The Restoration Movement Archive—August 24, 1878
Selecting items to share with you for this new “Throwback Thursday” feature is like trying to sip water from a fire hose. There’s quite a lot to look at in Christian Standard’s archives, as you might imagine—tens of thousands of pages of issues going back to 1866. Making matters more difficult is that issues from before 2005 are not yet easily searchable.
That said, I came upon p. 4 of the August 24, 1878, edition—the issue that dates from 140 years ago tomorrow. It is what we consider to be the editorial page. The item that caught my eye was a description of what Christian Standard “will be” . . . I’d never seen it before.
I’ve also included what I guess would be considered an editorial about “Cornelius, The Gentile.”
—Jim Nieman, Managing Editor
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The Christian Standard
A Weekly Religious Newspaper, will be:
1. An uncompromising but dignified advocate of New Testament Christianity.
2. A faithful record of the movements of Christian brotherhood, and an ally of every enterprise that will scripturally advance the plea of reformation.
3. An earnest pleader for the union of the people of God, and an unyielding foe to sectarianism and denominationalism.
4. An independent critic on all popular movements, in their moral and religious bearings.
5. A supporter of pure Christian literature.
6. A family visitor, laden with good things for old and young in the family circle.
7. A faithful instructor in all that pertains to individual life, church life, and the cooperation of Christians in works of benevolence.
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Isaac Errett, Editor
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Cincinnati, August 24, 1878
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“Cornelius, The Gentile.”
We have been requested, for the benefit of many new readers, to write concerning the conversion of Cornelius. For the sake of new readers we have often to repeat what has already become familiar to our readers at large; but we may say, in such instances, as Paul once said, “To write the same things to you, to me is not grievous, and for you it is safe.” But although writing in substance the same things, we always seek to infuse a spirit of freshness into what we say, that there may be nothing like tame repetition. The facts and truths of scripture may be viewed from many angles, and set forth in the light of ever-varying illustrations.
Let us say, first of all, that the principal trouble with many in reference to the case of Cornelius, arises from an attempt to draw ordinary conclusions from extraordinary facts—general or universal lessons from special and peculiar circumstances. In the New Testament, and particularly in the Acts, regard must be constantly had to a broad distinction between that which is extraordinary, miraculous and temporary, and that which is ordinary, normal and permanent—that which is special, exhausting its force and meaning in meeting a special emergency; and that which is general, or universal and continuous, never to be exhausted in meaning or in force until all the purposes of the gospel dispensation shall have been accomplished. For instance: when our Lord says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be condemned”; we know that this was not meant to be special, but general, universal—to “all the world,” for “every creature.” And when he says again, “Thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in my name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem;” we know that this is not special. Hence, when we turn to Acts ii. 38, and find the proclamation that began at Jerusalem, we find what was to be proclaimed in the name of Jesus among all nations: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
But when we read (Joel ii. 28-32; Acts ii. 16-20) of an outpouring of the Spirit which should result in visions, dreams, prophesyings, etc., and an outpouring of judgments that should result in “blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke,” we turn to Eph. iv. 8-14, I. Cor. xiii 8, and learn that those were extraordinary, special gifts for special purposes, and were only to continue “until” the weakness of infancy and childhood should be developed into the fullness and strength of manhood.
Was there anything, then, special and extraordinary in this case of Cornelius? Certainly there was. Peter’s trance, Cornelius’s vision, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, all mark it as extraordinary. No sensible man now expects a visit from an angel to direct him to a preacher. No sensible preacher expects a trance to prepare him to preach the gospel to any particular class of people. And surely no sensible inquirer expects an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will enable him to speak in various languages to assure him that he has a right to be baptized in water in the name of the Lord. But all these were realities in the case of Cornelius and his household. It was, therefore, in certain respects, an extraordinary and special case.
It will be asked, What was there in this case that entitled it to the rank of extraordinary? We answer, It was the opening of the door of salvation to the Gentile world. This surely entitles it to that rank. Reflect that, up to this time, the labors of the chosen embassadors of the cross had been confined to Jews and Samaritans; that the apostles had not, as yet, been led beyond this, and were not prepared to go beyond it; that the prejudices of Jewish Christians were deep and strong and unconquerable by any ordinary means, as to the reception of the Gentiles into the church on an equality with the ancient covenant people of God; and that it was, up to this time, a “mystery” that had been hidden from the ages past, that “the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. iii. 1-8). It was needful, therefore, that there should be a clear, public, unmistakable demonstration of the divine purpose to receive Gentiles upon an entire equality with Jews into the kingdom of God’s dear Son—not for the benefit of Cornelius and his family in particular, but for the benefit of the entire Gentile world. That this was the object of the extraordinary demonstrations on this occasion, every one may see who will consider Peter’s trance, and attend carefully to what is said in Acts xi. 1-18. Of course, whatever was necessary to the accomplishment of this special purpose, was special and extraordinary, and does not belong to ordinary cases of conversion.
But to speak more particularly of the baptism in the Holy Spirit at the house of Cornelius—its nature and design—let us say,
1. It was not designed to change the hearts of those who received it; for Cornelius “feared God with all his house,” before the Spirit was shed forth on them (Acts x. 2), and was so acceptable in his heart-service that “his prayers and his alms went up as a memorial before God.” He was a “devout” man, and just and benevolent as well. He did not love sin, nor live in the practice of it.
2. It was not designed to impart a knowledge of Christ; for they already had considerable knowledge of Jesus and his mission (Acts x. 36-38), and what they did not know was communicated by Peter in his sermon (verses 39-43).
3. It was not intended to convey an assurance of pardon; for Cornelius was instructed to “send for Peter” to tell him “words whereby thou and thy house shall be saved” (Acts x. 6, xi. 14). They were, then to learn from Peter the means and the conditions of salvation. It is, then, evident that the Holy Spirit was not given for this purpose.
4. It was not designed to create faith in the heart; for Peter says expressly that God had ordained that from his mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe (Acts xv. 7).
Now as the three essential things in the conversion of the sinner, ordinarily, are (1) a knowledge of Jesus as the Saviour; (2) a change of heart from sin to righteousness, and from the world to God; (3) a knowledge of what the sinner must do to be saved; and as none of these was imparted by the baptism in the Spirit, if follows that such a baptism is not needed now for the sinner’s conversion.
But all this is negative. To answer the question positively: the baptism in the Spirit was to bestow miraculous gifts. Proof: “And they of the circumcision were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit: for they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts x. 45, 46). “Magnifying God” was not the result of this impartation of the Spirit, for Cornelius, as a devout man, had continually magnified Him; but it was magnifying God in new languages miraculously imparted.
It will be asked, What could be gained by such an impartation? The answer will be found in Acts xi. 15-18. It was the same gift that had been bestowed on the Jews, at the beginning (Acts ii.), and marked out the Gentiles as equally entitled with them to the blessings of the gospel. It therefore, in this case, necessarily preceded water baptism, since the very object of it was to show that Gentile believers should be admitted to baptism equally with the Jewish believers. So Peter understood it (Acts x. 47, 48), and so “the apostles and brethren that were in Judea” (Acts xi. 1) understood it (Acts xi. 18). Thus the great “mystery” concerning the Gentiles was explained.
From all the premises, the conclusion is unavoidable that no sinner now needs such a baptism in the Holy Spirit to prepare him for water-baptism. Once for all it was demonstrated that all among the Gentiles who believe have a right to be baptized in water, “in the name of the Lord.”
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