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IN HIS NAME.
“HIS NAME, THROUGH FAITH IN HIS NAME, HATH MADE THIS
Twith congenital lameness was instantly cured by Peter,
'HE story told in the book of Acts is that a man afflicted
with congenital lameness was instantly cured by Peter, who simply said to him, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, rise up and walk.” It also appears that he was a man well known to have been lame all his life.
Instances are not unknown in history of persons healed instantaneously of chronic disease by some strong influence exerted on the mind. If the body acts on the mind, as we know that it does, it is quite as certain that the mind acts on the body. A piece of news communicated suddenly to the mind will cause the body to faint away, or produce what is called syncope. That is to say, that without any physical cause there is a physical effect, a loss of sensation and voluntary motion, with diminution or stoppage of the action of the heart and of the function of respiration.
But the point on which I would lay stress is this, that in the case before us the cure seems to have been effected by what we should now call a magical process; by a charm; by the utterance of a name the name of Jesus of Nazareth. If this fact stood alone, we should suppose mistake or interpolation ; but in truth we have numerous instances in the New Testament where some special potency is attributed to the utterance of a name, especially the name of Jesus. Some of these I will enumerate.
Jesus promises that he will be with every two or three who assemble in his name (Matt. xviii. 20). He promises to help those who pray in his name (John xiv. 13). He repeats the promise, “ If ye ask anything in my name, I will do it" (John xiv. 14). “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John xv. 16). “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name ; ask and receive, that your joy may be full.” “At that day ye shall ask in my name,” &c. (John xvi. 23, 24, 26.) It appears, also, that devils were cast out by the use of the name of Christ.
This, at first sight, seems like magic. For magic is essentially this, a power obtained over the supernatural world by the use of charms and talismans. To bring down supernatural power by natural means is magic. Magic consists in the use of the right charm, without regard to the moral character, good or bad,' of him who uses it. All depends on using the right words, no matter whether they are used rightly or wrongly. Asia has always been full of magic. Thus in some of the sacred books of the Hindoos we read of very wicked men who, by means of enchantments, at last compelled the gods to do their bidding. So that wonderful story-book, “The Arabian Nights,” is full of magic. In the story of the Forty Thieves, the door of the cave opened by enchantment to whoever used the right word, and said “Open Sesame,” whether it was said by the robbers or by the good man. According to magic, the supernatural world, the angels, genii, spirits, gods, or devils, are compelled to obey the charm when it is rightly pronounced. The motive is nothing, the object in view is nothing, the character of him who does it is nothing ; it is merely the outward act which accomplishes the result.
If, therefore, we believe that by merely putting the word “ Christ” at the beginning or end of our prayer, we shall
obtain some blessing from God which he would not otherwise bestow, we degrade Christianity to the level of a magical process, and demoralize it. And in the same way we turn the Christian sacraments into magical charms if we suppose that they act of themselves, irrespective of the moral character and motive of him who uses them. To suppose an unconscious child to be spiritually changed by the application of water, accompanied by a certain formula, so that the child would be more likely to be saved if it were to die after this sacrament than if it had died before it, is to turn baptism into a charm powerful enough to compel God to do what otherwise he would not do. This is to take the name of the Lord in vain, and has the same evil as there is in profane swearing. The man who uses profane oaths calls on God to send his soul into everlasting perdition on the condition that what he says is not true, or on the condition that he omits to do what he proposes. That is, he undertakes to say how God is to pronounce judgment on his soul. He informs the Almighty on what conditions he intends to be saved or lost. If his language is not utterly senseless, this is what he means by it.
Now, I think it quite clear that the whole spirit of Christianity and teaching of Jesus is utterly opposed to any such magical notions. According to Jesus, men were saved not by the use of his name as an outward formula, but by obeying his precepts and doing good actions. In the Sermon on the Mount he distinctly rejects any such merely outward use of his name. “Many will say to me, in that day, Lord ! Lord ! have. we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and done many wonderful works; and then I will profess unto them, “Depart from me; I never knew you, ye that work iniquity.” Elsewhere he says, “Many deceivers shall come in my name.” “Not every on that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord !' shall enter
into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.”
This is enough to show that Jesus, himself, attributed no power to the mere use of words, however sacred. What, then, does he mean, when he says that God will hear us and help us if we pray “in his name?”
To answer this question we must understand the peculiar way in which the Jews regarded the name of any person.
A name, with us, is an arbitrary appendage, having no relation to a man's character. We call one of our children Frank and another Prudence with no expectation that their characters will correspond at all to these names. But, to the Jew, a name carried a mysterious power, expressive of what was deepest in the parent's heart, and capable of influencing the child's destiny. If the man or woman appeared to develope new qualities, the name was changed. Naomi, whose name meant “ Pleasant,” asked her friends, in her desolation, to call her not "Naomi," Pleasant, but “Mara,” Bitter. So Jesus added to Simon's name that of Peter a rock; and Saul's name, which meant stroyer,” was changed to Paul, which means a worker.” The apostles altered the name of Josas to that of Barnabas, which signifies " a son of consolation.” Jesus, in like manner, called his two disciples, James and John, “ the sons of thunder,” perhaps on account of the fire which he saw in their characters.
Thus it happened that to come in the name of any one meant to come in his spirit. So John the Baptist was said by Jesus to be the Elijah that was to come, because he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. When the Lord said to Moses, “Thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name,” it means that the Lord knew his character, and that it was equal to his work.
Whenever trust “in God's name” is spoken of, it means
trust in his wisdom, or his love, or his providence. When it is said that “a good name is better than riches,” it means a good character. When Jesus says that “he who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward,” it signifies that he who is in sympathy with the spirit of the prophet, and helps the prophet on that account, shall have the reward of being himself filled with the same prophetic spirit. To give a cup of cold water
in the name of a disciple” means that the smallest good action done in the right spirit shall have its reward. When Jesus says, “I am come in my Father's name and ye receive me not ; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive," I suppose he meant that he came in the spirit of his heavenly Father, which was alien from their own, and so they did not receive him, while another, who should come in his own earthly will and worldly spirit, they would accept as their Messiah. When Jesus said in his prayer to God,
I have manifested thy name to the men thou hast given to me,” he meant that he had revealed God's character to them. When he said, “ Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are one,” he evidently prayed that God might keep them by his spirit in a spirit of unison and brotherly love. When he added, “While I was with them in the world I have kept them in thy name," he seems to intend that by his influence over them he kept them in sympathy with God's character and will. And so when he tells them to “pray in his name,” he means to tell them to pray in his spirit; to “cast out devils in his name,” is to cast them out by the power of a Christian spirit. His words were spirit and life. The whole of it is expressed by Paul when he says that “ God has made us able ministers of the New Covenant ; not of the letter, but of the spirit ; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." It is not by trusting to