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 Issues | Doctrine | Homily 28 part 1

 

An Homily concerning the

the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost

and The Manifold Gifts of the Same

For Whitsunday

Before we come to the declaration of the great & manifold gifts, of the holy Ghost, wherewith the Church of God hath been evermore replenished, it shall first be needful, briefly to expound unto you, whereof this feast of Pentecost or Whitsuntide had his first beginning. You shall therefore understand, that the Feast of Pentecost, was always kept the fiftieth day after Easter, a great and solemn feast among the Jews, wherein they did celebrate the memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt, and also the memorial of the publishing of the Law, which was given unto them in the Mount Sinai upon that day. It was first ordained and commanded to be kept holy, not by any mortal man, but by the mouth of the Lord himself, as we read in Lev 23 & Deut 16. The place appointed for the observation thereof, was Jerusalem, where was great recourse of people from all parts of the world, as may well appear in the second Chapter of the Acts, wherein mention is made of Parthians, Medes, Elamites, inhabitors of Mesopotamia, inhabitors of Jewry, Capadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphilia, and divers other such places, whereby we may also partly gather, what great and royal solemnity was commonly used in that Feast.


Now as this was given in commandment to the Jews in the old law, so did our Saviour Christ, as it were, confirm the same in the time of the Gospel, ordaining (after a sort) a new Pentecost for his Disciples, namely when he sent down the holy Ghost visibly in form of cloven tongues like fire, and gave them power to speak in such sort, that every one might hear them, & also understand them in his own language (Acts 2). Which miracle, that it might be had in perpetual remembrance, the Church hath thought good to solemnize and keep holy this day, commonly called Whitsunday.

And here is to be noted, that as the Law was given to the Jews in the mount Sinai, the fiftieth day after Easter: so was the preaching of the Gospel, through the mighty power of the holy Ghost, given to the Apostles in the mount Zion, the fiftieth day after Easter. And hereof this feast hath his name, to be called Pentecost, even of the number of the days. For (as Saint Luke writeth in the Acts of the Apostles) When fifty days were come to an end, the Disciples being all together with one accord in one place, the holy Ghost came suddenly among them, and sate upon each of them, like as it had been cloven tongues of fire. Which thing was undoubtedly done, to teach the Apostles and all other men, that it is he which giveth eloquence and utterance in preaching the Gospel, that it is he which openeth the mouth to declare the mighty works of God, that it is he which engenders a burning zeal towards God’s word, and giveth all men a tongue, yea a fiery tongue, so that they may boldly and cheerfully profess the truth in the face of the whole world, as Isaiah was endued with this spirit. The Lord (saith Isaiah) gave me a learned and a skilful tongue, so that I might know to raise up them, that are fallen, with the word (Isaiah 50.4). The Prophet David crieth to have this gift, saying, Open thou my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise (Psalms 51.15). For our Saviour Christ also in the Gospel saith to his Disciples, It is not you that speak, but the spirit of your Father which is within you (Matthew 10.20). All which testimonies of holy Scripture, do sufficiently declare, that the mystery in the tongues, betokeneth the preaching of the Gospel, and the open confession of the Christian faith, in all them that are possessed with the holy Ghost. So that if any man be a dumb Christian, not professing his faith openly, but cloaking and colouring himself for fear of danger in time to come, he giveth men occasion, justly, and with good conscience to doubt, lest he have not the grace of the holy Ghost within him, because he is tongue-tied, and doth not speak.

Thus then have ye heard the first institution of this feast of Pentecost or Whitsuntide, as well in the old Law, among the Jews, as also in the time of the Gospel among the Christians.  Now let us consider what the holy Ghost is, and how consequently he worketh his miraculous works towards mankind.

The holy Ghost is a spiritual and divine substance, the third person in the deity, distinct from the Father and the Son, and yet proceeding from them both, which thing to be true, both the Creed of Athanasius beareth witness, and may be also easily proved by most plain testimonies of God’s holy word. When Christ was baptized of John in the river, we read that the holy Ghost came down in form of a Dove, and that the Father thundered from heaven, saying, This is my dear and well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3.17). Where note three divers and distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the holy Ghost, which all notwithstanding are not three God’s, but one God. Likewise, when Christ did first institute and ordain the Sacrament of Baptism, he sent his Disciples into the whole world, willing them to baptize all Nations, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the holy Ghost (Matthew 28.19). And in another place he saith: I will pray unto my Father, and he shall give you another comforter (John 14.16). Again, when the comforter shall come, whom I will send from my Father, &c (John 15.26). These and such other places of the new Testament, do so plainly and evidently confirm the distinction of the holy Ghost, from the other persons in the Trinity, that no man possibly can doubt thereof, unless he will blaspheme the everlasting truth of God’s word. As for his proper nature and substance, it is altogether one with God the Father, and God the Son, that is to say, Spiritual, Eternal, Uncreated, Incomprehensible, Almighty, to be short, he is even God and Lord everlasting. Therefore he is called the Spirit of the Father, therefore he is said to proceed from the Father, and the Son, and therefore he was equally joined with them in the Commission that the Apostles had to Baptize all Nations.

But, that this may appear more sensibly to the eyes of all men, it shall be requisite to come to the other part, namely to the wonderful and heavenly works of the holy Ghost, which plainly declare unto the world his mighty and divine power.

First it is evident, that he did wonderfully govern & direct the hearts of the Patriarchs, and Prophets, in old time, illuminating their minds with the knowledge of the true Messiah, and giving them utterance to prophesy of things that should come to pass long time after. For as Saint Peter witnesseth, the prophesy came not in old time by the will of man: But the holy men of God spake, as they were moved inwardly by the holy Ghost (2 Peter 1.21). And of Zachariah the high Priest, it is said in the Gospel, that he being full of the holy Ghost, prophesied and praised God (Luke 1.67). So did also Simeon, Anna, Marie, and divers other, to the great wonder and admiration of all men.

Moreover, was not the holy Ghost a mighty worker in the Conception and the Nativity of Christ our Saviour? Saint Matthew saith, that the blessed virgin was found with child of the holy Ghost, before Joseph and she came together (Matthew 1.18). And the Angel Gabriel did expressly tell her, that it should come to pass, saying: The holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most high shall overshadow the (Luke 1.35). A marvelous matter, that a woman should conceive and bear a childe, without the knowledge of man.

But where the holy Ghost worketh, there nothing is impossible, as may further also appear by the inward regeneration and sanctification of mankind. When Christ said to Nicodemus, unless a man be borne anew, of water and the spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God: he was greatly amazed in his mind, and began to reason with Christ, demanding how a man might be borne which was old? Can he enter (saith he) into his mothers womb again, and so be borne a new (John 3.4-6)? Behold a lively pattern of a fleshly and carnal man. He had little or no intelligence of the holy Ghost, and therefore he goeth bluntly to work, and asketh how this thing were possible to be true. Whereas otherwise if he had known the great power of the holy Ghost in this behalf, that it is he which inwardly worketh the regeneration and new birth of mankind, he would never have marveled at Christ’s words, but would rather take occasion thereby to praise and glorify God. For as there are three several and sundry persons in the Deity: So have they three several and sundry offices proper unto each of them. The Father to create, the Son to redeem, the holy Ghost to sanctify and regenerate. Whereof the last, the more it is hid from our understanding, the more it ought to move all men to wonder at the secret and mighty working of God’s holy Spirit which is within us. For it is the holy Ghost, and no other thing, that doth quicken the minds of men, stirring up good and Godly motions in their hearts, which are agreeable to the will and commandment of God, such as otherwise of their own crooked and perverse nature they should never have. That which is borne of the Spirit, is Spirit (John 3.6). As who should say: Man of his own nature is fleshly and carnal, corrupt and naught, sinful and disobedient to God, without any spark of goodness in him, without any virtuous or Godly motion, only given to evil thoughts and wicked deeds. As for the works of the Spirit, the fruits of Faith, charitable and Godly motions, if he have any at all in him, they proceed only of the holy Ghost, who is the only worker of our Sanctification, and maketh us new men in Christ Jesus. Did not God’s holy Spirit miraculously work in the child David, when of a poor Shepherd, he became a Princely Prophet (1 Samuel 17.12)? Did not God’s holy Spirit miraculously work in Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, when of a proud Publican, he became an humble and lowly Evangelist (Matthew 9.9)? And who can choose but marvel to consider, that Peter should become of a simple fisher, a chief and mighty Apostle? Paul of a cruel and bloody persecutor, a faithful Disciple of Christ, to teach the Gentiles. Such is the power of the holy Ghost, to regenerate men, and as it were to bring them forth a new, so that they shall be nothing like the men that they were before.

Neither doeth he think it sufficient inwardly to work the Spiritual and new birth of man, unless he do also dwell and abide in him. Know ye not (saith Saint Paul) that ye are the Temple of God, and that his Spirit dwelleth in you (1 Corinthians 3.16)? Know ye not that your bodies are the Temples of the holy Ghost, which is within you (1 Corinthians 6.19)? Again he saith, You are not in the flesh, but in the spirit (Romans 8.9). For why? The Spirit of God dwelleth in you. To this agreeth the doctrine of St. John, writing on this wise, The anointing which ye have received (he meaneth the holy Ghost) dwelleth in you (1 John 2.27). And the doctrine of Peter saith the same, who hath these words: The spirit of glory, and of God, resteth upon you (1 Peter 4.14). O what comfort is this to the heart of a true Christian, to think that the holy Ghost dwelleth within him? If God be with us (as the Apostle saith) who can be against us (Romans 8.31)?

O but how shall I know that the holy Ghost is within me! Some man perchance will say, forsooth, as the tree is known by his fruit, so is also the holy Ghost. The fruits of the holy Ghost (according to the mind of S. Paul) are these: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance, &c. Contrariwise, the deeds of the flesh are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, wantonness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, debate, emulation, wrath, contention, sedition, heresy, envy, murder, drunkenness, gluttony, and such like (Galatians 5.19-23).
Here is now that glass, wherein thou must behold thy self, and discern whether thou have the holy Ghost within thee, or the spirit of the flesh. If thou see that thy works be virtuous and good, consonant to the prescript rule of God’s word, savouring and tasting not of the flesh, but of the spirit, then assure thy self that thou art endued with the holy Ghost: Otherwise in thinking well of thy self, thou doest nothing else but deceive thy self.

The holy Ghost doeth always declare himself by his fruitful and gracious gifts, namely, by the word of wisdom, by the word of knowledge, which is the understanding of the Scriptures, by faith, in doing of miracles, by healing them that are diseased, by prophesy, which is the declaration of God’s mysteries, by discerning of spirits, diversities of tongues, interpretation of tongues, and so forth. All which gifts, as they proceed from one spirit, and are severally given to man according to the measurable distribution of the holy Ghost: Even so do they bring men, and not without good cause, into a wonderful admiration of God’s divine power (1 Corinthians 12.7-11).

Who will not marvel at that which is written in the Acts of the Apostles, to hear their bold confession before the Council at Jerusalem? And to consider that they went away with joy and gladness, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer rebukes and checks for the Name and faith of Christ Jesus (Acts 5.29, 41 )? This was the mighty work of the holy Ghost, who because he giveth patience and joyfulness of heart in temptation and affliction, hath therefore worthily obtained this name in holy Scripture, to be called a comforter.

Who will not also marvel to read the learned and heavenly Sermons of Peter, and the disciples, considering that they were never brought up in school of learning, but called even from their nets, to supply rooms of Apostles? This was likewise the mighty work of the holy Ghost, who because he doeth instruct the hearts of the simple in the true knowledge of God and his word, is most justly termed by this name and title, to be the spirit of truth (John 14.17). Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical history, telleth a strange story of a certain learned and subtle Philosopher, who being an extreme adversary to Christ and his doctrine, could by no kind of learning be converted to the faith, but was able to withstand all the arguments that could be brought against him, with little, or no labour (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 11, Chap. 3). At length there started up a poor simple man of small wit, and less knowledge, one that was reputed among the learned as an idiot: And he on God’s name would needs take in hand to dispute with this proud Philosopher. The Bishops and other learned men standing by, were marvelously abashed at the matter, thinking that by his doings they should be all confounded and put to open shame. He notwithstanding goeth on, and beginning in the Name of the Lord Jesus, brought the Philosopher to such point in the end, contrary to all men’s expectation, that he could not choose but acknowledge the power of God in his words, and to give place to the truth. Was not this a miraculous work, that one silly soul of no learning, should do that which many Bishops of great knowledge and understanding were never able to bring to pass? So true is the saying of Bede: Where the holy Ghost doth instruct and teach, there is no delay at all in learning.

Much more might here be spoken of the manifold gifts and graces of the holy Ghost, most excellent and wonderful in our eyes, but to make a long discourse through all, the shortness of time will not serve. And seeing ye have heard the chiefest, ye may easily conceive and judge of the rest.

Now were it expedient to discuss this question: Whether all they which boast and brag that they have the holy Ghost, do truly challenge this unto themselves, or no? Which doubt, because it is necessary and profitable, shall (God willing) be dissolved in the next part of this Homily. In the mean season, let us (as we are most bound) give hearty thanks to God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, for sending down his comforter, into the world, humbly beseeching him, so to work in our hearts by the power of this holy Spirit, that we being regenerate and newly borne Again in all goodness, righteousness, sobriety and truth, may in the end be made partakers of everlasting life in his heavenly kingdom, through Jesus Christ our LORD and Saviour. Amen.

 

PART 2

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