And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What means this?…
I. THREE THINGS IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT — things which if not the direct cause of a revival, always herald it — the shadows cast by the coming blessing.
1. A complete congregation. "They were all in one place." No absentees. This betokened earnestness, for it was in fact an early Sunday morning prayer-meeting with every one present. Always before a great blessing there will be a revived interest in sanctuary services. The half truth, "I can worship God as well at home" (which is a lie when the man is able to come to the sanctuary and does not) will not be heard. Indifference to public worship is a fatal sign. Things that would never be permitted to interfere with business or pleasure are reckoned sufficient to warrant "staying at home to-day." You found eleven o'clock this morning too early to come to worship, but I will guarantee you catch the eight o'clock excursion train to-morrow morning.
2. A congregation one in desire and motive; "With one accord." No two motives had drawn them. They came to receive the promised blessing. Is not the want of this spirit of accord the weakness of the Churches of the present day? Unbelief is not the only thing that keeps Christ from doing many mighty works. It might with equal. truth be said of many a Church: "He did not many mighty works there because of their squabbling, petty, selfish spirit." There are men who will be nothing unless they are everything, and will without compunction sacrifice a whole Church's prosperity upon the wretched little altar of their own unsanctified ambition. Instead of all being baptized into one spirit, it looks more as if every one had been baptized into a different spirit and every spirit an evil one. But when all differences become drowned in one overwhelming passion of saving souls, then let the Church lift up her head, for the day of her revival draweth nigh.
3. A congregation steeped in the spirit of prayer. They had a ten days' prayer-meeting. Do you wonder they had a Whit Sunday? I should have wondered if they had not. The general prayerlessness of the Church is simply deplorable. Here and there the hundreds come to prayer. But take the general run of prayer-meetings. It is not an uncommon thing for Churches to have to give them up because so few come. Whilst all this is so it is of no use talking about having a revival.
II. The blessing itself.
1. It came at an appointed time. "When the day of Pentecost was fully come." God has a time for everything. The disciples doubtless expected the blessing sooner. They had to learn that there is a sovereignty in revivals. Man has no power to command one. He can but cry and wait. Over one Church a cloud of blessing hangs, continually letting fall showers of refresh. merit. Beneath its influence all is verdant, fresh and lovely. But yonder is another Church the very contrast to this. The heavens above it seem as brass. The piety of its members seems to lack freshness and their leaf withers. Converts are almost unknown. Let not those Churches that have the blessing despise those that lack it. The only difference is that the time to favour them "has come and the time to favour the others shall come."
2. It came suddenly and in a moment. Revivals' very often do. With man's work the process as well as the result is visible. Is a temple to be built, the plans are exhibited, the foundations dug out, the scaffolding reared, and for months the chipping of the chisel and the clicking of the trowel are heard. God can build His temple in a night, and like Solomon's, no sound of tool be heard. At any moment, without any previous warning, the revival may come.
3. It spread far and wide. From the upper room it soon flew along the streets of Jerusalem like an electric current. There is no telling where the influence of a revival in a Church may spread. It creeps into homes shut against the tract distributor. It glides into darkest places of vice. A revived Church will be certain to draw the multitude together. This is the secret of getting at the masses.
III. THE QUESTION OF OUR TEXT. "What meaneth this?" Why, it means —
1. That Christ is ascended, and has received gifts for men. An ascended, glorified Christ warrants the Church in expecting any measure of blessing, any number of conversions. "What meaneth this"?
2. That all instrumentality is nothing without the Holy Ghost, but that the meanest instrumentality with the Spirit is mighty enough to accomplish anything. Alas, what an amount of powerless machinery we have in the so-called "religious world," because it has no unction, because it is the work of man, not the working of God through the man, because it is dry and official. Instrumentality is almost worshipped, whilst the Holy Ghost is well-nigh ignored.
3. That God is pleased to work on the world through the Church. Far be it from us to call in question the good that has been accomplished by many of our "societies," but we believe that half of them could be spared with ease did a greater unction but rest upon the Church.
4. That these are the seasons God's Church is to seek at His hands. I will close with an illustration. Once upon the sea-shore, watching the "getting off" of a fishing smack, I saw in it a union of work and dependence that charmed me. The fishermen brought the craft clown the beach as far as they could and then left her awhile until the tide, which was flowing, neared her. Meantime two anchors had been cast out to sea, from which were ropes to a windlass in the centre of the vessel. Soon the surf (for the sea was fresh) began to run round her as she lay a dead weight upon the shore. Then the waves began to curl over and break upon her side. The men at the windlass took a turn and made the rope fast. And now every moment the tide had more power over her. She was never still. Twenty times did I say "now she is off"; and twenty times did she settle down again upon the shore, and twenty times did the men at the windlass put on the strain. At last one wave swept higher than any before; she shook — rose — glided down towards the deep — the men turning the handle of the windlass quickly as possible. A wave she met threatened to sweep her back upon the shore, but the anchors held her, and right through the surf the men wound her, and half an hour after she was flying away before the breeze, a very contrast to the dead weight she looked upon the beach. That vessel is the Church. The Holy Ghost is the tide. The ropes and the windlass are human agencies only to be used in dependence on the tide. The tide is coming in. The Church feels its power. She moves — she rises. Oh God send the billow that shall float her now, and send her careering on her course, with the breeze of the Spirit.
(A. G. Brown.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?