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Scriptural Christianity


John Wesley Preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford, before the University, August 24, 1744

“Whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.”
Ezek. 33:4.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”

Acts 4:31.

1. The same expression occurs in the second chapter, where we read, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all” (the Apostles, with the women, and the mother of Jesus, and his brethren) “with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind. 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:” one immediate effect whereof was, they “began to speak with other tongues;” insomuch that both the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the other strangers who “came together, when this was noised abroad, heard them speak, in their several tongues, the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:1–6).

2. In this chapter we read, that when the Apostles and brethren had been praying, and praising God, “the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” Not that we find any visible appearance here, such as had been in the former instance: nor are we informed that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were then given to all or any of them; such as the gifts of “healing, of working” other “miracles, of prophecy, of discerning spirits, the speaking with divers kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues (1 Cor. 12:9, 10).

3. Whether these gifts of the Holy Ghost were designed to remain in the church throughout all ages, and whether or no they will be restored at the nearer approach of the “restitution of all things,” are questions which it is not needful to decide. But it is needful to observe this, that, even in the infancy of the church, God divided them with a sparing hand. Were all even then prophets? Were all workers of miracles? Had all the gifts of healing? Did all speak with tongues? No, in no wise. Perhaps not one in a thousand. Probably none but the teachers in the church, and only some of them (1 Cor. 12:28–30). It was therefore, for a more excellent purpose than this, that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”

4. It was, to give them (what none can deny to be essential to all Christians in all ages) the mind which was in Christ, those holy fruits of the Spirit, which whosoever hath not, is none of his; to fill them with “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness” (Gal. 5:22–24); to endue them with faith (perhaps it might be rendered, fidelity), with meekness and temperance; to enable them to crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts, its passions and desires; and in consequence of that inward change, to fulfil all outward righteousness; to “walk as Christ also walked,” in “the work of faith, in the patience of hope, the labour of love” (1 Thess. 1:3).

5. Without busying ourselves, then, in curious, needless inquiries, touching those extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, let us take a nearer view of these his ordinary fruits, which we are assured will remain throughout all ages; —of that great work of God among the children of men, which we are used to express by one word, “Christianity;” not as it implies a set of opinions, a system of doctrines, but as it refers to men’s hearts and lives. And this Christianity it may be useful to consider under three distinct views:

I. As beginning to exist in individuals:

II. As spreading from one to another:

III. As covering the earth.

I design to close these considerations with a plain, practical application.
. 1. And, first, let us consider Christianity in its rise, as beginning to exist in individuals.
Suppose, then, one of those who heard the Apostle Peter preaching repentance and remission of sins, was pricked to the heart, was convinced of sin, repented, and then believed in Jesus. By this faith of the operation of God, which was the very substance, or subsistence, of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1, ) the demonstrative evidence of invisible things, he instantly received the Spirit of adoption, whereby he now cried, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). Now first it was that he could call Jesus Lord, by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 12:3), the Spirit itself bearing witness with his spirit, that he was a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Now it was that he could truly say, “I live not, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

2. This, then, was the very essence of his faith, a divine elegchos (evidence or conviction) of the love of God the Father, through the Son of his love, to him a sinner, now accepted in the Beloved. And, being justified by faith, he had peace with God (Rom. 5:1), yea, the peace of God ruling in his heart; a peace, which passing all understanding (panta noun, all barely rational conception), kept his heart and mind from all doubt and fear, through the knowledge of him in whom he had believed. he could not, therefore, “be afraid of any evil tidings;” for his “heart stood fast, believing in the Lord.” he feared not what man could do unto him, knowing the very hairs of his head were all numbered. he feared not all the powers of darkness, whom God was daily bruising under his feet. Least of all was he afraid to die; nay, he desired to “depart, and to be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23); who, “through death, had destroyed him that had the power of death, even the devil; and delivered them who, through fear of death, were all their life-time,” till then, “subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15).