Sermon 511. Pentecost
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, MAY 24, 1863, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound fromHeaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloventongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each ofthem. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit ga ve them utterance."Acts 2:1-4.
How absolutely necessary is the Presence and power of the Holy Spirit! It is not possible for us to promote the glory of God,or to bless the souls of men, unless the Holy Spirit shall be in us and with us. Those who were assembled on that memorableday of Pentecost were all men of prayer andfaith. But even these precious gifts are only available when the celestial fire sets them on a blaze. They were all menof experience-most of them had been preachers of the Word, and workers of miracles. They had endured trials and troubles incompany with their Lord, and hadbeen with Him in His temptation.
Yet even experienced Christians, without the Spirit of God, are weak as water. Among them were the Apostles and the seventyevangelists. And with them were those honored women in whose houses the Lord had often been entertained, and who had ministeredto Him of their substance. Yet even thesefavored and honored saints can do nothing without the breath of God, the Holy Spirit. Apostles and Evangelists dare noteven attempt anything alone. They must tarry at Jerusalem till power is given them from on High. It was not a want of education.They had been for three years inthe college of Christ, with perfect Wisdom as their Tutor, matchless eloquence as their Instructor, and immaculate Perfectionas their example. Yet they must not venture to open their mouths to testify of the mystery of Jesus until the anointing Spirithas come with blessed unctionfrom above!
Surely, my Brothers and Sisters, if it was so with them, much more must it be the case with us. Let us beware of trustingto our well-adjusted machineries of committees and schemes. Let us be jealous of all reliance upon our own mental facultiesor religious vigor. Let us be careful that we do notlook too much to our leading preachers and evangelists, for if we put any of these in the place of the Divine Spirit, weshall err most fatally. Let us thank God for all gifts, and for all offices, but oh, let us ever be reminded that gifts andoffices are but as sounding brass andtinkling cymbals, unless the quickening Influence is present.
It has been said by certain modern theologians that we make this doctrine of dependence upon the Holy Spirit far too prominent,and that our constant teaching of this Truth has a tendency to benumb all human effort, and foster indifference and sloth.Surely it is not so, my Brothers and Sisters.Let us refute this slander by our own earnestness, and let it be seen that those of us who confess that without their Lordthey can do nothing, are able with His aid to do everything! O may we be so inflamed by the Eternal Fire that our life maybe all zeal and love, self-sacrificeand labor! So shall we teach the gainsayer that the worshippers of the gracious Spirit are not loiterers in the vineyardof the Lord.
I am persuaded that so far from speaking too frequent upon this matter, we do not often enough extol the Blessed Spirit, andcertain ministries almost ignore His existence. You might attend some Chapels and not even know that there was a Holy Spiritat all except for the benediction. And were itnot for the liturgy, and the, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit," there are many of our nationaledifices where you might never know that a Comforter had been sent to us.
Now I earnestly pray that this morning I may stir up your minds by way of remembrance, by a simple exposition of the descentof the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We are not observers of days and months, but it happens to be the season of the year in whichthe early Church was accustomed to celebratethe outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. We commonly talk of Whitsuntide, or White Sunday-which name is not without itslesson in the earlier centuries on this particular day-in commemoration of the great Baptism of the three thousand convertedunder the preaching ofPeter. It was the custom of the Church to hold a great Baptism, and the candidates for immersion being, as with us, robedin white- (therefore the name "Candidates," or "White Ones")-and so that Sunday was called White Sunday.
It was not ill that the outpouring of Pentecost should be celebrated by the Baptism of converts, for the cause is always bestremembered by the effect. May our Lord help us to enjoy a Pentecost all the year round and may the pool of Baptism be stirredevery week.
I shall call your attention to the season when the Spirit was poured out. Secondly, to the manner in which it was manifested.And then to the matter itself. And, fourthly, to the results which followed.
I. There is much holy teaching in THE SEASON when the Spirit of God was given. "When the day of Pentecost was fully come."We may observe, first, that the Spirit of God was given in God's chosen and appointed time. There is a set time to favor Zion.The Spirit is not at all times alike active inHis manifest workings. Both to try our faith and to prove His own sovereignty, the right hand of the Lord is sometimes thrustinto His bosom. He will only make bare His arm at such times and seasons as He, Himself, has appointed. "The wind blows whereit lists," is a Truth of Godwell calculated to hide pride from man.
Brethren, if every drop of rain has its appointed birthday, every gleam of light its predestinated pathway, and every sparkof fire its settled hour of flying upward, certainly the will, foreknowledge, and decree of God must have arranged and settledthe period of every revival and place of everygracious visitation. Times of refreshing, in a Church or a commonwealth, come not except as the Creator-Spirit has determined.The day of salvation to each individual is an appointed time. The second birth is not left to hazard.
Yes, more-every breath of that Divine Spirit which sweeps across the mind of the Believer, every drop of sacred oil whichanoints him, or of the holy dew which quickens him-comes to him according to that irresistible will which looses the bandsof Orion, or binds up the sweet influencesof the Pleiades in God's accepted and appointed time. Therefore, the light of Heaven shall go forth, and although this isnot to withhold or restrain us from asking for the Spirit every day, it is to encourage us if He does not at once begin towork, for if the vision tarries we areto wait for it, it shall come in due time-it will not tarry.
There was a further mystery in the season, for it was after the ascension of our Lord. The Spirit of God was not given tillafter Jesus had been glorified. The various blessings which we receive are ascribable to different parts of Christ's work.His life is our imputed righteousness. His deathbrings us pardon. His resurrection confers upon us justification. His ascension yields to us the Holy Spirit, and thosespiritual gifts which edify the body. He says, when He ascended up on High, He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.He gave some, Apostles, and some,Prophets, and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers-for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry-forthe edifying of the body of Christ.
As when Roman heroes returned from blood-red fields, and the Senate awarded them a triumph, they rode in their chariot drawnby milk-white steeds through the thronging streets of the capitol. So did Jesus Christ, when He led captivity captive, receivea triumph at His Father's hands. The triumphalchariot bore Him through the streets of Glory, while all the inhabitants, with loud acclaim, saluted Him as Conqueror-
"Crown Him! Crown Him! Crowns become the Victor's brow!" It was the custom of the Roman conqueror, as he rode along, to distributelarge quantities of money which were scattered among the admiring crowd. So our glorified Lord scattered gifts among men,yes, to the rebellious, also, He gave thosegifts that the Lord God might dwell among them. In this manner, then, to grace the triumph of Jesus, the Spirit of God wasliberally poured out upon the Church below.
Perhaps you remind me that our Lord had ascended ten days before. I know He had, but the delay might teach them patience.Not always does the flower bloom from the root in one hour. Christ has ascended, and Heaven is ringing with His praise. Theyhave kept ten days of joyous holiday before theEternal Throne, and now, when Pentecost is fully come, the rushing mighty wind is heard. Do you think, my Brothers and Sisters,that we plead Christ's ascension enough as a reason why the Church should be blessed with the Spirit? I know we often reachas far as, "By Your agony andbloody sweat, by Your Cross and passion, by Your precious death and burial, by Your glorious resurrection"-but do we proceedto, "by Your ascension we beseech You to hear us?"
I am afraid we fail to perceive that the ascension of Christ is to be used as an argument in prayer, when we would have theChurch revived by the holy breath of God, or have gifts bestowed upon her ministers and Church officers. Moreover, there isyet more teaching in the season. It was atPentecost. Many of the early writers say that Pentecost was the time when the Law was proclaimed upon Mount Sinai. Othersthink it doubtful. If it is so, it was very significant that on the day when the Law was issued amid thunders and lightning,the Gospel-God's new andbetter Law-should be proclaimed with mighty wind and tongues of fire.
We are clear, however, that Pentecost was a harvest festival. On that day the sheaf was waved before the Lord, and the harvestconsecrated. The Passover was to our Savior the time of His sowing, but Pentecost was the day of His reaping, and the fieldswhich were ripe to the harvest when He sat onthe well, are reaped now that He sits upon the Throne.
But certainly the Spirit of God was given at Pentecost because there was then the most need of Him. On that occasion vastcrowds were gathered from all regions. The God of Wisdom always knows how to time His gifts. What would have been the useof granting the many tongues when no strangers wereready to hear? If there had been no Parthians and Medes, and Elamites, and dwellers of Mesopotamia collected in Jerusalem,there would have been no need for the cloven tongues. But inasmuch as the city was full, and the high festival was being keptby unusual multitudes, it was mostfit and right that now the Lord should say-"Thrust in your sickle, for the harvest of the earth is ripe."
Dear Friends, I think that whenever we see unusual gatherings of men, whenever the Spirit of hearing is poured out upon thepeople, we ought to pray for, and expect an unusual visitation of the Spirit. And when I look upon these crowds assembledin this house every Sunday year after year, I can butentreat you to cry mightily to Him with whom is the residue of the Spirit, that He would give us a Pentecost. Though neitherParthians, nor Medes, nor Elamites are here, yet there scarcely ever passes a Sunday without there being representatives ofalmost all nations under Heavenwho hear the wonderful works of God. Not in their own tongue, it is true, but yet in a language which they understand. Oh,pray that the Spirit of God may fall upon the unexampled hosts assembled here!
Still, dear Friends, we have not dwelt upon a leading reason why the Holy Spirit descended at this special season. "They wereall with one accord in one place." We have been expecting to see the days of Heaven upon earth. Our soul has longed to hearthe voice of God thundering out of Heaven. Wehave hoped for days such as our fathers have told us comforted them in the old times. We looked to see thousands born ina day-alas, the vision comes not. But look at our country! We have had spasms of revival-that is as much as I can say. Eventhe Irish revival, forwhich we can never sufficiently bless God, was but as a passing cloud. It was not an abiding, resting shower, and so withall the shakings we have had in these later times.
We have had but glimpses where we wanted sights. We have had but twilight where we needed the sacred, everlasting noon. Whatis the reason for this? Perhaps it is to be found in our want of union. "They were all with one accord in one place." Christianscannot all be in one place. We have no roomthat would be large enough to hold them, blessed be God! But if they cannot all be in one place, yet they can all be ofone accord. Oh, when there are no cold hearts, when there are no prejudices to divide us, no bigotries to separate us, noapathy to hold us down, no false doctrineto separate the flocks from one another-and no schism to rend the one sacred garment of Christ-then may we expect to seethe Spirit of God resting upon us!
And in any Church where there is no strife as to who shall be the greatest, no division about peculiarities, no fighting forrespectabilities-but when the Church is of one accord-then may we expect to hear the sound of abundance of Heaven's rain.Note, dear Friends, what they weredoing. They were not merely unanimous, but they were earnest about one grand object. They had all been praying. Read thefirst chapter and you will perceive that they had been much in prayer. The whole of the time since the ascent of our Lordthey had been occupied in constantsupplication. And so, pleading both day and night, it was no great wonder that the granaries of Heaven should be unlocked!
We have had weeks of prayer at the beginning of the last few years, and it was well. But if we had continued in prayer allthe weeks of the year, if we had always been with one accord still crying unto Heaven, still wrestling with the angel, stillinterceding-surely the little cloud, like aman's hand, which the eye of faith has seen-would by this time have covered all the heavens, and have discharged a plenteousshower upon all nations of men! There must be unity, but that unity must not be the frozen union of death. It must be theglorious welding of a glowingfurnace. They had been much in prayer, and now I see them sitting still. Why do they sit so quietly? It is the quietudeof expectation.
When God's Church adds expectation to supplication, then a blessing tarries no longer. We ask, but we do not expect to receive.We pray, but probably nothing would so alarm us as the answer to our prayers. If, after having pleaded with God to send HisHoly Spirit, the Holy Spirit did come, thereare many who would not believe it. There are others who would think it a mere excitement, and there are multitudes who wouldshut their eyes to it altogether. Oh Spirit of God! Work in the hearts of Your children perfect harmony, intense anxiety,and confident expectation-andthen will You come to do Your mighty deeds once more!
These remarks concerning the season may lead to many practical questions. I will but put them rapidly and leave them. Do Ihelp to hinder the coming of the Spirit by any bitterness of my temper? Do I by any want of love tend to divide the Church?Are my prayers such as are likely to prevail? Andwhen I pray, do I expect the blessing of God? If not, how mournful that I should be the means of restraining and limitingthe Holy One of Israel! That I should be a Church robber and commit sacrilege against the Church of God-not by stealing itsgold and silver-but byclosing the treasury of God! Let us, as a Church, humble ourselves under the hand of God and then, girding up the loinsof our mind, wait upon Him with patience and earnestness until the Spirit is poured out from on High!
II. I come now, dear Friends, in the second place, to notice THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SPIRIT WAS GIVEN. Each word here is suggestive."Suddenly." No herald sounded his trumpet, but as they were expecting, in a moment, the celestial tempest came. If the Lordis about to do any great work in the worldwe must not be astonished if we hear of its coming like a thunderclap. Man sits down and plans, and arranges and works,and everybody knows what he is aiming at. God also plans and arranges, and forestalls Himself. But He does not tell man whatHis purpose is. It is the Glory of Godto conceal a thing, and so, though the Spirit may have been secretly preparing men's hearts, yet the real work of revivalis done suddenly, to the surprise of all observers.
You will have noticed it was so in the great revival in New England, when Jonathan Edwards stood up and read his manuscriptsermon, holding the manuscript close to his eyes, because he was nearsighted-a method of preaching which I should think wouldbe the very least likely ever to cause anexcitement in the audience. And yet while he preached from that text-"Their feet shall slide in due time," the Spirit ofGod suddenly came down-the people began to tremble and even cry out under the terrors of conviction-and the awakening spreadthroughout all thatregion and many thousands were added to the Church of Christ.
Was it not so with Livingstone at the Kirk of Shotts. The presbytery had been holding long services and preaching sermonswithout any great results. And just at the close, Livingstone was asked to preach. Standing on a gravestone, in the midstof a driving shower, he addressed the assembled crowd,and down came the Holy Spirit-more mighty than the shower which fell from Heaven-and hundreds were born in one day to Christ.It was the same under George Whitfield, in the notable revivals of which he was the agent. The Spirit came like lightningfrom the skies. Do notbe suspicious when you hear of these things suddenly appearing.
You remember, yourselves, an instance which wakes all your hearts to gratitude. You remember a Chapel with but a handful ofpeople in it who could scarce see from one to another. Did the crowds come by slow degrees? Was it a life-work to build upa Church? No, but the trumpet sounded. The preparedears heard it. The house was thronged. The Church grew and multiplied-and now we who are members of it bless God for Hismercies every day. When God says, "Let there be light" there is light.
Then there was a sound. Although the Spirit of God Himself is silent in His operations, yet the operations are not silentin their results. The sound would teach them that the Spirit of God was not come to be concealed in their hearts as a silentguest, but to be heard throughout the world as thevoice of God. For now faith was come by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. And a sound as of a mighty rushing wind,was a type to them of the sound of their own testimony which was to go forth throughout all the world even unto the ends thereof.To their ears the speakinghurricane would say, "Even so, we, a handful of converted men, are to sweep around the globe like a mighty wind. And menare to be compelled to hear the sound of mercy."
Then it was a sound, notice, as of wind. It is remarkable that both in the Greek and in the Hebrew tongues, the word usedfor wind and for Spirit is the same. Hence, when the Savior said to Nicodemus, "The wind blows where it lists, and you hearthe sound thereof," the type might have beensuggested to him by the fact of the word having the double signification of the wind and of the Spirit. The wind is doubtlesschosen as a significant emblem because of its mysteriousness- "You can not tell where it comes, nor where it goes." Becauseof its freeness-"Itblows where it lists." Because of diversity of its operations, for the wind blows a gentle zephyr at one moment, and laterit mounts to a howling blast. The Holy Spirit at one time comes to comfort, and at other times to alarm-at one season softlywith the promise-and atanother time terribly with the threat.
Observe it was rushing. this portrayed the rapidity with which the Spirit's influences spread-rushing like a torrent. Withinfifty years from that date of Pentecost, the Gospel had been preached in every country of the known world. Paul and his Brothers,the Apostles, had journeyed east,west, north and south. Iron gates had been , and bars of brass had been snapped, and the glorious life-giving Word had beenpreached to every creature under Heaven for a witness against them. God's Spirit does not creep and crawl as too often ourunspiritual agencies do. When Hecomes, it is a rush-and half the world is lit with Divine light before we dream that the match has struck.
Nor is this all, for it was mighty, a wind against which nothing could stand. The house itself might be shaken. They may havebeen greatly alarmed for fear the house should fall about their heads. The wind was irresistible, and so is the Spirit ofGod-where He comes, nothing can stand againstHim. O Spirit of God, if You would but now come as a rough north wind, the crescent of Mohammed would be prostrate in thedust, and the gods of the heathen would fall upon their faces like Dagon before the Ark. You have but to proceed in Your sevenfoldoperations, and the harlot ofRome would lose her enchanting power. You can dash in pieces the hoary systems which have resisted all human attack. Mightierthan the tooth of time, Your finger, O sacred Spirit, could destroy what man reckons to be his everlasting workmanship.
Glory be to God, wherever the Spirit comes He proves Himself to be Divine by the Omnipotence which He displays. They heard,then, a sound as of a rushing mighty wind. Although we never expect to hear a sound like this, yet we do expect, dear ChristianFriends, to have the reality. We hope yet tosee the Spirit of God mysteriously at work, and we hope to hear the sound thereof, the glad tidings cheering our hearts.We love to see nations born in a day. We do yet believe that before our eyes are closed in death, we shall see God's arm stretchedout and the irresistible mightof His Spirit felt by His enemies.
Consider the next sentence. "Which filled all the place where they were sitting." The sound was not merely heard by the disciples,but it appeared to penetrate the other chambers besides that large upper room where they were probably gathered together.Ah, and when the Spirit of God comes, He neverconfines Himself to the Church. The influence may not be saving to those without, but it is felt by them. A revival in avillage penetrates even the pothouse. The Spirit of God at work in the Church is soon felt in the farmyard, known in the workroom,and perceived in the factory.It is not possible for the Spirit to be confined when once He comes.
Oh, if He should but visit this place, Walworth and Camberwell and Southwark must all know it. The very streets should bemade to wear a different aspect! And whereas we now have to walk down long rooms of shops still open on the Sunday, we shoulddoubtless see them closed, for the Spirit of Godwould fill all the place where His Church was located. May such glad times come, when from one end of England to another,the Spirit of God shall fill all men in all places, because He dwells specially with His chosen people.
But this was not all. I must now mention what I think was the appearance seen. It was a bright luminous cloud, probably, notunlike that which once rested in the wilderness over the tribes by night. A fiery pillar was seen hovering in the upper partof the room. The cloud is mentioned as "it," sothat it seems to have been one, and yet it is called "tongues," so that it must have been many. In the Greek there is aunique commingling of singular and plural in the verbs, which can hardly be accounted for, unless there really did exist asingularity, and a plurality at the sametime.
There floated in the room, I think, one mass of flame, a great cloud of fire. This suddenly divided, or was cleft-and separatetongues of fire rested upon the head of each of the disciples. They would understand that thus a Divine power was given tothem, for such a figure was by no meansunusual or far-fetched. Heathens have been accustomed to represent in their statues, beams of light, or flames of fire proceedingfrom their false deities. And to this day the cloudy radiance with which Roman Catholic painters always adorn the heads ofsaints is a relic of the sameidea. It was said by the an- cients of Hesiod, the first of all the poets, that whereas he was once nothing but a simpleneat-herd, yet suddenly a Divine flame fell upon him, and he became from then on one of the noble of men.
We feel assured that so natural a metaphor would be at once understood by the Apostles. A tongue of fire resting upon themwould be a token of a special inspiration from God. Notice first it was a tongue, for God has been pleased to make the tonguedo mightier deeds than either sword or pen. Andthough the pen shall speak to ages yet to come, yet never with that living force which trembles from the tongue. For whatwe read in a book is but dead, but that which we hear with the ear comes as a living word to the soul. It pleases God, bythe foolishness of preaching, to savethem that believe.
Then it was a tongue of fire, to show that God's ministers speak, not coldly, as though they had tongues of ice. Nor learnedlyas with tongues of gold, nor arrogantly as with tongues of brass. Nor plaintively as with tongues of willow, nor sternly aswith tongues of iron-but earnestly, and ina mystery-not as with tongues of flesh, but with the tongue of flame. Their words consume sin, scorch falsehood, enlightenthe darkness, and comfort the poor. Notice, moreover, that "it SAT upon them." It did not flicker or remove. It remained there.So the Spirit of God is anabiding Influence, and the saints shall persevere. It sat upon each of them, so that while there was but one fire, yet eachBeliever received his portion of the one Spirit. There are diversities of operations, but it is the same Lord.
I will not tarry longer with the description of how the Spirit came except to observe that I would to God that He would manifestHimself in the same manner this day. We want our young men to have tongues of fire. And you, fathers, we long to see you alsokindled by the live coal which touched thelips of Isaiah. Even you, my Sisters-for doubtless that tongue of fire rested upon the Virgin Mary and upon the other women-wewould like to see it rest on you, that in your families, in your Sunday school classes, or in your visitations and nursingof the sick, you mayhave the Holy Fire abiding in you.
Oh, may God be pleased to send forth the Comforter to each of us! May none of us be without His power, for the set time tofavor Zion shall have come when both men and women of every rank and degree shall have received the Spirit of the blessedGod. I am afraid this does not interest you. You thinkit happened a long while ago, and is not likely ever to occur again. And I am afraid it is not while we remain so indifferentto it, but, oh, if we had the anxiety to desire it, and the faith to expect it, we might see greater things than these. Withoutthe outward sign, which wasbut for the babyhood of the Church, we might receive the inward and spiritual Grace fit for the full grown man of the advancedBelievers of our time.
III. Consider now THE MATTER ITSELF, the benefit which now was given. Of the matter itself, we react very briefly that, "theywere all filled with the Holy Spirit." The sound was not the Holy Spirit, nor was the tongue of fire the Holy Spirit-thesewere but the symbols of His work. The realwork was done when all present were filled with the Holy Spirit. What is this? What is this strange mystery? The skepticsneers and says, "There is no such thing." The formal religionist says, "I have never felt it." And the most of Christiansthink it something to be devoutlybelieved in, but by no means to be experienced.
Is there a Holy Spirit? My Hearer, you dare not ask that question, unless you are prepared to involve a doubt of your ownconversion, for, "Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And if, therefore, the Holy Spiritdoes not dwell in you, and has not made you a newcreature by His miraculous operations, you are still in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. Only the trueChristian knows what it is to receive the Spirit-but there are only a few Christians who know what it is to be filled withHim-to be filled withHim to the brim.
There are times when the preacher has known it, when he had no need to ask himself what he should say, nor in what languagehe should couch his thoughts-for the thoughts were born all dressed, and armed-and they sprung not from him but through him,of the Holy Spirit. There are timeswhen the soul is full of calm, for the dove is there-full of passion for the fire is there-full of life, for the wind isthere-full of growth, for the dew is there-full of Divine priesthood and the power to bless, for the oil is there. And thereare timeswhen the soul is full of knowledge, for the light is there-purged and cleansed, because the fountain of Living Water flowswithin.
There are, it is true, seasons when the man has to complain that he cannot discover any of these signs. But oh, there areglad and high days when God's anointed servants feel borne upon the mystic Wind aloft in thoughts sublime. Then they are nolonger weak men, but men inspired to break hardhearts, to stir emotions, to quicken the dead, to open blind eyes, and to preach the Gospel to the poor-and all by the Powerfrom on High. You who have felt the sublime sensation of being filled with the Spirit may read of Ezekiel's being lifted bya lock of his hair betweenearth and Heaven-but you know that to be filled with the Spirit is a greater wonder still, for that lifts a man up fromworldly cares, enables him to lay hold upon God in prayer, bathes him in the joy of Heaven-and then sends him down with shiningface to bless hisfellow men.
The flesh trembles in the dust because the great Spirit has come to our spirit's help, and flesh must lose all dominion, butour spirit rejoices with great joy. Observe the difference between Peter with the Spirit, and Peter without the Spirit! Therehe is, cursing and swearing like a sailor. Henever knew Christ, he says. There he is, sinking in the sea, he does not believe that he can walk upon the waters, and hecries, "Lord, save, or I perish." Peter, the braggart, the rash man, and yet the coward! Look at him now-the Spirit of Godhas come upon him. How differentis Peter! Fearless of all the jeers and taunts which the ribald crew might cast at him, he stands up to preach.
Why has this man eloquence? He speaks mightily and not as the scribes. Lo, the people are moved under him as the green cornis moved by the wind, or as the waves of the sea are swept by the gale. And when he has finished preaching he goes up to thetemple and commands a lame man to leap, and themiracle is worked! He is brought before the rulers and commanded to hold his peace, and he answers like a hero, "Whetherit is right to obey man rather than God, you judge." Peter is found traveling over every country, preaching the Word in everytongue, and at last, he that wasonce a coward cheerfully stretches out his aged arms to be nailed to a cross, but head downwards, as though he felt he wasnot worthy to die like his Master. He expires upon the tree, glorifying Christ in his death!
There is no comparison to be drawn. It is a case of clear contrast between Peter the unspiritual, and Peter full of the HolySpirit. No man or woman among you knows what he might be if he were filled with the Spirit. What is that rough Luther? Heis only fit to have been a killer of bullocks, or afeller of oaks in the forest. But fill Luther with the Holy Spirit and what is he? He takes the bull of Rome by the horns,slays wild beasts of error in the great arena of the Gospel, and is more than a conqueror through the might which dwells inhim! Take John Calvin-fitnaturally to be a cunning lawyer, cutting and dividing nice points, judging this precedent, and that, frittering away histime over immaterial niceties.
But fill him with the Holy Spirit, and John Calvin becomes the mighty master of Divine Grace, the reflection of the wisdomof all past ages, and a great light to shed a brilliant ray even till the Millennium shall dawn! Chief, and prince, and kingof all uninspired teachers, the mighty seer ofGeneva, filled with the Spirit of God is no more John Calvin, but a God-sent angel of the Churches! Who knows what yonderyoung man may be? I know today he is but as other men-fill him with the Spirit, let it move him in the camp of Dan-and woeto the Philistines!
Who knows what that young woman may be? She may sit under the oak quietly with Deborah now, but the day may come when sheshall stir up Barak and put a song into his mouth, saying, "Awake, awake, O Barak, lead your captivity captive, you son ofAbinoam!" Only let us be filled with the Spirit and weknow not what we can be. We shall, "Laugh at impossibility and say, 'It shall be done.' " We shall attempt what we neverdreamed of before, and accomplish that which we always thought to be far beyond our grasp.
IV. Our last point is-THE RESULT OF IT ALL. Well, well, you will it a very commonplace sort of thing. After all this rushingmighty wind, this fire and so on, what are you expecting? Kings trembling in the dust, or riding in their chariots to do homageto the Apostles? Shall the wind blowdown dynasties-shall the fire consume dominions? Nothing of the kind, my Brothers and Sisters! Nothing of the kind! Spiritualand not carnal, is the kingdom of God. The result lies in three things-a sermon, a number of enquirers, and a great Baptism!That is all! Yes,but though it is all, it is the grandest thing in all the world-for in the judgment of the angels and of those whom Godhas made wise unto salva-tion-these are three most precious matters.
There was a sermon. The Spirit of God was given to help Peter to preach a sermon. You turn with interest to know what sortof a sermon a man would preach who was full to the brim with the Holy Spirit. You expect him to be more eloquent than RobertHall, or Chalmers, of course. More learned than thePuritans, certainly. As for illustrations, of course you will have the loftiest flights of poetic genius. You may expect,now, to have all the orations of Cicero and Demosthenes put entirely in the shade. We shall have something glorious now!
No such thing! No such thing! Never was there a sermon more commonplace than that of Peter's, and let me tell you that itis one of the blessed effects of the Holy Spirit to make ministers preach simply. You do not want the Holy Spirit to makethem ride the high horse and mount up on the wings ofthe spread eagle to the stars. What is wanted is to keep them down, dealing with solemn subjects in an intelligible manner.What was the theme of this sermon? Was it something so intellectual that nobody could comprehend it, or so grand that fewcould grasp it?
No, Peter just rises up and delivers himself somewhat like this-"Jesus Christ of Nazareth lived among you. He was the Messiahpromised of old. You crucified Him, but in His name there is salvation, and whoever among you will repent and be baptizedshall find mercy." That is all! I am sure Mr.Charles Simeon in his, "Skeleton Sermons," would not have inserted it as a model. And I do not suppose that any collegeprofessor alive would ever say to his students-"If you want to preach, preach like Peter." Why, I do not perceive it firstly,secondly, thirdly or fourthly,to which some of us feel compelled to bind ourselves. It is, in fact, a commonplace talking about sublime things-sublimethings which in this age are thought to be foolishness and a stumbling block.
Well then, may the Spirit of God be poured out to teach our ministers to preach plainly, to set our young men talking aboutJesus Christ-for this is absolutely necessary. When the Spirit of God goes away from a Church, it is a fine thing for oratory,because then it is much more assiduouslycultivated. When the Spirit of God is gone, then all the ministers become exceedingly learned, for not having the Spiritthey need to supply the emptiness His absence has made. And then the old-fashioned Bible is not quite good enough. They musttouch it up a bit, and improve uponit. The old doctrines which used to rejoice their grandmothers at the fireside are too stale for them-they must have animproved and a new theology.
And young gentlemen nowadays show their profound erudition by denying everything which is the prop and pillar of our hope,and start some new will-o'-the-wisp which they set their people staring at. Ah, well, we want the Spirit of God to sweep allthat away. Oh that my dear Sister who conducts thefemale class, and all who are in the Sunday school may be helped just to talk to you about Christ. When you get the Spiritof God to come upon you like fire, and like a rushing mighty wind, it will not be to make you doctors of divinity, and scholars,and great elocutionists. Itwill only be just for this-to make you preach Christ and preach Him more simply than ever you did before.
The next result was that the people were pricked in the heart and began to cry, "Men and Brothers and Sisters, what shallwe do?" What a disorderly thing to do at a sermon. Usher! Put that man out of the Church! We cannot allow people to be callingout, "What must I do to be saved?" Blesseddisorder, blessed disorder, which the Spirit of God gives! This will be the result of all sermons in which there is thePresence of God. Men will feel that they have heard something which has gone right into their inmost nature-that they havereceived a wound which they can byno means heal. And at the next enquiry meeting there will be many saying, "How can I find peace? How can I get my sins forgiven?"
What next? Why, where the Spirit of God is, there will be faith, and there will be an outward confession of it in Baptism."Well, well," says one, "I did not think we were to see all this rushing mighty wind, and tongues of fire just to get a fewcommonplace sermons and conversions and Baptisms."But I tell you again it is the conversions and baptisms which make the arches of Heaven ring! I do not believe there wasone extra note in Heaven on the day when the Princess of Wales rode through London. We all went and gazed and admired, butI do not believe that one angel everopened one eye to look at it. He saw nothing there which struck him.
But wherever there is a groaning, and a sobbing, and a sighing after the Savior, a longing after reconciliation-and aboveall, where there is a renewed heart dedicating itself openly to Jesus, where there is a soul that says-"I will be buried withmy Master. I will be obedient to Hiscommand, and despite every opposition, I will go down with Him into the liquid grave. I will be numbered with the ridiculedmen and women who acknowledge that they are dead to the world and only alive to Christ"-I say it is in such a case that angelsrejoice, and this it isfor which we want the Spirit of God.
I have done when I have sown this thought. See, dear Friends, see the absolute importance of repentance, and of faith, andof Baptism. I pray you, if the Spirit of God comes all the way from Heaven to work these, be not satisfied till you receivethem. See, again, the importance of preaching, forthe Spirit of God descends only to help the preacher. And then see, last of all, the all-importance of the Holy Spirit.Without Him we cannot preach, and we cannot hear so as to believe and be saved. May I beg you, as you go your way, to entreatthe Lord to be with us according toHis own promise-"If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, much more shall your heavenly Fathergive the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him."