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peculiar duty of a Christian. Amongst these, the present season leads us to consider, what offices the Holy Ghost hath condescended to execute for our salvation. And as they consist, partly in testifying to us outwardly the certainty of our religion, partly in moving us inwardly to be affected by it as we ought, I shall discourse now on the former of these points by laying before you,
I. More generally, the testimony given by the blessed Spirit, in successive ages, to divine truths; above all to the grant of a Saviour to mankind.
II. In a more particular manner, that ever-memorable confirmation, vouchsafed us on this day, to the doctrine of the Gospel, by his descending on the Apostles, and enduing them with miraculous gifts: of which I shall prove the reality, and draw from it proper inferences. For it will be useful to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth *.
I. First then, I shall lay before you, more generally and briefly, the testimony given by the Spirit, in successive ages, to divine truths.
Prophecy, as St. Peter observes, came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost †. Accordingly we find in multitudes of places, from the earliest book of Scripture to the latest, supernatural impulses and illuminations ascribed to the Spirit of God ‡: nor can we doubt therefore, but they proceeded from him always, though sometimes it is not expressly affirmed. So that we are to honour the third Person as the im
* 2 Pet. i. 12.
+ 2 Pet. i. 21.
‡ Gen. vi. 3. xli. 38. Numb. xi. 25, 26. xxiv. 2. 1 Sam. x. 10. 2 Kings ii. 9. &c. 1 Chr. xii. 18. 2 Chr. xv. 1. Neh. ix. 30. Ezek. ii. 2. Zech. vii. 12. Rev. i, 10. ii. 7. iv. 2, 7
mediate inward instructor of men from the foundation of the world: as him who hath admonished, reproved and striven with the wicked; who hath warmed and cheered the hearts of the pious in all times, with manifestations of God's will, with declarations of his favour, with precautions against unseen dangers, with promises of deliverance from the heaviest afflictions, with his presence and guidance in the most intricate difficulties. But as the principal demonstration of the goodness of Heaven was the purpose of sending our blessed Lord into the world, this most important dispensation it was the peculiar care of the Holy Spirit to notify: giving first such darker and less explicit intimations of it, as however sufficiently answered the necessities of mankind; then gradually unfolding and opening the several particulars of the scheme; so as that every generation might be blessed with some new accession of light and comfort beyond the former; and that, by duly-proportioned intervals, the day might dawn, the day-star arise*, then at length the Sun of Righteousness + shine forth: at which time all the variety of types and prophecies, and all the intricate steps of Providence through all ages, should plainly appear to point out and centre in this one great event, and undeniably show, that known unto the Lord are all his works from the beginning.
Now therefore the fulness of time being come §, and the circumstances of things fitly disposed, the next operation of the Spirit of God for our redemption was the supernatural conception of the promised Saviour||: on whom he afterwards descended like a dove at his baptism¶; led him into the wilderness to triumph
* 2 Pet. i. 19.
+ Mal. iv. 2.
Acts xv. 18.
over the tempter*: and so conducted the man Jesus through his whole state of humiliation, that all he said and did is represented in Scripture as proceeding from this influence: and those mighty works of his, which bore witness of him, are to be considered as repeated testimonies of the Spirit on his behalf. Thus he himself hath taught us, laying claim to the words of Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: for he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blindt. And again, if I by the Spirit of God do cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come unto you‡. And in like manner St. Peter: That word, which was published through all Judea, ye know; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with him §. But, besides the miracles, which he performed before his death, the New Testament, according to the common, and I think true interpretation, ascribes also to the same divine agent that great miracle and foundation of our faith, his rising again; where he is said by St. Paul to have been declared the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; and by St. Peter, to have been put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit ¶.
Thus then it appears in general, that from the earliest times the Spirit of prophecy was the testimony of Jesus**: and bore witness to his Gospel by continual
* Matt. iv. 1.
Is. Ixi. 1. Luke iv. 18.
Rom. i. 4.
signs and wonders, during his abode on earth. I now proceed,
II. To that particular confirmation of it, by the descent of the Holy Ghost on his Apostles, which he foretells, in the text and elsewhere, should follow his leaving the world; and which produced effects so greatly superior to all preceding attestations, that the Holy Ghost is said in Scripture not to have been given, or, as other copies read it, not to have been, before*: meaning comparatively; and in respect, not of his existence, but his operations on believers.
Now these were reserved, for several good reasons, till after our Saviour's ascension. It was prophesied of him, that when he ascended up on high he should lead captivity captive, subject to himself multitudes who had been slaves to the wicked one; and, as the means of doing this, should receive gifts for, and give them unto ment: which prediction St. Paul expressly quotes ‡, and St. Peter surely alludes to it, when he saith: Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear §. It was a proper beginning of the exercise of that authority, with which he had been so lately invested and a new and most seasonable proof of it, especially to his poor disciples, who must extremely have wanted comfort under the loss of his personal presence. Now no comfort could be so reviving, as to find the tokens of his power even increased by his absence; and themselves enlightened with greater knowledge of truth, and strengthened with more ability of performing mighty deeds, than when he went in and out amongst them ||. Besides, now they
* John vii. 39. Comp. Acts xix. 2.
+ Ps. lxviii. 11.
were to go immediately on their unparalleled enterprise, the conversion of mankind: and therefore now, and not before, it was time they should be furnished with the miraculous qualifications, requisite for that purpose.
Accordingly, when the day of Pentecost, the tenth after the ascension, was fully come; a festival, at which Jews and proselytes of all countries and languages resorted to Jerusalem, besides that large numbers of them usually dwelt there; the Apostles 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 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*. There were, it seems, a few inconsiderate creatures, as the sort is too common, who found matter of ridicule in this, and mocking said, These men are full of new wine t. But the very imagination, that twelve serious men should, every one of them, be so unaccountably overtaken, at so unlikely an hour too as nine in the morning, was incredible and absurd; as St. Peter well observed: whose speech, made instantly on the occasion, in the words of truth and soberness §, if ever any was, would alone abundantly have confuted the charge, even though he had not named it. And yet a farther confutation was, (and there could not be a stronger) that the foreigners present must know, whether the languages they heard were real ones; and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea must some of them know, whether
*Acts ii. 1-4.
+ Acts ii. 13.