EPISTLE—Acts II. 1-12.
GOSPEL—St. John XIV. 15-31.
R EAD carefully Lesson II on Acts of Apostles. Try to impress on yourself and the children the grand power within reach of all. Half the weakness and poorness of Christian life is because men do not "believe in the Holy Ghost."
What commemorate to-day? What is this day called? Why so called? You would easily understand if you lived in the early days, 1500 years ago, when Whitsunday was especially the "White Sunday?" It was one of the great baptismal seasons of the year, in memory of that day on which the Apostles had been baptised with the Holy Ghost. Christians met together on the "White Sunday" to receive into the congregation of Christ's Church those who had been admitted by Holy Baptism. In robes of pure white they entered the church, in token of the purity of life which Baptism denoted, while the chants of praise rose from the congregations for the white-robed throngs of spiritual children who in Baptism had been "born of water and the Spirit."
From very earliest times, even, it is said, from the days of the Apostles, the Church has kept this festival of Whitsuntide to commemorate—what? Yes, the most important event, perhaps, in the whole history of the world. Want you to understand to-day how important, and what an enormous difference the fact of Pentecost made.
First turn to Gospel of the day. What
does our Lord say in promising that Holy Ghost should
come? How long should He stay with them? Should He be
visible in human form like our Saviour?
Did anybody else in New Testament prophesy of Holy Ghost?
(Matthew iii. 11). Did anybody in Old Testament? Many. See
especially in chapter from which Epistle is taken. Who?
What had he prophesied?
We have talked of promise that Holy Ghost should come. Now turn to Epistle, and see what happened when He did come. (For this Lesson on the Epistle see Lesson II on Acts of the Apostles.)
Now let us try to understand about the Holy Ghost. Just remember that this is God. Can we see Him? Feel Him? How? By His promptings within. He speaks through conscience. Makes you feel His blame or praise. If you struck your mother, how should you feel? If you gave up something very pleasant to you for the sake of a sick comrade, how should you feel? That is the Holy Spirit's way of blaming and approving. Think how solemn! God really within us, rejoicing at every good deed, pained at every bad one. Do people all feel this blame and approval? Yes, cannot help it. Do all obey? No. Then He is pained. Why does He want us to do the right and good always? Because He loves us, wishes us well, grieves to see us do what makes us bad and wretched. How good of God to care so much for us. (See Ephesians iv. 30.) Now you know meaning of grieving Him.
But is it enough merely to urge us to do right? No. We cannot do it. We often try and fail, and only sometimes succeed. But God dwelling within us does more. What? (Acts i. 8). POWER. What sort of power? Power to be good, holy, full of enthusiastic self-sacrifice for God and for righteousness. Most important to believe in this power. This is what makes that Pentecost Day so important. A new power came into life—to be the gift of every disciple of Christ for ever, if he would but reach out for it and use it. No one now need be conquered by evil. Great loss that people don't believe more in Holy Ghost. Illustrate—a man in sure danger from robbers, and an army within hearing who would help him if he called out, or a weak man whose whole happiness depends on accomplishing a task too great for him, and help is near, but he does not know—does not believe it. What is the great distinction between Christianity and all other forms of religion? THIS POWER. Other teachers could tell men to try to do right. Christ gives men power to do it.
Even in Old Testament days the Church of God had not that power. A few men here and there got it by special inspiration; but it was not within the reach of all men, as now. They had cravings for good and efforts after right; but, compared with the great power of the Holy Ghost that Christ has given, their illumination and power was but
"Like as moonlight unto sunlight,
And as water unto wine."
See the power that came to these early Christians—the
courage and self-sacrifice and enthusiasm about
religion. In 100 years they had spread religion through
the Roman Empire. Look at this sermon of St. Peter's,
bearding priest and Pharisee and mob in Jerusalem
itself, charging them with killing God's Anointed.
(1) Believe in the Holy Ghost. Recognise His promptings in you all day long. In your Baptism that power began, and will be with you all your life unless you wilfully drive it away. (See Baptismal Service.) Be very sure that that power is there, that you need not be beaten in the fight with sin unless you choose.
(2) Grieve not the Spirit. (Ephesians iv. 30). How could you? (a) By resisting His promptings; (b) By not using or caring for His help. He is the best friend you ever had. His great longing and craving is to make you holy and happy. (Romans viii. 26). Yet so many disappoint Him. Think of a farmer looking at a field where he had sown good seed and taken exceeding great pains, and seeing poor stunted growth, he turns away in sorrow: "Well, that field has disappointed me sadly!"
(3) Quench not the Spirit. Some even go so far as to quench His influence altogether. (1 Thessalonians v. 19). What an awful possibility! To push away the only hand that can lead us to Christ and to heaven. Yet it is possible. Pray—"O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!"