THE CHURCH AND MIRACLE
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
The needs met by miraculous gifts, embedded in the nature of church work and worship, and inadequately served by purely natural gifts, survive unshorn of their original urgency. Whether by discernment of spirits and powers to heal; knowledge of all truth, or revelation of things to come (John 16: 13); edification of the disciple by tongues, or the church by prophecy:- momentous purposes, unimaginable in their issues, would be served by a restoration of miracle to the Church. Apostles, founding churches (1 Cor. 9: 1, 2), administering the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 8: 14-18), revealing Gods mind by word and letter, ruling individual churches (2 Cor. 8: 23, see Greek), guarding Christian assemblies from false apostles (Rev. 2: 2), and bearing personal witness to a risen Christ (1 Cor. 9: 1), would once again bear up the pillars of Christs Church. Powers of word and cure would, if restored, confirm Gods message through His pastors, arrest Satans hand on the sick and the demoniac, and convict, with tenfold persuasiveness, a heathen darkness that grows by leaps and bounds with mere growth of population. Order and unity in discipline, worship, and doctrine accompany the tremendous preface to apostolic injunction - Thus saith the Holy Ghost. *
Here is the kernel of unity and infallibility. What
is infallibility, asks Cardinal Manning, but the revelation
perpetuated, and inspiration produced by illumination - the extraordinary by
the ordinary - the immediate by the mediate action of the Holy Spirit?
Purcells Life, vol. l., p. 602. This is Roman infallibility - an enormous
claim confessedly shorn of evidence, a shadow, an imposture. Infallibility in apostles was proved by accompanying
miracle; it was the immediate, not the mediate, action of the Spirit; it was extraordinary gift,
imperatively calling for extraordinary proof.
Nor is such a restoration an impossible dream. For (1) inspired orders, together with orders not necessarily inspired,* were to work together, in Gods design, until the Church had reached its perfect growth. And He gave some to be apostle ; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [why, and for how long?] for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the Body of Christ: TILL we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Eph. 4: 11-13). The promise of supernatural illapse was unlimited by local or temporal restrictions, and unhampered by condition except of faith. And these signs shall FOLLOW THEM THAT BELIEVE: in My Name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues;** they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover (Mark 16: 17, 18). Nor was the promise of miraculous enduement in any shape or form confined: no hypothetical dispensation of the Acts, no temporary outburst of miracle, no alleged substitution of grace for gift can be made to square with a catholicity of promise vast as all the churches, and prolonged as all election! for to you is the promise, and to your children, and to AS MANY AS THE LORD OUR GOD SHALL CALL UNTO HIM (Acts 2: 39).
[* But all disciples, irrespective of office, might be gifted. Philip the evangelist did great miracles (Acts 8: 6, 13) ; so did the deacon Stephen. Acts 6 : 8.
** A language, sometimes, not of any earthly race. 1 Cor. 13: 1.]
A Commanded Prayer
(2) Moreover, the prayer for gifts of inspiration and miracle is not only legitimate, but commanded. Paul addresses all disciples (1 Cor. 1: 2) in these words: And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all gifts of healings? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But DESIRE EARNESTLY THE GREATER GIFTS (1 Cor. 12: 29-31). It will hardly be contended that here the greater gifts are the unmiraculous. I would have you all, says the Apostle, speak with tongues (1 Cor. 14: 5). Before and after mention of gifts of tongues, prophecies, powers of cure and miracle, Paul says: DESIRE EARNESTLY SPIRITUAL GIFTS, but rather that ye may prophesy (1 Cor. 14: 1). Shall we withstand God, and pronounce such gifts undesirable? Wherefore, my brethren, sums up the Apostle, - DESIRE EARNESTLY TO PROPHECY, and forbid not to speak with tongues (1 Cor. 14: 39*).
[* The gifts of God are without repentance (Rom. 11: 29): they can lapse, but they are never revoked.]
So also (3) our Lords promises attached to faithful prayer, so unconditional, so unlimited, so exhaustive, verbally embrace the gift of the Spirit. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit TO THEM THAT ASK HIM? (Luke 11: 13). Ye have not, says the Scripture (James 4: 2), because ye ask not. Finally (4), even those who hold most strongly that miracles ceased by Gods design are free to acknowledge - some insistently urge - that a returned junction of dispensations, bringing back the old needs, will restore the old powers; that this is predicted; and that, standing on the threshold of that era, it is for us to be alertly ready, in mind and spirit, for such a crisis.
The Right Attitude of the Church
Thus certain truths emerge:- that the last days will be perplexed with powers, signs and wonders; that miracles, as known to the apostles, have long ceased in the Church; that Irvingism and Pentecostalism,* instructive counterfeits, are not manifestations of the Holy Spirit; and yet that promises, purposes, and apparent design entitle us to miraculous gifts, which have never been revoked. Several thoughtful disciples have been impressed with this stupendous and pregnant inference. They will be revived without fail, said Dr. Horace Bushnell, whenever the ancient reason may return, or any new contingency may occur demanding their instrumentality.* Two forces, says Mr. Govett, one from within and one from without, must sooner or later compel the saints to come to settled conclusions on the question. (1) The development of Christian truth, which under the Spirits gracious enlightening is now fast taking place, must draw on the question - In what relation do believers in our times stand to the gifts of old? And (2) force from without either the infidel, or the exhibition of seeming or real miracle and inspiration on behalf of false doctrine, must enforce the discussion, at latest, on the attention of the most unwilling.** Were these, says Dr. Elder Cumming, and other miraculous gifts - such as healing diseases and casting out devils - intended to disappear from the Church, or were they meant to become her perpetual possession? There is not a little to encourage the thought that God was willing to continue them,*** that their use was dependent on the spiritual preparation of believers to receive them, and that they have been lost owing to a great decay in the spiritual life and power of the Church of Christ. There are, however, indications in the Book of Revelation, and perhaps in other portions of the Word, that miraculous gifts may again appear in the Church before the end.****
[*See the danger of not testing in, An Appeal to Pentecostalists.
** Nature and the Supernatural, P. 252
*** But it must also be noted that Govett once told the writer that both he and George Muller had (separately) prayed for miraculous gifts for twenty years, without result.
unbeliever is quick to detect this joint in our harness. The Bible,
says Mr. Lecky, neither asserts nor implies the revocation of supernatural
gifts; and if the general promise that these gifts should be conferred may have
been intended to apply only to the apostles, it is at least as susceptible of a
different interpretation. If these
miracles were actually continued, it is surely not difficult to discover the
beneficial purpose that they would fulfil. Rationalism in
*****Through the Eternal Spirit, p. 170.]
The restoration of miracle to the elect remnant of Israel is a certainty of prophetic revelation.* On the threshold of national and religious upheavals, and a momentous spiritual crisis, shall not the Church of God lift up hands of humble supplication for such swift and decisive power as shall wring from the lips of the modern sorcerer the cry of Egypts magicians This is the finger of God? The disciples confidence rests on the unrecalled nature of Gods gifts (Rom. 11 : 29); on the unaltered necessities of His Church; on the vital union of miracle with justification by faith; on the promise of miraculous gifts to all believers, until all reach the fulness of the stature of the Christ. Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the wbrks that I do shall he do also; AND GREATER WORKS THAN THESE SHALL HE DO; because I go unto the Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14: 12, 13).**
See Joel 2: 28 - 3: 2; Mal. 4: 5; Matt. 23: 34, 35; Mark 13: 11; Rev.
11:5, 6; Rev. 18: 24. Are not
prophetic hints of a restoration to the Church involved in two or three of
these passages? If
** It is certain that there will be an outpour of the Holy Ghost before the Great Tribulation before the great and terrible day of the Lord come (Joel 2: 31). But since the Holy Spirit will then be sent forth into all the earth (Rev. 5: 6), whereas He now is in all the earth, this ourpour may be after He the Hinderer has been removed with the watchful (2 Thess. 2: 7), when Church standing will have ceased, and therefore when Church miracles will be restored. It may be noted that prophets are named (Joel 2: 28), but not apostles.]
AN APPEAL TO PENTECOSTALISTS
By A. G. TILNEY, B.A.
First of all let me say that we do not depreciate you dear good People. You are at times described as the cream of Christians, and we are prepared to agree, though preferring, instead, the Scriptural epithet of very elect (Matt. 24: 24), whom Satan is after deceiving. Poor dull Cbristians who are already listless, if not lifeless, the devil can afford to neglect. But as an angel of light he aims at the orthodox, keen and devoted; and you, as we, need the whole armour of God, with the piercing, discerning Sword. What we emphasise is that in this matter of Tongues we are not assured and satisfied that you are not deceived, and assured that you are not we can never really be so long as the Divinely appointed tests are not applied and passed.
As to your Tongues, there seems to he a contradiction; for while on the one hand they are emphasised and insisted upon as the test and touchstone of our having received the Holy Spirit, they are, on the other hand, pushed or put into the background as something less secret and esoteric than questionable. Apostolic speaking in Tongues was the means of converting multitudes of unsaved foreigners (for which outsiders Tongues were intended, 1 Cor. 14: 22), and, negatively, the 3,000 converts were not made to talk in Tongues; but these tests you Pentecostalists have simply inverted. For Tongues are useless to your missionaries, yet you encourage them in your proselytes. Tongues (though not, if true, to be forbidden) are the least and lowest of the miraculous Gifts - 1/20 of 1% of words with the understanding, says the inspired Apostle; and, especially if no interpreter be present, the easiest to counterfeit and be deceived by
Satan sends out ministers of righteousness - not unrighteousness, but righteousness, we are told. They can talk about God, quote Scripture, recommend the Lords servants and the way of salvation - as thev must be able to, if they are to deceive - take in and be taken in by the very elect, the cream of Christians. Blasphemy would not do, obscenity still less. They must be orthodox, earnest, zealous, able to cast out demons, to heal, to inspire, to prophesy in Christs name, to do many wonderful works. They disarm and attract rather than alarm and repel. Who then can tell them, detect them, expose them? How unmask those who wear no mask? How analyse their poisoned sweets, how fight their dope? How probe the unorthodoxy of the apparently quite orthodox? It just cannot be done, the disguise is too complete; so the unsuspecting are taken unawares, while the convinced and satisfied - the overcome - will heed no warning.
The God who has given us the tests and commanded their application will surely be more affronted if we refuse than if we use them. It is neither presumption nor blasphemy to use Gods own recommended safeguard, to make honest and reverent inquiry. Rank disobedience and wilful pride it is to refuse to test as God ordains. Otherwise you dear good people have an unprotected and vulnerable heel of Achilles. For you have steadily and studiedly failed and refused in this one vital thing. You have rejected a counsel of God against yourselves. This test alone is the key, proof and guarantee.
Prayer to-day is quite inadequate, we have no oracle to give reply; hence asking God is not His present way; nor is inventing our own questions and testings. By Johns day many deceivers and false prophets had gone Out into the world, and the result was uncertainty, confusion with to-day - a clear and clamant call for these critical tests (put not to the medium but to the speaking spirit):- Is Jesus Christ come (and coming) in the flesh? Silence, here, is denial. And on these points all untested spirits are allowed to be silent and therefore denying. Every spirit that confesseth NOT that Jesus Christ is come (1 John 4: 3) - and coming (2 John 7) - in the flesh is NOT OF GOD. Believe not every spirit. Have you tested your spirit, my brother, my sister? Have you given it (or him) the chance of the positive confirmatory reply? (1 John 4: 2). God gladly responds to His own gracious passwords, His friendly shibboleths; for these are the incarnation and bodily resurrection and return of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, our Saviour: passwords hateful however, and impossible, to the enemy. You believe these, of course ; but does your spirit?
Even in 1 Cor. 12: 1-4 (where it concerns less spiritual gifts than inspired people) there are tests not of the man, but of the spirit speaking through him under inspiration from above or from below. Of course, a good Christian (like yourself) would call Jesus Lord, but, a deceitful spirit speaking through him (and only a deceiving spirit could get into him, with its forged papers and false passports, so to speak), a deceiving spirit would refuse - and make his medium refuse - to reply when so addressed, refusing to call Jesus Lord, freezing into sullen silence.
Let your spirit confess Jesus as God manifest in the flesh in His own appointed way, and I am for you, and with you. Will you? Dare you? Dare you not? TRY THE SPIRITS, WHETHER THEY ARE OF GOD.