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For, considering all the circumstances, it never could have been adopted by mankind had they not been fully satisfied that God was its Author.
St Augustine justly observes, that had this been accomplished without miracles, this itself would have been the greatest of all miracles. But Almighty God, qui disponit omnia suaviter et fortiter, who disposes all things with strength and sweetness—who never fails to bring to pass by His almighty power whatever He is determined to accomplish, and who always brings about His designs with the greatest sweetness, by means congenial, the best adapted to the end proposed_effectually did establish the Christian religion in the world, notwithstanding all opposition, and gave mankind irrefragable proofs of its divine origin, by the profusion of supernatural gifts and graces which he bestowed upon those who professed it. Nothing could be better adapted to the end proposed than this ; for by these supernatural graces Christians themselves had an internal experimental feeling of the truth of their religion ; they felt its wonderful effects in their own hearts—the divine light which beamed forth in their understandings, the entire change of their affections, which became detached from all the perishable objects of this life, and fixed on God and those eternal goods which their holy religion proposed to them; the interior consolation and peaceful joy which the Holy Ghost communicated to their souls ; the fortitude and strength which He gave them to overcome all difficulties—nay, which made them even love the very torments most dreaded by human nature when suffered for His sake.
These were proofs indeed-internal feelings, experimental proofs, which gave the fullest conviction to those
happy souls who felt them, and made them at the same time the most proper instruments for convincing others that the religion which they professed was truly divine. In fact, their heroic fortitude under the severest trials; their amazing patience in the midst of torments; their profound humility; their admirable meekness and charity towards their inveterate enemies, joined to the stupendous miracles wrought by their means,-gave a force and efficacy to their words which made the deepest impression on the minds of the heathens, gradually overcame their obstinate prejudices, and at last converted them to the faith and law of Christ.
III. The nature and different kinds of these spiritual gifts and graces are described by St Paul in the following terms : “To one indeed by the Spirit is given the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit ; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the grace of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy ; to another the discerning of Spirits ; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of speeches: but all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as He wills,” i Cor. xii. The following explanation of them is laid down by the learned author of the “Miraculous Powers of the Church,' p. 3, as taken from the best commentators on this subject :
IV. “By the word of wisdom is generally understood the gift of prudence or discretion, in the use of all other spiritual gifts, so that they be not exerted out of due time and place, &c.—a point wherein some of the faithful were deficient, as appears from the 14th chapter of the same Epistle. By the word of knowledge is meant a facility of expounding the doctrine of faith, so as to lay it open to the hearers in such a method as may be most suitable to their capacity. By faith, in this passage, is meant not that theological virtue by which we yield assent to every revealed truth on the testimony of God, but a certain strong confidence or reliance on God for the working of miracles.
“These three gifts are not miraculous, but the third has a particular relation to the miraculous powers. By the grace of healing, is understood the miraculous gift of healing bodily diseases, either by the laying on of hands, or prayer, or by anointing with oil, &c. See Mark vi. By the working of miracles, is understood the power of doing greater works than those last mentioned ; as the raising of the dead to life ; giving sight to the blind; casting out devils, &c. By prophecy is meant not only the foretelling of things to come, and the discovery of hidden secrets, but also the gift of expounding deep mysteries by the assistance of the Holy Ghost suggesting divers interpretations, which tend to instruction and edification. And if it be taken in this light, independently of the foreknowledge of things to come, it is not properly miraculous, though it belongs to the gifts which are called charismatic. The discerning of spirits is the gift of distinguishing the suggestions of the good spirit from those of the evil one.
"By the kinds of tongues, is signified the gift of speaking divers languages; which was conferred upon the apostles, and some of the principal disciples in a more eminent degree, to enable them to preach the Gospel, and to establish a regular ministry in different parts of the world. To others it was given in an inferior degree, insomuch that several of the faithful were inspired by the Holy Ghost to utter the praises of God in a language which they
themselves did not understand, as appears from 1 Cor. xiv., the intent whereof seems to have been to foreshow that the Church of Christ should be spread through all nations, and speak all languages. By interpretation of. speeches, is meant the gifts of interpreting what was spoken by another in an unknown tongue."
V. Now, two things are principally to be considered concerning these graces. 1. Their extension. And, 2. The manner and means of their transmission or communication. With regard to their extension, as they were the operations of the Holy Ghost in those in whom He dwelt, we find that, at the beginning, those who received that Divine Spirit by the laying on of the hands of the apostles in the sacrament of Confirmation, received more or less of those graces, according as it seemed meet to Him to bestow them. When He first descended upon the apostles, they and all the disciples received an ample communication of them, and spoke in different tongues the wonderful works of God. The Jews being amazed at so extraordinary an event, St Peter showed them, from the testimony of the prophet Joel, that this was nothing more than the accomplishment of what God had long ago foretold by that prophet; by whom He promised, that in the last days, when the Redeemer should come, He would pour out upon all flesh His Holy Spirit, Who would produce those admirable operations in His servants, as so many proofs, both to them and to the whole world, of the truth of His holy religion. The words of the prophet are these : “And it shall come to pass in the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants and on my handmaids, I will pour out
in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy," Acts ii.
It is clear that this promise was made not to a few individuals, but to all God's faithful servants on whom the Holy Spirit should descend. And a little after, St Peter assures us that it was made not to the Jews only, but also to those of all other nations who should be called to the faith of Christ; “For the promise,” says he, “is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,” verse 39. And, in fact, we find that this promise was generally fulfilled in all the faithful, Gentiles as well as Jews. Thus, when St Peter was preaching to Cornelius and his friends, the Holy Ghost came upon them, though Gentiles, in the same visible manner that He had descended upon the apostles, “and they all spake with tongues,” Acts x.
When St Philip had converted the Samaritans, St Peter and St John went down from Jerusalem to confirm them, “and laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost,” Acts viii., Who immediately produced in them the usual signs of His presence. All were sensible of it, insomuch that Simon the magician, who wondered beholding the signs and miracles which were done by Philip, wondered much more to see the Holy Ghost, by whom these miracles were performed, and along with Him the power of miracles also communicated to all the people by the laying on of the hands of the apostles; and therefore offered them money to give to him the same power which they had," that on whomsoever he should lay his hands the Holy Ghost also should come." In like manner, St Paul, finding certain disciples at Ephesus, who had not yet received, nor indeed heard of, the Holy Ghost, did no sooner baptise