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no adversary can deny it: I shall therefore conclude, that SERM. it is a clear and certain truth, which St. Peter in our text LXXVI. affirmeth, that those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
Now, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our Rev. i. 5, 6. sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him Rev. v. 13. that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen.
H h 4
A WHIT-SUNDAY SERMON OF THE GIFT OF THE
ACTS ii. 38.
-And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
SERM. AMONG the divers reasonable grounds and ends of the LXXVII. observing festival solemnities, (such as are comforting the Esth. ix. poor by hospitable relief, refreshing the weary labourer by cessation from ordinary toil, maintaining good-will among neighbours by cheerful and free conversation, quickening our spirits and raising our fancies by extraordinary representations and divertisements, infusing and preserving good humour in peoplea; such as are also the decent conspiring in public expressions of special reverence to God, withdrawing our minds from secular cares, and engaging them to spiritual meditations,) the two principal designs of them seem to be these.
1. The affording occasion (or rather imposing a constraint upon us) with a competent frequency to attend unto, to consider upon, to instruct ourselves and others in the mysterious doctrines and institutions of our religion.
2. The engaging us seasonably to practise that great
Ο Θεοὶ δὲ οἰκτείραντες τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπίπονον πεφυκὸς γένος, ἀναπαύλας τε αὐτοῖς τῶν πόνων ἐτάξαντο, τὰς τῶν ἑορτῶν ἀμοιβὰς τοῖς θεοῖς. Plato 2. de Leg.
Legum conditores festos instituerunt dies, ut ad hilaritatem homines publice cogerentur, tanquam necessarium laboribus interponentes temperamentum. Sen. de trang, an. 15.
duty of thankfully remembering and praising God for those SERM. eminent mercies and favours, which by his great grace and LXXVII. goodness have been vouchsafed to us.
Civ. Dei. x.
For these purposes chiefly did God himself appoint the Jewish festivals; for instance, the Passover, the reason of which being instituted is thus expressed; that thou mayest Deut. xvi. remember the day, when thou camest forth out of the land` of Egypt, all the days of thy life: which words imply that the observation of that solemnity did serve to preserve the memory, yea the continual remembrance of that so notable a blessing, which otherwise might have been totally forgotten, or seldom considered; the same did also suggest occasion of inquiry concerning the reasons of its appointment, procuring consequently needful information in that material point of their religion; as doth appear by those words of God, And it shall come to pass, when your children Exod. xii. shall say unto What mean ye by this service? that ye you, shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover―. In compliance with which prudent designs, the Chris- Aug. de tian Church, from her first infancy, hath embraced the opportunity of recommending to her children the observation of her chief holy festivals, continuing the time, and retaining the name, although changing or improving the matter and reason of those ancient ones; the divine Providence concurring to further such proceeding, by so ordering the events of things, that the seasons of dispensing the evangelical blessings should fall in with those, wherein the legal benefits most resembling and representing them were commemorated; that so there might be as well a happy coincidence of time, as correspondence in matter between the ancient and new solemnities: whence as the exhibition of evangelical doctrines and mysteries did meet with minds more suitably prepared to entertain them, and as less innovation from former usuage did appear, (a thing observable to be respected in most, or all the positive institutions of our religion,) so withal Christians were engaged, while they considered the fresh greater mercies by God vouchsafed
SERM. to them, to reflect also upon the favours, from the same LXXVII. stock of goodness, indulged by him to his ancient people; that as those should chiefly be remembered, so these should not wholly be forgotten: thus did God dispose, that our Saviour should then suffer, when the Paschal Lamb was to be offered; or that the redemption of the world from sin and misery should then be celebrated by us, when the deliverance from the Egyptian slavery was commemorated by them: and so (that we may approach to our purpose) at the time of Pentecost, when the Jews Deut. xvi. were obliged to rejoice before the Lord, rendering thanks unto him for the harvest newly gathered in, and the earth's good fruits (the main supports and comforts of this life) were by God's blessing bestowed on them, then did God bountifully impart the first-fruits of his Holy Spirit, the food of our souls and refreshment of our hearts; then did he cause his labourers to put their sickle into the spiritual harvest; converting souls, and gathering them as mature fruits into the garners of the Church.
At the very season also (which is remarkable) that the Law was delivered to the Jews, and the ancient covenant established which did happen at Pentecost, as may be probably collected from the text, and is commonly supposed by the Jewish Doctors, who therefore called this feast Exod. xix. nn nnnw, the joy (or joyful feast) of the Law, in signi
fication of their joy, using then to crown their heads with garlands, and strew their houses with green herbs: at that very time was the Christian law most signally promulged, and the new covenant's ratification most solemnly declared by the miraculous effusion of the divine Spirit.
The benefit therefore and blessing, which at this time we are bound especially to consider and commemorate b is in effect the publication and establishment of the covenant evangelical, the foundation of all our hopes, and all
ν Πεντηκοσὴν ἑορτάζομεν, καὶ πνεύματος ἐπιδημίαν, καὶ προθεσμίαν ἐπαγγελίας, καὶ ἐλπίδος συμπλήρωσιν, &c. Νaz. Orat. 44.
our claims to happiness; but more immediately and direct- SERM. ly the donation of the Holy Spirit to the Christian Church, LXXVII. and to all its members; for the better understanding and more truly valuing of which most excellent benefit, let us briefly declare the nature and design thereof.
Almighty God, seeing the generality of mankind alienated from himself by gross ignorance of its duty toward him, and by habitual inclinations to violate his holy laws, (originally implanted by him in our nature, or anciently revealed to our first parents,) immersed in error, enslaved to vice, and obnoxious to the woful consequences of them, severe punishment and extreme misery; was pleased in his immense goodness and pity to design its rescue from that sad condition; and, in pursuance of that gracious design, did resolve upon expedients the most admirable and most efficacious that could be: for to redeem men from the tyranny of sin and hell, to reconcile them to himself, to recover them into a happy state, he sent his own only beloved Son out of his bosom into this world, clothed with our nature; by him, as by a Plenipotentiary Commissioner from himself, inviting all men to return unto him; declaring himself, by the meritorious obedience, the expiatory passion, the effectual intercession of his dear Son, abundantly satisfied for, and ready to grant a full pardon of, all offences committed against him in their state of error and estrangement; to admit them into a state of present indemnity and peace, yea to settle them in perpetual alliance and friendship with himself, upon most fair and gentle terms; namely, that, renouncing their erroneous principles, and reforming their vicious courses of life, they cheerfully would embrace his merciful overtures, and thereafter conform their lives to his righteous laws; the which, together with all his good intentions concerning them, he, by the same blessed agent, clearly discovered to them; fully by him instructing them in their duty, and strongly encouraging them to the performance thereof by the promise of most bountiful rewards; his certain love and favour attended with endless joy and