The last words of our Lord to his apostles, before he ascended into heaven, conveyed a promise that, according to previous intimation, they should speedily be prepared and qualified, by the operation and influence of the Holy Ghost, for the great work that lay before them—“Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” This involved a clear intimation, that the great evangelical message was then to be opened to all nations, and was no longer to be limited, as it hitherto had been, to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It also clearly implies, that much as they had been with Christ, much as they loved Him, and had heard all his words, and seen all his miracles, they were still unqualified for the work to which they had been appointed. Whoever has read the preceding volume of these Readings will be at no loss to apprehend this, and will have seen that this state of unfitness still existed, even after the resurrection. The question asked by them of their Master, just before his ascension—“Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” shows that to the last the narrow Messianic notions, to which we have so often referred, still possessed their minds; and there can be little if any doubt that, even after the ascension, they still looked for Christ’s speedy return, in great power and glory, to commence his Messianic reign.
If this be the case, the usual view is too narrow of the work which it remained for the Holy Spirit to perform upon our Lord’s chosen disciples.
It was the peculiar office of the Holy Ghost, then and since, to qualify the ministers of the gospel for their service, and to render their service effectual.
These qualifications—such qualifications as ministers now need—were required also by the apostles. But also under their extended commission to all nations, and as the first commissioned proclaimers of the gospel, in the fulness of that salvation which it brings, they needed peculiar and extraordinary qualifications, which should in themselves avouch the truths they declared. Of such qualifications they had already received from their Lord the gift of working miracles; and the most remarkable of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, which it remained for them to receive on the day of Pentecost, was that of “tongues” or languages, whereby they were enabled at once to speak and understand any of the various languages of the nations to which their mission was then extended.
But this was not all.
The Holy Spirit was to “guide them into all truth,” as their Master before He suffered had promised. Note: Joh_16:13. He was to teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance that their Lord had said unto them. Note: Joh_14:26. How crude their views previously were; how imperfectly they realized the full scope of the Divine power for the redemption of a ruined world, we have already seen. They knew less of this than is now known even unto babes; but, under the influence and teaching of the Holy Spirit, they would be enabled to remember much that their Lord had said, which, at the time of utterance, had not made any distinct impression on their minds; and not only to remember, but to understand, that which, when delivered, was, as repeatedly intimated in the Gospels, difficult or altogether incomprehensible to them. But when all had been fulfilled—when Christ had suffered, had died, had risen, had ascended into heaven; and when the Holy Ghost came as the promised teacher, comforter, and guide, their understandings were opened; they were enabled to connect the declarations, the acts, and the sufferings of Christ into one harmonious whole, and to apprehend the Gospel plan in all its glorious and beautiful completeness, in all its boundless love, in all its fulness, and its grace. There was thenceforth no uncertainty or obscurity in their views. They knew that they were taught of God; they knew that they had the mind of the Spirit, who had come to dwell in them, and to abide with them forever. There was now only one strange thing to them, and this was, that they should ever have been so blind in discerning, so slow of heart in believing, all that the prophets had spoken concerning their crucified, their risen, and ascended Lord.
These views opened to them a far different career from that which they had formerly contemplated. They had to cast to the winds all their worldly dreams of being princes, lords, rulers of tribes, judges, commanders, officers of high estate; and to become instead the lights of the world, the salt of the earth, the proclaimers of that everlasting Gospel, whose blessedness had now become known to themselves, and to the nations sitting in darkness and in the valley of the shadow of death. And their higher charge of opening the gates of mercy to mankind, these chosen servants of the Lord were enabled, under the enlightenment they had now received, to embrace with joyfulness, and with entire devotedness of heart; although they knew full well that, in the discharge of the obligations it imposed, none of the earthly honors which men covet, and which had formerly seemed glorious in their eyes, awaited them; but that they should be baptized with the baptism their Lord was baptized with, and receive in full measure the heritage of scorns, of revilings, of bonds, of, scourgings, and of deaths.
But none of these things could move them now. Henceforth they were content to suffer the loss of all things, and count them all but dung, that they might win Christ and achieve the real honors of his kingdom. Henceforth they cared not, any more than their Lord, to hide their face from shame and spitting. Henceforth they counted not their own lives dear unto them, but pursued, with resolute steps and unflinching countenances, the course whose end was in this world death—but glory evermore, and victorious palms, beyond.