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Proceedings of the Third Congress at Louisville
Religious Services and Closing Exercises at the Louisville Auditorium - Dr. John Hall's Sermon.


Sunday Evening, May 17, 1891. Rev. Dr. Hemphill:

I will say to the congregation that, as announced in the order of exercises placed in your hands by the ushers, Rev. Dr. Hamilton was to preside at the services. But, in consequence of some trouble of the throat, he is unable to speak, and has asked me to take his place. I trust this large congregation will preserve the spirit of worship and that you will endeavor to enter heartily into all the services of this hour. The Psalms that are to be sung you will find printed in full in the order of exercises. It is especially requested that all the congregation shall unite heartily in the singing of these Psalms. We will begin the exercises of the evening by rising and singing the hundredth Psalm.

Rev. Dr. Bryson:

Ever blessed and eternal God, on the evening of this day we would come into Thy presence as a worshiping people. We recognize our un-worthiness at any time to approach Thee with religious services, but we come in the name of Thy blessed and divine Mediator, who lives at the right hand of our Father in heaven. Prepare our minds and hearts for the message that shall come to us by the mouth of Thy ministering servants. Hear us now, and bless us evermore. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Hemphill:
We will new attend to the reading of the Scripture by the Rev. Stuart Acheson, M.A., of Toronto, Canada.

Rev. Mr. Acheson:

The portion of God's word that I shall read is in Acts of the Apostle, the second chapter.

Dr. Macintosh then read and explained the twenty-third Psalm.

Rev. Dr. Hemphill:

It was customary in olden times to rise and reverently stand during prayer, and I will ask the congregation to rise while we are led in prayer by the Rev. Nevin Woodside, D.D., of Pennsylvania.

Rev. Mr. Woodside:

Almighty God, we return Thee our grateful and united thanks this evening for all Thy loving goodness and kindness to us. We thank Thee for the Word, for that inspired book that tells us of Thee, that describes ourselves; we thank Thee for the revelation it gives to us regarding our personal salvation, and we ask that Thou wilt bless abundantly these exercises as we are gathered together in God's house, for this is Thy house. Thou art in the midst of us. Where two or three are gathered together in Thy name, Thou hast said, " There will I be in the midst of thee," and we ask that Thou wilt fulfill that promise this evening. Let Thy blessing, 0 God, rest upon Thy servant who is to speak to us the word of truth. We give Thee thanks for all that Thou hast done for him, and for all Thou hast accomplished by him. We thank Thee for his physical power, for his mental power, but above all we thank Thee for his spiritual power, that power that has been felt in the great Presbyterian Church of our land, and in all the Churches, and we ask that that power may be given him this night abundantly so that he may be able to speak Thy truth. We ask Thy blessing upon all the congregations in this city, and upon all pastors, and we pray that Thou wilt bless all the pastors present. We come before Thee this evening, 0 God, and acknowledge Thee to be our Master. We bless Thee, O God, for our Lord and Saviour's life and character, and for the testimony which He left behind him. And now, O God, we ask Thee to bless this meeting, and that there may be many to receive Thy message. And now, 0 God, we ask Thee to pour out Thy spirit upon us, and may we receive the words that are to be spoken; hear our supplications, and when our earth's work is done, crown us Thine, for the Redeemer's sake. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Hemphill:

We will now unite in singing the forty-sixth Psalm. After the singing of this Psalm, we will listen to the sermon by the Rev. Dr. Hall, of New York State.

This was sung in the Scotch version in meter.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah."

Dr. Hall's sermon:

My Dear Friends: I feel deeply the responsibility that rests upon me in preaching the truth of God's word to such a large assembly of people as we have gathered here to-night. I could not but feel deeply moved as we were singing together these familiar Psalms. I could hardly keep the tears from my eyes as we were going through the twenty-third. I was brought up as a child to sing these Psalms as we have been singing them now in the worship of God Almighty.

Now I shall read slowly the passage of God's word to which I propose to turn your attention. It is a long passage, but much of it is familiar to many of you as far as the words are concerned.

In the second chapter of the book of Joel, beginning with the twenty-eighth verse, we read thus: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and the terrible day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call."

These verses are from the prophet Joel. Of the twelve minor prophets, he is the one most ancient, set down generally as delivering his message eight hundred years before the coming of our Lord Christ. Hosea and Amos come the nearest to him in the time when they delivered their messages. We only know regarding him the name of his father and the tribe—that of Judah—to which he belonged. The style in which he delivers his message is very impressive. It is sometimes remarkable in its figures, some of which are taken from the history of the old days and others from the life of the East, with which he was familiar. Some of the events to which he makes allusions are more fully referred to in the later prophets. He has particular reference in this prediction to two things that were coming on the people, a plague of locusts and the infliction of a great drought that would bring famine, and he directs the people to humble themselves before God, confess their sins in his presence, and pray for relief and forgiveness; and then the assurance is given that God will hear and the relief will be granted. Then he rises from these matters that were in some degree of a temporal concern to speak of things spiritual and eternal, and the passage I have read as the text is his prophetic statement on that important subject. It contains enough of a statement to awaken a healthy curiosity as to the meaning, because that is more or less obscure: and yet I think these statements can be explained with sufficient clearness to satisfy any reasonable curiosity, and it is such an explanation I endeavor to give you.

You are not to suppose that this is a prediction about things speculative. I mean by that those things upon which we can think what we please, but our action is not determined by our thinking. These prophecies are not about things speculative, but about things that are practical in the highest degree—things that concern our eternal life and our personal salvation; that you will see when I simply mention to you the contents. We have the pouring out of the Spirit of God upon all flesh ; we have tremendous judgments and penalties inflicted upon the great family of nations; and in the third place we have a statement of the way in which men as individuals can be saved by taking a prescribed way —the way God has been, pleased to set before them in his holy Word. You can see that these are not mere matters of speculation. They are practical, they are important, bearing on the spiritual lives and eternal hopes of every one of us. May the divine Spirit interpret the truth to us so that we shall take it not only into the understanding, but receive it and rejoice over it in the heart!

Now we are to look in the first instance upon this matter of the pouring out of the Spirit upon all flesh. What is the time when that is to be done? The prophet Joel says, "Afterward." "Afterward" is a vague word. It may mean long or short as an interval, but as you heard read from the second chapter of Acts, the apostle Peter quotes this passage, and he gives the reading in this way: "In the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh." Now there is no use of our going into what is called a verbal criticism. There is the rendering of the statement by the apostle Peter, and we have only to raise the question: What does he mean when he says "In the last days?" We are not left in the dark about that. Do you remember these words, with which the Epistle to the Hebrews begins: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son?" We take that to mean the dispensation in which we live, the period beginning with the coming of Christ in the flesh and going on, in all probability, until he comes again in his glory, the last dispensation with which the human race has to do. I tell you that it is a practical thing to you and me. We know God made man, and made a covenant with him. Man broke the covenant and cast the Father off. Then God revealed his grace, and sent Christ, the Son. Man rejected and crucified the Son. Then the Holy Spirit comes, and if man rejects the Holy Spirit, if they blaspheme against him, if they turn him away, if they break with him, there is no fourth person in the Trinity to come and make overtures of grace to the children of men. There is no forgiveness for those who trample upon the means of grace and the offers of grace and the agent that brings the grace, even the Holy Ghost in this last dispensation in which we live. "I will pour out," says God, "my Spirit." There is the emphasis to be put on the "pouring out," as Calvin notices in one place. It is not the sending of drops of rain; it is not sending a little upon a definite locality. It is the giving out of a copious stream, the shower that will go over the earth as intimated in the words: "I will pour out upon all flesh." I want you to think of the two descriptions given there. They are descriptions that amplify and expand the idea, so to speak. Upon whom is the Spirit to be poured? All flesh. And then, to make the thing more clear and definite, we have the particulars given, old men, sons, and daughters, servants and maids; they will have the blessing. Servants? Does that mean God's servants? No; it means bond slaves, and it is put in, undoubtedly, to show how widely diffused the blessing will be. The writers say that in the Old Testament a revelation was never once made direct to a slave; but so generous, so to speak, will be this outpouring of the Holy Spirit that slaves will be lifted up and share in this unspeakable blessing; and, in point of fact, as some of you know, slaves that became Christians in the first centuries were many times the ministers who brought their Roman owners and masters to a knowledge of Christ and eternal life.

Then I want you to look, in the next place, to the different variety of figure that is used to describe the way that the blessings will work. Old men shall see visions. There will be those who dream dreams; there will be those who will prophesy. Why is that language used? Please use your understanding for a moment, and you can clearly see it. When a prophet is speaking of divine things to men, in order to be understood, he must take language that men comprehend. Let me illustrate this to you: There is a father who says with a great deal of satisfaction: "The mind of my boy is growing." Did you ever see his mind? No, you did not. You have seen his body, and you know what it is for material things to grow, and you take a figure from that to describe what you could not see. That is the way that the prophets have to speak; they shall see visions, they shall dream dreams, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. The way in which the prophet Joel knew that the Holy Spirit had been given before his time was in this threefold manifestation—dreams, visions, and predictions, through which God miraculously made his mind known to the children of men. He takes these familiar and well-understood words to describe these truths: that there would be light from God, divine light and strength from God, saving truth coming to all men, even bond slaves, when God would pour out this Spirit, as he says, upon all flesh. And then all classes and conditions would understand God's mind and see the truth somewhat as the prophet was permitted to see it in the days before him and in his own days. Now will you please note two or three things that I want to indicate to keep you from being misled? The prophet does not mean to say here that the Hebrew people did not have any Spirit before his time. They had. God never could have servants in this world without the Spirit working in them. The Holy Ghost, the third person of the Trinity, has been the means of communication, so to speak, between God and man, to the Jews as well as to all others.

So Abel offered a sacrifice of righteousness; so Enoch walked with God. The Spirit strove with the man before the flood. The Spirit guided Noah. The Spirit was upon Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David in pointing out their duties and obligations. What this prophet does mean to say is that the Spirit, this Holy Spirit, would be poured out with a fullness and generosity that had never been seen before.

In the second place I want you to notice this: The Hebrew people had been prepared in some degree for a blessing of this kind. Do you remember those wonderful words that were spoken by Moses? There were two men prophesying when it was not expected they would, and Joshua came and reported the matter to Moses, and here is what he said: "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets." And that description had its amplification later in such predictions as we have in Joel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. Why do they say "on all flesh?" There is no need to explain it. The Hebrews were God's chosen race. They had a monopoly, so to speak, of sacred privileges. The blessings of the covenant had been given freely to them. But now a new condition of things, a new dispensation is to commence, and this Spirit is to be given to all flesh, so to speak, to every creed and nation.

The third thing I want you to keep in mind is this: This prediction, Peter declares, had its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost. There is no use in anybody saying Peter may have been mistaken; he may have misrepresented. He names the prophet Joel. He tells us where the prophecy came from. If he had been misquoting or misrepresenting, it was in Jerusalam, it was in the presence of the Scribes and Pharisees, it was before the king's critics, and they would speedily have exposed his ignorance and said that it is an ignorant fisherman of Galilee talking in that way, and he does not know what he is talking about: but they did not say any thing of that sort. He says expressly when all those people were talking with tongues, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; . . . I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh."

Now I want you to follow another line of thought. This pentecostal baptism was miraculous in its character. A miracle is not God's staple way of working. It is not the usual plan upon which he proceeds, but a miracle has its place when he wants to send his messengers and certify they are his messengers, when he wants to attest them, so to speak, to men; then he works a miracle, and when they are so attested, then they deliver the message upon ordinary natural lines. When, for example, the law was given from Sinai, you may remember the scenes that attended the giving of it. But after it was given the Levites in ordinary ways were to teach this law to the people. You remember how the Hebrew people crossed the Jordan, and you remember how the walls of Jericho fell. Those were miracles, but when they had crossed the Jordan, and when they had gone into the Promised Land, not in miraculous ways, but by the exercise of powers that God had given them, they were to carry out his purpose and execute his plan. So it is in the New Testament that Jesus Christ works miracles, and the apostles are permitted to work miracles. They introduce a new dispensation. They were commended to men by adequate and proper evidence as from God, and thus they proceeded, so to speak, and all that accepted their testimony proceeded upon what maybe called not miraculous or supernatural lines, but the lines of God's ordinary providence. Now that is our position to-day. The Spirit has been poured out upon all flesh. We are no longer confined as the servants of God to one land or one race or one people. Jew and Gentile stand upon the same basis. All flesh God appeals to, and to all flesh God is offering the means of grace. It is not merely that we have the fulfillment of this promise. In a certain sense, we can be the instrument of fulfilling it in our Sunday-schools, in our Bible classes, in our young men's associations, in societies for the promotion of Christian knowledge and virtue, and in the missions sent to the heathen. Many hundreds of Protestant missionaries are being now maintained in heathen lands. In all these ways we are not merely ourselves realizing the fulfillment of this gracious promise about the pouring out of the Spirit, but we are ourselves made by God's grace the instrument for fulfilling that prediction in some degree to our fellow-men everywhere. Oh! what an honor is put upon us, what a dignity is given to us, how thankful we ought to be that we have this Spirit poured out upon us, such a complete knowledge of God given to us here in this world as that if we receive it and believe it and make it part of our own selves it will be to us spiritual life in this world and in the world to come life eternal*! Now that is the first great truth brought to us in this passage. We pass on to the second. The language is so striking that I think I had better read it again to you:

"And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come."

These are very impressing and alarming intimations. What do they mean? I stated to you in the beginning that many of the figures of the prophet were taken from the history of his own people that had gone before him. So it is here. You remember the narration in the book of Genesis. You remember the miracles wrought, the plagues inflicted on the Egyptian people. You remember how the blackness and darkness came over the land; you remember how, with the hail, the fire ran along the ground. You remember how the sun responded, so to speak, to the misery inflicted upon the earth. The sun was darkened and the moon turned into blood. These figures are taken from this history in relation to ancient Egypt. They were part of the judgments of God for delivering his chosen people from the Egyptian power.

Those were two parties—God's people and Egypt. Egypt stands for the world's forces, for the forces under the God of this world; Israel stands for Christ's people, the people of God. There was strife between the two. Then God interfered in these ways, delivered his people, crushed their enemies. And those figures are taken by the prophet to describe what God will continue to do with the world powers and with his people—on the one hand pouring out his Spirit, and on the other exercising his providential power so as to strike this world power. Now I want you to use what knowledge you have of your Bibles and of history. There was Jerusalem itself. It had been a holy place and its people consecrated to God; but it ceased to be. It went over, as it were, to the world's powers, God's enemies. "We have no king but Caesar!" the people of Jerusalem shouted. Long before that they had sinned in the same way. The prophet Isaiah refers to it, so complete was the disaffection and so marked in rebellion: and you know what became of Jerusalem; how its walls were overthrown and its battlements cast down; how its people were massacred and the survivors went, poor and miserable, to the ends of the earth. That is the fulfillment of the prediction. "I will show wonders in heaven above," and "fire and vapor of smoke" shall be, referring to the fell destruction that God sent upon a nation and its capital which had allied itself to the powers of this world. Read later history, and you know how it was with ancient Rome. You know how the overturning of that great power came about; and if you follow on down to our own time, you will see the same process, more or less clearly, constantly going forward. The times are not fixed, the details are not given, but this is God's providential government. He is ruling over all. Kings and nations are but the instruments in his hand. His power controls the strong, and where wars and strife and tumults destroy nations—all of these are only so many parts of that great process by which God destroys the world powers and opens up a way for the truth and prepares for the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. I am not pronouncing any thing on the time in which God does this. It was said in the prediction "Afterward." It was vague. Eight centuries passed before it was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. We cannot say how long a time God will take to fulfill the prediction of the next section, but of this I am assured: that he who is ruling all nations can use his power to break down the bad and abolish idols to make a way for the introduction of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not matter who brings the strife. It may be Napoleon I., it may be Bismarck, it may be a later Napoleon, it may be Victor Emanuel. It is no matter who begins the battle or carries it on. God is over all; and he uses confusions, strife, and conflicts as so many processes by which the world power will at length be put down and his Church and kingdom established over all. One thing more I will say: We must not suppose when one of these great contests takes place and one is victor that he has God's favor. The potsherd of the earth strive with the potsherd, potsherds both of them, but God is over all, and in his own way and in his own time he will carry out his purpose and break down the world's forces and set up a kingdom that is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. I do not think I need dwell upon this, as it is undesirable to make the address too protracted, but I will say one thing that you can all understand. The city in which it is my duty to live and work is growing in one particular direction, and in that direction there are great masses of rock, in some instances as high as this roof, which have to be gotten rid of before streets can be constructed there. Sometimes it is my duty to go through those portions of the city, and I see a multitude of workmen busily engaged on these masses of rocks. The steam machinery is there boring a hole, and the explosive will be put in and the explosion take place. I see the hard rock is being gotten rid of. I do not know who is doing it. I do not know who is to build upon the place, but the fact that it is being done is conclusive proof to me that it is intended that edifices should be erected. So it is with wars and rumors of wars. "What the issue is to be we cannot tell; but we may be sure that these things are of the providence of God, that he means to break down the powers hostile to him and build up instead a Church in which his people are prepared for home and their mansions in the skies.

Dear hearers, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the promise that is given to you is: You shall have salvation, you shall have eternal life. May God bless the world! and to his name be the praise.

Rev. Dr. Macloskie:

O God, do Thou grant that this closing service may reach every heart. Our hearts are separated from Thee, but blessed be Thy name, O God. "Whosoever calleth upon Thee shall be saved." Do Thou pour out Thy Holy Spirit upon us at this time, and grant that every one of us may come to have eternal life. We thank Thee, our Father, for the happy meeting that we have had here, where numbers are gathered together from distant parts of this broad land. And now we separate, never to see each other again in this world. O grant that we may all meet together at the right hand of Jesus, and bless His name forever and ever, and to Thy name shall be all the glory. Amen.

Dr. Hemphill:

We close the exercises by singing the first two and last two verses of the sixty-eighth Psalm.

Dr. Hall:

"For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake." "And the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen."


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