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[Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, before the University, on August 24, 1744.]
"Whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning, if the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head,” Ezek. xxxiii. 4.
"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Acts iv. 31.
1. THE same expression occurs in the second chapter, where we read, "When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all, (the apostles with the women, and the mother of Jesus, and his brethren,) with one accord, in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind. 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."* One immediate effect whereof was, "They began to speak with other tongues ;"+ insomuch, that both the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the other strangers who "came together, when this was noised abroad, heard them speak, in their several tongues, the wonderful works of God."
2. In this chapter we read, that when the apostles and brethren had been praying and praising God, "the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Not that we find any visible appearance here, such as had been in the former instance: nor are we informed that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were then given to all or any of them; such as the gift of healing, of working other miracles, of prophecy, of discerning spirits: the speaking with divers kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues."||
3. Whether these gifts of the Holy Ghost were designed to remain in the church throughout all ages; and whether or not they will be restored at the nearer approach of the "restitution of all things," are questions which are not needful to decide. But it is needful to observe this, that even in the infancy of the Church, God divided them with a sparing hand. Were all even then prophets? Were all workers of miracles? Had all the gifts of healing? Did all speak with tongues? No, in no wise. Perhaps not one in a thousand. Probably none but the teachers in the Church, and only 1 Cor. xii. 9, 10.
Acts ii. 1-4. † Ver. 5.
Ver. 6. § Acts iv. 31.
some of them.* It was, therefore, for a more excellent purpose than this, that "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost."
4. It was, to give them (what none can deny to be essential to all Christians in all ages) the mind which was in Christ, those holy fruits of the Spirit, which, whosoever hath not, is none of his : to fill them with "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness:" to endue them with faith, (perhaps it might be rendered, fidelity,) with meekness and temperance: to enable them to crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts, its passions and desires; and, in consequence of that inward change, to fulfil all outward righteousness, "to walk as Christ also walked," "in the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labour of love."+
5. Without busying ourselves then in curious, needless inquiries, touching those extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, let us take a nearer view of these his ordinary fruits; which we are assured will remain throughout all ages: of that great work of God among the children of men, which we are used to express by one word, Christianity : not as it implies a set of opinions, a system of doctrines, but as it refers to men's hearts and lives. And this Christianity it may be useful to consider under three distinct views :
I. As beginning to exist in individuals ;
II. As spreading from one to another;
I design to close these considerations with a plain practical ap、 plication.
I. And first, let us consider Christianity in its rise, and beginning to exist in individuals.
Suppose, then, one of those who heard the Apostle Peter preaching repentance and remission of sins, was pricked to the heart, was convinced of sin, repented, and then believed in Jesus. By this faith of the operation of God, which was the very substance, or subsistence of things hoped for,§ the demonstrative evidence of invisible things, he instantly received the Spirit of adoption, whereby he now cried," Abba, Father!"|| Now, first, it was that he could call Jesus Lord, by the Holy Ghost, T the Spirit itself bearing witness with his spirit that he was a child of God.** Now it was that he could truly say, "I live not, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.'††
2. This then was the very essence of his faith, a divine s‡‡ of the love of God the Father, through the Son of his love, to him a sinner, now accepted in the beloved. And, "being justified by faith, he had peace with God,"§§ yea, "the peace of God ruling in his heart" a peace which passing all understanding, (vla veu, all barely rational conception) kept his heart and mind from all doubt and fear, through the knowledge of him in whom he had believed.
* Ver. 28-30. † Gal. v. 22-24. 1 Thes. 1. 3.
§ Heb. xi. 1.
He could not therefore "be afraid of any evil tidings; for his heart stood fast, believing in the Lord." He feared not what man could do unto him, knowing the very hairs of his head were all numbered. He feared not all the powers of darkness, whom God was daily bruising under his feet. Least of all was he afraid to die, nay, he desired to depart, and to be with Christ;* who, "through death, had destroyed him that had the power of death, even the devil, and delivered them who, through fear of death, were all their life-time (till then) subject to bondage."†
3. His soul therefore magnified the Lord, and his spirit rejoiced in God his Saviour. "He rejoiced in him with joy unspeakable," who had reconciled him to God, even the Father: "in whom he had redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." He rejoiced in that witness of God's Spirit with his spirit, that he was a child of God and more abundantly, "in hope of the glory of God," in hope of the glorious image of God, and full renewal of his soul in righteousness and true holiness; and in hope of that crown of glory, that "inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away."
4. "The love of God was also shed abroad in his heart, by the Holy Ghost, which was given unto him." "Because he was a son, God had sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father!" And that filial love of God was continually increased by the witness he had in himself, || of God's pardoning love to him, by "beholding what manner of love it was, which the Father had bestowed upon him, that he should be called a child of God."¶ So that God was the desire of his eyes, and the joy of his heart; his portion in time and in eternity.
5. He that thus loved God, could not but love his brother also; and, "not in word only, but in deed and in truth." "If God," said he, "so loved us, we ought also to love one another;"** yea, every soul of man, as "the mercy of God is over all his works." Agreeably hereto, the affection of this lover of God, embraced all mankind for his sake; not excepting those whom he had never seen in the flesh, or those of whom he knew nothing more than that they were "the offspring of God;" for whose souls his Son had died; not excepting the evil and unthankful, and least of all his enemies, those who hated, or persecuted, or despitefully used him for his Master's sake. These had a peculiar place, both in his heart and in his prayers. He loved them "even as Christ loved us."
6. "And love is not puffed up."‡‡ It abases to the dust every soul wherein it dwells: accordingly, he was lowly of heart, little, mean, and vile in his own eyes. He neither sought nor received the praise of men, but that which cometh of God only. He was meek and long-suffering, gentle to all, and easy to be intreated. Faithfulness and truth never forsook him; they were "bound about
* Phil. i. 23. † Heb. ii. 15. Rom. v. 5. § Gal. iv. 6.
|| 1 John v. 10.
his neck, and wrote on the table of his heart." By the same Spirit he was enabled to be temperate in all things, refraining his soul even as a weaned child. He was "crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him:" superior to "the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life." By the same almighty love was he saved, both from passion and pride, from lust and vanity, from ambition and covetousness, and from every temper which was not in Christ.
7. It may easily be believed, he who had this love in his heart, would work no evil to his neighbour. It was impossible for him, knowingly and designedly, to do harm to any man. He was at the greatest distance from cruelty and wrong, from any unjust or unkind action. With the same care did he "set a watch before his mouth, and keep the door of his lips;" lest he should offend in tongue, either against justice, or against mercy or truth. He put away all lying, falsehood, and fraud; neither was guile found in his mouth. He spake evil of no man; nor did an unkind word ever come out of his lips.
8. And, as he was deeply sensible of the truth of that word, "Without me ye can do nothing," and, consequently, of the need he had to be watered of God every moment; so he continued daily in all the ordinances of God, the stated channels of his grace to man. In the apostles' doctrine or teaching, receiving that food of the soul with all readiness of heart, in the breaking of bread, which he found to be the communion of the body of Christ, and in the prayers and praises offered up by the great congregation. And thus, he daily "grew in grace," increasing in strength, in the knowledge and love of God.
9. But it did not satisfy him, barely to abstain from doing evil. His soul was athirst to do good. The language of his heart continually was, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." My Lord went about doing good; and shall not I tread in his steps? As he had opportunity, therefore, if he could do no good of a higher kind, he fed the hungry, clothed the naked, helped the fatherless or stranger, visited and assisted them that were sick or in prison. He gave all his goods to the poor. He rejoiced to labour or to suffer for them; and wherein soever he might profit another, there especially to "deny himself." He counted nothing too dear to part with for them, as well remembering the word of his Lord, "Insomuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."*
10. Such was Christianity in its rise. Such was a Christian in ancient days. Such was every one of those, who, when they heard the threatenings of the Chief Priests and Elders, "lift up their voice to God, with one accord, and were all filled with the Holy Ghost, The multitude of them that believed, were of one heart and of one soul." (So did the love of him in whom they had believed, con
Matthew xxv. 40.
strain them to love one another!) "Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common." So fully were they crucified to the world, and the world crucified to them!" And they continued steadfastly with one accord in the apostles' doctrine, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. And great grace was upon them all; neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need."*
II. 1. Let us take a view, in the second place, of this Christianity, as spreading from one to another, and so gradually making its way into the world. For such was the will of God concerning it, who "did not light a candle to put it under a bushel, but that it might give light to all that were in the house." And this our Lord had declared to his first disciples, "Ye are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world;" at the same time that he gave that general command, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."+
2. And, indeed, supposing a few of these lovers of mankind, to see "the whole world lying in wickedness," can we believe they would be unconcerned at the sight, at the misery of those for whom their Lord had died? Would not their bowels yearn over them, and their hearts melt away for very trouble? Could they then stand idle all the day long, even were there no command from him whom they loved? Rather would they not labour, by all possible means, to pluck some of these brands out of the burning? Undoubtedly they would: they would spare no pains to bring back whomsoever they could of those poor sheep that had gone astray, to the great Shepherd and Bishop of their souls."
3. So the Christians of old did. They laboured, having opportunity, "to do good to all men,"§ warning them to flee from the wrath to come; now, now, to escape the damnation of hell. They declared, "The times of ignorance God winked at; but now he calleth all men every where to repent." They cried aloud, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; so iniquity shall not be your ruin."¶ They** reasoned with them of temperance and righteousness, or justice, of the virtues opposite to their reigning sins, and of judgment to come, of the wrath of God which would surely be executed on evil doers in that day when he should judge the world.
4. They edeavoured herein to speak to every man severally as he had need. To the careless, to those who lay unconcerned in darkness and in the shadow of death, they thundered, "Awake, thou that sleepest: arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light:" but to those who were already awakened out of sleep, and groan
*Acts iv. 31-35.
Matt. v. 13-16.
1 Pet. ii. 25.