« AnteriorContinuar »
gether, might afford the more Wifnesses of the Truth of it, and spread the News the farther. Now the Day of Penr tecost, which, as the Name imports, was on the fiftieth Day after the Passover, was a great and memorable Feast among the Jews, because on that Day the Law was delivers to them by Aioses on Mount Sinai; the yearly Remembrance whereof drew much People together at that time to celebrate it with the greater Solemnity; which made this a very fit Season for the Coming of the Holy Ghost, Again,
This was done on the Feast of Pentecost above any ether Feast, to keep up the Harmony and Correspondence between the Old Testament and the New. 'Twas St. Cyprian's Observation, that our Saviour kept the fame Feasts under the Gospel, that were observ'd under the Law, only upon higher and better accounts. The Jews kept the Passover in memory of the destroying Angel's palling over the Houses of the Israelites , but Christ, in memory of his passing from Death to Life: and on the fame Day that the Paschal Lamb was stain, was Christ the Lamb of God offer'd lip for the Sins of the World: which made the Apostle fay, Christ: our Passover is sacrificed for US; therefore let us keep the Feast. 1 Cor. 5.7. In like manner, as the Jews, on the fiftieth Day after the Passover, which was their Feast of Pentecost, receiv'd the Law from Mount Sinai; so the Christians on the fiftieth Day after Easter, which is our Pentecost, receiv'd the Gospel, or the Royal Law of Liberty, by the Descent of the Holy Ghost: both which are to be remember'd with Joy on this Day, call'd antiently the Feast of Pentecost, and now known by the Name of Whitsunday; because the Christians in former times were wont to wear white Garments on this Day, call'd therefore Dominica in Albis. At which time likewise great Numbers were wont to be baptiz'd, in memory of the three thoufand Souls converted by St. Peter's Sermon, and baptiz'd on this Day i of whom we read in Yer. 38, & 41. of this Chapter, This for the Time when.
Secondl, For the Place where this Holy Spirit descended, that was at Jerusalem, where the Apostles were commanded to stay and wait for the fulfilling of the Promise of Christ's sending to them the Holy Ghost: in order to which 'tis here faid, that the Apostles were all with one accord in one Place, where (as a Father observes) there was both Unani
D a msty mity and Uniformity Unanimity in their being of one Ac-, lord, and Uniformity in their being in one Place; two necessary Requisites to the Coming of the Holy Spirit, and the fittest Dispositions to receive it: for the Spirit of Unity (as the fame Father tells us) will not come, but where there is a Unity of Spirit. The Holy Ghost being a Spirit of Peace and Love, abandons all Discord and Dissension, and will not come or abide there, where the Hearts are divided: even the natural Spirit or Life cannot come or continue, where the Members are sever'd and disunited; nor can the Soul animate or actuate them, unless they be join'd and meet together ., much less will the Holy Spirit, who is one with the Father and the Son, and likewise came to make us one with them, and with one another', dwell with divided Hearts or disjoin'd Affections: which made the Apostles so earnestly exhort Christians to hep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. This for the Place where the Holy Ghost descended, which was Jerusalem, describ'd to be a Place at Unity within it self, and therefore a fit Place to receive the Spirit of Peace and Unity.
But what was the Manner of the Holy Ghost's coming down? Why, that is set forth here, by the Sound of a rushing mighty Wind; by the Shape of Cloven Tongues; and by the Likeness of Fire: Al l which help to exprese the various Operations of this Holy Spirit, and to shew the Mystery of its miraculous Descent. As,
ist, We read here, that the Apostles and Disciples being thus unanimoufly met together in one Place, there suddenly came a Sound from Heaven, as of a rushing mighty Wind, and it filled all the House where they were fitting: where we read that the Spirit of God came down (as the Pfalmist expresses it) siying upon the Wings of the Wind; the rustling Sound whereof was a Token of Inspiration, and signify'd the breathing into the Apostles the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes indeed he came silently, as he did upon Cornelius and his Company, and many others at Ephefus, where nothing was either heard or seen; but here he came audibly upon the Apostles in a Sound, and such a one too as was heard afar off j for the Sound is gone into all Lands, and the Words of it to the Ends of the Earth. And this Sound is faid to be convey'd by a Wind, that scatter'd it in all Places round about, and denotes the Activity of the Holy Spirit i as also the Fre?ne/s and Diffusiveness of its Gifts i '* . for sor as the Wind bloweth where it lifieth, and tho we hear the Sound of iti yet we cannot tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth •, so is every one that is horn of the Spirit. John 3. 8.
Again, The Wind in which he came is faid to be a rusting mighty Wind, to denote the great Force and Efficacy of this Holy Spirit: for as the high Winds sometimes blow with that Violence, as to carry all before them •, so the Motions of this Holy Spirit are many times strong and irresistible, and conquer all Opposition: for we read of Stephen, that all his Enemies could not refist the Wisdom and Spirit, with which he spake j Acts 6. 10. And the rest of the Apostles, by this Breath of God, blew down all the Strong-holds of Sin and Satan, and brought into Captivity every high thing that exalted it self against the Knowledg of Christ.
Moreover, This Wind is faid to come from Heaven: it was no earthly Exhalation, that arose from, or favour'd of the Earth •, but a Divine Inspiration, that descended from Heaven, and exalted those upon whom it lighted above all earthly to heavenly things.
Lastly, Tis faid of this Wind, that it filled all the House where they were fitting; that is, the Influence of this Holy Spirit reach'd all that were there present, and from thence diffas'd it self into all Parts of the World. This is the first thing by which the Coming down of the Holy Ghost is here set forth, « by a-rushing mighty Wind. The ,.
zd Was in the shape of Cloven Tongues, which appear d unto them, as the next words inform us. The Spirit's appearing in the shape of Tongues, was an Emblem of Elocution, as the Wind was of Inspiration: and as by this the Apostles receiv'd the Gifts of the Holy Ghost themselves, so by the other they were enabled to utter and impart them to others. Accordingly the Cloven Tongues represented the Diversity of Languages, with which they were endow'd for the publishing and propagating the Gospel to all Nations.
There is indeed a Cleaving of the Tongue which doth much harm as when Men thereby become double-tongu'd, and use it as an Instrument of Deceit and Double-dealing: But the Cloven Tongues here were for the great Good of Mankind, to enable them to declare to all People the Will of God, and the Mysteries of their own Salvation. And this was delign'd as a Blessing to reverse the Curse of Babel: for as the Tongues were then divided to confound the Builders of Babel, that the Work might be hinder'd, by
D 4 not
not understanding one another ^ so on the contrary, the Tongues were cloven here, that the Apostles might understand the Languages of all Nations, and thereby the better build them up in the most Holy Faith: it being all one as jo Edification, whether all Men (as of old) speak one Language ., or some Men (as now) speak all: for what was lost by the Confusion of the one, is recover'd by the Knowledg of the other; and the Method of instructing the World, is prestrv'd by both. Again,
These Cloven Tongues were faid to appear in the Likeness of Fire , that is, they were inflam'd from Heaven, to kindle in the Disciples the pious Ardours of Affection and true Devotion. St. 'James speaks of some Tongues that are set on Fire of Hell, Jam. 3. 6. and they are such as are us'd to Slander and Detraction, to the Dishonour of God, and the Discrediting of our Neighbour which things proceed from an evil Spirit, and are done by the Instigation of the Devil. But we are told here of Tongues that are set on fire of Heaven; and they are employ'd to better Purposes, viz.. to the promoting the Glory of God, and the Good of Mankind: which things come from a good Spirit, and are the Motions of the Holy Ghost, whose Coming we this Day celebrate.
Now the Likeness of Fire, in which the Holy Ghost appear'd, serves to represent to us the Purity, and the Power of this Divine Spirit: for as Fire is the purest of all Elements, and helps to refine other things from their Dross and Impurities even so the Holy Spirit purifies our Nature, and refines it from the Dregs and Defilements of the World. And as Fire is a pure, so is it a powerful Element, that consumes all that is near it, and few or no things can stand before it; even so the Spirit of God is quick and powerful, ft strengthens us with Might in the inner Man, and arms us against the Wiles of the Devil: for which reason the Apostles were faid to speak with the HJy Ghost, and with Power; and to confirm their Doctrine with the Demonstration of the . Spirit and Power.
Lastly, Thsse fiery Tongues are faid to fit upon each of them; which betokens their Stay and Continuance with them, and gives us to understand that the Light of this Holy Spirit is not a fleeting or transient Flash, but a constant and an abiding Flame: 'tis not like the hot Fit of an .Ague, that is soon sollow'd with a cold one, but like the vestal Flame, that never goes out, or the Altar-Fires, that
'were always kept burning. True Zeal will keep us constant and steddy to our Duty, without Lukewarmneis and Neutrality, and make us sealously afsetled always in a good thing. .
Thus we fee the Time, Place, and Manner of this wonderful Descent of the Holy Ghost ., from whence let us, in the next place, see what Effects it had on the Apostles that felt it, and the People that faw and heard it : both which are related in the following Part of this Epistle.
As for the Apostles, we read in the next Verse, that they 'mere all fill'd with the Holy Ghosts and began to freak with other Tongues, as the Spirit gave them Utterance. They were filled? but not with Wine, as the Jews maliciously suggested, charging their Freedom and Readiness of Speech, as the Effect of Intemperance and Excess, and affirming then* to be fill'd with no other Spirits but those of Wine \ which St. Peter sharply rebuk'd, as a belying and blaspheming the Holy Ghost, ver. 13,14, 1$,
Again, they were filfd; but not with any windy flatulent Humour, coming from the Gall or the Spleen, which some mi/call Zeal and the Power of Godliness: but they were filled with the Holy Ghost; that is, with the Gifts and Graces of God's Holy Spirit: and then they began to speak, and not before. Twas a Father's Observation, that the Apostles were fill'd first, and then they spake; they stay'd till then, and did not presume to teach others, till they were well fitted and furnish'd for it themselves. Contrary to the Practice of some, who are all for speaking, yea and much speaking too, before they are half full, yea little better than empty , and then like empty Vessels found loud, tho there be little or nothing beside, Vox & praterea nihiL None then may venture upon this Office, before they are call'd and fill'd, but must stay till they are well qualify'd for it, and not take upon them to teach others, before they are well taught and instructed themselves. This is the Order to be observ'd in this Matter, and the Method of God's appointing.
Moreover, being fill'd with the Holy Ghost, they spake 'with other Tongues; that is, with other Tongues than they did or could before. For whereas before they understood only their own Mother-Tongue, and that but badly too, they were now of a sudden able to speak all manner of Languages, Greek, Latin, Arabick, Persian, Parthian, none . tab