PREACHED UPON WHITSUNDAY.
Acts x. 44.
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them, which
heard the word.
[Part of the second lesson of that day.]
That which served for an argument amongst the Jews, to diminish, and undervalue Christ, Have any of the rulers believed in him1? had no force amongst the Gentiles, for amongst them, the first persons that are recorded to have applied themselves to the profession of the Christian religion, were rulers, persons of place, and quality: Sane propter hoc dianitates positce sunt, ut major pietas ostendatur, says St. Chrysostom, This is the true reason why men are ennobled, why men are raised, why men are enriched, that they might glorify God the more, by that eminency;
" Acts x. 1 John vii. 48.
this is truly to be a good student, Scrutari Scripturas, To search the Scriptures, iu which is eternal life: this is truly to be called to the bar, to be crucified with Christ Jesus: and to be called to the bench, to have part in his resurrection, and reign in glory with him: and to be a judge, to judge thyself, that thou beest not judged to condemnation, by Christ Jesus: offices and titles, and dignities, make thee, in the eye, and tongue of the world, a better man; be truly a better man, between God and thee, for them, and they are well placed. Those pyramids and obelisks, which were raised up on high in the air, but supported nothing, were vain testimonies of the frivolousness, and impertinency of those men that raised them ; but when we see pillars stand, we presume that something is to be placed upon them. They, who by their rank and place, are pillars of the state, and pillars of the church, if Christ and his glory be not raised higher by them, than by other men, put God's building most out of frame, and most discompose God's purposes, of any others. And therefore St. Chrysostom hath noted usefully, That the first of the Gentiles, which was converted to Christianity, was that eunuch, which was treasurer to the queen of Ethiopia*; and the second was this centurion, in whose house St. Peter preached this fruitful sermon, at which, While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all them that heard the word.
Our parts will be two; first some circumstances that preceded this act, this miraculous descent and infusion of the Holy Ghost, and then the act, the descent itself. In the first, we shall consider first, the time, it was when Peter was speaking, when God's ordinance was then in executing, preaching; and secondly, what made way to this descent of the Holy Ghost, that is, what Peter was speaking, and preaching, These words, true and necessary doctrine; and here also we shall touch a little, the place, and the auditory, Cornelius, and his family. When from hence we shall descend to the second part, the descent of the Holy Ghost, we shall look first, (so as it may become us) upon the person, (the third person in the holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity) and then upon his action, as it is expressed here, Cecidit, He fell; as of Christ it is said, DeUcice ejus cumfiliis hominum, His delight is
* Acts viii. 27.
to be with the sons of men, and, (to speak humanly, a perverse delight, for it was to be with the worst men, with publicans and sinners) so, (to speak humanly) the Holy Ghost had an extraordinary, a perverse ambition, to go downwards, to enlarge himself, in his working, by falling; He fell: and then, he fell so, as a shower of rain falls, that does not lie in those round drops in which it falls, but diffuses, and spreads and enlarges itself, He fell upon all; but then, it was because all heard, they came not to see a new action, preaching, nor a new preacher, Peter, nor to see one another at a sermon, He fell upon all that heard; where also, I think, it will not be impertinent, to make this note, That Peter is said to have spoken those words, but they, on whom the Holy Ghost fell, are said to have heard The word; it is not many words, long sermons, nor good words, witty and eloquent sermons that induce the Holy Ghost, for all these are words of men; and howsoever the whole sermon is the ordinance of God, the whole sermon is not the word of God: but when all the good gifts of men are modestly employed, and humbly received, as vehicula Spiritus, as St. Augustine calls them, the chariots of the Holy Ghost, as means afforded by God, to convey the word of life into us, in those words we hear the word, and there the word and the Spirit go together, as in our case in the text, While Peter yet spake those words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all them that heard the word.
When we come then to consider in the frrst place, the time of this miracle, we may easily see that verified in St. Peter's proceeding, which St. Ambrose says, Nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia, The Holy Ghost cannot go at a slow pace; it is the devil in the serpent that creeps, but the Holy Ghost in the dove flies: and then, in the proceeding with the centurion, wo may see that verified which Leo says, Ubi Deus magister, quam cito discitur! Where God teaches, how fast a godly man learns! Christ did almost all his miracles in an instant, without dilatory circumstances; Christ says to the man sick of the palsy, Take up thy bed and walk*, and immediately he did so: to the deaf man he says, Ephphatha, Be thine ears opened*, and instantly they were opened : he says to the woman with the issue of blood,
* Mark ii. 11, * Mark vii. 34.
Esto sana a plaga tua*, and she was not only well immediately upon that, but she was well before, when she had but touched the hem of his garment. Upon him who had lain in his infirmity thirty-eight years, at the pool, Christ makes a little stop; but it was no longer than to try his disposition with that question, Vis sanus fieri"? Christ was sure what his answer would be; and as soon as he gives that answer, immediately he recovered. Where Christ seems to have stayed longest, which was upon the blind man7, yet at his first touch, that man saw men walk, though not distinctly, but at the second touch he saw perfectly. As Christ proceeds in his miracles, so doth the Holy Ghost in his powerful instructions. It is true, Scientic e sunt profectus*, There is a growth in knowledge, and we overcome ignorances by degrees, and by succession of more and more light: Christ himself grew in knowledge, as well as in stature: but this is in the way of experimental knowledge, by study, by conversation, by other acquisitions. But when the Holy Ghost takes a man into his school, he deals not with him, as a painter, which makes an eye, and an ear, and a lip, and passes his pencil a hundred times over every muscle, and every hair, and so in many sittings makes up one man, but he deals as a printer, that in one strain delivers a whole story.
We see that in this example of St. Peter, St. Peter had conceived a doubt, whether it were lawful for him to preach the Gospel to any of the Gentiles, because they were not within the covenant; this was the sanus fieri, this very scruple was the voice and question of God in him : to come to a doubt, and to a debatement in any religious duty, is the voice of God in our conscience: would you know the truth? Doubt, and then you will inquire: and Facile eolutionem accipit anima, qua prius dubitavit, says St. Chrysostom. As no man resolves of anything wisely, firmly, safely, of which he never doubted, never debated, so neither doth God withdraw a resolution from any man, that doubts with an humble purpose to settle his own faith, and not with a wrangling purpose to shake another man's. God rectifies Peter's doubt immediately, and he rectifies it fully; he presents him a book, and & commentary, the text, and the exposition: he lets down* a sheet from heaven with all kind of beasts and fowls, and tells him, that Nothing is unclean, and he tells him by the same spirit10, That there were three men below to ask for him, who were sent by God to apply that visible parable, and that God meant, in saying Nothing was unclean, that the Gentiles generally, and in particular, this centurion Cornelius, were not incapable of the Gospel, nor unfit for his ministry. And though Peter had been very hungry, and would fain have eaten, as appears in the tenth verse, yet after he received this instruction, we hear no more mention of his desire to eat; but, as his Master had said, Cibus meus est, My meat is to do my Fathers will that sent me, so his meat was to do him good that sent for him, and so he made haste to go with those messengers.
' Mark v. 34. * John v. 5. 1 Mark viii.
The time then was, when Peter thus prepared by the Holy Ghost, was to prepare others for the Holy Ghost, and therefore it was, Cum locutus, When he spoke, that is, preached to them. For, Si adsit palatum fidei, cui sapiat mel Dei, says St. Augustine, To him who hath a spiritual taste, no honey is so sweet, as the word of God preached according to his ordinance. If a man taste a little of this honey at his rod's end, as Jonathan did", though he think his eyes enlightened, as Jonathan did, he may be in Jonathan's case, I did but taste a little honey with my rod, et ecce, morior, and behold, I die. If the man read the Scriptures a little, superficially, perfunctorily, his eyes seem straightways enlightened, and he thinks he sees everything that he had preconceived, and fore-imagined in himself, as clear as the sun, in the Scriptures : he can find flesh in the sacrament, without bread, because he finds Hoc est corpus meum, This is my body, and he will take no more of that honey, no more of those places of Scripture, where Christ says, Ego vitis, and Ego porta, that he is a vine, and that he is a gate, as literally as he seems to say, that that is his body. So also he can find wormwood in this honey, because he finds in this Scripture, Stipend iumpeccati mors est, that The reward of sin is death, and he will take no more of that honey, not the Quandoeunque, That at what time soever a sinner repents, he shall have mercy. As the essential word of God, the Son of God, is Light
* Ver. 11. 1* Ver. 19. " 1 8am. xiv. 27.
of Light, so the written word of God is light of light too, one place of Scripture takes light of another: and if thou wilt read so, and hear so, as thine own affections transport, and mislead thee; if when a corrupt confidence in thine own strength possesses thee, thou read only those passages, Quare moriemini, domu s Israel? Why will ye die, 0 house of Israel? and conclude out of that, that thou hast such a free will of thine own, as that thou canst give life to thyself, when thou wilt; if when a vicious dejection of spirit, and a hellish melancholy, and declination towards desperation possesses thee, thou read only those passages, Impossibile est, That it is impossible, that he that falls, after he hath been enlightened, should be renewed again; and if thou hear sermons so, as that thou art glad, when those sins arc declaimed against, which thou art free from, but wouldst hear no more, wouldst not have thine own sin touched upon, though all reading, and all hearing be honey, yet if thou take so little of this honey, Jonathan's case will be thy case, Ecce, morieris, thou wilt die of that honey; for the Scriptures are made to agree with one another, but not to agree to thy particular taste and humour.
But yet, the counsel is good, on the other side too, Hast thou found honey ? eat so much thereof as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it1*. Content thyself with reading those parts of Scriptures, which are clear, and edify, and perplex not thyself with prophecies not yet performed ; and content thyself with hearing those sermons, which rectify thee In credendis, and In aaendis, in all those things, which thou art bound to believe, and bound to practise, and run not after those men, who pretend to know those things, which God hath not revealed to his church. Too little, or too much of this honey, of this reading, and of this hearing, may be unwholesome : God hath chosen ways of mediocrity; he redeemed us not, by God alone, nor by man alone, but by him, who was both. He instructs us not, by the Holy Ghost alone, without the ministry of man, nor by the minister alone, without the assistance of the Holy Ghost. An angel appeared to Cornelius, but that angel bid him tend for Peter: the Holy Ghost visits us, and disposes us, but yet the Holy Ghost sends us to the ministry of man: Non dedignatur
" Prov. xxv. 16.
docereper hominem, qui dignatus est esse homo, says St. Augustine; He that came to us, as man, is content that we go to men, for our instruction. Preaching is the ordinary means; that which St. Peter wrought upon them, was, Cum locutus, when he had, and because he had preached unto them.
And it was also Durn locutus est, Whilst he yet spake those words; Non permittit Spiritus absolvi sermonem, says St. Chrysostom; The Holy Ghost did not leave them to future meditations, to future conferences, he did not stay till they told one another after the sermon, that it was a learned sermon, a conscientious sermon, a useful sermon, but whilst the preacher yet spoke, the Holy Ghost spoke to their particular consciences. And as a gardener takes every bough of a young tree, or of a vine, and leads them, and places them against a wall, where they may have most advantage, and so produce, most, and best fruit: so the Holy Ghost leads and places the words, and sentences of the preacher, one upon an usurer, another upon an adulterer, another upon an ambitious person, another upon an active or passive briber, when the preacher knows of no usurer, no adulterer, no ambitious person, no briber active or passive, in the congregation. Nay, it is not only whilst he was yet speaking, but, as St. Peter himself reports the same story, in the next chapter, As I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell upon them11.
Perchance in the beginning of a sermon, the reprehension of the preacher falls not upon me, it is not come to me; but, when as the duties of the preacher are expressed by the apostle, to be these three", To reprove, or convince by argument, to settle truths, to overthrow errors ; and to exhort, to rectify our manners; and to rebuke, to denounce God's judgments upon the refractory; whatsoever he says the two first ways, by convincing, and by exhorting, all that belongs to all, from the beginning; and for that which he shall say, the third way, by way of rebuking, as I know at midnight, that the sun will break out upon me to-morrow, though I know not how it works upon those places, where it shines then, so, though I know not how the rebukes of the preacher work upon their consciences, whose sins he rebukes at the beginning, yet I must make account that he will meet with
" Ver. 15, 1• 1 Tim. iv. 2,
my sm too ; and if he do not meet with my present sin, that sin which is my second wife, that sin which I have married now, (not after a divorce from my former sin, so, as that I have put away that sin, but after the death of that sin, which sickness or poverty hath made me unable to continue in) yet if he bend himself upon that sin, which hath been my sin, or may be my sin, I must be sensible that the Holy Ghost hath offered himself to me, whilst he yet speaks, and ever since he began to speak; and, Cum locutus, Because preaching is the ordinary means, and, Dum locutus, Because the Holy Ghost intends all for my edification, I must embrace and entertain the Holy Ghost, who exhibits himself to me, from the beginning, and not say, This concerns not me; for whatsoever the preacher can say of God's mercy in Christ Jesus to any man, all that belongs to me, for no man hath received more of that, than I may do ; and whatsoever the preacher can say of sin, all the way, all that belongs to me, for no man hath ever done any sin, which I should not have done, if God had left me to myself, and to mine own perverseness towards sin, and to mine own insatiableuess in sin.
It was then, when he preached, and whilst he preached, and as soon as he preached, but when, and whilst, and as soon as he preached thus, thus as is expressed here, Whilst he spake these words: in which, we shall only touch, but not much insist upon, his manner first, and then his matter; and for his manner, we consider only here, his preparation, and no other circumstance. Though St. Peter say to them, when he came, / ask therefore, for what intent you have sent for meTM, yet God had intimated to him before, that it was to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles; and therefore some time of meditation he had; though in such a person as St. Peter, so filled with all gifts necessary for his function, and to such persons as Cornelius was, who needed but catechizing in the rudiments of the Gospel, much preparation needed not. The case was often of the same sort, after, in the primitive church; the persons were very able, and the people very ignorant; and therefore it is easy to observe a far greater frequency of preaching amongst the ancient fathers, than ordinarily, men that love ease, will apprehend. We see evidently in St. Augustine's hundred and forty-fourth sermon De tempore, and in St. Ambrose's forty-fourth sermon De sancto latrone, and in St. Bernard's twelve sermons upon one psalm, that all these blessed and reverend fathers preached more than one day, divers days together, without intermission: and we may see in St. Basil's second homily upon the six days' work, that he preached in the afternoon; and so, by occasion of his often preaching, it seems by his second homily De baptismo, that he preached sometimes extemporally. But of all this, the reason is as evident as the fact, the preachers were able to say much, the people were capable but of little: and where it was not so, the clergy often assisted themselves with one another's labours; as St. Cyril's sermons were studied without book, and preached over again to their several congregations, by almost all the bishops of the eastern church. Sometimes we may see texts extended to very many sermons, and sometimes texts taken of that extent and largeness, as only a paraphrase upon the text would make the sermon; for we may see by St. Augustine's tenth sermon De verb-is apostoli, that they took sometimes the epistle and gospel of the day, and the psalm before the sermon for their text.
15 Ver. 29.
But in these our times, when the curiosity, (allow it a better name, for truly, God be blessed for it, it deserves a better name) when the capacity of the people requires matter of more labour, as there is not the same necessity, so there is not the same possibility of that assiduous, and that sudden preaching. No man will think that we have abler preachers than the primitive church had; no man will doubt, but that we have learneder, and more capable auditories, and congregations than theirs were. Tho apostles were not negligent, when they mended their nets: a preacher is not negligent, if he prepare for another sermon, after he hath made one -. nor a hearer is not negligent, if he meditate upon one sermon, though he hear not another within three hours after. St. Peter's sermon was not extemporal; neither if it had (his person, and the quality of the hearers, being compared with our times) had that been any precedent, or pattern for our times, to do the like. But yet, beloved, since our times are such, as are overtaken with another necessity, that our adversaries dare come, locutus est, as soon as the preacher hath done, and meet the people coming out of the church, and deride the preacher, and offer an answer to anything that hath been said ; since they aro come to come to church with us, and Dum iocutus est, then when the preacher is speaking, to say to him, that sits next him, That is false, that is heretical; since they are come to join with us at the communion, so that it is hard to find out the Judas, and if you do find him, he dares answer, Your minister is no priest, and so your bread and wine no sacrament, and therefore I care not how much of it I take; since they are come to boast, that with all our assiduity of preaching, we cannot keep men from them ; since it is thus, as we were always bound by Christ's example, To gather you as a hen gathers her chickens, (to call you often to this assembling of yourselves) so are we now much more bound to hide and cover you, as a hen doth her chickens, and because there is a kite hovering in every corner, (a seducer lurking in every company) to defend and arm you. with more and more instructions against their insinuations. And if they deride us, for often preaching, and call us fools for that, as David said, He would be more vile, he would dance more, so let us be more fools, in this foolishness of preaching, and preach more. If they think us mad, since we are mad for our souls, (as the apostle speaks) let us be more mad; let him that hath preached once, do it twice, and him that hath preached twice, do it thrice. But yet, not this, by coming to a negligent, and extemporal manner of preaching, but we will be content to take so many hours from our rest, that we, with you, may rest the safelier in Abraham's bosom, and so many more hours from our meat, that we, with you, may the more surely eat and drink with the Lamb, in the kingdom of heaven. Christ hath undertaken, that his word shall not pass away, but he hath not undertaken that it shall not pass from us: there is a Ne exeas mundum served upon the world, the Gospel cannot go, nor be driven out of the world, till the end of the k world; but there is not a Ne exeas regnum, the Gospel may go out of this, or any kingdom, if they slacken in the doing of those things which God hath ordained for the means of keeping it, that is, a zealous, and yet a discreet; a sober, and yet a learned assiduity in preaching.
Thus far then we have been justly carried, in consideration of this circumstance in the manner of his preaching, his preparation; in descending to the next, which is the matter of his sermon, we see much of that in his text. St. Peter took his text here, ver. 34, out of Deuteronomy, Of a truth I perceive, that God is no respecter of persons ". Where, because the words are not precisely the same in Deuteronomy, as they are in this text, we find just occasion to note, that neither Christ in his preaching, nor the Holy Ghost in penning the Scriptures of the New Testament, were so curious as our times, in citing chapters and verses, or such distinctions, no nor in citing the very, very words of the places. Heb. iv. 4. There is a sentence cited thus indefinitely, It is written in a certain place, without more particular note: and, to pass over many, conducing to that purpose, if we consider that one place in the prophet Esay (Make the heart of this people fat, make their eyes heavy, and shut them, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert, and be healed") and consider the same place, as it is cited six several times in the New Testament, we shall see, that they stood not upon such exact quotations, and citing of the very words. But to that purpose, for which St. Peter had taken that text, he follows his text. Now, beloved, I do not go about to include St. Peter's whole sermon into one branch, of one part, of one of mine: only I refresh to your memories, that which I presume you have often read in this story, and this chapter, that though St. Peter say, That God is no such accepter of persons, but that in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him", yet it is upon this ground, Christ Jesus is Lord of all; and, (as it is, ver. 42.) He hath commanded ug to preach; that is, he hath established a church, and therein, visible means of salvation ; and then, this is our general text, the subject of all our sermons, That through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall have remission of sinsTM. So that this is all that we dare avow concerning salvation, that howsoever God may afford salvation to some in all nations, yet he hath manifested to us no way of conveying salvation to them, but by the manifesto tion of Christ Jesus in his ordinance of preaching.
" Deut. x. 17. 17 Isaiah vi. 10. 18 Ver. 35,36. " Ver. 43.
And such a manifestation of Christ, had God here ordained for this centurion Cornelius. But why for him ? I do not ask reasons of God's mercy to particular men ; for if I would do so, when should I find a reason, why he hath showed mercy to me ? But yet, Audite omnes, qui in militia estis, et regibus assistitis", All that serve in wars, or courts, may find something to imitate in this centurion; He was a devout man; a soldier, and yet devout; God forbid they were Bo incompatible, as that courage, and devotion might not consist: A man that feared God; a soldier's profession is fearlessness; and only he that fears God, fears nothing else : He and all his house ; a soldier, yet kept a house, and did not always wander; he kept his house in good order, and with good means : He gave much alms; though arms be an expensive profession for outward splendour, yet he reserved for alms, much alms: And he prayed to Godalways ; though arms require much tune for the duties thereof, yet he could pray at those times ; in his trenches, at the assault, or at the defence of a breach, he could pray: all this the Holy Ghost testifies of him together, ver. 2. And this was his general disposition ; and then, those who came from him to Peter, add this, That he had a good report amongst all the nations of the Jewg, ver. 22, and this to a stranger, (for the Jews loved not strangers) and one that served the state, in such a place, as that he could not choose but be heavy to the Jews, was hard to have. And then, himself, when Peter comes to him, adds thus much more, That this first mercy of God in having sent his angel, and that farther mercy, that that angel named a man, and then that man came, was exhibited to him, then, when he was fasting. And then, this man, thus humbled and macerated by fasting, thus suppled and entendered with the fear of God, thus burnt up and calcined with zeal and devotion, thus united to God by continual prayer, thus tributary to God by giving alms, thus exemplar in himself at home, to lead all his house, and thus diffusive of himself to others abroad, to gain the love of good men, this man prostrates himself to Peter at his coming, in such an over-reverential manner, as Peter durst not accept, but took him up, and said, / myself am also a man"; sudden devotion comes quickly near superstition.
1* Chrysostom. *1 Ver. 20.
This is a misery, which our time hath been well acquainted with, and had much experience of, and which grows upon us still, that when men have been mellowed with the fear of God, and by heavy corrections, and calamities, brought to a greater tenderness of conscience than before, in that distemper of melancholy, and inordinate sadness, they have been easiliest seduced and withdrawn to a superstitious and idolatrous religion. I speak this, because from the highest to the lowest place there are sentinels planted in every corner, to watch all advantages, and if a man lose his preferment at court, or lose his child at home, or lose any such thing as affects him much, and imprints a deep sadness for the loss thereof, they work upon that sadness, to make him a papist. When men have lived long from God, they never think they come near enough to him, except they go beyond him; because they have never offered to come to him before, now when they would come, they imagine God to be so hard of access, that there is no coming to him, but by the intervention, and intercession of saints; and they think that that church, in which they have lived ill, cannot be a good church ; whereas, if they would accustom themselves in a daily performing of Christian duties, to an ordinary presence of God, religion would not be such a stranger, nor devotion such an ague unto them. But when Peter had rectified Cornelius, in this mistaking, in this over-valuing of any person, and then saw Cornelius' disposition, who had brought materials to erect a church in his house, by calling his kinsmen, and his friends together to hear Peter, Peter spoke those words, Which whilst he yet spake, the Holy Ghost fell upon all them that heard the word. And so we are fallen into our second part.
In this, the first consideration falls upon the person that fell: and as the Trinity is the most mysterious piece of our religion, and hardest to be comprehended, so in the Trinity, the Holy Ghost is the most mysterious person, and hardest to be expressed. We are called the household of God, and the family of the faithful; and therefore out of a contemplation, and ordinary acquaintance with the parts of families, we are apter to conceive any such thing in God himself, as we see in a family. We seem not to go so far out of our way of reason, to believe a
father, and a son, because father and son are pieces of families : nor in believing Christ and his church, because husband and wife are pieces of families. We go not so far in believing God's working upon us, either by ministering from above, or by his spiritual ministers here upon earth, for masters and servants are pieces of families. But does there arise any such thing, out of any of these couples, father and son, husband and wife, master and servant, as should come from them, and they be no whit before neither ? Is there anything in natural or civil families, that should assist our understanding to apprehend this, that in heaven there should be a Holy Spirit, so, as that the Father, and the Son, being all spirit, and all holy, and all holiness, there should be another Holy Spirit, which had all their essential holiness in him, and another holiness too, sanotitatem sanctificantem, a holiness, that should make us holy ?
It was a hard work for the apostles, and their successors, at first, to draw the Godhead into one, into an unity: when the Gentiles had been long accustomed to make every power and attribute of God, and to make every remarkable creature of God a several god, and so to worship God, in a multiplicity of gods, it was a great work to limit, and determine their superstitious, and superfluous devotion in one God. But when all these lines were brought into one centre, not to let that centre rest, but to draw lines out of that again, and bring more persons into that one centrical Godhead, this was hard for reason to digest: but yet to have extended that from that unity, to a duality, was not so much, as to a triplicity. And thereupon, though the Arians would never be brought to confess an equality between the Son and the Father, they were much farther from confessing it in the Holy Ghost: they made, says St. Augustine, Filium creaturam", The Son, they accounted to be but a creature; but they made the Holy Ghost creaturam creaturce, not only a creature, and no god, but not a creature of God's, but a creature, a messenger of the Son, who was himself (with them) but a creature. But these mysteries are not to be chewed by reason, but to be swallowed by faith; we professed three persons in one God, in the simplicity of our infancy, at our baptism, and we have sealed
** Hseres. xt-ix.
that contract, in the other sacrament often since; and this is eternal life, to die in that belief. There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one**; and in that testimony we rest, that there is a Holy Ghost, and in the testimony of this text, that this Holy Ghost falls down upon all that hear the word of God.
Now, it is as wonderful that this Holy Ghost should fall down from heaven, as that he should be in heaven. Quomodo cecidisti ? How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, thou son of the morning? was a question asked by the prophet", of him, who was so fallen, as that he shall never return again. But the Holy Ghost, (as mysterious in his actions, as in his essential, or in his personal being) fell so from heaven, as that he remained in heaven, even then when he was fallen. This dove sent from heaven, did more than that dove, which was sent out of the ark" ; that went and came, but was not in both places at once ; Noah could not have showed that dove to his sons and daughters, in the ark, then, when the dove was flown out: but now, when this dove, the Holy Ghost, fell upon these men, at Peter's sermon, Stephen, who was then come up to heaven, saw the same dove, the same Holy Ghost, whom they, whom he had left upon the earth, fell upon the earth then : as if the Holy Ghost fall upon any in this congregation now, now the saints of God see that Holy Ghost in heaven, whom they that are here, feel falling upon them here. In all his workings the Holy Ghost descends, for there is nothing above him. There is a third heaven ; but no such third heaven, as is above the heaven of heavens, above the seat and residence of the Holy Ghost: so that whatsoever he doth, is a descent, a diminution, a humiliation, and an act of mercy, because it is a communication of himself, to a person inferior to himself.
But there is more in this text, than a descent. When the Holy Ghost came upon Christ himself, after his baptism, there it is said, He descended: though Christ as the Son of God, were equal to him, and so it was no descent for the Holy Ghost to come to him, yet because Christ had a nature upon him, in which he was not equal to the Holy Ghost, here was a double descent in the Holy Ghost, that he who dwells with the Father and the
* 1 John v. 7. M Isaiah xiv. 12. " Gen. viii. 7
VOL. II. D
Son, in light inaccessible, and too bright to be seen, would descend in a visible form, to be seen by men, and that he descended and wrought upon a mortal man, though that man were Christ. Christ also had a double descending too; he descended to be a man, and he descended to be no man; he descended to live amongst us, and he descended to die amongst us; he descended to the earth, and he descended to hell: every operation of every person of the holy, and blessed, and glorious Trinity, is a descending; but here the Holy Ghost is said to have fallen, which denotes a more earnest communicating of himself, a throwing, a pouring out of himself, upon those, upon whom he falls : he falls as a fall of waters, that covers that it falls upon ; as a hawk upon a prey, it desires and it will possess that it falls upon; as an army into a country, it conquers, and it governs where it falls. The Holy Ghost falls, but far otherwise, upon the ungodly. Whosoever shall fall upon this stone, shall be broken, but upon whomsoever this stone shall fall, it will grind him to powder". Indeed, he falls upon him so, as hail falls upon him ; he falls upon him so, as he falls from him, and leaves him in an obduration, and impenitibleness, and in an irrecoverable ruin of him, that hath formerly despised, and despited the Holy Ghost. But when the Holy Ghost falls not thus in a nature of a stone, but puts on the nature of a dove, and a dove with an olive-branch, and that in the ark, that is, testimonies of our peace, and reconciliation to God, in his church, he falls as that kind of lightning, which melts swords, and hurts not scabbards; the Holy Ghost shall melt thy soul, and not hurt thy body; he shall give thee spiritual blessings, and saving graces, under the temporal seals of bodily health, and prosperity in this world : he shall let thee see, that thou art the child of God, in the obedience of thy children to thee, and that thou art the servant of God, in the faithfulness of thy servants to thee, and that thou standest in the favour of God, by the favour of thy superiors to thee ; he shall fall upon thy soul, and not wound thy body, give thee spiritual prosperity, and yet not by worldly adversity, and evermore over-shadow and refresh thy soul, and yet evermore keep thee in his sunshine, and the light of his countenance.
* Matt. xxi. 44.
But there is more than this, in this falling of the Holy Ghost, in this text. For it was not such a particular insinuation of the Holy Ghost, as that he conveyed himself into those particular men, for their particular good, and salvation, and determined there; but such a powerful, and diffusive falling, as made his presence, and his power in them, to work upon others also. So when he came upon Christ, it was not to add anything to Christ, but to inform others, that that was Christ: so when Christ breathed his spirit into the apostles, it was not merely to infuse salvation into them, but it was especially to seal to them that patent, that commission, quorum remiseritis, that others might receive remission of sins, by their power. So the Holy Ghost fell upon these men here, for the benefit of others, that thereby a great doubt might be removed, a great scruple divested, a great disputation extinguished, whether it were lawful to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, or no; for, as we see in the next chapter*7, Peter himself was reproved of the Jews, for this that he had done: and therefore, God ratified, and gave testimony to this service of his, by this miraculous falling of the Holy Ghost, as St. Augustine makes the reason of this falling, very justly to have been; so then, this falling of the Holy Ghost, was not properly, or not merely an [infusing of justifying grace, but an infusing of such gifts, as might edify others: for, St. Peter speaking of this very action, in the next chapter, says, The Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us, in the beginningTM ; which was, when he fell upon them, as this day. This doth not imply gradnum cequalitatem, an equal measure of the same gifts, as the apostles had, who were to pass over the whole world, and work upon all men, but it implies doni identitatem, it was the same miraculous expressing of the presence, and working of the Holy Ghost, for the confirmation of Peter, that the Gentiles might be preached unto, and for the consolation of the Gentiles, that they might be enabled to preach to one another : for so it is expressly said in this chapter, That they heard these men speak with divers tonguesTM ; they that heard the preacher, were made partakers of the same gifts that the preacher had ; a good hearer becomes a good preacher, that is, able to edify others.
*; Ver. 2. *1 Ver. 15. " Ver. 46.
It is true, that these men were not to be literally preachers, as the apostles (upon whom the Holy Ghost fell, as upon them) were, and therefore the gift of tongues may seem not to have been so necessary to them. But it is not only the preacher, that hath use of the tongue, for the edification of God's people, but in all our discourses, and conferences with one another, we should preach his glory, his goodness, his power, that every man might speak one another's language, and preach to one another's conscience ; that when I accuse myself, and confess mine infirmities to another man, that man may understand, that there is, in that confession of mine, a sermon, and a rebuke, and a reprehension to him, if he be guilty of the same sin ; nay, if he be guilty of a sin contrary to mine. For, as in that language in which God spoke, the Hebrew, the same root will take in words of a contrary signification, (as the word of Job's wife signifies blessing and cursing too) so the covetous man that hears me confess my prodigality, should argue to himself, If prodigality, which howsoever it hurt a particular person, yet spreads money abroad, which is the right and natural use of money, be so heavy a sin, how heavy is my covetousness, which, besides that it keeps me all the way in as much penuriousness, as the prodigal man brings himself to at last, is also a public sin, because it imprisons that money which should be at liberty, and employed in a free course abroad ? And so also when I declare to another, the spiritual and temporal blessings which God hath bestowed upon me, he may be raised to a thankful remembrance, that he hath received all that from God also. This is not the use of having learned divers tongues, to be able to talk of the wars with Dutch captains, or of trade with a French merchant, or of state with a Spanish agent, or of pleasure with an Italian epicure; it is not to entertain discourse with strangers, but to bring strangers to a better knowledge of God, in that way, wherein we, by his ordinance, do worship and serve him.
Now this place is ill detorted by the Roman church, for the confirmation of their sacrament of confirmation: that because the Holy Ghost fell upon men, at another time than at baptism, therefore there is a less perfect giving of the Holy Ghost, in baptism. It is too forward a triumph in him, who says of this place, Locus insignis ad assertionem sacramenti manus impositionisTM: That is an evident place for confirmation of the sacrament of confirmation : it is true, that St. Cyprian says there, That a man is not truly sanctified, nisi utroque sacramento nascatur, except he be regenerate by both sacraments: and he tells us what those two sacraments are, aqua et spiritus, water and the spirit, that except a man have both these seals, inward and outward, he is not safe : and St. Cyprian requires (and usefully truly) an outward declaration of this inward seal, of this giving of the Holy Ghost: for he instances expressly in this, which was done in this text, that there was both baptism, and a giving of the Holy Ghost. Neither would St. Cyprian" forbear the use of confirmation, because it was also in use amongst some heretics, Quia Novatianu s facere audet, non putabimus nos esse faciendum ? Shall we give over a good custom, because the Novatians do the like ? Quia Novatianu s extra ecclesiam, vendicat sibi veritatis imaginem, relinquemu s ecdesice veritatem ? Shall the church forbear any of those customs, which were induced to good purposes, because some heretics, in a false church, have counterfeited them, or corrupted them ? And therefore, says that father, it was so in the apostle's time, Et nune quoque apud nos geritur, We continue it so in our time, that they who are baptized, signacvlo Dominico cousummentur, that they may have a ratification, a consummation in this seal of the Holy Ghost: which was not in the primitive church (as in the later Roman church) a confirmation of baptism, so, as that that sacrament should be but a half-sacrament, but it was a confirmation of Christians, with an increase of grace, when they came to such years, as they were naturally exposed to some temptations.
Our church acknowledges the true use of this confirmation ; for, in the first collect in the office of confirmation, it confesses, that that child is already regenerated by water and the Holy Ghost; and prays only for farther strength : and having like a good mother, taught us the right use of it, then our church, like a supreme commander too, enjoins expressly, that none be admitted to the communion, till they have received their confirmation. And though this injunction be not in rigour and exact
M Pamelius Aunot. in Cypr. Epist. 72. " Cypr. Epist, 72.
ness pursued and executed, yet it is very necessary that the purpose thereof should be maintained; that is, that none should be received to the communion, till they had given an account of their faith and proficiency. For, he is but an interpretative, but a presumptive Christian, who, because he is so old, ventures upon the sacrament. A beard does not make a man fit for the sacrament, nor a husband, a woman : a man may be a great officer in the state, and a woman may be a grandmother in the family, and yet not be fit for that sacrament, if they have never considered more in it, but only to do as others do. The church enjoins a precedent confirmation; where that is not, we require yet a precedent examination, before any be admitted, at first, to the sacrament.
This was then the effectual working of the Holy Ghost, non spiravit, he did not only breathe upon them, and try whether they would receive the savour of life unto life, or no: non sibilavit, he did not only whisper unto them, and try whether they had a disposition to hear, and answer; non incubabat, he did not only hover over them, and sit upon them, to try what he could hatch, and produce out of them ; non descendit, he did not only descend towards them, and try whether they would reach out their hand to receive him ; but cecidit, he fell, so, as that he possessed them, enwrapped them, invested them with a penetrating, with a powerful force; and so, he fell upon them all. As we have read of some generals, in secular story, that in great services have knighted their whole army, so the Holy Ghost sanctifies, and canonizes whole congregations.
They are too good husbands, and too thrifty of God's grace, too sparing of the Holy Ghost, that restrain God's general propositions, venite omnes, let all come, and vult omnes salvos, God would have all men saved, so particularly, as to say, that when God says all, he means some of all sorts, some men, some women, gome Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, but he does not mean, as he seems to say, simply all. Yes; God does mean, simply all, so as that no man can say to another, God means not thee, no man can say to himself, God means not me. Nefas est dicere, Deum aliquid, nisi bonum prcedestinare; it is modestly said by St. Augustine, and more were immodesty; There is no predestination in God, but to good. And therefore it is durus sermo, they are hard words, to say, that God predestinated some, not only ad damnationem, but ad causas damnaticmis, not only to damnation because they sinned, but to a necessity of sinning, that they might the more justly be damned; and to say, that God rejected some odio libero, out of a hate, that arose primarily in himself, against those persons, before those persons were created, (so much as in God's intention) and not out of any hate of their sins, which he foresaw.
Beloved, we are to take in no other knowledge of God's decrees, but by the execution thereof; how should we know any decree in God, of the creation of man, according to his image, but by the execution ? Because I see that man is created so, as I conceive to be intended in this phrase, after his image, I believe that he decreed to create him so: because God does nothing extemporally, but according to his own most holy, and eternal preconceptions, and ideas, and decrees. So, we know his decree of election, and reprobation, by the execution; and how is that ? Does God ever say, that any shall be saved or damned, without relation, without condition, without doing, (in the Old Testament) and, in the New Testament, without believing in Christ Jesus I If faith in Christ Jesus be in the execution of the decree, faith in Christ Jesus was in the decree itself too. Christ wept for the imminent calamities, temporal and spiritual, which hung over Jerusalem; and Lacrymce legati doloris, says St. Cyprian, Tears are the ambassadors of sorrow; and they are Sanguis animi vulncrati, says St. Augustine, Tears are the blood of a wounded soul; and would Christ bleed out of a wounded soul, and weep out of a sad heart, for that, which himself, and only himself, by an absolute decree, had made necessary and inevitable I The Scribes and Pharisees rejected the counsel of God, says St. Luke": in this new language we must say, they fulfilled the counsel of God, if positively, and primarily, and absolutely, God's determinate counsel were, that they should do so. But this is not God's counsel upon any, to be so far the author of sin, as to impose such a necessity of sinning, as arises not out of his own will. Perditio nostra ex nobis, Our destruction is from our own
M Luke vii. 30.
sin, and the devil that infuses it; not from God, or any ill purpose in him that enforces us. The blood of Christ was shed for all that will apply it, and the Holy Ghost is willing to fall, with the sprinkling of that blood, upon all that do not resist him; and that is, as follows in our text, qui audiunt, the Holy Ghost fell upon all that heard.
Faith in Christ is in the execution of God's decree, and hearing is the means of this faith : and the proposition is not the less general, if it except them, who will not be included in it, if the Holy Ghost fall not on them, who will not come to hear. Let no man think that he hath heard enough, and needs no more; why did the Holy Ghost furnish his church with four evangelists, if it were enough to read one ? And yet every one of the four, hath enough for salvation, if God's abundant care had not enriched the church with more : those nations which never heard of Christ, or of evangelist, shall rise up in judgment against us, and though they perish themselves, thus far aggravate our condemnation, as to say, you had four evangelists, and have not believed, if we had had any one of them, we would have been saved. It is the glory of God's word, not that it is come, but that it shall remain for ever : it is the glory of a Christian, not that he hath heard, but that he desires to hear still. Are the angels weary of looking upon that face of God, which they looked upon yesterday ? Or are the saints weary of singing that song, which they sung to God's glory yesterday ? And is not that Hallelujah, that song which is their morning and evening sacrifice, and which shall be their song, world without end, called still a new song ?
Be not you weary of hearing those things which you have heard from others before: do not say, if I had known this, I would not have come, for I have heard all this before ; since thou never thoughtest of it since that former hearing, till thou heardest it again now, thou didst not know that thou hadst heard it before. Gideon's fleece00, that had all the dew of heaven in itself alone, and all about it dry, one day, next day was all dry in itself, though all about it had received the dew: he that hath heard, and believed, may lose his knowledge, and his faith too, if he will
33 Judges vi. 36.
hear no more. They say there is a way of castration, in cutting off the ears: there are certain veins behind the ears, which, if they be cut, disable a man from generation. The ears are the aqueducts of the water of life; and if we cut off those, that is, intermit our ordinary course of hearing, this is a castration of the soul, the soul becomes an eunuch, and we grow to a rust, to a moss, to a barrenness, without fruit, without propagation. If then God have placed thee under such a pastor, as presents thee variety, bless God, who enlarges himself, to afford thee that spiritual delight, in that variety; even for the satisfaction of that holy curiosity of thine. If he have placed thee under one, who often repeats, and often remembers thee of the same things, bless God even for that, that in that he hath let thee see, that the Christian religion is verbum abbreviatum, a contracted doctrine, and that they are but a few things which are necessary to salvation, and therefore be not loath to hear them often.
Our errand hither then, is not to see ; but much less not to be able to see, to sleep: it is not to talk, but much less to snort: it is to hear, and to hear all the words of the preacher, but, to hear in those words, the word, that word which is the soul of all that is said, and is the true physic of all their souls that hear. The word was made flesh; that is, assumed flesh ; but yet the Godhead was not that flesh. The word of God is made a sermon, that is, a text is dilated, diffused into a sermon ; but that whole sermon is not the word of God. But yet all the sermon is the ordinance of God. Delight thyself in the Lord, and he will give thee thy hearfs desire; take a delight in God's ordinance, in man's preaching, and thou wilt find God's word in that. To end all in that metaphor which we mentioned at beginning, as the word of God is as honey, so says Solomon, Pleasant words are as the honeycomb**: and when the pleasant words of God's servants have conveyed the saving word of God himself into thy soul, then mayest thou say with Christ to the spouse, / have eaten my honeycomb with my honey", mine understanding is enlightened with the words of the preacher, and my faith is strengthened with the word of God; I glorify God much in the gifts of the man, but I glorify God much more in the gifts of his grace; I
" Prov. xvi. 24. " Cant. v. I.
am glad I have heard him, but I am gladder I have heard God in him ; I am happy that I have heard those words, but thrice happy, that in those words, I have heard the word; blessed be thou that eamest in the name of the Lord, but blessed be the Lord, that is come to me in thee; let me remember how the preacher said it, but let me remember rather what he said. And beloved, all the best of us all, all that all together, all the days of our life, shall be able to say unto you, is but this, that if ye will hear the same Jesus, in the same Gospel, by the same ordinance, and not seek an imaginary Jesus, in an illusory sacrifice, in another church, if you will hear so, as you have contracted with God in your baptism, the Holy Ghost shall fall upon you, whilst you hear, here in the house of God, and the Holy Ghost shall accompany you home to your own houses, and make your domestic peace there, a type of your union with God in heaven; and make your eating and drinking there, a type of the abundance, and fulness of heaven ; and make every day's rising to you there, a type of your joyful resurrection to heaven ; and every night's rest, a type of your eternal Sabbath; and your very dreams, prayers, and meditations, and sacrifices to Almighty God.