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the great, the spotless sacrifice, by which we draw nigh to God : and let it be our constant, our importunate request to “the Giver of all grace,” that through the operations of His Spirit, (without whose blessed influence, even those “ holy scriptures which were written for our learning,” would be to us but a sealed book, or a dead letter,) our faith may be daily nourished and confirmed, and our hearts so framed and fashioned after the inspired Word, that, practically believing in Christ, as our Redeemer, and Priest, and King, we may “have life through his name;" and at length receive the end of our faith, in the eternal salvation of our souls, through Him, to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be undivided honour, and everlasting praise. Amen.
ACTS 11. 23.-“ Having received of the Father the promise
of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear."
THESE words are a part of St. Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost: that memorable sermon, the blessed efficacy of which, was the same day manifested, by the conversion of three thousand souls.
This portion of Scripture naturally leads us, more particularly on the present occasion, to consider first, who and what is that “
“Holy Ghost,” which was then “shed forth ;" secondly, why he is called “the promise;" and thirdly, what were those sensible and miraculous effects or influences, to which the Apostle alludes, in saying, “ He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.”
First,—“The Holy Ghost," or Holy Spirit, which was then shed forth, is the third Person in the ever blessed Trinity ; GOD from all eternity, co-equal, co-existent, with the Father and the Son. The same Spirit, whose divine power was displayed in the creation, giving beauty and perfection to the universe :—for we read in the first chapter of Genesis, that “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters;” and in the book of Job, that “ by His Spirit He garnished the heavens.” It was this Spirit who spake by the prophets, under the law of Moses;who at our Lord's baptism appeared in the form of a dove, and who manifested himself still more evidently, by those wonderful, those miraculous effects, which (as at this time, he produced, only ten days after Christ's ascension into heaven. The Apostle here calls him “the promise of the Spirit;" that is, the promised Spirit.
Now, God, in his boundless mercy, had made two illustrious promises to fallen, perishing, man: —that of his dear Son, and that of his Holy Spirit. The former stands pre-eminent among the predictions of the prophets; the latter, though less frequently, is yet very clearly expressed by those “holy men of God.” In Isaiah, we read, “I will pour my blessing upon thy offspring;” and more particularly, in Joel,—“it shall come to pass afterward, (that is, after the coming of the Messiah,) that I will pour out my Spirit
upon all flesh.” John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, the immediate precursor of Jesus, said to the Jews, “ I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh one after me, who shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:” in which words he plainly describes the miracle of Pentecost; when the Holy Ghost was
shed forth” under the symbol of fire. But above all, Christ Himself had repeatedly promised his Spirit to his disciples; as a “ Comforter,” as a “Spirit of truth,” who should “guide them into all truth ;” as a Teacher, who should “abide with them for ever."
This, therefore, was truly the promised Spirit :-promised by God the Father, promised by the prophets,—by John the Baptist, and by our Lord himself, as the grand privilege of the Gospel, the strength and support, the guide and comforter of all true believers, the authentic evidence of the calling of the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, in one body in Christ Jesus, and the earnest through Him of an everlasting inheritance. Thus, in the apostolical writings, the Holy Ghost is frequently styled, by way of eminence, “ the Promise, or the Spirit of promise.” And this promise of the Spirit, comprehends all those graces, whether extraordinary and miraculous, or ordinary and saving, which he produces and communicates under the new covenant.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are of two kinds : one, that which was more peculiarly necessary, at the first preaching of the Gospel, to effect the conversion of unbelievers and Gentiles, to promote the exercise of the apostleship, and the propagation and establishment of Christianity: the other, that which is still, and must ever be necessary, to the first saving reception of divine truths in the heart, and to the renewal, sanctification, and final perseverance of every Christian. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all."
It is, however, principally under the quality of a prophetic and miraculous Spirit, producing extraordinary gifts and graces, that St. Peter considers the Holy Ghost, when he says, “ Jesus having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, hath shed forth this, which we now see and hear.” For, the Jews then saw and heard those astonishing and supernatural effects of the Spirit, on the persons of the apostles, which, however some might be disposed to mock and deride, all must have known, could have been alone the work of GOD.
The first of these miraculous gifts, to which the Jews were witnesses, was the gift of languages, which was obviously most essential, to enable the apostles to preach to various nations, and bring them to the faith. To what purpose indeed,