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have done, makes it expletive; since the Holy Ghost is particularly mentioned in the next clause of the passage.
If then “ the heavenly gift” means the gift of Christ to be our Saviour, to taste of this gift is doubtless to know by experience that Christ is precious. Nor is this term necessarily of diminutive signification. “Verily, verily, I say unto you," said Christ, “ there be some standing here which shall never taste of death (shall not know by experience what death is, shall not die) till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16: 28. In like manner Christ himself is said to have tasted death for every man. Heb. 2: 9. In several passages the term is employed, just as I have supposed it to be used in the text. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Ps. 34: 8. He would have them acquaint themselves with God, be reconciled to him, obey him, trust in him, and thus learn by experience how great was his goodness to his people. In like manner Peter says: “ As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” 1 Peter 2: 3. Now this is precisely what the persons spoken of in the passage before us are said to have done. By faith they had received Christ, they had made trial of him as a Saviour, and found himn to be gracious, a gift from heaven of the highest value to mankind.
3. They are said to have been made partakers (uerózovs) of the Holy Ghost. Dr. Owen observes that “the Holy Ghost may be received, either as to his personal inhabitation, or to his spiritual operation,”—by which he appears to mean miraculous powers,—and then proceeds to show, that, since these persons were not true Christians, and of course could not be partakers of the Holy Ghost in the foriner sense, they must be so only in the latter. But here an important point is taken for granted which ought first to have been proved; namely, that these persons were not true Christians. If not true Christians, why should the Holy Ghost impart to them miracuJous powers? That some ungodly persons, in the days of the apostles, like the magicians in the time of Moses, made a show of miraculous powers, is admitted. But that they performed their wonderful works, whatever they were, by the Holy Ghost, or were in any degree made partakers with the apostles, of the Holy Ghost I can find no evidence. They were, I apprehend, no more partakers of the Holy Ghost than were Jannes and Jambres, or Balaam, or the beast on which he
rode.* Not a single passage can be adduced which speaks of any person as either receiving the Holy Ghost, or as being made a partaker of the Holy Ghost except in the best sense of the ex
* This is a subject which needs to be more thoroughly examined and better understood, than it commonly is. Our Sa. viour, speaking of events immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, says: “ There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders ; insomuch, that if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect.” Matt. 24: 24. The implication is, that these great signs and wonders were but a show, the deceitfulness of which might be, and by the true people of God would be, detected. In 2 Thess. 2 :9, there is a passage which may throw light on this point. Paul, predicting the appearance of “the man of sin," by which the papal power appears to be intended, says: “Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and miracles of falsehood, and with all deceit of unrighteousness, among them that perish, because they embraced not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” Here wicked men pretend to work miracles, they practise base deceit, and the ungodly multitude among whom they do these things are, to some extent, fatally deluded by them ;-a prediction which has been fearfully verified in the church of Rome. But there is no proof that these were true miracles. The passage in Matt. 7: 22, may belong to the same category. Hypocrites are there represented as pleading before their final Judge: “Have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works ?" Does Christ admit their plea? Does it appear that he had ever given them the spirit of prophesy, or the power of working true miracles? By no means. His reply is : “I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity.” But did not Judas work true miracles ? As he was one of the chosen apostles, unto whom Christ, when sending them forth, gave, without apparent exception, power and authority over all devils, and to cure all diseases, as well as to preach the kingdom of God (Luke 9: 1, 2); and as he, during his public ministry, undoubtedly bore true testimony respecting Christ, it may be that Christ confirmed his commission and testimony by performing, at his instance, miraculous operations. This might be an exception to the general rule. But that Judas ever did cast out devils, or work miracles in the name of Christ, we have no certain proof; and
pression. In Heb. 1: 9, the Father is represented as saying to the Son : “ Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy fellows,-cous uerózovs oov. This oil of gladness denotes the communication of the Spirit of God, for we are elsewhere told that Christ was anointed with the Spirit of God and with power. But who were these “ fellows" who were made partakers with him of the Holy Ghost, either with respect to his inhabitation, or miraculous powers ? Shall we include among them ungodly persons, who have always resisted the Holy Ghost, and been led captive by Satan at his will ? None could be joint-partakers with him in this benefit, but those to whom he him
therefore no argument can be supported by the supposed fact. From our Saviour's declaration, in regard to the signs which should attend those who might believe,"in my name shall they cast out devils,” etc.,-it would seem that it was peculiar to true believers to do these things. The case stated in 1 Cor. 13,—“though I speak with the tongues of men and angels," etc.,-is evidently supposed to illustrate the necessity of vital religion. Let it be remembered also, that even if Christ did confirm the true testimony of either Judas or any other ungodly teacher by performing miracles, in accordance with their desires, this of itself can afford no evidence that these ungodly individuals were partakers of the Holy Ghost.” The question to be settled is, whether, as a matter of fact, such ungodly persons are declared in Scripture to have been “partakers of the Holy Ghost.” The passage before us must not be forced to testify against itself. In what place, then, are ungodly men said to be partakers of the Holy Ghost ?” When Simon, the sorcerer, coveted the miraculous powers of the Spirit, and offered to purchase them with money, Peter retorted upon him with awful severity, as if he had given utterance to unheard of iniquity. In fact, to be a partaker of the Holy Ghost, or be filled by his divine influence, is, in Scripture, expressive of the most eminent piety. When the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were imparted to any, it was considered by the apostles one of the strongest proofs that they were true believers in Christ, and proper subjects for baptism. See Acts 10: 44–48. The apostles acknowledged such to be as truly approved of by God as they were themselves.
self was pleased to impart it. This he did to his disciples when he first appeared to them after his resurrection. “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” John 20: 22. The Spirit was imparted copiously and wonderfully to the apostles, and other believers who were assembled with one accord, in one place, on the day of Pentecost. Again, Peter, as recorded in the 15th chapter of Acts, addressing the council of apostles and elders at Jerusalem, says: “ Ye know how that a good while ago, God made choice among us, that the Gentiles, by my mouth, should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” By this it appears that when God gave the Holy Ghost to persons, it was an evidence that they were accepted by him, and approved as his children. The apostles and other divinely inspired teachers were invested by the Spirit of God with the power of performing miracles to prove that God had sent them, and that the doctrines which they preached were the truth of God. How then does it consist with reason to suppose that false teachers and other ungodly men possessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost in the same manner ? What would be the effect but to render nugatory one of the strongest evidences they had to show that they were divinely commissioned, and thus to bring the Christian religion into universal discredit?
4. They had tasted of the good word of God. By the word of God we must understand, either the revelation of God contained in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which those Hebrews had always possessed, or the gospel of God, which had then recently been preached to them. It is not material which explanation we adopt, since those who had a cordial relish for the one, must have had the same relish for the other also. In fact, both may have been intended. The word of God is said to be xoàov, good, that is, desirable, or amiable. This they had ascertained by experiment; they had tasted of the word of God and found it good and excellent. Their experience corresponded with that of the Psalmist, who said : “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth;" “ more to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold.” To those who love God, who delight in his law, the word of God is sweet; they peruse it, hear it, meditate upon it, with great delight. Sooner would they resign all earthly possessions than be deprived of a blessing so highly esteemed. But to those who have no delight in God and the way of life which he has provided, his word appears void of interest, if not contradictory and absurd. The fact, then, that these persons had learned by experience the sweetness and excellency of the divine word, is a proof that their hearts had been changed, and that they were true believers in Jesus.
5. They had likewise tasted of the powers of the world to come,-8vvóuers te perdovtos aiôvos. Upon this clause Owen remarks, that“ by the world to come our Apostle intends the days of the Messiah, that being the usual name of it in the church at that time, as the new world which God had promised to create.” Several other highly respectable expositors have expressed a similar opinion. Indeed, it seems to be very generally taken for granted, that in the days of the apostles the Christian dispensation was commonly denominated the world to come. But the proof, so far as we have been able to ascertain, is yet to be furnished. It is indeed said that the Hebrews, before the coming of the Messiah, were accustomed to speak of their own dispensation as 7:107 bbiy this age, and of the reign of the Messiah as xen Şis the age to come. And in some copies of the Septuagint, the phrase in Isaiah 9: 6, 79---x, which our translators have rendered Eternal Father,-is ratne toő pérdovros aiôvos, Father of the coming age ; by which it is supposed the Christian dispensation was designated. But what if this dispensation, in the days of the prophets, while it was really future, was occasionally spoken of as the age to come? Does that prove that after it had come it continued to be spoken of in the very same terms? If the Christian dispensation, in the time of Christ and his apostles, was familiarly denominated the world to come, why are there no decided examples of it in their discourses and writings? We frequently meet with this phrase in the New Testament, but where in the sense above ascribed to it? “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, oíte šv Toutw ai@vi, oőté év To uédovri, neither in this world nor in that to come.” Matt. 12: 32. What our Saviour meant by this world is evident from his words in the next chapter, v. 40 : “ As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity,