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ciples, a little before his departure from them, as we read in St. John's Gospel, "and he shall give you another comforter,* that he abide with you for ever, even the spirit of truth." In another
part of his writings the same Apostle tells us, that "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." From the Apostle's application of the same word to the Holy Ghost in the former text, which he has applied to our Saviour in the latter; and since the word thus applied to our Saviour must be translated as it is, to make good the Apostle's meaning upon the occasion, it is to be concluded, that by this common use of the same term, the Apostle intended thereby to convey an idea of some similarity existing between the office of the respective parties; consequently, that both these Divine persons were, some sense, to be considered advocates for mankind.
Now the office of an advocate is, to support or defend a cause; to appear in behalf of another, to plead for him, or manage his concerns. Whilst, therefore, we have an advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous, who appears in our cause before the Father in Heaven; we have also another advocate on earth, who undertakes the cause of the Church against its spiritual enemies; providing the members of it, from time to time, with such assistance as may enable them to carry on their warfare
1 John ii. 1. The original word, translated Comforter and Advocate, in these two different parts of St. John's writings,
is the same.
† John xiv. 16, 17.
against them with success. To the care and management of this powerful advocate, our blessed Saviour, when He left the world, committed His Church; that He might continue with it, as its patron and support, to the end of time. The The method adopted by this Divine Advocate, in the management of His great concern, at the commencement of his office, is what is now meant to be pointed out to immediate attention.
At the first establishment of the Christian Church, a great and important reformation, both in principles and practices, was to be effected. The cause of Jesus Christ was to be justified; the prince of this world was to be judged; the idols of heathenish superstition were to be thrown down; and the religion of a crucified Saviour pro pagated. The instruments pitched upon by Divine wisdom for carrying this great work into effect, were men, for the most part, of the lowest order and meanest endowments; and consequently men, humanly speaking, the least qualified for the indertaking; especially when it is considered, that on the other side all the powers of earth and hell were combined against them.
These extraordinary circumstances, under which the Church of Christ first appeared in the world, required extraordinary assistance from heaven, for the support of a cause in itself so apparently weak. To furnish this assistance, by distributing those gifts which Jesus Christ, when He ascended up on high, had received for men,* was the peculiar office of the Holy Ghost. The manner in which that * Ps. lxviii. 18.
office was discharged, according to the exigence of the occasion, the Apostle has particularly described in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians; where he gives a detail of the several gifts and powers which were conferred on the first Christians, to give weight and credibility to their doctrine; and to support an infant, struggling cause, against that opposition which was then so powerfully exerted against it. Among these gifts we find that of divers tongues; a gift absolutely necessary to supply the defects of an incompetent education, and to qualify illiterate men for the immediate discharge of an office, which, according to the commission delivered to them, was to go and make disciples in
But the Apostles were not only to preach and propagate the religion of a crucified Jesus, but were, moreover, to leave behind them a standing revelation for the future direction and government of the Church. To enable them to collect the materials for this work, from the detached conversation of their blessed Master, and the incidental circumstances of his life, with a correctness essential to its perfection, extraordinary assistance was deemed necessary. One part, therefore, of the Holy Ghost's office, as advocate for the Church, was to qualify the Apostles for this undertaking; by leading them into all truth: and bringing all things to their remembrance which Jesus had said unto them. By this supernatural assistance, ignorance and error were effectually guarded against; and every truth
* Matth. xxviii. 19.
† John xiv. 26; and John xvi. 13.
expedient to be known was delivered to the world, with that authority and conviction, proper to accompany a revelation, designed to be the standard of Christian faith to all future ages.
To those, therefore, who in these days despise the ordinary means of attaining divine knowledge, from a dependence upon that extraordinary assistance from the Holy Spirit, which was vouchsafed to the Apostles and first Christians, we have to observe, that the state of the Christian world does not at this time render such assistance necessary. The standard of Christian faith being fixed, we have no new revelation to expect. It remains only, that we now make ourselves acquainted with that which has been vouchsafed unto us; and this is to be done by the usual methods of study and application, accompanied with that ordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit, which we are taught to believe will accompany all sincere endeavours exerted in such
The Church stands no longer upon that ground on which it originally stood, when the weak things of the world and the foolish things were chosen to confound the wise. Kings and Queens are now become her nursing fathers and nursing mothers; and the wisdom of the wise is now engaged in her cause. The signs and wonders, which accompanied the preaching of the Gospel in its early days, have therefore ceased; because the end for which they were granted having been answered, the continuance of them is no longer necessary. For a similar reason, all the extraordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit, to qualify the first teachers of
Christianity for their office, by the effect of immediate inspiration supplying natural incapacity, has long since ceased; because men have it now in their power, in a great degree, to qualify themselves for the discharge of the ministerial office, by a proper employment of those faculties which God has given them for the purpose.
As much important work was to be completed within a short period, the whole world being to be converted by the Apostles and their immediate deputies to the knowledge of the true God, such means were necessary as would tend to give a ready reception to their preaching, by producing a powerful and instantaneous effect upon their hearers. Miracles were expressly calculated for this purpose. And had the state of the Church still continued to be what it was when the Holy Ghost first undertook the charge of it, the same extraordinary means would still have been necessary for its support. But in proportion as the ordinary means of promoting Christian knowledge increased upon the world, extraordinary means were withdrawn; and the external evidence for the credibility of the Gospel, from the signs and wonders which attended its early promulgation, gradually gave way to that internal evidence, which the study of the sacred writings, when put into the hands of Christians, was calculated to furnish; an evidence which, though less quick in its operation than what acts upon the understanding through the médium of the senses, has yet this advantage in its favour, that it permanent in its effect.
Whilst, therefore, the sober Christian looks for