A.J. Gordon (1836-1895) came to prominence in the United States as the pastor of Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston for over 25 years. Under Gordon's leadership this church was described as "one of the most spiritual and aggressive in America". He became a favourite speaker in Dwight L. Moody's Northfield conventions and was a close friend of other famous evangelicals like A. B. Simpson, A.T. Pierson and R.A. Torrey.
He was a prolific writer but is most remembered for this book, The Ministry of Healing, which has been a much loved text book on the subject for more than a century.
We have included 4 of the 12 chapters.
Have there been any miracles since the days of the apostles? To this question the common answer has been, in our times at least, a decided no. A call recently put forth in one of our religious journals, asking the opinion of ministers, teachers and theological professors on this point was very largely answered and the respondents were well nigh unanimous in the opinion that the age of miracles passed away with the apostolic period. The statement contained in several of these replies gave evidence indeed that the question had never been deeply investigated by the witnesses. In some instances there was a perhaps unintentional evading of the issue by the question “What is a miracle?” But there were only one or two replies which gave countenance to the view, that miracles are possible in all ages and have appeared more or less numerously in every period of the Church’s history. If then the little book which we now send forth shall win any assent for its views, it will not do so in all probability because its sentiments accord with the opinion of the majority of the theologians of the day.
It is therefore no enviable task which we have undertaken. The demand of the times is rather in the contrary direction from that in which our conviction carries us. “The strongest requirement now pressing on the Church is for an adaptation of Christianity to the age,” — so we read not long since. How presumptuous it will look in the face of such an utterance for one to set his face squarely in the opposite direction, and insist that the greatest present demand is for the adaptation of the age to Christianity. And not that exactly for “this present evil age” can never be made to harmonize with a religion that is entirely heavenly in its origin, in its course and in its consummation. But we trust it will not be presumption to say that the Church in every direction needs to be re-shaped to the apostolic model and re-invested with her apostolic powers. For is it not apparent that between the indignant clamor of skeptics against primitive miracles, and the stem frowning of theologians upon any alleged modern miracles, the Lord’s people are in danger of being frightened out of their faith in the supernatural? We speak of what we have often noticed. A simple hearted believer comes into the assembly of the Church and details some remarkable answer to prayer — prayer for healing or prayer for deliverance, in response to which he alleges that God has wrought marvelously and then we notice the slowness and shyness with which Christians turn their ears to the story, and the glances of embarrassment amounting almost to shamefacedness which they cast towards the minister, as though appealing for rescue from the perilous neighborhood of fanaticism to which they have been drawn. This we have often observed, and on it we have pondered, and from it we have raised the question again and again, whether the Church has not drifted into an unseemly cautiousness concerning the miraculous. As a religion which is ritual is sure to put vestments on her ministers sooner or later, so a religion which is rational rather than spiritual, will be certain to put vestments on the Lord’s providences, insisting on their being draped in the habiliments of decent cause and effect, and attired in the surplice of natural law and order, lest God should “make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations.” “The world dislikes the recurrence of miracles.” Yes, without question. For the world which “by wisdom knew not God” is very jealous of everything which it cannot explain or reproduce. “A miracle is something very embarrassing to mock professors.” Doubtless for it brings such, uncomfortably near to God. Accustomed only to such manifestations of the Infinite as have been softened and assuaged by passing through the medium of the natural, they cannot bear this close proximity to the Cause of causes. “He that is near to me is near to the fire” is one of the sayings which apocrypha puts into the mouth of Christ. How shall they whose feet have never put off their shoes of rationalism and worldliness come near the burning bush, and into open vision of the “I am.”
But it is not worldlings and false professors alone that dislike miracles. Real, true hearted and sincere disciples are afraid of them and inclined to push away with quick impatience, any mention of their possible occurrence in our time. In most cases probably this aversion comes from a wholesome fear of fanaticism.
On which point permit us to observe — that fanaticism is in most instances simply the eccentric action of doctrines that have been loosened from their connection with the Christian system. Every truth needs the steadiness and equipoise which come from its being bound into harmony with all other truths. If the Church by her neglect or denial of any real doctrine of the faith thrusts that doctrine out into isolation and contempt, thus compelling it to become the property of some special sect she need not be surprised if it loses its balance. She has deprived it of the conserving influence which comes from contact and communion with other and central doctrines and so doomed it inevitably to irregular manifestations. If the whole body of Christians had been faithful to such truths as that of the second coming of Christ, and scriptural holiness, for example, we probably should never have heard of the fanaticism of adventism and perfectionism. Let a fragment be thrown off from the most orderly planet and it will whirl and rush through space till it is heated hot by its own momentum. It is nothing against a doctrine in our minds therefore that it has engendered fanaticism. One who studies the history of important religious revivals indeed must take quite an opposite view, and suspect that it is a proof of the vitality of the truth around which it has gathered.
Who that is acquainted with the religious movements led by Luther and Wesley and with the endless extravagances that followed in their wake does not see that in these instances the stir produced came from the writhing of wounded error rather than from the birth of falsehood, from the contortions of the strangled serpents around the cradle of a new Hercules come for reformation. So let us be less disturbed by the unaccustomed stir of truth than by the propriety of dead and decent error.
But we are offering no apology for fanaticism and providing no place for it in connection with the doctrine which we are defending. It need have no place. We believe in regeneration, the work in which God comes into immediate contact with the soul for its renewal. That is no less a miracle than healing in which God comes into immediate contact with the body for its recovery. In the one case there is a direct communication of the divine life to the spirit, which Neander calls “the standing miracle of the ages” in the other there is a direct communication of the divine health to the body which in the beginning was called “a miracle of healing.” An able writer has said, we believe with exact truth “You ask God to perform as real a miracle when you ask him to cure your soul of sin as you do when you ask him to cure your body of a fever.” * (Jellett Efficacy of Prayer Donnellan lectures, 1877, p. 43.) Yet who of us thinks of encouraging fanaticism by preaching and praying for man’s regeneration? Enthusiasm has often kindled about this truth indeed, when it has had to be revived after long neglect and denial, but not when it has been held in orderly, and recognized relation to other cardinal doctrines.
Very beautifully did one say of the sister of the poet Wordsworth, that “it was she who couched his eye to the beauties of nature.” More than anything else is it needed to-day that some one couch the eyes of Christians to the realities of the supernatural. Holden of unbelief, filmed with suspicion and distrust, how many of the Lord’s truest servants would be unable to discern his hand if he were to put it forth in miracles. It is not easy for those whose daily bread has always been forthcoming, with no occasion for the raven’s ministration to believe in miraculous feeding. The eyes that “stand out with fatness” would be the last ones to catch sight of the angels if they should chance to be sent with bread to some starving disciple. To whom saith the Lord “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see?” Is it not to those that say “I am rich and increased in goods and in need of nothing?” If then we protest that we do not see what others claim to have witnessed of the Lord’s out-stretched hand, it may be because of a Laodicean self-satisfaction into which we have fallen. When shall we learn that “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him” most deeply, and not of necessity with those who have studied the doctrines most deeply. And so if the eyes long unused to any sight of the Lord’s wonder-working are to be couched to the realities of the supernatural, it may be some very humble agent that shall perform the work, some saintly Dorothea of Mannedorf at whose feet theologians sit to learn things which their utmost wisdom had failed to grasp, or some Catharine of Siena who speaks to learned ecclesiastics with such depth of insight that they exclaim with astonishment “never man spoke like this woman.” In other words let us not be too reluctant to admit that some of God’s children in sore poverty and trial and distress, and with the keener faith which such conditions have developed may have had dealings with God of which we know nothing. At all events be not angry, Oh ye wise and prudent, at those Christians of simple faith, who believe with strong confidence that they have had the Saviour’s healing touch laid upon them.
Nor should we unwittingly limit the Lord by our too confident theories about the cessation of miracles. The rationalist jealous of any suggestion that God in these days may cross the boundary line that divides the natural from the supernatural cries out against “the dogma of divine interference” as he names it. The traditionalist viewing with equal jealousy any notion that the Lord may pass the line that separates the apostolic from the post-apostolic age, and still act in his office of miracle working sounds the cry of fanaticism. But what if some meantime should begin to talk about “the crown rights of Immanuel” as the old Covenanters did, insisting on his prerogative to work what he will, and when he will and how he will, without our compelling it to be said of us and of our century that “he could not do many mighty works among them because of their unbelief?” Certainly the time has come for us to make use of all the divine assistance that is within our reach. If there are any residuary legacies of power and privilege accruing to us since the fathers fell asleep, and yet remaining unclaimed, every consideration is pressing us to come forward and take possession of them. For observe what confessions of weakness our Protestant Churches are unconsciously putting forth on every hand. Note the dependence which is placed on artistic music, on expensive edifices, on culture and eloquence in the pulpit on literary and social entertainments for drawing in the people, and on fairs and festivals for paying expenses. Hear the reports that come in at any annual convention of Churches, of the new organs and frescoings and furnishings, and of the — not saints’ festivals — but strawberry festivals and ice cream festivals and flower festivals and the large results therefrom accruing. And all this from Churches that count themselves to be the body of Christ and the habitation of God through the Spirit! Is not this an infinite descent from the primitive records of power and success — the Lord “confirming the word with signs following,” and the preaching which was “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power?”
How deeply we need the demonstration of the Spirit in these days! We have not utterly lost it indeed. When men are renewed by the Holy Ghost, and give the world the exhibition of a life utterly and instantly transformed, that is a master stroke for our divine religion. “And that is all we want,” most will say. But did such ever witness an instance of a drunkard cured in a moment of enslaving appetite by the prayer of faith the opium habit which had baffled for years every device of the physicians broken and utterly eradicated by the direct energy of God’s spirit the consumptive brought back from the edge of the grave, or the blind made to see by the same power, after long years of darkness — and the glowing love, the exultant thankfulness, the fervid consecration which almost invariably follow such gracious deliverances? If they have not, they have not witnessed a sight that has within our own time and knowledge extorted conviction from the most reluctant witnesses.
These are some of the practical bearings of the question before us.
It is not our purpose in this volume to define a miracle any further than we have already done so. For the definitions generally given are widely variant and it is easy for a disputant to evade facts by entrenching himself behind a definition. We prefer rather to appeal to specimens of acknowledged miracles and then to press the question whether there have been any like them in modem days. It is written in the Acts of the Apostles as follows. “And 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.” * (Acts 28 8.) This is conceded, we suppose to be a miracle of healing. Has anything of the same sort occurred in the Church since the days of the apostles?
Again it is written in the same book
“And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple Who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, silver and gold have I none but such as I have give I thee In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”
This transaction is expressly called a “miracle of healing” in the same scripture. Has there been any recurrence of such a miracle since the time of Christ’s immediate disciples? It has been our purpose in preparing the present volume to let the history of the Church of all ages answer to the teaching of scripture on this question without presuming to dogmatize upon it ourselves.
One who has not committed himself on this subject, as it was the fortune of the writer to do a year ago in a little tract called “the Ministry of Healing” has several things to learn. First that there is a sensitiveness amounting often to extreme irritability towards any who venture to disturb the traditional view of this question. Credulity is sure to get more censure than honest doubt and while one may with impunity fall behind the accepted standard of faith concerning the supernatural, provided he does it in a regretfully necessitous spirit, it is hardly safe for one to go beyond that standard. Thus a little experience has made us aware of the peril to which we have exposed ourselves of being sorely shot at by the theological archers. But being defamed we still entreat our critics to deal kindly and candidly with us since we desire naught but the furtherance of the truth.
But in another way one has a real advantage who has published his views on such a question. His communication puts him ‘en rapport’ with those like-minded, and opens to him sources of information which he could not otherwise have had. It has been an occasion of no little surprise to us to learn how widely the minds of Christians of all names and countries are exercised upon this subject. Information to this effect has come to us not only in the constant testimonies from humble Christians who bear witness to what God has wrought in their own bodies but also from pastors and evangelists and bible readers and foreign missionaries and in one instance from a theological professor expressing their strong assent to the view which is herein set forth. We are well aware indeed that it is not a question of human opinion, but of scriptural testimony. On the word of God therefore we wish our argument to lean its heaviest weight. The witnesses which we have brought forward from the Church of all the ages, have been summoned only that they may corroborate this word. May the Lord graciously use whatever of truth there may be in this volume for the comfort and blessing of his children may he mercifully pardon whatever of error or forwardness of opinion it may contain And if by his blessing and furtherance our words should bring a ray of hope to any who are sick, let not those who are “whole” and who “need not a physician,” unreasonably grudge their suffering and afflicted brethren this boon of comfort.
In the atonement of Christ there seems to be a foundation laid for faith in bodily healing. Seems — we say, for the passage to which we refer is so profound and un-searchable in its meaning that one would be very careful not to speak dogmatically in regard to it. But it is at least a deep and suggestive truth that we have Christ set before us as the sickness-bearer as well as the sin-bearer of his people. In the gospel it is written, “And he cast out devils and healed all that were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses. * (Matt. 8:17.) Something more than sympathetic fellowship with our sufferings is evidently referred to here. The yoke of his cross by which he lifted our iniquities took hold also of our diseases so that it is in some sense true that as God “made him to be sin for us who knew no sin,” so he made him to be sick for us who knew no sickness. He who entered into mysterious sympathy with our pain which is the fruit of sin, also put himself underneath our pain which is the penalty of sin. In other words the passage seems to teach that Christ endured vicariously our diseases as well as our iniquities. * (* Dr. Hovey commenting on this passage says “The words quoted by the evangelist are descriptive in the original passage of vicarious suffering. It is next to impossible to understand them otherwise. Hence in the miraculous healing of disease, a fruit if not a penalty of sin, Jesus appears to have had a full sense of the evil and pain which he removed. His anguish in the garden and on the cross was but the culmination of that which he felt almost daily while healing the sick, cleansing the leprous or forgiving the penitent. By the holy sharpness of his vision he pierced quite through the veil of sense and natural cause, and saw the moral evil, the black root of all disorder, the source of all bodily suffering. He could therefore heal neither bodily nor spiritual disease without a deep consciousness of his special relation to man as the substitute, the Redeemer, the Lamb of God who was to bear the penalty of the world’s guilt” The Miracles of Christ, p. 120.)
If now it be true that our Redeemer and substitute bore our sicknesses, it would be natural to reason at once that he bore them that we might not bear them. And this inference is especially strengthened from the fact, that when the Lord Jesus removed the burden of disease from “all that were sick,” we are told that it was done “that the scripture might be fulfilled, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.” Let us remember what our theology is in regard to atonement for sin. “Christ bore your sins, that you might be delivered from them,” we say to the penitent. Not sympathy — a suffering with, but substitution — a suffering for, is our doctrine of the Cross and therefore we urge the transgressor to accept the Lord Jesus as his sin-bearer, that he may himself no longer have to bear the pains and penalties of his disobedience. But should we shrink utterly from reasoning thus concerning Christ as our pain-bearer? We do so argue to some extent at least. For we hold that in its ultimate consequences the atonement affects the body as well as the soul of man. Sanctification is the consummation of Christ’s redemptive work for the soul and resurrection is the consummation of his redemptive work for the body. And these meet and are fulfilled at the coming and kingdom of Christ.
But there is a vast intermediate work of cleansing and renewal effected for the soul. Is there none of healing and recovery for the body? Here, to make it plain? is the Cross of Christ yonder is the Coming of Christ. These are the two piers of redemption, spanned by the entire dispensation of the Spirit and by all the ordinances and offices of the gospel. At the cross we read this two-fold declaration:-
“Who his own self bare our sins.”
“Himself bare our sicknesses.”
At the coming we find this two-fold work promised —
“The sanctification of the Spirit.”
“The redemption of the body.”
The work of sanctification for the spirit stretches on from the cross to the crown, progressive and increasing till it is completed. Does the work of the body’s redemption touch only at these two remote points? Has the gospel no office of healing and blessing to proclaim meantime for the physical part of man’s nature? In answering this question we only make the following suggestions, which point significantly in one direction.
Christ’s ministry was a two-fold ministry, effecting constantly the souls and the bodies of men. “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” and “Be whole of thy plague,” are parallel announcements of the Saviour’s work which are found constantly running an side by side.
The ministry of the apostles, under the guidance of the Comforter, is the exact facsimile of the Master’s. Preaching the kingdom and healing the sick redemption for the soul and deliverance for the body — these are its great offices and announcements. Certain great promises of the gospel have this double reference to pardon and cure. The commission for the world’s evangelization bids its messengers stretch out their hands to the sinner with the message, “He that believeth shall be saved,” and to “lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. The promise by James, concerning the prayer of faith, is that it “shall save the sick, and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him.” Thus this two-fold ministry of remission of sins and remission of sickness extends through the days of Christ and that of the apostles.
We only suggest these facts, leaving the example and acts and promises of the Lord and his apostles to stretch out their silent index in the direction which our argument will obediently pursue throughout this discussion.
Only one other fact need be alluded to — the subtle, mysterious, and clearly recognized relation of sin and disease. The ghastly flag of leprosy, flung out in the face of Miriam, told instantly that the pirate sin had captured her heart. Not less truly did the crimson glow of health announce her forgiveness when afterwards the Lord had pardoned her and restored her to his fellowship. And it is obvious at once that our Redeemer cannot forgive and eradicate sin without in the same act disentangling the roots which that sin has struck into our mortal bodies.
He is the second Adam come to repair the ruin of the first. And in order to accomplish this he will follow the lines of man’s transgression back to their origin, and forward to their remotest issue. He will pursue the serpent trail of sin, dispensing his forgiveness and compassion as he goes, till at last he finds the wages of sin, and dies its death on the cross and he will follow the wretched track of disease with his healing and recovery, till in his resurrection he shall exhibit to the world the first fruits of these redeemed bodies, in which “this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality.”
From this mysterious and solemn doctrine of the gospel, let us turn now to some of its clear and explicit promises.
We will take first the words of the gospel according to Mark “These signs shall follow them that believe in my name shall they cast out devils they shall speak with other tongues they shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them they shall lay their hands’ on the sick and they shall recover.” * (Mark XVI 17,18.)
It is important to observe that this rich cluster of miraculous promises all hangs by a single stem, faith. And this is not some exclusive, or esoteric faith. The same believing to which is attached the promise of salvation, has joined to it also the promise of miraculous working. Nor is there any ground for limiting this promise to apostolic times and apostolic men, as has been so violently attempted. The links of the covenant are very securely forged, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” in any and every age of the Christian dispensation. So with one consent the church has interpreted the words, “And these signs shall follow them that believe,” in every generation and period of the church’s history — so the language compels us to conclude.
And let us not unbraid this two-fold cord of promise, holding fast to the first strand because we know how to use it, and flinging the other back to the apostles because we know not how to use it. When our Lord gives command to the twelve, as he sends them forth, “to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of diseases,” we might conclude that this was an apostolic commission, and one which we could not be warranted in applying to ourselves. But here the promise is not only to the apostles, but to those who should believe on Christ through the word of these apostles or as Bullinger the Reformer very neatly puts it in his comment on the passage, to “both the Lord’s disciples and the disciples of the Lord’s disciples.” * (“Et discipuli Domini, et discipulorum Domini discipuli.” And to show his belief in the fulfillment of the promise, Bullinger adds, “to this the Acts of the Apostles bear witness. Ecclesiastical history bears witness to the same. Lastly, the present time bear witness wherein through confidence is the name of Christ numbers greatly afflicted and shattered with disease are restored afresh to health.”)
Whatever practical difficulties we may have in regard to the fulfillment of this word, these ought not to lead us to limit it where the Lord has not limited it. For if reason or tradition throws one half of this lustrious promise into eclipse, the danger is that the other half may become involved. Indeed we shall not soon forget the cogency with which we heard a skilful skeptic use this text against one who held the common opinion concerning it. Urged to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” that he might be saved, he answered “How can I be sure that this part of the promise will be kept with me, when, as you admit, the other part is not kept with the church of to-day?” And certainly, standing on the traditional ground, one must be dumb before such reasoning. The only safe position is to assert emphatically the perpetuity of the promise, and with the same emphasis to admit the general weakness and failure of the church’s faith in appropriating it. * (“The reason why many miracles are not now wrought is not so much because faith is established, as that unbelief reigns.” Bengel.) For who does not see that a confession of human inability is a far safer and more rational refuge for the Christian than an implication of the divine changeableness and limitation. There is a phrase of the apostle Paul which has always struck us as containing marvelous keenness and wisdom if not covert irony — “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh.” The law must not be impugned by even a suspicion “the law of the Lord is perfect.” But there has been utter failure under its working — the perfection which it requires has not appeared. Rashly and dangerously, it would seem, the apostle has arraigned the law, telling us what it “could not do” and wherein it was “weak” — and then, having brought us to the perilous edge of disloyalty, he suddenly turns and puts the whole fault on us where it belongs — “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh.” The one weak spot in the law is human nature there is where the break is sure to come there is where the fault is sure to lie. In like manner this great promise, with which Christ’s commission is enriched and authenticated, has failed only through our unbelief. It is weak through the weakness of our faith, and inoperative through lack of our co-operating obedience. * (‘It is the want of faith in our age which is the greatest hindrance to the stronger and more marked appearance of that miraculous power which is working here and there in quiet concealment. Unbelief is the final and most important reason for the retrogression of miracles.” — Christlieb’s Modern Doubts, p. 336.) We believe therefore that whatever difficulties there may be in us, there is but one attitude for us to take as expounders of the scripture, that of unqualified assent.
The treatment which the commentator Stier gives to this passage is truly refreshing. It is a brawny Saxon exegesis laying hold of a text, to cling to it, not to cull from it to crown it with an amen! not to condition it with a date. For he puts the two sayings side by side and bids us look at them.“ He that believeth shall be saved “Them that believe these signs shall follow.” And then he gives us these strong words. “Both the one and the other apply to ourselves down to the present day and indeed for all future time. Every one applies the first part of the saying to ourselves teaching everywhere that faith and baptism are necessary in all ages to salvation, and that unbelief in all ages excludes from it. But what right has any to separate the words that Jesus immediately added from his former words? Where is it said that these former words have reference to all men and all Christians, but that the promised signs which should follow those who believe referred solely to the Christians of the first age? What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
It should be observed however, that while the same word is employed in both clauses of this text, there is a change in number from the singular to the plural form. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The promise of eternal life is to personal faith, and to every individual on the ground of his faith. “Them that believe, these signs shall follow.” The promise of miracles is to the faithful as a body. The church has come into existence so soon as any have believed and been baptized and thus this guarantee of miraculous signs seems to be to the church in its corporate capacity. “Are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues?” asks the apostle. Nay, but some employ these offices, so that the gifts are found in the church as a whole. For the church is “the body of Christ,” and to vindicate its oneness with the Head it shall do the things which he did, as well as speak the words which he spake. How significant the place where this promise is found! It was given just as the Lord was to be received up into heaven to become “Head over all things to his church.” It is Elijah’s mantle let fall upon Elisha so that having this, the disciple can repeat the miracles of the Master. Oh timid church, praying for a “double portion of the Spirit” of the ascending prophet and having his promise “greater works than these shall ye do, because I go to my Father,” and yet afraid to claim even a fragment of his miracle working power! We conclude therefore that this text teaches that the miraculous gifts were bestowed to abide in the church to the end, though not that every believer should be endowed with them.
This promise given in Mark emerges in performance in the Acts of the Apostles. But it is significant and to be carefully observed, that the miraculous gifts are not found exclusively in the hands of the Apostles. Stephen and Philip and Barnabas, exercised them. These did not belong to the twelve, to that special and separated body of disciples with whom it has been said, that the gifts were intended to remain. It was not Stephen an apostle, but “Stephen a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost —” “Stephen full of faith and power” that “did great wonders and miracles among the people.” * (Acts VI 5, 8.) We in these days cannot be apostles but we are commanded to be “filled with the Spirit,” and therefore are at least required and enjoined to have Stephen’s qualifications. According to the teaching in Corinthians it is as members of Christ’s body and partakers of his Spirit, that we receive these truths. * (“You say that Christ Jesus and his Apostles and Messengers were endued with power from on high not only to preach the word for conversion but also with power of casting out Devils and healing bodily diseases. I answer, as an holy witness of Christ Jesus once answered a Bishop. ‘I am a member of Chris Jesus as well as Peter himself.’ The least Believer and Follower of Jesus partakes of the nature and spirit of Him their holy head and husband as well as the strongest and holiest that ever died or suffered for his holy name.” RoGer WILLIAMS’ Experiments of spiritual Life and Health, 1652)
We come now to consider the promise in James V 14, 15. “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church and let them pray over him anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him.”
Now let us note the presumption there is that this passage refers to an established and perpetual usage in the Church.
That command in the great commission — “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” appears in the Acts of the apostles in constant exercise and in the letters of the Apostles as explained unfolded and enforced. * (Rom. VI 3,4., Col. II 12., I Pet. III 21)
The injunction given at the institution of the supper “This do in remembrance of me,” appears in the Acts of the Apostles in constant exercise and in the letters of the apostles as explained and unfolded, and enforced. * (Acts II 46., I Cor. X 11.)
The promise given also in the great commission, “They shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall recover,” appears in the Acts of the Apostles in constant exercise, and in the letters of the apostles as explained, unfolded and enforced. * (I Cor. XII 29., James V 14, 15.) Thus this office like the great ordinances of Christianity rests on the three-fold support of promise and practice and precept. And we cannot too strongly emphasize this fact that what was given by our Lord in promise before his ascension should appear as an established usage in the church after his ascension. For we all insist that the church of the apostles was the model for all time. When we are called “followers of the Lord,” we might rightly protest that though his followers, we surely could not be expected to walk in his steps as he enters the field of the miraculous. When we hear Paul saying “Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ” we might well insist that we could not imitate him in working wonders since he is an apostle and we only humble disciples. But when we read “For ye brethren became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ” we say “Yes! in every point and punctilio. For these are the pattern for all churches in all time.” So we all hold and teach. We believe that there is nothing in all the ordering and furniture of the church which was present in the beginning which should be absent now. And if we rejoice in having the laver and the bread of the ordinances, the ministry of the word and prayer not the less should we willingly be without the primitive miraculous gifts which were like the Shechinah glory, the outward visible signs of God’s presence among his people.
To return now to the text which we are considering. Here is the calling for the elders of the church — a voluntary appeal to the ministry and intercessions of the servants of God. Oil is applied as a symbol of the communication of the Spirit, by whose power healing is effected. It does not seem reasonable to suppose, that it is used for its medicinal properties. Because observe, it is the elders of the church, not the doctors of physic, who are called to apply it and it is accompanied by prayer, not by manipulations and medications. As in Baptism the disciple confesses his faith in the cleansing power of Christ’s atonement, by the use of water or, as in the Communion he declares his dependence on Christ for spiritual sustenance, by the use of bread so here he avows his faith in the saving health of the Spirit by the use of oil. * (Lange commenting on Mark vi 13 “And they anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them,” says that oil here is “simply a symbolic medium of the miraculous work” and that “the anointing was a symbol of the bestowment of the spirit as a preliminary condition of healing.”) In other words, this whole ceremony is a kind of sacramental profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Divine Physician acting through the Holy Ghost. Such public profession of faith in Christ as the Healer the Lord seems rigidly to require, just as he demands baptism as a confession of faith in him as the Redeemer. Neither in the forgiveness of sin nor in the remission of sickness will he permit a clandestine blessing. There are many who would gladly secure his healing virtue by stealth, laying hold of it secretly, but avoiding the publicity and possible reproach of having applied to such a physician. But this cannot be. The Lord will have an open acknowledgment of our faith. It will be remembered that from the woman whom he healed of an issue of blood, he drew forth a public confession before he pronounced that full and authoritative absolution from sickness, * (“Therefore when she held her peace trusting that she might still be undescryed, he looked round about upon the people. This looking about was a gesture of him that courteously required a confession of the benefit receyved. He would not utter her by name, lest he should have seemed to hit her in the teeth with the good turn he did her. It was a pricke or provocation given to make her to put away that unprofitable shamefasteness and to wryng out of her a holesome confession.’ — Thomas Key.) “go in peace and be whole of thy plague.”
The promise of recovery is explicit and unconditional — “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up and if he have committed sins they shall be forgiven him.” Doubtless the words “prayer of faith” should be strongly emphasized. It is the intercession accompanied by the special miraculous faith alluded to in the scriptures as “the gift of faith,” and “the gift of healing” — a faith which we believe to be not wanting in this age, though comparatively so rare. And the words which Bengel italicizes in his Commentary ought to be strongly marked — “ Let them use oil who are able by their prayers to obtain recovery for the sick let those who cannot do this abstain from the empty sign.” If the peculiar miraculous faith of which we speak had utterly disappeared from the church, then it would certainly be best that the usage of anointing should be wanting also, rather than continue as a hollow sign, or as in the extreme unction of the church of Rome, a standing sacramental confession of inability to render any help to the diseased.
But we are persuaded better things than this. We believe that there are those in our own time who have humbly sought, and manifestly obtained this gift of prevailing faith. If the larger majority of Christians, either through wrong teaching or indifference have willingly consented to surrender this primitive birth-right of the church, and have learned to say without emotion to the sick, that lie at their doors “thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous, there is none to plead thy cause that thou mayest be bound up” there are some who are more jealous for the Lord’s honor in this matter. Because they believe that the miraculous gifts are for all ages, they have thought it not covetous to seek them for themselves — and yet not for themselves, but that through them the Lord might still show forth his glory. And why should it be thought a thing incredible that they may have obtained what they sought? In the old dispensation were miracles of healing shut up within some narrow and special age? Run through the list and see — Abraham healing Abimelech and his household by his prayers to God Moses crying unto God for Miriam, “Heal her now, O God I beseech thee,” and the Lord, answering with the promise that after seven days her leprosy should depart God’s cure of the bitten Israelites in answer to Moses’ prayer, and through a look of faith at the brazen serpent Naaman the Syrian recovered of his leprosy by the faith of Elisha Hezekiah raised up from his death bed in answer to prayer and his life lengthened out fifteen years, and other instances which we have not space to refer to. These miracles of healing were not confined to the opening of a dispensation, but belonged to its entire history. Indeed intercession for healing was a part of the very ritual of Jewish worship and its answer a part of God’s explicit covenant with his people. Hear Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple. “Whatsoever sore, or whatsoever sickness there be then what prayer, or what supplication so ever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, then hear Thou from heaven, Thy dwelling-place, and forgive.” * (2 Chron. VI 28-30.) And hear God’s promise in reference to this same matter. “I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication that thou hast made before me I have hallowed this house to put my name there forever.” * (I Kings IX 3.) “If I shut up heaven, or if I send pestilence among my people if my people humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” * (2 Chron. VII 13, 14.) Here is a broad promise conditioned indeed by the repentance and faith of the people of Israel, but fenced by no statute of limitations, shutting up God’s mercies within a certain miraculous era. And we know from the history of prophets and saints how constantly this promise opened to the key of faith and poured forth its treasures. This under the old covenant! How much greater things might we expect under the new, after that the Lord had ascended up on high and given gifts to men — the Comforter the greatest and supreme gift to abide perpetually in the church and with him and through him, “miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”
It is comparatively easy indeed to credit miracles in these olden times of patriarchs and prophets, because of the enchantment of distance and the halo of superior sanctity through which the men of these times are seen. But antiquity has no monopoly of God’s gifts, and ancient men as such had no entrée into God’s treasure house which is denied to us. How very significantly James enforces the doctrine, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” After the exhortation, “pray one for another that ye may be healed” — as though reading the thoughts which might come into our minds, of the superior faith of prophets and the higher privilege of apostles the Spirit adds, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are —” Not some privileged courtier of the King of kings, not some high and titled chancellor of the exchequer of heaven having rights of access and intercourse with God of which we know nothing — “and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain and it rained not on the earth for the space of three years and six months, and he prayed again and the heavens gave rain and the earth brought forth her fruit.” If he could shut and open heaven, not the less can you the children of to-day, since he is a brother and kinsman in the same bonds of frailty, and fear, and also a son and disciple of “the same Lord over all who is rich unto all that call upon him.”
Such is the Spirit’s practical enforcement of this great promise of healing. How much we need to ponder it! How much we need to relearn the truth, that, though Christ who heard the cry of the suffering and touched them with healing, has gone far off “above all heavens,” and ages have been added to his eternal years “whose goings forth have been of old from everlasting,” still “his hand is not shortened that it cannot save neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear.”
“Nowise contrary to scripture and very agreeable to reason” is the opinion with which Archbishop Tillotson closes his observations on the recurrence of Christian miracles in modern times.
It may be asked, what reason has to do with such a question. Nothing except as corroborating the testimony of faith. Miracles have not been generally defended on the ground of their intrinsic reasonableness, but on that of their scriptural authority and that in us which first assents to their reality is not so much the logical mind as the docile heart — “the heart proffering itself by humiliation to inspiration” as Pascal expresses it. And yet we hold that to believe in miracles is reasonable, after it is faithful. That supreme miracle, the resurrection of our Lord was first credited and published by loving and devoted believers but it has since been defended again and again by Christian philosophers. So then, reason is not forbidden to look into the empty tomb and see the folded grave clothes and therefrom to conclude that Christ is risen, only she must be accompanied by faith and not be surprised if faith like that “other disciple” shall outrun her and come first to the sepulchre. * (John XX 4.)
Believing miracles to have existed in the days of Christ and the Apostles, is it reasonable to conclude that they may have continued to exist until our own time? It seems to us that it is.
For in the first place if they should cease they would form quite a distinct exception to every thing else which the Lord introduced by his ministry. The doctrines which he promulgated and which his apostles preached, atonement, justification, sanctification and redemption, have never been abrogated or modified. The ordinances which he enjoined, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, have never been repealed. The divine operations in the soul, which he ordained for man’s recovery from the fall, “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost” have never been suspended. These belong to the dispensation of Grace which Jesus Christ introduced and which is to span the whole period between his first and his second advents. All orthodox Christians hold them to be perpetual and unchangable.
And not only so, there was to be a development of these doctrines and operations of Christianity under the administration of the Spirit, so that the stream which started with Christ’s ministry was to widen and deepen under the ministry of those who should come after him. “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now, howbeit when he the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth” — an enlargement of knowledge and a development of doctrine under the ministry of the Comforter rather than a decrease!
“Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do because I go unto my Father —” * (John 14:12; 16:13) a reinforcement of power for service rather than an abatement! And all intelligent Christians admit that these promises were fulfilled in the wider unfolding of truth and the more extensive work of regeneration which have occurred under the administration of the Spirit.
The law of Christianity is from less to greater and not from greater to less. “Of all that Jesus began both to do and teach until the day in which he was taken up” are the significant words with which the Acts of the Apostles opens and as the beginnings are less than the unfoldings, we may conclude that the Lord was to do more through the Spirit’s ministry than through his own. And so far as works of regeneration and salvation are concerned this undoubtedly proved true and is proving just as true to-day. The conversion of three thousand souls in a single day under Peter’s preaching surpasses any thing which occurred in the earthly ministry of Christ and the conversion of ten thousand in a year on a single mission field in India, also surpasses the results of any single year in the Saviour’s ministry.
Now as the “Works” of Christ are among the things which He “began to do,” miracles of healing stood side by side with miracles of regeneration and therefore we say that the theory of the “gradual cessation” of miracles contradicts all analogy. We have read of certain South African rivers which instead of beginning as tiny brooks and flowing on deepening and widening as they go, burst out from prolific springs and then become shallower and shallower as they flow on until they are lost in the wastes of sand without ever reaching the sea. Two streams of blessings started from the personal ministry of our Lord, a stream of healing and a stream of regeneration the one for the recovery of the body and the other for the recovery of the soul, and these two flowed on side by side through the apostolic age. Is it quite reasonable to suppose that the purpose of God was that one should run on through the whole dispensation of the Spirit and that the other should fade away and utterly disappear within a single generation? We cannot think so.
If miracles were abnormal manifestations of divine power, against nature as well as above nature they might indeed be expected to cease for the abnormal is not as a rule perpetual. The earthquakes and volcanoes, nature’s agues and fever fits are soon over but the sunshine and the rain, the breezes and the blossoms, nature’s tokens of health are perennial. And miracles of healing are manifestations of nature’s perfect health and wholeness, lucid intervals granted to our deranged and suffering humanity. They are not catastrophes, but exhibitions of that divine order which shall be brought in when our redemption is completed. We cannot for a moment admit the complaint of skeptics that miracles are an infraction of the laws of nature. Alas! for them that they have so lost their ear for harmony that they cannot distinguish earth’s wail from Heaven’s Alleluia and know not the difference between the groans of a suffering creation and the music of the spheres, as it was on that day when “the morning stars sung together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” Miracles of healing and dispossession are reminiscences of an unfallen Paradise and prophecies of a Paradise regained. Though we call them supernatural, they are not contranatural. “For surely” as one has said, “it is plainly contrary to nature and indeed most unnatural that one should have eyes and not see, ears and not hear, organs of speech and not speak, and limbs without the power to use them but not that a Saviour should come and loose his fetters. It was contrary to nature that ruthless death should sever the bands of love which God himself has knit between mother and son, between brother and sister but not that a young man of Nain or a Lazarus should be released from the fetters of death through a mighty word!
And that was the climax of the unnatural that the world should nail the only righteous one to the cross but not that the holy bearer of that cross should conquer undeserved death, should rise and victoriously enter into his glory.” * (Christlieb.)
If then miracles of healing are exhibitions of divine recovery and order in nature and not rude irruption’s of disorder, why having been once begun should they entirely cease? We are under the dispensation of the Spirit which we hold to be an unchangable dispensation so long as it shall continue. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was installed in office to abide in the church perpetually. Exactly as the first disciples were under the personal ministry of Christ we are under the personal ministry of the Comforter. Having begun his miracles at Cana of Galilee, Jesus never permanently suspended them. His last gracious act before he was delivered into the hands of wicked men was to stretch forth his hand and heal the ear of the high priest’s servant. And having wrought the first notable miracle after Pentecost by the hand of Peter at “the Beautiful gate” why should the Holy Ghost in a little while cease from his miraculous works? We know that the Lord “Did not many mighty works” in a certain place “because of their unbelief” and that the place where he was thus hindered was “in his own country and in his own house.” But we know not that he would not do mighty works in any place if faith were present and were it not a simpler solution of this whole question to say that possibly Christ through the Holy Ghost will not do many miracles to-day on account of man’s unbelief, than to say that he ‘wills not’ to do them?
Then again the use which was made of miracles of healing as signs seems to argue strongly for their permanency.
If the substance remains unchanged why should the sign which was originally chosen to exhibit it be superseded?
It is said, indeed, with some show of reasonableness, that Christianity being a spiritual system, physical miracles were but the staging employed for the erection of that system, destined to fall away and disappear so soon as it should be completed. That certainly might be so. But how do we regard the argument of those who have reasoned precisely thus about the ordinances of Christianity? The Friends and other bodies of religionists have said that the rites of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are too physical to be perpetuated in connection with a spiritual religion that whatever place they may have had in the founding of Christianity they are not demanded for its continuance. To which we reply at once — first, that they constitute a vivid sign and picture-writing of the great foundation facts of Christianity, the death and resurrection of our Lord that they are a pledge and earnest of those great things to come at the resurrection of the just and the marriage supper of the Lamb, and that by the constant and glowing appeal which they make to the senses, they tend to keep these facts in perpetual remembrance and, secondly, that however we may reason about it, these are ordinances, established for continual observance by the Lord until he come, and therefore we are forbidden to terminate them. This reasoning would be accepted, doubtless, as sound by all orthodox believers. But we can argue in precisely the same way about the “signs” which attested the first preaching of the Gospel. In the great commission we have them solemnly established as the accompaniments of preaching and believing the Gospel. In James’ epistle we find healing recognized as an ordinance, just as in Paul’s epistles to the Romans and to the Corinthians we find Baptism and the Supper recognized as ordinances. As signs they could never loose their significance till the Lord comes again they pointed upward and told the world that Christ who had been crucified was alive and on the throne they pointed forward and declared that he would come again arid subdue all things unto himself. This last we believe to be the chief testimony of miracles as signs They were given to be witnesses to the “restitution of all things” which Christ shall accomplish at his coming and Kingdom. For notice how invariably our Lord joins the commandment to heal the sick and to cast out devils with the commission to preach the Kingdom, thus “Jesus went about preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease amongst the people.” “And as ye go preach, saying the Kingdom of Heaven is as hand. Heal the sick cleanse the lepers raise the dead cast out devils.” * (Matt 4:23. Matt 10 &, read also Luke 9:1 and 10:9.) Healing and resurrection and the casting out of demons were a kind of first fruits of the Kingdom, to be presented along with its announcement. As, to use a familiar illustration, the commercial traveller carries samples of his goods as he goes forth soliciting trade, the Lord would have his ministers carry specimens and tokens of the Kingdom in their hands as they went forth to preach that Kingdom. * (“The devil is said to be he who has the power of death he is the author of death, its introduced sin into the world, and through sin death and as he is the author of death, so he is the author of disease, which is just a form of death, and which, as well as death, is the work of the devil. And, therefore, Jesus while he was upon the earth healed the sick and raised the dead, not merely to typify a spiritual healing and quickening, but to prove that he was indeed the promised Deliverer by destroying the works of the devil, and also to give a fore-taste and a shadow of the ultimate effect of his redemption upon the whole man, body and soul. And thus we find in the New Testament that the healing of the sick and the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom are almost always co-joined, and are so spoken of as though they meant the same, thing.” — Thos Erskine, Brazen Serpent, p. 272.)
This seems to be what is referred to in that picture of the groaning creation which we find in the eighth chapter of Romans “But ourselves, also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption to wit the redemption of the body.” * (Romans 8 33). As though it were said we have witnessed the works of the Spirit in healing the body of its sicknesses, in dispossessing it of the evil spirit, in quickening it from the power of death and this makes us long only the more for that crowning and con summated work of the Spirit, of which these things are but an earnest when “he that raised up Jesus from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” These signs were the fore-tokens of the body’s redemption which the Lord at the first bade his messengers carry with them as they went forth preaching Jesus and the resurrection. Even dumb, suffering nature would be made glad by the sight of them. Goethe beautifully says, “Often have I had the sensation as if nature in wailing sadness entreated something of me, so that not to understand what she longed for cut me to the heart.” But we understand what she longs for, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.” And they who “have tasted the powers of the world to come” were bidden to go forth and preach the Kingdom, bearing in their hands the grapes of Eschol, which they have brought from that Kingdom, that they may show what a goodly land that is where “The inhabitant shall no more say I am sick.” Thus, not only our wounded and pain-stricken humanity shall be cheered with the hope of better things, but even dumb nature shall be comforted by these fore-gleams of that millennium wherein “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” * (“Sickness is sin apparent in the body, the presentiment of death, the forerunner of corruption. Disease of every kind is mortality begun. Now, as Christ came to destroy death, and will yet redeem the body from the bondage of corruption, if the Church is to have a first-fruits or earnest of this power it must be by receiving power over diseases which are the first fruits and earnest of death.” Edward Irving. Works. V. p. 464.)
Now why, if these credentials were so rigidly attached to the first preaching of the Kingdom, should they utterly disappear from its later proclamation? There is the same groaning of creation to be answered the same coming of the King to be announced the same unrepealed commission of the Master to be carried out The answer given by the majority to this question is “Signs are no longer needed.” If reason can be satisfied with this answer, faith cannot. For “faith has its reasons, which reason cannot understand.” Among these is this “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.” Miracles we hold to be, a shadow of good things to come. The good thing to come for the soul is its full and perfect sanctification at the appearing of the Lord. The work of regeneration and daily renewal by the Holy Ghost is the constant reminder and pledge and preparation for that event and regeneration is a “perpetual miracle.” The good thing to come for the body is “glorified corporeity,” resurrection and transformation into Christ’s perfect likeness when he shall appear. Healing by the power of the Holy Ghost is the pledge and foretoken of this consummation. Was it in God’s purpose that we should never again witness this after the apostolic age was past?
Here let us answer three or four objections which have been urged against our position. “If you insist that miracles of healing are possible in this age, then,” it is said, “you must logically admit that such miracles as raising the dead, turning water into wine, and speaking in unknown tongues are still possible.” But it requires only a casual glance to see that healing through the prayer of faith stands on an entirely different basis from any of these other miracles.
Raising the dead is no where promised as a privilege or possibility for the believers of to-day. There is, indeed, in one instance, Matt. X 8, a command to raise the dead but this was given specifically to the twelve and in a temporary commission. It therefore differs very materially from the promise in Mark XVI, which was to all believers, and is contained in a commission which was for the entire dispensation of the Spirit. That the Lord did this miracle, and that his apostles did it, in one or two instances is not enough. Unless we can show some specific promise given to the church as a whole we are bound to concede that such works are not for us or for our age. Healing the sick, on the contrary, rests on a distinct and specific promise to believers.
Miracles on external nature, like the turning of water into wine, and the multiplying of the loaves, belong exclusively to the Lord we do not find them perpetuated beyond his own ministry either in fact or in promise. Miracles of cure, on the contrary, being in the direct line of the Lord’s redemptive work, abound in the ministry of the disciples as they do in that of the Lord, and have the clear pledge of scripture for their performance. The discrimination which Godet makes between miracles of healing and those performed on the outward world we believe to be strictly accurate. He says “One consequence of the close connection of soul and body is that when the spirit of man is in this way vivified by the power of God it can sometimes exert upon the body, and through it upon other bodies, an influence which is marvellous. This kind of miracle is therefore possible in every age of the Church’s history it was possible in the middle ages, and is possible still. That which would seem to be no longer possible is the miraculous action of the divine power upon external nature. The age of such miracles seems to have closed with the work of revelation, of which they were but the auxiliaries.” * (Defence of the Christian Faith, p. 208.)
As to miracles of prophecy, we see no reason to believe that they were strictly limited to apostolic times. We recall, indeed the one important text on this question, “But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail whether there be tongues they shall cease whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away for we know in part, and we prophecy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”
Thus speaks the Spirit in the Epistle to the Corinthians.
By this scripture some have attempted to shut up all miracles within the apostolic era as belonging to the things which were “in part,” and therefore destined to pass away. But, in the first place, let it be noted that it is only prophecies, tongues and knowledge that are specified, not healings. And we are to put no more within this limitation than the word of God has put there. And, in the second place, the bounds set to the exercise of these gifts is “when that which is perfect is come,” which scholarship has generally held to mean, when the Lord himself shall return to earth.” * (I. Cor. 13 10. “This verse shows by the emphatic ‘then’ that the time when the gifts shall cease is the end of this dispensation. The imperfect shall not cease till the perfect is brought in.” — Ellicott.) The gifts of tongues and of prophecy therefore do not seem to be confined within the first age of the church. We cannot forget, indeed that the utterances of prophecy and knowledge culminated and found their highest expression when the Canon of the New Testament Scriptures was completed so that some thoughtful expositors have conjectured that this may have been the coming of that which is perfect so far as prophecy and knowledge are concerned. But in either event this does not touch the gifts of healing. These cannot have culminated so long as sickness and demoniacal possession are unchecked in the world nor until the great Healer and Restorer shall return from above.
To sum up these observations then is it reasonable to conclude that the office of healing through faith, resting on the same apostolic example, and held by the same tenure of divine promise and precept as the other functions of the Christian ministry, was alone destined to pass away and disappear within a single generation? With the advance in power and knowledge which was to take place under the administration of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, is it reasonable to believe that in this one particular instance there was designed to be a signal retarding of supernatural energy? Is the Lord less likely to heal those who extend to him the touch of faith now that he is on the right hand of God, *
*(“Is the truce broke? or cause we have
A Mediator now with thee,
Dost thou therefore old treatyes wave,
And by appeales from him decree?
Or is it so, as some green heads say,
That now all miracles must cease?
Though thou had promised they should stay
the tokens of the Church, and peace.”
—Henry Vaughan, 1654.)
having all power in heaven and earth given to him, than he was while on earth? Is it reasonable to believe that the administration of the Comforter has changed since its first inauguration, so that, while his mission and his offices were to continue till the end of this age, it is found that one of his ministries has entirely disappeared since the days of the apostles? With sin and sickness still holding sway in the world, is it reasonable to consider the latter as entirely beyond the redemptive work of Christ, while the former is so entirely met by that work, which was not the case in the beginning? And, finally, until the harvest shall come, is it reasonable to suppose that we are to be left entirely without the first fruits of our redemption? Until we can answer these questions perhaps caution is becoming us, at least, in denying that miracles of healing are still wrought.
“Witnesses who are above suspicion leave no room for doubt that the miraculous powers of the apostolic age continued to operate at least into the third century.” Such is the conclusion of Dr. Gerhard Uhlhorn and one who has read the work from which this opinion is taken will not doubt his eminent fitness to judge of such a question. * (Conflict of Christianity with Heathenism, p. 169.) This concession is a very important one in its bearings on this whole subject. Prove that Miracles were wrought, for example, in the second century after Christ, and no reason can be thereafter urged why they might not be wrought in the nineteenth century. The apostolic age, it must be admitted, was a peculiarly favored one. So long as the men were still living who had seen the Lord, and had companied with him during his earthly ministry, there were possible secrets of power in their possession that a later generation might not have. It is easy to see, therefore, that this period might be especially distinguished by the gifts of the Spirit. And yet the Saviour seems to be careful to teach that there would be an augmenting rather than a diminishing of supernatural energy after his departure. “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do because I go to my Father.” * (Acts 1 – 9., John 14:12.) He made no provision for the arrest of the stream of divine manifestations which he had started, either in the next age or in a subsequent age. But, conceding certain marked advantages possessed by the immediate followers of Christ, if we find in history that there is no abrupt termination of miracles with the expiration of the apostolic age, then we must begin to raise the question why there should be any termination at all, so long as the Church remains, and the ministry of the Spirit is perpetuated?
Now, when we turn to the writings of the Christian Fathers, as they are called, we find the testimonies abundant to the continuance of the miraculous powers. We will quote only a few as specimens from a large number, which may be readily collated by any one who will take the pains. Justin Martyr says “For numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world and in your city, many of our Christian men, exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontias Pilate, have healed, and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists and those who used incantations and drugs.” * Apol. II. Ch. 6.)
“Wherefore also those who are in truth the disciples receiving grace from him do in his name perform miracles so as to promote the welfare of others, according to the gift which each has received from him.”
Then after enumerating the various gifts he continues
“Others still heal the sick by layng their hands upon them, and they are made whole.” * (Adv. Haer Book II 4)
“For the clerk of one of them who was liable to be thrown upon the ground by an evil spirit was set free from his affliction, as was also the relative of another, and the little boy of a third.
And how many men of rank, to say nothing of the common people, have been delivered from devils and healed of disease.” * (Ad. Scap. IV 4.)
“And some give evidence of their having received through their faith a marvellous power by the cures which they perform, invoking no other name over those who need their help than that of the God of all things and of Jesus, along with a mention of his history. For by these means we too have seen many persons freed from grievous calamities and from distractions of mind and madness, and countless other ills which could be cured neither by men or devils.” * (Contra Celsum B. III ch. 24.)
Clement says, in giving directions for visiting the sick and afflicted
“Let them, therefore, with fasting and prayer, make their intercessions, and not with the well arranged and fitly ordered words of learning, but as men who have received the gift of healing confidently, to the glory of God.” * (Epis. C. XII.)
The weight of these and like testimonies is so generally acknowledged by Church historians that it seems little less than hardihood for scholars to go on repeating that well worn phrase “the age of miracles ended with the apostles.” Mosheim, speaking of the fourth century, says
“But I cannot on the other hand assent to the opinion of those who maintain that in this century miracles had entirely ceased.” * (* Cent. IV.)
Dr. Waterland says “The miraculous gifts continued through the third century, at least.” * (See list of citations in “Creation and Redemption,” London, 1877. P. 50.)
Dodwell declares that “though they generally ceased with the third century, there are several strongly attested cases in the fourth.”
Dr. Marshall, the translator of Cyprian, says “there are successive evidences of them down to the age of Constantine.”
“The age of Constantine” * (“With regard to the continuance of miracles after the apostolic age, we have testimonies, not only from Tertullian and Origen, who tell us that many in their time were convinced, against their will, of the truths of Christianity by miraculous visions, but, also, much later from Theodore of Mopsueste (429). The latter says Many heathen amongst us are being healed by Christians from whatever sickness they have, so abundant are miracles in our midst.” Christlieb, Modern Doubt, p. 321.) is a significant date at which to fix the termination of miracles. For almost all Church historians hold that there was a period when the simpler and purer forms of supernatural manifestation ceased to be generally recognized, or were supplanted by the gross and spurious type which characterize the Church of the middle ages. And the era of Constantine’s conversion confessedly marks a decided transition from a purer to a more degenerate and worldly Christianity. From this period on, we find the Church ceasing to depend wholly on the Lord in heaven, and to rest in the patronage and support of earthly rulers and ceasing to look ever for the coming and Kingdom of Christ as the consummation of her hopes, and to exult in her present triumph and worldly splendor. Many of her preachers made bold to declare that the Kingdom had come, and that the prophetic word, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth” had been fulfilled. * (Eusebius L. X. 3,4.)
If now, as we have indicated elsewhere, the miracles were signs of the sole kingship of the living and exalted Christ, and pledges of his coming again to subdue all things to himself, it is not strange that as the substance of these truths faded from men’s minds, their sign should have gradually disappeared also. At all events it is very significant that precisely the same period, the first three centuries, is that generally named by historians as the era in which that apostolic hope “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ,” and that apostolic faith, “they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover,” remained in general exercise. It is not altogether strange, therefore, that when the Church forgot that “her citizenship is in heaven,” and began to establish herself in luxury and splendor on earth, she should cease to exhibit the supernatural gifts of heaven. And there is a grim irony in the fact, that after death and the grave had gradually become the goal of the Christian’s hope, instead of the personal coming of Christ, then we should begin to find miracles of healing alleged by means of contact with the bones of dead saints and martyrs, instead of miracles of healing through the prayer of faith offered to the living Christ. Such is the change introduced by the age of Constantine. *
(“Ah, Constantine! of how much ill was cause,
Not thy conversion, but those rich domains
That the first wealthy Pope received of thee.” — Dante.)
But now comes a most suggestive fact that whenever we find a revival of primitive faith and apostolic simplicity there we find a profession of the chaste and evangelical miracles which characterized the apostolic age. These attend the cradle of every spiritual reformation, as they did the birth of the Church herself. Waldenses, Moravians, Huguenots, Covenanters, Friends, Baptists and Methodists all have their record of them.
Hear the following frank and simple confession of the Waldenses, that people who for so many ages kept the virgin’s lamp trimmed and burning amid the gross darkness with which the Papal harlot had overspread the people “Therefore, concerning this anointing of the sick, we hold it as an article of faith, and profess sincerely from the heart that sick persons, when they ask it, may lawfully be anoint~d with the anointing oil by one who joins with them in praying that it may be efficacious to the healing of the body according to the design and end and effect mentioned by the apostles and we profess that such an anointing performed according to the apostolic design and practice will be healing and profitable. * (Johannis Lukawitz Waldensis Confessio 1431)
Then after condemning extreme unction, that sacrament of the Papists wherein an ordinance for life is perverted into an ordinance for death, they say further “Albeit we confess that the anointing of the sick performed according to the design, end and purpose of the apostles, and according to their practice and power of which St. Mark and James make mention, is lawful and if any priest possessing the grace of healings had so anointed the sick and they have recovered we would exhort all that when they are really ill they omit not to receive that ordinance at their hands, and in no way despise it, because despisers of that or of other ordinances, so far as they are ordained by Christ, are to be punished and corrected, according to the rules of the evangelical law.”
The Moravians, or United Brethren as they are otherwise called, have obtained a good report among all Christians for their simple piety, and especially for their fervent missionary zeal. They have not only been earnest reformers, but reformers of reformers so that such men as Wesley, catching their light and getting kindled by it, have brought a new revival to the backslidden children of the Reformation. On principles already referred to, we might expect to find their missionary zeal signalized by supernatural tokens. And so it has been, if we may believe what seems to be trustworthy records. In what is regarded as a very faithful history of the United Brethren, that of Rev. A. Bost, the author gives his own view of the continuance of the apostolic gifts in a very clear manner, and records for us with equal clearness the sentiments of the Moravians. He says
“We are, indeed, well aware that, so far from its being possible to prove by scripture, or by experience, that visions and dreams, the gift of miracles, healings and other extraordinary gifts, have absolutely ceased in Christendom since the apostolic times, it is on the contrary proved, both by facts and by scripture, that there may always be these gifts where there is faith, and that they will never be entirely detached from it. We need only take care to discern the true from the false, and to distinguish from miracles proceeding from the Holy Ghost, lying miracles, or those which without being so decidedly of the devil do not so decidedly indicate the presence of the Lord.” * (Bost I, p. 17)
In this book are several statements of the Brethren concerning the character and discipline of their churches. The famous Zinzendorf writes as follows
“To believe against hope is the root of the gift of miracles and I owe this testimony to our beloved Church, that apostolic powers are there manifested. We have had undeniable proofs thereof in the unequivocal discovery of things, persons, and circumstances, which could not humanly have been discovered, ‘in the healing of maladies in themselves incurable, such as cancers, consumptions when the patient was in the agonies of death, &c., all by means of prayer, or of a single word.’ ” * (Idem, p. III.)
Speaking of the year 1730, he says
“At this juncture various ‘supernatural gifts were manifested in the Church, and miraculous cures were wrought’. The brethren and sisters believed what the Saviour had said respecting the efficacy of prayer and when any object strongly interested them they used to speak to him about it, and to trust in him as capable of all good then was done unto them according to their faith. The count (Zinzendorf) rejoiced at it with all his heart, and silently praised the Saviour who thus willingly condescended to what is poor and little. In this freedom of the brethren towards our Sayiour, Jesus Christ, he recognized a fruit of the Spirit, concerning which they ought on no account to make themselves uneasy, whoever it might be, but rather to respect him. At the same time he did not wish the brethren and sisters to make too much noise about these matters, and regard them as extraordinary but when, for example, a brother was cured of disease, even of the worst kind, by a single word or by some prayer, he viewed this as a very simple matter, calling to mind, ever that saying of scripture, that signs were not for those who believed, but for those who believed not.” * (Idem, pp. 405-6)
Thus we have the sentiment of the Moravians on the subject of Miracles very distinctly indicated. And the statements quite accord with their simple faith and filial confidence in the Lord, as indicated in other things.
The following furnishes a very beautiful glimpse into the actual miraculous experiences above referred to
“Jean de Watteville had a childlike confidence in our Saviour’s promise to hear his children’s prayers. Of this he often had experience. One example we will here offer — A married sister became extremely ill at Hernnhut. The physician had given up all hopes, and her husband was plunged in grief. Watteville visited the patient, found her joyfully expecting her removal, and took his leave, after having encouraged her in this happy frame. It was at that time still the custom of unmarried brethren, on Sunday evening, to go about singing hymns before the brethren’s houses, with an instrumental accompaniment. Watteville made them sing some appropriate hymns under the window of the sick sister, at the same time praying in his heart to the Lord that he would be pleased, if be thought good, to restore her to health. He conceived a hope of this so full of sweetness and faith that he sang with confidence these lines
‘Sacred Cross, oh sacred Cross!
Where my Saviour died for me,
From my soul, redeemed from loss,
Bursts a flame of love to thee.
When I reach my dying hour
Only let them speak thy name
By its all prevailing power
Back my voice returns again.’
What was the astonishment of those who surrounded the bed of this dying sister when they saw her sit up, and join with a tone of animation in singing the last line
‘Back my voice returns again.’
To his great amazement and delight he found her, on ascending to her chamber, quite well. She recovered perfectly, and not till thirty-five years after did he attend her earthly tabernacle to its final resting place.”
And now we come to the testimony of that most illustrious band of Christian worthies, the Scotch Covenanters. Illustrious, we said, and yet with a light altogether ancient, apostolic and strange to our modern age. Let one read that book of thrilling religious adventure and heroic faith, “The Scots Worthies,” and he will almost seem to be perusing the acts of the apostles reacted. Such sterling fortitude such mighty prayers such conquests of preaching and intercession! Howie, its author, seems to have had in mind especially, in writing it, the rebuke it would bring to a later, faithless and degenerate age, by showing, as he says in his preface, “how at the peril of their lives they brought Christ into our hands,” and “how quickly their offspring are gone out of the way piping and dancing after a golden calf.” Nor did he think such a luxurious and unbelieving generation would be able to credit these mighty deeds of their fathers. For he continues “Some may be ready to object that many things related in this collection smell too much of enthusiasm and that other things are beyond all credit. But these we must suppose to be either quite ignorant of what the Lord did for our forefathers in former times, or else, in a great measure, destitute of the like gracious influences of the Spirit by which they were actuated and sustained.” If we are inclined to discredit the marvels of divine interposition recorded in this book, we have to remember that the men who relate them, and of whom they are related, are the historic characters of the Scottish Kirk Knox, Wishart, Livingston, Welch, Baillie, Peden and Craig. We never tire of repeating the great and holy things which these men did in other fields of spiritual service. Who has not heard how John Livingston preached with such extraordinary demonstration of the Spirit that five hundred souls were quickened or converted under a single sermon? And what Christian has not had his spiritual indolence rebuked by reading of John Welch, rising many times in the night to plead for his flock, and spending seven and eight hours a day in Gethsemane intercessions for the Church and for lost souls. These things we have read and repeated without incredulity. But how few have read or dared to repeat the story of the same John Welch praying over the body of a young man, who, after a long wasting sickness, “has closed his eyes and expired to the apprehension of all spectators” how, in spite of the remonstrance of friends, he held on for three hours, twelve hours, twenty-five, thirty-six forty-eight hours, and when at last it was insisted that the “cold dead” body should be borne out to burial, how he begged for an hour more, and how, at the end of that time, he “called upon his friends and showed them the dead young man restored to life again, to their great astonishment.” All this is told with the utmost detail in the book of “Scots Worthies.” If we are startled to ask in amazement — as who will not be — “Are such things possible in modern times?” we might better begin with the question, has such praying and resistless importunity with God ever been heard of in modem times? If we can get a miraculous faith the miraculous works will be easy enough to credit. Yet this is a specimen of the men who compose this extraordinary group of Christian heroes.
The wonders recorded of them are of every kind — marvels of courage, marvels of faith, marvels of martyrdom, and marvels of prophetic foresight. Theirs was a faith born and nourished of the bitterest persecution. But if, according to the saying of their biographer, they were “followed by the prophet’s shadow, the hatred of wicked men,” it is equally true that they were crowned with the apostle’s halo, the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here we read of the holy Robert Bruce, of whom the beautiful incident is told, that once being late in appearing in his pulpit a messenger was sent for him who reported “I think he will not come to-day, for I overheard him say to another ‘I protest I will not go unless thou goest with me.’ Howbeit, in a little time he came, accompanied by no man but full of the blessing of Christ for his speech was with much evidence and demonstration of the Spirit.” Of this man, mighty in pulpit prayers, it is affirmed that “persons distracted, and those who were past recovery with falling sickness, were brought to him and were, after prayer by him on their behalf, fully restored from their malady.” * (“Scots Worthies” p. 118.) Also we read of Patrick Simpson, whose insane wife, from raving and blaspheming as with demoniacal possession, was so wonderfully healed by his importunate prayers that the event was found thus gratefully recorded upon some of the books of his library “Remember, O my soul, and never forget the 16th of August, 1601, what consolation the Lord gave thee, and how he performed what he spoke according to Zechariah, ‘is not this a brand plucked out of the fire.’ ” * (“Scots Worthies” p.116)
We give verbatim one incident of healing as recorded in this book, admonishing the reader that this story, as well as several others, has been somewhat softened in later editions of the work, with the avowed purpose of making it accord more exactly with modern religious sentiments. It is from the life of John Scrimgeour, minister of Kinghorn in Fife, and “an eminent wrestler with God”
“Mr. Scrimgeour had several friends and children taken away by death and his only daughter who at that time survived, and whom he dearly loved, being seized with the King’s evil, by which she was reduced to the point of death, so that he was called up to see her die and finding her in this condition he went out into the fields, (as he himself told) in the night-time in great grief and anxiety, and began to expostulate with the Lord, with such expressions as for all the world, he durst not again utt . In a fit of displeasure he said — ‘thou O Lord knowst that I have been serving thee in the uprightness of my heart according to my power and measure nor have I stood in awe to declare thy mind even unto the greatest in the time and thou seest that I take pleasure in this child. O that I could obtain such a thing at thy hand as to spare her!’ and being in great agony of spirit at last it was said to him from the Lord — ‘I have heard thee at this time, but use not the like boldness in time coming for such particulars.’ When he came home the child was recovered, and sitting up in the bed took some meat and when he looked on her arm it was perfectly whole.” * (Edinburgh Ed. 1812, p. 89, 90.)
Now when we reflect that these things are recorded by the pen of some of the holiest men the church of God has ever seen and recorded too as the experiences of their own ministry of faith and prayer, the fact must at least furnish food for reflection to those who continue to assert with such confident assurance that the age of miracles is past. Past it may be indeed, if the age of faith is past. For that we conceive, to be the real question. It is not geography or chronology that determines the boundary lines of the supernatural. It is apostolic men that make an apostolic age, not a certain date of Anno Domini. We are forever thinking to turn back the shadow certain degrees upon the dial, to bring again the age of miracles, forgetting that he who is “without variableness or the shadow of turning” has said, “if thou canst believe” — not if thou wast born in Palestine and within the early limits of the first Christian century — “all things are possible to him that believeth.” When by the stress of violent persecution or by the sore discipline of reproach and rejection by the world the old faith is revived, then we catch glimpses once more of the apostolic age. And such perhaps beyond all others in modem times was the age of the Covenanters.
No one can read this stirring narrative of their sufferings and triumphs, their martyrdoms and miracles without a profound spiritual quickening. There is little danger withal of the book ministering to fanaticism, for if any one should be inspired by it with an ambition to be a miracle-worker he will meet the challenge on every page — “Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
If we come to the Huguenots, those faithful followers of the Lamb, among generations that were so greedily and wantonly following the Dragon, we get glimpses of the same wonderful things. In the story of their suffering and obedience to the faith in the mountains of Cevennes whither they had fled from their pursuers upon the revocation of the edict of Nantz, we hear constant mention of the exercise of miraculous gifts. There were divine healings and extraordinary actings of the Spirit in quickening and inspiration. They who in their exile carried their mechanical arts and inventions into England to the great blessing of the nation, carried here and there the lost arts of supernatural healing to the wonder of the church of Christ. * (Morning Watch, B. IV 383.)
Among the early Friends, as is well known the same manifestations were constantly reported. Whatever we may think of the general teaching of this sect, no one can read the Journal of George Fox without feeling that he was a devoted man of God, doing a wholesome work of quickening and rebuke in a time of great spiritual deadness and conformity to the world. His quaint prayer that he “might be baptized into a sense of all conditions” seems to have been literally fulfilled. Like a latter day apostle he went among all ranks, rebuking the gay and worldly, turning away the wrath of those at enmity, visiting the sick and ministering to the prisoner. A worthy model is he for any minister, in any age who would learn how to labor “in season out of season” for the Lord.
Not only in his teaching but especially in his active service does he recognize the continuous operation of the Spirit in miraculous ministries. He records these manifestations without comment as though they were as much a matter of course as conversion or regeneration.
In a record of evangelizing in Twy-cross in Lincolnshire, England, he says — “Now there was in that town a great man that had long lain sick and was given over by the physicians and some friends in that town desired me to go and see him, and I went up to him in his chamber and spoke the word of life to him and was moved to pray for him, and the Lord was entreated and restored him to health.” * (Journal B. I p. 111)
While preaching in Hertfordshire, they told him of a sick woman and requested him to go to her help. He says — “John Rush of Bedfordshire went along with me to visit her, and when we came in, there were many people in the house that were tender about her and they told me she was not a woman for this world, but if I had anything to comfort her concerning the world to come I might speak to her. So I was moved of the Lord to speak to her, and the Lord raised her up again to the astonishment of the town and country.” * (Id. Vol. I, p. 281.)
This book abounds in such instances, told without ostentation or enlargement, but almost always alluded to as “Miracles.”
In the earlier days of the Baptists, days of simplicity and purity, we meet with similar illustrations of miraculous faith and manifestation. As usual it was in times of great straits, when the prison doors were shut upon the persecuted flock, that the windows of heaven were opened in miraculous blessing.
Vavasor Powell, “the morning star of the Welch Baptists” as he has been named, has left a clear affidavit to his faith and practice on the subject we are considering. He was a man of the same fiber as the Covenanters endued with such power of the Spirit that extraordinary revivals followed his preaching wherever he went. He was also a bitter sufferer for the faith having in the course of his life lain in thirteen different prisons for his testimony for Christ.
Besides the uncommon blessing which attended his preaching it is recorded that “many persons were recovered from dangerous sickness through the prayer of faith which he offered.” He took the promise in James Vth, literally, as shown in the story of his own recovery, and especially as declared in the following article of his creed — “Visiting the sick and for the elders to anoint them in the name of the Lord is a gospel ordinance and not repealed.” * (* Ivimy’s History of the Baptists, pp. 333.) That his creed was to some extent adopted by the English Baptists appears from the account given in the same book, of the ceremony of anointing and prayer as performed for a blind woman at Aldgate in London. Rev. Hansard Knollys, and Rev. Henry Jessey, eminent names in the early ministry of the body, united with others in the service, prayer being offered and the words pronounced, “the Lord Jesus restore thee thy sight.” * (Idem, p. 332.)
Among the Methodists we find references here and there to the appearance of miraculous manifestations in the churches. There is one very striking instance which is recorded of Ann Mather, daughter of Joseph Benson the Methodist Commentator, the story being given in full by the father in his journal. She had been afflicted with lameness in the feet, for some years having no use of her limbs, and not for a long time having walked a step. We give the narrative in the words of Mr. Benson’s Journal abridging in unimportant details — “Oct. 4th. This evening the Lord has shown us an extraordinary instance of his love and power. My dear Ann yet remained without any use of either her limbs and indeed without the least feeling of them, or ability to walk a step, or lay the least weight upon them, nor had she any use of them for upward of twelve months. I was very much afraid that the sinews would be contracted, and that she would lose the use of them forever. We prayed however, incessantly, that this might not be the case but that it would please the Lord, for the sake of her three little children, to restore her.
This day a part of my family and some of my pious friends went to take tea at her house Mr. Mather bringing her down in his arms into the dining-room. After tea I spoke of the certainty of God’s hearing the prayer of his faithful people, and repeated many of his promises to that purpose. I also enlarged on Christ’s being the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, and still both able and willing to give relief to his afflicted people that though he had doubtless done many of his miracles of healing chiefly to prove himself to be the Messiah, yet that he did not do them for that end only, but also to grant relief to human misery, out of his great compassion for suffering mankind and that not a few of his other miracles of mercy he had wrought principally or only for this latter purpose, and that he was still full of compassion for the miserable. I then said, “Ann, before we go to prayer, we will sing the Hymn which was full of consolation to your mother,” and I gave out the words of the hymn beginning —
“Thy arm, Lord, is not shortened now,
It wants not now the power to save
Still present with thy people, thou, etc.”
After singing, we then kneeled down to pray, and Ann took her infant child to give it the breast, that it might not disturb us with crying while we were engaged in prayer. I prayed first, and then Mr. McDonald all the company joining fervently in our supplications. We pleaded in prayer the Lord’s promises, and especially that he has said that whatever two or three of his people should agree to ask, it should be done for them. Matt. xvii I9. Immediately on our rising from our knees, Ann beckoned to the nurse to take the child, and then instantly rose up, and said, “I can walk, I feel I can and proceeded half over the room when her husband, afraid she should fall, stepped to her, saying, “my dear Ann, what are you about?”
She put him off with her hands, saying, “I don’t need you I can walk alone,” and then walked three times over the floor after which, going to a corner, she knelt down and said, “Oh let us give God thanks!” we kneeled down, and gave thanks Ann continuing on her knees all the time, at least twenty minutes she then came to me, and with a flood of tears threw her arms about my neck, and then did the same first to one of her sisters, and to the other, and afterwards to Mrs. Dickenson every one in the room shedding tears of gratitude and joy. She then desired her husband’s brother to come up stairs and when he entered the room, she cried out, “Adam, I can walk” and to show him that she could, immediately walked over the floor, and back again.
It was, indeed, the most affecting scene I ever witnessed in my life. She afterward, without any help, walked up stairs into her lodging room, and with her husband kneeling down, joined in prayer and praise.
In conversation with her afterward, I learned from her the following particulars — that when she was brought into the dining-room a little stool was put under her feet, but which she felt no more than if her feet had been dead. While we were singing the hymn, she conceived faith that the Lord would heal her began to feel the stool, and pushed it away then set her feet on the floor, and felt that while we prayed she felt a persuasion she could walk, and felt inclined to rise up with the child in her arms but thinking to do that would be thought rash, she delayed till we had done praying, and then immediately rose up, and walked as above related.”
Among the persons present who witnessed this remarkable scene was Rev. James McDonald, who followed Mr. Benson in prayer and was afterwards his biographer, and in making reference to this wonderful healing he says “All believed that the power to walk, which she received in an instant was communicated by an immediate act of omnipotence.” The account was also published in the London Methodist Magazine, from which this is quoted.
We have thus set before us as a mass of evidence for the continuance of miraculous interventions which few, we imagine, would wish to condemn as utterly false. Whatever deduction or allowance any may wish to make, there remains too solid a substratum of well-proven fact to be easily set aside. Untimely — born out of due season, is the objection which will at once be urged indeed. That is to say, put the same facts and the same witnesses back into the age of the apostles and they can be easily enough credited, but not as speaking for modern times. But some believe that the church like the tree of life “whose leaves are for the healing of the nations,” not only bears twelve manner of fruits but “yields her fruit every month.” “All supernatural manifestations determined with apostolic times and apostolic men” — so I read from a learned author, as I glanced for a moment from the page which I was writing. Then casting another glance through my window I saw a tree just before me crowned with a fresh coat of green leaves and white blossoms. Strange sight to witness in the month of October! Yet such was the season in which it came to pass. For it had happened that the canker worms had stripped the tree of all its foliage and left it bare and naked but because there was life in its veins and the sap had not yet returned downward, it must find expression, and so even in autumn it had leaved and blossomed.
Alas that the church should ever have been shorn of her primitive beauty! But so it was apostacy succeeding to purity, and papacy to apostacy, and corruption to papacy, and infidelity to corruption, till it was literally as the prophet has written “That which the palmer-worm hath left hath the locust eaten and that which the locust hath left, hath the canker-worm eaten, and that which the canker-worm hath left, hath the caterpillar eaten.” * (Joel 1:4)
But because there is life still remaining in the church, because the sap has not utterly departed from the tree of God, fresh shoots are constantly putting out bearing the leaves and blossoms of primitive piety, and not less certainly the rich fruits of miraculous blessing. And so we are persuaded it shall be until the end. For it belongs to the Church as the body of Christ to do the works of Christ and it belongs to believers as the habitation of the Spirit to manifest the gifts and fruits of the Spirit.
I. The Question and its Bearings.
II. The Testimony of Scripture.
III. The Testimony of Reason.
IV. The Testimony of the Church.
V. The Testimony of Theologians.
VI. The Testimony of Missions.
VII. The Testimony of the Adversary.
VIII.The Testimony of Experience.
IX. The Testimony of the Healed.
X. The Verdict of Candor.
XI. The Verdict of Caution.
XII. The Conclusion.