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of what had happened, the multitude were gathered together, they were quite confounded and amazed; for every one of this various assembly heard one or other of the apostles or disciples, as they addressed themselves by turns to people of a different language, speaking to them in his own proper dialect. And they were all amazed at this wonderful event, knowing that the speakers were all Galileans: yet did they, who, before knew no language but their own, speak to this mixed assembly in a great variety of tongues.
This was a wonderful testimony to the truth of the gospel which they preached; and it was intended to put an honour upon preaching the word: it is the appointment of God for the conversion of sinners; it is "the power of God to salvation;" and therefore the first miracle, after the Spirit was given, was to enable his servants to preach it.
The tongues were of fire. Thus the prophecy was fulfilled:" He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." And does not this emblem denote the illuminating and animating nature of divine truth?When the gospel is attended with the power of the Spirit, it both enlightens and warms the heart. Gospel truths are not cold speculations; they afford both light and heat; they purify the mind, purge away the dross of sensuality, and make the soul mount heavenward. Thus the hearts of the two disciples "burned within them" when Jesus walked with them, and opened the scriptures. Come, O thou celestial flame, come and sit upon us also! enlighten our darkness, purify our affections, consume our corruptions, and fill us with thyself!
And do not these tongues of fire speak a lesson to all the ministers of the gospel? Do they not intimate the manner in which they ought to speak the truth? Not with cold indifference, or frozen formality; but, like John, who was "a burning and a shining light," with fervency of spirit and vigour of affection; as
men in earnest, believing and feeling what they speak, anxious for the glory of Christ, and eager to win souls.
What was the subject which first engaged the heaven-taught tongues of the disciples? The wonderful works of God. "We do hear them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God," the great things of God, the magnificent, stupendous things of God. And what were they? Surely, they were those "things of Christ," which the Spirit was given to show them, that they might glorify him; the person, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, together with this effusion of the Spirit: in a word, the glorious salvation of the Son of God; and these will always be the favourite topics of those ministers whose tongues are touched with the flame of the altar.
The multitude who witnessed this remarkable scene were all involved in amazement and perplexity, and said one to another, What can this mean? The pious and devout were thus affected; but their minds were prepared to listen to the voice of God, as soon as they were convinced it was his. Others, probably the native Jews, who understood none of these foreign languages, and heard only unintelligible sounds, derided them, ascribing their preaching to intoxication. "These men," said they, are full of new wine."-Let us not wonder if, in our day, the preaching of the gospel is treated in the same manner. There always have been mockers, to whom the gospel of Christ has been foolishness. The Lord pity and pardon them!
Then Peter, full of the Holy Ghost, standing up with the eleven apostles, lifted up his voice, and addressed the multitude. He begged them to have so much candour, as not rashly to conclude them to be men overcome with liquor, especially by nine o'clock in the morning; an hour in which it should seem, no Jew was ever known to be drunk. But he directs
their attention to a well-known passage of Scripture, a prophecy of Joel, in which the Lord says, " It shall come to pass in the last days, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, 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 my Spirit, and they shall prophecy: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." The apostle declares this prophecy to be then fulfilling; and proceeds to show them that Jesus of Nazareth, whom God approved among them, by many miracles, and whom they had lately crucified, was the true Messiah, the Son of God; and that, while they gratified their own wicked passions in putting him to death, they had fulfilled the divine decrees concerning him; but that all their malice had been in vain, for God had raised him up, according to the prophecies of David. Peter declares himself and his brethren witnesses of his resurrection from the dead; and affirms, that his divine Master, having ascended to heaven, had sent down on that day the promised Spirit, whose operations on his disciples they now beheld.
The design of this sermon was to convince them of sin, which is the first work of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord crowned it with vast success. Multitudes were pierced to the heart with a sense of their guilt; and especially with the guilt incurred by the murder of Christ; and, filled with terror and perplexity, they applied to the apostles for advice, saying, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter, agreeably to the Lord's directions, "preached repentance and remission of sins in his name, beginning at Jerusalem." -Here is a fine specimen of gospel-preaching he exhorts the vilest sinners to repent; encouraging them thereto by the hope of the full pardon of all their sins, upon believing in Jesus; "and, with many other
words, did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation."
Wonderful was the success of this day: thousand souls converted to God at once! Most of them, probably, bigoted Jews, ignorantly attached to the law of Moses, and bitter enemies of Jesus Christ. -Many of them, perhaps, had cried "Crucify him, crucify him!" and had said, "His blood be upon us, and upon our children." Surprising grace!-what mercy, what power, was that day displayed! What cannot God do! Three thousand converted! not merely alarmed, but changed in heart! Their sincerity was manifest; they sacrificed all their worldly interest to Christ; the pardon of sin filled their hearts with gladness; they were all love and liberality; and they "continued steadfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer; praising God, and having favour with all the people."
Glorious confirmation this of the truth of the Gospel! Delightful encouragement to the preachers of it! Charming specimen of its happy effects, and blessed first fruits of an extensive harvest! Oh, for another outpouring of the blessed Spirit upon the churches! Such, we expect, in fulfilment of many precious promises. In the mean time, may we be the happy subjects and witnesses of the ordinary work of the Spirit in the conversion of sinners, and in the edification of the saints! And this stated work of the Holy Spirit is what we shall now, in the second place, consider.
We have taken a brief view of the glorious events which took place on the day of Pentecost. We have seen the apostles, and probably the rest of the hundred and twenty disciples, endued with the gift of tongues. This gift, together with the power of healing diseases, casting out devils, with many other miraculous works, was long continued in the church; perhaps above a hundred years. These are generally
called the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. These have long since ceased. When Christianity was established, there was no longer occasion for them. But have all the operations of the Spirit ceased? Some say so: but we deny it. We allow that the extraordinary powers just mentioned are withdrawn; but we affirm, and think it an affirmation of the first importance, that the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit on the minds of believers are still continued; and that there is no true vital religion without them.
The extraordinary gifts at first possessed by Christians did not, necessarily, imply those gracious influences for which we plead. It is probable, that some had the former, who were destitute of the latter; for St. Paul, 1 Cor. xiii. 1. &c. seems to intimate, that a person might speak with various tongues, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and work miracles, and yet not have love:-an eminent "fruit of the Spirit;" from which we conclude, that the ordinary and gracious operations of the Spirit upon the souls of men may be continued, although his miraculous gifts are withdrawn; and we shall prove that the former are promised to be continued in the church, and that they are now as necessary to make men Christians as they were in the apostles' days.
When our Lord promised to send his Holy Spirit to his disciples, he assured them that he should abide with them FOR EVER. John xiv. 16. He was to abide, to continue with them, not for three or four years, as our Lord had done, but for ever; and as this presence of the Comforter was to supply the place of Christ on earth, we may safely conclude, that the promise extended not to the apostles only, but (like his intercession, John xvii. 20.) "to them also who should believe on him, through their word, even unto the end of the world."
The Holy Spirit is promised (John vii. 38.) as the common privilege of all believers :-" He that believeth