Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.The Lesson of Pentecost
We must realise what went before the record which begins with this word 'and' because it has in it a lesson that we have need to learn—first, of the patience and entire confidence in the fulfilling of the promise of God, and then of 'the prayer and supplication' which penetrated that patience and helped toward the realisation of their hope.
I. The lesson needs learning that while the apostolic ministry has its due part and special place, the ministry of the service of speech, the ministry of utterance, the ministry of making known and spreading the glorious news of the Gospel is not confined to those who are commissioned and set apart for this peculiar service, but includes and involves in privilege and responsibility every member of the Body of Jesus Christ.
II. There is renewed recognition in the world today of the well nigh forgotten truth of the personality of the Holy Ghost. He is the Comforter, but in the true meaning of that word, the strengthener, the giver of life and of power.
III. All can find here, in prayer to and in dependence upon the Holy Spirit of God, guidance to Know and grace to do God's Holy Will.
—Bishop Doane, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 522.
The Day of Pentecost (For Whitsunday)
To-day we commemorate the birthday of the Church; but in matters spiritual as in matters physical, birth is not the beginning of life. And it must never be forgotten, in matters spiritual birth is not the end of life. Thus is it with the founding of the Church on the day of Pentecost. Do not mistake, then, the meaning of the birthday of the Church; it was not the foundation of the Church, Christ was the Foundation of the Church.
I. In all that Christ is and in all that He does we Perceive the Work of God the Holy Ghost.—It is in the power of the Holy Ghost that the blessed Lord is conceived in the womb of the Virgin; it is in the power of the Holy Ghost that He lived the spotless life of His boyhood and manhood; it is through the Holy Ghost descending upon Him that He is acknowledged at His baptism by John the Baptist to be the Son of God; it is by the power of the same Holy Spirit that He is led into the wilderness to stand there as our Champion and to fight out the battle in which the first Adam was defeated; it is by the power of the same Holy Spirit upon Him, as He Himself expressly declares, that He preached to the people; it is by the power of the Holy Ghost, as it is recorded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us; and as is asserted twice at least in the Epistle to the Romans, it is by the Holy Ghost that He is brought back in triumph in the Resurrection from the dead. The Gospels, therefore, are not only the record of the life of Christ, but of the Holy Spirit of God working in the life of Christ. It is the unimagined, the stupendous beginning of the new creation for man which we witness here to day.
II. But not even this was the End of the Preparation made.—The Lord chose a few who should be the means of spreading the knowledge of His grace; He chose, He taught, He watched over, He searched out the innermost mind, He moulded the very minds of the men whom He thus chose in order that through them He might become known better to men; they were to be the vehicles of the message that came from God; and the name, the almighty name, the name of God was manifested unto them in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those men were to be the living stones of the temple, but they were sent out to build others into that temple; they were to be the beginning of His Body the Church, but that Body was to grow until it should embrace all mankind; they were to be branches of the true vine, but that vine was to fill the land.
III. The Day of Pentecost.—The promise is fulfilled with the coming of the Holy Ghost, and the power came upon those men and those associated with them, and the new society is vital with a new life, and the power was realised to be so great by all those who witnessed that which followed this bestowal of the Spirit of God. It became visible in the very change of the men; the cowardice was gone from one who had quailed before the laughter of a servant-maid. The determination was so great in every one of them to preach the ineffable name of the love of God in Jesus Christ; the desire to live and die for Him was so apparent in every one of them, every one of them realised the power.
IV. This same Power is as much for us as it was for them, and if we have failed to realise it, it is because we have not yet grasped the fact that God has indeed sealed to us these gifts, that we were baptised into this same Spirit, that we at our Confirmation were sealed with this same blessing, the mark that God has made us His own and then calls on us to use the life which He has bestowed upon us.
References.—II. 1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1783. F. D. Maurice, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 13. II. 1-3.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 361.
The Spirit of Power
I. Whitsuntide is the celebration of Pentecost. If the Church is to observe a Christian year and to keep festivals, the greatest festival of all ought to be Whitsuntide, for if it be not the way of the Church's birth, it is certainly the day of the Church's power, and rightly understood it is the most spiritual of all her feasts. The gift of the Holy Ghost is the pledge of the Church's victory, and while the Church knows His power she need never tremble nor be afraid although all the hosts of the world are against her, for against a Church endowed with God's Spirit the gates of hell shall not prevail.
II. In the passage under consideration the Holy Ghost is spoken of as appearing on the day of Pentecost in the semblance of wind and of fire. The wind is a favourite Biblical image for the movements and goings of God's spirit. But the wind has got at least two functions. (1) One of the Psalmists speaks about God bringing the wind out of His treasuries. That must be the wind that bloweth healthily our sicknesses to heal; whose every kiss is tonic, whose very rude and wild embrace is strength. Its very buffetings are health. Now that is what God's Spirit is to the spirit of a man. It is life and health and peace. But He also comes as a mighty rushing wind, as He came of old, and then He comes with great and stirring power. (2) But there is another function of the wind. It is sometimes a winnowing wind, separating chaff from grain, the false from the true; or it sometimes comes as a blight.
III. The other image for the coming and action of the Holy Spirit is fire. What fire is in the material world God's Spirit is, can be, and will be in the Church; and in the Church of today as in the olden time. But how did man come to use fire, and to such mighty and startling purpose? He did it by obedience. Immediately man obeys the conditions of the forces of Nature they are his servants, and so long as man is obedient to all the conditions of fire it will do almost anything for him How? By obedience. And so must man obey if he would have the power of the Holy Ghost, the mighty fire that has been in the Church in the past, and can be with us still.
—D. L. Ritchie, Peace the Umpire and other Sermons, p 123.
The Coming of the Spirit
The day of Pentecost was an epoch-making day. It initiated the Christian dispensation, and. like all initiating days, it was a sample day. The day of Pentecost reveals every quality, every energy, and every condition of the Spirit's presence and work in the world. With these facts in view let us consider concerning the Spirit:—
I. The Preparation for His Coming.—There was an extended and an immediate preparation. The world had been preparing for Pentecost from the days of Paradise. All the movement of the Old Testament was a march towards Pentecost. The immediate preparation was in the work of Christ: His Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation. The coming of the Spirit involved the preparation of a people to receive Him. Here again there was an extended and an immediate preparation. The extended preparation of the disciples covered the whole course of Christ's ministry and fellowship. As the end approached, He prepared their minds for His coming by definite instruction and promise. The final stage of their preparation was in united and believing prayer.
II. The Occasion of His Coming.—The form in which the Spirit comes is indicative of the work He comes to do. When He came upon Christ He came as a dove, but when He comes to the disciples it is as wind and fire. The elect symbol of the Spirit is fire. It is the chosen sign of the Divine Presence, from the flaming sword of Paradise to the tongues of flame at Pentecost. What is meant by fire? Fire stands for enthusiasm, rapture, and passion. The Holy Ghost is fire. The heart in which He dwells, burns. Christianity is fire. A cold church is a corpse. At Pentecost the fire took shape, and set upon each of them a cloven tongue of flame. The sign of Christianity is not a cross but a tongue of fire. The fire is given for speech.
III. What were the Immediate Effects of His Coming?—The greatest miracle of that day was the transformation wrought in those waiting disciples. Their fire-baptism transfigured them. What was the effect of Pentecost in the world? It gathered crowds who were astonished, amazed, and perplexed with the things they saw and heard. Some mocked and attributed it to drink as they had attributed the Master's works to the Devil, but others were convinced, awakened, saved, and added to the Church of the living God. That is the sample day of the Church of Christ. Wherever there is a community of Christians baptised with the Spirit of Fire, they leave the upper room and go out proclaiming the Gospel to the people. Fire may always be relied upon to bring a crowd. Every man knows on which side of Pentecost he lives and works. The Spirit can be given only where Christ is glorified.
—S. Chadwick, Humanity and God, p. 205.
References.—II. 1-4.—W. Wakinshaw, Preacher's Magazine, vol. iv. p. 366. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 511. S. Chad wick, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. p. 187. II. 1-4, 6.—J. H. Jowett, The Transfigured Church, p. 9.
The Ministry of a Transfigured Church
Acts 2:1; Acts 2:4; Acts 2:6
What we need, above all things, is the continuous marvel of an elevated Church, 'set on high' by the King, having her home 'in the heavenly places in Christ,' approaching all things 'from above,' and triumphantly resisting the subtle gravitation of 'the world, the flesh, and the devil'. It is not only multitudes of decisions that we want, but pre-eminently the heightening of the life of the saved, the glorification of the saints.
Now, what is the explanation of the comparative poverty and impotence of our corporate life? Why is the Church not laden with the impressive dignities of her destined heritage? Look at the manner of our fellowship. Is it such as to give promise of power and wealth? When we meet together, in worshipping communities, do we look like men and women who are preparing to move amid the amazing and enriching sanctities of the Almighty? Take our very mode of entry. It is possible to lose a thing by the way we approach it. I have seen a body of flippant tourists on the Rigi at the dawn, and by their noisy irreverence they missed the very glory they had come to see. 'When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hands, to trample My courts?' That loud and irreverent tramp is far too obtrusive in our communion.
When I listen to our loud and irreverent tramp, when I listen to so many of our aweless hymns and prayers, I cannot but ask whether we have lost those elements from our contemplation which are fitted to subdue the soul into silence, and to deprive it of the clumsy expedient of speech. We leave our places of worship, and no deep and inexpressible wonder sits upon our faces. We can sing these lilting melodies, and when we go out into the streets our faces are one with the faces of those who have left the theatres and the music-halls. There is nothing about us to suggest that we have been looking at anything stupendous and overwhelming. Far back in my boyhood I remember an old saint telling me that after some services he liked to make his way home alone, by quiet by-ways, so that the hush of the Almighty might remain on his awed and prostrate soul. That is the element we are losing, and its loss is one of the measures of our poverty, and the primary secret of our inefficient life and service. And what is the explanation of the loss?
I. Pre-eminently our impoverished conception of God. 'And He had in His right hand seven stars:'—yes, we can accept that delicate suggestion of encircling love and care! 'And His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength:'—yes, we can bask in the distributed splendour of that sunny morn! 'And out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword!'—and is that too in our selection, or has our cherished image been deprived of the sword? Why leave out that sword? Does its absence make us more thoughtful and braver men, or does it tend to lull us into an easefulness which removes us far away from the man who, when he saw Him, 'fell at His feet as dead'?
II. But our impoverished conception of God is not the only cause of our comparative poverty and enfeeblement. The life of the Church is expressed in two relationships, the human and the Divine. The Divine fellowship has been impoverished by lack of height; the human fellowship has been impoverished by lack of breadth. We have not drunk the iron water from the heart of the mountains, and we have therefore lacked a healthy robustness; we have not accumulated the manifold treasures of the far-stretching plain, and we have therefore lacked a wealthy variety. Our fellowship with God has been mean: our fellowship with man has been scanty. Nay, would it not be just the truth to say that the human aspects of our Church fellowship suggest a treasure-house which has never been unlocked? The Church is poor because much of her treasure is imprisoned; but she herself carries the liberating key to the iron gate! Our riches are buried in the isolated lives of individual members instead of all being pooled for the endowment of the whole fraternity. And I for one think it not impossible to cultivate this larger, richer, more social and familiar fellowship, and at the same time to create an atmosphere in which invasive perils shall be unable to breathe. Under God, everything depends upon your leader; and under God, cannot wise leaders be grown?—leaders who shall be able, with a rare delicacy of tact, born of deep and unceasing communion with God, to draw out the individual gift of witness and experience, and by the accumulated treasure to enrich the entire Church. Our Church is comparatively poor and unimpressive; here is a storehouse of untouched resources which I am convinced would immeasurably enrich and strengthen our equipment in our combined attack against the powers of darkness. We need to get higher up the mountains. And we need, too, to get further out upon the plains. 'O, for a closer walk with God!' And 'O, for a closer walk with man!' Closer to the great and holy God, that we may be possessed by a deepening and fertilising awe; and closer to our brother, that we may move in the manifold inspiration and comfort of 'mutual faith' and experience.
—J. H. Jowett, The Transfigured Church, p. 9.
The Coming of the Spirit
Acts 2:2I. The working of the Spirit will always be a mystery. The Holy Ghost maintains His place as a Sovereign, and He wraps Himself round with mystery. There is no power that earth knows that can cause the wind to alter its direction, and so it is with the Holy Spirit.
II. The working of the Spirit is bound to attract attention. The noise 'as of a rushing mighty wind' was heard all over Jerusalem. When God sends a blessing we cannot keep it quiet.
III. The working of the Spirit will always be accompanied with fervour. When the Spirit of God comes, whatever else may be lacking, there will always be fire.
—A. G. Brown, The Baptist, vol. lxxi. p. 377.
References.—II. 2.—H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 47. II. 2-4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1619.
There were others, again, true saintly fathers, whose faculties had been elaborated by weary toil among their books, and by patient thought, and etherealised, moreover, by spiritual communications with the better world, into which their purity of life had almost introduced these holy personages, with their garments of mortality still clinging to them. All that they lacked was the gift that descended upon the chosen disciples, at Pentecost, in tongues of flame; symbolising, it would seem, not the power of speech in foreign and unknown languages, but that of addressing the whole human brotherhood in the heart's native language. These fathers, otherwise so apostolic, lacked heaven's last and rarest attestation of their office, the tongue of flame.
—N. Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, ch. 11
When our Lord manifested Himself to His disciples for the last time before His Ascension into heaven, He reminded them that He had promised to send the Holy Spirit to take His place as their Guide and their Strengthener, and to abide perpetually in their midst It was natural, it was in harmony with all that had gone before, and it was necessary for their instruction and the confirmation of their faith, that the arrival of this new Power should be marked by special signs of its manifestation, and so, in the record of the Acts of the Apostles, we find that a threefold manifestation took place on the day of Pentecost. By three symbols, by wind, by fire, by voice, the Spirit declared His presence.
I. The Manifestation by Wind.—First of all by wind, 'There came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind'. The stirring power of the Spirit was thus symbolised. Wind is a mysterious force, invisible to men and beyond their control, discoverable only by its results, and so a sudden rush of strong wind might fitly symbolise that a Power more than human was moving men in spite of themselves. Both in the Hebrew and in the Greek language there is one word by which Spirit on the one hand, and breath, or wind, on the other, is signified, and so the words, 'The wind bloweth where it listeth,' might equally well be translated, 'The Spirit breathes where He wills'. Accordingly, a sound as of a wind—for if we read the record carefully we observe that we are not told that a wind actually was there, but a sound as though of a wind—was a fitting emblem of the Spirit's presence. It signified the moving power, the stirring force which had come among men.
II. The Manifestation by Fire.—Then, secondly, 'There appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire'. Fire is another of the forces of nature, full of significance. Inanimate though it be, it seems mysteriously endowed with a kind of living force, and in Holy Scripture fire is specially spoken of as an agent of cleansing and purification. The fire which appeared to rest on the heads of the disciples indicated the purifying power of the Spirit's presence. 'He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire,' was the promise and the warning which summed up the Baptist's message Not actual fire again, but tongues like as it were of fire, was the symbol which emphasised the purifying power of the Holy Ghost.
III. The Manifestation by Voice.—And then, once more, 'They began to speak with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance'. The second symbol leads fitly into the third, and by this the unifying power of the Spirit's presence was signified, for differences of language form the strongest barriers which separate men from each other.
The gift of the spirit. To stir, to purify, to unite. As we say the words, we feel that this is what we need today.
When Luther was asked whether the Apostles could speak in diverse languages, or whether their hearers from various countries could understand the Apostles when they used their native Hebrew, he answered, 'Ah, that is a difficult question! How much disputing there has been over it! Many have thought that the people who spoke various foreign tongues could understand the Apostles, who used their mother language, but the text gives the other meaning, and it happened in this way: They could speak diverse languages, and to whatever nation they wished to preach, they were perfect masters of its language, just as we see that Peter wrote his Epistle in good Greek, yet he was a Galilean.... This was one of the greatest miracles that ever happened, that poor fishermen should receive such splendid gifts. It is just as if I were to awaken a stone and make it talk in all manner of languages.'
Some one suggested: 'If the Holy Spirit were now to work in this direct manner, there would be lazy students'. The Doctor: 'Ah, but God wished at the beginning to establish His dear Gospel through this miracle'.
—E. Kroker, Luther's Tischreden (1903), p. 325, No. 633.
On Whit-Sunday morning, 1738, John Wesley went to the church of St. Mary-le-Strand and heard the rector, preach 'A truly Christian sermon 'on 'They were all filled with the Holy Ghost'; Wesley assisted the rector with the Communion. Soon after the sermon he heard the joyful news that his brother Charles, then lying ill in 'Little Britain,' had found spiritual rest.
This was the text chosen by Wesley himself for his last University sermon in 1744.
References.—II. 4.—W. C. Wheeler, Sermons and Addresses, p. 188. J. Keble, Sermons for Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 269. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (3rd Series), p. 196. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i. p. 39. Bishop Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 213.
Père Gratry says: 'Do not let us forget this, to speak to every man in his own language is a gift of the Holy Spirit; audiebat unusquisque lingua sua illos loquentes. The Spirit of love speaks all languages through that great law which causes a mother to speak the language of her new-born child.'
References.—II. 8.—T. Hancock, A Lent in London, p. 20. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 278. II. 9.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 404. II. 14.—H. H. Henson, Godly Union and Concord, pp. 65, 67. II. 14-36.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 106; ibid. (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 346. II. 14-40.—Ibid. vol. vi. p. 462. II. 16.—H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 305. Expositor. (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 407. II. 16-21.—E. Bayley, Sermons, on the Work and Person of the Holy Spirit, p. 162.
Inspiration and Outlook (For Whit-Sunday)
Acts 2:17; Revelation 21:2
We might call our subject the Holy Spirit and the human outlook. 'I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.' That was the vision of the Spirit Let us accept it as it is given to us. Let us not try to spiritualise it. It is quite spiritual enough. Our business is to try to understand it Sometimes when we think we are spiritualising a thing we are really vapourising it, and there is our mist again.
I. St. John called the city New Jerusalem. I can find it in my heart to be almost sorry that he named it It shows his vision was practical; but it has helped to make our vision vague and remote. When St. John spoke of the New Jerusalem, do you think he had completely forgotten the old Jerusalem? Don't you think he thought it was time that they had a new city? Don't you think his vision taught him it could be made new? By what authority, pray, have we translated this expression New Jerusalem by that vague word heaven? It is all wrong. For the last three years I have been calling it Birmingham. My friends, we shall do no good in the world until under the practical dominance of the Divine Spirit we come to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the holy city is not something to be longed for in the heavens of God, but something to be builded in the earth which is His also.
That is the work of the Spirit. We are not to be singers of 'glory songs,' we are to be builders of the city of God in the earth.
II. 'I saw the holy city coming down from God out of heaven.' Perhaps we have been too much concerned with where the Holy Spirit can lift us to and prepare us for, to see as we should the vision of what that Spirit has for us to do here and now. We are very anxious that earth should go to heaven; we do not always realise that the great purpose that God the Spirit is to accomplish is just the opposite. He is to bring heaven to earth. He is to make heaven in our lives.
III. There is a fathomless mystical story of the Spirit that no man can tell. There is all the infinite grace and mystery that must belong to the life of God living itself out through the mind and heart and character of them that trust Him. There are anointings for special work, and baptisms of knowledge ana power for individual souls. But all these things issue in the fact that the Spirit of God in our hearts will first of all and always make us look for the holy city and work for it. It will make us bold to claim here and now all that belongs to it.
The holy city can only come through the holy citizen. That which is to be the light and law of the city must first be the light and law of the house. I mean the house of life. The coming of the holy city may be discussed in the larger councils of men—it can only be decided on each man's own threshold and in each man's own heart.
On this great Festival day of the Spirit—and in every day that dawns and dies—it is yours to accept or reject the grace of the Holy Spirit offered to your heart; and so, doing the one or the other as you must, you hasten or retard the building of the holy city in the life of the world.
—P. C. Ainsworth, The Pilgrim Church, p. 218.
References.—II. 17.—Hugh Price Hughes, Preacher's Magazine, vol. iv. p. 74. John Watson, The Inspiration of our Faith, p. 60. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 51. H. D. Rawnsley, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 320. H. M. Butler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 93. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 806. II. 17, 18.—H. S. Seekings, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 214.
The Holy Spirit in This Dispensation
The Holy Spirit was in the world before the birth of Christ, but Christ, in His earthly life, revealed the laws of His operation, so that anybody and everybody in the true Church may now avail himself of the power of the Holy Spirit, which previously was reserved for an Isaiah or a Daniel, or some other favoured person, This was anticipated by Joel, who said that in the last days God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.
I. Man should accept this power. If a man is clean and pure in thought and lives near God, he can always count on the operation of the Spirit of God. In your home you touch a spring or turn a key and the whole room is filled with light. Just as surely you can be filled with the light of the Spirit of life if you will obey the law.
II. The lesson of Christ's baptism. When Jesus Christ received the Spirit, He received Him for His Church, and for you and me. He gave Him to His Church, to be its permanent possession during the present age; and He waits to give each individual member of that Church his or her share in Pentecost, on the one condition of applying for it by faith. The Spirit of God came suddenly upon the Church at Pentecost. I believe, therefore, that the soul may suddenly receive and apprehend the great power of the Holy Spirit.
III. There are just five tests by which you may know that you have received this infilling. (1) Is the Lord Jesus Christ a living reality to you? (2) Have you assurance that you are a child of God? (3) Have you victory over known sin? (4) Have you power in witness-bearing? (5) Have you the spirit of holy love? If not, there are three steps necessary—confession, surrender, and faith.
—F. B. Meyer, The Soul's Ascent, p. 245.
Reference.—II. 18.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 120.
The Easy Way Out of It All
In St. Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost we read, 'I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath, blood and fire and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before that great and notable day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' Does not the last verse 'break with laughter from the dark?' Is it not like a bird's song rising suddenly after the passion of tempest? Wonders of grace have been contending with wonders of nature. Old men are dreaming dreams, young men behold visions, and maidens prophesy. There are wonders in heaven—the sun turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. Blood and fire and vapour of smoke colour the astonished earth. Yet there need be no fear. Only catch at God's skirts and pray, and the danger is over. The true world within the world is safe, that world of which ours is but the bounding shore. Even when the storm rises not calmly, quietly, gradually, but suddenly, and with terrific manifestation, it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
I. In a sense this is true of every crisis in personal life and in the life of nations. It is true even to the point that the deliverance comes in an instant. One cry, and the life is lodged in the Lord's arms. But it is true in the manner of the Gospel story where it is written they willingly received Him into the ship, and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. Literally it was not so. The storm ceased, and there was a great calm, but they did not at once attain the shore. They had reached their rest notwithstanding. Jesus is the true land to which His people go, and once receiving Him they were safe and blessed.
II. This sudden salvation granted for a mere cry—how often is it verified in the storms that wreck the house! Whether we should covet long and peaceful years it is hard to say, for 'whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,' and it is the nearest and the dearest that He calls first into the burden and heat of the day. Sometimes, perhaps often, the channel, as Tennyson phrased it, is long smooth. The years of random youth are passed safely. With the full current of life runs the full man. There are kindly curves at last, and the river falls through quiet fields before the deep comes where all is still. But even such homes of secure and sacred peace are invaded at last by the swift and dreadful Jordan. Or, to change the figure, the inmates who cling closely together, who dare not trust their wings, who tremble to leave their nests, are driven forth and thrown out into the vacant air. Then if they believe, they find that the Lord upholds them. But for the great majority vicissitudes are continual. The promise, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation,' is made good from the beginning to the end. St. Bernard asks whether Mary's sitting still in the house was a mere expression ©f her quiet trust in her Lord's power or the listlessness of earthly grief. And he answers, 'I will believe that it was a full and sweet reliance on the Spotless Lamb'. This verily is our assurance and peace. We do not know how St. Paul demeaned himself by the bedside of the departing, but one might fancy that the Apostle going to comfort the pale sufferer and the weeping friends had in his heart and on his lips the words which expressed his purpose when he faced great and hostile crowds. Never, surely, have we more occasion than by the door of the dying to say, 'I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified'.
III. What holds for the home will hold for the wider life. Every one striving for great public ends in the service of Church or State will approach the time of terror St. Peter spoke of, the time of fainting and paling lights, of disarray, of apparent disaster and defeat. Then, too, will the word be made good, 'Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved'. When they were building Seville Cathedral they said, 'Let us raise such a work that they who come after us shall take us to have been mad'. And this in its measure is a fit resolution for every Christian. He must be ready to fight every battle, and yet fight it in perfect peace, like that French leader who would not be discouraged by the opposition or the indifference of men, by the delays of time and God. He must be ready to fall and die enveloped in his own solitary flag.
It is all so easy upon our side, but this is because it has been so hard upon God's side. Every relief, every succour, every comfort, every reward, comes to us straight from Calvary. 'He bowed His head low,' said one, 'that His bride might kiss Him with the kisses of her mouth.' It is because He suffered His own agony that He can be with us in ours, and the shadow under which we sit with great delight is the shadow of His cross. For us He fought the last battle with death and hell, and slept as the seed life of the world in the rocky grave that stood out from the young green, and rose again, and divided the Red Sea of death when He passed over. It is still divided; the crystal walls still stand right and left for His redeemed, and we seek His presence on the else terrible journey. Be content, I pray Thee, go with Thy servant. And He said, I will go.
—W. Robertson Nicoll, Sunday Evening, p. 383.
References.—II. 21.—H. J. Windross, Preacher's Magazine, vol. v. p. 180. D. C. A. Agnew, The Soul's Business and Prospects, p. 428. II. 22.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 180; ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 336. II. 22, 23.—G. Campbell Morgan, The Bible and the Gross, p. 3. II. 23.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 183; ibid. (5th Series), vol. iv. p. 280; ibid. vol. vi. p. 138; ibid. (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 55.
The writers of the New Testament set forth the Resurrection of our Lord as a Fact, as a Doctrine, and as a Parable.
I. Let us consider the Resurrection as a Fact. The miracle of the Resurrection constitutes the keystone of the Christian position. (1) The first, and to my mind the greatest, proof of the Resurrection is the existence of the Christian Church itself. (2) The existence of the Christian Sunday is another proof of the Resurrection.
II. Let us next consider the Resurrection as a Doctrine. It is an article of faith in the creed of Christendom that we should believe in the doctrine of the Resurrection of the dead. The Resurrection power of Christ has vanquished the tyrant Death, for is it not written, 'Christ hath abolished death'? We know, since Christ has risen, that death is but an episode in life.
III. Lastly, we consider the Resurrection as a Parable. The Resurrection of Christ mystically sets forth the eternal law that spiritual power, spiritual energy, cannot beholden of death, that it is impossible to entomb spirit. (1) We see this in the experience of the individual Christian. (2) We see the same great law at work in the history of the Church.
—T. J. Madden, Tombs or Temples? p. 61.
References.—II. 24.—R. J. Wardell, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 129. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2712. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. pp. 243-48; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. pp. 39, 440; ibid. vol. vi. p. 423. II. 24-32.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 220. II. 26.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 220. II. 28.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 120. II. 29-31. —Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 199; ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 156. II. 30.—Ibid. vol. iv. p. 167. II. 32.—J. Berry, Preacher's Magazine, vol. iv. p. 145. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 156. H. Alford, Easter-tide Sermons, p. 1. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 20. II. 33.—H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 309. Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 236. II. 36, 37.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxv. No. 2102. II. 37.—H. H. Henson, Godly Union and Concord, p. 79. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 27. II. 37-39.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 325. II. 38.—Ibid. Sermon Outlines, p. 185. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 398; ibid. (6th Series), vol. v. p. 43. II. 38, 39.—R. J. Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. p. 406. II. 39.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 17. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2586. II. 41.—F. D. Maurice, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 28.
I. What is Christian worship? Christian worship, depends, first of all, upon admiration and love and reverence for the character of Christ; and, secondly, upon the belief that that character was the express image of the Godhead. But while recognising that the acknowledgment of Christ's divinity is the essence of the Christian creed, and so must be the one bond of fellowship in the Christian Church—'one Lord, one faith, one baptism'—many Christians nowadays seem to think that there is no necessity for giving to this worship a united expression. They are disposed to seek Christ in the desert or in the secret place, instead of in the congregation of the faithful. If that is at all a common experience, the question is at least worth asking whether the blame may not to some extent lie with our methods of public worship.
II. We must make the worship in all our churches as real as possible and as appealing as possible. (1) How may it be made real? We should undoubtedly gain something in reality by the omission of any phrases in prayers and collects which do not express our actual present-day feelings; or, again, by the omission of any Psalms which offend our modern and Christianised conscience; or, again, of any lessons which appear to state as matters of fact what we no longer believe to have been matters of fact. (2) We must ask how can the services be made more appealing to the spirit? Attempts in this direction are always being made. George Herbert recommended that the minister who read the prayers should lift up his hands and eyes and use all other gestures to express a hearty and unfeigned emotion, that, being first affected himself, he may affect also his people. Others have wished to substitute extempore for recited prayers. Well, it is quite clear that while some men might be attracted by these practices, others would be repelled. And this fact may show us that what the case requires is not a single panacea, but a recognition that men are not all made alike, of one emotional nature, and, moreover, are on very different levels of intellectual culture, so that they cannot all worship with a free heart in the same manner.
III. We ought to do our best to permit variety of ceremonies in the Church, so long as the unity of the faith within our own borders is not imperilled.
—H. C. Beeching, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xiv. p. 716.
References.—II. 42.—H. H. Henson, Godly Union and Concord, p. 90. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 24. Bishop Alexander, Verbum Crucis, p. 145. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 145. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 93. II. 43.—H. H. Henson, Godly Union and Concord, p. 101. II. 44.—H. S. Holland, God's City, p. 295. II. 46.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 28. II. 46, 47.—T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 180.
To praise Him is to serve Him, and fulfil, Doing and suffering, His unquestioned will; 'Tis to believe what men inspired of old, Faithful, and faithfully informed unfold; Candid and just, with no false aim in view, To take for truth what cannot but be true
To learn in God's own school the Christian part, And bind the task assigned thee to thine heart; Happy the man there seeking and there found, Happy the nation where such men abound!
—Cowper, Expostulation (643 f.)
Speaking of the English poets, in one of his prefaces, Goldsmith observes that 'in that department, namely, the praise of our Maker, by which poetry began, and from which it deviated by time, we are most faultily deficient'.
References.—II. 47.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 177. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1167. C. Brown, God and Man, p. 30. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 250. III. 1-10.—C. McEvoy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 250. III. 2.—A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. ii. p. 367. F. B. Meyer, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 374. G. M. Drew, ibid. vol. lxxviii. p. 293. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 17; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 228. III. 6.—Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 99. F. B. Meyer, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 362. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, p. 136. III. 6-8.—C. Bradley, Faithful Teaching, p. 106. III. 12-16.—F. D. Maurice, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 36. III. 13.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 29; ibid. (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 237. III. 14.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 185. III. 14, 15.—G. Campbell Morgan, The Bible and the Cross, p. 3. III. 14, 15, 17.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 225. III. 15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2139. T. F. Crosse, Sermons, p. 140. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 386; Mi. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 152.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:
Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, 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 Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.