And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
I. Why should not each of us put this question to his own heart as a personal inquiry, as a question that ought to be answered as before God, without equivocation, without self-deception, and without any attempt to deal triflingly with the piercing and all-important interrogative? If we treat the question in this way, it will become to us a judgment-seat; and why should we not ever and anon arrest ourselves in the hurry and rush and delirium of life, to ask a question or two that shall pierce the heart and bring us to a right knowledge and a proper estimation of ourselves? The Divine mediation is a progress. From the beginning to the end, from the outline, the shadow, the type, to this great spiritual personality, this sovereignty of the Holy Ghost, there has been progress, advancement, culmination; and in all these I see a grandeur most impressive and instructive. Now, are we in the line of that progress, are we as far on as our opportunities have enabled us to be? or are some of us still lingering far behind? Have some of us turned back to the beggarly elements? Is it not matter of debate with the heart whether it has passed through the process called regeneration—whether it has passed from death unto life?
II. What is the one decisive sign by which we may know whether we have received the Holy Ghost? Is it to be a mere sentiment, an impression upon the mind, a religious hope? or is it to be something more decisive, emphatic, and incontrovertible? What is the one decisive sign that a man has received the Holy Ghost? Let me approach that question through two others. Have you received the poetic spirit? How do you prove it? Not by prose, but by poetry. Have you received the heroic spirit? How do you prove it? Not by cowardice, not by craven-heartedness, but by adventure and by freely encountering peril in all its thousand forms and possibilities of visitation. Have you received the Holy Spirit? The decisive sign is love of holiness, not power of theological debate; not only contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, not only outwardly irreproachable character, but love of holiness; not reputation, but reality; a heart that pants after the holiness of God; life concentrated into one burning prayer to be sanctified, body, soul, and spirit; life a sacrifice on God's altar,—that is what I mean by saying that holiness is the one decisive test of our having received the Holy Ghost. Alas! are not some professing Christians afraid to say the word "holy"? I find this in the course of my study of human nature and my intercourse with men, that I should be almost startled if I heard some men say the word "holy." They hope; they assent; they would fain believe; they are not without some idea that so-and-so may be the case; but a rich, ripe, unctuous, emphatic expression of Christian experience would be from their lips almost an anticlimax, if not a profanity. We are not called upon to do with as little Christianity as possible; it is not "Just get over the line, and that will do"; it is this: "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect; be ye holy, as God is holy." This is the vocation to which we are called, and if, when men ask us if we have received the Holy Ghost, we only answer them by some theological mystery which neither they nor we can understand, then we lie not unto men, but unto the Holy Ghost.
Parker, City Temple, 1870, p. 421.
Acts 19:2I. The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ. To manifest Him, to draw men to Him, to bring them into captivity to His easy yoke and light burden—this is the Spirit's operation in the human heart. And this it could never be before Jesus was glorified. The testimonies to a Saviour to come were necessarily vague and enigmatical; not the subjects of firm personal reliance nor of blessed assurance, but only just prophetic glimpses into the far distance, enough for those days, to keep the saints waiting on the Lord their God, but not to be compared for an instant with the work of the Spirit now. The whole office and work of the Spirit became new and of a higher order, inasmuch as the truths with which it is now concerned were before unknown.
II. The Spirit has wrought since the day of Pentecost as He never wrought before, in the testimony which He bears in the heart of every individual believer. We do not read of any such direct access to God granted to individual men in ancient times. This is another great characteristic of the dispensation of the Spirit, that all hierarchical distinction between man and man is for ever abolished, all sacrifice superseded, except the abiding efficacy of the one Sacrifice shed abroad in the heart of the spiritual man.
III. Again, the indwelling Spirit of these latter days of the Church is eminently the Spirit of wisdom. The humble child, walking by the light of this Spirit, is wiser than his teachers if they have Him not. The matured believer, rich in experience as in years of the Lord's service, is enabled to look down on the world and all that is in it, and count it but dross in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.
IV. Lastly, the Spirit of God now abiding among us is a transforming Spirit; not merely enlightening, nor merely comforting, nor merely conferring the adoption of sons, but changing us into the image of God, begetting in us a thirst to be like Him whose sons we are, to have done with sin, and to cast off corruption and to put on perfect holiness. And the end of this progressive change will be the fulness of assimilation to our glorified Redeemer, in that day of which it is said, "When He shall appear we know that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 380.
I. The influence of the Holy Ghost on the department of belief. We are often where these Ephesians were. What came to them and saved them was the Holy Ghost. What must come to us and save us is the same Holy Spirit. There they were holding certain truths about God and Jesus, holding them drearily and coldly, with no life and no spirit in their faith. God the Holy Spirit came into them, and then their old belief opened into a different belief; then they really believed. Can any day in man's life compare with that day? If it were to break forth into flames of fire and tremble with sudden and mysterious wind, would it seem strange to him—the day when he first knew how near God was, and how true truth was, and how deep Christ was? Have we known that day?
II. The Holy Spirit not only gives clearness to truth, but gives delight and enthusiastic impulse to duty. The work of the Spirit was to make Jesus vividly real to man. What He did then for any poor Ephesian man or woman who was toiling away in obedience to the law of Christianity was to make Christ real to the toiling soul behind and in the law. 1 find a Christian who has really received the Holy Ghost, and what is it that strikes and delights me in him? It is the intense and intimate reality of Christ. Christ is evidently to him the dearest person in the universe. He talks to Christ. He dreads to offend Christ. He delights to please Christ. His whole life is light and elastic, with this buoyant desire of doing everything for Jesus, just as Jesus would wish it done. Duty has been transfigured. The weariness, the drudgery, the whole task—nature, has been taken away. Love has poured like a new life-blood along the dry veins, and the soul that used to toil and groan and struggle goes now singing along its way, "The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 214.
How shall we know whether the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us? The tokens of His indwelling are such as cannot be mistaken.
I. One of them is the growing love of our neighbour which He works in us. I put this test first, because nothing more clearly marks off the growth of Christianity from that of other ideas than this love towards all who contribute to its working out The world has seen many changes brought about by a spirit or an idea. Art, letters, political institutions, have had their time of growth. A general result has been attained at the cost very often of the individuals who bring it about. But of the Church of Christ those inspired words of Paul would serve as the motto, "I seek not yours, but you." The great eternal house of God, of which Jesus Himself is the headstone of the corner, is built of living stones. The Church is built up by your effort, but your soul is at the same time brought nearer to God. Every soul of man is an end in this work of sanctifying the world, even though it be also a means. Christ is not careless of a single soul. And the absence of love is a proof of the absence of the Spirit who is love.
II. There is another test—the hatred of sin. We can no more have in our hearts fleshly lusts and the presence of the Spirit than we can walk east and west at the same time. They are contrary the one to the other.
III. There is yet a third test—that of love of Christ in God. Let us ask Him to burn up all the wood and stubble wherewith we have been building in ourselves after a fashion of our own, and build up in us a sincere trust in Himself and His Son. For when we can look upon God as our hiding-place from trouble and our shelter from temptation, when we can look up to the cross on which hung the Son of God manifested in the flesh, knowing that from that death came our salvation, then we are sure that the Spirit of God has not deserted us; for there cannot be in us any faith or any love that does not proceed from Him.
Archbishop Thomson, Lincoln's Inn Sermons, p. 124.
The communication of the Spirit, as imparted by the apostles to the new converts, was generally, if not always, of a miraculous character. It would appear, indeed, from the expression in the Epistle to the Romans and from some others, that the apostles themselves did not quite know, beforehand, the exact nature of the gifts which would be bestowed. But in the instances where the gift is recorded it consisted either of tongues or prophecy or both.
I. It has pleased God that these supernatural gifts should at least for a while cease in His Church. Still, we may lay down, as a general truth, that what God did by gifts, i.e., by supernatural bestowment, in the beginning of the Church, He now effects by grace, i.e., by ordinary communication. God has not withdrawn, God has not diminished His love, or His superintendence, or His largesses to His Church—only He has changed the channels.
II. Confirmation is not the only instrument by which God gives the assuring Spirit, because the Holy Ghost never confines Himself to any ordinances; but whether we look at the intention of the Church, or at the authority or precedent of the apostles, or at the experience of many persons and the witness of facts, I have not a shadow of doubt that confirmation is peculiarly adapted, and blessed of God, to give to the already sincere and believing soul a sealing impression of Divine truth, to assimilate the character and establish the heart.
III. Confirmation is not, properly speaking, a converting ordinance; this must have been done before. It is the establishing of grace. The heart appropriates its baptismal privileges; the soul, receiving and received, feels its calling; the infant baptism has its supplement; early faith is crowned with sensible tokens of acceptance and favour, and the young Christian receives the Holy Ghost after he has believed.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 7th series, p. 53.
References: Acts 19:2.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p., 311; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 258; Ibid., vol. vii., p. 349; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1790; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 170; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 198. Acts 19:8, Acts 19:9.—R. Davey, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 329. Acts 19:13.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 379. Acts 19:15.—Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 118; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 42. Acts 19:18-20.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 192. Acts 19:19.—J. M. McCulloch, Sermons, p. 211. Acts 19:20.—J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension to Trinity, p. 228. Acts 19:21.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 419. Acts 19:24-29.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 253. Acts 19:27.—J. Baines, Sermons, p. 29; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 230.
Acts 19:32The Voices of Great Crowds.
A crowd is more than a gathering of individual minds, feelings, hopes. It is itself an individual, possessed for the time by a spirit of its own. It may be powerful for good or strong for evil. It is often the representative of one single undivided passion, and as it may be lifted above thoughts of self by enthusiasm for a great cause, so it may be the blind and violent expression of self-interest.
I. As we are constituted we must lead two lives, an individual life and an aggregate. "To his own master each man must stand or fall." This is the assertion of the necessity of our individual life. "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together"; here of our social life. There is a power, hard to define, but appreciable by all who have tried it, in union of minds and feelings for a common object. On such union depends the outcome of sympathy, of enthusiasm, of those mysterious powers which have such effect on our moral and intellectual nature. Great movements must be urged by the energy, the impulse, which comes of human spirits acting in union.
II. But, as we must act and move in union, we must think and judge as individuals. We must act in crowds; but we must stand think alone. We may not merge our individuality in any crowd, however respectable. We must try, however hard the task, to think alone and withstand the pressure of the crowd, for crowds are of all classes of society, of all professions, of all parties. The crowd at Ephesus repeats itself in many ways. There is always selfishness, prejudice, ignorance, suspicion, fear of doing right lest evil should come of it, in every crowd; because all are men of like affections, organs, passions, and temptations. We are all members of a crowd—a crowd of our own—and are therefore liable to have our perception of truth affected by selfish fears and hopes, not flowing from the pure desire to see "reason and the will of God" prevail. We must labour to separate ourselves from the crowd of those who shout with us, and try our principles by other standards. Like ships about to proceed on a long voyage, we need to withdraw for a time from the attractions of a crowded harbour, and correct our compasses before setting sail.
A. Ainger, Sermons, p. 142.
References: Acts 20:7.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 254; Acts 20:9.—J. Thain Davidson, Forewarned—Forearmed, p. 93. Acts 20:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 365. Acts 20:21.—J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 113; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 300. Acts 20:22.—J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Christian Year, vol. i., p. 71. Acts 20:22-24.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 563.
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
And all the men were about twelve.
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.
But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.
And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:
So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.
So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.
And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.
For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;
Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.
Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:
So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.
And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.
But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?
Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.
For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.
Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.
But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.
For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.
And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.