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ON THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY GHOST,
PREACHED ON WHIT-SUNDAY.
ACTS 11. I, II, III, IV.
come, they were all with one accord in
This day is appointed by our church to serm. be kept holy, in remembrance of the micro raculous circumstance related in the text, the descent of the Holy Ghost in the shape of cloven tongues, like as of fire, on the heads of the apostles, and their being en
SERM. abled thereby to discourse in languages XVI.
which they had never learned. This happened on the day called by the Jews Pentecost, that is, fiftieth, because it was the fiftieth day from their celebration of the feast of the passover.
This Pentecost, likewise, was one of their great feasts on which they offered the first fruits of the productions of the earth, then newly gathered in; and they commemorated, likewise, the deliverance of their law to them from Mount Sinai. The day has obtained, among Christians, the name of Whit or White Sunday, either from the splendour which accompanied the descent of the Holy Ghost on this occasion, or from the custom of the early converts to Christianity being baptized at this time, and wearing (as tokens of the purity which they promised to maintain) white garments.
If we consider the miracle described in the text, in itself, it is of all miracles the
most extraordinary; if we consider it in SERM.
XVI. its effects, it is the most important. Let us take a more exact view of it.
Fifty days after the resurrection of their Lord, and ten after his ascension, his twelve constant companions, called apostles, were met together in one place, when suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing, mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting; and there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and they sat upon each of them: these cloven or divided tongues were to represent the various languages, which from henceforth the apostles would be able to speak, and their sitting upon each of them was a mark of this great gift being communicated to them all; possibly their being like unto fire was to signify the great efficacy of those powers of preaching which they were meant to bestow; their sitting upon the apostles is thought to signify permanency or continuance, to shew that
SERM. the gift of tongues was not like several XVI.
other miraculous powers which did not constantly reside with them, but that they were to have the perpetual and uninterrupted use of it, because in their spreading the gospel among foreign nations they would have perpetual occasion for it. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance; they were immediately enabled to converse and preach in other languages besides their own mother tongue, languages which they had never learned nor had any knowledge of before. There have been some who have thought that this miracle was not in the speakers but in the hearers, that is, that the apostles spoke in their own language, and that all those nations who were assembled together at this time heard them in theirs;- for this conceit there seems to be no ground; it is very contrary to the whole story of this
miraculous event, and to several particular SERM.
XVI. circumstances of it: it is said, in the scrip: tures, those on whom the fiery tongues settled, began to speak with other tongues ; but how can this be true, if they continued to speak with their own in reality, but were only understood as speaking with others? It is said also, they were accused by some of their hearers of drunkenness; and why? not surely because their countrymen still heard them talking in the language in which they had been educated, which would have been the case on the supposition above; but because they were seen and heard addressing foreigners, where those who knew them, and were sensible that they never studied any foreign tongues, were likely enough to conclude that they were only uttering unmeaning sounds, and consequently that they were not in their right minds. Besides, among the signs which our Saviour, before his ascension,