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Thirdly, as the apostles had power given them to heal diseases and rescue from death, so had they likewise to inflict both as they saw occasion, and the edification of the church required. Thus Ananias and Sapphirai were struck dead by the word of St. Peter, for keeping back part of the price of the land they sold for the use and service of the church, (which then had no other revenue but the contributions of believers,) and affirming to the apostles that it was the whole. And St. Paul struck Elymas blind, for withstanding him and Barnabas when they endeavoured to plant the gospel in Cyprus, and for seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith, who shewed himself very inclinable to embrace it; for so we read, Acts xiii. 10, &c. that upon St. Paul's telling the sorcerer, that because he would not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord he should be blind, not seeing the sun for a season, there immediately fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand; which so astonished the governor, that when he saw what was done he believed.

Of this kind is that delivering over to Satan mentioned, 1 Cor. v. 5, and 1 Tim. i. 20, for the destruction of the flesh; that is, that diseases might be inflicted by evil spirits upon great and notorious offenders, (who upon such church censures were permitted by God to do it,) that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. And that is a famous instance of it mentioned by Arnobiusk, who reports, that when Simon Magus, the ringleader of the Gnostics, contended with St. Peter at Rome, and by his lying wonders endeavoured to persuade the people he was God, and the great power of God, and the like, and had for a long time bewitched them with his sorceries and enchantments, as he had formerly done those of Samaria', and in the presence of St. Peter attempted from a high tower to soar aloft in the air and fly up into heaven; at the prayer of St. Peter, and the mention of the name of Christ, the miserable wretch fell headlong to the ground, and in shame and torment died of the fall soon after.

k Lib. II. contra Gent.

i Acts v. I.

Now, that such a power as this was necessary in those first times of the church will be evident if we consider that the apostles, being men of a low condition as to the world, and not at all assisted by the civil power, but violently opposed by it, and themselves often ignominiously treated, and suffering as malefactors; that order and government, which is necessary to the wellbeing of all societies, could not have been preserved among such vast numbers as in a very little time believed in Christ, unless their want of temporal power had been supplied with something spiritual that was analogous to it, and might be as effectual to create a great awe and regard of the apostles in the people. Now nothing could be more conducive to this, than their being able to punish offenders as severely by a word speaking, as the Jewish and Roman governors could do by the hands of their lictors and executioners. And accordingly we read, that when Ananias and Sapphira were on the sudden struck dead by the word of St. Peter, great fear came upon all the church m.

The last of the external extraordinary gifts conferred upon the apostles that we find mentioned in 1 Acts viii. II.

m Acts v. II.

scripture, was a power they had of endowing other believers, in some instances, with the like gifts of the Spirit, by their prayers and the imposition of their hands.

Thus, when many of Samaria believed at the preaching and miracles of Philip the deacon, Peter and John came down, and prayed, and laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And St. Paul laid his hands on twelve believers at Ephesus, and the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with tongues and prophesied n.

Now this was necessary, not only to cause a profound awe and reverence of the apostles in the minds of the disciples, which it certainly would do; but for a greater reason. For, there being converts made to Christianity in divers places where there was no such extraordinary descent of the Holy Ghost upon believers, as in particular at Samaria, nay, where some had not so much as heard whether there was any Holy Ghost, as those Christians at Ephesus P, it was necessary, for the establishment of a church in such places, that the apostles should have a power of conferring such gifts upon some select persons among them, as were then requisite for that purpose, and the spreading the gospel still further in the neighbouring countries : that is, such as themselves had been endowed with for the same end, viz. the gift of tongues, and of working miracles, and the like.

And upon this account it was that the wisdom of God thought fit to fill divers others with the Holy Ghost, in those first days of the church, besides those upon whom the apostles laid their hands.

n Acts xix. 6. o Ibid. viii. 16. p Ibid. xix. 2.

Thus we read, Acts iv. 31, that upon a devout prayer of the believers, occasioned by the imprisonment and rough treatment of Peter and John by the Jewish sanhedrim, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. And in like manner the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius, a Gentile, and those with him, as on the apostles at the beginning; and they spake with tongues and magnified God 4, and upon that were received into the church by baptism.

But then there was this difference between the inspiration of the apostles and other believers; viz. the apostles had each of them all those miraculous powers and gifts which were divided to other believers severally, according to the good pleasure of the Holy Spirit. To one was given a miraculous faith, or such a faith as would enable him to work all sorts of miracles; to another the gift of healing; to another divers kinds of tongues, &c. as St. Paul assures us, 1 Cor. xii. 9, &c. But all were not endued with every one of these gifts, as the apostles were ; who being placed in the highest station, and appointed by Christ to be the chief managers of the great work of planting the gospel, it was but fitting that they should be distinguished from all others by greater variety of these supernatural gifts, and a power of conferring them upon others as they saw occasion.

But besides these extraordinary external powers and gifts, the Holy Ghost filled them with divers as extraordinary internal ones ; as,

First, a faculty of discerning spirits ", that is, a participation in some degree of that godlike power of looking into men's hearts, and knowing whether they were sincere or no in what they pretended to.

9 Acts X. 46.

r i Cor. xii. 10.

Thus when Simon Magus made profession of his believing in Christ, and was thereupon baptized, and then offered money to Peter and John that he might have the same power he saw them have, of giving the Holy Ghost to whom he would, by the imposition of his hands; Peter rebuked him, and said, Thy money perish with thee ;-for thy heart is not right in the sight of Gods; I perceive thy vile purpose in making this offer, and that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. And in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, he presently discerned their fraudulent intention in detaining part of the price of what they sold for the church's service, and making as if it was the whole.

Now this wonderful gift, as it was a great motive to sincerity in such as had already embraced the faith, and their continuing uncorrupt in their holy profession, and performance of all the duties of it in singleness of heart, and purity of intention, (which is a thing of no mean consideration,) since if they did not, they knew the apostles would soon find them out; so it was highly needful, in order to the detection of false pretenders to it, impostors, and hypocritical deluders of the brethren under a specious show of holiness, and pretence to miraculous powers; and for the more effectual exercise of ecclesiastical discipline upon such as most deserved it; and was a great security to the infant church from the unspeakable damage of admitting wolves in sheep's clothing into any place of trust, or share in her government, or the ministry of holy things.

s Acts viii. 20, &c.

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