Sunday, June 08, 2003

The Feast of Pentecost
is today. There is information on it here. (Note: This article was written in the early 20th century and some of it may be dated. )

"And that noiseless, unostentatious conquest of the earth, made by the Holy Apostles of Christ, became, as regards the Jews, still more secret, from the circumstance that they believed it would be with outward show, though He assured them of the contrary. The Pharisees looked out for some sign from heaven. They would not believe that His kingdom could come, unless they saw it come; they looked out for a prince with troops in battle array; and since He came with twelve poor men and no visible pomp, He was to them as a 'thief in the night,' because of their incredulity, and He was come and in possession before they would allow that He was coming.

But the coming of His kingdom would anyhow have been secret, even though they had not been resolved that it should not be so. And He tells us in the text the reason why. 'Neither shall they say, Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you.' You see, He tells us why He came so covertly. It could not be otherwise, because it was a conquest, not of the body, but of the heart. It was not an assault from without, but it was an inward influence not subduing the outward man through the senses, but, in the words of the Apostle, 'bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ.' Kingdoms of this world spread in space and time; they begin from a point, and they travel onwards, and range round. Their course may be traced: first they secure this territory, then they compass that. They make their ground good, as they go, and consolidate their power. Of course, the kingdom of Christ also, as being in this world, has an outward shape, and fortunes, and a history, like institutions of this world, though it be not of this world. It began from Jerusalem, and went forward to Scythia and to Africa, to India and to Britain; and it has ranks and officers and laws; it observes a strict discipline, and exacts an implicit obedience: but still this is not the full account, or the true process, of its rise and establishment. 'The weapons of its warfare were not carnal;' it came by an inward and intimate visitation; by outward instruments, indeed, but with effects far higher than those instruments; with preaching and argument and discussion, but really by God's own agency. He who is Omnipotent and Omniscient, touched many hearts at once and in many places. They forthwith, one and all, spoke one language, not learning it one from the other so much as taught by Himself the canticle of the Lamb: or, if by men's teaching too, yet catching and mastering it spontaneously, almost before the words were spoken. For time and space, cause and effect, are the servants of His will.

And so, voices broke out all at once into His praise, in the East and in the West, in the North and in the South: and the perplexed world searched about in vain, whence came that concord of sweet and holy sounds. Upon the first word of the preacher, upon a hint, upon a mere whisper in the air, a deep response came from many lips,—a deep, full, and ready harmony of many voices one and all proclaiming the Saviour of men. For the Spirit of the Lord had descended and filled the earth; and there were thrilling hearts, and tremulous pulses, and eager eyes, in every place. It was a time of visitation when the weak were to become strong, and the last become first. It was the triumph of faith, which delays not, but accepts generously and promptly,—according to the Scripture, 'The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart; this is the word of faith which we preach.' And thus, as Nineveh and Babylon were surprised of old by the army of the enemy, so was the world thus surprised by Him, who, in prophetic language, rode upon a white horse and was called 'Faithful and True'; and, as it befell Egypt at the first Pasch, that there was not a house where there lay not one dead, so now, on this more gracious Passage there was not a house where there was not one alive. For the Highest had come down among them, and was everywhere; the Lord of Angels was walking the earth; He was scattering His gifts freely, and multiplying His Image: and, in this sense, as well as in that in which He spoke the words, 'a man's enemies were they of his own household.' The despised, the hated influence insinuated itself everywhere; the leaven spread, and none could stay it; and in the most unlikely places, in the family of the haughty and fierce soldier, amid the superstitions of idolatry and the degradations of slavery, the noblest, and the ablest, and the fairest, as well as the brutish and the ignorant, one and all, by a secret power, became the prey of the Church and the bondsmen of Christ. And thus a great and wide-spreading kingdom flushed into existence all at once, like spring after winter, from within. " - Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O. , "The Secret Power of Divine Grace" , Sermons Preached on Various Occasions


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