They Shall Walk with Me
in White.by Isaac Williams
from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and
throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Tuesday in Whitsun
Rivingtons, London, 1875, pp. 505-509.
First part of Sermon XLIV for Whit-Sunday.
The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because
it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall
be in you.-ST. JOHN xiv.
THE fulfillment of this our Lord’s promise forms the Epistle for to-day.
When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord
in one place. “The day of Pentecost,” that fiftieth day after the Paschal
Lamb was slain, when the Law was given out from Mount Sinai, written on
the stony tables; for now the better law of the Spirit was, by the finger
of God, to be written on the heart; when they had come to the heavenly
Mount Sion, [Heb. xii. 22] on the fiftieth day after the true Passover.
“The precious ointment poured upon the Head" [Ps. cxxxiii. 2.] was
about to descend “to the skirts of His clothing;” for all was union, “they
were with one accord in one place;” the one place and one mind setting
forth “the Holy Catholic Church,” and “the Communion of Saints,” to which
the Spirit is promised.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty
wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. “Suddenly,”
as the Angel voice at Bethlehem; “suddenly,” as the Lord Himself will descend;
a sound, not of wind, but like “as of a wind;” not, like wind, from either
of the four quarters of the earth, but down “from Heaven;” it came not,
like wind, on the corners of the house without, but filled it within; not,
like the wind, ranging abroad, but confined to one room; like “a mighty
wind,” soft, irresistible, but unseen. Not as the storm without on
Mount Sinai, exceeding terrible; but rather as the vital and vocal breath
of man; as a friendly guest within the house; gentle as the approaches
of our Lord Himself, when He appeared in the midst of them after His Resurrection.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and
it sat upon each of them: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,
and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
They heard, they saw, they spoke; the fire was kindled within, and seen
without. A fire like that of the Burning Bush, which burned but consumed
not; appearing not as one, but as many, from “the Father of lights,” expressing
the manifold distributions of the Spirit; “cloven tongues,” as “rightly
dividing the word of truth,” as dispensing and distinguishing many languages;
“dividing to every man severally as He will.” A light to guide and
lead, not as the pillar of fire of old, but with the tongue of human agents,
as in the dispensation of the Son of Man; tongues on fire with living Jove.
And “it sat upon each” as coming to make His abode, filling the heart with
the Holy Ghost, while it ascended upward to Heaven, from whence it came.
And now to the house of Israel the appeal is made, collected together
for Pentecost, as lately for the Passover, when they read the title of
their King upon the Cross, “in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.” For
the Feast of Pentecost is for the offering of the first-fruits of the wheat
harvest, which are taken from the sacred people scattered abroad.
The Lord of the harvest saith, “Thrust in thy sickle, and reap; for the
harvest of the earth is ripe.” It is at the Holy City that they are
all assembled, “For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the Word of
the Lord from Jerusalem.” [Isa. ii. 3.] And there were dwelling
at Jerusalem Jews, devout men or proselytes, out of every nation under
heaven, gathered together by the secret law of God’s Providence, by
which “the stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed times.” [Jer. viii.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and
were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
Not the awful, thrilling trumpet, not the sight and sound of Mount
Sinai, which all alike could understand, but the bars removed from the
human tongue of persuasion. Soft as the dew of Hermon came the promised
blessing of Mount Sion, [Ps. cxxxiii. 3, 4.] suspending the curse of Babel,
and setting forth the one heart, one mind, and one voice in which the many
nations of the world shall combine to glorify God in the Church of the
redeemed. “The Lord gave the Word, great was the company of the preachers.”
[Ps. lxviii. 11.] “Their sound is gone out into all lands.”
And they were all amazed and marvelled—all was wonder, not alarm,
as of old, for they heard the voice of God, and yet lived, [Exod. xx. 19]
so marvellously was it attuned with the tongues of human utterance.
It was the coming of God with the gentle tenderness of the Son of Man;
and in the midst of the miraculous interposition was heard, as it were,
the voice of Him Who spake in the storm, saying, “It is I; be not afraid.”
“They marvelled,” and “were troubled;” but it was not without a holy and
glad wonder, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which
speak Galilaeans ? men of that obscure country, illiterate and untaught?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born,
in all the varied languages of the East and West, and their dialects unintelligible
to each other, versed in each and conversing, as if it were his native
tongue? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia,
the many provinces of the far East; and in Judaea and Cappadocia, in
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya
about Cyrene, the dark-browed child of ancient Nile, and many-tongued
colonies of the southern coasts; and strangers of Rome, Jews, and Proselytes,
of the ancient stock of Israel, expatriated Jews, and conforming converts;
Cretes and Arabians, Grecian Isles, or the unchanging descendants
of Ishmael; we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works
of God. Such is the harmony; such union in variety is there in the
ways of the Spirit; He assimilates not all to one language, but adapts
Himself to each, conforming Himself to every clime, preserving national
distinctions, in like manner as individual character. “Jerusalem
is built as a city that is at unity in itself,” but thither go up the twelve
Tribes. “The Holy City, coming down from God out of Heaven,” of which
the Lamb is the light, hath stones of every hue which earth and sea supplies.
“Upon Thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold wrought about
with divers colours.” She is clothed with the clothing of God, inestimably
precious within, yet with variety of colours adorned without; of many nations,
many characters, many tongues. Union formed of diversity, and harmony
of various notes.
All is jubilant, for the great Jubilee hath come; the debtor is let
loose; the forgiveness is sealed. [Levit. xxv. 9, 10.] They speak,
and their tongues are of fire, and the hearts of those that hear “burn
within” [St. Luke xxiv. 32.] them as they speak; and manifold are their
voices, but all one the subject of their speech, which are the wonders
of God; of Man gone up to Heaven; of God come down below; of Christ having
taken our weakness, and giving us of His power; of His putting on our flesh,
and clothing us with His Spirit; of the door of Heaven opened, and gifts
coming down from above. The house of Israel is gathered from abroad;
the dead bones are come together; and now the Breath from the four winds
has come. Fulfilled is the promise, “I shall put My Spirit in you, and
ye shall live.”....
...the Epistle for this day record an event which is as great in importance
as anything which has occurred since the foundation of the world. It is
indeed the new making of the world—the coming in of the “new heavens and
the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” As it would have
been better for man not to be born unless he be born again, and better
were it that the world should not have been made unless it were made anew;
so the Light of this day’s Creation is better than the light of the first.
Thus the Scriptural narrative appointed for the Epistle on this Sunday
is but the account of that which St. John in other language describes,
saying, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of
Heaven.” “And I heard a great voice out of Heaven saying, Behold,
the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they
shall be His people.”
The promise contained in the Gospel is in the Epistle fulfilled; and
the fulfillment which the Epistle records is a pledge and assurance to
us, that the heavenly truths spoken of in the Gospel may be in like manner
fulfilled in us....
(for the second part, on the Gospel.)