There was a day when death had struck a woeful stroke, and raised a nation’s wail. “There was a great cry in the land of Egypt: for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” That same day the Lord, by the sprinkling of a pure lamb’s blood, averted death from the doors of Israel, and then led them away from yoke and taskmaster toward the goodly land. Fifty days afterward they reached the Mount of God, where He manifested Himself in the thunder of His power, with flame and trumpet, and a voice, whereat all the tribes did tremble. Then was the new dispensation formally inaugurated with the voice and the flame; its covenant sealed by sprinkling of blood, and its privileges opened to the sprinkled by the vision of glory, when the Elders “saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness” (Exod. 24:10).
This time of note was come, the fifty days were elapsed from the time when the Lamb was slain, and captivity broken. Forty days He had been with them after His resurrection; the rest He had passed within the veil. And was it not possible that in saying, “Not many days,” He pointed them forward to the day which commemorated the opening of the new dispensation of God to Israel by the hand of His servant Moses? Was it not probable that the glorious dispensation of His Son would be opened at this time? Unbelief would have long ago ceased to expect; but faith would probably renew its anticipation, and look to this day.
Not One Heart Has Failed!
On the morning of the resurrection, some—the women—were early at the tomb; but the others were sauntering into the country, or here and there, with nothing to wait for, as they thought; yet partly expecting something to come to their ears. Even late in the day, when they did meet to hear what some had seen and heard, Thomas was away. Now, however, after ten days have elapsed, their patience is not exhausted. They do expect, and therefore will not cease to wait. They have no attention for anything else.
The kingdom of God is at hand. Did He not say, “Not many days”? Ten are gone; and the conclusion is, not that of servants too idle to wait: “Our Lord delayeth His coming; we may as well sit still. He will come in His own good time.” That is not waiting: it is idling. They said, in their believing hearts, “Ten days are gone; therefore the day of our Lord draweth nigh. This is the day of Pentecost; and as the fire appeared on Sinai, in the presence of our fathers, when God made His covenant by Moses, it may be that today He will seal His covenant by the hand of the Prophet whom Moses foresaw, baptizing us with fire, according to the word wherein He hath made His servants to hope.”
No Thomas is absent now! Not one heart has failed! “They are all in one place.” No discord or doubt have they permitted to arise: “They are all with one accord in one place.” Nor are they slow or late. We are not told at what hour they met, but it must have been very early; for after they had received the baptism, and filled all Jerusalem with the noise of their new powers, Peter reminded the multitude, who came together, that it was only the third hour of the day—nine o’clock in the morning.
A Mighty Rushing Wind and a Crown of Fire
Early, then, on the second Lord’s day after the ascension, is the entire company met, with one heart, to renew their oft-repeated prayer. We cannot go to the house where was that upper room; nor to the site where it stood. These points are left unnoticed, after the mode of Christianity, which is in nothing a religion of circumstances, in everything a religion of principles.
We know not how long they had that morning urged their prayer, nor whose voice was then crying to Him who had promised, nor what word of the Master he was pleading, nor what feelings of closer expectation and more vivid faith were warming the breasts of the disciples. But “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind.” Not, mark you, a wind; no gale sweeping over the city struck the sides of the house, and rustled round it. But “from heaven” directly downward fell “a sound,” without shape, or step, or movement to account for it—a sound as if a mighty wind were rushing, not along the ground, but straight from on high, like showers in a dead calm. Yet no wind stirred. As to motion, the air of the room was still as death; as to sound, it was awful as a hurricane.
Mysterious sound, whence comest thou? Is it the Lord again breathing upon them, but this time from His throne? Is it the wind of Ezekiel preparing to blow? Shaken by this supernatural sign, we may see each head bow low. Then timidly turning upward, John sees Peter’s head crowned with fire; Peter sees James crowned with fire; James sees Nathaniel crowned with fire; Nathaniel sees Mary crowned with fire; and round and round the fire sits “on each of them.” The Lord has been mindful of His promise. The word of the Lord is tried. John was a faithful witness. Jesus was a faithful Redeemer. He is now glorified; for the Holy Ghost is given. Jesus “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.”
The instant effect of the descent of the Spirit on the first Gentile converts in the house of Cornelius was that they began to “magnify God.” The effect would be the same in this first case. That bosom has yet to learn what is the feeling of moral sublimity, which never has been suddenly heaved with an emotion of uncontrollable adoration to God and the Lamb—an emotion which, though no voice told whence it came, by its movement in the depths of the soul, farther down than ordinary feelings reach, did indicate somehow that the touch of the Creator was traceable in it. They only who have felt such unearthly joy need attempt to conceive the outburst of that burning moment. Body, soul, and spirit, glowing with one celestial fire, would blend and pour out their powers in a rapturous “Glory be to God!” or “Blessed be the Lord God!”
Modern believers—not those who never unite in simple and fervent supplications to the throne of grace, but those who meet and urge with long-repeated entreaty their requests to God—can recall times which help them to imagine what must have been the peal of praise that burst from the hearts of the hundred and twenty, when the baptism fell upon their souls; times when they and their friends have felt as if the place where they met was filled with the glory of the Lord.
This creed was penned by William Arthur. By the time Tongue of Fire was first published in 1856, the once strong Methodist movement in Great Britain was slowly declining into a “form of religion without the power,” as John Wesley feared it would. Now an established denominational body, it bared more resemblance to the tired Church of England than the spirit-fired movement which defined the first Methodists.
Born in 1819, William Arthur was one of a rising generation Wesleyan leaders who saw that the Holy Spirit, who had so mightily breathed life into the movement, was being slowly omitted from Methodist preaching and practice. His Tongue of Fire or the True Power of Christianity is, in essence, a manifesto inviting Methodists to again recover their birthright as an Apostolic movement living in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
[WATCH] Ministry in the Power of the Holy Spirit [READ] Seven Things the Bible Teaches About the Holy Spirit; [READ] Jesus Depended on the Holy Spirit; [READ] The Holy Spirit Is Not “Advanced Christianity”; [WATCH] Where Did Pentecostalism Come From?; [WATCH] The Descent of the Dove and the Meaning of Pentecost; [WATCH] The Person of the Holy Spirit