The Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-4
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.…

The disciples —

I. BEGAN TO SPEAK. Hitherto they had kept silence. They were learners and asked questions. True, they were sent by Christ to try their "'prentice hands"; but their discourses could not have been much to boast of, or they would have been recorded. But no sooner were they filled with the Spirit than they began to speak out. A man may have a little of the Spirit and be able to observe silence; but if he is filled he cannot hold his peace. "Necessity is laid upon me." From their irrepressible desire to speak, many concluded they were "full of new wine." And herein there is a superficial likeness between "being filled with wine" and "being filled with the Spirit"; in either case there is a powerful desire to speak. A few chapters further on in reply to the magistrates, they said, "We cannot but speak." The Holy Spirit was fermenting within them and bursting through all restraints (see Job 32:17-20, and Marg.).


1. This is a power inherent in all men. Men speak with new tongues every year. Some can converse in many languages. Here the Spirit quickened this power. The first miracle of Christ was the turning of water into wine. There is nothing unnatural in that. Do we not see it every year in the vintages of Europe? The supernatural consisted in its instantaneousness. And so the first miracle of the Holy Ghost consisted in the rapidity with which the knowledge of other tongues was acquired.

2. Some acquire knowledge with much greater rapidity than others. Who can tell how quickly the human intellect may acquire it when inspired by the Holy Ghost? Sir William Hamilton tells us of a servant girl who, under the excitement of fever, repeated long and intricate passages from Latin, Greek, and Hebrew authors, which she had occasionally overheard her old master read as he was walking up and down in his house. If that be the ease under the excitement of fever, is it incredible that the disciples spoke with foreign tongues under the influences of the Holy Spirit? Man is only a degenerate specimen of what he once was. Adam could learn more in five minutes than we can in five years. He could instinctively make language, a much more formidable task than to learn it. Let the wound which sin has inflicted on the mind be healed up, and man will learn a new language with as much facility as Adam made one.

3. The Holy Spirit, it is admitted, ennobles other faculties; then why not this? He made Bezaleel and Aholiab skilful workmen, and still endows men with the knowledge necessary to the successful prosecution of art. When Christianity appeared, the arts and sciences were at a very low ebb. But before long the new religion poured a new spirit into society, and began to ennoble the intellect of the race. Just as you have seen a tree, after being well manured, budding out in early spring with fresh vitality, so Christianity enriched the human mind. Poetry revived under it — the best poetry of the world is Christian. Painting grew under the shadow of its wing — the grand pictures are nearly all representations of scenes in the life of the Saviour. Music and architecture also have chiefly flourished on Christian soil and in immediate connection with Christian worship. And so with the sciences. The revival of learning was coincident with the revival of Christianity. Science did not make the discovery that the sun is the centre of our system until Luther discovered that Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, is the centre of religion. Stephenson was once asked, What was the power that pulled the train along the rails? He answered, The sun. The sun was not the immediate power — that was the fire under the boiler; but he knew that science could trace back the fire of the coal to the fire of the sun. And the power that is now working in the heart of civilization, that is pushing upward and forward all that is good and true is the power of the Spirit of Christ.

4. As sin, which lies like an incubus on the heart of humanity, hindering free movement, will be expunged, we may expect corresponding celerity in our acquisition of knowledge. Possibly the lofty mental state of the apostles is the normal state of man. Daniel was thrown to the lions' den, and the lions hurt him not. That we call supernatural: yet it is perhaps the true natural — the state in which man was placed in Paradise, and in which he will find himself again by and by. The three young men in Babylon were cast into the fiery furnace, and the flame did not singe a hair of their heads. That we call supernatural, yet it may be the true natural. Man was not subject to death either natural or accidental before the entrance of sin into the world; and man redeemed will go through the fire and not be burnt. Christ walked the sea, that we call supernatural: yet I am not sure but it is the true natural — the state in which man found himself in the Paradise of old, and in Paradise regained he will walk through rivers and they will not overflow him. Paul took hold of serpents, and they did not bite him, nor did they bite man in Eden, and they will not bite him in the future. And the disciples on the day of Pentecost spoke with other tongues. The family of man once spoke the same language; and who knows but the partition walls between nations as the result of the confusion of languages will be totally removed by a vast display of intellectual power on the part of the race baptized with the Holy Ghost? The miracle of Pentecost will gradually neutralise the miracle of Babel. Men travel now with greater speed than of old; they correspond with greater rapidity; and who can tell but that learning will move with greater ease, relieved to a certain extent from the present drudgery? "There is a royal road to learning." Let sin be purged out, and man will learn by intuition.


1. His ordinary works are the Creation in its various ramifications. He makes the sun to rise and to set; His wonderful works are as Peter's sermon shows, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The only subjects worthy of the pulpit are not the arts and sciences, but the gospel — a thing specially lacking in the sermons of some leading preachers.

2. It is truly remarkable that the wonderful works of God are easily translatable. Science is not suitable for every language; it cannot speak Welsh, e.g.; but the gospel can. A minister insisted on the importance of knowing Greek to understand the New Testament. "I do not," remarked an old lady, "perceive the necessity, for my Saviour knows Welsh as well as I do. It is in Welsh that I always speak to Him, and that He always speaks to me. He knew Welsh when I was a little girl, and we have talked Welsh together ever since."

3. But the words intimate that the disciples spoke in foreign languages with a thorough command of their peculiar idiom and accent. Not only in their languages but in their "tongues" they had the very twang of natives. Native tongue has very great influence over man. The same truths uttered in another language, though well understood, exercise not the same charm. "Can an Ethiopian change his skin?" Yes, as soon as he can change his tongue. When St. Paul addressed the enraged multitude in Jerusalem in Hebrew, they grew calm and attentive. Latin and Greek would only excite them.

4. Seeing that language is the only weapon in the propagation of the gospel, it is of great importance that its ministers should know how to use it deftly and well. The sword of Cromwell was mighty; all Europe feared the flash of it. But the tongue and pen of Milton did more to ensure liberty of conscience. The pen is stronger than the sword — the tongue can drown the roar of cannon.

5. And the Church leads the van in the study of languages. Commerce and love of learning have done a little in that direction; but they generally follow in the wake of the gospel. Who are the first to learn the languages of distant nations, to write their grammars, to compile their dictionaries? Missionaries of the gospel. What book is the first to speak in the barbarous tongues of the earth? The Bible; but the moment the Bible speaks in those tongues they forthwith cease to be barbarous. Sin has left its deep, black marks upon language. Open your English dictionary and you will find in the first page that three-fourths of the words owe their existence and significance to sin. But these words must gradually grow obsolete, and language be refashioned — the gospel will leave its mark upon the dictionary. The Church of the present day is richly endued with the gift of tongues, every fresh effusion of the Spirit being followed by the certain acquisition of a new language. Go to the Bible Society House, where the Church speaks in no fewer than two hundred and fifty languages. The disciples only began; the Church continues and will continue till all nations shall have heard in their own tongues the wonderful works of God.

6. But we are not taught languages miraculously now. True; and for valid reasons —

(1) One is the printing press. What the gift of tongues did for the Church of Pentecost, the printing press has done for the Church of the Reformation.

(2) Another is the abundance of the labourers. In the primitive Church there were only a few, whereas there was a whole world to evangelise. So Goal gave them their tools ready made — sickles sharpened for work. But the need for this no longer exists. There are Christians enough in England alone to learn all the languages of the earth, and to preach the gospel to every creature in less than ten years, without in the least disturbing the ordinary course of business at home. God, therefore, has withdrawn the miracle. To continue it would be to patronise indolence, and do for believers what they can easily do for themselves.

7. The miracle has ceased, but the blessing enveloped in the miracle remains.

(1) The necessity for miracles arises out of the want and not of the wealth of the age. Hence Jesus turned water into wine, multiplied loaves and fishes and healed the sick, because there were no other means of supply and effectual medicine. It is different now.

(2) The miraculous ages are always the most spiritually impoverished. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt is marked by miracles. But the necessity for them arose out of the moral dearth of the times. As the consciousness of God grew, the miraculous continued to wax smaller, till in the reigns of David and Solomon — the richest period materially, intellectually, and spiritually — it ceased altogether. But in subsequent reigns spiritual religion rapidly declined; therefore the gift of miracles was again revived in the persons of Elijah and Elisha. When the Saviour appeared the epoch was the most degraded in the annals of the race. The gift of miracles was therefore granted once more. Miraculous is always in inverse proportion to spiritual power; where the latter grows the former declines. Will miracles be again revived in the Christian Church? Not unless spiritual religion be threatened with speedy extinction.


1. Increased life always demands increased scope for its exercise. There was no power to spread itself in religion under the Old Testament. The Spirit was given in very scanty measures, just enough to preserve, but not to multiply life and replenish the earth. That Judaism should cover only a small portion of the globe was an absolute necessity, for it could maintain its life only by concentration. If the fire be small, it can only be kept burning by being heaped close together. Let the coals be scattered, and the fire will die out. And under the Old Testament only a few sparks came down from heaven to earth; hence it was necessary to gather them together within the narrow confines of Palestine. And in the days of the Saviour the fire was nearly extinguished. Fire was the great need of the age. "I indeed baptize you with water," exclaims the Baptist; but water can only cleanse the surface, but He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. And on the day of Pentecost the prediction is fulfilled. The fire first burns into the hearts of the disciples, then it begins to extend its area, and now it threatens to burn up all the stubble of the world.

2. This increased life reveals itself instinctively in a desire to enlarge its circumference. Whenever the presence of the Spirit is powerfully felt in the Church, it is invariably followed by a renewed effort to evangelise the world. Let the spring impart new life to the roots of the trees, and the life will at once be transmitted to the branches, covering them with abundant foliage. Let the warm, genial months come round, reviving the drooping nature of the bird after the long dreary winter cold, and the bird shows it immediately in his song. He does not sing because he thinks he ought; he sings because he must. And it is a poor way of promoting the evangelistic zeal of the Church to demonstrate constantly what she ought to do. It is useless to lay down rules for the guidance of the Churches unless we supply them with motive power.

(1) I do not cry down organisations; they are very valuable in their proper place. But they are only cisterns, and cisterns, though of the most approved pattern, are not of much use to quench thirst. The Pentecostal Church had few organisations; but she had the water of life to give freely to all who were in need. The modern Church can boast of multitudinous organisations; and so far she can claim superiority to the early Church, for cisterns after all are serviceable. What glorious cisterns are missionary societies! They have silver pipes connecting them with every country under heaven; the waterworks are laid to convey the water of life to every thirsty soul. But the results are seldom proportionate to the expenditure. The cisterns too often run dry. How few the triumphs of Christianity at home and abroad! How tardy its onward march! Why? Lack of funds, answer our secretaries. Nay, lack of life, piety, the Holy Spirit of God. Had the apostles funds to back their efforts?

(2) Reflection on the part of the Church is not to be discouraged. But stock-taking will not clothe the naked. We spend too much time in surveying our property, and meanwhile our enthusiasm considerably abates. The Greek Church took stock of all the Christian doctrines and reduced them into carefully worded articles. But in reflection she lost her ardour, in speculation evaporated all her life. The most orthodox church became practically a dead church. I have not heard of her sending out missionaries to evangelise the heathen. What then is required to awaken within her the old life and incite her to new adventures? What is wanting to make Roman and Protestant Churches more powerful for good in the world? Another outpouring of the Holy Ghost. We have cisterns enough, pray for the living water; machinery enough, pray the Spirit of the living creature to enter the wheels, and then it will do more work and make less noise.


1. Truth, though it be Christian truth, cannot fill and satisfy our nature. God alone can do that. This, of course, implies that. human nature is capacious enough to take in the Spirit. God is too great for our powers, but not for our wants; too vast for our reason, but not for our hearts. Our abilities are limited enough, but our necessities are verily boundless. "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"; and He made him in the similitude even of His infinitude. I have infinite wants within me, and through the Infinite within I can know the Infinite without, and receive Him in the ample plenitude of His power and grace into my soul. How does the infant know his mother? By his wants. He knows not whether she is rich or poor, accomplished or unlearned, beautiful or plain; but he thoroughly knows her when he is hungry, for she feeds him; when he is cold, for she warms him; when he is in pain, for she soothes him. We know God just in the same way.

2. We may be filled with Him so as to convince unbelievers, not only that we have been with God, but that He dwells in us of a truth. There is a curious invention to fill the human body with electricity. If you only approach the body so filled, it will shoot forth sparks of wild lightning. But all connection between the body and the earth must be severed; the man must stand on a non-conducting material, else the electric fluid will flow out as fast as it flows in. In like manner we me y be recipients of the Divine fire. And sometimes we feel as if we were getting full, we emit Divine sparks at the approach of others they are convinced that God is in us of a truth. But ere many days pass, the hallowed influences have all flowed out. Worldliness is the great sin of the Church; it robs us of the Divine in Christian experience. Oh for another Pentecostal baptism! We need the Spirit now as much as ever to convert unbelievers, and to stir up the dormant energies of the Church. Why is it that Christian workers see so little fruit to their labours? That the success is not commensurate with the organisations? Some answer, The poverty of your sermons. But that cannot be the reason for every preaching qualification met in Christ, and yet He made but comparatively few converts. "He could not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." A cold church, an unbelieving church robs itself of the choicest blessings of heaven. Let it not blame its ministers for its non-success — roses will not grow in Greenland, trees will not blossom at the North Pole.

(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

WEB: Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place.

The Day of Pentecost
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