THE PENTECOSTAL ATTESTATION.
We remark that Pentecost is the final, indispensable and standing attestation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and of the truth of all His declarations. In other words, the gift of the Paraclete, not merely as a solitary event, but as a perpetual dispensation of grace and power, is absolutely necessary to the perfection of the Christian evidences. The resurrection of Christ, according to Paul in I Cor. xv. and all Christian apologists, is the fundamental proof of His divine mission. It is my purpose to show that this greatest miracle, taken by itself as an isolated event, without the standing and perpetual attestation of the Pentecostal dispensation as a predicted sequence, would have been insufficient for the establishment of Christianity against the universal opposition of Jews and Gentiles, including ten imperial edicts of persecution and extermination beginning with Nero, A. D. 64, and ending with Diocletian, A. D. 313. Much less would it have been sufficient to perpetuate the gospel eighteen hundred years as a system dominating the world's best thought and keeping in advance of the progress of the ages. We mean to say that the empty tomb without the tongues of fire descending from generation to generation on Spirit-baptized believers would have been inadequate to the permanent enthronement of Christianity over mankind. If "another Comforter" had not succeeded Christ, His mission, with all His miracles, including His victory over the tomb, would have been a failure, and His sermons and parables would long since have been forgotten. This idea is beautifully expressed in the first verse and the last of President W. F. Warren's hymn.
"I worship Thee, O Holy Ghost,
I love to worship Thee;
My risen Lord for aye were lost
But for Thy company.
"I worship Thee, O Holy Ghost,
I love to worship Thee;
With Thee each day is Pentecost,
Each night nativity."
If the Paraclete had come to testify of Himself and to do an independent work irrespective of Christ, His mission would not have conserved the memory of Christ, but would have eclipsed it. If He had come in the name of the Father to maintain the meagre unity of God in the bare and simple sense taught by so called liberal Christianity, the outcome would have been the final oblivion of Jesus Christ following the denial of everything supernatural in His birth and ministry.
But He proceeded from the Father and the Son specially charged with the office of testifying of the Son, yea, of glorifying Him, not only in the gospel record, which He should inspire, and in the doctrines to be unfolded in apostolic sermons and epistles, but by His indwelling presence in the consciousness of believers, revealing Christ in them in a manner wholly indescribable but blessedly real and certain. We do not wonder at the tenacity with which western Christianity has insisted on the "Filioque" (and from the Son) in the creed respecting the procession of the Holy Ghost. This enlargement of the creed not only conserves the dignity of the Son of God and harmonizes with His Trinitarian address in John xiv. -xvi. and with other texts in which the Paraclete is called the "Spirit of Christ" (Rom. viii. 9), the "Spirit of Jesus" (Acts xvi. 7, Revised Version) and "Christ" (Eph. iii. 17), but it is confirmed by the experience of all who testify that the Comforter "has taken up His lasting abode in their hearts." (Alford). These rejoice in a wonderful magnifying of Christ and in an inexpressible increase of love to Him. If troubled before by doubts of His divinity, their doubts are forever dispelled, and "in the Holy Spirit" they gladly and spontaneously say, "Jesus is Lord" (I Cor. xii. 3, Revised Version). They are as sure of his Godhead as was Thomas in the presence of his risen Master when he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God" (John xx. 28). A notable instance of deliverance from doubt on this fundamental doctrine of orthodoxy by the baptism of the Spirit occurred in the experience of Dr. Wilbur Fisk at Wellfleet early in his ministry.
This intimate identification of the Spirit's mission with the person of Christ and the success of His work was because in the wisdom of God it was seen to be necessary to the establishment and universal spread of His kingdom. There is truth in the argument that the existence of the Church as the visible exponent of Christ's kingdom is the great proof of the resurrection and divinity of its Founder. This is true. But our contention is that the Church which was not organized when Jesus Christ, its living head, ascended, would not have had a beginning on the earth without the Pentecostal gift. This idea has found expression in that beautiful and inspiring formula of worship, the Te Deum Laudamus, called by Canon Liddon "at once a hymn, a prayer and a creed," in these sublime words, "When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers." This dates the founding of the Church on the day of Pentecost. It was then that Christ, in the person of the Paraclete, like the sunrise described by the poet Horace, Altera dies, sol idem (Another day, the same sun ), gathered together the Church of the firstborn of the Spirit on the earth, the first to receive the Spirit of adoption and to head the procession of redeemed souls through all the Christian ages.
Without Pentecost the resurrection of Christ would soon have been confounded with the prodigies of the Greek and Roman mythologies. There would, after a few years or generations, have been no one interested in defending this historic fact, and after the death of the apostles there would have been no witnesses to the resurrection power as a transforming spiritual experience. The historical facts without a spiritual life built on them, preaching and defending them and dying for them a martyr’s death, would have had no champion to advocate them and to perpetuate the remembrance of them.
We do not read that the company of disciples was at all increased by the story of the resurrection of Christ repeated again and again during nearly fifty days. This bare historic fact made no converts. Facts alone, though miraculous, and truth alone, though undoubted, have no regenerating power. Only life can beget life. For seven weeks the company of believers had all the facts of the gospel except the ascension complete, and for ten days they had the climax, the ascension of Christ, but there was no increase of their numbers. But on the fiftieth day three thousand believed on Jesus as the divine Saviour. Something must have happened. There is no effect without a cause. In this hidden cause lies the secret of the final triumph of Christ. Let me illustrate. In the late American Civil War, in the absence of Gen. Sheridan, the Federal commander in the valley of Shenandoah, his army was unexpectedly attacked in camp and routed. They threw down their arms and ran like frightened sheep. This scared herd of soldiers without arms suddenly turned about, met and conquered the over-confident foe, regained their lost artillery and camp and drove Gen. Early and his Confederate army in a disorderly flight and captured his artillery. What caused the change from a disgraceful rout to a glorious victory? It was the sudden arrival of their valiant commander riding bareheaded at breakneck speed. What caused the sudden great victory of the gospel? What produced the conversion of three thousand in a day? It was the sudden arrival on the field of the divine Commander in the mysterious, invisible, conquering personality of another. It is vain to attribute the initial force of Christianity to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. You have first to account for his sudden transformation from a bloody persecutor. But he was not converted during the fifty days after the crucifixion. Even if he had been it would be as paradoxical to ascribe the first triumph of Christianity to the accession of a persecutor as it would be to attribute Sheridan's victory, plucked out of defeat, to the presence of the chief of Gen. Early's staff rallying the running Federal soldiers to fight the army he had just deserted in treason to the Confederacy.
In every generation there are needed living witnesses to corroborate the resurrection of Christ. For these on the witness stand of every age He has made provision in the gift of the Holy Ghost. "Believers started to live when He did, and their resurrection is a triumphant proof of His resurrection." On the day of Pentecost the astonished Jews saw a hundred and twenty duplicates of the resurrection of Jesus. A feeble, almost pulseless life they had before, but now they have a stalwart and abundant life. Every Christian who has had a personal Pentecost is a new attestation of the basal proof of Christianity, the resurrection of its Author. Every believer, if he lives at the summit of his privilege, is to an unbelieving world a risen Christ. O Spirit divine, multiply on the earth the number of such facsimiles of the resurrection of the God-Man as shall overwhelm the skepticism of the world and bring hosts of unbelievers to crown Jesus Lord of all!
In every generation there are needed living witnesses to corroborate the resurrection of Christ. For these on the witness stand of every age He has made provision in the gift of the Holy Ghost. "Believers started to live when He did, and their resurrection is a triumphant proof of His resurrection." On the day of Pentecost the astonished Jews saw a hundred and twenty duplicates of the resurrection of Jesus. A feeble, almost pulseless life they had before, but now they have a stalwart and abundant life. Every Christian who has had a personal Pentecost is a new attestation of the basal proof of Christianity, the resurrection of its Author. Every believer, if he lives at the summit of his privilege, is to an unbelieving world a risen Christ. O Spirit divine, multiply on the earth the number of such facsimiles of the resurrection of the God-Man as shall overwhelm the skepticism of the world and bring hosts of unbelievers to crown Jesus Lord of all!*
The Pentecostal gift demonstrates Christ's omnipotence. Just before He stepped from God's footstool to His throne He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." "No person can give what he does not possess."**
To bestow a personality all-powerful is to possess all power. The Holy Spirit has all power. In creation He "moved upon the face of the waters" and "garnished the heavens." In Providence, by the Spirit, the successive generations are created and the face of the earth is renewed (Ps. civ. 30). The Spirit distributes nine extraordinary gifts, and among them "the working of miracles" (I Cor. xii. 10).
The gift of the Spirit by Jesus in the same way proves His omniscience, "for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (I Cor. ii. 10). This text also proves the omnipresence of the Son of God, as does the fact that the Spirit in convicting the world is present with every soul as a reprover, and in uttering in the heart of every child of God, "Abba, Father," He is with every believing soul present as a Comforter. The personal giver must have all the attributes of the personal gift.
In the conclusion of this argument we infer from the identity of attributes of the giver and the gift that our opinion of the one must determine our opinion of the other. "Tell me," says George Bowen, "what think ye of Christ, and I will tell you what you ought to think of the Spirit. Or tell me what ye think of the Spirit and I will tell you what ye think of Christ." Unworthy, narrow and vague opinions about the Spirit imply the same in your conception of Christ. Because the Spirit is practically nearer to us, being the finger of Christ's power, belittling views of the Spirit are more disastrous.
The Spirit in the believer testifies of Jesus, that He has ascended on high and that He is the Mediator between God and man. The Spirit is powerful just according to the degree in which the believer yields himself to His influences and makes way for Him in his affection, in his intellect and in his life.
Modern Christians have enough materials stored in their minds to make thousands of discourses about Christ, but our lips are sealed and our lives ineloquent until the Spirit of Pentecost come upon us and make Christ's truth live in us and shine through our transfigured lives.***
* George Bowen
** Early In the nineteenth century there was an African pastor of a Methodist Episcopal Church In Boston whose name was Snowden. It was in the days of ChannIng when the Unitarians were more Biblical than they are in modern times in the advocacy of doctrines, or rather in the indication of their negations. To this Negro preacher a Unitarian pastor one day in a bookstore propounded this question: "Father Snowden, what was the Son before the Father gave to Him all power?" Instantly, this self-educated, or rather Spirit-educated Ethiopian replied, "What was the Father after He gave the Son all power?"