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OF THE COMING OF THE HOLY GHOST, AS AN ADVOCATE FOR CHRIST.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.—John xvi. 7, 8.
THESE words are part of our Saviour’s last sermon, -which he made to his disciples a little before he left the world: and this sermon is only recorded by this evangelist, who hath set it down at large in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of his Gospel. The main scope of it is first, to persuade them to the obedience and practice of that holy doctrine, which he had delivered to them while he was with them; and then, because their hearts were full of sorrow at the thoughts of his departure from them, knowing that for his sake they should be ill-treated by the world, he arms them against these discouragements; he promiseth, not long after his departure from them, to send down his Holy Spirit upon them in miraculous powers and gifts, as a testimony to the world of the truth of his doctrine, and a clear conviction that he came from God; (ver. 26. of the 15th chapter.) “But when the Comforter (or rather the advocate) is come, whom I will send unto you 398from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me. And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” The testimony which the Holy Spirit should give to them, should give credit and strength to their testimony.
And this consideration he makes use of to comfort them under the sad thoughts of his departure, because his absence would be abundantly recompensed to them, by the coming of the Holy Ghost, which could not be until he had left the world; because this Comforter, or advocate, was to be sent in his name, to come upon his account, and in his stead, to supply his absence. So that though they were greatly troubled at the thoughts of his departure, there was no cause for it, when all things were considered; for, in truth, it was for their advantage, that he should depart from them: (ver. 6-8. of this chapter:) “But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you, that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
From which words, I shall consider these two things:
First, The necessity of Christ’s leaving the world, in order to the coming of the Holy Ghost; “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
Secondly, The happy consequence and effect of the coming of the Holy Ghost: “And when he is come, he shall reprove the world of sin, and of 399righteousness, and of judgment.” I shall as briefly as I can explain both these.
First, The necessity of Christ’s leaving the world, in order to the coming of the Holy Ghost: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” That it is the Holy Ghost which is here spoken of, and that as a person, and not as a quality, or power, or virtue, is plain from our Saviour’s discourse all along this sermon, in which he is spoken of under the notion of a person, and that in as plain and express terms as Christ himself is. As the Father sent Christ, so is he said to send the Holy Ghost; as Christ is said to depart, so the Holy Ghost is said to come; as Christ is called an advocate, so the Holy Ghost is said to be another advocate; Christ our advocate to plead our cause with God, he Christ’s advocate to plead his cause with the world: (chap. xiv. 16, 17.) “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” And who is that? “Even the Spirit of truth.” And (chap. xv. 26.) “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth.” And in the verse immediately after the text, “Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come.” But expressly, (chap. xiv. 26.) he is called the Holy Ghost: But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.”
All the difficulty is concerning the word παράκλητος, which our translation renders “the Comforter.” It is true, indeed, that the verb παρακαλεῖν is of a very large and unlimited signification; it sometimes signifies 400to comfort, very frequently to preach, teach, and exhort, and sometimes to plead as an advocate the cause of another. And this seems to be the proper notion of the word παράκλητος in this place, “the advocate or patron of a cause,” one that pleads for the party accused. And in this sense, and no other, Christ is called our παράκλητος, or “advocate with the Father:” (1 John ii. 1.) “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” And as Christ is our advocate with the Father in heaven; so the Spirit is Christ’s advocate here on earth, and pleads his cause with the world. And it is very observable, that this very word paraclete, though it be not a Hebrew, but a Greek word, is frequently used both by the Chaldee paraphrast, and other Jewish writers, in this sense of an advocate. And that this notion of the word agrees best with this place, I shall clearly shew, when I come to the second head of my discourse; namely, To shew the happy consequence and effect of the corning of the Holy Ghost, viz. the convincing of the world how injuriously they had dealt with Christ, and the clear vindication of his innocency, which is the proper office and work of an advocate.
Having thus fixed the notion of the word παράκλητος in this place, we will now inquire what necessity or expediency there was, that Christ should leave the world, in order to the coming of the Holy Ghost: “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the advocate will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
And of this I shall give an account in these two particulars:
I. From the method of the Divine dispensation, 401in the redemption and .salvation of man by Jesus Christ.
II. From the rational suitableness and congruity of this dispensation.
I. From the method of the Divine dispensation in the redemption and salvation of man by Jesus Christ. Thus the Scripture tells us, that God in his infinite wisdom had designed and ordered things that the Son of God should come into the world, and live in a mean and abject condition; that he should be despised and rejected of men, persecuted and put to death; and that, as a reward of all this submission and suffering, he should be raised again from the dead, taken up into heaven, and placed “on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” and that in the triumph of his ascension, he should lead captive death and hell, and all the powers of darkness; and being entered into the highest heavens, and set on the right hand of God, as an act of power and royalty, he should send down his Holy Spirit in miraculous gifts upon men, for the conviction of the world, that the doctrine which he commanded his apostles to publish to all nations was from God. And therefore the apostle St. Paul tells us expressly, that the communication of these gifts of the Spirit was the proper effect and consequent of our Lord’s exaltation, and one of the first acts of royalty which he exercised, after he was possessed of his glorious kingdom; (Ephes. iv. 7, 8.) where, speaking of the various gifts of the Spirit, “Unto every one of us (saith he) is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” For which he cites the prediction of David; (Psal. lxviii. 18.) “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts 402unto men.” And, “he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” So that we plainly see, that this was the dispensation of God, and the method which his wisdom hath pitched upon, that our Lord should first leave the world, and be taken up into glory, and then send down the Holy Ghost, in the plentiful effusion of miraculous gifts. So this evangelist expressly tells us in another place, which gives great light to the text; (John vii. 39.) “But (says he) spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Implying that, according to the Divine disposal, it was ordered, first, that Christ should be glorified, and being invested in his kingdom and glory, that then he should do acts of grace, and, like a king at his coronation, scatter and dispense his gifts among men, by sending down his Holy Spirit among them. And accordingly we find St. Peter, (Acts ii.) after that the Holy Ghost came down upon them, giving this account of it; (ver. 32, 33.) “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses: 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 that which ye now see and hear;” meaning the gift of tongues; so that he resolves it into the dispensation of God, who had thus designed and ordered things. And therefore, in the
Second place, I shall shew, that this dispensation is very congruous and suitable to the Divine wisdom. For as it was convenient, that the Son of God should assume our nature, and come into the world, and dwell among us, that he might reform 403mankind, by the purity of his doctrine, and the pat tern of his holy life; and likewise that he should suffer death, for the expiation of sin: in such a manner as might not only advance the mercy, but assert and vindicate the holiness of God, and testify his great hatred and displeasure against sin: so likewise, after he had thus abased himself to the lowest degree of meanness and suffering, it was very suitable to the Divine goodness, to reward such great sufferings with great glory, by raising him from the dead, and taking him up into heaven; but it was not fit, when he had left the world, that the great work for which he came into it should be given over, and come to nothing, for want of effectual prosecution, without any fruit and effect of so much sweat and blood. And, therefore, though it had “pleased the Lord to bruise him, and put him to grief,” as the prophet expresseth it, yet the Divine wisdom hath so ordered things, that, after “he had made his soul an offering for sin, he should see his seed, and prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands;” that he should see some fruit of “the travail of his soul, and be satisfied,” as the prophet foretels, (Isa. liii. 10.) So that, as it was expedient, that he should die and depart this life; so it was also requisite afterwards, that he who had begun this great and good work of the redemption and salvation of man, should take care to have it still prosecuted and carried on: and accordingly, when he was ascended into heaven, he still promotes the same design, per vicariam vim spiritus sancti, as Tertullian calls it, by sending the Holy Ghost, as his deputy, for the managing of this work, and the propagating and establishing of that religion which he had planted in the world.404
God foresaw that the greatest part of the Jewish nation would reject Christ and his doctrine, and that they would put him to death, as a deceiver and impostor; and because it was expedient, that there should be such an expiatory sacrifice for sin, and that “one man should die for all men,” God was willing to permit his Son to be thus dishonourably and unjustly treated, “and by wicked hands to be crucified and slain;” because he knew very well, how to make the malice of men subservient to his own gracious purpose and design; but yet he was not willing, that so much innocency and goodness should always lie under this reproach; from which, if he had not been vindicated, the design of the gospel had fallen to the ground, and presently come to nothing: and therefore, as a reward of his obedience and submission to the will of God, in these dreadful sufferings, in this cruel and dishonourable usage, God furnished him with this means of vindicating himself and his doctrine; he gave him power to send his Holy Spirit into the world, who should distribute miraculous gifts among his apostles and followers, that so both he and his doctrine might be effectually vindicated to the world, and a way made for the more speedy spreading and propagating of it.
So that we plainly see, that the wisdom of God had so ordered this whole dispensation, that every part of it, the birth, the life, and death, and resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, and the sending of the Holy Ghost, are all subservient to one another, and to the whole design; viz. the reformation and salvation of mankind.
I have done with the first thing I propounded, the necessity of Christ’s leaving the world, in order to 405the coming of the Holy Ghost. I shall now proceed to the
Second thing I proposed, the happy consequence and effects of the coming of the Holy Ghost. “When he is come he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” There is a great difficulty in these words, and therefore I shall endeavour, as well as I can, to explain them r and then draw some useful inferences from the main doctrine contained in them.
For the explication of them. “And when he,” that is, the Holy Ghost, the advocate mentioned before, “shall come,” that is, when the promise of the Father concerning the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles shall be accomplished, “he shall reprove the world;” the word is ἐλέγξει, which I think may much more properly be rendered convince—he shall convince the world. And so it is used by this evangelist: (John viii. 46.) “Which of you (says our Saviour) convinceth me of sin?” The very phrase used in the text, “He shall convince the world of sin.” And the same word is also used in the same sense by St. Paul, (Tit. i. 9.) ἐλέγχειν ἀντιλέγοντας, “to convince gainsayers.” And this certainly is much more agreeable to the scope of this place. For though to “reprove the world of sin” be a current expression, yet to “reprove the world of righteousness, and of judgment,” are very hard phrases, and I doubt not intelligible; but to convince an adversary, or to satisfy a court, of the falsehood of the accusation and charge brought against the party accused, that is to vindicate and justify him in his cause, this is the proper act of an advocate.
So that the great end of the coming of the Holy 406Ghost, who is here called the advocate, is to convince the world. “He shall convince the world;” that is, both Jews and gentiles, who joined in their enmity against Christ, and agreed to put him to death: in these three points concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment. The expression is short, and somewhat obscure, and seems (as Grotius and other learned men have not improbably thought) to allude to the three sorts of causes and actions among the Jews.
In the first, to public actions concerning criminal matters, among which was the case of believing or rejecting prophets. “He shall convince the world of sin, because they believed not in me;” that is, he shall convince the world that I was a true prophet sent from God, and no impostor; and consequently, that they were guilty of a great contempt of God, and a horrible murder, in putting me to death.
In the second, there seems to be an allusion to that sort of private actions, which referred to the vindicating of innocency from false testimony and accusation, which are called by the name of righteousness. “He shall convince the world of righteousness.”
In the third, to that sort of actions, which referred to the vindication and punishment of injuries, by way of retaliation upon him that did the injury, and which are called κρίσεις, or judgments. “He shall convince the world of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”
But to explain these things more particularly.
1. He shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not on me;” that is, of the great sin that they were guilty of, in rejecting this great prophet, 407and condemning him as a seducer and impostor. And of this they would remarkably be convinced, when they should see the predictions of Christ fulfilled, particularly that of sending the Holy Ghost, and of that terrible vengeance which should afterwards be executed on the Jewish nation, for rejecting the Son of God. The first of these we find eminently fulfilled upon the coming of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, (Acts ii.) For when the apostles by a sudden inspiration spake with other tongues, the Jews and proselytes, who saw and heard them, were very much amazed at it, (ver. 7.) And from this miraculous power of the Holy Ghost so visible upon them, St. Peter takes occasion to convince the Jews, of their great sin in rejecting the Messias, and putting him to death: (ver. 32, 33.) “This Jesus (saith he) hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses: wherefore 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.” From whence he concludes, (ver. 36.) “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” That is, by this you may be convinced, that he whom you crucified, as a false prophet, was the true Messias. Upon this we find, (ver. 37.) that “when the Jews heard this, they were pricked at their hearts; and said unto Peter, and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?” Thus you see the first effect which our Saviour foretold of the coining of the Holy Ghost, fulfilled in a most eminent manner; for upon this sermon, three thou sand of the Jews being “convinced of their great 408sin, in not believing on him, were baptized in his name.”
II. “He shall convince the world of righteousness;” that is, of the innocency of that holy and just person, whom they had condemned as a malefactor. “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father;” that is, this shall be an evidence to the world of my innocency of those crimes, with which I was charged; that I am taken up into heaven, and seated at the right hand of God, where I shall remain for ever, out of the reach of their malice and injury. “Because, I go to the Father, and ye see me no more;” that is, I shall be there, where their malice cannot reach me. For so he tells the pharisees when they came to apprehend him: (John vii. 33, 34.) “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me: ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, thither ye can not come.”
And this vindication of his innocency, was begun by the miracles which immediately followed his death, upon which “the centurion glorified God,” saying, “Certainly, this was the Son of God,” as St. Matthew hath it; or, as St. Luke, “this was a righteous man,” (Luke xxiii. 47.) And not only the centurion, but all the people: (ver. 48.) “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” But the great, vindication of his innocency was his resurrection, which delivered him from that unjust sentence of death which was passed upon him, by raising him up to life again. And this is particularly ascribed to the Holy Ghost: (Rom. i. 4.) “And was mightily demonstrated to be the Son of God, by the Spirit of holiness, in his 409resurrection from the dead.” Especially if we consider, that he was afterwards taken up visibly into heaven, and there invested with royal power and dignity, of which he gave plentiful evidence, in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, poured forth upon the apostles: which was a standing demonstration to the world of his innocency and righteousness, since God had taken him up to himself, and “set him on his own right hand,” and “committed all power to him in heaven and earth.”
III. “He shall convince the world of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” He that usurped the authority of God in the world, and by his instruments had procured Christ to be condemned as a counterfeit king, is himself dethroned and condemned; “the prince of this world is judged.” He that thought to have destroyed the Son of God, by putting him to death, is by this very means destroyed himself. So the apostle tells us, (Heb. ii. 14.) that “Christ through his death,” that is, upon occasion of his death, and his resurrection from the dead consequent upon it, “hath destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
But most remarkably was the prince of this world judged and cast out, when, after he had so long usurped the name and worship of God in the world, he was, by that mighty power of the Spirit of God, which accompanied the preaching of the gospel, thrown out of his kingdom; and wherever the doctrine of Christ came, the idolatry of the world was not able to stand before it, but fell down, like Dagon before the ark. And that this is the meaning of judgment here, is plain from the same evangelist; (chap. xii. 31, 32.) “Now is the judgment 410of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me.” Where our Saviour explains the judgment of this world, by the casting out Satan out of that power and authority which he had usurped in the heathen world by his idolatrous worship. And, therefore, our Saviour foretels, that when he was “lifted up from the earth/ that is, after he was crucified, and raised from the dead, and taken up into heaven, he “would draw all men to him;” that is, his religion should prevail wonder fully in the world, and be entertained in all nations. And this was most remarkably accomplished, by the wonderful progress of the gospel, and speedy downfall of idolatry in the world, “not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.” The acknowledgment of Porphyry, that bitter enemy of Christianity, as it is reported to us by Eusebius, is very remarkable: “That since one Jesus began to be worshipped, they found no public benefit from their gods; their miracles and their oracles ceased.” This our Saviour foresaw, and foretold, when he appointed and sent forth the seventy disciples to preach the gospel: (Luke x. 18.) “I beheld Satan like lightning to fall from heaven;” to express to us the sudden demolishing of his kingdom, and the quick and speedy overthrow of idolatry in the world. And thus I have explained, as briefly as I could, this difficult passage, concerning the Holy Ghost’s “convincing the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.”
I shall only draw two or three inferences from what hath been delivered, and so conclude.
I. We have great reason to adore the wisdom and goodness of God, in the dispensation of the 411gospel; that, by the sending down of his Holy Spirit, to endow the first publishers of his heavenly doctrine, with such miraculous powers and gifts, he hath given such abundant testimony to the truth of our religion, and such firm grounds for our faith to rely upon. Had God left the Christian religion to have been propagated only by its own rational force upon the minds of men, what a slow progress would it in all probability have made? How little belief would the apostles naked testimony of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, without any other demonstration or proof, have gained while they were alive, much less after their death? how unable would their doctrine, destitute of Divine testimony, as well as of all human advantages, have been to have contested with the lusts and interests of men, the wit of the philosophers, and the powers of the princes of this world, which all set themselves against it? How could it, with any hope of success, have encountered the malice of men and devils, which was so active and busy, by all possible violence and by all imaginable arts, to root it out of the world? Had the apostles of our Lord only gone forth, in the strength of their own interest and eloquence (which in poor and unlearned men must needs be very small), how little could they have contributed to the carrying on so great and difficult a work? Nay, had they not been supported, and borne up in their spirits by a mighty strength above their own, had not their commission been sealed by the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost, which upon all occasions shewed forth itself in them, to the wonder and astonishment of men, and was a testimony from heaven to them, that they were the ambassadors of God to men, specially empowered 412and commissioned by him for that work, they could not but have been discouraged by the opposition and difficulties they met withal; and they might with Moses have declined the service, and desired God to send his message by others, that were fitter and better qualified to deliver it; and after some vain and unsuccessful attempts, to propagate the belief of their doctrine, they would have given it over, and been ashamed of their rash undertaking. So St. Paul intimates, that had not the mighty power of God accompanied their preaching, and made it effectual to the conversion and salvation of men, they would have been tempted to have been ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
But then we must remember, that it is the doctrine of Christ which is thus confirmed, and not the doctrines and traditions of men. For had the concealment of the doctrine of Christ, and the serving of God in an unknown tongue, been any part of the apostles doctrine, the gift of tongues had not been a confirmation of this doctrine, but a contra diction to it; had they preached transubstantiation, and the renouncing of our senses in order to the belief of it, miracles could have given no credit to it: for that which depends upon the certainty of sense (as miracles do) cannot be a competent argument to prove that which is contrary to sense; for that which makes me sure of the miracle which should prove this doctrine, does at the same time make me equally sure that this doctrine is not true. If there were no other evidence, that transubstantiation is no part of the Christian doctrine, this to a wise man would be sufficient, that what proves the one, overthrows the other; and that miracles, which are certainly the best and highest external proof of 413Christianity, are the worst proof in the world of transubstantiation, unless a man can renounce his senses, at the same time that he relies upon them; for a man cannot believe a miracle, without relying upon his senses; nor transubstantiation, without renouncing them: and never were any two things so ill coupled together, as the doctrine of Christianity and that of transubstantiation, because they draw several ways, and are ready to strangle one another. The main evidence and confirmation of the Christian doctrine, which is miracles, is resolved into the certainty and testimony of our senses; but this evidence is clear and point blank against transubstantiation.
II. The consideration of what hath been said, convinceth men of the great sin of infidelity, and the unreasonableness of it, after so clear conviction and demonstration as God hath given to the world of the truth of Christianity. That the gospel was planted and propagated in the world in so wonderful a manner, and prevailed, notwithstanding all the opposition that was made against it: the remarkable and terrible destruction of Jerusalem, according to our Saviour’s prediction: the several attempts of rebuilding the temple, particularly by Julian the apostate, in despite to Christianity, and to confute our Saviour’s prediction, so remarkably frustrated, and resisted from heaven, by tire flaming out of the foundation, and consuming the workmen, so that they were forced to desist; and this recorded by a heathen historian, Ammianus Marcellinus: the dispersion of the Jewish nation, and their continuing for so many ages separate and distinct from all other people, for a standing accomplishment of our Saviour’s prophecy, and a testimony 414to all ages of the truth of Christianity:—these, with many more arguments I might mention, are a clear evidence to any one that does not obstinately wink and shut his eyes against the light, that the doctrine of Christianity came from God.
III. They who believe the gospel are inexcusable if they do not obey it, and live according to it. This is the great end of all the miracles which God hath wrought for the confirmation of Christianity; that, by the belief of the gospel, men might be brought “to the obedience of faith,” and live conformably to the precepts of that holy religion, which the Son of God, by so many miracles, hath planted and preserved in the world. The infidelity of men will be a heavy charge upon them, at the judgment of the great day, and God will condemn them for it: but we that profess to believe the gospel, and live contrary to it, shall not only be condemned by the judgment of God, but by the sentence of our own consciences. Our profession to believe the gospel, will be an aggravation of our disobedience to it, and every article of our creed will be a sore charge against us; and that faith, which was ordained to justify us, will be our great condemnation at the great day.
Therefore, as the apostle to the Hebrews argues, “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we fall away,” either by infidelity or impiety of life; “for if the word spoken by angels was steadfast,” that is, if disobedience to the law of Moses was so severely punished, “and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward: how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which was at first spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed 415afterwards by them that heard him? God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost.” For, “if we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses died without mercy, under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment shall we be thought worthy, if we tread under foot the Son of God; and count the blood of the covenant, whereby we are sanctified, an unholy thing, and offer despite to the Spirit of grace! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! But, beloved, I hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though I thus speak, and that you are not of the number of those who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of your souls.”416
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