Tapestry of Faith: What Moves Us: A Unitarian Universalist Theology Program for Adults

Handout 2: From A Sermon on the Out-Pouring of the Holy Ghost

Part of What Moves Us

Charles Chauncy preached this sermon May 13, 1742, at the First Church of Boston. Printed by T. Fleet, for D. Henchman and S. Eliot in Cornhill, 1742. Excerpts 3 and 5 include paraphrasing as well as direct quotes from the sermon.

First Excerpt

The Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, as the word is elsewhere translated; -- It's the name of the Third of the Sacred Three [names of God]. [The Holy Spirit] is otherwise [called] sometimes, by Spirit of God, the Spirit of grace, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of beliefs; sometimes, he is spoken of as the comforter, the Sanctifier, and the like. That glorious person is pointed out, under all these appellations, in whole name, as well as in the name of the Father and the Son, we are baptized, and by this instituted rite take upon us the character of Christians.

Only, let it be remembred [sic], where the Holy Ghost is spoken of as a gift from God, we are not to understand hereby the person, but the influences of this blessed Spirit. Not that the Holy Ghost is nothing more than an emanation, operation or influence, from the Father. He is often represented, in the bible, as an agent, as truly properly so, as either the Father or the Son. But tho' he be a real, living, active, infinitely glorious person, yet when he is spoken of as a gift, we are to understand hereby his influences and operations.

And these are either extraordinary or ordinary.

Second Excerpt

In the beginning of Christianity, the Holy Ghost was given to men, in an extraordinary manner, i.e., in miraculous gifts and powers. It does not appear, that the Holy Ghost, in this sense, was confin'd to the apostles, or their fellow labourers in the work of the Lord. The apostles [of Jesus Christ], 'tis true, were the first, after our Saviour's ascention [sic] up to heaven, to whom the Holy Ghost was thus given. It was upon them that he descended, on the day of Pentecost in cloven tongues like as of fire, to their being enabled to speak in various languages; yea, and to [show] signs and wonders, and to work miracles, to the astonishment and conversion of multitudes. [Acts 2: 1-4]. But it should seem, as if the gift of the Holy Ghost, in this extraordinary manner, was not the sole privilege of the apostles, or first ministers of the Christian religion. It rather appears to have been a gift bestowed upon Christians in common. Some of the persons, chosen from among the people to be Deacons, were thus miraculously endowed... . And in the Church at Corinth, there was a great diversity of these extraordinary gifts; and they seem to have been common among the people. To one was given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another, faith; to another, prophecy; to another, discerning of Spirits; to another, diverse kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues. And perhaps there were few, in the first days of the gospel, but were endowed with some extraordinary gift of the Spirit or another.

Third Excerpt (includes paraphrasing)

Have you experienced that change, which will denominate you the children of God, and born from above? Be critical in your inquiry into this matter. Is the change you have passed under, a change only in your affections [i.e., your emotions]? Is it nothing more than a little outward reformation? Does it lie only in an attendance of sermons and lectures? Or is it indeed a change from the power of sin and satan, a change into the likeness of God? Have you, in truth, been made partakers of the Divine nature... ? And let me tell you, if you have indeed been renewed in the spirit of your minds, it will [show] it self in your lives.

In one word, there will be an amendment of your carriage in all the relations you sustain. You will be better husbands and wives; better parents and children; better masters and servants: You will be better neighbours, better friends, better subjects yea, you will be better in every station, and in every condition of life: Nor other wise may you think you have been renewed after the image of him that created you. Let no man deceive you; he that doth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the Devil. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil: Whosoever doth not righteousness is not of God, neither be that loveth not his brother.

Some, perhaps, may think these things of no great importance; but deceive not your selves, impose not on your Souls; the work of the Spirit, wherever it is savingly wrought, will have a influence upon the whole man, not only the heart, but the life...

Fourth Excerpt

[T]he outpouring of [God's] Spirit... . This is a necessary gift; that indeed without which nothing else will be effectual to our having that temper of mind formed in us, without which we shall never be qualified for an admission into the coming and eternal kingdom of God. We may not be sufficiently apprehensive of it, but 'tis a certain truth, 'tis only by the Spirit of God, sin can be rooted out of our hearts, and the dispositions of holiness implanted there. No means, nor instruments, will of themselves be able to effect this. It can be accomplish'd by no other power, but that of the divine Spirit. And is it then a needless thing to make our prayer to God for his Spirit? There is nothing we can go to him for, that is a matter of greater necessity.

And prayer upon this occasion is the more proper, as it's the way we are directed to in the bible, in order to our obtaining the Spirit. Our Saviour has commanded us to ask this gift of our heavenly Father [Luke 11:9]: And God himself has said, he will be inquired of by his people to bestow it upon them [Ezek. 36:39].

And O what encouragement have we to pray for the holy Spirit! Our Saviour promised, before he left the world, that his Spirit should abide with his Church for ever [sic]; and has expressly declared, that if we ask [Luke 11:9], we shall receive; if we seek, we shall find, if we knock, it shall be opened to us: Yea, he has condescended to argue with us, to convince us of the readiness of our heavenly Father, to give us his holy Spirit, if we suitably seek to him herefore. If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to them that ask him [Ezek: 11:13]. 'Tis unreasonable, 'tis base and ungrateful to harbour in our minds the least doubt or hesitation as to this matter. For he is God and not man; and therefore infinitely more kind and merciful than the most tender-hearted parents on earth.

Fifth Excerpt (includes paraphrasing)

The Gift of the Holy Ghost to persons: There is a change wrought both in their hearts and lives, in all their inward principles as well as outward behavior in the world. They are, as it were, new molded and fashioned. They have other thoughts and sentiments, other springs of action, other views and aims; they are so altered as to be quite other persons, they have another temper of mind, another taste and relish, another heart and soul, and they lead another kind of life, are pious towards God, righteous towards men, and sober in respect of themselves.