I. Repent and Obey
II. Continue Advancing
III. Cultivate Cordial Relationships
IV. Outward and Inward Collectedness
V. Waiting Unwearyingly
“Grace be with us, and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us, and gave himself for us! To whom be glory, now and for ever. Amen.
O thou highly glorified Saviour, Jesus Christ, who now sittest at the right hand of thy heavenly Father, and, at thy ascension, didst give us the very certain assurance, that thou wouldst be with us, and abide with us, even to the end of the world: who wilt also be present in the midst, where two or three are gathered together in thy name—O manifest thy presence also amongst us on this occasion! Let the hearts of all of us believe in, honour, and adore thy present Majesty. O Lord Jesus! may we all be assembled here, with the same unanimity, and wait with the same ardent desire for the power from on high, and the outpouring of thy precious Holy Spirit, which thou hast also promised to us, with which thy dear disciples and the first believers met together on the day of Pentecost, and waited for the fulfillment of the promise thou didst give them. As thou hast here collected us together, as it respects the body, so do thou also collect and unite our minds, that we may mutually seek, desire, and sigh after thee in our spirits. Divest our hearts of all distraction and multiplicity, and of all that, which does not lead to thee, that we may meditate on thee alone, and like thy dear disciples, may celebrate a blessed Pentecostal day. O Lord Jesus! what are we without the fervour of thy spirit?—without the light and life of thy spirit in our hearts?—In reality, nothing but dead and formal Christians, who neither know thee, nor love thee, nor glorify thee. Come then, thou blessed Comforter! Descend upon this assembly! Enter into every heart! And though we may not all be filled with thee, let at least a few drops of thy grace flow unto us, on this occasion, that by this water of life, our hearts may be mutually refreshed and incited to devote and offer up ourselves to thee entirely, resign ourselves wholly to thy guidance and direction, faithfully to walk the way of self-denial and of continual mortification, and utterly forsake all that is not thee, that we may be made more and more truly spiritual people, who no longer follow the spirit of the world, and the spirit of darkness, but are led by thee, as the spirit of light, and truth, and life, and renewed more and more into thy divine image. O Lord Jesus! forgive us, if we have ever grieved thy Holy Spirit, resisted his influences, and withdrawn ourselves from them. O let thy most sacred blood cover and atone for these and all other sins! Be thou in the midst of us, and manifest thyself graciously and mercifully to our souls, that like thy disciples, we may experience thy mighty acts and wonderful works, and may thus be in a state to publish and recommend them effectually to others. Do this, and hear and answer this our prayer, for the sake of thy precious blood and merits’.
Now, O Spirit of power and love,
on my heart and soul flow down;
That I may thy influence prove,
And thy mighty acts make known.
Let us therefore read something respecting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the primitive believers on the sacred day of Pentecost, from Acts, Chap. ii. Verses 1—4. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all, with one accord, in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house, where they were sitting. 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, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” When we look closely into the Holy Scriptures, we find that mention is made in them of three very peculiar manifestations of the divine majesty and glory, in which God revealed himself in a more than ordinary manner.
The first of these manifestations, which was made to the people of Israel, took place on the first Pentecostal day of the Old Testament, on the fiftieth day after the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, when the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, and revealed himself, in great majesty, to so many thousands of the children of men from the Mount, with the sound of a loud trumpet, with thunders and lightnings, and with earthquakes, in such a manner, that the whole mountain trembled and smoked; as we may read by reference to Exodus chap. xx.
The second majestic and glorious revelation of God took place, likewise, in a general manner, to many thousands of people on the Pentecostal day of the New Testament, precisely fifty days after the resurrection of Christ. There came, as we have just heard, a rushing mighty wind from heaven, and the glory of the Divine Majesty manifested itself upon the disciples, not only upon the twelve Apostles, but upon the whole multitude of believers, and that quite openly, and in the sight of many thousand Jews and other people, who were present from all parts and quarters of the globe; even as we find various nations mentioned in the following 9th, 10th, and 14th verses.
The third great and general majestic revelation of the glory of God, of which the Scripture speaks, will take place at the great judgment day, when the Son of man will appear in his glory, in the clouds of heaven, and all his holy angels with him, to judge all the kindreds of the earth.
All these three manifestations have the most intimate reference to each other, and the one always points to the other. On the first Jewish Pentecost, in the Old Testament, the law of fear was given them, from Mount Sinai, written, with the finger of God, on tables of stone. In the second manifestation, on the Pentecost of the New Testament, the law of grace and love was given, written in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit, as by the gracious finger of Deity. The last great day of the manifestation of the Divine Majesty will show, when the Lord shall judge according to the law, which each one shall have had, whether and how he has lived and acted according to it. Paul clearly teaches this in the 2nd chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, where he thus writes, in the 9th, 10th, and following verses, “Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man, that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. But glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
Now it might be said, what have we to do with the first day of Pentecost, when God gave the law from Mount Sinai; for that law has been abolished? It is true, that in so far as it has reference to mere ceremonies, this law is abolished, and has no reference to us, as members of the New Testament; for Christ has torn asunder the handwriting that was against us on the cross. But the essential part of the Sinaitic law, instead of being abolished by Christ and his Spirit, is intended to be established in our hearts, by the faith of Christ. Now, the essential part of this law consists in this, that we should fear the Lord our God, walk in all his ways, and love him with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our strength. (Num. x. 12.) This command, as the substance of the law and the prophets, together with all other moral precepts, which are contained in the Ten Commandments, are also given to us. The Lord must render imperative upon us, upon every soul in particular, the law of fear. This commonly takes place at the commencement of conversion, when the Lord quickens and stirs up the law in our consciences and hearts, places before our eyes, on the one hand, its righteous and severe demands, and on the other, gives us clearly to know our departure from it, and entire inability to fulfill it; at the same time impressively convincing us of our damnable condition, namely, that according to the strict and blameless requirements of the law, we must inevitably be condemned, and that without mercy. Now when such a salutary terror is produced in the individual, respecting the state of his soul, and the sins he had previously committed; when he begins to see that the law is spiritual, but that he is carnal, and, as it were, sold under sin, and the law, with all its claims, presses itself upon him, with its perfect justice, then it is that the Lord proclaims the law from Mount Sinai, the law of fear. It then fares with such persons as it did with the children of Israel; they could not endure the voice of the Lord; there was nothing in them but terror, trembling, and quaking before the Majesty of God, which caused them to make the greatest promises. “All things,” said they, “which the Lord hath spoken to us, we will do.” Such is also the case with those, who are inwardly touched, convinced, and reproved by God, through the law. O, the individual then forms the fairest resolutions! He will now act in a better manner, he will now most assuredly lead a different life, and a better course; but it is never accomplished. The most sacred resolutions are never carried into effect; and, in the meantime, the mind remains disturbed, and the conscience is never satisfied.
There must therefore be a new Pentecostal day, in order that men may be saved, namely, the Pentecost of the New Testament, in which the Holy Spirit, and with it, the love of God is shed abroad in the heart, in which the law is given in his heart, and written in his mind, and the man is thus entirely born again. Therefore, says Paul. “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Rom. viii. 3, 4. Paul intends to say by this, that the law is of no avail to a man, whose conscience is disturbed, whose heart tells him that he is condemned, that he cannot stand before God, at the day of judgment; and though he make a thousand good resolutions, and vow and promise ever so much, in order to pacify his conscience; yet God is, with all this, not satisfied, nor is the disturbed conscience pacified and appeased by it; but the only consolation is, that God has sent his Son. The precious blood of Christ slain on the tree of the cross, is alone able to satisfy the disturbed conscience, and to blot out and atone for all our sins. And it is not only contained in the words now quoted, but the following also necessarily belong thereto:—”That the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.’’ It is therefore a deception, and a shameful error, if we stop short at the first motions to repentance, and suppose that all is now well, that God has already forgiven our sins, that the blood and righteousness of Christ recompenses for every thing, even though the individual continues to sin afresh, upon such a misplaced confidence in the blood of Christ. By so doing, he treads underfoot the precious blood of Christ, accounts it as unclean, and makes Christ the minister of sin. O, it is by no means sufficient, that Christ has paid the debt of our sins with his blood! he must also take sin itself away from us, entirely destroy it, as the work of the devil, in our hearts, and redeem us from all unrighteousness and iniquity; he must give us to experience a Pentecostal day, and send his Holy Spirit into us—write, by his means, as the finger of God, his laws in our hearts—impart to us a true love to them, and make such people of us, as walk in his commandments from their own voluntary and loving impulse. In a word, if we are to be made partakers of his merits, he must make as partakers of his divine nature, and also fulfill in us, by his Spirit, the righteousness of the law, even as he fulfilled it out of us.
Now, if we are not thus sanctified by his Holy Spirit, renewed into his most sacred image, and made partakers of his divine nature, nor have celebrated the Pentecost of the New Testament, in spirit and in truth, how shall we be able to stand before him in that great day of the third general manifestation? when he will judge us according to the law he has given us, and when it will certainly not be indifferent to him, whether he has white or black souls before him; but he will surely separate the sheep from the goats, and place the former at his right hand, and the latter at his left. Then it will truly be said, “Whose image and superscription is this?” Hence we may also clearly infer, how indispensably necessary it is, for every one of us to keep a Pentecostal day. Not that we merely outwardly commemorate the remembrance of the great miracle, which occurred with the apostles and the other believers; but we must likewise wait for and experience such a day, in which the Holy Spirit shall descend upon us, as he formerly did upon the Apostles, and the other disciples, when he enlightens us with his light, leads us into all truth, redeems us from all unrighteousness, writes the law of love in our hearts, and makes of us a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy people. For these promises are not merely made to a few: but to all and every true Christian believer.
“The promise,” says Peter, in his Pentecostal sermon, “is unto you, and to your children, and to all them that are afar off, whom the Lord our God shall call.” Acts ii. 39. It has reference, not only to one and another, but the Apostle says expressly, that the promise was made to them and to their children, and to all those that should believe on him, through the power of this word. This may serve, in the first place, as a no small consolation, in so far as we possess, in our hearts, the smallest spark of divine love, and especially to troubled souls, since we hear, that our piety and godliness is not always to continue so wretched and imperfect: but that power from on high will be imparted to us, for this purpose, which shall accomplish that in us, which human powers are incapable of effecting; and secondly, that we ought most powerfully to incite ourselves by this, worthily to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the day of Pentecost and the reception of the Holy Spirit, in order that he may pour himself out upon us, in as full a measure, as he formerly did upon the first believers, and that it may be said of us as it was formerly of them, “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Let us therefore, with the divine assistance, and following the narrative of the day of Pentecost we have just read, mutually consider and reflect upon the highly necessary preparatives for celebrating the day of Pentecost, and receiving the Holy Ghost.
I. We must give place to the first motions of the Holy Spirit, inciting us to repentance, and seek to follow them cordially.
II. We must not stop short at these first motions, but continually advance further.
III. We must cultivate a continual and intimate intercourse with other children of God, and live closely united with them.
IV. Our hearts must be outwardly and inwardly collected for prayer.
V. We must faithfully endure, and unweariedly wait for the real impartation of the Holy Spirit.