This feast keep we holy to the sending of the Holy Ghost. And ever upon this feast somewhat we are to speak, and some text to choose that belongs to His sending; so does this. The Gospel ye heard refers to the promise of it, 'I will send Him;' the Epistle to the performance of it. And He was sent upon the persons of the Apostles to remain with the Church for ever. This text, to the end of promise and performance both, that now God has sent Him, and come He is, He may have that honour done him for which His coming and His sending was, That was to be our leader and our guide, that we may be led by the Spirit of God in this verse, that we might walk not after the conduct of the flesh but after the leading of the Spirit, in all the verses before. For first and last through this whole chapter, the Apostle still sends us the Spirit, to see whether we follow Him, or no; whether our walk lies after his guiding, or the guiding of some other; if after His, then to assure ourselves that we are right and that we keep this feast to some purpose, being [117/118] thereby brought into a state of happiness, even the blessed state of the sons of God. But if not, if we choose to like better of some other guide to be led by than of Him (suppose it be of the world, or the flesh, or our own self-will, or any such leaders as they be,) then to make account we are wrong, and that we keep this feast of the Holy Ghost to no purpose at all, being by that means brought to a state of misery and death, even the miserable estate of the sons of wrath. So it runs here. 'If ye live after the flesh, ye shall surely die; but if by the Spirit ye mortify the flesh, ye shall surely live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, those are the sons of God.' Then as many as are not led by him, whose sons are they? Sons of God they are none, and part of Christ's inheritance are they none, they are none of His sure; they long to some other.
By this now we come to know what the use of the holy Ghost is, and what the use of his feast; that without him, all our other feasts of the year are nothing, even all the rest, from the very first, the Incarnation, to the very last, the Ascension of Christ, though all honourable in themselves, yet never a one of them beneficial to us without this day, and this duty of the day, which we are to keep holy to the holy Ghost. For in all these of Christ He made but the purchase only, He did but pay for this inheritance and state of sons which we look for, He gave us no possession, nor livered us any seizing of it himself; but reserved that for his Spirit, Who is the earnest, the investiture of our redemption, saith St. Paul, that as many as were led by Him might be brought into full fruition of it, invested to the state, and be made heirs with Christ, even the soul of the living God.
So that upon the well or ill keeping, the good or bad use, of this .feast, depends our interest or our forfeit of all that went before. For that cause it would be the better heeded; and if we be willing to learn, this text will teach us.
In it I shall consider two general heads, (I.) the duty of the day, out of each aguntur, that is, the duty we owe to the holy Ghost, to be led by Him; (II.) and then the fruit of it, out of Filii Dei, that doing our duty and being so led, we come to have assurance made us that we are the sons of God; these two. And in the first I set forth these parts.
[118/119] (1.) That we are in a way; Christianity is a way.
(2.) That in this way we are to walk; in Christianity there must be a going forward, it is no idle, but a stirring and an active life.
(3.) That in our going we follow a guide; not to go at a venture, or to gad ourselves alone.
(4.) That this guide, the right guide, be the Spirit, and no other guide.
(5.) That this Spirit be the right Spirit, and no other than the Spirit of God, to Whom this day and this duty both be dedicate.
Then in the second, (but I think we shall not reach to it to-day,) I shall set forth,
1. That they who observe the duty shall be sure of the blessing, shall be the sons of God.
2. That they all,
And 3. That they only; for the Apostle says not barely, such as are led shall be sons, (so might others be, as well as they,) but osoi agontai, outoi eisin, as many as are led so, they are with a double emphasis, to them only, as many, and no more; they, and none but they. These are the parts; of which, &c.
THE BIDDING OF COMMON PRAYERS Pater Noster
'As many as are led.' I said that leading did suppose a guide, and a guide supposeth a going, and going must needs suppose a way to go in. So here we begin; where I am to tell you these terms of 'way,' and 'walking,' and 'going on,' and 'leading,' meet us so thick all along the Scripture, and are so frequent as well in holy as in human writers, that plain it is our life is held a journey, not so much of via pedum, the way that we pace with our feet, as of via morum, the way that we trace with our actions. Our doings are said to be our goings, go they which way they will; in which sense the schoolmen are wont to call us all Viatores, travelling and wayfaring men, every one of us, even from our [119/120] first coming into the world to our last going out of the world again, still going in a way either right or wrong, out or in, one of the two. It behoves us that our way be right, and that we know whereunto it will bring us, for those two are all, and yet no more than we look to in every journey than to be looked to in this of ours, our spiritual wayfare and travel in this vale of vanity. The end whither we go, and the way by which we go; for otherwise we wander up and down, we know not where, nor we know not whither, not viatores then, but vagabundi. But viatores we are. And the end whither we are to go, and come at last, lies open to the view, is plain here before our eyes at the end of the verse; we are to come to the inheritance of the sons of God, to be made heirs with Christ. And happy we, if in our travels we may once arrive there; I make no doubt but that is agreed on at all hands, if that way thither were agreed on as well. But the way is various; many a way open and fair to see to, yet but one way to be taken of them all. There I suppose we must agree again upon the necessity of a guide; one that shall lead us in the right way, for fear of erring, and travelling, and coming at last, not to this, but to another, a fearful end.
2. But before we come to our leader, this (I trove) will be agreed on again, that if this life of ours be a way, if we be set upon a journey, we are to travel and go on in it; it is a traveller's and no idle man's life. And so let every man make account that the estate of a Christian after his baptism is the estate of him that hath undertaken a voyage, which by standing still and doing nothing, or by going some two steps at first and then sit down and give over, will never be per-formed; it must be by continual steps, and pressing forwards, as St. Paul speaks, to the mark and end we aim at.
To them, therefore, that have taken up their rest, say they have gone far enough already and are weary, make no pro-gress in Christianity- to them that are no further on their way of religion now than they were seven years since, we say, as Christ said to them in the market, Why stand ye still? 'why stand ye here all the day idle?' The day comes and the year returns, and ye are not a step further; otherwise ye are further back, too, than ye were before. This is no traveller's life, and therefore no life of a Christian, it [120/121] has too much ease in it; as [if] he said, Lay all upon Christ's shoulders, and let us sit down and take no thought, He will travel for us all and make us all sons of God (that is, bring us to our journey's end) whether we set foot forwards in the way or no. I thought where it was; this is the conceit of many in the world, and this is to live after the flesh, the very thing that St. Paul here complains on as being most opposite to the Spirit, and most destructive of this day's duty to Him. I will give you better counsel; they are lumps of flesh that lie still and idle, or somewhat that is worse, stir not a whit them-selves, but lay all the burden and travail upon another. Come seek Me, all ye that travail and I will refresh you, says Christ; He does not say, all ye, or any of ye, that travail that sit still and do nothing. Therefore the counsel is, and so is the lesson, that in our way of religion we be still moving on, every day getting some ground or other in it; and that not slowly neither, but as they that make an expedition, or as they that are set to run in a race, (so the Apostle styles it;) where every one strives to get the mastery, we should go the swiftest pace, that is, we should make the best progress in Christianity.
3. And now to our leader; for the way we speak of, the right way, is somewhat hard to find; et dux nobis opus est, I trove; we need a guide to lead us in it; the best of us all.
Indeed if the way was so broad and easy as that every body might hit on it, blind men and all, take what course they would, we should never need to trouble ourselves with a leader, we might go where we would and give St. Paul a supersedeas here for his agontai. But the way is not so broad, says Christ; and it is but a blind man's fancy otherwise to judge of it. The way is strait and narrow of itself, hard to find; and besides, there be a many by-paths and cross turnings by the way-side, that without doubt we shall surely miss unless we seek a leader to guide us.
From hence then to take notice of our own frail infirmities, of the wandering and payless estate we are in till God vouchsafes to send us a leader, how ready we are to stray and wander and go, we know not whither, unless we have one to go with us, and one that, like the word in Isaiah, shall still [121/122] call out to us as we go, and say, Hæc est via, 'Hear ye, this is the way,' and that is done of it; keep ye here and turn not from it: for if ever we be in the right way to our heavenly inheritance we are beholden to our guide for it, it is He only that keeps us in and tells us when we are amiss; otherwise, sicut oves erraticæ, as Ezekiel compares us, we are straggling upon every mountain; sicut populi in deserto, we have neither path nor pillar to go by; sicut servi in Ægypto, we are scattered over all the land of Egypt, to seek stubble and straw, the express pattern of the world, wandering in vanity and picking up straws, and seeking things that shall not profit us; nay seeking them for him too that seeks the ruin of us all, the devil, of all us, as Pharaoh did of the Israelites, till they were so happy as to get Moses to be their guide, and we the Spirit, to lead us from this scattering and running after their ruin, brought them into the right way and led them through the wilderness. So the Spirit should lead us through the world to the land of promise, to the land of our inheritance.
That by this time we see the necessity of a leader. And if we see it, what see we in them, trove ye, that think they want no leader? that take it in foul scorn they should not be thought able to lead themselves? that can go well enough without a teacher, they. They need none of your help; nay, and can take upon them to lead others too; all must go their way, and they will bring them, but God knows whither. Surely if this world goes on, we shall have them to undertake more, to control their own leaders, to be guides and leaders to them too; and then is this verse inverted, this text turned quite backwards to what it is now; not so many led by the Spirit, but the Spirit led by so many; not so many as are the sons of God led by the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of God, and an one's spirit besides, led by so many; as though they be not, yet think themselves to be the dearest sons and daughters that God has, and the only wise men and women of the world.
Well, be their wisdom as it will, but sure we are, as a wise and reverend prelate hath told us, a wise man he was and a godly that told St. Philip in the Acts, he was not aide to lead himself, nor knew not the way to be made one of the sons of [122/123] God without a guide, and therefore a guide he got him, took him to his chariot. And whatever others do, the best and surest way will be to follow the tract that the wheels of his chariot have made, to get us a leader and to account our state the state of them that must be led, and are not able to go the way themselves.
4. To be led, then. Yet not by every leader, but by one that knows, one that is skilful in the way. This is the fourth point. And no point need we to be so much advised of, as of this; that if we assent to have a leader, we take a right one, one that has his eyes in his head, and the way perfect; for si cæcus cæcum (as Christ said), being blind ourselves, if we be led by them that are blind too, which, God wot, is the common leading we have among us now, the fruit is in foveam, at last they both fall into a ditch, and there they perish.
One that is a skilful leader then. And (as He said of Christ, so say I here of the Spirit of Christ) who is he? or where shall we have any so skilful to lead us as He is? The Spirit Whom Christ erewhiles at His going up to heaven, said He would send and set this day to lead us into all truth; the Spirit That helpeth us and knoweth our infirmities; that if we be at a stand is able to advise us, if we be out is able to bring us in again. No better leader than He.
And I make no doubt butt all that travel by this way and are willing to have a guide, will so resolve that the Spirit is the best leader. Of the leader then we are agreed, so are we not of the Spirit yet.
For we have pretenders, good store, to the Spirit; and many spirits there are, saith St. John, which be gone abroad in the world, yet never a true spirit, never a Spirit of God among them all, but one.
To try the spirits therefore, whether they be of God or no, as St. John says there, whether the Spirit that leads us be the Spirit of Christ or no, as the Apostle says here, will be all the labour; and now we shall have somewhat to do.
5. Whether the Spirit, first, the fifth point; next, whether the Holy Spirit, the Spirit to Whom we keep this day holy, that is, the Spirit of God? The Spirit; for men may be led, and not with the Spirit, though in the mean while they think they are. The Spirit of God, for there may be a mistake [123/124] again, there may be a spirit to lead us which is none of God's, and unless it be both Spiritus and Spiritus Christi, this text is not satisfied.
As many as are led by the Spirit, first. And here we may be full oft mistaken, there is some near affinity between a humour and a spirit. That humour has deceived a many, and made them think they were led by the Spirit, when it was but their own fleshly will and fancy only that hurried them away. So have we seen fierce men and hot in their humour, taking themselves to be led all the while by the spirit of zeal; subtle men and cunning in theirs, to be led by the spirit of knowledge; wary ones and wise in their own conceit, by the spirit of counsel; stubborn men and wilful in their humour, to be led by the spirit of fortitude; froward men and disorderly in their humour, disorderly both in Church [and state,] to be led by the spirit of freedom; and a whole saint-seeming tribe together in their fancy to be led by the spirit of godliness. The world would think now here were the gifts of the Holy Ghost to guide them; and yet are they but humours all when all is done, and humours of their own brain too, that flow thither either from their gall, or from their spleen, or from somewhat that is worse, take they which they will, and become spirits perhaps to mislead them away, but spirits to lead them aright are they none. They talk of puppets in religion and I know not what, and truly it may be not without cause neither, where men are so foolish to use them, but then sure I am these are no latter, no better than the spectra religionis, very shows and puppets of religion indeed; if they abide not the one, let them not abide the other neither, but let the one be abhorred as much as the other, and in the name of God let us not be led aside with either. These humours, like them in the body, they may well quiver in the veins and disturb the course of nature; but there is no life, no spirit of religion in them.
It will much concern us, then, to be sure of the spirit; and yet we have not done, for it will concern us more to be sure that when we are led by the spirit, that spirit be the Spirit of God; the sixth point.
6. And the reason is, because the world has set up many [124/125] a spirit besides; and every one will have his own spirit to be Him; as Christ foretold us, ye shall have more Christ's set up to guide you; and as his Apostle told the Corinthians, ye shall have them come and bring them with alium spiritum and aliud evangelium, another spirit to lead you and a new Gospel to direct you the way which He never taught them. Another? yea, and many another, saith St. John's Master, will come in His name and tell you, Lo here he is, and as soon as ye have done with him, Lo here he is again, that will lead you right. In such a place, at such a meeting, ye shall not miss of Him; ye shall have leaders, ye shall have spirits there enough, but scarce a good one among them all.
For there is but one true one to lead us aright, when all is done; but one Lord and one Spirit to guide us, saith St. Paul, and that one would be only followed, if we might discern him, which he is. Now, I say, it is the harder to do this, because as there is a good Spirit of God, Qui ducit, so there is a wicked spirit of the devil, qui seducit; take we heed of him. I will mention him no more. As there is a Spirit of truth, holding out the word of God to lead us in the way of truth, so there is a spirit of error, and a spirit of lies, holding out some trifling vanity or other to mislead us as fast quite another way, and as fast as he leads, the world is ready too to follow him. From whence it is that some men are led by the spirit of slumber, and pass away their time as they do their sleep in the night, without any other thought taking but that they are sure enough of the spirit, do they what they will, as the Valentinians of old in Epiphanius, that held themselves no more polluted with filthiness than a wedge of gold with a dunghill, they were pure metal still, pure spirituals. Others by the spirit of giddiness, (as when time was the prophet Isaiah noted then, we may note them as well,) who run up and down, here and there, they care not after what spirit, and change their leader as they change their landlord, are [125/126] either of none at all, or every third year of a new religion. This is the spirit of the world, and we think it is wisely done too, to follow no spirit, to put no religion in practice but what may stand with our own ends of safety and ease.
But after all these and above them all, the most common misleading spirit is our own private spirit, against which St. Peter has directly opposed the Spirit of God, when we cannot get it out of men's heads but that their own ghost is the Holy Ghost, and leads them as He would lead them; this spawn, this, of that spirit of pride, and no other, wherewith the old Donatists were possessed in St. Austin's time, who gave it out boldly and would not be controlled, Quod nos volumus, illud sanctum est, the way that we go is holy and right, and no way besides. Therefore, saith St. Austin, every one of them went a several way, they had every man a way to himself, and agreed in nothing, but that they all went wrong. Let this be the spirit that leads us and we shall have leaders enough, so many spirits so many leaders too; and then may St. Paul's Spiritus idem et unicus go take His leave.
Well then, what shall we now do to sever the precious from the vile? to discern the leading Spirit of God from all other misleading spirits whatsoever to set Hic est upon the right spirit?
There be many good signs in Scripture to know Him by; I will tell you them that will not fail you, and so send you to them away, for the time would fail me if I should go any further.
One is St. Paul's sign, set there at the door of the text, the verse before. It leads you out to war against the flesh and to mortify the lusts of it; your pride and malice, your self will and envy; your fornication, uncleanness, wantonness, and the rest of that rabble. It is surely the Spirit of God, the right Spirit that leads you, for the Spirit is ever at enmity with the flesh, ever warring and fighting against it, as other spirits are not; for take ye what spirit ye will besides, and ye shall ever note them to retake much of their flesh for all their spirit, to put it on fine clothes, I'll warrant you, and to pamper it well; otherwhiles to dress it like a pageant too, [126/127] and walk after it to any vanity, wheresoever it will lead them. This spirit seduces many; but it is a wicked one, it is none of this that comes from God.
Of it the second sign shall be Zachiarias' sign, in the Benedictus. If it be Christ's Spirit, the Spirit That He sent to-day to lead us, He will be ever guiding our feet into the way of peace; not of questions and disputatious about we know not what, as the pretenders to the Spirit do now; not about strifes and controversies in certain subtile points, whereof there is no end, and about which we weary ourselves, some of us, all our life long; but in viam pacis leads us only into the way wherein there is peace, even to tread those paths, and to do such duties about which none will dispute, none call into question, but that they are to be done without any contro-versy at all. This is a sure sign; if our delight be to walk in the ways of this peace, doing those things that are plain and necessary to be done, and whereof all parts agree, it is the Spirit of God That leads us, in that way we follow him. But as the use is, if we love rather to be treading mazes in religion, to be still disputing with strife and doing nothing with obedience and quiet, it is a shrewd sign we follow our own spirit and are not led by the Spirit of God.
Look but into this feast, see his sign, see where He dwells at the very beginning of the Epistle to-day, 'And they were all together with one accord in his house,' not whetting their wits to dispute, not filing their tongues to talk, but setting their feet into this way of peace; and suddenly, says the text, the holy Ghost came upon them. He is a Spirit that loves omoqnmadou, the plain way of peace. Again, look but into his type before this, 'And the Spirit of God came down upon Him like a dove,' the emblem and the sign of peace too. They who would have Him come down like a vulture and devour all up that are not of their minds, or like the Roman eagle to tear all Churches and kingdoms in pieces that will not stoop to them, I wonder by what spirit they are led. Surely, nescitis cujus spiritus, may be a fit answer to them.
A third sign of Him; and that is of Christ's own setting up, a little before He went up to heaven Himself. If He be the Spirit of God, by which we are led, we may ever and anon be calling out to him to direct us in our way; to [127/128] counsel us as we go. 'When the Comforter is come,' says Christ, 'He will teach you all things, what ye have to do;' where we have two characters of Him. We will go to Him for counsel to direct us, as well as for comfort to relieve us; we will not let Him alone, as we do the physician, till we grow sick and come near the hour of our death, till we begin to faint by the way and can go no further; but we will make a teacher, a counsellor of Him too, all our life long, we will call Him to us and pray Him to look on us in every step we take, we will question with Him in particular in every action we do, have private conference with Him about the estate of our souls, whether they be in the way or no, or whether they be in error and sin. And they that do not so, let them take it for a rule, Christ will never take them to be led by This Spirit, nor St. Paul here by the Spirit of God.
Let us take another sign from him, Hæc omnia operator Spiritius, and with that will we make are end; for all that should be said of this Spirit, and the rules to know Him by, cannot be said at once; and I doubt not you will hear of Him again to-morrow and the next day, the mysteries being so great, and the lessons so many, that concern Him, that the Church has for that cause purposely appointed more days for Him than one.
To St. Paul's operatur then, which is the surest sign of all. If the Spirit of God lead us, He will always keep us in action; as we go we will have ever somewhat to do well, and be still kept to work under Him the works of God. For as each spirit besides, so has this His proper work; and by their works ye shall know them. So the work of this Spirit, and of them that are led by Him, saith the Apostle, are manifest; are joy, and love, and peace, and mercy, and meekness, and faith, and temperance, and piety, and purity; against such there is no exception, but that they are led by the Spirit of Christ. And if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk and work in the Spirit; it is the same Apostle. But who ever heard that the works of the flesh, which is enmity with God, came from the Spirit of God? Let no man deceive us; the works of uncleanness come not from the holy, but from the unclean spirit. The works of darkness come not from the [128/129] spirit of light, nor the works of error and deceit from the spirit of truth. I might enlarge here far. Not the works of envy and malice from the spirit of love and meekness; not the works of Cain and Judas from the spirit of piety and peace; not any works of time devil from the Spirit of God. We learn as much at the very door of the Church, at the foot of Baptism, when ye come to christen your children, that is, to baptise them with the holy Ghost and to put them under his conduct, I trove they must first forsake the devil and all his works, or else Baptism they get none, the holy Ghost will not lead them. And look, as it was at your Baptism, so will it be all your life long; those works must be left, or else the Spirit; of God is none of your leader, some other spirit is, I named Cain and Judas, I will name no more. Wheat Cain murmured against his brother for offering so fat a sacrifice, a fatter than he; when Judas grudged and accused, and put up an indictment against Mary Magdalenes superfluity and superstition, because she bestowed so much cost upon Christ's body, nay, because he would have had the money to put up within his own pouch, trove ye it was the love of Christ that led them, or the love of themselves? Nay, and ye would see the spirit of envy lead a man by the ears, look upon Cain and Judas, and such as they are; their works will shew it.
And what; we say for works we may say for words also, the words be not so sure; yet this is sure, that if it be the Spirit of God that sits upon our tongues, as He came in that shape to-day, to guide and rule them as they go, (for they go too in their way otherwhiles faster than fit,) our language will be as our works are, holy and religious, and such (as St. Paul saith) becometh saints. But if cursing and bitterness, the eloquence of this country; if many a foul and fearful oath, the language of these times; if obscene and idle communication proceed out of our mouths, it is plain sign, our very speech bewrays us, that we are led by the evil speaker, and in Greek his name is diaboloV; but they that are led by the Spirit here of the text, the Spirit of this day, have some other language.
Works, and words, and thoughts, will make up all; but I [129/130] will not speak of them, since in the best evil thoughts may arise and be repelled again, and then do they no hurt; if we war against them and assent not to them, this Spirit will lead us still. I should now come to say that those whom He thus leads, and those who are thus led by him, and resist Him not, that they are the sons of God, they, and none but they. But this will ask another hour, and so another time.
Of the Sacrament yonder somewhat would be said too. But now I think of it, most of us use not to stay it out, and for them that do use it, the Church itself has appointed prefaces and. exhortations better than I can frame any. Yet this let me say for it, out of the text, that they who are led by the Spirit of Christ, are led also by the Sacrament of Christ, where His Spirit is; and at least I am sure are not, led from it whenever they come near it. For there, if ever, we are made the sons of God and partakers of the Divine nature by the power of the Spirit. To which Spirit, with the Father and the Son, three persons and one ever-blessed and immortal God, be all honour and glory, &c. Amen.