ON THE COMING DOWN OF THE HOLY GHOST
Consider first, that on the feast of Pentecost, when the disciples were all assembled together, ‘suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.’ – Acts ii. 2,3,4. Thus they received the promised Comforter, with all his gifts and graces. Thus were they quite changed into other men. Weak and cowardly as they were before, they are now on a sudden courageous and perfect. They begin boldly to preach and to publish the faith and law of their crucified Lord, and bring thousands to embrace it. O heavenly Spirit, how wonderful are thy operations! O when wilt thou work the like change in my soul! Christians, praise and bless your God for sending down in this manner his Holy Spirit upon his church, and for all the wonders he wrought in the first establishment of it. The Israelites observed the solemnity of Pentecost as one of the three principal feasts of the year, because on that day the old law was published from Mount Sinai in thunder and lightning. How much more ought Christians religiously to observe this solemnity, because on this day the new law of grace and love was published on mount Sion, by the coming down of the Holy Ghost in tongues of fire.
Consider 2ndly, that the Holy Ghost came down upon the apostles in the shape of tongues, to signify that he came to make them fit preachers of his word, and to endow them with the gift of tongues, accompanied with the heavenly wisdom and understanding of the mysteries of God and all the gospel truths, to the end that the might be enabled to teach and publish, throughout the whole world, the faith and law of Christ! And these tongues were of fire, to signify how his divine Spirit sets those souls on fire in which he abides, inflaming them with divine love, consuming the dross of their earthly affections, putting them in a continual motion of earnest desires and endeavours to go forward from virtue to virtue as fire is always in motion, and carrying them upwards towards the God of gods in his heavenly Sion, as the flame is always ascending upwards towards its element. O blessed fire, when shall I partake of thy sacred names? O come and take possession of my heart, consume all these bonds that tie it to the earth, and carry it up with thee towards the heavenly furnace from whence thou comest. Sweet Jesus, thou hast said, Luke xii. ‘I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled.’ O cast this fire into my soul, that it may be kindled there!
Consider 3rdly, that the coming of the Holy Ghost was not promised only to the apostles, or to the first Christians, nor confined to the primitive ages, but was designed for a blessing to be entailed on the people of God throughout all ages. ‘I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, (or Comforter,) that be may abide with you for ever, the Spirit of truth,’ St. John xiv. 16, 17. He was promised to be be ever with the pastors of God’s church, to guide them into all truth in teaching God’s people, and to be for ever with the sheep of Christ, to guide them into all truth in their belief and life, and to be the source of all grace to their souls. Wherefore, though we are not now to look for his visible coining down any more in tongues of fire, we are nevertheless entitled if we sincerely seek and sue to him, to expect a share in his invisible graces and communications, and to aspire to the honour and happiness of being made his temples. Christians, what a happiness indeed to have the Spirit of God in us! This we must all aim at with our whole power; this is the great devotion of this holy time; this we must pray for at all times.
Conclude with this humble address of the church to the divine Spirit: ‘Come, Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and kindle in them the fire of thy love;’ or that other of the sacred hymn: ‘Come, O Spirit, our Creator, visit these souls of thine, and fill with thy heavenly grace the breasts which thou hast made for thyself.’ Frequently repeat these or the like invitations, and trust in the infinite goodness of him who delights to be with the children of men, that he will come to thee and be thy guest.
Conclude, if thou wouldst effectually invite the Holy Ghost to take up his residence in thy soul, to cleanse the heart thou designest for him not only from all wilful sin and affection to sin, but also from loving the world and the things of the world, and from every love or affection that shall dare presume to claim any part of thy heart, so as to hinder thee from giving it all to him.