« AnteriorContinuar »
the Holy Communion. It is not in anywise necessary, that persons should be able distinctly to feel and point out a certain good effect on their minds and feelings, occasioned by such and such a Service or Communion. Only let them attend decently and devoutly, and strive to be exact in all their conduct; and though they “ now go on their way weeping,” yet “ bearing forth such good seed, they will doubtless come again with joy, and bring their sheaves with them,” in the last great harvest day.
Only look for one moment to the warnings of past experience. Seek in the Book of the LORD, or in the records of His Church, and see whether any one thing has done so much harm as impatience; in making people heretics, or dissenters, or heathenish churchmen. Has it not been generally so, that they wished to do good, but became impatient of waiting, and of the wholesome restraint of the Temple ? While Angels, on the contrary, stooping from heaven, are content to wait God's time; they desire to look into the secrets of our redemption, but they cheerfully put back the desire, and quiet it until it shall please God to fulfil it; and, in the mean time, they at once obey, and that for love's sake, whatever He would have done. May His will, by the might of His Spirit and for the love of His Son, be so done here on earth as it is by them in heaven!
CHRIST'S BAPTISM, A TOKEN OF PENTECOST.
St. Luke iii. 21, 22. “ Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the Heaven was opened, and the
Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him.”
WITHout all question, there is a deep and mysterious connexion between the Baptism of our Saviour and the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles. They are, if we may so speak, parts of the same wonderful work of God, the saving Christian people by the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ's Baptism was the beginning, the coming down of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost was the middle, the Baptism of each Christian is, in a certain sense, part of the end. First, the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus Christ, our Head and Surety; then on the whole body or assembly of the Apostles and other Christians at Jerusalem, to make them truly Christ's Body; thirdly, He descends upon each individual person, first in Baptism and afterwards in Confirmation, to make each one individually a member of that Body, a partaker of the blessing.
Accordingly, as the Heaven was opened at the Baptism of our Holy LORD JESUS, and the SPIRIT of God was seen descending, in a bodily shape, like a dove, and abiding upon Him, so was the Heaven silently opened, as on this day, ten days after the Ascension, and the Holy Ghost was again seen and heard, coming down with a rushing mighty sound, with cloven tongues, like as of fire, which settled on each of the Apostles, and they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave each one power to do. That is, being filled with the Holy Ghost, they presently set about the great work to which they were called, of preaching to all nations in their several languages; as our Lord, for His part, being filled with the same Spirit, went out straightway into the wilderness, to accomplish that great combat with the Devil, wherewith His ministry was to begin. Baptist doubted of the Spirit's descending and remaining on our LORD, when he had seen the Dove and heard the voice; no more than we should have doubted, had we stood by on the day of Pentecost, and heard the rushing mighty wind, and seen the cloven tongues like as of fire. Our own Church's direction to us is, “Doubt ye not therefore, but earnestly believe” these things.
Our SAVIOUR was praying, after His Baptism, when the HOLY Ghost came upon Him; so the Apostles, when they returned from witnessing His Ascension, continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, until He sent the ComFORTER according to His promise. As it was the same heavenly Person who came down first upon the Head and afterwards upon the Members, so there was, by God's Providence, a great resemblance between the outward tokens given in the one case and in the other.
And one thing we shall do well to observe, for the better understanding of the great things which God has done for us ; that it was not one or more special gifts of the Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost, the third Divine Person HIMSELF, Who came down first on our LORD and afterwards on His Church. That Holy and Blessed SPIRIT has innumerable gifts and graces, which, both before and after the day of Pentecost, He divideth to every man severally as He will ; but the greatest Gift of all, the Infinite, Unspeakable Gift, is His coming down in His own Person to dwell in the souls and bodies of men, join them as true members to Jesus Christ, and cause them to have from Christ a new and heavenly life.
It is the Holy Ghost HIMSELF, not the gifts of the Holy Ghost only, for which to-day we give God thanks; and although many gifts and graces had been vouchsafed to favoured persons in all times before, the Holy Ghost HIMSELF had not been given. St. John informs us, that He could not yet be given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Abraham, therefore, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph and Samuel, Moses and Joshua, Job and David, Elijah, Daniel, and the Prophets, great and holy and good as they were, and mightily blessed with the gifts of God's Spirit, yet that very Spirit Itself they had not yet, in the same sense as Christians have It after their Baptism : they were not yet regenerate, they were not yet
members of Christ, they were not yet in the kingdom of Heaven. This greatest blessing they have obtained or shall obtain, in some way unknown to us, after their departure out of this world; as St. Paul teaches in the Epistle to the Hebrews : “These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” But to the Church this astonishing change was wrought openly as on this day; and ever since then, every little child who is made a member of Christ by Baptism, had thereupon the Holy GHOST dwelling in him, in a nearer and more heavenly way than HE dwelt in St. John the Baptist, who was the greatest Saint before CHRIST came.
We have our LORD's own word for this : “Verily I say unto you, Among them who are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist : but he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
So great and precious is the heavenly gift, the Holy ComFORTER entering into men's hearts; and it could not be before this time, because that until now " Jesus was not yet glorified.” And of this,—the promise of the Father to Christ's members,the Spirit descending on CHRIST HIMSELF was a Type, a Firstfruit, and a Beginning.
Now although the gifts of the Holy Ghost were not always accompanied with outward and sensible signs, yet the Holy Ghost HIMSELF, descending as He did on our LORD and on the Church, has always, so far as appears from Scripture, seen fit to manifest HIMSELF thus outwardly. When He came down on JESUS HIMSELF, it was “in a bodily shape like a Dove," and with the voice of the Almighty FATHER, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” When He came down on the Church, there was an appearance of fiery tongues, cloven tongues of fire, that sat upon each of the Apostles. When He comes to each one of us in Baptism, then also there is both a sight and a voice; the sight of the water wherein the person is baptized, the sound of the priest's voice saying the holy words, “I baptize thee in the Name of the FATHER, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
So that we are no more to doubt whether an infant, rightly baptized, has received the Holy Spirit, than St. John the
But further, we may plainly see that those outward tokens of the Holy COMFORTER's Presence do not only make us sure of that Presence, but also instruct us not a little in the manner and in the greatness of the change He works in us. Water for example,-pure water, springing out of the earth, or dropping from Heaven by the immediate gift of God;—who sees not at once that it represents the refreshing and cleansing power of that Divine Grace, which, coming direct from God, purifies the stain of our hearts, and makes us strong and active to keep the commandments? Who is not reminded by it of the living water which the Lord hath promised to give us, not only to quench our thirst for the time, but to be in us "a well of water springing up to everlasting life?"
Again, what signified the fiery tongues which settled upon each of the Saints on this great day of Pentecost? We perceive in a moment that the shape of tongues was intended to point out the gift of Divine languages, which was suddenly communicated to all of them. But why was it in the substance of fire ? Surely, because of the searching power of Christ's SPIRIT, which in a wonderful manner tries every man's heart of what sort it is, penetrating into all the dark corners of our souls, and where it is not resisted, enlightening, warming, melting all; spreading all ways, and transforming all into its own nature, sometimes not without grievous pain and suffering. Think of grace working in this manner, and you will presently see that it is like a refiner's fire, purifying the elect of God, and purging them as gold and silver, that they may stand the terrible trial of the last day.
Lastly and chiefly, consider well the wonderful appearance in the text. When the Lord of all had been baptized, and was praying, He went up straightway out of the water, "and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him." It is probable that the appearance of fire, or of a bright cloud, which