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ST. MARY'S, OXFORD, BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY, ON
August 24, 1744.
“ Whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning, if the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head,” Ezek. xxxiii. 4,
Acts iv. 31.
1. THE same expression occurs in the second chapter, where we read,“ When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all, (the Apostles with the women, and the mother of Jesus, and his brethren,) with one accord, in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind." 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. *** One immediate effect whereof was, “ They began to speak with other tongues;”+ insomuch, that both the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the other strangers who came together, when this was noised abroad, heard them speak, in their several tongues, the wonderful works of God.”
2. In this chapter we read, that when the Apostles and
* Acts ii, 1-4.
* Ver, 5.
* Ver. 6.
brethren had been praying, and praising God, “ the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”* Not that we find any visible appearance here, such as had been in the former instance: nor are we informed that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were then given to all or any of them ; such as "the gift of healing, of working other miracles, of prophecy, of discerning spirits : the speaking with divers kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.”+
3. Whether these gifts of the Holy Ghost were designed to remain in the Church throughout all ages; and whether or not they will be restored at the nearer approach of the “ restitution of all things,” are questions which are not needful to decide. But it is needful to observe this, that even in the infancy of the Church, God divided them with a sparing hand. Were all even then Prophets? Were all workers of miracles? Had all the gifts of healing? Did all speak with tongues? No, in no wise. Perhaps not one in a thousand. Probably none but the teachers in the Church, and only some of them. It was, therefore, for a more excel. lent purpose than this, that “ they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
4. It was, to give them (what none can deny to be essential to all Christians in all ages) the mind which was in Christ, those holy fruits of the Spirit, which, whosoever hath not, is none of his : to fill them with “ love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness :"} to endue them with faith, (perhaps it might be rendered, fidelity), with meekness and temperance : to enable them to crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts, its passions and desires ; and, in consequence of that inward change, to fulfil all outward righteousness, “ to walk as Christ also walked," « in the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labour of love."
5. Without busying ourselves then in curious, needless
Acts iv. 31.
+1 Cor. xii. 9, 10. * Ver. 28-30.
ll 1 Thess, i. 3.
Gal. v. 22–24.
inquiries, touching those extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, let us take a nearer view of these his ordinary fruits ; which we are assured will remain throughout all ages : of that great Work of God among the children of men, which we are used to express by one word, Christianity: not as it implies a set of opinions, a system of doctrines, but as it refers to men's hearts and lives. And this Christianity it may be useful to consider under three distinct views :
I. As beginning to exist in individuals ;
III. As covering the earth. I design to close these considerations with a plain practical application.
I. And first, let us consider Christianity in its rise, and beginning to exist in individuals.
Suppose, then, one of those who heard the Apostle Peter preaching repentance and remission of sins, was pricked to the heart, was convinced of sin, repented, and then believed in Jesus. By this faith of the operation of God, which was the very substance, or subsistence of things hoped for,* the demonstrative evidence of invisible things, he instantly received the Spirit of adoption, whereby he now cried, “ Abba, Father!"+ Now, first, it was that he could call Jesus Lord, by the Holy Ghost, the Spirit itself bearing witness with his spirit that he was a child of God. Now it was that he could truly say, “I live not, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”'ll
2. This then was the very essence of his faith, a divine Elexos I of the love of God the Father, through the Son of his love, to him a sinner, now accepted in the Beloved. And,“ being justified by faith, he had peace with God,"** yea, "the peace of God ruling in his heart:” a peace which passing all understanding, (Tavla you, all barely rational conçeption) kept his heart and mind from all doubt and fear, through the knowledge of him in whom he had believed. He could not therefore 6 be afraid of any evil tidings; for his heart stood fast, believing in the Lord.” He feared not what man could do unto him, knowing the very hairs of his head were all numbered. He feared not all the powers of darkness, whom God was daily bruising under his feet: Least of all was be afraid to die, nay, he desired to depart, and to be with Christ;* who, through death, had destroyed him that had the power of death, even the devil, and delivered them who, through fear of death, were all their life-time (till then) subject to bondage.”+
* Heb. xi. 1. + Rom. viii. 15. # 1 Cor. xii. 3. s Rom. viii. 15. || Gal. ii, 20. I Evidence or conviction.
** Rom. v. 1,
3. His soul therefore magnified the Lord, and his spirit rejoiced in God his Saviour. “He rejoiced in him with joy unspeakable," who had reconciled him to God, even the Father : " in whom he had redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” He rejoiced in that witness of God's Spirit with his spirit, that he was a child of God: and more abundantly, “ in bope of the glory of God," in hope of the glorious image of God, and full renewal of his soul in righteousness and true holiness ; and in hope of that crown of glory, that " inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
4. The love of God was also shed abroad in his heart, by the Holy Ghost, which was given unto him,"I cause he was a son, God had sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father!" And that filial love of God was continually increased by the witness lie had in himself, of God's pardoning love to him, by “beholding what manner of love it was, which the Father had bestowed upon him, that he should be called a child of God.”[ So that God was the desire of bis eyes, and the joy of his heart; his portion in time and in eternity. .: 5. He that thus loved God, could not but love his brother also; and, not in word only, but in deed and in truth.” “If God,” said he, “ so loved us, we ought also to love one another;"'* (yea, every soul of mán, as “the mercy of God is over all his works.”+ Agreeably hereto, the affection of this lover of God, embraced all mankind for his sake; not excepting those whom he had never seen in the flesh, or those of whom he knew nothing more than that they were the offspring of God;" for whose souls bis Son had died; not excepting the evil and unthankful, and least of all his enemies, those who hated, or persecuted, or de spitefully used him for his Master's sake. These had a peculiar place, both in his heart and in his prayers. He loved them even as Christ loved us.”
* Phil. i. 23. + Heb. ii. 15. Rom. v. 5. Gal. iv, 6. 11 Jobo v. 10.
1 i John iii. I,
6. “And love is not puffed up."* It abases to the dust every soul wherein it dwells : accordingly, he was lowly of heart, little, mean, and vile in his own eyes. He neither sought nor received the praise of men, but that which cometh of God only.' He was meek and long-suffering, gentle to all, and easy to be intreated. Faithfulness and truth never forsook him; they were a bound about his neck, and wrote on the table of his heart.”. By the same Spirit he was enabled to be temperate in all things, refrain ing his soul even as a weaned child. He was “ crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him:” superior to “ the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life." By the same Almighty Love was he saved, both from passion and pride, from lust and vanity, from ambition and covetousness, and from every temper which was not in Christ.
7. It may easily be believed, he who had this love in his heart, would work no evil to his neighbour. It was impossible for him, knowingly and designedly, to do harm to any man. He was at the greatest distance from cruelty and wrong, from any unjust or unkind action. With the same care did he 6 set a watch before his mouth, and keep the door of his lips;" lest he should offend in tongue, either
* Joha iv, 11.
+ Psal. cxlv. 9.
* 1 Cor. xiii. 4.