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Whit Sunday.
by the Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D.D.
from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.
A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year,
S.P.C.K., London, 1902.
FROM the festivals commemorating the mission of our Lord, His Birth, Manifestation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, we turn to the mission of the Church, by which the mission of Christ is perpetuated in all time and extended through all the world. Whitsunday, is, therefore, the birthday of the Church, on which the life of the Spirit was given, and we are to consider both how it came and what it is in its own nature.

A.   Its Time and Place.

These were both definite, thus marking the reality of the gift.

The time when the Church came into being was a Sunday— that every Sunday for ever might be both an Easter-day and a Whit Sunday, the living commemoration of a living Saviour.  The time was at a festival—that “these things should not be done in a corner,” and that it should be seen from the first that the Church was not for one nation only.

The time was at the Festival of Pentecost, in which the remembrance was made every year of the writing of the Law on tables of stone, and thus was fitly designed for His coming Who should write upon the heart the new law of liberty (Jer. xxxi. 33).  As the festival of harvest (Lev. xxiii. 17) Pentecost fitly witnessed the first ingathering of souls, the first swathe cut by the Saviour’s sickle and made into the bread of God.  The place was significant also, for “they were all with one accord in one place,” and the Holy Spirit was thus given to the whole Church, and to individuals as members of the Church.

B.   Its Manner

Was most striking and impressive. The gift came from above, and came as wind—mysterious, invisible, mighty, as described by our Saviour (in S. John iii. 8), and as the very breath of life.  The gift came as fire which should warm the cold and chilly heart, should lighten men’s darkness, soften men’s hardness, burn away men’s dross, and kindle the dead matter of the world into Heavenly flame.

He came one fire for all, for there is one Spirit and one body; but He came as fire distributing itself so that “it sat upon each one of them,” for, though given to the whole body, He is given to every member of the same for his vocation and ministry, “dividing to each man severally as He will.” There is one Fire but many tongues, many tongues but one Fire.  He came as tongues, to persuade, not to force; as tongues of fire, for He persuades not by human eloquence, but by Divine inspiration.

C.   Its Result.

The first result of His coming was the miraculous gift of tongues, a striking symbol of the nature of the Church of Christ.  As the languages of men are the result and perpetuation of division, so the one message made plain to all was the proclamation that divisions should pass away, and that in the Catholic Church there should be neither Jew nor Greek.  The Gospel addresses man as man: tells of a universal need, a universal grace, and of the perpetual expansion and adaptation of the one body for all races, times, and needs.


Our Saviour here contrasts the life of the Church with that of the world in five particulars as 

A.   Receiving what the World cannot receive.

The world cannot receive the second Comforter, because it has not received the first. Those who have not accepted the visible Saviour will not desire the invisible Presence Who comes to take His place, and Who is so one with Him that His coming shall be as if Christ came. The Church receives the Spirit in proportion to its devotion to the Person and obedience of Christ.

B.   Seeing what the World cannot see.

The world cannot see the absent Saviour, not having been able truly to see Him when He was present, in any such way as to attract the spirit, awaken the mind, or touch the heart.  The world, which can see well-nigh everything else, cannot see Him; His cradle, His cross, and His life are nothing in their esteem.

To the Church Christ is an ever-present reality.  His disciples still see Him to the satisfaction of their whole natures, and see Him more clearly, as their course advances, in prayers, in His Church and sacraments, in their sorrows, labours, difficulties, and temptations.  He is closer to them than any earthly friend, being not merely with them, but in them, and they in Him by mutual indwelling.

C.   Loving what the World does not love.

This is the reason of sight: the power to see is not the keenness of our intellect, but the responsiveness of the heart to which alone Christ manifests Himself.

“Judas, not Iscariot “—a suggestive parenthesis, for such as he put no such questions as this.  The Judas of selfishness is contrasted with the Judas of love who desires no blessing he cannot share with others.  The answer is sad, that Christ cannot make the world see, and until men have learned to love and obey, such Heavenly indwelling cannot be theirs.

D.   Knowing what the World cannot know.

Because it has a Teacher Whom the world has not, Who implants knowledge and the desire to know.  Truth coming from many quarters is received and applied by the Spirit.  He shines upon it and makes it visible; He clothes it in beauty and attractiveness; He gives it power and persuasion. That which the Saviour teaches by His word and example from without, the Spirit teaches within, Christ is the Lesson, and the Spirit the Teacher of that Lesson.

E.   Possessing Peace which the World cannot give.

The peace of the world is in forgetfulness, but the peace of Christ in remembrance.  The world’s peace is a sleep liable to sudden rude awakening; the peace given by Christ is not taken away, for it can see the meaning of sorrow, even as Christ’s disciples were then learning that the passing of Christ was good, both for Him and for them.

This peace conquers all the circumstances and evil of the world. The reason we have it so little is that Satan enters the door we have left open for the world. Christ so shut the door upon the world that Satan could not find entrance.


A two-fold petition founded upon a double view of the grace of the Spirit.

A.   The Two-fold Gift.

The Holy Spirit came as fire to impart to the disciples both the light of truth in their mental and spiritual darkness, and also the warmth of holy affections. It was the self-same influence which brought truth to the mind and love to the heart.

B.   The Two-fold Petition.

We pray for the same gifts from the same Spirit—a right judgment for the mind and comfort for the heart. Our Reformers have made three practical additions to this ancient prayer.
“In all things “—for we need right judgment in every relation of life.
“Evermore “—for we need a perpetual Pentecost of comfort for the whole of our life.
“Holy comfort “—for the comfort we need must not be for self-indulgence, and not of the body, but of the soul.