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Q. JESUS CHRIST says to His disciples before His death, "Verily, verily I say to you, He that believes 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, (John 14:12); and again, He says after His resurrection, These signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover, (Mark 16:17, 18). — how do you understand these words, and what is the lesson which they inculcate?
A. I understand these words as inculcating on every true believer the absolute necessity of co-operating with Jesus Christ in the great general work of his salvation, which general work includes in it several particular works, called by Jesus Christ greater works than what He Himself did, and distinguished by the several striking characters of casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, escaping hurt from drinking any deadly thing, and laying hands on the sick, so as to restore them to health.
Q. Do you conceive then that man is called to cast out devils, to speak with new tongues, to take up serpents, etc?
A. Yes; for Jesus Christ says expressly of every true believer, The works that I do shall he do also, and that these signs shall follow them that believe.
Q. And in what sense do you conceive those works are to be done by the true believer?
A. The true believer casts out devils, when he opposes and subdues evil in himself, for all evils are in close connection with devils; again, he speaks with a new tongue, when he acknowledges Christian doctrine, especially the doctrine which teaches that Jesus Christ is god, and that evil ought not to be done, because it is opposed to Him and to His life. Again, he takes up serpents, when he elevates his sensual principle, by compelling it to regard an eternal ends. Again, he drinks deadly things and they do not hurt him, when he admits false persuasions into his understanding, but does not suffer them to influence his will and life. Lastly, he lays hands on the sick and they recover, when he applies the truth, which he believes, to the removal of all his natural infirmities, disorders and corruptions.
Q. And what do you mean by co-operating with Jesus Christ in these works?
A. Man co-operates with Jesus Christ, when he believes the words of Jesus Christ, Without me you can do nothing, (John xv. 5); and when he nevertheless exerts himself in the discharge of all his duties freely, as if all depended on his own exertions, yet under the acknowledgement that all his power and exertion is from that great god and saviour. For the conduct of man in regard to saving works is of a three-fold character, since he may, first, either trust to the almighty to do every thing for him without doing any thing for himself, or, secondly, he may depend upon his own exertions without trusting to the almighty, or, thirdly, he may combine his own exertions with divine power, and thus co-operate with that power.
Q. And which of these rules of conduct do you think the safest, and most agreeable to the order of heaven?
A. I should think the last, because in pursuing the first of those rules, man makes himself a mere machine, and in pursuing the second, he becomes his own god, by resting his salvation on his own powers independent of the power of god, the fatal consequence of which is, that his own activities only tend to separate him more and more from the blessed life of god. Accordingly Jesus Christ, with a view to secure man against the danger of both these rules of conduct, delivered to mankind this important injunction, Abide in me, and I in you, (John 15:4), by which He meant to teach the necessity of a reciprocal conjunction of Himself with man, and of man with Himself, in the discharge of every duty, before that duty can be of any avail in promoting man's salvation. The law therefore of co-operation with Jesus Christ in the performance of religious duties is grounded in the grand design of all true religion, which is to effect man's conjunction with his maker, since without co-operation it is impossible that such conjunction can ever be accomplished.
Q. Do you conceive then that co-operation with Jesus Christ is necessary in discharging the duty of prayer?
A. Yes; I conceive it to be so necessary, that man cannot properly pray without it, since without it, all his prayers are but mere sounds of words, which may more properly be called, Saying a prayer, than praying. For all true prayer implies, not only the sound of words, but heavenly affection and heavenly thought, and how can man possess or exercise either heavenly affection or heavenly thought without assistance from above, or from that divine Being who has said, Without me you can do nothing? Unless man therefore in his prayers looks up to Jesus Christ as the author and giver of heavenly affection and thought, his prayers must of necessity be mere sounds of the voice, and so far from procuring him any blessing, they will but separate him further from its divine source. Thus it is an eternal law of profitable prayer, that it shall not only be directed to Jesus Christ, but also be acknowledged to be from Him.
Q. And do you conceive that the same cooperation is necessary in keeping the commandments of the decalogue?
A. Yes; for the commandments of the decalogue are laws of spiritual, of civil, and of moral life, being designed of god to effect His conjunction with man, and man's conjunction with Him in the several degrees of man's life, which may be called spiritual, civil, and moral. If man then does not co-operate with Jesus Christ in keeping these divine and heavenly laws, he cannot then keep them completely, but only in part, for if he does not co-operate with Jesus Christ in keeping them, he must then keep them, if he keeps them at all, from mere worldly and temporal motives, such as the fear of human laws, the loss of reputation, etc. thus he will keep them as moral and civil laws, but not as spiritual laws, and the terrible consequence will be that not regarding an eternal end in them, that is to say, not abstaining from evil because it is sin against god, consequently not regarding god and His eternal kingdom, these heaven-born laws will effect no conjunction between god and himself, and no radical purification from his natural evils, as they were designed to do, but will leave him as far from god and his life, and as deeply immersed in sin as if he never kept them at all. This was the case, we find, with the young man in the gospel, who had thus kept the moral and civil part of the divine law, but not the spiritual part at the same time, by respecting god in the other parts, of whom therefore it is written, that Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said to him, One thing you lack, (Mark 10:17-23). This one thing lacking was co-operation with Jesus Christ in the rejection of evils, and if this one thing be lacking amongst Christians at this day, the necessary consequence must be, that the commandments will be deprived of their purifying and saving efficacy, so that although man, as to the letter of the law, abstains from murder, from adultery, from theft, and from false witness, yet, not abstaining from these evils in the spirit. or because they are sins against god, he will still be a spiritual murderer, adulterer, thief, and false witness.
Q. What then do you suppose Jesus Christ means by the greater works, which the true believer is to perform?
A. The greatest of all works, and of all miracles, properly considered, is done by the true believer, when he prostrates himself before his heavenly father, in devout prayer, and keeps the commandments of the decalogue according to the internal spirit both of the lord's prayer and His precepts, and in co-operation with Him; for in this work both god and man are employed conjointly, since it cannot be effected by either singly. In this work too are combined all the miracles which Jesus Christ ever wrought, when understood according to their real, proper, and spiritual meaning; for by this work, the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them, (Matt. 11:5). Thus by a right use of the lord's prayer, and a right observance of the divine precepts of the Decalogue, all the infirmities, disorders, defilements, and miseries of man are worked upon and removed, and since these effects are produced by Jesus Christ in His glorified humanity, and by man conjointly, therefore they are called greater works than those performed by Jesus Christ here on earth before his glorification, and without the co-operation of man. Accordingly the reason assigned by Jesus Christ for these greater works is expressed in these remarkable words, Because I go to the Father, which is the same thing as if He had said, Because my humanity will be made divine, and I shall thus be enabled to operate on my children with seven-fold energy, whilst they, in their turn, will be enabled to co-operate with Me to seven-fold advantage, by the reception of a seven-fold increase of faith, and love, and joy.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from all the lord's miracles?
A. I learn, in the first
place, that the blessed Jesus, from His humanity now made divine, and
by the instrumentality of His holy word,
is ever willing and purposing to accomplish in the souls of men the same
divine works, or miraculous operations, which He accomplished in their bodies,
when here on earth. Thus it is still His divine will and purpose, by means of
His holy word, to instruct mankind in the knowledge of the eternal
truth, which is to deliver them from
blindness, by opening their eyes
to the blessing of sight. In like manner, it is His will and
purpose, by the same means, to render them obedient to the truth, which is to open their ears; also to enable them to
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