MIRACLES AND PROPHECIES
Rev. William Goode
When the Charismatic movement first began to affect people I was acquainted with, it was a matter of serious concern because I knew very little about the claims being made and had never made a particular study of the subject. It was, then, a great help to find that a dear friend of mine had a copy of William Goode’s book, originally published in the 1830s under the title, The Modern Claims to the Possession of the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit.
This was at the time of the Irvingite delusions in the early 1800s. 1 only had a treasured photocopy of the relevant parts of this original copy of the book and hoped it would one day be re-published. Now it has been – by K & M BOOKS, Plus Gwyn. Treluwnyd, Wales, LLJS 6DT. This edition has a useful new introduction by Dr. Nick Needham and a long Appendix by Alan Howe dealing with more modern developments of the Charismatic claims. Below is a short extract from the original book dealing specifically with the claims of Charismatics to the miraculous gifts and particularly the gift of prophecy. For those who have read something of modern Charismatic claims, there is a sad familiarity to the claims made almost two centuries ago and a careful reading of this extract will confirm this. Editor.
We have already had occasion to observe, that while our Lord and His apostles gave many warnings to the Church, that in the last days false prophets would arise and show great signs and wonders, they have not left on record one single promise or hint that there would be in those days any true prophets; – that time of Christ’s second coming, the favourite subject of prediction with our present and all similar pretenders, will not be foreknown by His own servants; and that, in fact, He inculcated upon all His followers the necessity of watchfulness, on the ground that His coming would be unexpected.
Now, it so little accords with the usual mode of God’s dealings with His Church, that prophets should be raised up as the harbingers of Christ’s second coming, of whom there have been no previous predictions leading us to expect the appearance of such messengers, that on this ground alone we have reason to doubt it. And certainly there is not the most remote hint of such a thing in the whole of the New Testament. Nay, on the contrary, the language in which the second coming of Christ is spoken of, invariably represents it as coming suddenly and unexpectedly upon all. Thus, besides the passages already quoted, our Lord says to His disciples, – “Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh” (Mark 13.33-35). And so He exhorts His disciples with the same reference, ‘Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh they may open unto him immediately . . . The Son of man cometh at an hour that ye think not” (Luke 12.35,36,40). And so in the parabolical description of
this event, recorded in the 25th of St. Matthew, the first cry that announces the coming of the bridegroom is made when the time for preparation for that event is over; and the lesson deduced is this;
‘watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (See Matthew 25.1-13).
The same truth is also distinctly stated by St. Paul in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians. After speaking of the events that shall take place at our Lord’s second coming, he says, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you; for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” Nothing can be more general than this statement; and, in fact, a declaration that the day of the Lord was to come as a thief upon the ungodly only, would have afforded no reason why the apostle should not have communicated some instruction to the Thessalonian saints respecting the times and seasons. But it is sometimes urged, that in a subsequent verse the apostle adds, “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief;” and hence, that the .statement in the former verse can apply only to the ungodly. There is nothing, however, in this language to support such a conclusion, and much in the context against it. For it is a totally different thing to say, that that day should not come upon the godly as a thief, and that it should not overtake them, or take hold of them, as a thief. The word is put in contrast with that used respecting the ungodly in the preceding verse, that when that day came upon them, they “should not escape;” to which it is added, that the godly should not be thus “overtaken, or taken hold of.” And the reason given by the apostle for this, namely, because they were not “in darkness,” clearly proves the meaning of the words;
or the darkness here spoken of is the darkness of sin, as verses 6,8, fully prove; and hence, their not being thus overtaken, depends upon heir state, and not upon their knowing when the day is to come. He, therefore, adds an exhortation to them to be “sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love,” &c. In fact, the same metaphor is used by our Lord Himself, and His language manifestly applies as much to His own servants as to the ungodly. “This know,” He says, “that if the good man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would lave watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also; for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Luke 12.39,40). The master of the house had his house broken through because, not being always on the watch, the thief coming unexpectedly had found him sleeping. Hence if His followers would avoid a similar result, they must be “always ready” that they may not be taken unprepared by Him, for His coming would be as unexpected and sudden as that of the thief was to the man whose house was broken through, but would not be attended with similar consequences if they were always ready.
genuine spirituality of mind; which is invariably characterized by the exercise, and a desire for an increase, of – not the extraordinary gifts, but – the sanctifying graces, of the Spirit. It lays a man open to not a little suspicion as to the real nature of his motives, that he should so anxiously desire to be gifted with extraordinary power.
The one great object of desire to the spiritual mind is sanctification, the progressive renewal of the soul by the internal operations of the Holy Spirit upon it as an illuminating, purifying, strengthening, and comforting Spirit, taking of the things of Christ, and revealing them to the mind, enabling it to realize the great truths of the divine word, and to live by faith upon them. And the evidence of such a work, and its effects, will be a quiet unostentatious walking with God in the fulfilment of Christian duties, the exhibition of Christian tempers, and a generally humble, holy, and consistent course of conduct. But, if, instead of making this work of sanctification and renewal after the image of God, the one great object of desire and pursuit, a man is
restless for the possession of supernatural powers, as if these were the great and general effects to be produced by the indwelling of the Spirit in the soul, he betrays at once that want of real spiritual feeling that he would fain charge upon others, and an ignorance of the real object of Christ’s work, which was not to enable men to speak various languages and work cures upon their fellow-creatures, or that they might become the passive organs of the Spirit’s utterance, but that they might become ‘a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” that they might “adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things,” that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in his present world.”
But, say the advocates for these claims, the people of God have the spirit dwelling in them. True indeed; and blessed be God for such a precious gift; but what are the scriptural evidences of a man’s having that gift? Are they that he can work miracles, or that his mouth is gainfully constrained to pour out words of religious instruction? No;
‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness,
goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5.22,23). And so the
great promise of the New Covenant is, “I will put my laws into their
mind, and write them in their hearts . . . and all shall know me,” &c. :Jer. 31.33,34; Heb. 8.10,11). But now we are told that the Church is ignorant and defective in spirituality, to be satisfied with seeking the attainment of these blessings, for that she ought not to rest contented with any thing short of being able to speak foreign languages, to cure diseases, to utter predictions, to exercise, in fact, the prerogatives of God Himself. And these extraordinary endowments are set forth as the standard by which we are to measure Christian attainments. How different this from the language which our Lord uses respecting them. When the disciples returned to Him pleased with the supernatural
power which He had enabled them to exercise. He says, “In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10.20).
The passage so often quoted by those whose case we are now considering, where the apostle says, “Covet earnestly the best gifts,” affords anything but a confirmation of the view they propose to establish by it. The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were then abundant in the Church; and those less edifying, but probably considered more showy, were sometimes preferred to those which were more useful (1 Cor. 14). In this state of things, then, the apostle exhorts them to covet earnestly the BEST gifts; and then, to show them still further how inferior all those gifts were to real sanctification of heart and holiness of life, and that, in fact, considered in themselves, and alone, they were worth nothing, he immediately adds, “And yet show I unto you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass . . . And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge . . . and have not charity, I am nothing . . . Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (1 Cor. 12.31; 13.1,2,8).
It is true, indeed, that these gifts were at that time legitimate objects of desire to Christians, for the apostle exhorts them, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 14.1). They were so not only from their being so essential at that time as witnesses to the gospel dispensation upon its introduction, but also as the usual accompaniments then of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart. But the case is altogether different at the present day, especially in a Christian country, and when, for fifteen centuries at least, these gifts have confessedly not been the usual accompaniments of the reception of the influences of the Holy Spirit in the heart.
These gifts may exalt a man in the eyes of his fellow-creatures, and also may make him an instrument, when God sees fit so to use him, for exhibiting the divine power; but they have no tendency to improve the man himself, no power to build him up in holiness and purify his heart. The sanctifying gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit work a transforming effect upon the soul, new-creating it after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, bringing it continually nearer to the divine model. These have no such effect. Nay, on the contrary, we have St. Paul’s own testimony, that the possession of such gifts, instead of having an influence in promoting holiness, is of so contrary a tendency, that he himself needed a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure at the revelations which had been given to him.
Can the possession of such gifts, then, be an object of genuine spiritual
desire to a renewed mind? That, when bestowed, it should be used to the glory of the Giver, with thankfulness and gratitude for the honour conferred, is another matter; but that it should be the object of earnest desire and prayer, betrays either an ignorance of its real tendency or the secret lurkings of spiritual pride. The example of David formed no just ground of expectation to every Israelitish youth, of being able to wield a Goliath’s sword.
It is, in fact, like a child asking a parent for a sharp tool which it is mercy to withhold; and if it obstinately make one for itself, it may be allowed, by the kindest parent, to reap the natural consequences, that it may be taught from suffering, that which it refused to learn otherwise. And this, be it remembered, is the usual recorded mode of God’s dealings with his children.
Of a claim at the present day to the possession of such gifts, it is said by Dr. More, in his Mystery of Godliness, that it “is never disjoined from the highest kind of pride, even where it seems to be most humble. For the attributing nothing to itself, but that all its knowledge and power are immediately from God, is nothing else but an ostentation of a higher kind of power and more infallible way of knowledge than other mortals have.”
Whatever may be the influence which excitement or natural enthusiasm may have in producing such scenes as those to which we are now alluding, it is but too evident that there is another and a more powerful agent, more or less concerned in the delusion. It may be asked, indeed, what interest Satan can have in exhorting men to holiness, in prophesying the downfall of his kingdom, &c. But in this very point lies the subtilty of the deception. Were he not to clothe himself as an angel of light, his devices would have no effect upon those whom alone it is his object to lead astray, – the children of God. Were he not also to make use of good men as his instruments, he would be equally unsuccessful. While, therefore, in order to keep up the delusion, he enables such persons to deliver, in an extraordinary manner, much that is true and good and useful, his own purposes are answered in various ways. He thus leads them unconsciously to the intermixture, if not of fundamentally false doctrine, (of which, however, the present case does not admit the exception), yet at least of unprofitable speculations, false predictions, and notions that encourage unwarrantable expectations. This intermixture is not in the present claimants denied, and it is one of the extraordinary features of the case, (though one which it shares in common with the French and English prophets of the last century), that this, which is so constantly pointed out by the early Fathers of the Church as one great proof of a satanic possession, is, as they conceive, to be accounted for, by supposing that persons may be, during one and the same utterance, at one moment actuated by the Holy Spirit, and at another, either by their own imagination, or by an evil spirit.
By this method, also, he leads them to entertain presumptuous thoughts of their being endowed by God with His extraordinary gifts;
and if these gifts are themselves calculated to engender pride, how much more injurious must a false notion of their possession be to the spirit of the claimant!
Nor do the evil effects of such a delusion terminate with the individual actors in it. One of the first effects is, the creation of fresh divisions in the Church – that great object of its subtle enemy. So far, also, as the delusion spreads, the minds of men are led to unwarrantable expectations, which, when disappointed, cause their faith and hope to flag, produce, not unfrequently, hard thoughts of God, and often create a reaction in the mind against religion itself: Men will not always remember that the fault is with themselves for indulging notions formed upon insufficient grounds, and that they have been wearying themselves with very vanity. Nay, many, moved by the appearances of sincerity and piety they have witnessed in such claimants, and losing sight of the self-opiniativeness that carried them away in opposition to the warnings and remonstrances of the whole Christian Church, have their very faith in Christianity itself shaken by the discovery that such persons have seen under a delusion. And as it respects the world, there is nothing, perhaps, that can more prejudice them against religion, or induce them to identify all earnestness and zeal in the ways of God with the weakness and enthusiasm of the fanatic, as such a caricature of the Christian character as the conduct of such persons exhibits to them.
“It has ever been,” says Milner, speaking of the Montanists, “one of the greatest trials to men really led by the Spirit of God – besides the open opposition of the profane – to be obliged to encounter the subtle devices of Satan, who often raises up pretended illuminations, and so connects them with delusion, folly, wickedness, and self-conceit, that they expose true godliness to the imputation of enthusiasm, and to contempt and disgrace . .
. Whatever high pretentious the eruptions of fanaticism make to the influences of the Divine Spirit, they are ever unfavourable to them in reality; not only by their unholy tendency during the paroxysm of zeal, but much more so by the effects of contemptuous profaneness and incredulous scepticism which they leave behind them. It is for the sake of these chiefly that Satan seems to invent and support such delusions.”