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THE WITNESS TO OUR LORD'S
“ This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”--Acts ii. 32, 33. The glorious event celebrated on Whit-Sunday is the culminating point of the revelation of the New Testament. On the one hand it is the immediate result to which the life and death of our Lord were directed, and it is also the point from which the history of the Church takes its start. comparatively recent date, it was the last of the great festivals of the Christian year; for it was not until the fourteenth century that the observance of Trinity Sunday was enjoined upon the Western Church. Accordingly Whit-Sunday casts its illu
. mination upon all the sacred events which have been previously commemorated, and they are all to be interpreted by its light. More particularly will this be found to be the case with respect to the events we have been celebrating in the season just passedthose of the Resurrection and Ascension. The remarkable position which the great event of the day of Pentecost holds in this respect is sufficiently illustrated from the character of St. Peter's argument in the passage from which my text is taken. That argument was delivered on the day of Pentecost, and was the first public utterance of the Apostles since our Lord's death and resurrection. He had
. been with them forty days between His Resurrection and Ascension; and since then, in obedience to His command, they had been quietly waiting in Jerusalem. When they returned from witnessing the Ascension, they went into an upper room, and continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. There, and in this attitude of prayer and supplication, they waite l for the promise of the Father, of which their Lord had spoken to them ; taking no step whatever in pursuance of their commission as Apostles, except to complete the number of twelve chosen witnesses, by the election of Matthias into the room of Judas. But at the end of the ten days, on the great Jewish feast of Pentecost, the wonderful manifestation of spiritual power came upon them which we to-day commemorate. They were enabled to proclaim, in the various tongues spoken by the Jews then gathered in Jerusalem out of every nation under heaven, the wonderful works of God - doubtless the great facts of our Saviour's ministry, which had just been completed. Then it was, but not till then, that St. Peter
opened to the Jewish people the gracious message with which he had been entrusted, respecting our Saviour's Ascension, and His exaltation to the right hand of God. Then was exhibited to the eyes of the Jews a marvellous exercise of new spiritual powers
momentous fact which aroused amazement, and compelled men to say one to another, 'What meaneth this?' St. Peter comes forward to give the answer, and announces that this is the manifestation of the risen Christ. He reminds his hearers of the whole course of our Lord's ministry, and of its awful close: Jesus of Nazareth,' he said, 'a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it... This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. . . . Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.'
Such was the order and method of the first preaching of the Resurrection. The great event is proclaimed, in the first instance, not in itself, nor even in relation to the ministry and the death which had preceded it, but in relation to a new and great manifestation of spiritual power, and as explaining that manifestation. The Apostles are not commissioned to bear witness simply to the historical miracle that our Lord had risen from the grave, or even to the historic fact of His Ascension in glory. Their commission was to declare that He had risen in power, and that He was a living Saviour, bestowing the gifts of the Holy Ghost upon those who submitted themselves to Him. “Repent,' he said, “and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.' The Resurrection, the Ascension, and the bestowal of the Holy Ghost are presented in such immediate relation to each other that it is difficult to distinguish them. • This Jesus hath God raised up. , . Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.' The Resurrection, in short, is not proclaimed for its own sake, for the mere significance of the fact that our Lord had risen from the grave, but as involving the supreme fact of His having
assumed a new, a mightier, and still more gracious life, and as being the giver of new spiritual powers. The proclamation is not merely that Christ did rise, but that Christ is risen; has assumed all power in heaven and earth, and is working spiritual miracles, even mightier than those He displayed when he was upon earth.
The same characteristic is to be observed in all the discourses and acts of St. Peter which follow. The next instance of which we read is the healing of the lame man, and St. Peter turns it to account as evidence of the presence and power of the living Saviour: Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?.. The God of our fathers hath glorified His Son Jesus, whom ye delivered up. .. Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.' When summoned before the Council, St. Peter's reply is of precisely the same character: 'We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus,