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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Sec. I.--On the Diversity of Spiritual Gifts.

Constitutions Of The Holy Apostles by Various

Sec. I.--On the Diversity of Spiritual Gifts.

On Whose Account the Powers of Miracles are Performed.

I. Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, delivered to us the great mystery of godliness, and called both Jews and Gentiles to the acknowledgment of the one and only true God His Father, as Himself somewhere says, when He was giving thanks for the salvation of those that had believed, |I have manifested Thy name to men, I have finished the work Thou gavest me;| and said concerning us to His Father, |Holy Father, although the world has not known Thee, yet have I known Thee; and these have known Thee.| With good reason did He say to all of us together, when we were perfected concerning those gifts which were given from Him by the Spirit: |Now these signs shall follow them that have believed in my name: they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall by no means hurt them: they shall lay their hands on the sick, and they shall recover.| These gifts were first bestowed on us the apostles when we were about to preach the Gospel to every creature, and afterwards were of necessity afforded to those who had by our means believed; not for the advantage of those who perform them, but for the conviction of the unbelievers, that those whom the word did not persuade, the power of signs might put to shame: for signs are not for us who believe, but for the unbelievers, both for the Jews and Gentiles. For neither is it any profit to us to cast out demons, but to those who are so cleansed by the power of the Lord; as the Lord Himself somewhere instructs us, and shows, saying: |Rejoice ye, not because the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.| Since the former is done by His power, but this by our good disposition and diligence, yet (it is manifest) by His assistance. It is not therefore necessary that every one of the faithful should cast out demons, or raise the dead, or speak with tongues; but such a one only who is vouchsafed this gift, for some cause which may be advantage to the salvation of the unbelievers, who are often put to shame, not with the demonstration of the world, but by the power of the signs; that is, such as are worthy of salvation: for all the ungodly are not affected by wonders; and hereof God Himself is a witness, as when He says in the law: |With other tongues will I speak to this people, and with other lips, and yet will they by no means believe.| For neither did the Egyptians believe in God, when Moses had done so many signs and wonders; nor did the multitude of the Jews believe in Christ, as they believed Moses, who yet had healed every sickness and every disease among them. Nor were the former shamed by the rod which was turned into a living serpent, nor by the hand which was made white with leprosy, nor by the river Nile turned into blood; nor the latter by the blind who recovered their sight, nor by the lame who walked, nor by the dead who were raised. The one was resisted by Jannes and Jambres, the other by Annas and Caiaphas. Thus signs do not shame all into belief, but only those of a good disposition; for whose sake also it is that God is pleased, as a wise steward of a family, to appoint miracles to be wrought, not by the power of men, but by His own will. Now we say these things, that those who have received such gifts may not exalt themselves against those who have not received them; such gifts, we mean, as are for the working of miracles. For otherwise there is no man who has believed in God through Christ, that has not received some spiritual gift: for this very thing, having been delivered from the impiety of polytheism, and having believed in God the Father through Christ, this is a gift of God. And the having cast off the veil of Judaism, and having believed that, by the good pleasure of God, His only begotten Son, who was before all ages, was in the last time born of a virgin, without the company of a man, and that He lived as a man, yet without sin, and fulfilled all that righteousness which is of the law; and that, by the permission of God, He who was God the Word endured the cross, and despised the shame; and that He died, and was buried, and rose within three days; and that after His resurrection, having continued forty days with His apostles, and completed His whole constitutions, He was taken up in their sight to His God and Father, who sent Him: he who has believed these things, not at random and irrationally, but with judgment and full assurance, has received the gift of God. So also has He who is delivered from every heresy. Let not, therefore, any one that works signs and wonders judge any one of the faithful who is not vouchsafed the same: for the gifts of God which are bestowed by Him through Christ are various; and one man receives one gift, and another another. For perhaps one has the word of wisdom, and another the word of knowledge; another, discerning of spirits; another, foreknowledge of things to come; another, the word of teaching; another, long-suffering; another, continence according to the law: for even Moses, the man of God, when he wrought signs in Egypt, did not exalt himself against his equals: and when he was called a god, he did not arrogantly despise his own prophet Aaron. Nor did Joshua the son of Nun, who was the leader of the people after him, though in the war with the Jebusites he had made the sun stand still over against Gibeon, and the moon over against the valley of Ajalon, because the day was not long enough for their victory, insult over Phineas or Caleb. Nor did Samuel, who had done so many surprising things, disregard David the beloved of God: yet they were both prophets, and the one was high priest, and the other was king. And when there were only seven thousand holy men in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal, Elijah alone among them, and his disciple Elisha, were workers of miracles. Yet neither did Elijah despise Obadiah the steward, who feared God, but wrought no signs; nor did Elisha despise his own disciple when he trembled at the enemies. Moreover, neither did the wise Daniel who was twice delivered from the mouths of the lions, nor the three children who were delivered from the furnace of fire, despise the rest of their fellow-Israelites: for they knew that they had not escaped these terrible miseries by their own might; but by the power of God did they both work miracles, and were delivered from miseries. Wherefore let none of you exalt himself against his brother, though he be a prophet, or though he be a worker of miracles: for if it happens that there be no longer an unbeliever, all the power of signs will thenceforwards be superfluous. For to be pious is from any one's good disposition; but to work wonders is from the power of Him that works them by us: the first of which respects ourselves; but the second respects God that works them, for the reasons which we have already mentioned. Wherefore neither let a king despise his officers that are under him, nor the rulers those who are subject. For where there are none to be ruled over, rulers are superfluous; and where there are no officers, the kingdom will not stand. Moreover, let not a bishop be exalted against his deacons and presbyters, nor the presbyters against the people: for the subsistence of the congregation depends on each other. For the bishops and the presbyters are the priests with relation to the people; and the laity are the laity with relation to the clergy. And to be a Christian is in our own power; but to be an apostle, or a bishop, or in any other such office, is not in our own power, but at the disposal of God, who bestows the gifts. And thus much concerning those who are vouchsafed gifts and dignities.

Concerning Unworthy Bishops and Presbyters.

II. We add, in the next place, that neither is every one that prophesies holy, nor every one that casts out devils religious: for even Balaam the son of Beor the prophet did prophesy, though he was himself ungodly; as also did Caiaphas, the falsely-named high priest. Nay, the devil foretells many things, and the demons, about Him; and yet for all that, there is not a spark of piety in them: for they are oppressed with ignorance, by reason of their voluntary wickedness. It is manifest, therefore, that the ungodly, although they prophesy, do not by their prophesying cover their own impiety; nor will those who cast out demons be sanctified by the demons being made subject to them: for they only mock one another, as they do who play childish tricks for mirth, and destroy those who give heed to them. For neither is a wicked king any longer a king, but a tyrant; nor is a bishop oppressed with ignorance or an evil disposition a bishop, but falsely so called, being not one sent out by God, but by men, as Ananiah and Samoeah in Jerusalem, and Zedekiah and Achiah the false prophets in Babylon. And indeed Balaam the prophet, when he had corrupted Israel by Baal-peor, suffered punishment; and Caiaphas at last was his own murderer; and the sons of Sceva, endeavouring to cast out demons, were wounded by them, and fled away in an unseemly manner; and the kings of Israel and of Judah, when they became impious, suffered all sorts of punishments. It is therefore evident how bishops and presbyters, also falsely so called, will not escape the judgment of God. For it will be said to them even now: |O ye priests that despise my name, I will deliver you up to the slaughter, as I did Zedekiah and Achiah, whom the king of Babylon fried in a frying-pan,| as says Jeremiah the prophet. We say these things, not in contempt of true prophecies, for we know that they are wrought in holy men by the inspiration of God, but to put a stop to the boldness of vainglorious men; and add this withal, that from such as these God takes away His grace: for |God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.| Now Silas and Agabus prophesied in our times; yet did they not equal themselves to the apostles, nor did they exceed their own measures though they were beloved of God. Now women prophesied also. Of old, Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron, and after her Deborah, and after these Huldah and Judith -- the former under Josiah, the latter under Darius. The mother of the Lord did also prophesy, and her kinswoman Elisabeth, and Anna; and in our time the daughters of Philip; yet were not these elated against their husbands, but preserved their own measures. Wherefore if among you also there be a man or a woman, and such a one obtains any gift, let him be humble, that God may be pleased with him. For says He: |Upon whom will I look, but upon him that is humble and quiet, and trembles at my words?|

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