19. Pentecost And Whitsuntide. Acts 2:1-6

Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under Heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language” – Acts ii. 1-6.

“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. For David is not ascended into the Heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, 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. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saving, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” – Acts ii. 33-41.

These two passages remind us of the great events which make the day of Pentecost still remain to us a standing encouragement and inspiration. It comes down to us, to-day, almost as a tradition, and the tradition has wrought such sad changes that the very glory of that memorable time is to a large extent hidden. People now talk of “Whit-Sunday, Whit-Monday, Whitsuntide,” – these names are given to this period because of a custom that was prevalent in the early Church. Now, I do not pay any attention to what the early Church did, any more than to what the late Church has done, unless there is reason to believe that it was the will of the Lord that they should act as they did. In many matters, that were not subjects of Divine Revelation, they were no more right than we are; in some things, far less so. “Well,” they said, “this is the day of Pentecost, and we must have a special observance of the day.” I do not know that they were right in what they did, nor can I see what particular use there was in their action; for, after the ceremonial law was abrogated, all its festivals were also abolished, and it would have been far better not to keep such days in any unusual manner, but to sanctify all days alike as holy unto the Lord.

I always consider that the religious observance of “Christmas-day” and  “Good Friday” is only a piece of modern Judaism, which tends to support the pretensions of the Church of Rome. Still, rightly or wrongly, these early Christians said to one another, as the anniversary came round again, “This is the day of Pentecost; three thousand believers were baptized on that day, and we should like to commemorate that great event by baptizing our candidates every year on that day.” So it came to pass that, year by year, there were crowds of persons, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, who had waited till the day of Pentecost that they might be baptized. “But,” asks someone, “why is it called Whitsuntide?” That is easily explained; for it was the custom to dress the candidates,- the word “candidates” conveys the idea of persons robed in white,- it was the practice to dress them in white, and so the day was called White-Sunday. We have a similar custom now, when our sisters come to be baptized here,- not because we have any superstitious belief concerning their being dressed in white, but because it appears to be appropriate to the service, and is the best and easiest to be washed; blue or green would do just as well, though it might not look so comely.

To the Christians of the first century, it seemed suitable that the men and women who came to confess their faith in Christ should be clad in white,- that being in accordance with the taste of Orientals,- so everyone who was accepted for baptism wore a new white garment. The great numbers who had waited until the Pentecostal day probably made it impossible for all to be baptized on the White-Sunday, so I daresay they continued the services on the next day, and therefore called it White-Monday, and possibly the day after as well, White-Tuesday. I only wish that we might have such a White-Sunday, and White- Monday, and White-Tuesday, that the Lord would give us such a multitude of converts that we should be obliged to have baptisms day after day because there were so many to be baptized.

To the praise of God’s grace, I must here say that this is very much what we have had these many years; long church-meetings, church-meeting after churchmeeting, held almost exclusively for the reception of candidates for baptism and fellowship, all being the result of one long-continued Pentecost which God has most graciously given us. I sometimes make our friends from the country open their eyes when I tell them that we have as many as half-a-dozen church-meetings in a single month. They ask me, in the greatest astonishment, “What can your members find to do so often?” Well, we do not find any quarrelling to do, and we do not call a meeting to decide whether they shall use mottled soap or yellow for cleaning the Tabernacle. That is the sort of subject that they have for discussion in some churches, or little insignificant matters of detail of no more importance than that; some of their church-meetings are concerning nothing at all, and that is a grand subject to fight about. That is not our ideal of a church-meeting; we meet very often for no other purpose than to take in the candidates, who wish to come forward, and in the waters of baptism confess their faith in Christ; and they keep on coming in great numbers, thanks be unto God! We can truly say, “The Lord hath done great things for us,” and He continues to do great things for us, blessed be His holy Name!

But, my dear brethren and sisters, notwithstanding this glorious fact, does not your heart often grow heavy as you remember that, in this city of London, there are vast masses of people who never go to hear the Word of God at all? In some parts of the metropolis, you might go through street after street, and scarcely find a Christian family, or you might find large families without a single member attending the means of grace. The irreligion and indifference of the -people are perfectly appalling; the few who are godly are like speckled birds in the midst of multitudes who are altogether careless. I have lived in country villages where I do not believe there was any habitual breaking of the Sabbath-day; if you spent the Lord’s-day there, you would see the whole population going either to the Baptist Chapel or the Parish Church, or the Wesleyan or Primitive Methodist Mission-room. Everybody went somewhere or other to the house of God; a man who never entered a place of worship would have been looked upon as an utter heathen; but here, in London, we have multitudes sunk in this kind of heathenism; and do what we may, we do not seem to have any power to influence these masses of irreligious people.

Then there is a growing infidelity; not an infidelity that talks much, it is a great deal too respectable for that, but an infidelity that refuses to think about the things of God. What is to be done? What is to be done? There are a great many places of worship that are not half full, and a great many more with a little handful sprinkled about; the difficulty is to get the people in, to get the kind of man that the people want to hear, and to give them the kind of word that attracts and retains them. Is not the case difficult? Is not the case hopeless? It is neither hopeless nor difficult, because it is both hopeless and difficult. If we had to do the work by ourselves, it would be both hopeless and impossible; but since the Lord alone kills and makes alive, since He wounds and He heals, since salvation is of the Lord alone from first to last, we have passed out of the sphere of difficulty, and consequently out of the region of hopelessness and impossibility. He can send us men from quarters where we never expected them; the boldest advocates of error may become the ablest defenders of the faith. This has happened before, and the Lord can make it occur again and again. He can take the most wicked and most blasphemous of men, and cleanse them, and make them chosen vessels to bear His Name and His Gospel to the people. He can employ you, dear friends, in your homes, or in your workshops; He can make any one of you, nay, He can make all of you to be the dispensers of life, and grace amidst the masses of the people, as it was when the newly-slaughtered Christ, by His almighty Spirit, inspired those who were but a handful, and a very feeble folk, and made them do exploits which, without the Holy Ghost, they would never have dared to attempt. Let the Lord but make bare His holy arm in our midst, let Him but fill each of you, and me, and every one of His servants, with His Holy Spirit, and who knoweth what may come of it? He has ways and means of working where we have none. He is the mighty God, our strong Rock, and our ever-present Helper.

I am sometimes greatly strengthened in my faith by the awful wickedness of men. I had to-day a letter,- I often receive letters containing abuse and blasphemy, and become so used to seeing them that I take no notice of them,- I had to-day a letter, in which a man has written all the passages in the Old Testament, in which God commanded the Israelites to slay their enemies. After citing these texts, the writer says to me, “And this is your God, is it? I do not wonder that He wants a bloody sacrifice to appease His anger if these are His orders to His ancient people.” Yes, sir,- if you are here,- I say without hesitation that Jehovah is my God, and that I am not ashamed of anything that He ever said or did.

Why, friends! when we think of the judgments of God upon the wicked, in days gone by, we need never feel the slightest shudder at what some call God’s cruelty. When I think of the abominable sinfulness of men, I wonder that the Lord, in punishing them, was not a thousand times more severe than He was; and when I have heard the way in which some men speak of Him now, I ask myself, “How is it possible for Him to continue to bear with them as He does?” After He has formed them, and fed them, they neglect Him, and despise Him, and fight against Him, and some of them even deny His very existence; why does He not destroy them? It is because He is God, and not man, that they are not all consumed; and if, sometimes, He does lay bare His mighty arm, and teach them terrible lessons withthe edge of His sharp sword, still I adore and bless the angry God. Let Him be what He may. He is to me altogether perfect; and though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him. Jehovah, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of the whole earth shall He be called, that self-same God is my God, and He will win the day despite all His adversaries.

But perhaps you ask me, “How can you draw any comfort out of the blasphemy of men?” Why, in this way! It will stir up the Lord to jealousy, it will move Him to say, “Now will I do a great work in the midst of these rebellious and sinful people.” I used to wonder what John Bunyan meant when he said that he had great hope of the world because he saw so many young men who were terribly wicked. He felt that, if the Lord should save such big sinners as those, they would be great saints indeed. This is a prayer that the Lord will hear from His people: “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work – for men have made void Thy law.” There is a good deal in that argument; we do have confidence in God, brethren, even amidst the prevailing wickedness of men. Oh, what a mercy it is to have such a God to whom we can go in prayer! Let us turn again to the mercy-seat, and plead for the masses of men who are still far from God by wicked works. It was while the apostles were all with one accord in one place, continuing in prayer and supplication, that the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they were endued with the power from on high which their Lord had promised. So may it be with us, for His dear Name’s sake! Amen.

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