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Swe read, in such a passage as is the twelfth
chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, of the spiritual gifts, the visibly miraculous powers, which in the Apostolic age accompanied, and formed part of, the ordered ministry of the Church, we cannot help asking why gifts so great, so general, and so effective of conversion, should so soon and so utterly have ceased. The Christ-like power of healing, the piercing and undazzled insight of prophecy, the mystic utterances of the divers tongues ; — why did these fail so quickly that we can trace no sign of their continuance beyond the immediate disciples of the Twelve, no claim to their exercise even in the Apostolic Fathers,—while St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine expressly declare that miracles such as those of the Apostles had died down with the growth of the newly-planted faith a ?
The answer to such questions is not fully given when we have laid stress upon the wide,
• Cf. Mozley on Miracles, pp. 294—304.
the almost inconceivable difference between the circumstances in which men become Christians in these later days, and the conditions under which the Resurrection was first preached, and the Church of the Apostles gathered from the world. True it is that hardly any words could overstate the energy of faith which was required from those who were to cling through life and death, in spite of all that prudence, society, and philosophy could urge, to the extraordinary tenets of a small and unpopular sect : and that the needs of our age can be no measure of the weight or character of the evidence which God's all-seeing Love vouchsafed for their support. True also that there would even be an appearance of disproportion, of imperfect adaptation of means to ends, of wasted force, in the continuance of those sudden manifestations of unearthly activity, by which the heathen world was first arrested and startled into the recognition of the hand and will of Almighty God. True, lastly, that miracles are both historically, as in the lives of Moses and Elisha, and essentially, connected with times of beginning or of revival : with the first outbreak of a new power, a new spirit, in the midst of a stubborn or rebellious generation, which provokes, by the very conflict of its reluctance, a stronger and more vivid action of the newly-awakened force. Thoughts such as these must make us recognize the fitness of the change which has passed over the evidences of Christianity, since the unlearned Corinthian could come into the assembly of the faithful, and be won for Christ by the manifest miracles of prophecy b. But we may, I think, find yet another reason for the early cessation of such miracles in the ministry of the Church, if we consider the nature of their connection with the revelation to which they bore their converting witness : and at the same time we may thus lay hold, for our own help, on their unceasing signifi
For the miraculous powers of the Apostolic Church had surely (as had our Lord's own works of mercy) no arbitrary connection with that invisible miracle for which they won attention and assent. Their purpose, their fitness, was not only evidential; they were not mere wonders, tépata, “feats of thaumaturgy challenging the astonishment of beholders," as the marvels of civilization may secure for the missionary the terrified regard of the savage. No, they had a real, a living affinity with that hid. den work, within whose range they drew the souls of men: they were but the rendering, the translation into the visible sphere of that invisible change which was the real purpose of the divine activity, that spiritual miracle for which God had come to live in men : they were in close and necessary correspondence with the character and work of Him Whose Presence they betrayed. By the miracles which they could not miss, men might not only be led to ask Whose hand had wrought these things; it was also given them to know by the visible tides of God's grace in what direction the great under-currents of His Love were setting As there appear, it has been said, upon the face of the sea signs of those deeper, steadier tides, which move in silence under the lighter changes of the surface currents, so did the secret miracles of redemption and sanctification appear for a time upon the surface of the visible Church, translated, manifested, outspoken, in the miraculous endow
b Cf. 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25.