Acts 2:17
In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people; your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
Sermons
The Day of Pentecost, and its Immediate GiftsP.C. Barker Acts 2:1-41
Interpretation of the Phenomena of the SpiritE. Johnson Acts 2:14-21
Prophecies of the Times of the SpiritR. Tuck Acts 2:14-21
The Spirit Speaking Through the Voice of an ApostleR.A. Redford Acts 2:14-36
Truths from Peter's SermonW. Clarkson Acts 2:14-36
A New Style of Religious MinistryD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 2:14-40
A Sermon to Prick the ConscienceJ. C. Jones.Acts 2:14-40
A Varied Ministry Blessed by the Holy SpiritC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 2:14-40
Different Styles of PreachingW. Arthur, M. A.Acts 2:14-40
Elements of Power in Peter's SermonHomiletic MonthlyActs 2:14-40
Peter's Impulsiveness Useful Because Wisely DirectedW. H. Blake.Acts 2:14-40
Plain PreachingActs 2:14-40
Preaching on the Day of PentecostJ. Thompson, A. M.Acts 2:14-40
St. Peter to the MultitudeD. Fraser, D. D.Acts 2:14-40
St. Peter's First SermonG. T. Stokes, D. D.Acts 2:14-40
The First Apostolic Appeal to the MultitudeW. Hudson.Acts 2:14-40
The First SermonDean Vaughan.Acts 2:14-40
The Power of the Human VoiceJ. Parker.Acts 2:14-40
The SceneW. Arthur, M. A.Acts 2:14-40
A Young Man's VisionC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 2:17-21
Features of the New DispensationW. Hudson.Acts 2:17-21
The Dispensation of the Holy Ghost and its Distinctive CharacterCapel Molyneux, B. A.Acts 2:17-21
The Gospel AgeHomilistActs 2:17-21
The Possibilities of LifeW. E. Chadwick, M. A.Acts 2:17-21
The Pouring Out of God's SpiritTheological Sketch BookActs 2:17-21
The Promise KeptE. B. Conder, D. D.Acts 2:17-21
The Sending of the Holy GhostBp. Andrewes.Acts 2:17-21
The Visionary Aspect of ChristianityJ. F. Ewing, M. A.Acts 2:17-21
Visions RealisedW. E. Chadwick, M. A.Acts 2:17-21
A more glorious opportunity than that now presented no man could desire. Peter was the last man in the world likely to let it go unused. He instantly and, no doubt, eagerly appropriated it. In an animated and forcible address he repelled the idea that the apostles were acting under lower excitements, and showed that a new era had dawned upon the race, of which they should hasten to avail themselves. We gather from his words -

I. THAT THE SOURCE OF HUMAN INSPIRATION MAY BE VERY MUCH HIGHER, AS IT MAY BE VERY MUCH LOWER, THAN IS SUPPOSED. (Vers. 15-17.) It is true enough that what passes for Divine inspiration is often nothing more or better than earth-born excitement, mental or moral heats which are kindled by man and not by God - of the flesh, fleshly. This is abundantly proved by the test of time, and, in these cases, the last state is usually worse than the first. But, on the other hand, it sometimes happens that what is ignorantly mistaken for human passion is nothing less than a Divine afflatus. So here: these men "were not drunken;" God was "pouring out his Spirit" upon them. So has it been in the history of the Christian Church. Men that God has raised up and inspired to do his work have been either contemptuously disregarded, or cruelly decried, or systematically persecuted. Such facts as these should make us wait, examine, inquire, before we dismiss as worthless, or denounce as evil, those who profess to speak for Christ in ways other than our own.

II. THAT THE WHOLE HISTORY OF OUR RACE IS OUTSPREAD BEFORE GOD, AND THAT HIS HAND IS LAID UPON IT. (Vers. 17-20.) The Prophet Joel tells us what God will do. His words are necessarily obscure, for only the facts when they have occurred can make clear and plain their full significance. But we perceive that it was God's purpose, looking on to the future of the world, to pour down at one epoch a very rich effusion of his Spirit on the race, and to "show wonders" of the most extraordinary kind before the end of the dispensation. Everything is foreseen, arranged; the eye of God looks on, and all is before him; his hand, too, is stretched out, and at various points he makes his almighty power to be felt.

III. THAT AMID ALL THE ROCKINGS OF REVOLUTION THERE IS ONE PLACE OF UNFAILING SAFETY. (Ver. 21.) "Whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved." Whatever visions are seen, or dreams are dreamed, or prophesyings are uttered on earth; whatever wonders may be wrought in heaven, - the man that makes God his Refuge has no need to fear; he shall be hidden in the everlasting arms of strength and love.

IV. THAT DIVINE PURPOSE IS COOPERATIVE WITH HUMAN FREEDOM. (Ver. 23.) Christ Jesus was "delivered by the determinate counsel," etc.; yet he was not so delivered but that they were "wicked hands" that crucified and slew him. The providence of God makes all things possible to us - the noblest achievements and also the darkest crimes; it is our faithfulness which makes us the agents of the one, and our sin which makes us the perpetrators of the other.

V. THAT GOD HAS MADE HIS ETERNAL SON TO OCCUPY THE THRONE OF THE HUMAN WORLD. (Vers. 24-36.) Peter showed:

1. That David had predicted the resurrection of Christ (vers. 25-31).

2. That they could bear positive testimony that he had risen from the dead (ver. 32).

3. That prophecy pointed him out as One reigning in power, awaiting the final and complete overthrow of all his enemies (vers. 34, 35). Wherefore let every knee bow to him, every heart be subject to his sway; for

(1) all power as well as all authority is his;

(2) on his side, we are sure of victory and blessedness;

(3) ranged against him, we shall be overcome, with terrible disaster to ourselves. - C.







And it shall come to pass in the last days.
Homilist.
Four things taught here determine the gospel age.

I. It is connected with an EXTRAORDINARY effusion of the Divine Spirit, "I will pour out My Spirit."

II. It is connected with PRODIGIOUS REVOLUTIONS, "I will show wonders," etc.

III. It is connected with an ULTIMATE CRISIS, "The notable day of the Lord."

IV. It is connected with the possibility of a UNIVERSAL SALVATION, "Whosoever," etc.

(Homilist.)

Theological Sketch Book.
In this highly interesting chapter we find an account —

1. Of the Divine testimony borne to the truth of the gospel by the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost.

2. Of the different effects which this event produced on the different characters who witnessed it. In the devout it excited amazement, which led them to make serious inquiry respecting what was occurring (ver. 5-12). In the careless it excited contempt. But the wrath of man turned to the praise of God; for in the sequel we find an account.

3. Of Peter's discourse in reply to those aspersions thus east on the works of God by His wicked opposers.

I. SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THESE WORDS. Here we may notice —

1. The blessing promised: God's Spirit. "I will pour out of My Spirit, saith God." By the Spirit here promised is meant both His miraculous and saving influence.

2. The manner of its dispensation; it will be poured out. This indicates the prerogative of God; that the influences of His Spirit are at His disposal. The pouring out of God's Spirit also indicates the special properties of the blessing promised. For instance, that it will be gratuitous, abundant, perpetual.

3. The extent of its influence upon all flesh. By all flesh is meant the whole human race, however distinguished, by descent, by circumstances, or by sex.

4. The season of its communication — the last days. By the last days are certainly meant the days in which we now live.

5. The certainty of its effusion. It shall come to pass, saith God, in the last days, "I will pour out of My Spirit." This event is certain — for it is predicted, and it will be fulfilled. It is promised, and will be performed.

II. SOME APPLICATION OF THEM.

1. The strong claims which this subject has on our attention. It claims attention by the importance of the blessing which it exhibits.

2. The duties to which this subject urges us. It particularly urges us to apply for the saving influences of God's Spirit, as He requires us in His Word. By repentance (Acts 2:38, 39); by faith in Christ (John 7:39; Galatians 3:14); and by earnest importunate prayer (Luke 11:13).

3. The hopes with which this subject inspires us. On engaging in the duties to which our text urges us, it encourages us to hope — for the saving influence of God's Spirit in our own souls: for the general effusion of God's Spirit on the human race.

(Theological Sketch Book.)

The occasion of Peter's sermon was a lewd surmise touching the gift of tongues. As soon as God from heaven sent His fiery tongues upon His apostles, the devil from hell put his into the mouths of his apostles. Note —

I. THE SPIRIT'S POURING.

1. The Spirit is here the author of prophecy.(1) Prophecy can come from no nature not rational; so the Spirit is natura rationalis, i.e., a person.(2) Effusion is a proceeding of that which is poured; as inspiration, in the very body of the word "spirit." So the Spirit is a person proceeding.(3) No person, angel or spirit, can be poured out, least of all "upon all flesh." God only can be that: hence the Spirit is God.(4) But Peter saith, "of My spirit." The whole Spirit flesh could not hold, not even "all flesh"; and parts He hath none. The phrase, then, indicates the gifts and graces of the Spirit — beams of this light, streams of this pouring — here the gifts of prophecy and tongues.

2. The act: "pour."(1) The quality. That which is poured must be a liquid. But this seems improper to the occasion when we should have looked for fire. But Peter perhaps refers to their slander, "that it was nothing but new wine," a liquor; and certainly the metaphor was frequently used by Christ (John 7:39; Acts 1:5). Further, this quality falls well within the graces here given —(a) Prophecy, likened by the great prophet (Deuteronomy 32:2) to the "dew falling upon the herbs."(b) Invocation, which is the pouring out of prayer, and of the very heart in prayer,(2) The quantity. Pouring is a sign of plenty. The Spirit had been given before but never with such a largess; sprinkled but not poured.(3) Pouring tells us that the Spirit came not of Himself, not till He was thus poured out; that so order might be kept in Him, and we by Him taught to keep it, i.e., not to start out till "we be sent, not to leak or run over, but stay till we be poured out."(4) Pouring is not as the running of a spout, but the voluntary act of a voluntary agent who has the vessel in his hand, and pours or not at will, and when he pours strikes not out the head of the vessel and let all go, bug moderates his pouring. So here the Spirit dispenses.

(a)To divers parties,

(b)divers gifts,

(c)in divers degrees.

3. On whom this pouring is.(1) Flesh, i.e., men. But we are spirit as well as flesh. Yes, but to magnify His mercy the more that part is chosen which seems farthest removed (Isaiah 40:6; Romans 8:3).(2) Upon this flesh. But had not "into" been better? The Spirit is given both ways. At Christ's baptism the dove came "upon Him"; at His resurrection, "He breathed into" them. And so He has parted His sacraments — baptism is upon us, the Eucharist enters into us. But both come to one. If it be poured on it soaks in; if it be breathed in it works forth. But it is "upon" here —(a) That we may know that the graces of the Spirit are from without, and grow not from our flesh; and not only from without but "from above, from the Father of lights."(b) Because "upon" is the preposition proper to initiation into any new office, as in the case of anointing, investing with a robe, imposition of hands, etc.(c) To inure the apostles to the preposition, which so many hate. No "super," no superiority; "the right hands of fellowship," if you will, but no imposition of them; if "super" then "sub" follows; and no "sub" with those who submit neither head nor spirit to any.(3) Upon all flesh. None is excluded — no sex, age, condition, nation. Yet not promiscuously; the text limits the promise to such as will be "My servants," i.e., as will "believe and be baptized." This gives them the capacity, makes them vessels meet to receive the effusion, all which effectually exclude unbelievers and counterfeit Christians.

II. THE END WHERETO. The Spirit is given to many ends, but one last — the salvation of mankind. Mankind was on the point to perish, and the Spirit was poured as a precious balm to recover and save it.

1. Means to that end. That men may be saved they are to call on the name of the Lord; that they may call to purpose they are to be called on to it, and directed in it by prophesying.(1) Prophecy stands first, for without that the people must needs perish (Proverbs 29:18; Isaiah 32:14, 15). Not, however, in the sense of foretelling, but preaching (Romans 10:13-15), as Peter prophesied here. But is this gift poured upon all flesh? No! It is not promised that all God's sons and servants shall prophesy; for there must be some to be prophesied to. "All flesh" may not be cut into tongues; some must be left for ears. Else a Cyclopean Church would grow upon us, where all were speakers and none hearers.(2) How then shall the Spirit be poured out upon all flesh? The spirit of prophecy is not all God's Spirit. If that be upon some, the spirit of grace and of supplication (Zechariah 12:10) is upon the rest.

2. The end itself — Salvation.

(Bp. Andrewes.)

I. THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE DISPENSATION OF THE HOLY GHOST. By the dispensation of the Holy Ghost we mean a certain period during which the operations of the Holy Ghost are vouchsafed in a peculiar manner, as contrasted with other ages. Now, that such a dispensation was to be looked for is perfectly clear from the passage before us. We are distinctly told that there shall be a particular time, called the last days, when God will pour out the Spirit upon all flesh. The Same truth is necessarily implied in the Lord's own promise, "It is expedient for you that I go away," etc. So again with the remarkable statement, "The Holy Ghost was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified." Of this dispensation the Day of Pentecost was the commencement, for which there are two reasons.

1. The first is seen in the covenant transaction between the Father and the Sen. The .Father covenanting to give the Son a people, and all that was needful for their salvation, on condition that the Son fulfilled the law of works. The law of works was never abrogated; it pressed completely and eternally on man, or on man's representative. Christ was that representative, and the condition was absolute that He should fulfil the law, or salvation never could visit man's lost race. But salvation is dependent on the gift of the Spirit of God. The first effect of the great covenant work, therefore, must be the gift of the Spirit. Till that was accomplished, Christ had no claim upon the Father for the gift of the Spirit. Hence we read, "The Holy Ghost was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified."

2. It relates to the work that the Holy Ghost himself had to do. "He shall glorify Me," said Jesus, "for He shall take of Mine and shall show it unto you." Now, the things of Christ are the very things He accomplished on earth, whereby He purchased that Spirit. However the Holy Ghost might in olden times have given a sort of foretaste and instalment of what was to result from the finished work of Christ it was not until that work was accomplished, either that the Father was disposed to give, or Christ entitled to claim the Spirit, or that the Holy Spirit had the materials to work with, which He now employs for the enrichment of the soul, the introduction of it into union with Jesus, and its final exaltation into everlasting glory.

II. THE CHARACTER OF THE OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY GHOST.

1. In regard to the operations of the Holy Ghost during this dispensation generally, we have an illustration in our text, "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh." Another illustration is, "I will open rivers in dry places." Look at the pouring out of the streams from heaven when the rain comes down, how varied in its measure and its operation! Sometimes it comes down in a gentle, soft, tiny shower. Then again, the windows of heaven seemed to be opened, and we have a deluge. Or trace the course of a river through the valley. Now it is reduced to a small, silvery thread, and then it opens out, expands, overflows its banks, and irrigates the country all round. Then it narrows itself, and you have the silvery thread again; but the stream still runs on. The difference is in the measurement, degree, and expansion. Now what has been the fact in regard to the Holy Ghost under this dispensation? Has it not been precisely that which is illustrated by a river? Look back to the very commencement of it on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Ghost came down on the twelve, and three thousand were added to the Church. There the river was broad and expansive, the shower coming down from heaven copiously. Shortly after that we have two thousand more. Then we read no more of this kind of thing — the river narrows. "Some believed the word spoken, and some believed not"; "some received the Holy Ghost, and some blasphemed." And so it went on for a considerable time, varying in degree and expanse, till the time of the Dark Ages. Then it ran like a little silvery thread; the mass of the world was overrun with darkness, and evil and superstition. Still, in some valleys and out-of-the-way places, we know that the work of the Spirit of God was progressing. The river never ceased to flow, however narrow it was. Thus it ran on for some centuries; and what followed? The great Reformation. The river then broke out into an immense expanse, overflowed the country all around, and irrigated the neighbourhood. Then again did the river condense, and then came the time of the Puritans; a mighty movement there was, and multitudes were gathered into the fold of Christ. Again did this genial shower apparently cease, or the river narrowed, and so it continued for some time. But once more did the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit break out in the days of Whitfield and Wesley, and Venn and Newton; there was a mighty outpouring of the grace of God, and multitudes were gathered into the Church. The river narrowed again, but it has gathered strength once more, and now we stand amazed at what the Lord is doing at home and abroad.

2. In regard to His particular operations as contrasted with those of former times; under this dispensation, and the legal dispensation. The dispensation of the law closed at the ascension. That lasted till Christ had fulfilled all its requirements when He said, "It is finished," and brought in an everlasting righteousness, and made an end of transgression. Now, this being the case, we should expect to find that the experience of holy men up to that very time was exceedingly distinct from that of holy men after that time. So Paul forcibly contrasts the Spirit of adoption with the spirit of bondage, and says, "But we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Now, did any one under the Old Testament ever cry "Abba, Father"? There is no question that they knew God as God, as Jehovah, as Almighty; but they did not know God as Father. Until humanity had been consecrated by the indwelling of Deity — until the Son of God had taken to His nature humanity, and invested that humanity with power, and made it a son with Himself — no other human being could become a son. The sonship was dependent upon Christ coming into the world; and when He came and accomplished His great work the Spirit of God then came, and the Spirit of adoption with it. Hence, again, "The Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." Where did they have that assurance under the Old Testament? Hence, again, "The earnest of our inheritance"; after we have believed, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. Where was that the case under the Old Testament? Did it never strike you, in examining the experience of Old Testament saints, what terror and alarm they displayed in regard to death? There is another point, viz., that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is spoken of under this dispensation as a damning sin, because in proportion to the privileges is the responsibility and condemnation. A man sins against the Father, and blasphemes; there is the blood of Christ to blot it out: a man sins against the Son, and blasphemes; there is the work of the Holy Ghost to bring him to repentance: a man sins against the Holy ,Ghost, and he puts away the only power whereby the soul can be made penitent and brought back to Jesus.

III. THE CLOSE OF THE DISPENSATION. At the end of the prophecy we have the close of the dispensation, "I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke." These are the same signs that are spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 24. and Luke 22. I do not mean to say that the Holy Ghost's operations will not continue through all eternity; they unquestionably will. All holiness in the creature for ever and ever must depend upon the sanctifying operations of the Holy Ghost. But as soon as the. body of Jesus shall be quite complete, and the bride formed in her integrity, the work of the Holy Ghost will be done. But that runs on necessarily to the very advent of Christ, for we cannot exclude the glorification of the bodies of His people. Christ is glorified in His body, and every one of His mystical body must be like Him; but He changes them by the power of the Holy Ghost (Romans 8.). When that shall be done, that will be the end of the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. The Church will then be the monument of the eternal love of the Father, of the all-sufficient, perfect work of Jesus, and of the life-giving, sanctifying, and God-glorifying operations of the Holy Spirit.

(Capel Molyneux, B. A.)

I. THE PERIOD OF THE NEW DISPENSATION. — "In the last days," an expression which covers an indefinite length of time. It also marks a "new departure" in the world's affairs. Up to this all had been preparatory, and the privileges of God's people only partially apprehended. It is to end in "the notable day of the Lord" which will wind up one portion of Christ's administration.

II. THE UNIVERSALITY OF ITS PRIVILEGES. The Spirit is given to all mankind. This discloses the rationale of Christian missions. He is already where missionaries desire to be. This also discloses the grounds of confidence for those who seek the salvation of the young, for the Spirit is already graciously working before they can grasp the simplest truths of the gospel. The text proceeds to apply this principle particularly to men and women, old and young, and all classes of society are thus reached again, and the great privileges of the gospel placed within the reach of every class. This universality is a great rebuke to the vanity which sets up castes and distinctions.

III. THE SPIRTUAL EQUALITY WHICH MARKS IT. The gift of the spirit is bestowed —

1. On women as well as men. "Your sons and your daughters," etc. In heathenism woman has generally been oppressed. Under Judaism she had but partial privileges. Miriam, Deborah, etc., were exceptions which with other things seemed to indicate that woman was on her way to her true position. But under Christianity she attains equality with man (Galatians 3:28).

2. On the young as well as the old. Many forms of heathenism have neglected the aged, and ill-treated parents advanced in years; Christianity regards them with veneration. Equally distinctive of Christianity is the practical recognition of the .piety of childhood.

3. On servants as well as on masters. In Christianity there is no difference between bond and free.

IV. IT IS A PERIOD OF WAITING. It is to continue till "the notable day of the Lord." During this period the Church waits for the Lord's craning, and for the final subjection of all. The end waited for will be marked by prodigies. There were wonders when Christ first came, there will be greater when He comes the second time.

V. IT IS DISTINGUISHED BY A GLORIOUS EVANGEL. (verse 21). Here we have —

1. A recognition of man's great need.

2. An offer made on a condition which is natural. "Whosoever shall call." Sin causes misery, and misery a cry for help.

3. A sure promise of salvation.

(W. Hudson.)

The events of this chapter are the fulfilment of the promise of cur Saviour in Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4. But Peter recognises here the fulfilment of an earlier promise (ver. 16). The same Spirit which spake in the tongues of the apostles, and wrought effectually in the hearts of their hearers also spake by the prophets. The promise was thus fulfilled, but not exhausted; it was but the beginning of that work of preaching, and that mighty answering work in men's hearts of which the Holy Spirit was just as much the life and the secret as of the wonders of Pentecost.

I. THE PROMISE AND ITS FULFILMENT.

1. "Promise," is one of the most distinguished features of this Book; so that if you want to contrast in the strongest way the Scriptures with the sacred books of other nations you might pitch upon this and say, "The Scriptures are the Book of God's promises to men." And "promise," you know also, is the main link of human life and society. "I promise to pay" — if the breath of suspicion could dim those words upon a thin strip of paper the whole fabric of commerce and social life would be shaken. The bride and the bridegroom stand side by side in God's house, and when the manly "I will" has been echoed by the softer but not less earnest and serious "I will" what has happened? Two lives which a few minutes ago were separated are now bound together, "until death do them part." The little child says, "Promise father, promise mother," and when the father or the mother has promised the little child soon learns to know that it has a hold that cannot be broken. Well, then, when we say that the Bible is the Book of God's promises, we mean that God has come down into the circle of human duty; that you can go and present a cheque payable at demand on the treasury of infinite mercy and almighty power; that the child of God can go to God and say, "My Father, Thou hast promised, now, therefore, do as Thou hast said." There is a bond between the Eternal God and the feeblest soul that trusts Him, stronger than the bond which holds our world to its central sun. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word shall not pass away.

2. We cannot fix the exact date of this promise of Joel; but we gather from the fact that Amos, in the reign of King Uzziah, begins by a quotation from Joel that Joel was an older prophet. The substance of his prophecy had been, in a sense, anticipated perhaps eight hundred years or more by Moses, when he said, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would pour out His Spirit upon them"; but to Joe! was given the high honour of announcing that so it should be, that God was going to answer that prayer. A generation later we find the promise beautifully and bountifully enlarged by Isaiah (Isaiah 44:3-5); but to Joel seems to have been given this signal honour to be the first to sound out sweet and clear this note of promise. Perhaps eight hundred years passed away, and that promise stood there upon the page in what was becoming a dead language, unfulfilled and unexplained — as long as from the days of William the Conqueror to the days of Queen Victoria — and the unbeliever could point to it and say, "What do you make of that? What is the value of a promise that is never accomplished, a prophecy that the centuries bring no nearer to fulfilment?" Generations came and went, and prophets greater than Joel rose up, fulfilled their course, and departed. Great religious revolutions, reforms, revivals took place, then they were followed by fresh outbursts of irreligion, fresh victories of unbelief and profligacy, and atheism. Alas! the whole structure seems to have broken down. But all this meant no delay, no unfaithfulness. In the fulness of time Peter was able to point to tiffs glorious fulfilment, and to say, "Jesus, whom you have crucified, being by the right hand of God exalted, hath shed forth this which you now see and hear — 'this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.'"

3. And so, across the long ages God reaches out the closed hand of promise, filled with sealed-up blessings to keep faith from fainting, to encourage patience and hope. Then, just at the appointed moment, when the dial points, when the hour of His purpose strikes, He opens it, and gives a fresh starting point for new faith. Unfulfilled prophecy Peter compares to a light shining in a dark place, a light that tries our eyes almost as much as it enlightens them — we pore in vain over the dimly-illuminated truth. The fulfilled word the same apostle compares to the sunrise, the dawn of the day, and the rising of the day-star. Time and experience at the appointed hour set their seal to the declaration that God is true.

4. Let me say a word to my younger friends. Let me urge you to give great attention to this practiced evidence of the truth and inspiration of God's Word, which you may find in the actual fulfilment of God's promises. A distinct prediction pointing for hundreds of years to an event that could not be foreseen by mere human reasoning, and then the fulfilment in God's providence of that prediction betokens a power above and behind and within man. Now is not this perfectly plain, that the Old Testament Scriptures did claim to pledge God to these two things — viz., the sending of a Saviour in whom all nations should be blessed, and the bestowment upon all flesh of His Holy Spirit? The New Testament is just the record of the fulfilment of those two promises; and so is the whole history of the Church.

II. GOD IS FULFILLING HIS PROMISE TO-DAY. Not that we see such proofs as we here read of; our senses are not amazed with the wonders like those of the days of Pentecost; but do not forget that one soul really converted to God is just as much the work of the Holy Spirit as one thousand or three thousand. To pray the prayer of faith; to understand God's truth; to have in reality the temper of humility, penitence, and unreserved consecration; these are just as truly the gifts of the Holy Spirit as the tongues of fire and all the miracles that followed. I am sometimes afraid that we may offer prayers for the fulfilment of this very promise, which are rather the prayers of unbelief than the prayers of faith. Do we not err often in our expectations of the limits in which God will fulfil His promise? His promise is so wide, taking in the whole Church and all mankind; it is so far-reaching, running down the whole channel of human history, that we have no business to expect it to be exhausted in our time, in our nation, in our parish; and yet if it be not, do not we sometimes pray as if God were forgetting His promise, or were unfaithful to it? Thus we dishonour God and discourage our brethren and ourselves. I do not for a moment think we ought to shut our eyes to any of the facts that are around us, even the darkest, or our ears to the bitter cry that may rise from the great city, or from the lonely village; but do not let us shut our eyes, either, to what God is doing amongst us. If we look only at the tendencies of human nature, only at the set and tide and drift of events, it is pretty easy to make a dark forecast, easy to say that the signs of the times denote the prevalence and triumph of those masterly evils, superstition, atheism, anarchy — that is, if you leave out of sight God's promise and God's Spirit. But that is just what you must not do, and have no right to do. We are crying with the prophet, "Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, and that the mountains would flow down at Thy presence." But when He only touches the hills and they smoke — that is the finger of God. Perhaps we are looking for the earthquake, the fire, the tempest; but we fail, it may be, to hear the "still, small voice"; yet that is the voice of God's Spirit. Whence comes the gentle, quiet, but yet mighty and irresistible outburst and continual growth of missionary zeal and missionary labour and missionary sacrifice, which is carrying the gospel from year to year more completely into the most central fortresses of heathenism? Zeal and labour, which have made the Bible already a known book in all the leading languages of the world — what is this? Is not this the very breath and presence of God's Spirit? Then, in what we call the outside world, there are great waves of sympathy with this Christian work; and whence come they but from the contagion of Christian love and faith and hope, the very breath of God's Spirit?

III. GOD WILL FULFIL HIS PROMISE. "The last days" are a wide margin. It is not for us to measure how far that season of fulfilment may stretch out, or grow weary or unbelieving because of its stretching out longer than we expect. When that morning broke over the waters of Galilee, and the disciples looked weary and sadly at one another and at their dripping and empty nets, supposing one had said to them, "Friends, in less than half-an-hour that empty net will be so full that you won't be able to draw it on board" — why, they would have said, "If God would send an angel from heaven to be our fisherman perhaps it might be so." But who is that walking on the shore? A stranger? Hark! He speaks. "Cast on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find." If it had not been for the night of toil, do you think there would have been any morning of joy? No. It is not for us, to say how long the night of toil is to be. We serve the same Master, our faith rests upon the same promise; we have the same work, and we are responsible for toil, for faithfulness, for prayer, for patience, not for results; the results are God's. Can you say, "I believe in the Holy Ghost?" Why, then, fear not, doubt not. Let us bring to God's treasury not the mere tithes of corn and wine and gold and silver, but that which will make all these seem just little gifts thrown in by the way — the tithes, the first-fruits of consecrated hearts, and hallowed lives, and affections aglow with the love of Christ, and then we may prove Him and see if He will not pour out a blessing so that there should not be room to contain.

(E. B. Conder, D. D.)

There are two gifts or faculties which every one who would be a power among their fellows must do their utmost to cultivate. The first is the power of insight into the circumstances of their own time and place. The second is the power of foresight. After we have convinced ourselves of how and what things are, we shall then try to see what they may become; how and to what extent they may be changed for the better. To see the world as it is, is only to convince ourselves that it is very different from what it ought to be. To begin with ourselves. No true Christian can be contented with his present spiritual condition. Like St. Paul, the more we know of ourselves the more reason shall we have to confess that "we have not already attained, neither are already made perfect." And if the fact is true of ourselves, it is no less true of the men and things around us. We learn that the lives and circumstances of others stand in need of more or less improvement. Let us notice how the text brings these thoughts before us. The apostles had been very intimate with Jesus. The standard of life inculcated by Him was an extremely lofty one; to have had that standard constantly before them must have shown the disciples how terribly everything around them fell short of it. But merely to see this great gulf, this awful difference, might lead them to despair. How was the chasm to be bridged? How was the actual to be made the ideal? It will help us to answer this question if we remember that St. Peter uttered the words of the text on the very day on which God poured out upon the apostles the great gift of His Holy Spirit. They had now received the promised gift, a new energy, a new life, the spirit of truth, the spirit of love. The spirit of truth put everything in its true light. They saw how dark, how sad, how imperfect, how sin-stained was life and conduct. Bat the spirit of love came with the spirit of truth, and impelled them at once to try to rectify what needed alteration. Notice, the method they employed was the same as that of their Master — first to teach, and then to put their teaching into practice. And with what sort of reception were they met? With very much the same kind that has generally fallen to the lot of the reformer. Men listened to them, and then derided them. They were regarded as idle visionaries, as wild and foolish dreamers. St. Peter steps forward as the apologist of his brethren. The present was but witnessing the fulfilment of an ancient Jewish prophet's prediction. Drunk the apostles were not — mere dreamers, mere visionaries they were not. But they had dreamt a dream, and seen a vision. They saw things as they were, and as they might be. They saw that to the great. majority of their fellow countrymen religion was little better than a hollow mockery; something almost wholly external, and having little connection with their lives and conduct. This they saw, but they also saw a vision and dreamt a dream of a better day, Of a brighter, holier, and happier, future, of a more real religious tone, of a higher and nobler morality. They were not mere dreamers, mere visionaries — the dream and the vision were useful only as revelations of an ideal which they must endeavour to realise. To receive a vision of better things was only a call to turn the vision into a reality. The gift of insight issued in the call to repentance; the gift of foresight was the summons to work. It may have been the lot of some of us to have seen a vision made a reality; we may even have had the blessing and privilege to have been in some small degree instrumental in its realisation. We may have known one who was formerly intemperate, now living a sober life; one formerly impure, now feeling from experience the truth of the words, "Blessed" — that is, happy — "are the pure in heart"; one formerly dishonest, now getting his or her living by hard and honest labour, and able to look the world in the face. Yet if some little has been done, the unaccomplished is almost beyond measure. We must try to realise what humanity was meant to be, what Jesus would have it to be. The words of the old prophet can never be too often in our ears, "I will make a man more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir." To have realised that that awful threat was becoming verily the promise of a blessing, is in itself to have seen a vision. Man is indeed precious; each human soul, each human heart and character is infinitely precious in God's sight, for the Lord Jesus died to save it.

(W. E. Chadwick, M. A.)

Your young men shall see visions
(missionary sermon): —

1. Many visions have led to the most disastrous results. When ,Napoleon had a vision of a universal monarchy over which he should preside, he drenched the lands in blood. Many visions have been wretchedly delusive. Men have dreamed of finding the fairy pleasure in the dark forest of sin. Many dreams have been enervating. Many pass all their days building castles in the air. With fine capacities they have drivelled away existence: as their theory of life was born of smoke, so the result of their lives has been a cloud.

2. For all this, good and grand visions are not unknown which came from the excellent glory, and which, when young or old men have seen them, have filled them with wisdom, and grace, and holiness. Such visions are given to men whose eyes have been illumined by the Holy Spirit.

3. All Divine things, when they first come to men from the Lord, are as visions, because man is so little prepared to believe God's thoughts and ways, that he cannot think them to be real. They appear to us to be too great, too good to be real. It must be so while Jehovah's ways are higher than oar ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts. We must take care that we do not neglect heavenly monitions through fear of being considered visionary; we must not be staggered even by the dread of being styled fanatical, for to stifle a thought from God is no mean sin.

4. How much of good in this world would have been lost if good men had quenched the first half-fashioned thoughts which have flitted before them. Suppose Luther had taken the advice of his teacher when he said to him, "Go thy way, silly monk! and pray God, and if it be His will He will reform the abuses of this Church, but what hast thou to do with it?" And George Fox, that most eminent of dreamers, where had been all the testimonies for a spiritual religion, all the holy influences for benevolence, for peace, for anti-slavery, which have streamed upon this world through the agency of the Society of Friends, if the wild Quaker had been content to let his impressions come and go and be forgotten? These things,which nowadays are ordinary Christian doctrines, were considered in his day to be but the prattle of fanatics; even as the reforms which some of us shall live to see are denounced as revolutionary, or ridiculed as Utopian.

5. Many suggestions which come from God to men, are not so much visions to them as they are to the outside world. And need we wonder at this? Why, men of science and art have to endure the same ordeal. Stephenson declares that he will make a machine which will run without horse-power, at the rate of twelve miles an hour — and how the Tory benches of the House of Commons roared at the man as a born fool!

6. It too, have seen a vision. I have seen missionary spirit in England, awakened, and revived. I have seen — the wish was father to the sight — the ardour of our first; missionary days return.

I. LET US JUSTIFY OUR VISION. That which we have dreamed of is —

1. Evidently needed. There is a general flagging in missionary interest; and albeit that the funds may not much have fallen off, yet the annual recurrence of a debt, together with other matters, goes to show that missionary zeal needs rekindling. This results partly from the fact that the novelty of the thing has gone off, and partly because we have had few very startling incidents of ]ate to evoke a display of enthusiasm. That the missionary fire exists is certain, for the heart of the Church is alive; but it is slumbering, somehow. If there be any one point in which the Christian Church ought to keep its fervour at a white heat, it is concerning missions. How can we expect in such an enterprise that we shall ever succeed if any of our strength be left unused? Depend upon it, that the flagging of zeal at home acts like a canker abroad, and when the heart of Christianity in England does not throb vigorously, every single limb of the missionary body feels the decline.

2. It is very possible that it may be realised. It is not a thing too hard to look for. It is far harder surely to establish missions than to revive them. If we will but inquire into the causes of decline we shall not find them, I think, to be very deep, nor to be difficult of remedy. Lovingly correcting errors, carefully removing excrescences, and boldly advancing, the stone shall be rolled away from the sepulchre before we reach it, or if not, in God's name, and by His strength, we will roll it away ourselves.

3. It is very probable; for so it always has been. If ever God's Church has declined for a little while, unexpectedly there has been yielded a season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. He is great at surprises: His best wine last amazes us all. When the devil is most secure upon his throne, then God sprints a mine, and blows his empire into atoms.

4. It is solemnly required of us. What are our personal obligations to the Crucified? Did our Saviour slumber in His life-work? Was He tardy in His service for our redemption? Then might we grow lax. But He claims of us, according to our measure, the same steadfastness of resolve, and perseverance of purpose, and sacrifice of self.

II. LET US PROCEED TO ELABORATE THE VISION. My dream seemed to take this shape.

1. In order that missionary work should be reformed, revived, and carried on with energy and with hope of success, it seemed necessary that especially among our young members there should be a revival of intense and earnest prayer, and anxious sympathy with the missionary work. The power of prayer can never be overrated. They who cannot serve God by preaching, need not regret it if they can be mighty in prayer. The true strength of the Church lies there. If a man can but pray, he can do anything. He that knows how to overcome the Lord in prayer, has heaven and earth at his disposal.

2. Next, if our young men who see visions will follow up their prayers with practical effort, then we shall see in our Churches a larger and more efficient staff of collectors and contributors. We should then find men who would give of their substance as a matter of principle, so that the kingdom of Christ should never have an empty exchequer.

3. Up till now my dream has been reasonable, you will say. I will now be more visionary. If we were all praying for missions, and all giving for their support, it might be very well asked of us, "What do ye more than others?" for what Romanist is there who is not zealous for the spread of his religion? What heathen is there who does not give quite as much as any of us give, ay, and a great deal more than we give, to his superstitions? But, supposing next to this, that there should be a number of young men who have been trained in the same sanctuary, nurtured in the same Church, who should meet together and say to one another, "Now, we are in business, and God is prospering us, but still we trust we are never going to permit ourselves to be swallowed up in a mere worldly way of living; now, what ought we to do for missions?" And suppose the inquiry should be put, "Is there one amongst us who could devote himself to go and teach the heathen for us? As we, most of us, may not have the ability, or do not feel called to the work, is there one out of twelve of us young men who feels called to go?" Let us make it a matter of prayer, and when the Holy Ghost saith, "Separate So-and-So to the work," then we, the other eleven who remain', will say to him, "Now, brother, you cannot stop at home to make your fortune; you are now giving yourself up to a very arduous enterprise, and we will support you; you go down into the pit, we will hold the rope, and bear the expense among ourselves." I wish we had such godly clubs as these. Why, on such a plan as that, I should think, they would give a hundred times as much as ever they are likely to give to an impersonal society, or to a man whose name they only know, but whose face they never saw.

4. Further, I have dreamed also that there would spring up in our Churches a very large number of young men who would count it to be the very highest ambition to give themselves up to the work of Jesus Christ abroad, and who will say, "The missionary society is in debt, and cannot take us; very well, send me out, and let me exercise my faith in God, only having this for my comfort, that you will stand at my back and give me what you can, while I will only draw upon you for what "I cannot get for myself." I set Paul before you, young men. He was a tent-maker, and he earned his own living. Are there no occupations in these days by which a man may earn his living, and yet preach the gospel? Are there not to be found physicians who, in China and in India, would not only procure a subsistence, but much more, and might proclaim the gospel at the same time? But are there no other occupations? I find men going out to India by scores, to make their fortunes, and ruin their constitutions. Have we no young men and women who will preach the gospel, intending to use their commercial pursuits as a means of introduction and support?

III. THE REALISATION OF THIS VISION? It must be —

1. By each individual's own personal piety mounting to the very highest degree of elevation. If holy work be a mere diversion for your leisure moments, you will do nothing; you must make a solemn occupation of it. When the Christian Church glows in this fashion, it will swell with an intense heat like a volcano, whose tremendous furnaces cannot be contained within itself, but its sides begin to move and bulge, and then after a rumbling and a heaving, a mighty sheet of fire shoots right up to heaven, and afterwards streams of flaming lava run from its red lips down, burning their way along the plain beneath. Oh! to get such a fire for God's cause into the heart of the Christian Church, till she began to heave and throb with unquenchable emotion, and then a mighty sheet of the fire-prayer should go up towards heaven, and afterwards the burning lava of her all-conquering zeal should flow over all lands.

2. By young men and young women feeding the flame of their zeal with greater information as to the condition of the world in reference to our mission-work. You may not have time to get through it all, but if you read some of it, I think you will feel a great accession to your zeal.

3. By keeping yourselves right in this matter by constant, energetic efforts in connection with works at home. Those who do not serve God at home, are of no use anywhere. It is all very well to talk about what you would do if you could speak to the Hindoos. You will be of no use whatever in Calcutta, unless you are of use in Poplar or Bermondsey. The human mind is the same everywhere. See what you can do for Jesus Christ in the shop, and in that little Bible-class of which you are a member. Rest assured that no missionary ardour really burns in the breast of that man who does not love the souls of those who live in the same house and neighbourhood.

4. But oh! do make sure that you are saved yourselves. Do make sure that you yourselves know the Christ whom you profess to teach. That missionary-box, what is it but an infamous sham if you put into it your offering, but withhold your heart?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

(a sermon to young men): — There are two periods in human life to which dreams and visions belong — dreams and visions, at least, of any persistence and depth. Young men naturally see visions, and old men dream dreams. This visionary power is not to be neglected or thought lightly of. It is a beneficent power. It feeds practical efficiency. All the great enterprises we have were once visions in the brain of some man or men. It is the mighty dreamers who have become the great doers. In the listless, heavy eye of Chalmers there often seemed no power of volition. He was brooding over his visions; yet for all this brooding — nay, largely by virtue of it — he moved men, and swayed his time as no contemporary Scotchman did. It is the enthusiasm begotten in the region of visions that ultimately moves the machinery of the world.

I. VISIONS THAT DO NOT COME FROM CHRIST.

1. There are visions that sense brings us, very bright and seductive at times. They are often dangerous, but we do not know that they are so, because we love the strong colouring in which they are put before us. The force of youthful life tends to the outward and sensible, and the sensible sometimes lowers into the sensual. As you love your souls, as you love purity, as you fear God and your conscience, put these dreams of the flesh away from you in whatsoever form they come.

2. Mammon again paints visions for a young man, and, of course, with unusual clearness and persistence in a commercial community like this of ours. It is foolish to speak disparagingly of money. It is a power which, wisely wielded, has almost no limits in its beneficence. But it is a very dangerous thing. Therefore, if you feel tempted to dream of bank-notes and shares and big speculations, to make these your visions, I beseech you for the sake of your higher nature to beware. They say that money nowadays can command anything, can accomplish wonders. It is quite true; but the most wonderful thing that it does is to metallise a human soul.

3. Closely allied to the dreams which Mammon weaves for us are the visions of success in life. But they are distinct. There are men who are not avaricious, and yet are ambitious; and a young man insensible for the most part to bank-notes may long for distinction. He has brain force and nerve force, which give him a good hope of rising. Granting that such an ambition can be honourably pursued, is it fit to be our vision? What is the typical successful man generally like — tender, scrupulous, sympathetic? Is he true, large-hearted? I don't think so.

4. Many of us may have had visions of intellectual eminence, and these are sometimes very attractive. We dream of laying in stores of information, of mastering this subject or that. Or, it may be, we have become absorbed in social questions, in politics, in art. We feel our faculties expanding, and delight in their exercise. Well, those visions are high and fair, but again, are they the best? Have they power to lift our lives, to fill them to the very end? Do they bring light and healing in trouble or sorrow?

5. Then there are visions of domestic happiness. Such dreams rise before our minds if we have known what love and truth are. But is this sufficient? Are these best things of earth good enough for us? They are legitimate, of course, but not lasting.

II. THE INSPIRED VISIONS.

1. Christ brings visions of purity. Until the world has blinded a young man's eyes so that he cannot see, there are now and then flitting before him images of unearthly purity. An unflecked garment in which to clothe the soul he feels is the most princely possession. Had he only singleness of eye, a nature true at the core, a mirror of thought from which the blots of foul fancy were all away, his heart would be strong. Christ comes to tell him that this purity which he sees glimpses of is no mere fancy, but a celestial vision which has had an embodiment on earth, one which may have it again.

2. Christ brings visions of strength and heroism. Nothing is fairer to dream of than the power to get out of ourselves and rise to higher ranges of courage and resolve. Christ brings before us a vision of exalted manhood, a dream of daring and doing what average men cannot do. Heroism is that quality of the soul by virtue of which a man can carry the movements of his thought and will away from the touch of mean, self-degrading motives, so that people cannot measure his actions by the standard of every-day life — by virtue of which a man can stand alone against the world, if need be, as Christ Himself stood alone against the world. This is a faculty Christ Himself gives to men.

3. But our better dreams have more than strength and manhood in them; they have self-conquest, self-denial. Amid the vulgar contentment and self-seeking of society, we sometimes envy a life like that of Livingstone, given for Africa and the slaves. But what will give to the faint outline of these dreams substance and shape? The approach of Christ will. He makes cross-bearing and the strain of the higher service an easy thing, so that those inspired by Him think it unnatural when they have not some difficulties for His sake to meet, some cross for His sake to bear.

4. Another vision that sometimes visits a young man is the vision of usefulness — the thought of exerting a wide, beneficent influence. When we do good we find we are blessed. But no man can rightly do good until Christ has taught him. Christ gives us ends, methods, power.

5. We dream of the future — not a future here merely, by beyond, elsewhere. We refuse to stop short at the barriers earth and time erect. Our visions project themselves past these. Such visions often get very faint as men grow older, and sometimes die away altogether. Thoughts that once soared towards the setting sun come down to earth like a bird grown weary of the wing. It is Christ alone who gives permanence to such visions. We get from Him sudden flashes of the glory of the new Jerusalem. He brings immortality to light in our hearts.

(J. F. Ewing, M. A.)

The vision of a pure England, of a temperate England, of an England without grinding poverty, heartrending distress, and free from crimes; the very mention of which make one's blood run cold, is a noble vision, Need it remain altogether a vision? Was the vision of the abolition of slavery in North America allowed to remain a vision? Was the vision of a system of universal education for our own nation allowed to remain a vision? Think again of the visions of the reformer, the scientist, the engineer — how many of these visions have been realised! Faith, energy, patience, and perseverance have wrought wonders. Why should not our visions also be realised? What is required is that we claim for ourselves a fuller measure of God's Holy Spirit — the spirit of love, hope, self-sacrifice, whereby we shall attain the substance of the things we hope for, and shall witness, possess, and enjoy the evidence of things as yet unseen by the natural man, but awaiting in all their glory to be revealed among us.

(W. E. Chadwick, M. A.)

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