of the Spirit to the disciples wherever they met them, unless they had previously received it. Hence, finding that these disciples were entirely ignorant of it, and that they had been baptized with John’s baptism after its validity had ceased, he instructed them in the way of the Lord more perfectly, after which “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” Acts xix:5, 6. Then, whether this endowment was ever imparted otherwise than by the laying on of apostolic hands or not, it is certain that they did impart it in this way; and we have no account of its ever being imparted in any other way, and they could not impart it without being present, where their hands, at least, could have been laid on.
From this stand-point it is easy to see when and how these signs, or spiritual gifts, ceased. As none but the apostles, as instruments in the hands of God, had power to impart this endowment of the Spirit to those who believed and obeyed the gospel, it is obvious that when they died, the power to work miracles necessarily ceased to be conferred upon any person; and when all died who had received the power at the hands of the apostles, they, of course, ceased to be performed. That none but the apostles had power to impart that measure of the Holy Ghost by which these gifts were conferred, is plain from the fact that “when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.” Acts viii:14, 15. Philip, it seems had the power to exercise the gifts of the Spirit, but, not being an apostle, he could not transfer this power to anyone else; hence the necessity of sending Peter and John to them for that purpose — the apostles alone possessing such power. As we have said that this Philip, who preached the gospel to the Samaritans, was not an apostle, and as one of the apostles was named Philip, it may be well for us to turn aside long enough to examine this matter a little.
The New Testament clearly speaks of three persons named Philip:
First, Philip, the brother of Herod, whose wife was Herodias, at the request of whom Herod had John the Baptist’s head taken off. This Philip was “tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis.” Luke iii:1.
Second. The apostle Philip, of whom we have an account as one of the twelve — Matt. x:3; Mark iii:18; Luke vi:14; and as one of the eleven, after the fall of Judas, and before the election of Matthias — Acts i:13. This Philip “was of Bethsaida of Galilee.” John xii:21.
Third. Philip the evangelist, who lived in Cesarea, into whose house Paul and company entered; and who “had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” Acts xxi:8, 9. He “was one of the seven.” Acts xxi:8. What seven? “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, and whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch; whom they set before the apostles.” Acts vi:2-6. Could anything be more plain? The apostle Philip was one of the twelve who declined to leave the ministry of the Word, and commanded the selection of seven others from among the disciples, one of whom was Philip; hence the language: ‘We entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.” Acts xxi:8.
Following up the history of these seven from their appointment in the sixth chapter of Acts, we find in the seventh chapter an account of the death of Stephen. The second verse of the eighth chapter speaks of his burial; then, in close connection, the fifth verse declares that “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” Then can we be mistaken in saying that this was Philip the evangelist, but not the apostle Philip? “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” Acts viii:14-17. Had this Philip, who was already at Samaria, been an apostle, why the necessity of sending Peter and John from Jerusalem to Samaria that they might impart the Holy Spirit to the Samaritan disciples? Surely, one apostle could have done this as well as others. Are our readers sufficiently acquainted with the Samaritan preacher? then we will return to the examination of spiritual gifts.
These gifts were not given as toys, to be sported with by those to whom they were given as they might think proper. Even the apostles themselves possessed them only to a limited extent. When Paul was shipwrecked on the island called Melita, he gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, and there came a viper out of the heat and fastened on his hand; yet he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Acts xxviii:3, 5. Did Jesus say “they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them?” Surely, the ever-faithful Son of God remembered this promise to His humble, persecuted disciple just then. But this was not all — Jesus further said: “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Hence, he not only protected Paul’s person from harm, but “it came to pass that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed.” Acts xxviii:8, 9. By this we learn that Paul possessed in an eminent degree the power to heal the sick, which is enumerated among the spiritual gifts; nevertheless, he informs us that he left Trophimus at Miletum sick. 2 Tim. iv:20. Why would Paul leave his friend and traveling companion sick, having the power to heal him? Surely, if he could have done so, he would have cured him. The reason why he did not, can only be found in the fact that he only possessed such power when the glory of God would be exhibited by its exercise.
But for what were these spiritual gifts bestowed upon the primitive disciples? After Jesus had given to the apostles their commission to preach the gospel to every creature, promising salvation to those who would believe and obey it, and assuring them that these signs (gifts of the Spirit) should follow them that believe, we learn that “they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” Mark xvi:20. Then these signs were for the confirmation of the Word at its first proclamation. Hence Paul said to the Romans: “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established, that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” Rom. i:11, 12.
In the infantile state of the church, when it was dependent upon oral instructions for all things pertaining to life and godliness, the Lord graciously attended, and confirmed the Word preached by these extraordinary demonstrations of the Spirit. Hence, says Paul to the Corinthians: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom declaring unto you the testimony of God; for I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” 1 Cor. ii:1-5.
Persons sometimes say of a preacher, “He is so smart that he can make error appear as truth — he would make you believe a crow is white as a swan were he to make the effort.” Though this is not very complimentary to the intelligence of the people, the devil sometimes seeks thus to catch away the seed sown, by making the people believe that it is the shrewdness of the preacher, and not the truth, which makes his positions look plausible. The apostle made no effort to fascinate and charm the Corinthians by his eloquence, excellency of speech; nor by his learning, enticing words of man’s wisdom. As to these, he was with them in weakness. But that they might be established and their faith unshaken, his preaching was confirmed by signs following, here called demonstration of the Spirit, and of power that their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. When Jesus ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. How did he give these gifts, and what were they? By the Spirit he prepared some men to be “apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” And what were these for? “For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” And how long were these gifts to remain? “Till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man [perfect Church], unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” Eph. iv:11-14. Paul tells us “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” 1 Cor. xiii:8. These were among the spiritual gifts, and it is here expressly stated that they should have an end; and we have clearly seen just how and when they did end. Having a perfect record of these signs given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there is no necessity for them to be repeated now; and to wish to see them, is but to confess our want of confidence in the Bible — virtually saying, “I know, God therein says they occurred, but I am not sure the record is true: I would prefer to see them myself.” “If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God, also, bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” Heb. ii:2-4.
Kind reader, let us ponder well this soul-stirring question. This great salvation first spoken by the Lord, was confirmed by them that heard him; God, also, bearing them witness with signs, and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His will; and they are written, as were the signs of Jesus, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name. Oh! then, how shall we escape if we neglect it? As surely as every transgression and disobedience, under the law, received a just recompense of reward, so surely will we be rewarded according to our works.
[This if from The Gospel Plan of Salvation (1874). A special thanks to Lindsay England for her hard work in formatting this sermon.]
Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade
God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter
Repentance – J. W. McGarvey