And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.…
We are this day to celebrate the yearly memory of the sending down of a benefit, so great and so wonderful, as there were not tongues enough upon earth to celebrate it, but there were fain to be more sent from heaven to help to sound it out thoroughly.
I. THE TIME. The day of Pentecost. Why that day? Pentecost was a great feast under the law; and meet it was this coming should be at some great feast. The first dedication of Christ's Catholic Church on earth, the first publishing the gospel, the first proclaiming the apostles' commission, were so great matters, as it was not meet they should be done in a corner.
1. On their parts on whom the Holy Ghost came. It is truly said by the philosopher, that if the patient be prepared aright, the agent will have his work both the sooner and the better. And so, consequently, the Spirit in His coming, if the parties to whom He cometh be made ready. And this is threefold:(1) Unity. Can any spirit animate or give life to members dismembered? A fair example we have in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:7-9). Now the Holy Ghost is the very essential unity, love, and love-knot, of the two Persons, the Father and the Son, even of God with God. And He is sent to be the union, love, and loveknot of the two Natures united in Christ, even of God with man. And can we imagine that He will enter (essential unity) but where there is unity? There is no greater bar to His entry than discord and disunited minds.
(2) Not only of one mind, that is, unanimity, but also in one place too, that is, uniformity; both in the unity of the Spirit, that is inward, and in the bond of peace too, that is, outward. God's will is, we should be as upon one foundation, so under one roof (Psalm 68:6). Therefore it is expressly noted of this company where they prayed, they prayed all together (Acts 4:24). When they heard, they heard all together (Acts 8:6). When they brake bread, they did it all together (ver. 46). Division of places will not long be without division of minds.
(3) A disposition in them, whereby they held out, and stirred not, even till the fifty days were fulfilled. That ,former, unanimity; this latter, longanimity. There is in us a hot, hasty spirit, impatient of any delay.
2. On His part. He came sensibly, a rare coming, since the Holy Ghost, an invisible Spirit, cometh, for the most part, invisibly. Yet here it was meet — first, that no less honour done to this law of Zion than to that of Sinai, which was public and full of majesty; and secondly, it pleased Him to vouchsafe to grace the Church, His queen, with like solemn inauguration to that of His own, when the Holy Ghost descended on Him in likeness of a Dove. This coming, then, of His thus in state, is such as it was both to be heard and seen. To the ear, which is the sense of faith; to the eye, which is the sense of love. The ear, that is the ground of the word, which is audible; the eye, which is the ground of the sacraments, which are visible. To the ear in a noise; to the eye in a show. The noise, serving as a trumpet, to awake the world, and give them warning He was come. The fiery tongues, as so many lights, to show them and let them see the day of that their visitation.
(1) There comes a sound. Which is to show that the spirit is no dumb spirit but vocal. The sound thereof is gone into all lands, and hath been heard in all ages.
(2) It was the sound of a wind. For first, of all bodily things it is the least bodily, and cometh nearest to the nature of a spirit, invisible as it is; and secondly, quick and active, as the spirit is. Now, this wind that came and made this sound is here described with four properties:(a) It fell suddenly, so doth the wind. It riseth often in the midst of a calm, giveth no warning; and even so doth the Spirit, for that cometh not by observation, neither can you make set rules of it: you must wait for it as well when it cometh not as when it comes. Many times it is found of them that seek it not. It creeps not like motions that come from the serpent. And therefore sudden, saith Gregory, because things, if they be not sudden, awake us not, affect us not. And therefore sudden, saith he again, that men may learn not to despise present motions of grace, though suddenly rising in them, and though they can give no certain reason of them, but take the wind while it bloweth as not knowing when it will or whether ever it will blow again.
(b) It was a mighty, or vehement, wind. Although the wind is nothing else but a puff of air, the thinnest, the poorest, and to our seeming, of the least force of all creatures, yet groweth it to that violence which pulls up trees, blows down huge piles of building, hath most strange and wonderful effects, and all this but a little thin air. And surely no less observable or admirable, nay, much more, have been and are the operations of the Spirit. Even presently after this, this Spirit, in a few poor weak and simple instruments, waxed so full and forcible as it cast down strongholds, brought into captivity many an exalting thought, made a conquest of the whole world, even then, when it was bent fully in main opposition against it.
(c) It came from heaven. Winds naturally come not from thence, but move laterally from one coast or climate to another. To come directly down from heaven, that is supernatural, and points us plainly to Him that is ascended up into heaven, and now sendeth it down from thence that it may fill us with the breath of heaven. To distinguish this wind from others is no hard matter. If our motions come from above it is this wind, which came thence to make us heavenly-minded.
(d) It filled that place where they sat. That place, not the places about. The common wind fills all places within his circuit alike. And this is a property very well fitting the Spirit. To blow in certain places where itself will; and upon certain persons and they shall plainly feel it, and others about them not a whir.
(2) This wind brought down with it tongues to be seen. Here is not only sent a wind which serveth for their own inspiration, but tongues which serve for elocution, that is, to impart the benefit to more than themselves. It showeth that the Holy Ghost cometh and is given rather to do others good than to benefit themselves. Charity poured into their hearts would serve them; grace poured into their lips was needful to make others partakers of the benefit. This also standeth of four parts, as did the former.
(a) There were tongues, and God can send from heaven no better thing, nor the devil from hell no worse. The best member we have (Psalm 108:1). The worst member we have (James 3:6). Both, as it is employed.
(b) Cloven tongues — and that very cleaving of right necessary use to the business intended, viz., that the knowledge of the gospel might be dispersed to every nation under heaven. If there must be a calling of the Gentiles, they must have the tongues of the Gentiles wherewith to call them. But with their many tongues they spake one thing.
(c) They were tongues as of fire to show that they were not of our elementary fire. As the wind, so the fire from heaven, of the nature of that which made the bush burn and yet consumed it not. The tongues were as of fire to teach that the force of fire should show forth itself in their words, both in the splendour, which is the light of knowledge to clear the mist of their darkened understanding, and in the fervour, which is the force of spiritual efficacy, to quicken the dulness of their cold and dead affections. With such a tongue spake Christ Himself, when they said of Him, "Did not our hearts burn within us while He spake unto us by the way?" With such a tongue St. Peter, here in this chapter; for sure there fell from Him something like fire on their hearts, when they were pricked with it and cried, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" But this is not always, nor in all with us; no more was it with them, but in those of their hearers which had some of the anointing, and that will easily take the fire, in them good will be done; or at least, where there was some smoking flax, some remainder of the Spirit, which without any great ado will be kindled anew.
(d) These sat upon each of them. In which sitting is set down unto us their last quality — of continuance and constancy. They did not light and touch and away, after the manner of butterflies.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.