The spiritual gifts
Ronald D. Dennis, trans. and ed., Defending the Faith: Early Welsh Missionary Publications (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003).
D6 DAVIS, John. Y doniau ysbrydol yn mrawdlys y gelyn; yn cynnwys sylwadau ar ysgrifau “Sylwedydd o’r Gogledd,” yn Seren Gomer (o Hydref, 1848, hyd Chwefror, 1849), ynghylch y “doniau ysbrydol.” (The spiritual gifts in the court of the enemy; containing observations on the writings of the “Observer from the North,” in Star of Gomer [from October, 1848, until February, 1849], concerning the “spiritual gifts.”) Merthyr Tydfil: Printed and for sale by J. Davis, Georgetown, 1849.
24 pp. 17 cm. Welsh Mormon Writings 30.
The entire contents of this pamphlet, with the exception of the title page and a ten-line foreword, were published previously in Zion’s Trumpet, between April and July 1849 (pp. 67–71, 85–93, 108–13, 128–32). John Davis states in his foreword that he was publishing The spiritual gifts at the request of some of the readers of Zion’s Trumpet.
The “court of the enemy,” as mentioned in the title, refers to the Baptist periodical Seren Gomer (Star of Gomer), which had frequently published anti-Mormon materials and then refused to print anything sent to the editor in rebuttal. The writings of the “Observer from the North,” also mentioned in the title, were aimed at refuting Dan Jones’s writings on the topic of spiritual gifts.
Davis systematically refutes the observations of the “Observer” and defends his mentor, Dan Jones.
COURT OF THE ENEMY;
OBSERVATIONS ON THE WRITINGS OF THE “OBSERVER
FROM THE NORTH,” IN STAR OF GOMER (FROM
OCTOBER, 1848, TO FEBRUARY, 1849),
CONCERNING THE “SPIRITUAL GIFTS.”
EDITOR OF “ZION’S TRUMPET.”
PRINTED AND FOR SALE BY J. DAVIS, GEORGETOWN;
FOR SALE ALSO
By the Saints in general, and many Bookdealers,
throughout the South and the North.
TO THE READER.
We hope that the reader, as he reads the following observations, will keep in mind that they have appeared previously, from time to time, in ZION’S TRUMPET, and that this booklet is but another printing of those observations at the request of some of our readers. This will account for the various unusual references in it, and the reason for writing in the plural number. We are confident that it will be the means for God to open the eyes of many, and bring them to know him through believing in the words of his Son, and obey all his ordinances,
Merthyr, July 12, 1849.
The Spiritual Gifts in the Court of the Enemy
WE promised in our first Issue, that if the Editor of the Star of Gomer did not give permission to defend the principles of the Saints in his publication, in the face of the writings therein on the “Spiritual Gifts” by an Observer from the North, we would write something on the subject in the TRUMPET. Our space is too small, and our readers, for the most part, are too unfamiliar with the Star, for us to think of reviewing all of it; therefore, let us pass over the parts where the Observer is snarling and lowering himself to misrepresentation, and let us go directly to the parts where he is as one trying to reason. We are compelled to do this, for the court of the Star is so different from other courts, that no one is allowed to bring forth anything in favor of the “Spiritual Gifts,” rather everything must be against them. It is fitting, therefore, to say that the “Spiritual Gifts” are in the enemy’s court, and that the one testifying against them may make whatever false accusations he wishes, and no one may doubt them. From our abundant acquaintance with the person and the spirit of the Observer, we know to some extent of the desire he has to find out the truth of the Spiritual Gifts, and also about other things. A man who searches for the truth is easy to recognize; for he is never seen lowering his head in shame, when he hears his fellow man revealing something which he himself knows to be the truth. There is no need to eat a peck of salt with such a man, in order to know him. But someone, perhaps, is shouting for us to come to the matter under discussion; but let him wait a little in order to understand what is our objective. Are we going to defend our fathers’ traditions, which have been taught to us since our childhood; or something else we embraced contrary to the prejudice of our country, the prejudice of our parents, and our own prejudice? Are we going to expose the deceit of the principles that are respected by all, or the principles that are scorned by all? Our answer is that we are going to explain and defend what we know, not what we believe and hope, to be the truth; yes, we intend to stand up for what proves itself to be true to every honest man. We disapprove of the men who stand afar off to judge the truth, instead of having sufficient courage to come near to put it to the test for themselves. Many people believe at night that every treetrunk in the hedge is a bogeyman, not being brave enough to go to them to feel them and touch them, and test them.
The Observer of the North takes occasion to write about the observations that Capt. D. Jones published, on the Spiritual Gifts, in the “Scriptural Treasury.” The first topic in the Observer’s masterpiece is seen in the Star for October, 1848, after a few introductory comments, under the title
The Body or Church of Christ
Capt. Jones’s statement on this subject is, that the body of Christ was composed of different members, as it is described in 1 Cor. xii; and that the offices and gifts were the members which constituted it. He says that “God placed all the members in the first man to be created, and placed them in the right places which he had chosen; it is likewise true in his church. And it is as foolish now for anyone who believes himself wise to claim that he can take away any given member of the body, and put it to a better purpose in some other part of the human body, and another member in another place, and cut away the other members as unnecessary parts; as it is for a council of wise men to try to change or do without all the spiritual gifts, each one in its place, with its appropriate purpose, in the church of God: one is like the other.” In answer to Capt. Jones, the Observer says—”According to that, no church is the church of Christ, unless these offices or gifts are in it. But let him note that the church of the Old Testament is as much a body of Christ as is the New; for Paul says that ‘there is one body,’ i.e., one church to God. Well, it is not the same offices (or members, as the Mormons say) that have been in the body since the patriarchal dispensation until the present. The same number of offices were not in the patriarchal dispensation as were in the Mosaic, nor the same in the Mosaic as in the Christian. Thus, the church of Christ is not like a body in number or in the continuity of the offices in it.” One must admit that Mr. Observer’s reasoning is not all that bad. But where was the Old Testament, when it is said that God placed in the church (namely the body), “first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,” &c. (1 Cor. xii, 28)? If the body existed before, we must call that one something other than the body of Christ, for it was when God called apostles that the latter came into existence. If a body did exist before then, HE who created it was certainly able to re-shape it into a new body for his beloved Son. An author has the right to change his work, to answer different purposes: thus it is with God. “There is one body,” it is true, but that does not prove that there has been only one. It must be admitted that there is no description in the Old Testament of one body which is similar to the body of Christ, according to the New Testament. But there is no need to go into detail about what existed under the “old dispensation,” as it is called, rather let us talk about what exists now under the new one. By now we have come to the conclusion that God assembled a body or a new church, more than eighteen hundred years ago; and the apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, amenities, governments, diversities of tongues, &c., have been placed in it. But what are all these things that God has placed in the body? Are they members? If not, there is no mention of “members” of the Observer’s description ever being placed in the body. If men are the members of the church, like the sectarians, it was not God who placed them there, rather they themselves; for what he has placed in it comes from above, as “gifts to men” (not to members)—placing “some as apostles, and some as prophets,” as evangelists, as pastors, and as teachers. I believe by now everyone knows what makes up the members of Christ’s church. Now, Mr. Observer tries to reason, “is the church of Christ similar to a body in the number or the continuity of the offices in it?” Could it be that God placed the necessary number of members in the body, but left some to be placed by men? That there are fewer members in the Body of the Methodists than God placed in the body of Christ proves nothing; for the body of the former is the work of Calvin, and all its “members” (according to the explanation of Mr. O.) are either in its heads, eyes, ears, arms, or feet. Perhaps the whole thing is feet in “unity.” But let us leave such a monster, and let us see if the church of Christ is similar to a body with respect to the continuity of its members. If it was a body after God placed all the members in it, it must be a monster that would lose more than half of them. Why was the church of Christ called a body if it was to change suddenly into something else? Thus it would never come unto “a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Which human body comes unto a “perfect man,” while continually losing its members? If one can say one day that he owns all his members, perhaps he will have his nose only one more day. Such foolishness the devil gives to some in an effort to distort the truth! Do we not know that the body of Christ is “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love?” The apostles, the prophets, and the other members are to fulfil their purpose for being placed in the body, not just when it is in its infancy, but “until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph. iv, 11–16). Now, if we may, we shall give our opinion of Christ’s body, that he was in embryo under the old dispensation, and that he was formed and born of God under the new, and that he then received spiritual nourishment through the Head, for the strength and growth of all his members, and while he was growing, he was snatched into the “wilderness,” where he was nourished “for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent:” then he was restored from that “departure,” and that he is today on the face of the earth, possessing all his members, as they were placed in full working order, and the body closer than ever to being a “perfect man.” Is that enough, I wonder?
Next, we ask, what of the HEAD that is for the body? Mr. Observer, with Paul, says that Christ is the head; and Capt. Jones, poor thing, asserts that it is the apostles. Paul has, sometimes, a bad tendency, leading men to misinterpret. At times he says that the man is the head of the woman, until it is enough to make a fool assert that a woman has no head of her own. He could say, quite grammatically, that he knows of a “woman” on the earth, with her Head in the heavens, and that through it she receives nourishment for her body; and he could say also, without contradicting himself, that she also has her own head, and that through that one she receives nourishment, although at the same time she receives it from the other. It is unquestionable that Paul knows, when he says that Christ is the head of the church, that Christ has his own head also, and the same thing for the church (or the woman); just like husbands and wives have their own heads, except “the head of the woman is the man.” We hope that the Observer will be wiser, when he marries his lady friend, that he will not cut off her head, and place himself across her neck to be her “head” in its place. Now, Capt. Jones was describing the earthly head of the church, and Paul was describing the heavenly Head. Although Christ is not on the earth at present, yet he can be the Head of his church just as well, since the church also has a head on her body, to take care of it in the absence of her Husband, and to handle the “keys” which she received from him. A body without a head should not refer to Christ as its head, for it has no kind of skull to understand what Christ tells it. It is the lack of a skull, perhaps, in the body of the Methodists, and the other denominations, which is the cause of their not having heard God’s voice for so long. Our dear readers, then, if they wish to recognize Christ’s body, should search for a body which has a skull attached to it, which has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a brain to comprehend what Christ, the heavenly Head, says to it. In the meantime, we will take a breath before beginning with the Spiritual Gifts, trusting that we have said enough about the body.
“Utterance of Wisdom”
We are now ready to comment on the “utterance of wisdom,” as the first gift of the Spiritual Gifts, which is judged in the court of the enemy. There is sufficient in the name of this gift to discover the truth about it, for those who have a bit of common sense. It is God who imparts it, and it derives from above through the Spirit. A man can spend his life in college, and after everything come out deprived of the utterance of wisdom; for college no more prepares a man for receiving the gifts of heaven, than does a cowshed. The Greeks sought after wisdom, and received it; but from where? Not from God, rather from the academies. As for this human wisdom, the Mormons assert “that it is complete foolishness to think that it is necessary in order to preach the gospel.” “It is doubtless,” as Mr. Observer says (in the Star of Gomer, Oct. 1848), “that all the Apostles, and proclaimers of the gospel, received assistance from the Holy Ghost (through the utterance of wisdom), in their deficiencies; as when Christ urged his disciples not to give thought to what they would say when brought before the rulers, for the Holy Ghost would teach them in that hour what they would say. All the apostles possessed wisdom in the proper sense of the word.” That is the wisdom of the gift in question, and nothing else; but the apostles did not learn it in college, or the Greeks would also have learned it. Then, the Observer, in an attempt to show the superiority of college over the apostolic way of preparing men for the ministry, equates the “utterance of wisdom” with “speaking with strange tongues!” He asks, “How can the gospel be preached to the world without learning, and an acquaintance with the different languages of the different nations and their inhabitants?” Also, “If the Mormons wish to do this without wisdom, or learning [linguistic, of course], how can they preach their gospel to the world? Will some of the Welsh preachers preach in the English language, without their having had the least knowledge of that language beforehand? If they say they cannot, I shall answer that that is how the apostles did it; and if they claim the same gifts and ability as the early brave men who preached the gospel of the kingdom, they must do it in the same manner.” By saying that, the Observer supposes that one cannot possess the “utterance of wisdom,” without being learned in strange tongues! What were the apostles given by the Spirit when they were brought before the councils? Strange tongues, certainly; for nothing else, according to the words of Mr. O., could be the utterance of wisdom! Whatever was spoken in a strange tongue, was the utterance of wisdom, of course. But we will wait for the Observer to prove that any of the apostles, or their followers, had been preaching through the medium of the “utterance of wisdom” of the strange tongues. Let him, if he can, convince us by the time we come to discuss the gift of “Speaking in Tongues” that the speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost was preaching. Further on the Observer says, “Inasmuch as it is possible for present-day preachers of the gospel to learn the languages of the different nations of the world, what need have their talents of the gift of speaking in a strange tongue, as the apostles received?” Our answer is that there is as much need to endow the illiterate miners of our country, who enroll in the academies to learn languages to preach in this age, as there was to endow the fishermen of Galilee for the same purpose in their time. If it is possible to learn languages now, it was possible to learn them at that time also; and if God could endow them such gifts at that time, why not now? But the reader should understand that we do not believe that God ever endowed anyone with the gift of speaking in tongues, to make him fit to preach; for it is easy enough to preach to different nations, by beginning with those who know the language of their neighbors. That is how the “eternal gospel” speeds across the world this last time. For this kind of preaching, God endows his servants with the “utterance of wisdom,” which the college professors and wise men of the earth consider as nonsense and foolishness. It is just as impossible for Mr. Observer to comprehend the “utterance of wisdom” now, as it was for the Greeks of old; for the two parties believe that true wisdom derives from the same medium, namely academies. Let no one think that the Saints disregard human wisdom; that is good in its place, and beneficial; but when used to take the place of God’s wisdom, and to attempt to make preachers for him, it deserves immediate condemnation. The Saints are in favor of human wisdom and learning, as long as they do not go against God’s wisdom; but when human wisdom begins to use explanations that are contradictory to divine wisdom, then it is high time to turn a deaf ear to it. It is best to place human wisdom following the divine, by agreeing with “These signs will follow,” &c., than to place the divine following the human, by saying, “They will not follow.” If everyone followed Jesus Christ, Peter, Paul, and the others, they would be shameless Mormons; but by following the human light that is given to enlighten their brighter light, men continue as wise and well-accepted Methodists, Independents, and Baptists. To prove our point, we urge anyone to go to our country’s pulpits and imitate Paul’s preaching of the unchanging gospel, and proclaim anathemas on everyone who preaches anything other than “Desire the spiritual gifts,” “forbid not to speak with tongues,” “despise not prophesyings,” &c.; and soon the pulpits will be seen shutting out all who would preach through the “utterance of wisdom” of that apostle, while there will be a welcome to them, when their human wisdom casts doubt on his words! Now, “If any of you lack wisdom, [instead of going to college to inquire] let him ask of God.”
“Utterance of Knowledge”
Mr. Observer says, “It is likely that this gift is what was meant by the supernatural knowledge imparted to the Christian prophet, who had the gift of prophecy mentioned in 1 Cor. xii, 10. The gift of the utterance of knowledge was a kind of inspiration to explain correctly the prophecies, because of that which is called, in chap. xiii, 2, prophesying. But by this gift, Capt. Jones means, the ‘certainty’ that the Holy Ghost gives to the children of God that they are his children, and members of his church. My objection to this is that what proved them to be members of God’s church, were the miracles they had seen before joining the church, or all the gifts combined which they had witnessed.” That is a superb statement, is it not? If the Captain says that certainty is the “utterance of knowledge,” the Observer says that it is prophecy! Do these dear men know what they are talking about? Whatever is knowledge, is, without doubt, certainty; and if the children of God know that they are his, that is knowledge (in “utterance,” if you will), and where there is knowledge there certainty is also. Where there is prophecy, there is no certainty until it comes to pass; and where there is no certainty, there is not much knowledge there. Each one of the Saints experiences knowledge, according to the promise (John vii, 17); but the “utterance of knowledge” is given especially to those who desire the Spirit, so they can teach others “what they need to do to be saved.” We see that everyone possesses this knowledge, but not everyone has the utterance to proclaim his knowledge. How did the Observer come to understand that it was through miracles that the men of old had certainty that they were the children of God? Was it miracles that Christ meant in the promise, when he said, “Ye shall know of the doctrine?” Is it not the Holy Ghost that testifies jointly with our spirit, that we are God’s children? If miracles were the certainty of the children of God, what would be their certainty if the false prophets were to bring down fire from heaven before their eyes? Those who know that they are God’s children, came to know that not through miracles, but by their Father’s giving them his Spirit to reveal it unto them. Our Observer says that the “best proof to know whether one is a child of God, is for him to search himself to determine whether or not he loves God and his brethren.” Many a man can search himself his entire life, and love his brethren with all his heart, and after everything he considers himself as serving God, as did Saul of Tarsus of old, while persecuting his children! Can Mr. O. name someone from among the Methodists who has come to recognize himself as a child of God, by searching himself, and loving God and his brethren? If the “spiritual gifts are not absolutely essential for salvation,” there is no doubt that revealed knowledge is essential; for “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” And who dares say that Christ is the Lord, or that he knows him, except through the “manifestation of the Spirit?” If Mr. Observer, and the denominations of our land, do not know God in this manner, in vain are all their beliefs, their fear and their trembling, their feigned love, their contradictions, their academies, their long faces, their wise reverends, their yearning for a sign, and their hatred of “Satanists”—all this is nothing more than men “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth;” “and having a form of godliness; but denying the power thereof.”
“Faith” is the third gift that has appeared in the enemy’s court. We are grateful for faith, for through it we have come to a certainty of the things for which we had hoped; and we shall endeavor to see that it is treated fairly, if at all possible. Mr. Observer says that “faith” is guilty of being dead faith, miraculous faith, and redeeming faith; and that it is more than one. Now we ask, what is dead faith? Well, believing that we can have forgiveness of sins by baptism, and still not be baptized, which is faith without works. What is miraculous faith? Nothing more than believing that God can save someone, as easily as forgiving his sins. Well, what is redeeming faith? The same thing as the first kind of faith before dying, and the same as the second kind when in action. “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them,” says Jesus Christ. If someone wishes forgiveness, let him believe that he will receive it; if someone wishes strength, let him believe that he will receive it; if someone wishes a confirmation of the Spirit, let him believe that he will receive it; if someone wishes love, let him believe that he will receive it; if someone wishes a healing of his leg, let him believe that he will receive it; if someone wishes rain, let him believe that he will receive it; and since all things have been promised, we say, if someone wishes a sign, let him believe that he will receive it; “for all things are possible to him that believeth.” Now, it is understood that more faith is needed to heal a leg, than to receive forgiveness; and that even more is needed to move a mountain, than to heal a leg: but who understands that this is making more than one faith? The degrees, or the different works of one faith, are what cause the Observer, we think, to see three. Most people who are obedient to baptism, have sufficient faith to receive forgiveness; but that faith is present in some to such a degree, that it can be perceived through the gift of “discerning of spirits,” and they are healed through it directly, as did the lame man of Lystra (see Acts xiv, 8, 9). After “perceiving that he had faith to be healed,” he was told to stand upright on his feet. Such powerful faith is a gift from God to some, while others have to be content with sufficient faith as is necessary to receive God’s assistance to continue with his work. Faith is very different in its size in men; someone who has as much as a grain of mustard seed, can say that he is “to another faith;” but who can say that he who has believed the gospel, is deprived of a grain that is less than that faith? The Spirit considers a grain of a special size as a gift or a “talent;” for it is so generous, that it does not consider a grain that is much smaller than a grain of mustard seed in faith, worthy of the name. And besides that, faith in general is something that is produced by man himself, as Christ suggests to the father of the deaf and mute boy, namely, “If thou canst believe” (Mark ix, 23); and such faith is required of everyone to be accepted into the church, and also to assist in its growth by taking a grain from the Spirit to add to it to make it a gift of faith. We can account to the Observer why those ten who came to Christ to be cleansed did not have sufficient faith to be saved: directly after they had put their faith into action to be healed, nine of them let their faith die, so that they could not believe anything anymore. Had they continued to keep their faith alive, and been able to believe other things, as well as believing to be healed, they could very well have been saved. Thus, it is quite clear by now that the same faith that is exercised by the gardener as he sows his seed, by the believer as he obeys the gospel, and by a child of God as he seeks health, is that which God himself exercised when he said “Let there be” to the creation; with this difference, that the way from the first to the last is “from faith to faith,” until reaching perfection.
“The Gift of Healing”
This gift is treated more gently in the court than the others, since it is not reviled to the same extent. It is allowed that it is the Holy Ghost that has placed it in the church, and that it has not been administered outside of it. “To those who are in the church,” says O., “is the promise. ‘Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church.’ Faith was necessary in the receiver as well as in the one administering, that is as much as this,—’let him call for the elders of the church.’ And next, there was certainty in the proper practice and the appointed means. Failure is not possible, if one but anoints with oil, and prays with faith; for the verse says definitely, if one but does that, the prayer of faith shall heal the sick. It is not perhaps the prayer will heal him; but ‘shall heal the sick.’ There is no way to escape from the fulfillment of the promise, if the conditions are met.” This is how Mr. Observer speaks of this gift. Calling for the elders to the sick person, was all the faith necessary to heal him! If so, asking for Christ was sufficient faith in the father of the deaf and mute boy to cast out the devil (Mark ix, 22); but Christ’s words on the occasion were, “If thou canst believe,”—which shows that God expects faith in everyone who is able to act upon it. The Observer does not mention that the gift of healing “to another,” is like the other gifts; and that shows not a small amount of cunning. He thinks that every sick person in the church can be healed as well as anyone, if he but performs the small task of calling the elders. But, perhaps no one happened to be sick, except those who possessed the gift; or perhaps just the elders were the only ones who had that gift. Regardless of that, the lame man of Lystra possessed such a gift; and it was through this that he received the blessing. The promise is to everyone, on conditions, and according to the will of God, to receive healing by anointing and the laying on of hands, in the name of the Lord; but it is not reasonable to expect success on every occasion. The continuation of James’s words (chap. v, 15, 16) explains the cause of this. After the phrase “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” it reads thus—”and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed. The effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” We see now how many things are necessary, besides “calling” for the elders, for the purpose of being healed. It is not only necessary to confess our faults to one another, but we must pray for each other as well; and not just any kind of prayer will do, rather an effectual prayer, offered only by a righteous man. Such prayers “availeth much,” but it is not said that they will be certain of succeed ing every time. The purpose of James’s directions was to show what was required to have success. We do not wish to make God seem false in his promise, as the Observer does (for he does not offer one proof that God goes back on his promise); rather we wish to show that it is mostly men’s fault if they fail to receive what they ask in the Lord’s name, and that it is God’s wisdom not to give to his children every time they ask. If the Observer’s illogical reasoning is true, that “there is no way to escape from the fulfillment of the promise, if the conditions are met,” none of God’s children would die, if they called for the elders of the church when they were taken ill! This form of reasoning is unworthy of a man who is searching for the truth; let us leave that to those who are searching for all deceit, except for their own deceit. Because Capt. Jones says that “some members are so weak that they cannot receive healing at once, like Timothy and others of that time, and we must continually administer to them, and to pray earnestly for them,” he asks, “Are any of them weaker than the woman with the issue of blood,” &c.? Was it a weak woman who said, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole?” When Christ “saw their faith,” he would most often heal; and we know of not a single example for which it can be said that the recipient had no faith, except for those who were dead or out of their minds. The best way to determine whether those receiving blessings had faith, is to read the New Testament, and try for ourselves in this age to obtain the same blessings. But let us not think that the elders of this age are Jesus Christs and apostles, any more than those in the past; there is need for reason in all things. Further on, Mr. Observer comments about the words of James, as follows:—”We need not hesitate in having complete certainty of healing when the proper practice and means are used, and there is no account of ever failing in the age of the apostles.” If we have no account of failure, neither do we know of any story of their ever having success by anointing and by the laying on of hands; and we can hesitate greatly as to whether they failed frequently, yes, very frequently. If the saints of that time obeyed the words of James, it is reasonable to think that they called for the elders, when they were sick; and if they were healed every time without fail, it is not possible that any of them ever died! But, is that true? Because the Saints believe that Timothy and Trophimus failed to be healed through the ordinance, the Observer asks for proof that it was administered to them; and he says, by the way, “that the apostles had the right to pronounce curses, as well as blessings, on those whom they deemed worthy.” It is true that we cannot give an account of the ordinance being tried on any of them; but everyone can see that Paul was not cursing Timothy, when he urged him to take wine for his stomach, and his frequent weakness. Paul sought to heal him somehow; and because he was urging him to take medication for his ailment, it appears that the ordinance had failed. Why did Paul not instruct him to call for the elders, if the ordinance was certain to be successful every time, and if he wished the blessing of healing for him? Failure follows the ordinance when there is insufficient faith; and frequently it leaves the transgressors weak and feeble, and many it leaves sleeping. (1 Cor. xii, 30.) We are sorry to say that the Observer knows nothing of “delivering to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved;” and we are sorry also, that he is not a suitable object to receive knowledge of such things, while he fails to receive the lesser things. Mr. O. says also, that “to those on whom the Apostles pronounced judgment, this gift was administered, i.e., those who repented of their sins, and confessed their wrong doings, and also the request was answered without fail.” Where did the Observer get hold of this information, we wonder? Such assertions are so illogical. That is sufficient about the gift of healing.
MR. Observer says in the November, 1848, Star that a “gift was that which was given to the apostles, and only to them as such,” while the scriptures say that it was “to another” that it was imparted! He says also that it was the means through which the other gifts were given, and that through it the apostles healed the sick, &c.; Paul, however, testifies that it was the Spirit that gave those particular gifts. Much is discussed by the Observer as to what constitutes miracles; and indeed that is a very perplexing subject. Many people think that speaking in tongues, prophesying, and healing the sick are miracles; but we say that those are other gifts, and those who have them could be deprived of the gift of working miracles. Some, like the Observer, suppose that a miracle is something above the laws of nature, and contrary to the rules of primitive nature, while others claim that convincing a Methodist is as much a miracle as anything else. We readily believe that turning the rod into a serpent, causing the sun to stand still, turning the water into wine, &c., were all miracles; but we cannot believe that those were contrary to the rules of primitive nature, for the rules of nature are the will of its Author. The orbiting of the earth would be a miracle, if it normally stood still; but if it were to stand still, by a commandment of God, that would be no more contrary to the laws of nature than its orbiting, for the earth’s obedience to its Author is the one and the other. Nothing is a miracle to God, because he understands by what rules miracles are worked; and consequently, the more men understand the rules of working miracles, the more the wonder of them subsides. Thus, things can appear miraculous to some, while they are not so in the sight of others. Mesmerism is miraculous to those who do not understand the skill; and we could say the same about many other things. Mr. Observer has been gathering many opinions to describe what things are essential for a miracle; but we shall disregard those opinions, since they are nothing more than human whims. Miracles are worked only according to the will and purposes of God. God told Moses to work miracles before the Pharaoh, so that he would believe; but he gave no such commandment to Jesus Christ and his apostles; otherwise, they would have pleased Satan and his sign seekers. The only proofs of truth to the people in the time of Moses were miracles; but after the coming of the Son of God, one can come to a knowledge of the truth only by doing the will of his Father. Jesus Christ came to the world to give better proofs of his divinity than anyone else had ever done. Although the Pharaoh received proof of divinity from Moses, he also had proof from his magicians to consider; and if the Pharaoh saw better proof from Moses than from the others, it was only natural for him to believe not that Moses was more divine than they, only that he was a better magician. The proof that Christ offered was the Holy Ghost, who gave certainty to all who would receive it, so that no one could be deceived by those like Simon Magus, &c. Even so, Jesus Christ also worked miracles, when his Father willed, but not in order to prove his mission, as the Observer supposes. If miracles and signs were proofs of the divine mission, the magicians and the false prophets could claim that they themselves were servants of God, especially had they succeeded in bringing fire down from heaven in the sight of men.
After Mr. Observer notes the foundations of a miracle, he proceeds to observe the miracles of Christ, in contrast to the miracles of a few of the Saints in the environs of Llanybydder. It should be remembered that the Observer has said already, that working miracles was a gift that pertained only to the apostles; and because of that it was complete foolishness to expect miracles from men who were not apostles, and to think that by striving to pray for their sick, the Saints of Llanybydder were trying to work miracles. Our Observer is continually mistaking one gift for the other. The Saints believe that God can work miracles through his children now as before, according to his will, and they do not believe that they can perform them according to their own will. Failing to heal a brother among the Saints is not a proof that the gift of working miracles is not in the church; for, if that were a proof of anything, it would be a proof against the gift of healing, and not against miracles. Despite how much the Observer has said to others as to what constitutes a miracle, he himself, after all this, is so ignorant as to claim that he thinks that it is the healing of some sick person! He would be more consistent with himself, in order to show the failure of the miracles of the Saints, to try to prove that the deaf and dumb person in Newport did not, through the power of God, come to speak and to hear. But, to a man who is determined to oppose, what does it matter what tricks he uses, if he can get something as a veil to throw over the truth. If Christ himself were to come to the world again to rework his miracles, the men who presently refuse his mission would never believe them; for they would act exactly like their sectarian friends of old. Such men prefer not to hear about miracles; and we prefer not to spend our time trying to convince them of them. Rather, we are surprised that the men who deny miracles now, while claiming they are properly called to expound new teachings, fail to see their need in order to confirm their own new teachings in this age, doctrines which differ so much from each other that there is no purpose in anyone’s believing that the unchanging doctrine of Christ, which was to be preached to the whole world, was this kind of confusion.
Now, in order to finish with the subject of miracles, we may say that God has placed them in his church; and whoever doubts that, let him read 1 Cor. xii, 28. Whatever their purpose, there is no doubt that God placed them in his church, together with apostles, prophets, teachers, gifts of healings, &c.; and it is just as easy to prove that there should be no teachers in it now, as it is to prove that there are no miracles. It is not reasonable to think that God would make changes in his church, without informing his children of that; he informed them of all the things he put in it, and why not inform them also of what he took out? If the Observer says that the teaching that “signs follow them that believe” was not in force any later than the time Paul refers to them in Col. i, 6, 23, where he says that the gospel had been preached throughout the whole world,—then “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” is no longer in force either—everything has ended! But if the Observer believes in the scriptures, he must admit that the signs are to follow those who believe the gospel; and not only that, but he must also believe that more miracles will be worked in the last days, than were ever worked before, as the scriptures prophesy; for the more frequent and the more obvious they are, all the more will be the disbelief of the religionists of the confusion, namely the Babylonians, who will not be convinced until they are completely destroyed by the sudden coming of the Son of Man.
This gift is the sixth that appeared in the court of the enemy; and on the occasion, Mr. Observer called a great number of famous commentators to express their opinions about it, and they were heard greatly contradicting one another, which proves that they really did not understand the first thing about it. But the Observer thinks that the judgment about it has been determined, and that it is this—”speaking anything under inspiration, or interpreting anything inspired or uninspired.” Contrary to that, Capt. Jones says that “the Spirit of God is the Spirit of revelation, and this gift shows to the children of God the things to come.” The Observer again answers him, as follows—”God placed his prophetic gift in his church, for the purpose of explaining the scriptures; and I think that it was through the utterance of knowledge mentioned previously, that they accomplished that.” In the name of reason, what are all the unnecessary gifts that are in the church? Why endow it with “prophecy,” if the scriptures could be explained through the “utterance of knowledge?” Knowledge and wisdom were sufficient to constitute the Observer’s imaginary prophets; and it was particularly pointless to add “and to another prophecy,” when the other gifts answered the pur-pose entirely. Let the Observer understand that neither we, nor Capt. Jones, think that the name prophet was given to persons who did not at the time, perhaps, prophesy; but we cannot believe that it is proper to call a man a prophet who never prophesied. The second class of officials that God called in his church was prophets; but it appears that the gift of prophecy was imparted to many who had no office, such as those twelve who were baptized in Ephesus. What reason was there for those to go to explain the scriptures to an apostle who had come there to teach them? But foreseeing things to come is something worthy of the attention of Paul of old; such as the account in Acts xxi, of some of his brethren’s exhorting him not to go up to Jerusalem, because they knew what would happen to him there. Phillip had four daughters who prophesied; and if they explained anything, it was to themselves, and not to the church, for they did not have permission to teach there. Women could pray, provided they not pray with their heads uncovered; and it is doubtless that they had the freedom to foretell or to prophesy; for Paul says, “I would that ye ALL spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied;” and since everyone had the right to do so, women also have the right. Furthermore, with respect to prophesying, if it is to explain the scriptures, what scriptures did the Corinthians have to explain? how many scriptures did the Gentiles have then, except for the letters of Paul to them? And if prophesying meant explaining the scriptures, the women did not have the freedom to take part in the work, for their duty was to remain silent: but the following words show that they had as much right to pray and prophesy in the church, as did the men. The words are,—”Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head: but every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head.” (1 Cor. xi, 4, 5.). Now, let us consider, if the gift of “prophecy,” is the gift for explaining, then we are forced to conclude that God has not placed in his church one gift to indicate things to come, and the Book of Revelation must be just a mass of explanations! The Observer, we would think, wants to persuade us to believe that the other Comforter did not endow any of the disciples of Christ with the gift of foretelling things— just continual explaining. Is he willing for us to call the explainers of this age prophets also; or is it better for us to refrain, lest honest men believe that it is they who are the “false prophets,” since they do not speak “under inspiration,” as did those at first? If they cannot explain under inspiration, it is better for the church to be without them; for the Observer says “that it is essential, if prophecies are to be correctly explained, that the explainer be under the influence of something higher than human beliefs.” It is very good that he recognizes, then, that the explanations of the age do not depend on them, but that it is necessary to have inspired prophets still before we can have any clarification of the scriptures. In order to prove his point better, the Observer can believe Dr. J. P. Smith, who says that “not one prophecy of the scriptures explains itself;” but we choose to believe Peter, “no prophecy is of any private interpretation,” and also there would be no cause for the Jews to fail to understand the literal prophecies of Christ, unless they (like the Observer) had been taught to think that their interpretations were hidden.
As he finishes explaining about “prophecy,” the Observer uses Rom. xii, 6, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.” Now, he supposes that prophesying had to be explaining, or Paul would never have exhorted them to foretell according to the proportion of faith. Why is it not necessary to keep the proportion of faith in mind when foretelling, as well as when preaching? does not the Spirit guide in the one thing, as well as in the other? If that had not been looked at by the apostles, the saints would have been lead to prophesy and preach erroneously; for they were things in part, and some prophesying was considered so worthless, that Paul was forced to tell them, “Despise not prophesyings.” The work of the apostles and of others was to perfect the saints, and to teach them to use the spiritual gifts in wisdom, so they could excel in order to edify the church. Paul taught the Corinthians to speak with tongues, interpret, prophesy, &c., although the Observer expresses surprise that anyone “sets himself above the Holy Ghost.” He should understand that Paul was also guided by the Spirit, while teaching them, and that he had more of a fulness of it than did those whom he taught. Now it is seen that there was no inconsistency in Paul, as he taught some to foretell according to the proportion of faith, while he was himself frequently foretelling.
It appears that “prophesying” will continue in the church until “that which is perfect” comes, and until the Holy Ghost ceases to be another Comforter, and to bring to memory the things past, and to indicate things to come.
“Discernment of Spirits”
The above-mentioned gift is the seventh in the court, and the Observer says that “the purpose of the gift of discernment of spirits was knowing the difference between the true prophet and the false prophet—between the servant of God, and Satan’s ambassador.” Furthermore, he says, “Inasmuch as those who had turned away from Judaism to Christianity did not possess the New Testament at that time, it was necessary for Christ to set something as a standard in his church, to test the teachers who would come around. We believe that that was the gift of discernment of spirits.” Mr. Observer is, on the whole, quite consistent concerning this gift, except that he makes it something that was not needed after the New Testament had been attained: on the same grounds he could say that no one needed the Holy Ghost after he obtained that book. How can a book preserve that which was put by the Spirit in man’s earthen vessel in an explanatory manner? How can a book use the gift of speaking, prophesying, or discernment of spirits? There must be a tongue to speak, and eyes to discern. Which Testament knows a devil when he be “in the form of an angel of light?” According to the evidence of the Observer, there is a necessity for such a gift in this age, since false prophets are to be expected continually; and why would not the gift that is bestowed “on another,” be the best to be known again? To say that the Testament has come instead of something else, is nothing but empty and mindless nonsense. Everyone knows that the Testament is only a collection by uninspired men of some of the letters that the apostles and others wrote to the churches, when they could not go to them to teach them in person: and that they were never intended to perform the work of the Holy Ghost, which no one could do but he himself. It is necessary to have a spirit before spirits can be discerned; and since the Testament does not possess a spirit, nor the man who reads it but his own spirit, how in the world will false spirits be known without possessing the Spirit of God, or the gift of the discernment of spirits? Still further on, the Observer, in order to try to prove the lack of unity in the earlier church, says the following:—”Most of Capt. Jones’s essay on this gift, is occupied with showing that it is not the same spirit that is in the different denominations, leading them to such different creeds and feelings. But, according to this, the Spirit of God was not in those in the church of Rome who ate meat, if it was in those who did eat it; or it was not in those who did not eat it if it was in the others. According to that logic, the Spirit of God could not have been in the man who kept a day for the Lord, if it was in the man who did not keep it; or it was not in the latter, if it was in the former.” Now, the denominations do not contradict each other because some are Abstainers and others are drinkers; nor because some smoke and others do not; rather by the fact that they administer the same ordinances, and preach the same doctrines completely differently,—because of that they contradict each other, and are led by false spirits. It is by obeying his commands, and administering his ordinances, that God expects his children not to contradict each other. The Spirit does not teach what to eat and which days to keep, rather it leads to the truth. When some formerly were led by the Spirit of God to every truth, despite that, they still had many defects, which were corrected continually by the leaders of the church. The children of God are led by the Spirit when they are taught by inspired teachers; and when they are thus led, that is the time they are led to every truth; but they do not reach perfection at once. The teachers of the denominations are not fit to lead others to every truth while they are alienating themselves from it more every day. The thing they know better than those they teach is their human wisdom, because they believe that the last thing they got from God was the New Testament, which their disciples have as well as they. Now since Mr. Observer says that it is by the “word and the evidence” that everyone can be tested at present, we wish to know how the word and the evidence are to be tested. If the gift of discernment of spirits is not in the church, who can say whether the word and the evidence in question are true or false? It is not right for anyone to say that he believes and hopes, for one must obtain surety before being safe from the false. It is necessary to test the spirits first as thoroughly now, as they were tested in former times; but how can they be tested, unless the one testing possesses the same Spirit? The Testament can only assist belief; the surety and the proof are wanting still.
Capt. Jones, in the “Treasury,” discusses this gift in considerable detail, where he sets out the impossibility that the different denominations in the world are led by the Spirit of God. He also sets out the great need for the gift in this age, more than in any other age, to lead truth seekers to the unity of the faith. But, apparently, in his haste to portray the different denominations, the Capt. happened to strike against “the poor Methodist,” whom he thoroughly upset in the person of the Observer. He got it into his head that some of the Saints could have broken the law of the land, and that mentioning some crime would be revenge and good proof that the Saints are not under the guidance of the Spirit of God, any more than the other denominations. Poor thing! Is it that he does not know that the early Saints were under the guidance of the Spirit, and that Paul warned them to give up thieving and drunkenness? It is not the Spirit of God that compels someone to break the law or go astray, but other spirits: man has a task to prove them, and he has a constant task to follow the good. Next, the Observer strives to prove that Capt. Jones contradicts himself, because he suggests in one place that “the devils are bound,” while speaking of casting them out in another place. Can it not be proven that the scriptures say the same things? (See Jude 6, and Mark xvi, 17.) The same comment will suffice concerning “head of the church” also, together with the contradictions of J. D. in the “Prophet” for December, 1847, which are consistent enough for whoever wants to understand. But if something is inconsistent, what then? Did Capt. Jones or J. D. maintain that they were perfect, or not open to failings in writing, as well as in other things? We know about ourselves, that we do not write without taking great caution, and that it is not without praying continually for guidance, and asking the opinion of brothers who possess more of God’s wisdom than we. Still, despite everything, we fear that there are things wanting in us, but not in our religion nor in the Spirit we receive.
“Discernment of spirits” is the last gift in the court of the enemy: two of the nine have not been tried yet, neither is there any indication that they will be tried there, whatever the cause. We may, however, try them ourselves, lest they await their trial forever, and we shall strive to get them free in a short time.
This gift also is given “to another;” and whoever uses it, “he does not speak to men, but to God; for there is no one listening.” According to every account in the scriptures, the purpose of this gift is to build the possessor of it, and also to build the church, through interpreting. Some of the apostles may have preached through this gift, though we cannot find an instance of that anywhere in the scriptures, and perhaps God will enable some to preach thus again; but we do not learn from the New Testament that the tongues were given for preaching, but completely to the contrary. (See 1 Cor. xiv). Concerning the continuation of the tongues, it is proven by Paul that they are not to perish, until “that which is perfect comes” (1 Cor. xiii, 8-10); and according to that, they have not perished yet. Since so many pieces of evidence have been given already concerning this gift, we leave it to pass free.
“Interpretation of Tongues”
This is the last gift that is named; and since it is so connected with the previous one, there is no cause to expend time or paper concerning it. Wherever the gift of speaking in tongues may be, it is certain that the gift of interpretation is needed to be present every time; and the other gift, according to Paul’s evidence (1 Cor. xiv, 6, 11, 14, 15, 28), is of no value, unless “the interpretation of tongues” follows it, which makes it as good as prophecy. Because of that, we see it as wisdom to release this gift, on the same grounds as the other, so that we may close the court, and let everyone desire the “best gifts.”
In ending our comments on the Spiritual Gifts, we announce that we cannot be responsible for anything but what we understand and write. Many things that others write could be true, though we do not understand them; and consequently, whatever others, who may know more than we, write, those others are supposed to be responsible for what they say, and teach us when we go astray.