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Hence we can pray for it with full assurance. We bave both the command to pray for the Holy Spirit and the promise that we shall receive Him; for Christ ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, that He might give us these gifts, which He has obtained from the Father, not indeed for Himself, but for men, as we read in the 68. Psalm.
Yet prayer alone is not sufficient. If we secluded ourselves from others and prayed for the Holy Ghost, neglecting the Word and Sacraments, our prayer would be of little value. For it is God's order that the Holy Ghost shall be efficacious onl through the Word and the Holy Sacraments. If we therefore refrain from these means of grace, we will never receive the Holy Spirit. Hence we are baptized, and come to the Lord's Supper, and hear God's Word preached, and desire absolution; for we know that all these are means by whicli the Holy Ghost accomplishes His work in us. We have many examples to prove this. The three thousand souls who were on this day converted through the preaching of Peter, would have remained in their ignorance and sin all the days of their life, if they had not heard the Gospel ; but they did hear the Word, and were moved by it, aud were baptized. Christ has moreover ordained it thus. The eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia could not receive the Holy Ghost before Philip had preached the Scriptures unto him. When the Holy Spirit had moved the heart of the eunuch, it was His will that Philip should yet baptize him with water. If, therefore, we desire to obtain the gift of the
Holy Ghost we must; first of all, pray earnestly for it unto the Father in the name of Christ; then we must diligently use the Word, and remember our promise made in Baptism; we must frequently hear the absolution and go to the Lord's Supper. Through the Word and Sacraments the Holy Ghost is active in our hearts, and enkindles in them a new light, the light of faith, so that we do not simply hear the Word, as did also the obstinate Jews, but retain and understand it, and through it become different persons with renewed hearts. .
Finally, it is necessary that we do not hinder the operations of the Holy Ghost in us, or even drive Him entirely from us, by a lawless, wicked life and malicious indulgence of sin. The Holy Spirit cannot occupy the same dwelling with the devil. If therefore the devil torments us with avarice, anger, lewdness, and other sins, let us be quick to pray God for His assistance, that we may overcome these terrible temptations and remain faithful unto Him. If we wish to have and to retain the Holy Spirit, we must avoid such gross sins; or if we through our natural weakness fall into them, we must arouse ourselves speedily, and not be entangled permanently in their meslies.
Then the Holy Spirit is ready to assist us, according to our prayer, in our contest against the devil, our own flesh, and sin. On the other hand, they who consciously give themselves up to sin will be possessed of the devil more and more, nor can they, without repentance, receive the Holy Spirit, whose office it is, as I have already shown, to lead us through faith to the forgiveness of sins, and to help us to resist evil and to grow in grace.
But it is also true, my beloved, as already mentioned, that after all we receive only the first fruits of the Holy Spirit whilst we live in the body here on earth. Hence it happens that they also who have the Holy Spirit are yet weak and often fall into sin. Let no one be offended on this account and say, with the Anabaptists, that he who has the Holy Spirit cannot sin. It is true, if we always heeded the admonitions of the Holy Ghost we would not fall into sin, but it is impossible for us to do this; the devil is too mighty, the wicked world too corrupt, and our flesh and blood are too weak. Therefore we must constantly pray that God in mercy may not take from us His Iloly Spirit, that He may retain us in His grace, and daily increase within us the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and forgive us our trespasses, as we entreat in the Lord's Prayer. Even the saints are guilty of trespasses, but through faith in Jesus these are forgiven and become harmless.
Thus we see what the Pentecost of the New Testament is. It is a festival in which the Christians ought to rejoice, because it is far more glorious than that of the Jews. Through Christ the Holy Ghost was poured out upon all flesh, so that we now have a knowledge of God in the light of the Gospel, and can become, by the Holy Spirit, righteous and sanctified in body and soul. Let us to this end be earnest in prayer, in hearing the preaching of the Word of God, and in an unblamable walk before men. May the Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord, help us in this. Amen.
SECOND SERMON FOR PENTECOST.
John 14, 23–31. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words : and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our ab: de with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings : and the Word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to yonr remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you : not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how | said unto yon, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Flereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh, and liath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and is the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. m his Gospel is a part of the exhortation which
Christ addressed to His disciples on the eveuing before His sufferings, and contains words of especial importance. Christ would teach us in these words how vain is the endeavor to obtain a knowledge of God and to come to Him without loving the Saviour. Where this is wanting, our thoughts of God and our devotion are without assurance and we cannot apprehend Him. But if we love Christ we can come to the Father and He will love us.
Ilow is it that Christ here speaks of love and does not say, as He is wont to say: "Believe in me?” Is love more efficacious than faith that Ile
says: “If a man loves me?” We answer: The sense is the same; man cannot truly love Christ unless he believes in Him and is comforted in Him. The word "love" is in this case plainer and more forcible, because it indicates so nicely, how our hearts should turn from everything else in heaven and on earth, and should cling alone to this Man, Jesus Christ. For we know how love, according to its very nature, concentrates all its energies upon the object of its devotion, and remains attached to it, regardless of aught else in the wide world. It is the Lord's will that we should thus cherish and love Him with our whole heart. This we cannot do except through faith. Hence this declaration concerning love does not in the least detract anything from faith, but rather instructs us as to the true character and efficacy of faith.
The word "love" is also used in this connection, because Christ foresaw with what great difficulties he would have to contend who would receive His Word and persevere in it. Manifold tribulations, which tend to arouse impatience and dissatisfaction, will present themselves. Besides these, the temptation is near at hand to think: I am myself to blame for what I endure; why did I preach and confess the Word publicly? If I had kept my peace and had exercised within myself only the faith in God's Word and His gifts, no one would have molested me, and others, more competent than I, might have more successfully undertaken the task of a public confession and of teaching. Now I am in a great strait, for I am not only unsuccessful in my attempt, but am also in danger of losing my life for it. Such disquieting thoughts and tempta