Expositions of Holy Scripture: the Acts (2024)

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Title: Expositions of Holy Scripture: the Acts

Author: Alexander Maclaren

Release date: June 1, 2005 [eBook #8397]
Most recently updated: October 18, 2012

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Charles Franks, John Hagerson and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team


Produced by Charles Franks, John Hagerson and the Online

Distributed Proofreading Team






Chaps. I to XII VERSE 17.


THE ASCENSION (Acts i. 1-14)

THE THEME OF ACTS (Acts i. 1, 2; xxviii. 30, 31)

THE FORTY DAYS (Acts i. 3)




THE FOURFOLD SYMBOLS OF THE SPIRIT (Acts ii. 2, 3, 17; 1 John ii. 20)

PETER'S FIRST SERMON (Acts ii. 32-47)


A FOURFOLD CORD (Acts ii. 42)



'THE PRINCE OF LIFE' (Acts iii. 14, 15)







THE SERVANT AND THE SLAVES (Acts iv. 25, 27, 29)

THE WHEAT AND THE TARES (Acts iv. 32; v. 11)


OUR CAPTAIN (Acts v. 31)

GAMALIEL'S COUNSEL (Acts v. 38, 39)

FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT (Acts vi. 3, 5, 8)

STEPHEN'S VISION (Acts vii. 56)

THE YOUNG SAUL AND THE AGED PAUL (Acts vii. 58; Philemon 9)



SIMON THE SORCERER (Acts viii. 21)

A MEETING IN THE DESERT (Acts viii. 26-40)


GRACE TRIUMPHANT (Acts ix. 1-12; 17-20)

'THIS WAY' (Acts ix. 2)





PETER'S APOLOGIA (Acts xi. 1-18)







THE ANGEL'S TOUCH (Acts xii. 7, 23)

'SOBER CERTAINTY' (Acts xii. 11)

RHODA (Acts xii. 13)



'The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus beganboth to do and teach, 2. Until the day in which He was taken up, afterthat He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the Apostleswhom He had chosen: 3. To whom also He shewed Himself alive after Hispassion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, andspeaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4. And, beingassembled together with them, commanded them that they should notdepart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which,saith He, ye have heard of Me. 5. For John truly baptized with water;but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6.When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying,Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7.And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or theseasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. 8. But ye shallreceive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shallbe witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and inSamaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9. And when He hadspoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloudreceived Him out of their sight. 10. And while they looked stedfastlytoward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in whiteapparel; 11. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing upinto heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven,shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. 12.Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, whichis from Jerusalem a Sabbath day's journey. 13. And when they were comein, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James,and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew,James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother ofJames. 14. These all continued with one accord in prayer andsupplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and withHis brethren.'—ACTS i. 1-14.

The Ascension is twice narrated by Luke. The life begun by thesupernatural birth ends with the supernatural Ascension, which sets theseal of Heaven on Christ's claims and work. Therefore the Gospel endswith it. But it is also the starting-point of the Christ's heavenlyactivity, of which the growth of His Church, as recorded in the Acts,is the issue. Therefore the Book of the Acts of the Apostles beginswith it.

The keynote of the 'treatise' lies in the first words, which describethe Gospel as the record of what 'Jesus began to do and teach,' Lukewould have gone on to say that this second book of his contained thestory of what Jesus went on to do and teach after He was 'taken up,' ifhe had been strictly accurate, or had carried out his first intention,as shown by the mould of his introductory sentence; but he is swept oninto the full stream of his narrative, and we have to infer thecontrast between his two volumes from his statement of the contents ofhis first.

The book, then, is misnamed Acts of the Apostles, both because thegreater number of the Apostles do nothing in it, and because, inaccordance with the hint of the first verse, Christ Himself is the doerof all, as comes out distinctly in many places where the criticalevents of the Church's progress and extension are attributed to 'theLord.' In one aspect, Christ's work on earth was finished on the Cross;in another, that finished work is but the beginning both of His doingand teaching. Therefore we are not to regard His teaching while onearth as the completion of Christian revelation. To set aside theEpistles on the plea that the Gospels contain Christ's own teaching,while the Epistles are only Paul's or John's, is to misconceive therelation between the earthly and the heavenly activity of Jesus.

The statement of the theme of the book is followed by a brief summaryof the events between the Resurrection and Ascension. Luke had spokenof these in the end of his Gospel, but given no note of time, and runtogether the events of the day of the Resurrection and of the followingweeks, so that it might appear, as has been actually contended that hemeant, that the Ascension took place on the very day of Resurrection.The fact that in this place he gives more detailed statements, andtells how long elapsed between the Resurrection Sunday and theAscension, might have taught hasty critics that an author need not beignorant of what he does not mention, and that a detailed account doesnot contradict a summary one,—truths which do not seem very recondite,but have often been forgotten by very learned commentators.

Three points are signalised as occupying the forty days: commandmentswere given, Christ's actual living presence was demonstrated (by sight,touch, hearing, etc.), and instructions concerning the kingdom wereimparted. The old blessed closeness and continuity of companionship hadceased. Our Lord's appearances were now occasional. He came to thedisciples, they knew not whence; He withdrew from them, they knew notwhither. Apparently a sacred awe restrained them from seeking to detainHim or to follow Him. Their hearts would be full of strangely mingledfeelings, and they were being taught by gentle degrees to do withoutHim. Not only a divine decorum, but a most gracious tenderness,dictated the alternation of presence and absence during these days.

The instructions then given are again referred to in Luke's Gospel, andare there represented as principally directed to opening their minds'that they might understand the Scriptures.' The main thing about thekingdom which they had then to learn, was that it was founded on thedeath of Christ, who had fulfilled all the Old Testament predictions.Much remained untaught, which after years were to bring to clearknowledge; but from the illumination shed during these fruitful daysflowed the remarkable vigour and confidence of the Apostolic appeal tothe prophets, in the first conflicts of the Church with the rulers.Christ is the King of the kingdom, and His Cross is His throne,—thesetruths being grasped revolutionised the Apostles' conceptions. They areas needful for us.

From verse 4 onwards the last interview seems to be narrated. Probablyit began in the city, and ended on the slopes of Olivet. There was asolemn summoning together of the Eleven, which is twice referred to(vs. 4, 6). What awe of expectancy would rest on the group as theygathered round Him, perhaps half suspecting that it was for the lasttime! His words would change the suspicion into certainty, for Heproceeded to tell them what they were not to do and to do, when leftalone. The tone of leave-taking is unmistakable.

The prohibition against leaving Jerusalem implies that they would havedone so if left to themselves; and it would have been small wonder ifthey had been eager to hurry back to quiet Galilee, their home, and toshake from their feet the dust of the city where their Lord had beenslain. Truly they would feel like sheep in the midst of wolves when Hehad gone, and Pharisees and priests and Roman officers ringed themround. No wonder if, like a shepherdless flock, they had broken andscattered! But the theocratic importance of Jerusalem, and the factthat nowhere else could the Apostles secure such an audience for theirwitness, made their 'beginning at Jerusalem' necessary. So they were tocrush their natural longing to get back to Galilee, and to stay intheir dangerous position. We have all to ask, not where we should bemost at ease, but where we shall be most efficient as witnesses forChrist, and to remember that very often the presence of adversariesmakes the door 'great and effectual.'

These eleven poor men were not left by their Master with a hard taskand no help. He bade them 'wait' for the promised Holy Spirit, thecoming of whom they had heard from Him when in the upper room He spoketo them of 'the Comforter.' They were too feeble to act alone, andsilence and retirement were all that He enjoined till they had beenplunged into the fiery baptism which should quicken, strengthen, andtransform them.

The order in which promise and command occur here shows how graciouslyJesus considered the Apostles' weakness. Not a word does He say oftheir task of witnessing, till He has filled their hearts with thepromise of the Spirit. He shows them the armour of power in which theyare to be clothed, before He points them to the battlefield. Waitingtimes are not wasted times. Over-eagerness to rush into work,especially into conspicuous and perilous work, is sure to end indefeat. Till we feel the power coming into us, we had better be still.

The promise of this great gift, the nature of which they but dimlyknew, set the Apostles' expectations on tiptoe, and they seem to havethought that their reception of it was in some way the herald of theestablishment of the Messianic kingdom. So it was, but in a verydifferent fashion from their dream. They had not learned so much fromthe forty days' instructions concerning the kingdom as to be free fromtheir old Jewish notions, which colour their question, 'Wilt Thou atthis time restore again the kingdom to Israel?' They believed thatJesus could establish His kingdom when He would. They were right, andalso wrong,—right, for He is King; wrong, for its establishment is notto be effected by a single act of power, but by the slow process ofpreaching the gospel.

Our Lord does not deal with their misconceptions which could only becured by time and events; but He lays down great principles, which weneed as much as the Eleven did. The 'times and seasons,' the longstretches of days, and the critical epoch-making moments, are known toGod only; our business is, not to speculate curiously about these, butto do the plain duty which is incumbent on the Church at all times. Theperpetual office of Christ's people to be His witnesses, theirequipment for that function (namely, the power of the Holy Spiritcoming on them), and the sphere of their work (namely, in ever-wideningcircles, Jerusalem, Samaria, and the whole world), are laid down, notfor the first hearers only, but for all ages and for each individual,in these last words of the Lord as He stood on Olivet, ready to depart.

The calm simplicity of the account of the Ascension is remarkable. Sogreat an event told in such few, unimpassioned words! Luke's Gospelgives the further detail that it was in the act of blessing withuplifted hands that our Lord was parted from the Eleven. Twoexpressions are here used to describe the Ascension, one of which ('wastaken up') implies that He was passive, the other of which ('He went')implies that He was active. Both are true. As in the accounts of theResurrection He is sometimes said to have been raised, and sometimes tohave risen, so here. The Father took the Son back to the glory, the Sonleft the world and went to the Father. No chariot of fire, nowhirlwind, was needed to lift Him to the throne. Elijah was carried bysuch agency into a sphere new to him; Jesus ascended up where He wasbefore.

No other mode of departure from earth would have corresponded to Hisvoluntary, supernatural birth. He carried manhood up to the throne ofGod. The cloud which received Him while yet He was well within sight ofthe gazers was probably that same bright cloud, the symbol of theDivine Presence, which of old dwelt between the cherubim. His entranceinto it visibly symbolised the permanent participation, then begun, ofHis glorified manhood in the divine glory.

Most true to human nature is that continued gaze upwards after He hadpassed into the hiding brightness of the glory-cloud. How many of usknow what it is to look long at the spot on the horizon where the lastglint of sunshine struck the sails of the ship that bore dear ones awayfrom us! It was fitting that angels, who had heralded His birth andwatched His grave, should proclaim His Second Coming to earth.

It was gracious that, in the moment of keenest sense of desolation andloss, the great hope of reunion should be poured into the hearts of theApostles. Nothing can be more distinct and assured than the terms ofthat angel message. It gives for the faith and hope of all ages theassurance that He will come; that He who comes will be the very Jesuswho went; that His coming will be, like His departure, visible,corporeal, local. He will bring again all His tenderness, all Hisbrother's heart, all His divine power, and will gather His servants toHimself.

No wonder that, with such hopes flowing over the top of their sorrow,like oil on troubled waters, the little group went back to the upperroom, hallowed by memories of the Last Supper, and there waited inprayer and supplication during the ten days which elapsed tillPentecost. So should we use the interval between any promise and itsfulfilment. Patient expectation, believing prayer, harmoniousassociation with our brethren, will prepare us for receiving the giftof the Spirit, and will help to equip us as witnesses for Jesus.


'The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus beganboth to do and teach. 2. Until the day in which He was taken up.'—ACTSi. 1, 2.

'And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and receivedall that came in unto him, 31. Preaching the kingdom of God, andteaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with allconfidence, no man forbidding him.'—ACTS xxviii. 30, 31.

So begins and so ends this Book. I connect the commencement and theclose, because I think that the juxtaposition throws great light uponthe purpose of the writer, and suggests some very important lessons.The reference to 'the former treatise' (which is, of course, the Gospelaccording to Luke) implies that this Book is to be regarded as itssequel, and the terms of the reference show the writer's own conceptionof what he was going to do in his second volume. 'The former treatisehave I made … of all that Jesus began both to do and teach untilthe day in which He was taken up.' Is not the natural inference thatthe latter treatise will tell us what Jesus continued 'to do andteach' after He was taken up? I think so. And thus the writer setsforth at once, for those that have eyes to see, what he means to do,and what he thinks his book is going to be about.

So, then, the name 'The Acts of the Apostles,' which is not coeval withthe book itself, is somewhat of a misnomer. Most of the Apostles arenever heard of in it. There are, at the most, only three or four ofthem concerning whom anything in the book is recorded. But our firsttext supplies a deeper reason for regarding that title as inadequate,and even misleading. For, if the theme of the story be what Christ did,then the book is, not the 'Acts of the Apostles,' but the 'Acts ofJesus Christ' through His servants. He, and He alone, is the Actor;and the men who appear in it are but instruments in His hands, He alonebeing the mover of the pawns on the board.

That conception of the purpose of the book seems to me to have lightcast upon it by, and to explain, the singular abruptness of itsconclusion, which must strike every reader. No doubt it is quitepossible that the reason why the book ends in such a singular fashion,planting Paul in Rome, and leaving him there, may be that the date ofits composition was that imprisonment of Paul in the Imperial City, ina part of which, at all events, we know that Luke was his companion.But, whilst that consideration may explain the point at which the bookstops, it does not explain the way in which it stops. The historianlays down his pen, possibly because he had brought his narrative up todate. But a word of conclusion explaining that it was so would havebeen very natural, and its absence must have had some reason. It isalso possible that the arrival of the Apostle in the Imperial City, andhis unhindered liberty of preaching there, in the very centre of power,the focus of intellectual life, and the hot-bed of corruption for theknown world, may have seemed to the writer an epoch which rounded offhis story. But I think that the reason for the abruptness of therecord's close is to be found in the continuity of the work of which ittells a part. It is the unfinished record of an incomplete work. Thetheme is the work of Christ through the ages, of which each successivedepository of His energies can do but a small portion, and must leavethat portion unfinished; the book does not so much end as stop. It is afragment, because the work of which it tells is not yet a whole.

If, then, we put these two things—the beginning and the ending of theActs—together, I think we get some thoughts about what Christ began todo and teach on earth; what He continues to do and teach in heaven; andhow small and fragmentary a share in that work each individual servantof His has. Let us look at these points briefly.

I. First, then, we have here the suggestion of what Christ began to doand teach on earth.

Now, at first sight, the words of our text seem to be in strange andstartling contradiction to the solemn cry which rang out of thedarkness upon Calvary. Jesus said, 'It is finished!' and 'gave up theghost.' Luke says He 'began to do and teach.' Is there anycontradiction between the two? Certainly not. It is one thing to lay afoundation; it is another thing to build a house. And the work oflaying the foundation must be finished before the work of building thestructure upon it can be begun. It is one thing to create a force; itis another thing to apply it. It is one thing to compound a medicine;it is another thing to administer it. It is one thing to unveil atruth; it is another to unfold its successive applications, and to workit into a belief and practice in the world. The former is the work ofChrist which was finished on earth; the latter is the work which iscontinuous throughout the ages.

'He began to do and teach,' not in the sense that any should come afterHim and do, as the disciples of most great discoverers and thinkershave had to do: namely, systematise, rectify, and complete the firstglimpses of truth which the master had given. 'He began to do andteach,' not in the sense that after He had 'passed into the heavens'any new truth or force can for evermore be imparted to humanity inregard of the subjects which He taught and the energies which Hebrought. But whilst thus His work is complete, His earthly work is alsoinitial. And we must remember that whatever distinction my text maymean to draw between the work of Christ in the past and that in thepresent and the future, it does not mean to imply that when He'ascended up on high' He had not completed the task for which He came,or that the world had to wait for anything more, either from Him orfrom others, to eke out the imperfections of His doctrine or theinsufficiencies of His work.

Let us ever remember that the initial work of Christ on earth iscomplete in so far as the revelation of God to men is concerned. Therewill be no other. There is needed no other. Nothing more is possiblethan what He, by His words and by His life, by His gentleness and Hisgrace, by His patience and His Passion, has unveiled to all men, of theheart and character of God. The revelation is complete, and he thatprofesses to add anything to, or to substitute anything for, thefinished teaching of Jesus Christ concerning God, and man's relation toGod, and man's duty, destiny, and hopes, is a false teacher, and tofollow him is fatal. All that ever come after Him and say, 'Here issomething that Christ has not told you,' are thieves and robbers, 'andthe sheep will not hear them.'

In like manner that work of Christ, which in some sense is initial, iscomplete as Redemption. 'This Man has offered up one sacrifice for sinsfor ever.' And nothing more can He do than He has done; and nothingmore can any man or all men do than was accomplished on the Cross ofCalvary as giving a revelation, as effecting a redemption, as lodgingin the heart of humanity, and in the midst of the stream of humanhistory, a purifying energy, sufficient to cleanse the whole blackstream. The past work which culminated on the Cross, and was sealed asadequate and accepted of God in the Resurrection and Ascension, needsno supplement, and can have no continuation, world without end. And so,whatever may be the meaning of that singular phrase, 'began to do andteach,' it does not, in the smallest degree, conflict with theassurance that He hath ascended up on high, 'having obtained eternalredemption for us,' and 'having finished the work which the Father gaveHim to do.'

II. But then, secondly, we have to notice what Christ continues to doand to teach after His Ascension.

I have already suggested that the phraseology of the first of my textsnaturally leads to the conclusion that the theme of this Book of theActs is the continuous work of the ascended Saviour, and that thelanguage is not forced by being thus interpreted is very plain to anyone who will glance even cursorily over the contents of the bookitself. For there is nothing in it more obvious and remarkable than theway in which, at every turn in the narrative, all is referred to JesusChrist Himself.

For instance, to cull one or two cases in order to bring the mattermore plainly before you—When the Apostles determined to select anotherApostle to fill Judas' place, they asked Jesus Christ to show which 'ofthese two Thou hast chosen.' When Peter is called upon to explain thetongues at Pentecost he says, 'Jesus hath shed forth this which ye nowsee and hear.' When the writer would tell the reason of the large firstincrease to the Church, he says, 'The Lord added to the Church dailysuch as should be saved.' Peter and John go into the Temple to heal thelame man, and their words to him are, 'Do not think that our power orholiness is any factor in your cure. The Name hath made this manwhole.' It is the Lord that appears to Paul and to Ananias, to the oneon the road to Damascus and to the other in the city. It is the Lord towhom Peter refers Aeneas when he says, 'Jesus Christ maketh theewhole.' It was the Lord that 'opened the heart of Lydia.' It was theLord that appeared to Paul in Corinth, and said to him, 'I have muchpeople in this city'; and again, when in the prison at Jerusalem, Heassured the Apostle that he would be carried to Rome. And so, at everyturn in the narrative, we find that Christ is presented as influencingmen's hearts, operating upon outward events, working miracles,confirming His word, leading His servants, and prescribing for themtheir paths, and all which they do is done by the hand of the Lord withthem confirming the word which they spoke. Jesus Christ is the Actor,and He only is the Actor; men are His implements and instruments.

The same point of view is suggested by another of the characteristicsof this book, which it shares in common with all Scripture narratives,and that is the stolid indifference with which it picks up and dropsmen, according to the degree in which, for the moment, they are theinstruments of Christ's power. Supposing a man had been writing Acts ofthe Apostles, do you think it would have been possible that of thegreater number of them he should not say a word, that concerning thoseof whom he does speak he should deal with them as this book does,barely mentioning the martyrdom of James, one of the four chiefApostles; allowing Peter to slip out of the narrative after the greatmeeting of the Church at Jerusalem; letting Philip disappear without ahint of what he did thereafter; lodging Paul in Rome and leaving himthere, with no account of his subsequent work or martyrdom? Suchphenomena—and they might be largely multiplied—are only explicableupon one hypothesis. As long as electricity streams on the carbon pointit glows and is visible, but when the current is turned to another lampwe see no more of the bit of carbon. As long as God uses a man the manis of interest to the writers of the Scriptures. When God uses anotherone, they drop the first, and have no more care about him, becausetheir theme is not men and their doings, but God's doings through men.

On us, and in us, and by us, and for us, if we are His servants, Jesus
Christ is working all through the ages. He is the Lord of Providence,
He is the King of history, in His hand is the book with the seven
seals; He sends His Spirit, and where His Spirit is He is; and what His
Spirit does He does. And thus He continues to teach and to work from
His throne in the heavens.

He continues to teach, not by the communication of new truth. That isfinished. The volume of Revelation is complete. The last word of thedivine utterances hath been spoken until that final word which shallend Time and crumble the earth. But the application of the completedRevelation, the unfolding of all that is wrapped in germ in it; thegrowing of the seed into a tree, the realisation more completely byindividuals and communities of the principles and truths which JesusChrist has brought us by His life and His death—that is the work thatis going on to-day, and that will go on till the end of the world. Forthe old Puritan belief is true, though the modern rationalisticmutilations of it are false, 'God hath more light yet to breakforth'—and our modern men stop there. But what the sturdy old Puritansaid was, 'more light yet to break forth from His holy Word.' JesusChrist teaches the ages—through the lessons of providence and thecommunication of His Spirit to His Church—to understand what He gavethe world when He was here.

In like manner He works. The foundation is laid, the healing medicineis prepared, the cleansing element is cast into the mass of humanity;what remains is the application and appropriation, and incorporation inconduct, of the redeeming powers that Jesus Christ has brought. Andthat work is going on, and will go on, till the end.

Now these truths of our Lord's continuous activity in teaching andworking from heaven may yield us some not unimportant lessons. What adepth and warmth and reality the thoughts give to the Christian'srelation to Jesus Christ! We have to look back to that Cross as thefoundation of all our hope. Yes! But we have to think, not only of aChrist who did something for us long ago in the past, and there an end,but of a Christ who to-day lives and reigns, 'to do and to teach'according to our necessities. What a sweetness and sacredness suchthoughts impart to all external events, which we may regard as beingthe operation of His love, and as moved by the hands that were nailedto the Cross for us, and now hold the sceptre of the universe for theblessing of mankind! What a fountain of hope they open in estimatingfuture probabilities of victory for truth and goodness! The forces ofgood and evil in the world seem very disproportionate, but we forgettoo often to take Christ into account. It is not we that have tofight against evil; at the best we are but the sword which Christwields, and all the power is in the hand that wields it. Great men die,good men die; Jesus Christ is not dead. Paul was martyred: Jesus lives;He is the anchor of our hope. We see miseries and mysteries enough, Godknows. The prospects of all good causes seem often clouded and dark.The world has an awful power of putting drags upon all chariots thatbear blessings, and of turning to evil every good. You cannot diffuseeducation, but you diffuse the taste for rubbish and something worse,in the shape of books. No good thing but has its shadow of evilattendant upon it. And if we had only to estimate by visible or humanforces, we might well sit down and wrap ourselves in the sackcloth ofpessimism. 'We see not yet all things put under Him'; but 'we see Jesuscrowned with glory and honour,' and the vision that cheered the firstmartyr—of Christ 'standing at the right hand of God'—is the rebuke ofevery fear and every gloomy anticipation for ourselves or for the world.

What a lesson of lowliness and of diligence it gives us! The janglingchurch at Corinth fought about whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas wasthe man to lead the Church, and the experience has been repeated overand over again. 'Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? but ministers by whom yebelieved, even as the Lord gave to every man. Be not puffed up oneagainst another. Be not wise in your own conceits.' You are only atool, only a pawn in the hand of the Great Player. If you haveanything, it is because you get it from Him. See that you use it, anddo not boast about it. Jesus Christ is the Worker, the only Worker; theTeacher, the only Teacher. All our wisdom is derived, all our light isenkindled. We are but the reeds through which His breath makes music.And 'shall the axe boast itself,' either 'against' or apart from 'Himthat heweth therewith'?

III. Lastly, we note the incompleteness of each man's share in thegreat work.

As I said, the book which is to tell the story of Christ's continuousunfinished work must stop abruptly. There is no help for it. If it wasa history of Paul it would need to be wound up to an end and a selvageput to it, but as it is the history of Christ's working, the web is nothalf finished, and the shuttle stops in the middle of a cast. The bookmust be incomplete, because the work of which it is the record does notend until 'He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to the Father, andGod shall be all in all.'

So the work of each man is but a fragment of that great work. Every maninherits unfinished tasks from his predecessors, and leaves unfinishedtasks to his successors. It is, as it used to be in the Middle Ages,when the hands that dug the foundations, or laid the first courses, ofsome great cathedral, were dead long generations before the gildedcross was set on the apex of the needlespire, and the glowing glassfilled in to the painted windows. Enough for us, if we lay a stone,though it be but one stone in one of the courses of the great building.

Luke has left plenty of blank paper at the end of his second'treatise,' on which he meant that succeeding generations should writetheir partial contributions to the completed work. Dear friends, let ussee that we write our little line, as monks in their monasteries usedto keep the chronicle of the house, on which scribe after scribe toiledat its illuminated letters with loving patience for a little while, andthen handed the pen from his dying hand to another. What does it matterthough we drop, having done but a fragment? He gathers up the fragmentsinto His completed work, and the imperfect services which He enabledany of us to do will all be represented in the perfect circle of Hisfinished work. The Lord help us to be faithful to the power that worksin us, and to leave Him to incorporate our fragments in His mightywhole!


'To whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by manyinfallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of thethings pertaining to the kingdom of God.'—ACTS i. 3.

The forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension havedistinctly marked characteristics. They are unlike to the period beforethem in many respects, but completely similar in others; they have apreparatory character throughout; they all bear on the future work ofthe disciples, and hearten them for the time when they should be leftalone.

The words of the text give us their leading features. They bring out—

1. Their evidential value, as confirming the fact of the Resurrection.

'He showed Himself alive after His passion by … proofs.'

By sight, repeated, to individuals, to companies, to Mary in hersolitary sadness, to Peter the penitent, to the two on the road toEmmaus. At all hours: in the evening when the doors were shut; in themorning; in grey twilight; in daytime on the road. At many places—inhouses, out of doors.

The signs of true corporeity—the sight, the eating.

The signs of bodily identity,—'Reach hither thy hand.' 'He showed them
His hands and His side.'

Was this the glorified body?

The affirmative answer is usually rested on the facts that He was notknown by Mary or the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and that He cameinto the upper room when the doors were shut. But the force of thesefacts is broken by remembering that Mary saw nothing about Him unlikeother men, but supposed Him to be the gardener—which puts the idea ofa glorified body out of the question, and leaves us to suppose that shewas full of weeping indifference to any one.

Then as to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke carefully tells usthat the reason why they did not know Him was in them and not inHim—that it was 'because their eyes were holden,' not because His bodywas changed.

And as to His coming when the doors were shut, why should not that belike the other miracles, when 'He conveyed Himself away, a multitudebeing in the place,' and when He walked on the waters?

There cannot then be anything decidedly built on these facts, and theconsiderations on the other side are very strong. Surely the wholedrift of the narrative goes in the direction of representing Christ's'glory' as beginning with His Ascension, and consequently the 'body ofHis glory' as being then assumed. Further, the argument of 1 Cor. xv.goes on the assumption that 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdomof God,' that is, that the material corporeity is incongruous with, andincapable of entrance into, the conditions of that future life, and, byparity of reasoning, that the spiritual body, which is to be conformedto the body of Christ's glory, is incongruous with, and incapable ofentrance into, the conditions of this earthly life. As is theenvironment, so must be the 'body' that is at home in it.

Further, the facts of our Lord's eating and drinking after HisResurrection are not easily reconcilable with the contention that Hewas then invested with the glorified body.

We must, then, think of transfiguration, rather than of resurrectiononly, as the way by which He passed into the heavens. He 'slept' butwoke, and, as He ascended, was 'changed.'

II. The renewal of the old bond by the tokens of His unchangeddisposition.

Recall the many beautiful links with the past: the message to Peter;that to Mary; 'Tell My brethren,' 'He was known in breaking of bread,''Peace be with you!' (repetition from John xvii.), the miraculousdraught of fishes, and the meal and conversation afterwards, recallingthe miracle at the beginning of the closer association of the fourApostles of the first rank with their Lord. The forty days revealed theold heart, the old tenderness. He remembers all the past. He sends amessage to the penitent; He renews to the faithful the former gift of'peace.'

How precious all this is as a revelation of the impotence of death inregard to Him and us! It assures us of the perpetuity of His love. Heshowed Himself after His passion as the same old Self, the same oldtender Lover. His appearances then prepare us for the last vision ofHim in the Apocalypse, in which we see His perpetual humanity, Hisperpetual tenderness, and hear Him saying: 'I am … the Living One,and I became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore.'

These forty days assure us of the narrow limits of the power of death.Love lives through death, memory lives through it. Christ has livedthrough it and comes up from the grave, serene and tender, withunruffled peace, with all the old tones of tenderness in the voice thatsaid 'Mary!' So may we be sure that through death and after it we shalllive and be ourselves. We, too, shall show ourselves alive after wehave experienced the superficial change of death.

III. The change in Christ's relations to the disciples and to theworld. 'Appearing unto them by the space of forty days.'

The words mark a contrast to Christ's former constant intercourse withthe disciples. This is occasional; He appears at intervals during theforty days. He comes amongst them and disappears. He is seen again inthe morning light by the lake-side and goes away. He tells them to comeand meet Him in Galilee. That intermittent presence prepared thedisciples for His departure. It was painful and educative. It carriedout His own word, 'And now I am no more in the world.'

We observe in the disciples traces of a deeper awe. They say little.'Master!' 'My Lord and my God!' 'None durst ask Him, Who art Thou?'Even Peter ventures only on 'Lord, Thou knowest all things,' and on oneflash of the old familiarity: 'What shall this man do?' John, whor*calls very touchingly, in that appendix to his Gospel, the blessedtime when he leaned on Jesus' breast at supper, now only humblyfollows, while the others sit still and awed, by that strange fire onthe banks of the lonely lake.

A clearer vision of the Lord on their parts, a deeper sense of who Heis, make them assume more of the attitude of worshippers, though notless that of friends. And He can no more dwell with them, and go in andout among them.

As for the world—'It seeth Me no more, but ye see Me.' He was 'seen ofthem,' not of others. There is no more appeal to the people, no moreteaching, no more standing in the Temple. Why is this? Is it not thecommentary on His own word on the Cross, 'It is finished!' marking mostdistinctly that His work on earth was ended when He died, and soconfirming that conception of His earthly mission which sees itsculmination and centre of power in the Cross?

IV. Instruction and prophecy for the future.

The preparation of the disciples for their future work and conditionwas a chief purpose of the forty days. Jesus spoke 'of the thingspertaining to the Kingdom of God.' He also 'gave commandments to theApostles.'

Note how much there is, in His conversations with them—

1. Of opening to them the Scriptures. 'Christ must needs suffer,' etc.

2. Of lessons for their future, thus fitting them for their task.

3. Mark how this transitional period taught them that His going awaywas not to be sorrow and loss, but joy and gain, 'Touch Me not, for Ihave not yet ascended.'

Our present relation to the ascended Lord is as much an advance on thatof the disciples to the risen Lord, as that was on their relation toHim during His earthly life. They had more real communion with Himwhen, with opened hearts, they heard Him interpret the Scripturesconcerning Himself, and fell at His feet crying 'My Lord and my God!'though they saw Him but for short seasons and at intervals, than whenday by day they were with Him and knew Him not. As they grew in loveand ripened in knowledge, they knew Him better and better.

For us, too, these forty days are full of blessed lessons, teaching usthat real communion with Jesus is attained by faith in Him, and that Heis still working in and for us, and is still present with us. The joywith which the disciples saw Him ascend should live on in us as wethink of Him enthroned. The hope that the angels' message lit up intheir hearts should burn in ours. The benediction which the Risen Lorduttered on those who have not seen and yet have believed falls indouble measure on those who, though now they see Him not, yet believingrejoice in Jesus with joy unspeakable and full of glory.


A New Year's Sermon

'It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Fatherhath put in His own power.'—ACTS i. 7.

The New Testament gives little encouragement to a sentimental view oflife. Its writers had too much to do, and too much besides to thinkabout, for undue occupation with pensive remembrances or imaginativeforecastings. They bid us remember as a stimulus to thanksgiving and aground of hope. They bid us look forward, but not along the low levelsof earth and its changes. One great future is to draw all our longingsand to fix our eyes, as the tender hues of the dawn kindle infiniteyearnings in the soul of the gazer. What may come is all hidden; we canmake vague guesses, but reach nothing more certain. Mist and cloudconceal the path in front of the portion which we are actuallytraversing, but when it climbs, it comes out clear from the fogs thathang about the flats. We can track it winding up to the throne ofChrist. Nothing is certain, but the coming of the Lord and 'ourgathering together to Him.'

The words of this text in their original meaning point only to theignorance of the time of the end which Christ had been foretelling. Butthey may allow of a much wider application, and their lessons are inentire consonance with the whole tone of Scripture in regard to thefuture. We are standing now at the beginning of a New Year, and theinfluence of the season is felt in some degree by us all. Not for thesake of repressing any wise forecasting which has for its object ourpreparation for probable duties and exigencies; not for the purpose ofrepressing that trustful anticipation which, building on our past timeand on God's eternity, fronts the future with calm confidence; not forthe sake of discouraging that pensive and softened mood which if itdoes nothing more, at least delivers us for a moment from the tyrannouspower of the present, do we turn to these words now; but that we maytogether consider how much they contain of cheer and encouragement, ofstimulus to our duty, and of calming for our hearts in the prospect ofa New Year. They teach us the limits of our care for the future, asthey give us the limits of our knowledge of it. They teach us the bestremedies for all anxiety, the great thoughts that tranquillise us inour ignorance, viz. that all is in God's merciful hand, and thatwhatever may come, we have a divine power which will fit us for it; andthey bid us anticipate our work and do it, as the best counterpoise forall vain curiosity about what may be coming on the earth.

I. The narrow limits of our knowledge of the future.

We are quite sure that we shall die. We are sure that a mingled web ofjoy and sorrow, light shot with dark, will be unrolled before us—butof anything more we are really ignorant. We know that certainly thegreat majority of us will be alive at the close of this New Year; butwho will be the exceptions? A great many of us, especially those of uswho are in the monotonous stretch of middle life, will go onsubstantially as we have been going on for years past, with ourordinary duties, joys, sorrows, cares; but to some of us, in allprobability, this year holds some great change which may darken all ourdays or brighten them. In all our forward-looking there ever remains anelement of uncertainty. The future fronts us like some statue beneathits canvas covering. Rolling mists hide it all, except here and there apeak.

I need not remind you how merciful and good it is that it is so.Therefore coming sorrows do not diffuse anticipatory bitterness as oftainted water percolating through gravel, and coming joys are notdiscounted, and the present has a reality of its own, and is notcoloured by what is to come.

Then this being so—what is the wise course of conduct? Not a confidentreckoning on to-morrow. There is nothing elevating in anticipationwhich paints the blank surface of the future with the same earthlycolours as dye the present. There is no more complete waste of timethan that. Nor is proud self-confidence any wiser, which jauntily takesfor granted that 'tomorrow will be as this day.' The conceit thatthings are to go on as they have been fools men into a dream ofpermanence which has no basis. Nor is the fearful apprehension of evilany wiser. How many people spoil the present gladness with thoughts offuture sorrow, and cannot enjoy the blessedness of united love forthinking of separation!

In brief, it is wise to be but little concerned with the future,except—

1. In the way of taking reasonable precautions to prepare for itsprobabilities.

2. To fit ourselves for its duties.

One future we may contemplate. Our fault is not that we look forward,but that we do not look far enough forward. Why trouble with the worldwhen we have heaven? Why look along the low level among the mists ofearth and forests and swamps, when we can see the road climbing to theheights? Why be anxious about what three hundred and sixty-five daysmay bring, when we know what Eternity will bring? Why divert ourGod-given faculty of hope from its true object? Why torment ourselveswith casting the fashion of uncertain evils, when we can enter into thegreat peace of looking for 'that blessed Hope'?

II. The safe Hands which keep the future.

'The Father hath put in His own power.' We have not to depend upon animpersonal Fate; nor upon a wild whirl of Chance; nor upon 'laws ofaverages,' 'natural laws,' 'tendencies' and 'spirit of the age'; noreven on a theistic Providence, but upon a Father who holds all things'in His own power,' and wields all for us. So will not our way be maderight?

Whatever the future may bring, it will be loving, paternal discipline.
He shapes it all and keeps it in His hands. Why should we be anxious?
That great name of 'Father' binds Him to tender, wise, disciplinary
dealing, and should move us to calm and happy trust.

III. The sufficient strength to face the future.

'The power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you' is promised here to thedisciples for a specific purpose; but it is promised and given to usall through Christ, if we will only take it. And in Him we shall beready for all the future.

The Spirit of God is the true Interpreter of Providence. He calms ournature, and enlightens our understanding to grasp the meaning of allour experiences. The Spirit makes joy more blessed, by keeping us fromundue absorption in it. The Spirit is the Comforter. The Spirit fits usfor duty.

So be quite sure that nothing will come to you in your earthly future,which He does not Himself accompany to interpret it, and to make itpure blessing.

IV. The practical duty in view of the future.

(a) The great thing we ought to look to in the future is our work,—notwhat we shall enjoy or what we shall endure, but what we shall do. Thisis healthful and calming.

(b) The great remedy for morbid anticipation lies in regarding life asthe opportunity for service. Never mind about the future, let it takecare of itself. Work! That clears away cobwebs from our brains, as whena man wakes from troubled dreams, to hear 'the sweep of scythe inmorning dew,' and the shout of the peasant as he trudges to his task,and the lowing of the cattle, and the clink of the hammer.

(c) The great work we have to do in the future is to be witnesses forChrist. This is the meaning of all life; we can do it in joy and insorrow, and we shall bear a charmed life till it be done. So the wordsof the text are a promise of preservation.

Then, dear brethren, how do you stand fronting that Unknown? How canyou face it without going mad, unless you know God and trust Him asyour Father through Christ? If you do, you need have no fear. To-morrowlies all dim and strange before you, but His gentle and strong hand isworking in the darkness and He will shape it right. He will fit you tobear it all. If you regard it as your supreme duty and highest honourto be Christ's witness, you will be kept safe, 'delivered out of themouth of the lion,' that by you 'the preaching may be fully known.'

If not, how dreary is that future to you, 'all dim and cheerless, likea rainy sea,' from which wild shapes may come up and devour you! Loveand friendship will pass, honour and strength will fail, life will ebbaway, and of all that once stretched before you, nothing will be leftbut one little strip of sand, fast jellying with the tide beneath yourfeet, and before you a wild unlighted ocean!


'Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time thatthe Lord Jesus went in and out among us … must one be ordained to bea witness with us of His resurrection.'—ACTS i. 21, 22.

The fact of Christ's Resurrection was the staple of the first Christiansermon recorded in this Book of the Acts of the Apostles. They did notdeal so much in doctrine; they did not dwell very distinctly upon whatwe call, and rightly call, the atoning death of Christ; out theyproclaimed what they had seen with their eyes—that He died and roseagain.

And not only was the main subject of their teaching the Resurrection,but it was the Resurrection in one of its aspects and for one specificpurpose. There are, speaking roughly, three main connections in whichthe fact of Christ's rising from the dead is viewed in Scripture, andthese three successively emerge in the consciousness of the EarlyChurch.

It was, first, a fact affecting Him, a testimony concerning Him,carrying with it necessarily some great truths with regard to Him, Hischaracter, His nature, and His work. And it was in that aspect mainlythat the earliest preachers dealt with it. Then, as reflection and theguidance of God's good Spirit led them to understand more and more ofthe treasure which lay in the fact, it came to be to them, next, apattern, and a pledge, and a prophecy of their own resurrection. Thedoctrine of man's immortality and the future life was evolved from it,and was felt to be implied in it. And then it came to be, thirdly andlastly, a symbol or figure of the spiritual resurrection and newness oflife into which all they were born who participated in His death. Theyknew Him first by His Resurrection; they then knew 'the power of HisResurrection' as a pledge of their own; and lastly, they knew it asbeing the pattern to which they were to be conformed even whilst hereon earth.

The words which I have read for my text are the Apostle Peter's owndescription of what was the office of an Apostle—'to be a witness withus of Christ's Resurrection.' And the statement branches out, I think,into three considerations, to which I ask your attention now. First, wehave here the witnesses; secondly, we have the sufficiency of theirtestimony; and thirdly, we have the importance of the fact to whichthey bear their witness. The Apostles are testimony-bearers. Theirwitness is enough to establish the fact. The fact to which they witnessis all-important for the religion and the hopes of the world.

I. First, then, the Witnesses.

Here we have the 'head of the Apostolic College,' the 'primate' of theTwelve, on whose supposed primacy—which is certainly not a'rock'—such tremendous claims have been built, laying down thequalifications and the functions of an Apostle. How simply they presentthemselves to his mind! The qualification is only personal knowledge ofJesus Christ in His earthly history, because the function is only toattest His Resurrection. Their work was to bear witness to what theyhad seen with their eyes; and what was needed, therefore, was nothingmore than such familiarity with Christ as should make them competentwitnesses to the fact that He died, and to the fact that the same Jesuswho had died, and whom they knew so well, rose again and went up toheaven.

The same conception of an Apostle's work lies in Christ's last solemndesignation of them for their office, where their whole commission isincluded in the simple words, 'Ye shall be witnesses unto Me.' Itappears again and again in the earlier addresses reported in this book.'This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.' 'WhomGod hath raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses.' 'With greatpower gave the Apostles witness of the Resurrection.' 'We are Hiswitnesses of these things.' To Cornelius, Peter speaks of the Apostlesas 'witnesses chosen before of God, who did eat and drink with Himafter He rose from the dead'—and whose charge, received from Christ,was 'to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judgeof quick and dead.' Paul at Antioch speaks of the Twelve, from whom hedistinguishes himself, as being 'Christ's witnesses to thepeople'—and seems to regard them as specially commissioned to theJewish nation, while he was sent to 'declare unto you'—Gentiles—thesame 'glad tidings,' in that 'God had raised up Jesus again.' So wemight go on accumulating passages, but these will suffice.

I need not spend time in elaborating or emphasising the contrast whichthe idea of the Apostolic office contained in these simple wordspresents to the portentous theories of later times. I need only remindyou that, according to the Gospels, the work of the Apostles inChrist's lifetime embraced three elements, none of which were peculiarto them—to be with Christ, to preach, and to work miracles; that theircharacteristic work after His Ascension was this of witness-bearing;that the Church did not owe to them as a body its extension, norChristian doctrine its form; that whilst Peter and James and Johnappear in the history, and Matthew perhaps wrote a Gospel, and theother James and Jude are probably the authors of the brief Epistleswhich bear their names—the rest of the Twelve never appear in thesubsequent history. The Acts of the Apostles is a misnomer for Luke'ssecond 'treatise.' It tells the work of Peter alone among the Twelve.The Hellenists Stephen and Philip, the Cypriote Barnabas, and the manof Tarsus—greater than them all—these spread the name of Christbeyond the limits of the Holy City and the chosen people. The solemnpower of 'binding and loosing' was not a prerogative of the Twelve, forwe read that Jesus came where 'the disciples were assembled,' andthat 'the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord'; and 'Hebreathed on them, and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soeversins ye remit, they are remitted."'

Where in all this is there a trace of the special Apostolic powerswhich have been alleged to be transmitted from them? Nowhere. Who wasit that came and said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord hath sent me that thoumightest be filled with the Holy Ghost'? A simple 'layman'! Who was itthat stood by, a passive and astonished spectator of the communicationof spiritual gifts to Gentile converts, and could only say, 'Forasmuch,then, as God gave them the like gift, as He did unto us, what was Ithat I could withstand God?' Peter, the leader of the Twelve!

Their task was apparently a humbler, really a far more important one.Their place was apparently a lowlier, really a loftier one. They had tolay broad and deep the basis for all the growth and grace of theChurch, in the facts which they witnessed. Their work abides; and whenthe Celestial City is revealed to our longing hearts, in itsfoundations will be read 'the names of the twelve Apostles of theLamb.' Their office was testimony; and their testimony was to thiseffect—'Hearken, we eleven men knew this Jesus. Some of us knew Himwhen He was a boy, and lived beside that little village where He wasbrought up. We were with Him for three whole years in close contact dayand night. We all of us, though we were cowards, stood afar off with ahandful of women when He was crucified. We saw Him dead. We saw Hisgrave. We saw Him living, and we touched Him, and handled Him, and Heate and drank with us; and we, sinners that we are that tell it you, wewent out with Him to the top of Olivet, and we saw Him go up into theskies. Do you believe us or do you not? We do not come in the firstplace to preach doctrines. We are not thinkers or moralists. We areplain men, telling a plain story, to the truth of which we pledge oursenses. We do not want compliments about our spiritual elevation, orour pure morality. We do not want reverence as possessors of mysteriousand exclusive powers. We want you to believe us as honest men, relatingwhat we have seen. There are eleven of us, and there are five hundredat our back, and we have all got the one simple story to tell. It is,indeed, a gospel, a philosophy, a theology, the reconciliation of earthand heaven, the revelation of God to man, and of man to himself, theunveiling of the future world, the basis of hope; but we bring it toyou first as a thing that happened upon this earth of ours, which wesaw with our eyes, and of which we are the witnesses.'

To that work there can be no successors. Some of the Apostles wereinspired to be the writers of the authoritative fountains of religioustruth; but that gift did not belong to them all, and was not thedistinctive possession of the Twelve. The power of working miracles,and of communicating supernatural gifts, was not confined to them, butis found exercised by other believers, as well as by a whole'presbytery.' And as for what was properly their task, and theirqualifications, there can be no succession, for there is nothing tosucceed to, but what cannot be transmitted—the sight of the risenSaviour, and the witness to His Resurrection as a fact certified bytheir senses.

II. The sufficiency of the testimony.

Peter regards (as does the whole New Testament, and as did Peter's
Master, when He appointed these men) the witness which he and his
fellows bore as enough to lay firm and deep the historical fact of the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The first point that I would suggest here is this: if we think ofChristianity as being mainly a set of truths—spiritual, moral,intellectual—then, of course, the way to prove Christianity is to showthe consistency of that body of truths with one another, theirconsistency with other truths, their derivation from admittedprinciples, their reasonableness, their adaptation to men's nature, therefining and elevating effects of their adoption, and so on. If wethink of Christianity, on the other hand, as being first a set ofhistorical facts which carry the doctrines, then the way to proveChristianity is not to show how reasonable it is, not to show how ithas been anticipated and expected and desired, not to show how itcorresponds with men's needs and men's longings, not to show what largeand blessed results follow from its acceptance. All these arelegitimate ways of establishing principles; but the way to establish afact is only one—that is, to find somebody that can say, 'I know it,for I saw it.'

And my belief is that the course of modern 'apologetics,' as they arecalled—methods of defending Christianity—has followed too slavishlythe devious course of modern antagonism, and has departed from its realstronghold when it has consented to argue the question on these (as Itake them to be) lower and less sufficing grounds. I am thankful toadopt all that wise Christian apologists may have said in regard to thereasonableness of Christianity; its correspondence with men's wants,the blessings that follow from it, and so forth; but the Gospel isfirst and foremost a history, and you cannot prove that a thing hashappened by showing how very desirable it is that it should happen, howreasonable it is to expect that it should happen, what good resultswould follow from believing that it has happened—all that isirrelevant. Think of it as first a history, and then you are shut up tothe old-fashioned line of evidence, irrefragable as I take it to be, towhich all these others may afterwards be appended as confirmatory. Itis true, because sufficient eye-witnesses assert it. It did happen,because it is commended to us by the ordinary canons of evidence whichwe accept in regard to all other matters of fact.

With regard to the sufficiency of the specific evidence here, I wish tomake only one or two observations.

Suppose you yield up everything that the most craving and unreasonablemodern scepticism can demand as to the date and authorship of thesetracts that make the New Testament, we have still left four letters ofthe Apostle Paul, which no one has ever denied, which the veryextremest professors of the 'higher criticism' themselves accept. Thesefour are the Epistles to the Romans, the first and second to theCorinthians, and that to the Galatians. The dates which are assigned tothese four letters by any one, believer or unbeliever, bring themwithin five-and-twenty years of the alleged date of Christ'sresurrection.

Then what do we find in these undeniably and admittedly genuineletters, written a quarter of a century after the supposed fact? Wefind in all of them reference to it—the distinct allegation of it. Wefind in one of them that the Apostle states it as being the substanceof his preaching and of his brethren's preaching, that 'Christ died androse again according to the Scriptures,' and that He was seen byindividuals, by multitudes, by a whole five hundred, the greaterportion of whom were living and available as witnesses when he wrote.

And we find that side by side with this statement, there is thereference to his own vision of the risen Saviour, which carries us upwithin ten years of the alleged fact. So, then, by the evidence ofadmittedly genuine documents, which are dealing with a state of thingsten years after the supposed resurrection, there was a unanimousconcurrence of belief on the part of the whole primitive Church, sothat even the heretics who said that there was no resurrection of thedead could be argued with on the ground of their belief in Christ'sResurrection. The whole Church with one voice asserted it. And therewere hundreds of living men ready to attest it. It was not a handful ofwomen who fancied they had seen Him once, very early in the dimtwilight of a spring morning—but it was half a thousand that hadbeheld Him. He had been seen by them not once, but often; not far off,but close at hand; not in one place, but in Galilee and Jerusalem; notunder one set of circ*mstances, but at all hours of the day, abroad andin the house, walking and sitting, speaking and eating, by them singlyand in numbers. He had not been seen only by excited expectants of Hisappearance, but by incredulous eyes and surprised hearts, who doubtedere they worshipped, and paused before they said, 'My Lord and my God!'They neither hoped that He would rise, nor believed that He had risen;and the world may be thankful that they were 'slow of heart to believe.'

Would not the testimony which can be alleged for Christ's Resurrectionbe enough to guarantee any event but this? And if so, why is it notenough to guarantee this too? If, as nobody denies, the Early Church,within ten years of Christ's Resurrection, believed in HisResurrection, and were ready to go, and did, many of them, go to thedeath in assertion of their veracity in declaring it, then one of twothings—Either they were right or they were wrong; and if the latter,one of two things—If the Resurrection be not a fact, then that beliefwas either a delusion or a deceit.

It was not a delusion, for such an illusion is altogether unexampled;and it is absurd to think of it as being shared by a multitude like theEarly Church. Nations have said, 'Our King is not dead—he is gone awayand he will come back.' Loving disciples have said, 'Our Teacher livesin solitude and will return to us.' But this is no parallel to these.This is not a fond imagination giving an apparent substance to its owncreation, but sense recognising first the fact, 'He is dead,' andthen, in opposition to expectation, and when hope had sickened todespair, recognising the astounding fact, 'He liveth that was dead';and to suppose that that should have been the rooted conviction ofhundreds of men who were not idiots, finds no parallel in the historyof human illusions, and no analogy in such legends as those to which Ihave referred.

It was not a myth, for a myth does not grow in ten years. And there wasno motive to frame one, if Christ was dead and all was over. It was nota deceit, for the character of the men, and the character of theassociated morality, and the obvious absence of all self-interest, andthe persecutions and sorrows which they endured, make it inconceivablethat the fairest building that ever hath been reared in the world, andwhich is cemented by men's blood, should be built upon the mud andslime of a conscious deceit!

And all this we are asked to put aside at the bidding of a glaringbegging of the whole question, and an outrageous assertion which no manthat believes in a God at all can logically maintain, viz. that notestimony can reach to the miraculous, or that miracles are impossible.

No testimony reach to the miraculous! Well, put it into a concreteform. Can testimony not reach to this: 'I know, because I saw, that aman was dead; I know, because I saw, a dead man live again'? Iftestimony can do that, I think we may safely leave the verbal sophismthat it cannot reach to the miraculous to take care of itself.

And, then, with regard to the other assumption—miracle is impossible.That is an illogical begging of the whole question in dispute. Itcannot avail to brush aside testimony. You cannot smother facts bytheories in that fashion. Again, one would like to know how it comesthat our modern men of science, who protest so much against sciencebeing corrupted by metaphysics, should commit themselves to anassertion like that? Surely that is stark, staring metaphysics. Itseems as if they thought that the 'metaphysics' which said that therewas anything behind the physical universe was unscientific; but thatthe metaphysics which said that there was nothing behind physics wasquite legitimate, and ought to be allowed to pass muster. What have thevotaries of pure physical science, who hold the barren word-contests oftheology and the proud pretensions of philosophy in such contempt, todo out-Heroding Herod in that fashion, and venturing on metaphysicalassertions of such a sort? Let them keep to their own line, and tell usall that crucibles and scalpels can reveal, and we will listen asbecomes us. But when they contradict their own principles in order todeny the possibility of miracle, we need only give them back their ownwords, and ask that the investigation of facts shall not be hamperedand clogged with metaphysical prejudices. No! no! Christ made nomistake when He built His Church upon that rock—the historicalevidence of a resurrection from the dead, though all the wise men ofAreopagus hill may make its cliffs ring with mocking laughter when wesay, upon Easter morning, 'The Lord is risen indeed!'

III. There is a final consideration connected with these words, which Imust deal with very briefly—the importance of the fact which is thusborne witness to.

I have already pointed out that the Resurrection of Christ is viewed inScripture in three aspects: in its bearing upon His nature and work, asa pattern for our future, and as a symbol of our present newness oflife. The importance to which I refer now applies only to that firstaspect.

With the Resurrection of Jesus Christ stands or falls the Divinity ofChrist. As Paul said, in that letter to which I have referred,'Declared to be the Son of God, with power by the resurrection from thedead.' As Peter said in the sermon that follows this one of our text,'God hath made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord andChrist.' As Paul said, on Mars Hill, 'He will judge the world inrighteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath givenassurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.'

The case is this. Jesus lived as we know, and in the course of thatlife claimed to be the Son of God. He made such broad and strangeassertions as these—'I and My Father are One.' 'I am the Way, and theTruth, and the Life.' 'I am the Resurrection and the Life.' 'He thatbelieveth on Me shall never die.' 'The Son of Man must suffer manythings, and the third day He shall rise again.' Thus speaking He dies,and rises again and passes into the heavens. That is the last mightiestutterance of the same testimony, which spake from heaven at Hisbaptism, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!' If He berisen from the dead, then His loftiest claims are confirmed from thethrone, and we can see in Him, the Son of God. But if death holds Himstill, and 'the Syrian stars look down upon His grave,' as a modernpoet tells us in his dainty English that they do, then what becomes ofthese words of His, and of our estimate of the character of Him, thespeaker? Let us hear no more about the pure morality of Jesus Christ,and the beauty of His calm and lofty teaching, and the rest of it. Takeaway His resurrection from the dead, and we have left beautifulprecepts, and fair wisdom, deformed with a monstrous self-assertion andthe constant reiteration of claims which the event proves to have beenbaseless. Either He has risen from the dead or His words wereblasphemy. Men nowadays talk very lightly of throwing aside thesupernatural portions of the Gospel history, and retaining reverencefor the great Teacher, the pure moralist of Nazareth. The Pharisees putthe issue more coarsely and truly when they said, 'That deceiver said,while He was yet alive, after three days I will rise again.' Yes! oneor the other. 'Declared to be the Son of God with power by theresurrection from the dead,' or—that which our lips refuse to say evenas a hypothesis!

Still further, with the Resurrection stands or falls Christ's wholework for our redemption. If He died, like other men—if that awful bonyhand has got its grip upon Him too, then we have no proof that thecross was anything but a martyr's cross. His Resurrection is the proofof His completed work of redemption. It is the proof—followed as it isby His Ascension—that His death was not the tribute which for HimselfHe had to pay, but the ransom for us. His Resurrection is the conditionof His present activity. If He has not risen, He has not put away sin;and if He has not put it away by the sacrifice of Himself, none has,and it remains. We come back to the old dreary alternative: 'if Christbe not risen, your faith is vain, and our preaching is vain. Ye are yetin your sins, and they which have fallen asleep in Christ' withunfulfilled hopes fixed upon a baseless vision—they of whom we hoped,through our tears, that they live with Him—they 'are perished.' For,if He be not risen, there is no resurrection; and, if He be not risen,there is no forgiveness; and, if He be not risen, there is no Son ofGod; and the world is desolate, and the heaven is empty, and the graveis dark, and sin abides, and death is eternal. If Christ be dead, thenthat awful vision is true, 'As I looked up into the immeasurableheavens for the Divine Eye, it froze me with an empty, bottomlesseye-socket.'

There is nothing between us and darkness, despair, death, but thatancient message, 'I declare unto you the Gospel which I preach, bywhich ye are saved if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, howthat Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that Hewas raised the third day according to the Scriptures.'

Well, then, may we take up the ancient glad salutation, 'The Lord isrisen!' and, turning from these thoughts of the disaster and despairthat that awful supposition drags after it, fall back upon sobercertainty, and with the Apostle break forth in triumph, 'Now is Christrisen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept'!


'And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with oneaccord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven asof a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they weresitting. 3. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as offire, and it sat upon each of them. 4. And they were all filled withthe Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spiritgave them utterance. 5. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews,devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6. Now when this wasnoised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded,because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7. Andthey were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, arenot all these which speak Galileans? 8. And how we hear every man inour own tongue, wherein we were born? 9. Parthians, and Medes, andElamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, andCappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10. Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt,and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews andproselytes. 11. Cretes, and Arabians, we do hear them speak in ourtongues the wonderful works of God. 12. And they were all amazed, andwere in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13. Others,mocking, said, These men are full of new wine.'—ACTS ii. 1-13.

Only ten days elapsed between the Ascension and Pentecost. The attitudeof the Church during that time should be carefully noted. They obeyedimplicitly Christ's command to wait for the 'power from on high.' Theonly act recorded is the election of Matthias to fill Judas's place,and it is at least questionable whether that was not a mistake, andshown to be such by Christ's subsequent choice of Paul as an Apostle.But, with the exception of that one flash of doubtful activity, prayer,supplication, patient waiting, and clinging together in harmoniousexpectancy, characterised the hundred and twenty brethren.

They must have been wrought to an intense pitch of anticipation, forthey knew that their waiting was to be short, and they knew, at leastpartially, what they were to receive, namely, 'power from on high,' or'the promise of the Father.' Probably, too, the great Feast, so near athand, would appear to them a likely time for the fulfilment of thepromise.

So, very early on that day of Pentecost, they betook themselves totheir usual place of assembling, probably the 'large upper room,'already hallowed to their memories; and in each heart the eagerquestion would spring, 'Will it be to-day?' It is as true now as it wasthen, that the spirits into whom the Holy Spirit breathes His powermust keep themselves still, expectant, prayerful. Perpetual occupationmay be more loss of time than devout waiting, with hands folded,because the heart is wide open to receive the power which will fit thehands for better work.

It was but 'the third hour of the day' when Peter stood up to speak; itmust have been little after dawn when the brethren came together. Howlong they had been assembled we do not know, but we cannot doubt howthey had been occupied. Many a prayer had gone up through the morningair, and, no doubt, some voice was breathing the united desires, when adeep, strange sound was heard at a distance, and rapidly gained volume,and was heard to draw near. Like the roaring of a tempest hurryingtowards them, it hushed human voices, and each man would feel, 'Surelynow the Gift comes!' Nearer and nearer it approached, and at last burstinto the chamber where they sat silent and unmoving.

But if we look carefully at Luke's words, we see that what filled thehouse was not agitated air, or wind, but 'a sound as of wind.' Thelanguage implies that there was no rush of atmosphere that lifted ahair on any cheek, or blew on any face, but only such a sound as ismade by tempest. It suggested wind, but it was not wind. By that firstsymbolic preparation for the communication of the promised gift, theold symbolism which lies in the very word 'Spirit,' and had beenbrought anew to the disciples' remembrance by Christ's words toNicodemus, and by His breathing on them when He gave them ananticipatory and partial bestowment of the Spirit, is brought to view,with its associations of life-giving power and liberty. 'Thou hearestthe sound thereof,' could scarcely fail to be remembered by some inthat chamber.

But it is not to be supposed that the audible symbol continued when thesecond preparatory one, addressed to the eye, appeared. As the formerhad been not wind, but like it, the latter was not fire, but 'as offire.' The language does not answer the question whether what was seenwas a mass from which the tongues detached themselves, or whether onlythe separate tongues were visible as they moved overhead. But the finalresult was that 'it sat on each.' The verb has no expressed subject,and 'fire' cannot be the subject, for it is only introduced as acomparison. Probably, therefore, we are to understand 'a tongue' as theunexpressed subject of the verb.

Clearly, the point of the symbol is the same as that presented in theBaptist's promise of a baptism 'with the Holy Ghost and fire.' TheSpirit was to be in them as a Spirit of burning, thawing naturalcoldness and melting hearts with a genial warmth, which should begetflaming enthusiasm, fervent love, burning zeal, and should worktransformation into its own fiery substance. The rejoicing power, thequick energy, the consuming force, the assimilating action of fire, areall included in the symbol, and should all be possessed by Christ'sdisciples.

But were the tongue-like shapes of the flames significant too? It isdoubtful, for, natural as is the supposition that they were, it is tobe remembered that 'tongues of fire' is a usual expression, and maymean nothing more than the flickering shoots of flame into which a firenecessarily parts.

But these two symbols are only symbols. The true fulfilment of thegreat promise follows. Mark the brief simplicity of the quiet words inwhich the greatest bestowment ever made on humanity, the beginning ofan altogether new era, the equipment of the Church for her age-longconflict, is told. There was an actual impartation to men of a divinelife, to dwell in them and actuate them; to bring all good to victoryin them; to illuminate, sustain, direct, and elevate; to cleanse andquicken. The gift was complete. They were 'filled.' No doubt they hadmuch more to receive, and they received it, as their natures became, byfaithful obedience to the indwelling Spirit, capable of more. But up tothe measure of their then capacities they were filled; and, since theirspirits were expansible, and the gift was infinite, they were in aposition to grow steadily in possession of it, till they were 'filledwith all the fulness of God.'

Further, 'they were all filled,'—not the Apostles only, but thewhole hundred and twenty. Peter's quotation from Joel distinctlyimplies the universality of the gift, which the 'servants andhandmaidens,' the brethren and the women, now received. Herein is thetrue democracy of Christianity. There are still diversities ofoperations and degrees of possession, but all Christians have theSpirit. All 'they that believe on Him,' and only they, have receivedit. Of old the light shone only on the highest peaks,—prophets, andkings, and psalmists; now the lowest depths of the valleys are floodedwith it. Would that Christians generally believed more fully in, andset more store by, that great gift!

As symbols preceded, tokens followed. The essential fact of Pentecostis neither the sound and fire, nor the speaking with other tongues, butthe communication of the Holy Spirit. The sign and result of that wasthe gift of utterance in various languages, not their own, nor learnedby ordinary ways. No twisting of the narrative can weaken the plainmeaning of it, that these unlearned Galileans spake in tongues whichtheir users recognised to be their own. The significance of the factwill appear presently, but first note the attestation of it by themultitude.

Of course, the foreign-born Jews, who, from motives of piety, howevermistaken, had come to dwell in Jerusalem, are said to have been 'fromevery nation under heaven,' by an obvious and ordinary license. It isenough that, as the subsequent catalogue shows, they came from allcorners of the then known world, though the extremes of territorymentioned cover but a small space on a terrestrial globe.

The 'sound' of the rushing wind had been heard hurtling through thecity in the early morning hours, and had served as guide to the spot. Acurious crowd came hurrying to ascertain what this noise of tempest ina calm meant, and they were met by something more extraordinary still.Try to imagine the spectacle. As would appear from verse 33, thetongues of fire remained lambently glowing on each head ('which yesee'), and the whole hundred and twenty, thus strangely crowned, werepouring out rapturous praises, each in some strange tongue. When theastonished ears had become accustomed to the apparent tumult, every manin the crowd heard some one or more speaking in his own tongue,language, or dialect, and all were declaring the mighty works of God;that is, probably, the story of the crucified, ascended Jesus.

We need not dwell on subordinate questions, as to the number oflanguages represented there, or as to the catalogue in verses 9 and 10.But we would emphasise two thoughts. First, the natural result of beingfilled with God's Spirit is utterance of the great truths of Christ'sGospel. As surely as light radiates, as surely as any deep emotiondemands expression, so certainly will a soul filled with the Spirit beforced to break into speech. If professing Christians have never knownthe impulse to tell of the Christ whom they have found, their religionmust be very shallow and imperfect. If their spirits are full, theywill overflow in speech.

Second, Pentecost is a prophecy of the universal proclamation of theGospel, and of the universal praise which shall one day rise to Himthat was slain. 'This company of brethren praising God in the tonguesof the whole world represented the whole world which shall one daypraise God in its various tongues' (Bengel). Pentecost reversed Babel,not by bringing about a featureless monopoly, but by consecratingdiversity, and showing that each language could be hallowed, and thateach lent some new strain of music to the chorus.

It prophesied of the time when 'men of every tribe, and tongue, andpeople, and nation' should lift up their voices to Him who haspurchased them unto God with His blood. It began a communication of theSpirit to all believers which is never to cease while the world stands.The mighty rushing sound has died into silence, the fiery tongues reston no heads now, the miraculous results of the gifts of the Spirit havepassed away also, but the gift remains, and the Spirit of God abidesfor ever with the Church of Christ.


'A rushing mighty wind.' … 'Cloven tongues like as of fire.' … 'Iwill pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh.'—ACTS ii. 2, 3, 17.

'Ye have an unction from the Holy One.'—1 JOHN ii. 20.

Wind, fire, water, oil,—these four are constant Scriptural symbols forthe Spirit of God. We have them all in these fragments of verses whichI have taken for my text now, and which I have isolated from theircontext for the purpose of bringing out simply these symbolicalreferences. I think that perhaps we may get some force and freshness tothe thoughts proper to this day [Footnote: Whit Sunday.] by looking atthese rather than by treating the subject in some more abstract form.We have then the Breath of the Spirit, the Fire of the Spirit, theWater of the Spirit, and the Anointing Oil of the Spirit. And theconsideration of these four will bring out a great many of theprincipal Scriptural ideas about the gift of the Spirit of God whichbelongs to all Christian souls.

I. First, 'a rushing mighty wind.'

Of course, the symbol is but the putting into picturesque form of theidea that lies in the name. 'Spirit' is 'breath.' Wind is but air inmotion. Breath is the synonym for life. 'Spirit' and 'life' are twowords for one thing. So then, in the symbol, the 'rushing mighty wind,'we have set forth the highest work of the Spirit—the communication ofa new and supernatural life.

We are carried hack to that grand vision of the prophet who saw thebones lying, very many and very dry, sapless and disintegrated, a heapdead and ready to rot. The question comes to him: 'Son of man! Canthese bones live?' The only possible answer, if he consult experience,is, 'O Lord God! Thou knowest.' Then follows the great invocation:'Come from the four winds, O Breath! and breathe upon these slain thatthey may live.' And the Breath comes and 'they stand up, an exceedinggreat army.' 'It is the Spirit that quickeneth.' The Scripture treatsus all as dead, being separated from God, unless we are united to Himby faith in Jesus Christ. According to the saying of the Evangelist,'They which believe on Him receive' the Spirit, and thereby receive thelife which He gives, or, as our Lord Himself speaks, are 'born of theSpirit.' The highest and most characteristic office of the Spirit ofGod is to enkindle this new life, and hence His noblest name, among themany by which He is called, is the Spirit of life.

Again, remember, 'that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.' If therebe life given it must be kindred with the life which is its source.Reflect upon those profound words of our Lord: 'The wind bloweth whereit listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tellwhence it cometh nor whither it goeth. So is every one that is born ofthe Spirit.' They describe first the operation of the life-givingSpirit, but they describe also the characteristics of the resultinglife.

'The wind bloweth where it listeth.' That spiritual life, both in thedivine source and in the human recipient, is its own law. Of course thewind has its laws, as every physical agent has; but these are socomplicated and undiscovered that it has always been the very symbol offreedom, and poets have spoken of these 'chartered libertines,' thewinds, and 'free as the air' has become a proverb. So that DivineSpirit is limited by no human conditions or laws, but dispenses Hisgifts in superb disregard of conventionalities and externalisms. Justas the lower gift of what we call 'genius' is above all limits ofculture or education or position, and falls on a wool-stapler inStratford-on-Avon, or on a ploughman in Ayrshire, so, in a similarmanner, the altogether different gift of the divine, life-giving Spiritfollows no lines that Churches or institutions draw. It falls upon anAugustinian monk in a convent, and he shakes Europe. It falls upon atinker in Bedford gaol, and he writes Pilgrim's Progress. It fallsupon a cobbler in Kettering, and he founds modern Christian missions.It blows 'where it listeth,' sovereignly indifferent to theexpectations and limitations and the externalisms, even of organisedChristianity, and touching this man and that man, not arbitrarily butaccording to 'the good pleasure' that is a law to itself, because it isperfect in wisdom and in goodness.

And as thus the life-giving Spirit imparts Himself according to higherlaws than we can grasp, so in like manner the life that is derived fromit is a life which is its own law. The Christian conscience, touched bythe Spirit of God, owes allegiance to no regulations or externalcommandments laid down by man. The Christian conscience, enlightened bythe Spirit of God, at its peril will take its beliefs from any otherthan from that Divine Spirit. All authority over conduct, all authorityover belief is burnt up and disappears in the presence of the granddemocracy of the true Christian principle: 'Ye are all the children ofGod by faith in Jesus Christ'; and every one of you possesses theSpirit which teaches, the Spirit which inspires, the Spirit whichenlightens, the Spirit which is the guide to all truth. So 'the windbloweth where it listeth,' and the voice of that Divine Quickener is,

'Myself shall to My darling be
Both law and impulse.'

Under the impulse derived from the Divine Spirit, the human spirit'listeth' what is right, and is bound to follow the promptings of itshighest desires. Those men only are free as the air we breathe, who arevitalised by the Spirit of the Lord, for 'where the Spirit of the Lordis, there,' and there alone, 'is liberty.'

In this symbol there lies not only the thought of a life derived,kindred with the life bestowed, and free like the life which is given,but there lies also the idea of power. The wind which filled the housewas not only mighty but 'borne onward'—fitting type of the strongimpulse by which in olden times 'holy men spake as they were "borneonward"' (the word is the same) 'by the Holy Ghost.' There arediversities of operations, but it is the same breath of God, whichsometimes blows in the softest pianissimo that scarcely rustles thesummer woods in the leafy month of June, and sometimes storms in wildtempest that dashes the seas against the rocks. So this mightylife-giving Agent moves in gentleness and yet in power, and sometimesswells and rises almost to tempest, but is ever the impelling force ofall that is strong and true and fair in Christian hearts and lives.

The history of the world, since that day of Pentecost, has been acommentary upon the words of my text. With viewless, impalpable energy,the mighty breath of God swept across the ancient world and 'laid thelofty city' of paganism 'low; even to the ground, and brought it evento the dust.' A breath passed over the whole civilised world, like thebreath of the west wind upon the glaciers in the spring, melting thethick-ribbed ice, and wooing forth the flowers, and the world was madeover again. In our own hearts and lives this is the one Power that willmake us strong and good. The question is all-important for each of us,'Have I this life, and does it move me, as the ships are borne along bythe wind?' 'As many as are impelled by the Spirit of God,they'—they—'are the sons of God.' Is that the breath that swellsall the sails of your lives, and drives you upon your course? If it be,you are Christians; if it be not, you are not.

II. And now a word as to the second of these symbols—'Cloven tonguesas of fire'—the fire of the Spirit.

I need not do more than remind you how frequently that emblem isemployed both in the Old and in the New Testament. John the Baptistcontrasted the cold negative efficiency of his baptism, which at itsbest, was but a baptism of repentance, with the quickening power of thebaptism of Him who was to follow him; when he said, 'I indeed baptiseyou with water, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I. Heshall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.' The two wordsmean but one thing, the fire being the emblem of the Spirit.

You will remember, too, how our Lord Himself employs the same metaphorwhen He speaks about His coming to bring fire on the earth, and Hislonging to see it kindled into a beneficent blaze. In this connectionthe fire is a symbol of a quick, triumphant energy, which willtransform us into its own likeness. There are two sides to that emblem:one destructive, one creative; one wrathful, one loving. There are thefire of love, and the fire of anger. There is the fire of the sunshinewhich is the condition of life, as well as the fire of the lightningwhich burns and consumes. The emblem of fire is selected to express thework of the Spirit of God, by reason of its leaping, triumphant,transforming energy. See, for instance, how, when you kindle a pile ofdead green-wood, the tongues of fire spring from point to point untilthey have conquered the whole mass, and turned it all into a ruddylikeness of the parent flame. And so here, this fire of God, if it fallupon you, will burn up all your coldness, and will make you glow withenthusiasm, working your intellectual convictions in fire not in frost,making your creed a living power in your lives, and kindling you into aflame of earnest consecration.

The same idea is expressed by the common phrases of every language. Wespeak of the fervour of love, the warmth of affection, the blaze ofenthusiasm, the fire of emotion, the coldness of indifference.Christians are to be set on fire of God. If the Spirit dwell in us, Hewill make us fiery like Himself, even as fire turns the wettestgreen-wood into fire. We have more than enough of cold Christians whoare afraid of nothing so much as of being betrayed into warm emotion.

I believe, dear brethren, and I am bound to express the belief, thatone of the chief wants of the Christian Church of this generation, theChristian Church of this city, the Christian Church of this chapel, ismore of the fire of God! We are all icebergs compared with what weought to be. Look at yourselves; never mind about your brethren. Leteach of us look at his own heart, and say whether there is any trace inhis Christianity of the power of that Spirit who is fire. Is ourreligion flame or ice? Where among us are to be found lives blazingwith enthusiastic devotion and earnest love? Do not such words soundlike mockery when applied to us? Have we not to listen to that solemnold warning that never loses its power, and, alas! seems never to loseits appropriateness: 'Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I willspue thee out of My mouth.' We ought to be like the burning beingsbefore God's throne, the seraphim, the spirits that blaze and serve. Weought to be like God Himself, all aflame with love. Let us seekpenitently for that Spirit of fire who will dwell in us all if we will.

The metaphor of fire suggests also—purifying. 'The Spirit of burning'will burn the filth out of us. That is the only way by which a man canever be made clean. You may wash and wash and wash with the cold waterof moral reformation, you will never get the dirt out with it. Nowashing and no rubbing will ever cleanse sin. The way to purge a soulis to do with it as they do with foul clay—thrust it into the fire andthat will burn all the blackness out of it. Get the love of God intoyour hearts, and the fire of His Divine Spirit into your spirits tomelt you down, as it were, and then the scum and the dross will come tothe top, and you can skim them off. Two powers conquer my sin: the oneis the blood of Jesus Christ, which washes me from all the guilt of thepast; the other is the fiery influence of that Divine Spirit whichmakes me pure and clean for all the time to come. Pray to be kindledwith the fire of God.

III. Then once more, take that other metaphor, 'I will pour out of My

That implies an emblem which is very frequently used, both in the Oldand in the New Testament, viz., the Spirit as water. As our Lord saidto Nicodemus: 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, hecannot enter into the kingdom of God.' The 'water' stands in the samerelation to the 'Spirit' as the 'fire' does in the saying of John theBaptist already referred to—that is to say, it is simply a symbol ormaterial emblem of the Spirit. I suppose nobody would say that therewere two baptisms spoken of by John, one of the Holy Ghost and one offire,—and I suppose that just in the same way, there are not twoagents of regeneration pointed at in our Lord's words, nor even twoconditions, but that the Spirit is the sole agent, and 'water' is but afigure to express some aspect of His operations. So that there is noreference to the water of baptism in the words, and to see such areference is to be led astray by sound, and out of a metaphor tomanufacture a miracle.

There are other passages where, in like manner, the Spirit is comparedto a flowing stream, such as, for instance, when our Lord said, 'Hethat believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of livingwater,' and when John saw a 'river of water of life proceeding from thethrone.' The expressions, too, of 'pouring out' and 'shedding forth'the Spirit, point in the same direction, and are drawn from more thanone passage of Old Testament prophecy. What, then, is the significanceof comparing that Divine Spirit with a river of water? First,cleansing, of which I need not say any more, because I have dealt withIt in the previous part of my sermon. Then, further, refreshing, andsatisfying. Ah! dear brethren, there is only one thing that will slakethe immortal thirst in your souls. The world will never do it; love orambition gratified and wealth possessed, will never do it. You will beas thirsty after you have drunk of these streams as ever you werebefore. There is one spring 'of which if a man drink, he shall neverthirst' with unsatisfied, painful longings, but shall never cease tothirst with the longing which is blessedness, because it is fruition.Our thirst can be slaked by the deep draught of 'the river of the Waterof Life, which proceeds from the Throne of God and the Lamb.' TheSpirit of God, drunk in by my spirit, will still and satisfy my wholenature, and with it I shall be glad. Drink of this. 'Ho! every one thatthirsteth, come ye to the waters!'

The Spirit is not only refreshing and satisfying, but also productiveand fertilising. In Eastern lands a rill of water is all that is neededto make the wilderness rejoice. Turn that stream on to the barrennessof your hearts, and fair flowers will grow that would never growwithout it. The one means of lofty and fruitful Christian living is adeep, inward possession of the Spirit of God. The one way to fertilisebarren souls is to let that stream flood them all over, and then theflush of green will soon come, and that which is else a desert will'rejoice and blossom as the rose.'

So this water will cleanse, it will satisfy and refresh, it will beproductive and will fertilise, and 'everything shall live whithersoeverthat river cometh.'

IV. Then, lastly, we have the oil of the Spirit.

'Ye have an unction,' says St. John in our last text, 'from the HolyOne.' I need not remind you, I suppose, of how in the old system,prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with consecrating oil, as asymbol of their calling, and of their fitness for their specialoffices. The reason for the use of such a symbol, I presume, would liein the invigorating and in the supposed, and possibly real,health-giving effect of the use of oil in those climates. Whatever mayhave been the reason for the use of oil in official anointings, themeaning of the act was plain. It was a preparation for a specific anddistinct service. And so, when we read of the oil of the Spirit, we areto think that it is that which fits us for being prophets, priests, andkings, and which calls us to, because it fits us for, these functions.

You are anointed to be prophets that you may make known Him who hasloved and saved you, and may go about the world evidently inspired toshow forth His praise, and make His name glorious. That anointing callsand fits you to be priests, mediators between God and man, bringing Godto men, and by pleading and persuasion, and the presentation of thetruth, drawing men to God. That unction calls and fits you to be kings,exercising authority over the little monarchy of your own natures, andover the men round you, who will bow in submission whenever they comein contact with a man all evidently aflame with the love of JesusChrist, and filled with His Spirit. The world is hard and rude; theworld is blind and stupid; the world often fails to know its bestfriends and its truest benefactors; but there is no crust of stupidityso crass and dense but that through it there will pass the penetratingshafts of light that ray from the face of a man who walks in fellowshipwith Jesus. The whole nation of old was honoured with these sacrednames. They were a kingdom of priests; and the divine Voice said of thenation, 'Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm!' How muchmore are all Christian men, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, madeprophets, priests, and kings to God! Alas for the difference betweenwhat they ought to be and what they are!

And then, do not forget also that when the Scriptures speak ofChristian men as being anointed, it really speaks of them as beingMessiahs. 'Christ' means anointed, does it not? 'Messiah' meansanointed. And when we read in such a passage as that of my text, 'Yehave an unction from the Holy One,' we cannot but feel that the wordspoint in the same direction as the great words of our Master Himself,'As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.' By authority derived,no doubt, and in a subordinate and secondary sense, of course, we areMessiahs, anointed with that Spirit which was given to Him, not bymeasure, and which has passed from Him to us. 'If any man have not theSpirit of Christ, he is none of His.'

So, dear brethren, all these things being certainly so, what are we tosay about the present state of Christendom? What are we to say aboutthe present state of English Christianity, Church and Dissent alike? IsPentecost a vanished glory, then? Has that 'rushing mighty wind' blownitself out, and a dead calm followed? Has that leaping fire died downinto grey ashes? Has the great river that burst out then, like thestream from the foot of the glaciers of Mont Blanc, full-grown in itsbirth, been all swallowed up in the sand, like some of those rivers inthe East? Has the oil dried in the cruse? People tell us thatChristianity is on its death-bed; and the aspect of a great manyprofessing Christians seems to confirm the statement. But let usthankfully recognise that 'we are not straitened in God, but inourselves.' To how many of us the question might be put: 'Did youreceive the Holy Ghost when you believed?' And how many of us by ourlives answer: 'We have not so much as heard whether there be any HolyGhost.' Let us go where we can receive Him; and remember the blessedwords: 'If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to yourchildren, how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spiritto them that ask Him'!


'This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33.Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having receivedof the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this,which ye now see and hear. 34. For David is not ascended into theheavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou onMy right hand, 35. Until I make Thy foes Thy footstool. 36. Thereforelet all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made thatsame Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37. Now whenthey heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peterand to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?38. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of youin the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shallreceive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39. For the promise is unto you,and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as theLord our God shall call. 40. And with many other words did he testifyand exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41.Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same daythere were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42. And theycontinued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and inbreaking of bread, and in prayers. 43. And fear came upon every soul:and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44. And all thatbelieved were together, and had all things common; 45. And sold theirpossessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man hadneed. 46. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, andbreaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladnessand singleness of heart, 47. Praising God, and having favour with allthe people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should besaved.'—ACTS ii. 32-47.

This passage may best be dealt with as divided into three parts: thesharp spear-thrust of Peter's closing words (vs. 32-36), the woundedand healed hearers (vs. 37-41), and the fair morning dawn of the Church(vs. 42-47).

I. Peter's address begins with pointing out the fulfilment of prophecyin the gift of the Spirit (vs. 14-21). It then declares theResurrection of Jesus as foretold by prophecy, and witnessed to by thewhole body of believers (vs. 22-32), and it ends by bringing togetherthese two facts, the gift of the Spirit and the Resurrection andAscension, as effect and cause, and as establishing beyond all doubtthat Jesus is the Christ of prophecy, and the Lord on whom Joel haddeclared that whoever called should be saved. We now begin with thelast verse of the second part of the address.

Observe the significant alternation of the names of 'Christ' and'Jesus' in verses 31 and 32. The former verse establishes that prophecyhad foretold the Resurrection of the Messiah, whoever he might be; thelatter asserts that 'this Jesus' has fulfilled the propheticconditions. That is not a thing to be argued about, but to be attestedby competent witnesses. It was presented to the multitude on Pentecost,as it is to us, as a plain matter of fact, on which the whole fabric ofChristianity is built, and which itself securely rests on theconcordant testimony of those who knew Him alive, saw Him dead, andwere familiar with Him risen.

There is a noble ring of certitude in Peter's affirmation, and ofconfidence that the testimony producible was overwhelming. Unless Jesushad risen, there would neither have been a Pentecost nor a Church toreceive the gift. The simple fact which Peter alleged in that firstsermon, 'whereof we all are witnesses,' is still too strong for thedeniers of the Resurrection, as their many devices to get over it prove.

But, a listener might ask, what has this witness of yours to do withJoel's prophecy, or with this speaking with tongues? The answer followsin the last part of the sermon. The risen Jesus has ascended up; thatis inseparable from the fact of resurrection, and is part of ourtestimony. He is 'exalted by,' or, perhaps, at, 'the right hand ofGod.' And that exaltation is to us the token that there He has receivedfrom the Father the Spirit, whom He promised to send when He left us.Therefore it is He—'this Jesus'—who has 'poured forth this,'—thisnew strange gift, the tokens of which you see flaming on each head, andhear bursting in praise from every tongue.

What triumphant emphasis is in that 'He'! Peter quotes Joel's word'pour forth.' The prophet had said, as the mouthpiece of God, 'I willpour forth'; Peter unhesitatingly transfers the word to Jesus. We mustnot assume in him at this stage a fully-developed consciousness of ourLord's divine nature, but neither must we blink the tremendousassumption which he feels warranted in making, that the exaltation ofJesus to the right hand of God meant His exercising the power whichbelonged to God Himself.

In verse 34, he stays for a moment to establish by prophecy that theAscension, of which he had for the first time spoken in verse 33, ispart of the prophetic characteristics of the Messiah. His demonstrationruns parallel with his preceding one as to the Resurrection. He quotesPsalm cx., which he had learned to do from his Master, and just as hehad argued about the prediction of Resurrection, that the deadPsalmist's words could not apply to himself, and must therefore applyto the Messiah; so he concludes that it was not 'David' who was calledby Jehovah to sit as 'Lord' on His right hand. If not David, it couldonly be the Messiah who was thus invested with Lordship, and exalted asparticipator of the throne of the Most High.

Then comes the final thrust of the spear, for which all the discoursehas been preparing. The Apostle rises to the full height of his greatcommission, and sets the trumpet to his mouth, summoning 'all the houseof Israel,' priests, rulers, and all the people, to acknowledge hisMaster. He proclaims his supreme dignity and Messiahship. He is the'Lord' of whom the Psalmist sang, and the prophet declared that whoevercalled on His name should be saved; and He is the Christ for whomIsrael looked.

Last of all, he sets in sharp contrast what God had done with Jesus,and what Israel had done, and the barb of his arrow lies in the lastwords, 'whom ye crucified.' And this bold champion of Jesus, thisundaunted arraigner of a nation's crimes, was the man who, a few weeksbefore, had quailed before a maid-servant's saucy tongue! What made thechange? Will anything but the Resurrection and Pentecost account forthe psychological transformation effected in him and the other Apostles?

II. No wonder that 'they were pricked in their heart'! Such a thrustmust have gone deep, even where the armour of prejudice was thick. Thescene they had witnessed, and the fiery words of explanation, takentogether, produced incipient conviction, and the conviction producedalarm. How surely does the first glimpse of Jesus as Christ and Lordset conscience to work! The question, 'What shall we do?' is thebeginning of conversion. The acknowledgment of Jesus which does notlead to it is shallow and worthless. The most orthodox accepter, so faras intellect goes, of the gospel, who has not been driven by it to askhis own duty in regard to it, and what he is to do to receive itsbenefits, and to escape from his sins, has not accepted it at all.

Peter's answer lays down two conditions: repentance and baptism. Theformer is often taken in too narrow a sense as meaning sorrow for sin,whereas it means a change of disposition or mind, which will beaccompanied, no doubt, with 'godly sorrow,' but is in itself deeperthan sorrow, and is the turning away of heart and will from past loveand practice of evil. The second, baptism, is 'in the name of JesusChrist,' or more accurately, 'upon the name,'—that is, on the groundof the revealed character of Jesus. That necessarily implies faith inthat Name; for, without such faith, the baptism would not be on theground of the Name. The two things are regarded as inseparable, beingthe inside and the outside of the Christian discipleship. Repentance,faith, baptism, these three, are called for by Peter.

But 'remission of sins' is not attached to the immediately precedingclause, so as that baptism is said to secure remission, but to thewhole of what goes before in the sentence. Obedience to therequirements would bring the same gift to the obedient as the discipleshad received; for it would make them disciples also. But, whilerepentance and baptism which presupposed faith were the normal,precedent conditions of the Spirit's bestowal, the case of Cornelius,where the Spirit was given before baptism, forbids the attempt to linkthe rite and the divine gift more closely together.

The Apostle was eager to share the gift. The more we have of theSpirit, the more shall we desire that others may have Him, and the moresure shall we be that He is meant for all. So Peter went on to base hisassurance, that his hearers might all possess the Spirit, on theuniversal destination of the promise. Joel had said, 'on all flesh';Peter declares that word to point downwards through all generations,and outwards to all nations. How swiftly had he grown in grasp of thesweep of Christ's work! How far beneath that moment of illuminationsome of his subsequent actions fell!

We have only a summary of his exhortations, the gist of which wasearnest warning to separate from the fate of the nation by separatingin will and mind from its sins. Swift conviction followed theSpirit-given words, as it ever will do when the speaker is filled withthe Holy Spirit, and has therefore a tongue of fire. Three thousand newdisciples were made that day, and though there must have been manysuperficial adherents, and none with much knowledge, it is perhaps notfanciful to see in Luke's speaking of them as 'souls' a hint that, ingeneral, the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah was deep and real. Not onlywere three thousand 'names' added to the hundred and twenty, but threethousand souls.

III. The fair picture of the morning brightness, so soon overclouded,so long lost, follows. First, the narrative tells how the raw convertswere incorporated in the community, and assimilated to its character.They, too, 'continued steadfastly' (Acts i. 14). Note the four pointsenumerated: 'teaching,' which would be principally instruction in thelife of Jesus and His Messianic dignity, as proved by prophecy;'fellowship,' which implies community of disposition and oneness ofheart manifested in outward association; 'breaking of bread,'—that is,the observance of the Lord's Supper; and 'the prayers,' which were thevery life-breath of the infant Church (i. 14). Thus oneness in faithand in love, participation in the memorial feast and in devotional actsbound the new converts to the original believers, and trained themtowards maturity. These are still the methods by which a sudden influxof converts is best dealt with, and babes in Christ nurtured to fullgrowth. Alas! that so often churches do not know what to do withnovices when they come in numbers.

A wider view of the state of the community as a whole closes thechapter. It is the first of several landing-places, as it were, onwhich Luke pauses to sum up an epoch. A reverent awe laid hold of thepopular mind, which was increased by the miraculous powers of theApostles. The Church will produce that impression on the world inproportion as it is manifestly filled with the Spirit. Do we? Theso-called community of goods was not imposed by commandment, as isplain from Peter's recognition of Ananias' right to do as he chose withhis property. The facts that Mark's mother, Mary, had a house of herown, and that Barnabas, her relative, is specially signalised as havingsold his property, prove that it was not universal. It was anirrepressible outcrop of the brotherly feeling that filled all hearts.Christ has not come to lay down laws, but to give impulses. Compelledcommunism is not the repetition of that oneness of sympathy whicheffloresced in the bright flower of this common possession ofindividual goods. But neither is the closed purse, closed because theheart is shut, which puts to shame so much profession of brotherhood,justified because the liberality of the primitive disciples was not byconstraint nor of obligation, but willing and spontaneous.

Verses 46 and 47 add an outline of the beautiful daily life of thecommunity, which was, like their liberality, the outcome of the feelingof brotherhood, intensified by the sense of the gulf between them andthe crooked generation from which they had separated themselves. Lukeshows it on two sides. Though they had separated from the nation, theyclung to the Temple services, as they continued to do till the end.They had not come to clear consciousness of all that was involved intheir discipleship, It was not God's will that the new spirit shouldviolently break with the old letter. Convulsions are not His way,except as second-best. The disciples had to stay within the fold ofIsrael, if they were to influence Israel. The time of outward partingbetween the Temple and the Church was far ahead yet.

But the truest life of the infant Church was not nourished in theTemple, but in the privacy of their homes. They were one family, andlived as such. Their 'breaking bread at home' includes both theirordinary meals and the Lord's Supper; for in these first days everymeal, at least the evening meal of every day, was hallowed by havingthe Supper as a part of it. Each meal was thus a religious act, a tokenof brotherhood, and accompanied with praise. Surely then 'men did eatangels' food,' and on platter and cup was written 'Holiness to theLord.' The ideal of human fellowship was realised, though but for amoment, and on a small scale. It was inevitable that divergences shouldarise, but it was not inevitable that the Church should depart so farfrom the brief brightness of its dawn. Still the sweet concordantbrotherhood of these morning hours witnesses what Christian love cando, and prophesies what shall yet be and shall not pass.

No wonder that such a Church won favour with all the people! We hearnothing of its evangelising activity, but its life was such that,without recorded speech, multitudes were drawn into so sweet afellowship. If we were like the Pentecostal Christians, we shouldattract wearied souls out of the world's Babel into the calm home wherelove and brotherhood reigned, and God would 'add' to us 'day by daythose that were being saved.'


'Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hathmade that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord andChrist.'—ACTS ii. 36.

It is no part of my purpose at this time to consider the specialcirc*mstances under which these words were spoken, nor even to enterupon an exposition of their whole scope. I select them for one reason,the occurrence in them of the three names by which we designate ourSaviour—Jesus, Lord, Christ. To us they are very little more thanthree proper names; they were very different to these men who listenedto the characteristically vehement discourse of the Apostle Peter. Itwanted some courage to stand up at Pentecost and proclaim on thehousetop what he had spoken in the ear long ago, 'Thou art the Christ,the Son of the living God!' To most of his listeners to say 'Jesus isthe Christ' was folly, and to say 'Jesus is the Lord' was blasphemy.

The three names are names of the same Person, but they proclaim
altogether different aspects of His work and His character. The name
'Jesus' is the name of the Man, and brings to us a Brother; the name
'Christ' is the name of office, and brings to us a Redeemer; the name
'Lord' is the name of dignity, and brings to us a King.

I. First, then, the name Jesus is the name of the Man, and tells us ofa Brother.

There were many men in Palestine who bore the name of 'Jesus' when Hebore it. We find that one of the early Christians had it; and it comesupon us with almost a shock when we read that 'Jesus, called Justus,'was the name of one of the friends of the Apostle Paul (Col. iv. 11).But, through reverence on the part of Christians, and through horror onthe part of Jews, the name ceased to be a common one; and itsdisappearance from familiar use has hid from us the fact of its commonemployment at the time when our Lord bore it. Though it was given toHim as indicative of His office of saving His people from their sins,yet none of all the crowds who knew Him as Jesus of Nazareth supposedthat in His name there was any greater significance than in those ofthe 'Simons,' 'Johns,' and 'Judahs' in the circle of His disciples.

Now the use of Jesus as the proper name of our Lord is very noticeable.In the Gospels, as a rule, it stands alone hundreds of times, whilst incombination with any other of the titles it is rare. 'Jesus Christ,'for instance, only occurs, if I count aright, twice in Matthew, once inMark, twice in John. But if you turn to the Epistles and the latterbooks of the Scriptures, the proportions are reversed. There you have anumber of instances of the occurrence of such combinations as 'JesusChrist,' 'Christ Jesus,' 'The Lord Jesus,' 'Christ the Lord,' and morerarely the full solemn title, 'The Lord Jesus Christ,' but theoccurrence of the proper name 'Jesus' alone is the exception. So far asI know, there are only some thirty or forty instances of its use singlyin the whole of the books of the New Testament outside of the fourEvangelists. The occasions where it is used are all of them occasionsin which one may see that the writer's intention is to put strongemphasis, for some reason or other, on the Manhood of our Lord Jesus,and to assert, as broadly as may be, His entire participation with usin the common conditions of our human nature, corporeal and mental.

And I think I shall best bring out the meaning and worth of the name byputting a few of these instances before you.

For example, more than once we find phrases like these: 'we believethat Jesus died,' 'having therefore boldness to enter into theholiest by the blood of Jesus,' and the like—which emphasise Hisdeath as the death of a man like ourselves, and bring us close to thehistorical reality of His human pains and agonies for us. 'Christdied' is a statement which makes the purpose and efficacy of His deathmore plain, but 'Jesus died' shows us His death as not only the workof the appointed Messiah, but as the act of our brother man, theoutcome of His human love, and never rightly to be understood if Hiswork be thought of apart from His personality.

There is brought into view, too, prominently, the side of Christ'ssufferings which we are all apt to forget—the common human side of Hisagonies and His pains. I know that a certain school of preachers, andsome unctuous religious hymns, and other forms of composition, dwell, agreat deal too much for reverence, upon the mere physical aspect ofChrist's sufferings. But the temptation, I believe, with most of us isto dwell too little upon that,—to argue about the death of Christ, tothink about it as a matter of speculation, to regard it as a mysteriouspower, to look upon it as an official act of the Messiah who was sentinto the world for us; and to forget that He bore a manhood like ourown, a body that was impatient of pains and wounds and sufferings, anda human life which, like all human lives, naturally recoiled and shrankfrom the agony of death.

And whilst, therefore, the great message, 'It is Christ that died,' isever to be pondered, we have also to think with sympathy and gratitudeon the homelier representation coming nearer to our hearts, whichproclaims that 'Jesus died.' Let us not forget the Brother's manhoodthat had to agonise and to suffer and to die as the price of oursalvation.

Again, when the Scripture would set our Lord before us, as in Hishumanity, our pattern and example, it sometimes uses this name, inorder to give emphasis to the thought of His Manhood—as, for example,in the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 'looking unto Jesus, theAuthor and Perfecter of faith.' That is to say—a mighty stimulus toall brave perseverance in our efforts after higher Christian noblenesslies in the vivid and constant realisation of the true manhood of ourLord, as the type of all goodness, as having Himself lived by faith,and that in a perfect degree and manner. We are to turn away our eyesfrom contemplating all other lives and motives, and to 'look off' fromthem to Him. In all our struggles let us think of Him. Do not take poorhuman creatures for your ideal of excellence, nor tune your harps totheir keynotes. To imitate men is degradation, and is sure to lead todeformity. None of them, is a safe guide. Black veins are in the purestmarble, and flaws in the most lustrous diamonds. But to imitate Jesusis freedom, and to be like Him is perfection. Our code of morals is Hislife. He is the Ideal incarnate. The secret of all progress is,'Run—looking unto Jesus.'

Then, again, we have His manhood emphasised when His sympathy is to becommended to our hearts. 'The great High Priest, who is passed into theheavens' is 'Jesus' … 'who was in all points tempted like as weare.' To every sorrowing soul, to all men burdened with heavy tasks,unwelcome duties, pains and sorrows of the imagination, or of theheart, or of memory, or of physical life, or of circ*mstances—to allthere comes the thought, 'Every ill that flesh is heir to' He knows byexperience, and in the Man Jesus we find not only the pity of a God,but the sympathy of a Brother.

When one of our princes goes for an afternoon into the slums in EastLondon, everybody says, and says deservedly, 'right!' and 'princely!'This prince has learned pity in 'the huts where poor men lie,' andknows by experience all their squalor and misery. The Man Jesus is thesympathetic Priest. The Rabbis, who did not usually see very far intothe depth of things, yet caught a wonderful glimpse when they said:'Messias will be found sitting outside the gate of the city amongstthe lepers.' That is where He sits; and the perfectness of Hissympathy, and the completeness of His identification of Himself withall our tears and our sorrows, are taught us when we read that our HighPriest is not merely Christ the Official, but Jesus the Man.

And then we find such words as these: 'If we believe that Jesus diedand rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bringwith Him': I think any one that reads with sympathy must feel how verymuch closer to our hearts that consolation comes, 'Jesus rose again,'than even the mighty word which the Apostle uses on another occasion,'Christ is risen from the dead.' The one tells us of the risenRedeemer, the other tells us of the risen Brother. And wherever thereare sorrowing souls, enduring loss and following their dear ones intothe darkness with yearning hearts, they are comforted when they feelthat the beloved dead lie down beside their Brother, and with theirBrother they shall rise again.

So, again, most strikingly, and yet somewhat singularly, in the wordsof Scripture which paint most loftily the exaltation of the risenSaviour to the right hand of God, and His wielding of absolute powerand authority, it is the old human name that is used; as if the writerswould bind together the humiliation and the exaltation, and wereholding up hands of wonder at the thought that a Man had risen thus tothe Throne of the Universe. What an emphasis and glow of hope there isin such words as these: 'We see not yet all things put under Him, butwe see Jesus'—the very Man that was here with us—'crowned withglory and honour.' So in the Book of the Revelation the chosen name forHim who sits amidst the glories of the heavens, and settles thedestinies of the universe, and orders the course of history, is Jesus.As if the Apostle would assure us that the face which looked down uponhim from amidst the blaze of the glory was indeed the face that he knewlong ago upon earth, and the breast that 'was girded with a goldengirdle' was the breast upon which he so often had leaned his happy head.

So the ties that bind us to the Man Jesus should be the human bondsthat knit us to one another, transferred to Him and purified andstrengthened. All that we have failed to find in men we can find inHim. Human wisdom has its limits, but here is a Man whose word istruth, who is Himself the truth. Human love is sometimes hollow, oftenimpotent; it looks down upon us, as a great thinker has said, like theVenus of Milo, that lovely statue, smiling in pity, but it has no arms.But here is a love that is mighty to help, and on which we can relywithout disappointment or loss. Human excellence is always limited andimperfect, but here is One whom we may imitate and be pure. So let usdo like that poor woman in the Gospel story—bring our preciousalabaster box of ointment—the love of these hearts of ours, which isthe most precious thing we have to give. The box of ointment that wehave so often squandered upon unworthy heads—let us come and pour itupon His, not unmingled with our tears, and anoint Him, our beloved andour King. This Man has loved each of us with a brother's heart; let uslove Him with all our hearts.

II. So much for the first name. The second—'Christ'—is the name ofoffice, and brings to us a Redeemer.

I need not dwell at any length upon the original significance and forceof the name; it is familiar, of course, to us all. It stands as atransference into Greek of the Hebrew Messias; the one and the othermeaning, as we all know, the 'Anointed.' But what is the meaning ofclaiming for Jesus that He is anointed? A sentence will answer thequestion. It means that He fulfils all which the inspired imaginationof the great ones of the past had seen in that dim Figure that rosebefore prophet and psalmist. It means that He is anointed or inspiredby the divine indwelling to be Prophet, Priest, and King all over theworld. It means that He is—though the belief had faded away from theminds of His generation—a sufferer whilst a Prince, and appointed to'turn away unrighteousness' from the world, and not from 'Jacob' only,by a sacrifice and a death.

I cannot see less in the contents of the Jewish idea, the propheticidea, of the Messias, than these points: divine inspiration oranointing; a sufferer who is to redeem; the fulfiller of all therapturous visions of psalmist and of prophet in the past.

And so, when Peter stood up amongst that congregation of wonderingstrangers and scowling Pharisees, and said, 'The Man that died on theCross, the Rabbi-peasant from half-heathen Galilee, is the Person towhom Law and Prophets have been pointing,'—no wonder that no onebelieved him except those whose hearts were touched, for it is neverpossible for the common mind, at any epoch, to believe that a man whostands beside them is very much bigger than themselves. Great men havealways to die, and get a halo of distance around them, before theirtrue stature can be seen.

And now two remarks are all I can afford myself upon this point, andone is this: the hearty recognition of His Messiahship is the centre ofall discipleship. The earliest and the simplest Christian creed, whichyet—like the little brown roll in which the infant beech-leaves liefolded up—contains in itself all the rest, was this: 'Jesus isChrist.' Although it is no part of my business to say how muchimperfection and confusion of head comprehension may co-exist with aheart acceptance of Jesus that saves a soul from sin, yet I cannot infaithfulness to my own convictions conceal my belief that he whocontents himself with 'Jesus' and does not grasp 'Christ' has cast awaythe most valuable and characteristic part of the Christianity which heprofesses. Surely a most simple inference is that a Christian is atleast a man who recognises the Christship of Jesus. And I press thatupon you, my friends. It is not enough for the sustenance of your ownsouls and for the cultivation of a vigorous religious life that menshould admire, howsoever profoundly and deeply, the humanity of theLord unless that humanity leads them on to see the office of theMessiah to whom their whole hearts cleave. 'Jesus is the Christ' is theminimum Christian creed.

And then, still further, let me remind you how the recognition of Jesusas Christ is essential to giving its full value to the facts of themanhood. 'Jesus died!' Yes. What then? What is that to me? Is that allthat I have to say? If His is simply a human death, like all others, Iwant to know what makes the story of it a Gospel. I want to know whatmore interest I have in it than I have in the death of Socrates, or inthe death of any man or woman whose name was in the obituary column ofyesterday's newspaper. 'Jesus died.' That is a fact. What is wanted toturn the fact into a gospel? That I shall know who it was that died,and why He died. 'I declare unto you the gospel which I preach,' Paulsays, 'how that Christ died for our sins, according to theScriptures.' The belief that the death of Jesus was the death of theChrist is needful in order that it shall be the means of my deliverancefrom the burden of sin. If it be only the death of Jesus, it isbeautiful, pathetic, as many another martyr's has been, but if it bethe death of Christ, then 'my faith can lay her hand' on that greatSacrifice 'and know her guilt was there.'

So in regard to His perfect example. If we only see His manhood when weare 'looking unto Jesus,' the contemplation of His perfection would beas paralysing as spectacles of supreme excellence usually are. But whenwe can say, 'Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example,' andso can deepen the thought of His Manhood into that of His Messiahship,and the conception of His work as example into that of His work assacrifice, we can hope that His divine power will dwell in us to mouldour lives to the likeness of His human life of perfect obedience.

So in regard to His Resurrection and glorious Ascension to the righthand of God. We have not only to think of the solitary man raised fromthe grave and caught up to the throne. If it were only 'Jesus' who roseand ascended, His Resurrection and Ascension might be as much to us asthe raising of Lazarus, or the rapture of Elijah—namely, ademonstration that death did not destroy conscious being, and that aman could rise to heaven; but they would be no more. But if 'Christis risen from the dead,' He is 'become the first-fruits of them thatslept.' If Jesus has gone up on high, others may or may not follow inHis train. He may show that manhood is not incapable of elevation toheaven, but has no power to draw others up after Him. But if Christis gone up, He is gone to prepare a place for us, not to fill asolitary throne, and His Ascension is the assurance that He will liftus too to dwell with Him and share His triumph over death and sin.

Most of the blessedness and beauty of His Example, all the mystery andmeaning of His Death, and all the power of His Resurrection, depend onthe fact that 'it is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risenagain, who is even at the right hand of God.'

III. 'The Lord' is the name of dignity and brings before us the King.

There are three grades, so to speak, of dignity expressed by this oneword 'Lord' in the New Testament. The lowest is that in which it isalmost the equivalent of our own English title of respectful courtesy,'Sir,' in which sense it is often used in the Gospels, and applied toour Lord as to many other of the persons there. The second is that inwhich it expresses dignity and authority—and in that sense it isfrequently applied to Christ. The third and highest is that in which itis the equivalent of the Old Testament 'Lord,' as a divine name; inwhich sense also it is applied to Christ in the New Testament.

The first and last of these may be left out of consideration now: thecentral one is the meaning of the word here. I have only time to touchupon two thoughts—to connect this name of dignity first with one andthen with the other of the two names that we have already considered.

Jesus is Lord, that is to say, wonderful as it is, His manhood isexalted to supreme dignity. It is the teaching of the New Testament,that in Jesus, the Child of Mary, our nature sits on the throne of theuniverse and rules over all things. Those rude herdsmen, brothers ofJoseph, who came into Pharaoh's palace—strange contrast to theirtents!—there found their brother ruling over that ancient and highlycivilised land! We have the Man Jesus for the Lord over all. Trust Hisdominion and rejoice in His rule, and bow before His authority. Jesusis Lord.

Christ is Lord. That is to say: His sovereign authority and dominionare built upon the fact of His being Deliverer, Redeemer, Sacrifice.His Kingdom is a Kingdom that rests upon His suffering. 'Wherefore Godalso hath exalted Him, and given Him a Name that is above every name.'

It is because He wears a vesture dipped in blood, that 'on the vestureis the name written "King of kings, and Lord of lords."' It is 'becauseHe shall deliver the needy when he crieth,' as the prophetic psalm hasit, that 'all kings shall fall down before Him and all nations shallserve Him.' Because He has given His life for the world He is theMaster of the World. His humanity is raised to the throne because Hishumanity stooped to the cross. As long as men's hearts can be touchedby absolute unselfish surrender, and as long as they can know theblessedness of responsive surrender, so long will He who gave Himselffor the world be the Sovereign of the world, and the First-born fromthe dead be the Prince of all the kings of the earth.

And so, dear friends, our thoughts to-day all point to this lesson—donot you content yourselves with a maimed Christ. Do not tarry in theManhood; do not think it enough to cherish reverence for the nobilityof His soul, the gentle wisdom of His words, the beauty of Hischaracter, the tenderness of His compassion. All these will beinsufficient for your needs. There is more in His mission thanthese—even His death for you and for all men. Take Him for your Christ,but do not lose the Person in the Work, any more than you lose the work inthe Person. And be not content with an intellectual recognition of Him,but bring Him the faith which cleaves to Him and His work as its onlyhope and peace, and the love which, because of His work as Christ,flows out to the beloved Person who has done it all. Thus loving Jesusand trusting Christ, you will bring obedience to your Lord and homageto your King, and learn the sweetness and power of 'the name that isabove every name'—the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

May we all be able, with clear and unfaltering conviction of ourunderstandings and loving affiance of our whole souls, to repeat as ourown the grand words in which so many centuries have proclaimed theirfaith—words which shed a spell of peacefulness over stormy lives, andfling a great light of hope into the black jaws of the grave: 'Ibelieve in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord!'


'And they continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine andfellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.'—ACTS ii. 42.

The Early Church was not a pattern for us, and the idea of its greatlysuperior purity is very largely a delusion. But still, though that betrue, the occasional glimpses that we get at intervals in the earlychapters of this Book of the Acts of the Apostles do present a veryinstructive and beautiful picture of what a Christian society may be,and therefore of what Christian Churches and Christian individualsought to be.

The words that I have read, however, are not the description of thedemeanour of the whole community, but of that portion of it which hadbeen added so swiftly to the original nucleus on the Day of Pentecost.Think, on the morning of that day 'the number of the names was onehundred and twenty,' on the evening of that day it was three thousandover that number—a sufficiently swift and large increase to haveswamped the original nucleus, unless there had been a great power ofassimilation to itself lodged in that little body. These new convertsheld to the Apostolic 'doctrine' and 'fellowship,' and to 'breaking ofbread' and to 'prayers,' and so became hom*ogeneous with the others, andall worked to one end.

Now, these four points which are signalised in this description maywell afford us material for consideration. They give us the ideal of aChurch's inner life, which in the divine order should precede, and bethe basis of, a Church's work in the world. But, while we speak of anideal for a Church, let us not forget that it is realised only by thelives of individuals being conformed to it.

I. The first point, which is fundamental to all the others, is 'Theycontinued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine.'

An earnest desire after fuller knowledge is the basis of all healthyChristian life. We cannot realise, without a great effort, theignorance of these new converts. 'Parthians and Medes and Elamites,'and Jews gathered from every corner of the Roman world, they had comeup to Jerusalem, and the bulk of them knew no more about Christ andChristianity than what they picked up out of Peter's sermon on the Dayof Pentecost. But that was enough to change their hearts and theirwills and to lead them to a real faith. And though the contents oftheir faith were very incomplete, the power of their faith was verygreat. For there is no necessary connection between the amount believedand the grasp with which it is held. Believing, they were eager formore light to be poured on to their half-seeing eyes. They had noGospels, they had no written record, they had no means of learninganything about the faith which they were now professing exceptlistening to one or other of the original Eleven, with the addition ofany of the other 'old disciples'—that is, early disciples—who mightperchance have equal claims to be listened to as 'witnesses from thebeginning.' We shall very much misunderstand the meaning of the wordshere, if we suppose that these novices were dosed with theologicalinstruction, or that 'the Apostles' doctrine' consisted of such fullydeveloped truths as we find later on in Paul's writings. If you willlook at the first sermons that Peter is recorded as having delivered,in the early chapters of the Acts, you will find that he by no meansenunciates a definite theology such as he unfolds in his later Epistle.There is no word about the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; Hisdesignation is 'Thy holy child Jesus.' There is no word about theatoning nature of Christ's sacrifice; His death is simply the greatcrime of the Jewish people, and His Resurrection the great divine factwitnessing to the truth of His Messiahship. All that which we nowregard, and rightly regard, as the very centre and living focus ofdivine truth was but beginning to shine out on the Apostles' minds, orrather to gather itself into form, and to shape itself by slow degreesinto propositions. 'The Apostles' teaching'—for 'doctrine' does notconvey to modern ears what Luke meant by the word—must have been verylargely, if not exclusively, of the same kind as is preserved to us inthe four Gospels, and especially in the first three of them. Therecital to these listeners, to whom it was all so fresh and strange andtranscendent, of the story that has become worn and commonplace to usby its familiarity, of Christ in His birth, Christ in His gentleness,Christ in His deeds, Christ in the deep words that the Apostles wereonly beginning to understand; Christ in His Death, Resurrection, andAscension—these were the themes on the narration of which this companyof three thousand waited with such eagerness.

But, of course, there was necessarily involved in the story a certainamount of what we now call doctrine—that is, theologicalteaching—because one cannot tell the story of Jesus Christ, as it istold in the four Gospels, without impressing upon the hearers theconviction that His nature was divine and that His death was asacrifice. Beyond these truths we know not how far the Apostles went.To these, perhaps, they did not at first rise. But whether they did soor no, and although the facts that the hearers were thus eager toreceive, and treasured when they received, are the commonplaces of ourSunday-schools, and quite uninteresting to many of us, the spirit whichmarked these early converts is the spirit that must lie at thefoundation of progressive and healthy Christianity in us. Theconsciousness of our own ignorance, of the great sweep of God'srevealed mind and will, the eager desire to fill up the gaps in thecircle, and to widen the diameter, of our knowledge, and the consequentsteadfastness and persistence of our continuance in the teachings—farfuller and deeper and richer and nobler than were heard in the upperroom at Jerusalem by the first three thousand—which, through thedivine Spirit and the experience of the Church for nineteen hundredyears are available for us, ought to characterise us all.

Now, dear friends, ask yourselves the question very earnestly, Doesthis desire of fuller Christian knowledge at all mark my Christiancharacter, and does it practically influence my Christian conduct andlife? There are thousands of men and women in all our churches who knowno more about the rich revelation of God in Jesus Christ than they didon that day long, long ago, when first they began to apprehend that Hewas the Saviour of their souls. When I sometimes get glimpses into theutter Biblical ignorance of educated members of my own and of othercongregations, I am appalled; I do not wonder how we ministers do solittle by our preaching, when the minds of the people to whom we speakare so largely in such a chaotic state in reference to Scripturaltruth. I believe that there is an intolerance of plain, sober,instructive Christian teaching from the pulpit, which is one of theworst signs of the Christianity of this generation. And I believe thatthere are a terribly large number of professing Christians, and goodpeople after a fashion, whose Bibles are as clean to-day, except on oneor two favourite pages, as they were when they came out of thebookseller's shop years and years ago. You will never be strongChristians, you will never be happy ones, until you make conscience ofthe study of God's Word and 'continue steadfastly in the Apostles'teaching.' You may produce plenty of emotional Christianity, and ofbusy and sometimes fussy work without it, but you will not get depth. Isometimes think that the complaint of the writer of the Epistle to theHebrews might be turned upside down nowadays. He says: 'When for thetime ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you againwhich be the first principles.' Nowadays we might say in Sunday-schoolsand other places of church work: 'When for the time ye ought to belearners, you have taken to teaching before you know what you areteaching, and so neither you nor your scholars will profit much.' Thevase should be full before you begin to empty it.

Again, there ought to be, and we ought to aim after, an equable temperof mutual brotherhood conquering selfishness.

'They continued in the Apostles' doctrine and in fellowship.''Fellowship' here, as I take it, applies to community of feeling. Averse or two afterwards it is applied to community of goods, but wehave nothing to do with that subject at present. What is meant is thatthese three thousand, as was most natural, cut off altogether fromtheir ancient associations, finding themselves at once separated by agreat gulf from their nation and its hopes and its religion, weredriven together as sheep are when wolves are prowling around. And,being individually weak, they held on by one another, so that manyweaknesses might make a strength, and glimmering embers raked togethermight break into a flame.

Now, all these circ*mstances, or almost all of them, that drove theprimitive believers together, are at an end, and the tendencies of thisday are rather to drive Christian people apart than to draw themtogether. Differences of position, occupation, culture, ways of lookingat things, views of Christian truth and the like, all come powerfullyin to the reinforcement of the natural selfishness which tempts us all,unless the grace of God overcomes it. Although we do not want anyhysterical or histrionic presentation of Christian sympathy andbrotherhood, we do need—far more than any of us have awakened to theconsciousness of the need—for the health of our own souls we need tomake definite efforts to cultivate more of that sense of Christianbrotherhood with all that hold the same Lord Christ, and to realisethis truth: that they and we, however separate, are nearer one anotherthan are we and those nearest to us who do not share in our Christianfaith.

I do not dwell upon this point. It is one on which it is easy to gush,and it has got a bad name because there has been so much unreal andsickly talk about it. But if any Christian man will honestly try tocultivate the brotherly feeling which my text suggests, and to whichour common relation to Jesus Christ binds us, and will try it inreference to A, B, or C, whom he does not much like, with whoseways he has no kind of sympathy, whom he believes to be a heretic, andwho perhaps returns the belief about him with interest, he will find itis a pretty sharp test of his Christian principle. Let us be real, atany rate, and not pretend to have more love than we really have in ourhearts. And let us remember that 'he that loveth Him that begat, lovethHim also that is begotten of Him.'

II. Another characteristic which comes out in the words before us isthe blending of worship with life.

'They continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine … and inbreaking of bread.' Commentators who can only see one thing at atime—and there are a good many of that species—have got up greatdiscussions as to whether this phrase means eating ordinary meals orpartaking of the Lord's Supper. I venture to say it means both,because, clearly enough, in the beginning, the common meal was hallowedby what we now call the Lord's Supper being associated with it, andevery day's evening repast was eaten 'in remembrance of Him.'

So, naturally, and without an idea of anything awful or sacred aboutthe rite, the first Christians, when they went home after a hard day'swork and sat down to take their own suppers, blessed the bread and thewine, and whether they ate or drank, did the one and the other 'inremembrance of Him.'

The gradual growth of the sentiment attaching to the Lord's Supper,until it reached the portentous height of regarding it as a 'tremendoussacrifice' which could only be administered by priests with ordainedhands in Apostolic succession, can be partly traced even in NewTestament times. The Lord's Supper began as an appendage to, or ratheras a heightening of, the evening meal, and at first, as this chaptertells us in a subsequent verse, was observed day by day. Then, beforethe epoch of the Acts of the Apostles is ended, we find it has become aweekly celebration, and forms part of the service on the first day ofthe week. But even when the observance had ceased to be daily, theassociation with an ordinary meal continued, and that led to thedisorders at Corinth which Paul rebuked, and which would have beenimpossible if later ideas of the Lord's Supper had existed then.

The history of the transformation of that simple Supper into 'thebloodless sacrifice' of the Mass, and all the mischief consequentthereon, does not concern us now. But it does concern us to note thatthese first believers hallowed common things by doing them, and commonfood by partaking of it, with the memory of His great sacrifice intheir minds. The poorest fare, the coarsest bread, the sourest wine, onthe humblest table, became a memorial of that dear Lord. Religion andlife, the domestic and the devout, were so closely braided togetherthat when a household sat at table it was both a family and a church;and while they were eating their meat for the strength of their body,they were partaking of the memorial of their dying Lord.

Is your house like that? Is your daily life like that? Do you bring thesacred and the secular as close together as that? Are the dying wordsof your Master, 'This do in remembrance of Me,' written by you overeverything you do? And so is all life worship, and all worship hope?

III. The last thing here is habitual devotion.

I suppose the disciples had no forms of set Christian prayers. Theystill used the Jewish liturgy, for we read that 'they continued dailywith one accord in the Temple.' I am sure that no two things can beless like one another than the worship of the primitive Church and theworship, say, of one of our congregations. Did you ever try to paintfor yourselves, for instance, the scene described in the First Epistleto the Corinthians? When they came together in their meetings forworship, 'every one had a psalm, a doctrine, an interpretation.' 'Letthe prophets speak, by ones, or at most by twos'; and if another getsup to interrupt, let the first speaker sit down. Paul goes on to say,'Let all things be done decently and in order.' So there must have beentendencies to disorder, and much at which some of our modernecclesiastical martinets would have been very much scandalised as'unbecoming.' Wise men are in no haste to change forms. Forms change ofthemselves when their users change; but it would be a good day forChristendom if the faith and devoutness of a community of believerssuch as we, for instance, profess to be, were so strong and sodemanding expression as that, instead of my poor voice continuallysounding here, every one of you had a psalm or a doctrine, and everyone of you were able and impelled to speak out of the fulness of theSpirit which God poured into you. It will come some day; it must comeif Christendom is not to die of its own dignity. But we do not need tohurry matters, only let us remember that unless a Church continuessteadfast in prayer it is worth very little.

Now, dear brethren, it is said about us Free Churchmen that we think agreat deal too much of preaching and a great deal too little of theprayers of the congregation. That is a stock criticism. I am bound tosay that there is a grain of truth in it, and that there is not, withtoo many of our congregations, as lofty a conception of the power andblessedness of the united prayers of the congregation as there ought tobe, or else you would not hear about 'introductory services.'Introductory to what? Do we speak to God merely by way of preface toone of us talking to his brethren? Is that the proper order? 'Theycontinued steadfastly in the Apostles' teaching,' no doubt; but also'steadfastly in prayer.' I pray you to try to make this picture of thePentecostal converts the ideal of your own lives, and to do your bestto help forward the time when it shall be the reality in this church,and in every other society of professing Christians.


'And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.'—ACTSii. 47.

'And the Lord added to them day by day those that were beingsaved.'—(R. V.)

You observe that the principal alterations of these words in theRevised Version are two: the one the omission of 'the church,' theother the substitution of 'were being saved' for 'such as should besaved.' The former of these changes has an interest as suggesting thatat the early period referred to the name of 'the church' had not yetbeen definitely attached to the infant community, and that the wordafterwards crept into the text at a time when ecclesiasticism hadbecome a great deal stronger than it was at the date of the writing ofthe Acts of the Apostles. The second of the changes is of moreimportance. The Authorised Version's rendering suggests that salvationis a future thing, which in one aspect is partially true. The RevisedVersion, which is also by far the more literally accurate, suggests theother idea, that salvation is a process going on all through the courseof a Christian man's life. And that carries very large and importantlessons.

I. I ask you to notice here, first, the profound conception which thewriter had of the present action of the ascended Christ. 'The Lordadded to them day by day those that were being saved.'

Then Christ (for it is He that is here spoken of as the Lord), theliving, ascended Christ, was present in, and working with, that littlecommunity of believing souls. You will find that the thought of apresent Saviour, who is the life-blood of the Church on earth, and thespring of action for all good that is done in it and by it, runsthrough the whole of this Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The keynoteis struck in its first verses: 'The former treatise have I made, OTheophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the dayin which He was taken up.' That is the description of Luke's Gospel,and it implies that the Acts of the Apostles is the second treatise,which tells all that Jesus continued to do and teach after that Hewas taken up. So the Lord, the ascended Christ, is the true theme andhero of this book. It is He, for instance, who sends down the Spirit onthe Day of Pentecost. It is He whom the dying martyr sees 'standing atthe right hand of God,' ready to help. It is He who appears to thepersecutor on the road to Damascus. It is He who sends Paul and hiscompany to preach in Europe. It is He who opens hearts for thereception of their message. It is He who stands by the Apostle in avision, and bids him 'be of good cheer,' and go forth upon his work.Thus, at every crisis in the history of the Church, it is theLord—that is to say, Christ Himself—who is revealed as working inthem and for them, the ascended but yet ever-present Guide, Counsellor,Inspirer, Protector, and Rewarder of them that put their trust in Him.So here it is He that 'adds to the Church daily them that were beingsaved.'

I believe, dear brethren, that modern Christianity has far too muchlost the vivid impression of this present Christ as actually dwellingand working among us. What is good in us and what is bad in us conspireto make us think more of the past work of an ascended Christ than ofthe present work of an indwelling Christ. We cannot think too much ofthat Cross by which He has laid the foundation for the salvation andreconciliation of all the world; but we may easily think tooexclusively of it, and so fix our thoughts upon that work which Hecompleted when on Calvary He said, 'It is finished!' as to forget thecontinual work which will never be finished until His Church isperfected, and the world is redeemed. If we are a Church of Christ atall, we have Christ in very deed among us, and working through us andon us. And unless we have, in no mystical and unreal and metaphoricalsense, but in the simplest and yet grandest prose reality, that livingSaviour here in our hearts and in our fellowship, better that thesewalls were levelled with the ground, and this congregation scattered tothe four winds of heaven. The present Christ is the life of His Church.

Notice, and that but for a moment, for I shall have to deal with itmore especially at another part of this discourse,—the specific actionwhich is here ascribed to Him. He adds to the Church, not we, notour preaching, not our eloquence, our fervour, our efforts. These maybe the weapons in His hands, but the hand that wields the weapon givesit all its power to wound and to heal, and it is Christ Himself who, byHis present energy, is here represented as being the Agent of all thegood that is done by any Christian community, and the Builder-up of HisChurches, in numbers and in power.

It is His will for, His ideal of, a Christian Church, that continuouslyit should be gathering into its fellowship those that are being saved.That is His meaning in the establishment of His Church upon earth, andthat is His will concerning it and concerning us, and the questionshould press on every society of Christians: Does our realitycorrespond to Christ's ideal? Are we, as a portion of His greatheritage, being continually replenished by souls that come to tell whatGod has done for them? Is there an unbroken flow of such into what wecall our communion? I speak to you members of this church, and I askyou to ponder the question,—Is it so? and the other question, If it isnot so, wherefore? 'The Lord added daily,'—why does not the Lord adddaily to us?

II. Let us go to the second part of this text, and see if we can findan answer. Notice how emphatically there is brought out here theattractive power of an earnest and pure Church.

My text is the end of a sentence. What is the beginning of thesentence? Listen,—'All that believed were together, and had all thingscommon; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to allmen, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accordin the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat theirmeat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and havingfavour with all the people. And the Lord added.' Yes; of course.Suppose you were like these people. Suppose this church andcongregation bore stamped upon it, plain and deep as the broad arrow ofthe king, these characteristics—manifest fraternal unity, plainunselfish unworldliness, habitual unbroken devotion, gladness which hadin it the solemnity of Heaven, and a transparent simplicity of life andheart, which knew nothing of by-ends and shabby, personal motives ordistracting duplicity of purpose—do you not think that the Lord wouldadd to you daily such as should be saved? Or, to put it into otherwords, wherever there is a little knot of men obviously held togetherby a living Christ, and obviously manifesting in their lives andcharacters the likeness of that Christ transforming and glorifyingthem, there will be drawn to them—by natural gravitation, I was goingto say, but we may more correctly say, by the gravitation which isnatural in the supernatural realm—souls that have been touched by thegrace of the Lord, and souls to whom that grace has been brought thenearer by looking upon them. Wherever there is inward vigour of lifethere will be outward growth; and the Church which is pure, earnest,living will be a Church which spreads and increases.

Historically, it has always been the case that in God's Church seasonsof expansion have followed upon seasons of deepened spiritual life onthe part of His people. And the only kind of growth which is wholesome,and to be desired in a Christian community, is growth as a consequenceof the revived religiousness of the individuals who make up thecommunity.

And just in like manner as such a community will draw to it men who arelike-minded, so it will repel from it all the formalist people. Thereare congregations that have the stamp of worldliness so deep upon themthat any persons who want to be burdened with as little religion as maybe respectable will find themselves at home there. And I come to youChristian people here, for whose Christian character I am in some senseand to some degree responsible, with this appeal: Do you see to itthat, so far as your influence extends, this community of ours be suchas that half-dead Christians will never think of coming near us, andthose whose religion is tepid will be repelled from us, but that theywho love the Lord Jesus Christ with earnest devotion and loftyconsecration, and seek to live unworldly and saint-like lives, shallrecognise in us men like-minded, and from whom they may draw help. Ibeseech you—if you will not misunderstand the expression—make yourcommunion such that it will repel as well as attract; and that peoplewill find nothing here to draw them to an easy religion of words andformalism, beneath which all vermin of worldliness and selfishness maylurk, but will recognise in us a church of men and women who are bentupon holiness, and longing for more and more conformity to the divineMaster.

Now, if all this be true, it is possible for worldly and stagnantcommunities calling themselves 'Churches' to thwart Christ's purpose,and to make it both impossible and undesirable that He should add tothem souls for whom He has died. It is a solemn thing to feel that wemay clog Christ's chariot-wheels, that there may be so little spirituallife in us, as a congregation, that, if I may so say, He dare notintrust us with the responsibility of guarding and keeping the youngconverts whom He loves and tends. We may not be fit to be trusted withthem, and that may be why we do not get them. It may not be good forthem that they should be dropped into the refrigerating atmosphere ofsuch a church, and that may be why they do not come.

Depend upon it, brethren, that, far more than my preaching, your liveswill determine the expansion of this church of ours. And if mypreaching is pulling one way and your lives the other, and I have halfan hour a week for talk and you have seven days for contradictory life,which of the two do you think is likely to win in the tug? I beseechyou, take the words that I am now trying to speak, to yourselves. Donot pass them to the man in the next pew and think how well they fithim, but accept them as needed by you. And remember, that just as a bitof sealing-wax, if you rub it on your sleeve and so warm it, developsan attractive power, the Church which is warmed will draw many toitself. If the earlier words of this context apply to any Christiancommunity, then certainly its blessed promise too will apply to it, andto such a church the Lord will 'add day by day them that are beingsaved.'

III. And now, lastly, observe the definition given here of the class ofpersons gathered into the community.

I have already observed, in the earlier portion of this discourse, thathere we have salvation represented as a process, a progressive thingwhich runs on all through life. In the New Testament there are variouspoints of view from which that great idea of salvation is represented.It is sometimes spoken of as past, in so far as in the definite act ofconversion and the first exercise of faith in Jesus Christ the wholesubsequent evolution and development are involved, and the process ofsalvation has its beginning then, when a man turns to God. It issometimes spoken of as present, in so far as the joy of deliverancefrom evil and possession of good, which is God, is realised day by day.It is sometimes spoken of as future, in so far as all the imperfectpossession and pre-libations of salvation which we taste here on earthprophesy and point onwards to their own perfecting in the climax ofheaven. But all these three points of view, past, present, and future,may be merged into this one of my text, which speaks of every saint onearth, from the infantile to the most mature, as standing in the samerow, though at different points; walking on the same road, thoughadvanced different distances; all participant of the same process of'being saved.'

Through all life the deliverance goes on, the deliverance from sin, thedeliverance from wrath. The Christian salvation, then, according to theteaching of this emphatic phrase, is a process begun at conversion,carried on progressively through the life, and reaching its climax inanother state. Day by day, through the spring and the early summer, thesun shines longer in the sky, and rises higher in the heavens; and thepath of the Christian is as the shining light. Last year's greenwood isthis year's hardwood; and the Christian, in like manner, has to 'growin the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Saviour.' So theseprogressively, and, therefore, as yet imperfectly, saved people, weregathered into the Church.

Now I have but two things to say about that. If that be the descriptionof the kind of folk that come into a Christian Church, the duties ofthat Church are very plainly marked. And the first great one is to seeto it that the community help the growth of its members. There areChristian Churches—I do not say whether ours is one of them ornot—into which, if a young plant is brought, it is pretty sure to bekilled. The temperature is so low that the tender shoots are nipped aswith frost, and die. I have seen people, coming all full of fervour andof faith, into Christian congregations, and finding that the averageround them was so much lower than their own, that they have cooled downafter a time to the fashionable temperature, and grown indifferent liketheir brethren. Let us, dear friends, remember that a Christian Churchis a nursery of imperfect Christians, and, for ourselves and for oneanother, try to make our communion such as shall help shy and tendergraces to unfold themselves, and woo out, by the encouragement ofexample, the lowest and the least perfect to lofty holiness andconsecration like the Master's.

And if I am speaking to any in this congregation who hold aloof fromChristian fellowship for more or less sufficient reasons, let me pressupon them, in one word, that if they are conscious of a possession,however imperfect, of that incipient salvation, their place is therebydetermined, and they are doing wrong if they do not connect themselveswith some Christian Communion, and stand forth as members of Christ'sChurch.

And now one last word. I have tried to show you that salvation, in theNew Testament, is regarded as a process. The opposite thing is aprocess too. There is a very awful contrast in one of Paul's Epistles.'The preaching of the Cross is to them who are in the act ofperishing foolishness; unto us who are being saved, it is the powerof God.' These two processes start, as it were, from the same point,one by slow degrees and almost imperceptible motion, rising higher andhigher, the other, by slow degrees and almost unconscious descent,sliding steadily and fatally downward ever further and further. And mypoint now is that in each of us one or other of these processes isgoing on. Either you are slowly rising or you are slipping down. Eithera larger measure of the life of Christ, which is salvation, is passinginto your hearts, or bit by bit you are dying like some man withcreeping paralysis that begins at the extremities, and with fell,silent, inexorable footstep, advances further and further towards thecitadel of the heart, where it lays its icy hand at last, and the manis dead. You are either 'being saved' or you are 'perishing.' No manbecomes a devil all at once, and no man becomes an angel all at once.Trust yourself to Christ, and He will lift you to Himself; turn yourback upon Him, as some of you are doing, and you will settle down,down, down in the muck and the mire of your own sensuality andselfishness, until at last the foul ooze spreads over your head, andyou are lost in the bog for ever.


'Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour ofprayer, being the ninth hour. 2. And a certain man lame from hismother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of thetemple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered intothe temple; 3. Who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple,asked an alms. 4. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John,said, Look on us. 5. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receivesomething of them. 6. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; butsuch as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazarethrise up and walk. 7. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted himup: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8. Andhe leaping up, stood, and walked, and entered with them into thetemple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. 9. And all the peoplesaw him walking and praising God: 10. And they knew that it was hewhich sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they werefilled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.11. And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all thepeople ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's,greatly wondering. 12. And when Peter saw it, he answered unto thepeople, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye soearnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had madethis man to walk? 13. The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob,the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye deliveredup, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined tolet Him go. 14. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired amurderer to be granted unto you; 15. And killed the Prince of Life,whom God hath raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses. 16. AndHis name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom yesee and know; yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him thisperfect soundness in the presence of you all.'—ACTS iii. 1-16.

'Many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles' (Acts ii. 43), butthis one is recorded in detail, both because it was conspicuous aswrought in the Temple, and because it led to weighty consequences. Thenarrative is so vivid and full of minute particulars that it suggestsan eye-witness. Was Peter Luke's informant? The style of the story isso like that of Mark's Gospel that we might reasonably presume so.

The scene and the persons are first set before us. It was natural thata close alliance should be cemented between Peter and John, bothbecause they were the principal members of the quartet which stoodfirst among the Apostles, and because they were so unlike each other,and therefore completed each other. Peter's practical force and eye forexternals, and John's more contemplative nature and eye for the unseen,needed one another. So we find them together in the judgment hall, atthe sepulchre, and here.

They 'went up to the Temple,' or, to translate more exactly and morepicturesquely, 'were going up,' when the incident to be recorded stayedthem. They had passed through the court, and came to a gate leadinginto the inner court, which was called 'Beautiful.' from its artisticexcellence, when they were arrested by the sight of a lame beggar, whohad been carried there every day for many years to appeal, by thedisplay of his helplessness, to the entering worshippers. Preciselysimilar sights may be seen to-day at the doors of many a famousEuropean church and many a mosque. He mechanically wailed out hisformula, apparently scarcely looking at the two strangers, norexpecting a response. Long habit and many rebuffs had not made himhopeful, but it was his business to ask, and so he asked.

Some quick touch of pity shot through the two friends' hearts, whichdid not need to be spoken in order that each might feel it to be sharedby the other. So they paused, and, as was in keeping with theircharacters, Peter took speech in hand, while John stood by assenting.Purposed devotion is well delayed when postponed in order to lightenmisery.

There must have been something magnetic in Peter's voice and steadygaze as he said, 'Look on us!' It was a strange preface, if only somesmall coin was to follow. It kindled some flicker of hope of he knewnot what in the beggar. He expected to receive 'something' from them,and, no doubt, was asking himself what. Expectation and receptivitywere being stirred in him, though he could not divine what was coming.We have no right to assume that his state of mind was operative infitting him to be cured, nor to call his attitude 'faith,' but still hewas lifted from his usual dreary hopelessness, and some strangeanticipation was creeping into his heart.

Then comes the grand word of power. Again Peter is spokesman, but Johntakes part, though silently. With a fixed gaze, which told ofconcentrated purpose, and went to the lame man's heart, Petertriumphantly avows what most men are ashamed of, and try to hide:'Silver and gold have I none.' He had 'left all and followed Christ';he had not made demands on the common stock. Empty pockets may go alongwith true wealth.

There is a fine flash of exultant confidence in Peter's next words,which is rather spoiled by the Authorised Version. He did not say'such as I have,' as it it was inferior to money, which he had not,but he said 'what I have' (Rev. Ver.),—a very different tone. Theexpression eloquently magnifies the power which he possessed as farmore precious than wealth, and it speaks of his assurance that he didpossess it—an assurance which rested, not only on his faith in hisLord's promise and gift, but on his experience in working formermiracles.

How deep his words go into the obligations of possession! 'What I haveI give' should be the law for all Christians in regard to all that theyhave, and especially in regard to spiritual riches. God gives us these,not only in order that we may enjoy them ourselves, but in order thatwe may impart, and so in our measure enter into the joy of our Lord andknow the greater blessedness of giving than of receiving. How often ithas been true that a poor church has been a miracle-working church, andthat, when it could not say 'Silver and gold have I none' it has alsolost the power of saying, 'In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,walk'!

The actual miracle is most graphically narrated. With magnificentboldness Peter rolls out his Master's name, there, in the court of theTemple, careless who may hear. He takes the very name that had beenused in scorn, and waves it like a banner of victory. His confidence inhis possession of power was not confidence in himself, but in his Lord.When we can peal forth the Name with as much assurance of itsmiracle-working power as Peter did, we too shall be able to make thelame walk. A faltering voice is unworthy to speak such words, and willspeak them in vain.

The process of cure is minutely described. Peter put out his hand tohelp the lame man up, and, while he was doing so, power came into theshrunken muscles and weak ankles, so that the cripple felt that hecould raise himself, and, though all passed in a moment, the last partof his rising was his own doing, and what began with his being 'liftedup' ended in his 'leaping up.' Then came an instant of standing still,to steady himself and make sure of his new strength, and then he beganto walk.

The interrupted purpose of devotion could now be pursued, but with agladsome addition to the company. How natural is that 'walking andleaping and praising God'! The new power seemed so delightful, sowonderful, that sober walking did not serve. It was a strange way ofgoing into the Temple, but people who are borne along by the sudden joyof new gifts beyond hope need not be expected to go quietly, andsticklers for propriety who blamed the man's extravagance, and wouldhave had him pace along with sober gait and downcast eyes, like aPharisee, did not know what made him thus obstreperous, even in hisdevout thankfulness. 'Leaping and praising God' do make a singularcombination, but before we blame, let us be sure that we understand.

One of the old manuscripts inserts a clause which brings out moreclearly that there was a pause, during which the three remained in theTemple in prayer. It reads, 'And when Peter and John came out, he cameout with them, holding them, and they [the people] being astonished,stood in the porch,' etc. So we have to think of the buzzing crowd,waiting in the court for their emergence from the sanctuary. Solomon'sporch was, like the Beautiful gate, on the east side of the Templeenclosure, and may probably have been a usual place of rendezvous forthe brethren, as it had been a resort of their Lord.

It was a great moment, and Peter, the unlearned Galilean, the formercowardly renegade, rose at once to the occasion. Truly it was given himin that hour what to speak. His sermon is distinguished by itsundaunted charging home the guilt of Christ's death on the nation, itspitying recognition of the ignorance which had done the deed, and itsurgent entreaty. We here deal with its beginning only. 'Why marvel yeat this?'—it would have been a marvel if they had not marvelled. Thething was no marvel to the Apostle, because he believed that Jesus wasthe Christ and reigned in Heaven. Miracles fall into their place andbecome supremely 'natural' when we have accepted that great truth.

The fervent disavowal of their 'own power or holiness' as concerned inthe healing is more than a modest disclaimer. It leads on to thedeclaration of who is the true Worker of all that is wrought for men bythe hands of Christians. That disavowal has to be constantly repeatedby us, not so much to turn away men's admiration or astonishment fromus, as to guard our own foolish hearts from taking credit for what itmay please Jesus to do by us as His tools.

The declaration of Christ as the supreme Worker is postponed till afterthe solemn indictment of the nation. But the true way to regard themiracle is set forth at once, as being God's glorifying of Jesus. Peteremploys a designation of our Lord which is peculiar to these earlychapters of Acts. He calls Him God's 'Servant,' which is a quotation ofthe Messianic title in the latter part of Isaiah, 'the Servant of theLord.'

The fiery speaker swiftly passes to contrast God's glorifying withIsrael's rejection. The two points on which he seizes are noteworthy.'Ye delivered Him up'; that is, to the Roman power. That was thedeepest depth of Israel's degradation. To hand over their Messiah tothe heathen,—what could be completer faithlessness to all Israel'scalling and dignity? But that was not all: 'ye denied Him.' Did Peterremember some one else than the Jews who had done the same, and did asudden throb of conscious fellowship even in that sin make his voicetremble for a moment? Israel's denial was aggravated because it was 'inthe presence of Pilate,' and had overborne his determination to releasehis prisoner. The Gentile judge would rise in the judgment to condemnthem, for he had at least seen that Jesus was innocent, and they hadhounded him on to an illegal killing, which was murder as laid to hisaccount, but national apostasy as laid to theirs.

These were daring words to speak in the Temple to that crowd. But thehumble fisherman had been filled with the Spirit, who is theStrengthener, and the fear of man was dead in him. If we had neverheard of Pentecost, we should need to invent something of the sort tomake intelligible the transformation of these timid folk, the firstdisciples, into heroes. A dead Christ, lying in an unknown grave, couldnever have inspired His crushed followers with such courage, insight,and elastic confidence and gladness in the face of a frowning world.


'But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to begranted unto you; 15. And killed the Prince of life, whom God hathraised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.'—ACTS iii. 14, 15.

This early sermon of Peter's, to the people, is marked by a comparativeabsence of the highest view of Christ's person and work. It is open tous to take one of two explanations of that fact. We may either say thatthe Apostle was but learning the full significance of the marvellousevents that had passed so recently, or we may say that he suited hiswords to his audience, and did not declare all that he knew.

At the same time, we should not overlook the significance of theChristology which it does contain. 'His child Jesus' is really atranslation of Isaiah's 'Servant of the Lord.' 'The Holy One and theJust' is a distinct assertion of Jesus' perfect, sinless manhood, and'the Prince of Life' plainly asserts Jesus to be the Lord and Source ofit.

Notice, too, the pathetic 'denied': was Peter thinking of the shamefulhour in his own experience? It is a glimpse into the depth of hispenitence, and the tenderness with others' sins which it had given him,that he twice uses the word here, as if he had said 'You have done nomore than I did myself. It is not for me to heap reproaches on you. Wehave been alike in sin—and I can preach forgiveness to you sinners,because I have received it for myself.'

Notice, too, the manifold antitheses of the words. Barabbas is setagainst Christ; the Holy One and the Just against a robber, the Princeof Life against a murderer. 'You killed'—'the Prince of Life.' 'Youkilled'—'God raised.'

There are here three paradoxes, three strange and contradictory things:the paradoxes of man's perverted and fatal choice, of man's hatebringing death to the Lord of life, and of God's love and power causinglife to come by death.

I. The paradox of man's fatal choice.

There occurs often in history a kind of irony in which the wholetendency of a time or of a conflict is summed up in a single act, andcertainly the fact which is referred to here is one of these. Let usput it as it would have seemed to an onlooker then, leaving out for themoment any loftier meaning which may attach to it.

Peter's words here, thus boldly addressed to the people, are a strongtestimony to the impression which the character of Christ had made onHis contemporaries. 'The Holy One and the Just' implies moralperfection. The whole narrative of the Crucifixion brings out thatimpression. Pilate's wife speaks with awe of 'that just person.' 'Whichof you convinceth me of sin?' 'If I have done evil, bear witness of theevil.' 'I find no fault in Him.' We may take it for granted that theimpression Jesus made among His contemporaries was, at the lowest, thatHe was a pure and good man.

The nation had to choose one of two. Jesus was the one; who was theother? A man half brigand, half rebel, who had raised some petty revoltagainst Rome, more as a pretext for robbery and crime than frompatriotism, and whose hands reeked with blood. And this was thenation's hero!

The juxtaposition throws a strong light on the people's motive forrejecting Jesus. The rulers may have condemned Him for blasphemy, butthe people had a more practical reason, and in it no doubt the rulersshared. It was not because He claimed to be the Messiah that they gaveHim up to Pilate, but because He would not meet their notions of whatthe Messiah should be and do. If He had called them to arms, not a manof them would have betrayed Him to Pilate, but all, or the more daringof them, would have rallied to His standard. Their hate was the measureof their deep disappointment with His course. If instead of showinglove and meekness, He had blown up the coals of religious hatred; ifinstead of going about doing good, He had mustered the men of lawlessGalilee for a revolt, would these fawning hypocrites have dragged himto Pilate on the charge of forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and ofclaiming to be a King? Why, there was not one of them but would havebeen glad to murder every tax-gatherer in Palestine, not one of thembut bore inextinguishable in his inmost heart the faith in 'one Christa King.' And if that meek and silent martyr had only lifted His finger,He might have had legions of His accusers at His back, ready to sweepPilate and his soldiers out of Jerusalem. They saw Christ's goodnessand holiness. It did not attract them. They wanted a Messiah who wouldbring them outward freedom by the use of outward weapons, and so theyall shouted 'Not this man but Barabbas!' The whole history of thenation was condensed in that one cry—their untamable obstinacy, theirblindness to the light of God, their fierce grasp of the promises whichthey did not understand, their hard worldliness, their cruelpatriotism, their unquenchable hatred of their oppressors, which wasonly equalled by their unquenchable hatred of those who showed them theonly true way for deliverance.

And this strange paradox is not confined to these Jews. It is repeatedwherever Christ is presented to men. We are told that all men naturallyadmire goodness, and so on. Men mostly know it when they see it, but Idoubt whether they all either admire or like it. People generally hadrather have something more outward and tangible. It is notspiritualising this incident, but only referring it to the principle ofwhich it is an illustration, to ask you to see in it the fatal choiceof multitudes. Christ is set before us all, and His beauty is partiallyseen but is dimmed by externals. Men's desires are fixed on grosssensuous delights, or on success in business, or on intellectualeminence, or on some of the thousand other visible and temporal objectsthat outshine, to vulgar eyes, the less dazzling lustre of the thingsunseen. They appreciate these, and make heroes of the men who have wonthem. These are their ideals, but of Jesus they have little care.

And is it not true that all such competitors of His, when they lead mento prefer them to Him, are 'murderers,' in a sadder sense than Barabbaswas? Do they not slay the souls of their admirers? Is it not but tooghastly a reality that all who thus choose them draw down ruin onthemselves and 'love death'?

This fatal paradox is being repeated every day in the lives ofthousands. The crowds who yelled, 'Not this man but Barabbas!' wereless guilty and less mad than those who to-day cry, 'Not Jesus butworldly wealth, or fleeting bodily delights, or gratified ambition!'

II. The paradox of Death's seeming conquest over the Lord of Life.

The word rendered 'Prince' means an originator, and hence a leader andhence a lord. Whether Peter had yet reached a conception of thedivinity of Jesus or not, he had clearly reached a much higher one ofHim than he had attained before His death. In some sense he wasbeginning to recognise that His relation to 'life' was loftier and moremysterious than that of other men. Was it His death only that thuselevated the disciples' thoughts of Jesus? Strange that if He died andthere an end, such a result should have followed. One would haveexpected His death to have shattered their faith in Him, but somehow itstrengthened their faith. Why did they not all continue to lament, asdid the two of them on the road to Emmaus: 'We trusted that this hadbeen He who should have redeemed Israel'—but now we trust no more, andour dreams are buried in His grave? Why did they not go back to Galileeand their nets? What raised their spirits, their courage, and increasedtheir understanding of Him, and their faith in Him? How came His deathto be the occasion of consolidating, not of shattering, theirfellowship? How came Peter to be so sure that a man who had died wasthe 'Prince of Life'? The answer, the only one psychologicallypossible, is in what Peter here proclaims to unwilling ears, 'Whom Godraised from the dead.'

The fact of the Resurrection sets the fact of the Death in another
light. Meditating on these twin facts, the Death and Resurrection of
Jesus, we hear Himself speaking as He did to John in Patmos: 'I am the
Living One who became dead, and lo, I am alive for evermore!'

If we try to listen with the ears of these first hearers of Peter'swords, we shall better appreciate his daring paradox. Think of thetremendous audacity of the claim which they make, that Jesus should bethe 'Prince of Life,' and of the strange contradiction to it which thefact that they 'killed' Him seems to give. How could death have powerover the Prince of Life? That sounds as if, indeed, the 'sun wereturned into darkness,' or as if fire became ice. That brief clause 'yekilled the Prince of Life' must have seemed sheer absurdity to thehearers whose hands were still red with the blood of Jesus.

But there is another paradox here. It was strange that death should beable to invade that Life, but it is no less strange that men should beable to inflict it. But we must not forget that Jesus died, not becausem*n slew Him, but because He willed to die. The whole of the narrativesof the Crucifixion in the Gospels avoid using the word 'death.' Suchexpressions as He 'gave up the ghost,' or the like, are used, implyingwhat is elsewhere distinctly asserted, that His death was His offeringof Himself, the result of His own volition, not of exhaustion or oftorture. Thus, even in dying, He showed Himself the Lord of Life andthe Master of Death. Men indeed fastened Jesus to the Cross, but Hedied, not because He was so fastened, but because He willed to 'makeHis soul an offering for sin.' Bound as it were to a rock in the midstof the ocean, He, of His own will, and at His own time, bowed His head,and let the waves of the sea of death roll over it.

III. The triumphant divine paradox of life given and death conqueredthrough a death.

Jesus is 'Prince' in the sense of being source of life to mankind, justbecause He died. Hie death is the death of Death. His apparent defeatis His real victory.

By His death He takes away our sins.

By His death He abolishes death.

The physical fact remains, but all else which makes the 'sting ofdeath' to men is gone. It is no more a solitude, for He has died, andthereby He becomes a companion in that hour to every lover of His. Itsdarkness changes into light to those who, by 'following Him,' have,even there, 'the light of life.' This Samson carried away the gates ofthe prison on His own strong shoulders when He came forth from it. Itis His to say, 'O death! I will be thy plague.'

By His death He diffuses life.

'The Spirit was not given' till Jesus was 'glorified,' whichglorification is John's profound synonym for His crucifixion. When thealabaster box of His pure body was broken, the whole house of humanitywas filled with the odour of the ointment.

So the great paradox becomes a blessed truth, that man's deepest sinworks out God's highest act of Love and Pardon.


'And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whomye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him thisperfect soundness in the presence of you all.'—ACTS iii. 16.

Peter said, 'Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own poweror holiness we had made this man to walk?' eagerly disclaiming beinganything else than a medium through which Another's power operated.Jesus Christ said, 'That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power onearth to forgive sins, I say unto thee, Arise, take up thy bed, andwalk'—unmistakably claiming to be a great deal more than a medium. Whythe difference? Jesus Christ did habitually in His miracles adopt thetone on which Moses once ventured when he smote the rock and said, 'Yerebels! must we bring the water for you?' and he was punished for itby exclusion from the Promised Land. Why the difference? Moses was 'inall his house as a servant, but Christ as a Son over His own house';and what was arrogance in the servant was natural and reasonable in theSon.

The gist of this verse is a reference to Jesus Christ as a source ofmiraculous power, not merely because He wrought miracles when on earth,but because from heaven He gave the power of which Peter was but thechannel. Now it seems to me that in these emphatic and singularlyreduplicated words of the Apostle there are two or three very importantlessons which I offer for your consideration.

I. The first is the power of the Name.

Now the Name of which Peter is speaking is not the collocation ofsyllables which are sounded 'Jesus Christ.' His hearers were familiarwith the ancient and Eastern method of regarding names as very muchmore than distinguishing labels. They are, in the view of the OldTestament, attempts at a summary description of things by theirprominent characteristics. They are condensed definitions. And so theOld Testament uses the expression, the 'Name' of God, as equivalent to'that which God is manifested to be.' Hence, in later days—and thereare some tendencies thither even in Scripture—in Jewish literature'the Name' came to be a reverential synonym for God Himself. And thereare traces that this peculiar usage with regard to the divine Name wasbeginning to shape itself in the Church with reference to the name ofJesus, even at that period in which my text was spoken. For instance,in the fifth chapter we read that the Apostles 'departed from thecouncil rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for theName,' and we find at a much later date that missionaries of the Gospelare described by the Apostle John as going forth 'for the sake of theName.'

The name of Christ, then, is the representation or embodiment of thatwhich Christ is declared to be for us men, and it is that Name, thetotality of what He is manifested to be, in which lies all power forhealing and for strengthening. The Name, that is, the whole Christ, inHis nature, His offices, His work, His Incarnation, His Life, HisDeath, Resurrection, Session at the right hand of God—it is thisChrist whose Name made that man strong, and will make us strong.Brethren, let us remember that, while fragments of the Name will havefragmentary power, as the curative virtue that resides in any substancebelongs to the smallest grain of it, if detached from the mass—whilstfragments of the Name of Christ have power, thanks be to Him! so thatno man can have even a very imperfect and rudimentary view of whatJesus Christ is and does, without getting strength and healing inproportion to the completeness of his conception, yet in order torealise all that He can be and do, a man must take the whole Christ asHe is revealed.

The Early Church had a symbol for Jesus Christ, a fish, to which theywere led because the Greek word for a fish is made up of the initialsof the words which they conceived to be the Name. And what was it?'Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour'; Jesus, humanity; Christ,the apex of Revelation, the fulfilment of prophecy, the AnointedProphet, Priest, and King; Son of God, the divine nature: and allthese, the humanity, the Messiahship, the divinity, found their sphereof activity in the last name, which, without them, would in its fulnesshave been impossible—Saviour. He is not such a Saviour as He may beto each of us, unless our conception of the Name grasps these threetruths: His humanity, His Messiahship, His divinity. 'His Name has madethis man strong.'

II. Notice how the power of the Name comes to operate.

Now, if you will observe the language of my text, you will note thatPeter says, as it would appear, the same thing twice over: 'His Name,through faith in His Name, hath made this man strong.' And then, as ifhe were saying something else, he adds what seems to be the same thing:'Yea! the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness.'

Now, note that in the first of these two statements nothing appearsexcept the 'man,' the 'Name,' and 'faith' I take it, though of courseit may be questionable, that that clause refers to the man's faith, andthat we have in it the intentional exclusion of the human workers, andare presented with the only two parties really concerned—at the oneend the Name, at the other end 'this man made strong.' And the link ofconnection between the two in this clause is faith—that is, the man'strust. But then, if we come to the next clause, we find that althoughPeter has just previously disclaimed all merit in the cure, yet thereis a sense in which some one's faith, working as from without, gaveto the man 'this perfect soundness.' And it seems very natural to me tounderstand that here, where human faith is represented as being, insome subordinate sense, the bestower of the healing which really theName had bestowed, it is the faith of the human miracle-worker ormedium which is referred to. Peter's faith did give, but Peter onlygave what he had received through faith. And so let all the praise begiven to the water, and none to the cup.

Whether that be a fair interpretation of the words of my text, withtheir singular and apparently meaningless tautology or no, at allevents the principle which is involved in the explanation is one that Iwish to dwell upon briefly now; and that is, that in order for theName, charged and supercharged with healing and strengthening power asit is, to come into operation, there must be a twofold trust.

The healer, the medium of healing, must have faith in the Name. Yes! ofcourse. In all regions the first requisite, the one indispensablecondition, of a successful propagandist, is enthusiastic confidence inwhat he promulgates. 'That man will go far,' said a cynical politicianabout one of his rivals; 'he believes every word he says.' And that isthe condition always of getting other people to believe us. Faith iscontagious; men catch from other people's tongues the accent ofconviction. If one wants to enforce any opinion upon others, the firstcondition is that he shall be utterly self-oblivious; and when he ismanifestly saying, as the Apostles in this context did, 'Do not fixyour eyes on us, as though we were doing anything,' then hearts willbow before him, as the trees of the wood are bowed by the wind.

If that is true in all regions, it is eminently true in regard toreligion. For what we need there most is not to be instructed, but tobe impressed. Most of us have, lying dormant in the bedchamber andinfirmary of our brains, convictions which only need to be awakened torevolutionise our lives. Now one of the most powerful ways of wakingthem is contact with any man in whom they are awake. So all successfulteachers and messengers of Jesus Christ have had this characteristic incommon, however unlike each other they have been. The divergences oftemperament, of moods, of point of view, of method of working whichprevailed even in the little group of Apostles, and broadlydistinguished Paul from Peter, Peter from James, and Paul and Peter andJames from John, are only types of what has been repeated ever since.Get together the great missionaries of the Cross, and you would havethe most extraordinary collection of miscellaneous idiosyncrasies thatthe world ever saw, and they would not understand each other, as someof them wofully misunderstood each other when here together. But therewas one characteristic in them all, a flaming earnestness of belief inthe power of the Name. And so it did not matter much, if at all, whattheir divergences were. Each of them was fitted for the Master's use.

And so, brethren, here is the reason—I do not say the only reason, butthe main one, and that which most affects us—for the slow progress,and even apparent failure, of Christianity. It has fallen into thehands of a Church that does not half believe its own Gospel. By reasonof formality and ceremonial and sacerdotalism and a lazy kind ofexpectation that, somehow or other, the benefits of Christ's love cancome to men apart from their own personal faith in Him, the Church haslargely ceased to anticipate that great things can be done by itsutterance of the Name. And if you have, I do not say ministers, orteachers, or official proclaimers, or Sunday-school teachers, or thelike, but I say if you have a Church, that is honeycombed with doubt,and from which the strength and flood-tide of faith have in many casesebbed away, why, it may go on uttering its formal proclamations of theName till the Day of Judgment, and all that will come of it willbe—'The man in whom the devils were, leaped upon them, and overcamethem, and said'—as he had a good right to say—'Jesus I know, and PaulI know, but who are ye?' You cannot kindle a fire with snowballs. Ifthe town crier goes into a quiet corner of the marketplace and ringshis bell apologetically, and gives out his message in a whisper, it issmall wonder if nobody listens. And that is the way in which too manyso-called Christian teachers and communities hold forth the Name, as ifbegging pardon of the world for being so narrow and old-fashioned as tobelieve in it still.

And no less necessary is faith on the other side. The recipient mustexercise trust. This lame man, no doubt, like the other that Paullooked at in a similar case, had faith to be healed. That was thelength of his tether. He believed that he was going to have his legsmade strong, and they were made strong accordingly. If he had believedmore, he would have got more. Let us hope that he did get more, becausehe believed more, at a later day. But in the meantime the Apostles'faith was not enough to cure him; and it is not enough for you thatJesus Christ should be standing with all His power at your elbow, andthat, earnestly and enthusiastically, some of Christ's messengers maypress upon you the acceptance of Him as a Saviour. He is of no good inthe world to you, and never will be, unless you have the personal faiththat knits you to Him.

It cannot be otherwise. Depend upon it, if Jesus Christ could saveevery one without terms and conditions at all, He would be only tooglad to do it. But it cannot be done. The nature of His work, and thesort of blessings that He brings by His work, are such as that it is animpossibility that any man should receive them unless he has that trustwhich, beginning with the acceptance by the understanding of Christ asSaviour, passes on to the assent of the will, and the outgoing of theheart, and the yielding of the whole nature to Him. How can a truth doany good to any one who does not believe in it? How is it possiblethat, if you do not take a medicine, it will work? How can you expectto see, unless you open your eyes? How do you propose to have yourblood purified, if you do not fill your lungs with air? Is it of anyuse to have gas-fittings in your house, if they are not connected withthe main? Will a water tap run in your sculleries, if there is no pipethat joins it with the source of supply? My dear friend, these roughillustrations are only approximations to the absolute impossibilitythat Christ can help, heal, or save any man without the man's personalfaith. 'Whosoever believeth' is no arbitrary limitation, but isinseparable from the very nature of the salvation given.

III. And now, lastly, note the effects of the power of the Name.

The Apostle puts in two separate clauses what, in the case in hand, wasreally one thing—'hath made this man strong,' and 'hath given himperfect soundness.' Ah! we can part the two, cannot we? There is thedisease, the disease of an alienated heart, of a perverted will, of aswollen self, all of which we need to have cured and checked before wecan do right. And there is weakness, the impotence to do what is good,'how to perform I find not,' and we need to be strengthened as well ascured. There is only one thing that will do these two, and that is thatChrist's power, ay, and Christ's own life, should pass, as it will passif we trust Him, into our foulness and precipitate all theimpurity—into our weakness and infuse strength. 'A reed shaken withthe wind,' and without substance or solidity to resist, may be placedin what is called a petrifying well, and, by the infiltration of stonysubstance into its structure, may be turned into a rigid mass, like alittle bar of iron. So, if Christ comes into my poor, weak, tremulousnature, there will be an infiltration into the very substance of mybeing of a present power which will make me strong.

My brother, you and I need, first and foremost, the healing, and thenthe strength-giving power, which we never find in its completenessanywhere but in Christ, and which we shall always find in Him.

And now notice, Jesus Christ does not make half cures—'this perfectsoundness.' If any man, in contact with Him, is but half delivered fromhis infirmities and purged from his sins, it is not because Christ'spower is inadequate, but because his own faith is defective.

Christ's cures should be visible to all around. A man's own testimonyis not the most satisfactory. Peter appeals to the bystanders. 'Youhave seen him lying here for years, a motionless lump of mendicancy, atthe Temple gate. Now you see him walking and leaping and praising God.Is it a cure, or is it not?' You professing Christians, would you liketo stand that test, to empanel a jury of people that have no sympathywith your religion, in order that they might decide whether you werehealed and strengthened or not? It is a good thing for us when theworld bears witness that Jesus Christ's power has come into us, andmade us what we are.

And so, dear friends, I lay all these thoughts on your hearts. Christ'sgift is amply sufficient to deliver us from all evils of weakness,sickness, incapacity: to endue us with all gifts of spiritual andimmortal strength. But, while the limit of what Christ gives is Hisboundless wealth, the limit of what you possess is your faith. Therainfall comes down in the same copiousness on rock and furrow, but itruns off the one, having stimulated no growth and left no blessing, andit sinks into the other and quickens every dormant germ into life whichwill one day blossom into beauty. We are all of us either rock or soil,and which we are depends on the reality, the firmness, and the force ofour faith in Christ. He Himself has laid down the principle on which Hebestows His gifts when He says, 'According to thy faith be it untothee!'


'Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to blessyou, In turning away every one of you from his iniquities.'—ACTS iii.26.

So ended Peter's bold address to the wondering crowd gathered in theTemple courts around him, with his companion John and the lame man whomthey had healed. A glance at his words will show how extraordinarilyoutspoken and courageous they are. He charges home on his hearers theguilt of Christ's death, unfalteringly proclaims His Messiahship, bearswitness to His Resurrection and Ascension, asserts that He is the Endand Fulfilment of ancient revelation, and offers to all the greatblessings that Christ brings. And this fiery, tender oration came fromthe same lips which, a few weeks before, had been blanched with fearbefore a flippant maidservant, and had quivered as they swore, 'I knownot the man!'

One or two simple observations may be made by way of introduction.'Unto you first'—'first' implies second; and so the Apostle hasshaken himself clear of the Jews' narrow belief that Messias belongedto them only, and is already beginning to contemplate the possibilityof a transference of the kingdom of God to the outlying Gentiles. 'Godhaving raised up His Son'—that expression has no reference, as itmight at first seem, to the fact of the Resurrection; but is employedin the same sense as, and indeed looks back to, previous words. For hehad just quoted Moses' declaration, 'A prophet shall the Lord your Godraise up unto you from your brethren.' So it is Christ's equipment andappointment for His office, and not His Resurrection, which is spokenabout here. 'His Son Jesus'—the Revised Version more accuratelytranslates 'His Servant Jesus.' I shall have a word or two to say aboutthat translation presently, but in the meantime I simply note the fact.

With this slight explanation let us now turn to two or three of theaspects of the words before us.

I. First, I note the extraordinary transformation which they indicatein the speaker.

I have already referred to his cowardice a very short time before. Thattransformation from a coward to a hero he shared in common with hisbrethren. On one page we read, 'They all forsook Him and fled.' We turnover half a dozen leaves and we read: 'They departed from the council,rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.'What did that?

Then there is another transformation no less swift, sudden, andinexplicable, except on one hypothesis. All through Christ's life thedisciples had been singularly slow to apprehend the highest aspects ofHis teachings, and they had clung with a strange obstinacy to theirnarrow Pharisaic and Jewish notions of the Messiah as coming toestablish a temporal dominion, in which Israel was to ride upon thenecks of the subject nations. And now, all at once, this Apostle, andhis fellows with him, have stepped from these puerile and narrow ideasout into this large place, that he and they recognise that the Jew hadno exclusive possession of Messiah's blessings, and that theseblessings consisted in no external kingdom, but lay mainly andprimarily in His 'turning every one of you from your iniquities.' Atone time the Apostles stood upon a gross, low, carnal level, and in afew weeks they were, at all events, feeling their way to, and to alarge extent had possession of, the most spiritual and lofty aspects ofChrist's mission. What did that?

Something had come in between which wrought more, in a short space,than all the three years of Christ's teaching and companionship haddone for them. What was it? Why did they not continue in the mood whichtwo of them are reported to have been in, after the Crucifixion, whenthey said—'It is all up! we trusted that this had been He,' but theforce of circ*mstances has shivered the confidence into fragments, andthere is no such hope left for us any longer. What brought them out ofthat Slough of Despond?

I would put it to any fair-minded man whether the psychological factsof this sudden maturing of these childish minds, and their suddenchange from slinking cowards into heroes who did not blanch before thetorture and the scaffold, are accountable, if you strike out theResurrection, the Ascension, and Pentecost? It seems to me that, forthe sake of avoiding a miracle, the disbelievers in the Resurrectionaccept an impossibility, and tie themselves to an intellectualabsurdity. And I for one would rather believe in a miracle than believein an uncaused change, in which the Apostles take exactly the oppositecourse from that which they necessarily must have taken, if there hadnot been the facts that the New Testament asserts that there were,Christ's rising again from the dead, and Ascension.

Why did not the Church share the fate of John's disciples, whoscattered like sheep without a shepherd when Herod chopped off theirmaster's head? Why did not the Church share the fate of that abortiverising, of which we know that when Theudas, its leader, was slain,'all, as many as believed on him, came to nought.' Why did these menact in exactly the opposite way? I take it that, as you cannot accountfor Christ except on the hypothesis that He is the Son of the Highest,you cannot account for the continuance of the Christian Church for aweek after the Crucifixion, except on the hypothesis that the men whocomposed it were witnesses of His Resurrection, and saw Him floatingupwards and received into the Shechinah cloud and lost to their sight.Peter's change, witnessed by the words of my text—these bold andclear-sighted words—seems to me to be a perfect monstrosity, andincapable of explication, unless he saw the risen Lord, beheld theascended Christ, was touched with the fiery Spirit descending onPentecost, and so 'out of weakness was made strong,' and from a babesprang to the stature of a man in Christ.

II. Look at these words as setting forth a remarkable view of Christ.

I have already referred to the fact that the word rendered 'son' oughtrather to be rendered 'servant.' It literally means 'child' or 'boy,'and appears to have been used familiarly, just in the same fashion aswe use the same expression 'boy,' or its equivalent 'maid,' as a moregentle designation for a servant. Thus the kindly centurion, when hewould bespeak our Lord's care for his menial, calls him his 'boy'; andour Bible there translates rightly 'servant.'

Again, the designation is that which is continually employed in theGreek translation of the Old Testament as the equivalent for thewell-known prophetic phrase 'the Servant of Jehovah,' which, as youwill remember, is characteristic of the second portion of theprophecies of Isaiah. And consequently we find that, in a quotation ofIsaiah's prophecy in the Gospel of Matthew, the very phrase of our textis there employed: 'Behold My Servant whom I uphold!'

Now, it seems as if this designation of our Lord as God's Servant wasvery familiar to Peter's thoughts at this stage of the development ofChristian doctrine. For we find the name employed twice in thisdiscourse—in the thirteenth verse, 'the God of our Fathers hathglorified His Servant Jesus,' and again in my text. We also find ittwice in the next chapter, where Peter, offering up a prayer amongsthis brethren, speaks of 'Thy Holy Child Jesus,' and prays 'that signsand wonders may be done through the name' of that 'Holy Child.' So,then, I think we may fairly take it that, at the time in question, thisthought of Jesus as the 'Servant of the Lord' had come with especialforce to the primitive Church. And the fact that the designation neveroccurs again in the New Testament seems to show that they passed onfrom it into a deeper perception than even it attests of who and whatthis Jesus was in relation to God.

But, at all events, we have in our text the Apostle looking back tothat dim, mysterious Figure which rises up with shadowy lineaments outof the great prophecy of 'Isaiah,' and thrilling with awe and wonder,as he sees, bit by bit, in the Face painted on the prophetic canvas,the likeness of the Face into which he had looked for three blessedyears, that now began to tell him more than they had done whilst theirmoments were passing.

'The Servant of the Lord'—that means, first of all, that Christ, inall which He does, meekly and obediently executes the Father's will. AsHe Himself said, 'I come not to do Mine own will, but the will of Himthat sent Me.' But it carries us further than that, to a point aboutwhich I would like to say one word now; and that is, the clearrecognition that the very centre of Jewish prophecy is the revelationof the personality of the Christ. Now, it seems to me that presenttendencies, discussions about the nature and limits of inspiration,investigations which, in many directions, are to be welcomed and arefruitful as to the manner of origin of the books of the Old Testament,and as to their collection into a Canon and a whole—that all this newlight has a counterbalancing disadvantage, in that it tends somewhat toobscure in men's minds the great central truth about the revelation ofGod in Israel—viz. that it was all progressive, and that its goal andend was Jesus Christ. 'The testimony of Jesus is the spirit ofprophecy,' and however much we may have to learn—and I have no doubtthat we have a great deal to learn, about the composition, thestructure, the authorship, the date of these ancient books—I takeleave to say that the unlearned reader, who recognises that they allconverge on Jesus Christ, has hold of the clue of the labyrinth, andhas come nearer to the marrow of the books than the most learnedinvestigators, who see all manner of things besides in them, and do notsee that 'they that went before cried, saying, Hosanna! Blessed be Hethat cometh in the name of the Lord!'

And so I venture to commend to you, brethren—not as a barrier againstany reverent investigation, not as stopping any careful study—this asthe central truth concerning the ancient revelation, that it had, forits chief business, to proclaim the coming of the Servant of Jehovah,Jesus the Christ.

III. And now, lastly, look at these words as setting forth the truecentre of Christ's work.

'He has sent Him to bless you in turning away every one of you from hisiniquities.' I have already spoken about the gross, narrow, carnalapprehensions of Messiah's work which cleaved to the disciples duringall our Lord's life here, and which disturbed even the sanctity of theupper chamber at that last meal, with squabbles about precedence whichhad an eye to places in the court of the Messiah when He assumed Histhrone. But here Peter has shaken himself clear of all these, and hasgrasped the thought that, whatever derivative and secondary blessingsof an external and visible sort may, and must, come in Messiah's train,the blessing which He brings is of a purely spiritual and inwardcharacter, and consists in turning away single souls from their loveand practice of evil. That is Christ's true work.

The Apostle does not enlarge as to how it is done. We know how it isdone. Jesus turns away men from sin because, by the magnetism of Hislove, and the attractive raying out of influence from His Cross, Heturns them to Himself. He turns us from our iniquities by the expulsivepower of a new affection, which, coming into our hearts like a greatriver into some foul Augean stable, sweeps out on its waters all thefilth that no broom can ever clear out in detail. He turns men fromtheir iniquities by His gift of a new life, kindred with that fromwhich it is derived.

There is an old superstition that lightning turned whatever it strucktowards the point from which the flash came, so that a tree with itsthousand leaves had each of them pointed to that quarter in the heavenswhere the blaze had been.

And so Christ, when He flings out the beneficent flash that slays onlyour evil, and vitalises ourselves, turns us to Him, and away from ourtransgressions. 'Turn us, O Christ, and we shall be turned.'

Ah, brethren! that is the blessing that we need most, for 'iniquities'are universal; and so long as man is bound to his sin it will embitterall sweetnesses, and neutralise every blessing. It is not culture,valuable as that is in many ways, that will avail to stanch man'sdeepest wounds. It is not a new social order that will still thediscontent and the misery of humanity. You may adopt collectiveeconomic and social arrangements, and divide property out as it pleasesyou. But as long as man continues selfish he will continue sinful, andas long as he continues sinful any social order will be pregnant withsorrow, 'and when it is finished it will bring forth death.' You haveto go deeper down than all that, down as deep as this Apostle goes inthis sermon of his, and recognise that Christ's prime blessing is theturning of men from their iniquities, and that only after that has beendone will other good come.

How shallow, by the side of that conception, do modern notions of Jesusas the great social Reformer look! These are true, but they want theirbasis, and their basis lies only here, that He is the Redeemer ofindividuals from their sins. There were people in Christ's lifetime whowere all untouched by His teachings, but when they found that He gavebread miraculously they said, 'This is of a truth the Prophet! That'sthe prophet for my money; the Man that can make bread, and securematerial well-being.' Have not certain modern views of Christ's workand mission a good deal in common with these vulgar old Jews—viewswhich regard Him mainly as contributing to the material good, thesocial and economical well-being of the world?

Now, I believe that He does that. And I believe that Christ'sprinciples are going to revolutionise society as it exists at present.But I am sure that we are on a false scent if we attempt to preachconsequences without proclaiming their antecedents, and that suchpreaching will end, as all such attempts have ended, in confusion anddisappointment.

They used to talk about Jesus Christ, in the first French Revolution,as 'the Good Sansculotte.' Perfectly true! But as the basis of that,and of all representations of Him, that will have power on the diseasesof the community, we have to preach Him as the Saviour of theindividual from his sin.

And so, brethren, has He saved you? Do you begin your notions of JesusChrist where His work begins? Do you feel that what you want most isneither culture nor any superficial and external changes, but somethingthat will deal with the deep, indwelling, rooted, obstinate self-regardwhich is the centre of all sin? And have you gone alone to Him as asinful man? As the Apostle here suggests, Jesus Christ does not savecommunities. The doctor has his patients into the consulting-room oneby one. There is no applying of Christ's benefits to men in batches, byplatoons and regiments, as Clovis baptized his Franks; but you have togo, every one of you, through the turnstile singly, and alone toconfess, and alone to be absolved, and alone to be turned, from youriniquity.

If I might venture to alter the position of words in my text, I wouldlay them, so modified, on the hearts of all my friends whom my wordsmay reach now, and say, 'Unto you—unto thee, God, having raised upHis Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, first in turning away every oneof you from his iniquities.'


'And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of thetemple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2. Being grieved that theytaught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from thedead. 3. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto thenext day: for it was now even-tide. 4. Howbeit many of them which heardthe word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.5. And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders,and scribes, 6. And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, andAlexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, weregathered together at Jerusalem. 7. And when they had set them in themidst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers ofthe people, and elders of Israel, 9. If we this day be examined of thegood deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10.Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by thename of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raisedfrom the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole.11. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which isbecome the head of the corner. 12. Neither is there salvation in anyother: for there is none other name under heaven given among men,whereby we must be saved. 13. Now when they saw the boldness of Peterand John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, theymarvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been withJesus. 14. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them,they could say nothing against it.'—ACTS iv. 1-14.

Hitherto the Jewish authorities had let the disciples alone, eitherbecause their attention had not been drawn even by Pentecost and theconsequent growth of the Church, or because they thought that to ignorethe new sect was the best way to end it. But when its leaders took tovehement preaching in Solomon's porch, and crowds eagerly listened, itwas time to strike in.

Our passage describes the first collision of hostile authority withChristian faith, and shows, as in a glass, the constant result of thatcollision in all ages.

The motives actuating the assailants are significantly analysed, andmay be distributed among the three classes enumerated. The priests andthe captain of the Temple would be annoyed by the very fact that Peterand John taught the people: the former, because they were jealous oftheir official prerogative: the latter, because he was responsible forpublic order, and a riot in the Temple court would have been a scandal.The Saddueees were indignant at the substance of the teaching, whichaffirmed the resurrection of the dead, which they denied, and allegedit as having occurred 'in Jesus.'

The position of Sadducees and Pharisees is inverted in Acts as comparedwith the Gospels. While Christ lived, the Pharisees were the soul ofthe opposition to Him, and His most solemn warnings fell on them; afterthe Resurrection, the Sadducees head the opposition, and among thePharisees are some, like Gamaliel and afterwards Paul, who incline tothe new faith. It was the Resurrection that made the difference, andthe difference is an incidental testimony to the fact that Christ'sResurrection was proclaimed from the first. To ask whether Jesus hadrisen, and to examine the evidence, were the last things of which thecombined assailants thought. This public activity of the Apostlesthreatened their influence or their pet beliefs, and so, likepersecutors in all ages, they shut their eyes to the importantquestion, 'Is this preaching true or false?' and took the easier courseof laying hands on the preachers.

So the night fell on Peter and John in prison, the first of thethousands who have suffered bonds and imprisonment for Christ, and havetherein found liberty. What lofty faith, and what subordination of thefate of the messengers to the progress of the message, are expressed inthat abrupt introduction, in verse 4, of the statistics of the increaseof the Church from that day's work! It mattered little that it endedwith the two Apostles in custody, since it ended too with five thousandrejoicing in Christ.

The arrest seems to have been due to a sudden thought on the part ofthe priests, captain, and Sadducees, without commands from theSanhedrin or the high priest. But when these inferior authorities hadgot hold of their prisoners, they probably did not quite know what todo with them, and so moved the proper persons to summon the Sanhedrin.In all haste, then, a session was called for next morning. 'Rulers,elders, and scribes' made up the constituent members of the court, andthe same two 'high priests' who had tried Jesus are there, attended bya strong contingent of dependants, who could be trusted to vote as theywere bidden. Annas was an emeritus high priest, whose age andrelationship to Caiaphas, the actual holder of the post and Annas'sson-in-law, gave him an influential position. He retained the title,though he had ceased to hold the office, as a cleric without a chargeis usually called 'Reverend.'

It was substantially the same court which had condemned Jesus, andprobably now sat in the same hall as then. So that Peter and John wouldremember the last time when they had together been in that room, andWho had stood in the criminal's place where they now were set.

The court seems to have been somewhat at a loss how to proceed. TheApostles had been arrested for their words, but they are questionedabout the miracle. It was no crime to teach in the Temple, but a crimemight be twisted out of working a miracle in the name of any butJehovah. To do that would come near blasphemy or worshipping strangegods. The Sanhedrin knew what the answer to their question would be,and probably they intended, as soon as the anticipated answer wasgiven, to 'rend their clothes,' and say, as they had done once before,'What need we further witnesses? They have spoken blasphemy.' Butthings did not go as was expected. The crafty question was put. It doesnot attempt to throw doubt on the reality of the miracle, but there isa world of arrogant contempt in it, both in speaking of the cure as'this,' and in the scornful emphasis with which, in the Greek, 'ye'stands last in the sentence, and implies, 'ye poor, ignorant fishermen.'

The last time that Peter had been in the judgment-hall his courage hadoozed out of him at the prick of a maid-servant's sharp tongue, but nowhe fronts all the ecclesiastical authorities without a tremor. Whencecame the transformation of the cowardly denier into the heroicconfessor, who turns the tables on his judges and accuses them? Thenarrative answers. He was 'filled with the Holy Ghost.' That abidingpossession of the Spirit, begun on Pentecost, did not prevent specialinspiration for special needs, and the Greek indicates that there wasgranted such a temporary influx in this critical hour.

One cannot but note the calmness of the Apostle, so unlike his oldtumultuous self. He begins with acknowledging the lawful authority ofthe court, and goes on, with just a tinge of sarcasm, to put the vague'this' of the question in its true light. It was 'a good deed done toan impotent man,' for which John and he stood there. Singular sort ofcrime that! Was there not a presumption that the power which hadwrought so 'good' a deed was good? 'Do men gather grapes of thorns?'Many a time since then Christianity has been treated as criminal,because of its beneficence to bodies and souls.

But Peter rises to the full height of the occasion, when he answers theSanhedrin's question with the pealing forth of his Lord's name. Herepeats in substance his former contrast of Israel's treatment of Jesusand God's; but, in speaking to the rulers, his tone is more severe thanit was to the people. The latter had been charged, at Pentecost and inthe Temple, with crucifying Jesus; the former are here charged withcrucifying the Christ. It was their business to have tested hisclaims, and to have welcomed the Messiah. The guilt was shared by both,but the heavier part lay on the shoulders of the Sanhedrin.

Mark, too, the bold proclamation of the Resurrection, the stone ofoffence to the Sadducees. How easy it would have been for them tosilence the Apostle, if they could have pointed to the undisturbed andoccupied grave! That would have finished the new sect at once. Is thereany reason why it was not done but the one reason that it could not bedone?

Thus far Peter has been answering the interrogation legally put, andhas done as was anticipated. Now was the time for Annas and the rest tostrike in; but they could not carry out their programme, for the fierystream of Peter's words does not stop when they expected, and insteadof a timid answer followed by silence, they get an almost defiantproclamation of the Name, followed by a charge against them, whichturns the accused into the accuser, and puts them at the bar. Peterlearned to apply the passage in the Psalm (v. 11) to the rulers, fromhis Master's use of it (Matt. xxi. 42); and there is no quaver in hisvoice nor fear in his heart when, in the face of all these learnedRabbis and high and mighty dignitaries, he brands them as foolishbuilders, blind to the worth of the Stone 'chosen of God, andprecious,' and tells them that the course of divine Providence will runcounter to their rejection of Jesus, and make him the very 'Head of thecorner,'—the crown, as well as the foundation, of God's building.

But not even this bold indictment ends the stream of his speech. Theproclamation of the power of the Name was fitly followed by pressinghome the guilt and madness of rejecting Jesus, and that again by theglad tidings of salvation for all, even the rejecters. Is not thesequence in Peter's defence substantially that which all Christianpreaching should exhibit? First, strong, plain proclamation of thetruth; then pungent pressing home of the sin of turning away fromJesus; and then earnest setting forth of the salvation in His name,—asalvation wide as the world, and deep as our misery and need, butnarrow, inasmuch as it is 'in none other.' The Apostle will not endwith charging his hearers with guilt, but with offering them salvation.He will end with lifting up 'the Name' high above all other, andsetting it in solitary clearness before, not these rulers only, but thewhole world. The salvation which it had wrought on the lame man was buta parable and picture of the salvation from all ills of body andspirit, which was stored in that Name, and in it alone.

The rulers' contempt had been expressed by their emphatic ending oftheir question with that 'ye.' Peter expresses his brotherhood andlonging for the good of his judges by ending his impassioned, or,rather, inspired address with a loving, pleading 'we.' He puts himselfon the same level with them as needing salvation, and would fain havethem on the same level with himself and John as receiving it. That isthe right way to preach.

Little need be said as to the effect of this address. Whether it wentany deeper in any susceptible souls or not, it upset the schemes of theleaders. Something in the manner and matter of it awed them intowonder, and paralysed them for the time. Here was the first instance ofthe fulfilment of that promise, which has been fulfilled again andagain since, of 'a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shallnot be able to gainsay nor resist.' 'Unlearned,' as ignorant ofRabbinical traditions, and 'ignorant,' or, rather, 'private,' asholding no official position, these two wielded a power over hearts andconsciences which not even official indifference and arrogance couldshake off. Thank God, that day's experience is repeated still, and anyof us may have the same Spirit to clothe us with the same armour oflight!

The Sanhedrin knew well enough that the Apostles had been with Jesus,and the statement that 'they took knowledge of them' cannot mean thatthat fact dawned on the rulers for the first time. Rather it means thattheir wonder at the 'boldness' of the two drove home the fact of theirassociation with Him to their minds. That association explained themarvel; for the Sanhedrin remembered how He had stood, meek but unawed,at the same bar. They said to themselves, 'We know where these men getthis brave freedom of speech,—from that Nazarene.' Happy shall we beif our demeanour recalls to spectators the ways of our Lord!

How came the lame man there? He had not been arrested with theApostles. Had he voluntarily and bravely joined them? We do not know,but evidently he was not there as accused, and probably had come as awitness of the reality of the miracle. Notice the emphatic 'standing,'as in verse 10,—a thing that he had never done all his life. No wonderthat the Sanhedrin were puzzled, and settled down to the 'lame andimpotent conclusion' which follows. So, in the first round of theworld-long battle between the persecutors and the persecuted, thevictory is all on the side of the latter. So it has been ever since,though often the victors have died in the conflict. 'The Church is ananvil which has worn out many hammers,' and the story of the firstcollision is, in essentials, the story of all.


'Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived thatthey were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they tookknowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.'—ACTS iv. 13.

Two young Galilean fishermen, before the same formidable tribunal whicha few weeks before had condemned their Master, might well have quailed.And evidently 'Annas, the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, andAlexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest,' werevery much astonished that their united wisdom and dignity did notproduce a greater impression on these two contumacious prisoners. Theywere 'unlearned,' knowing nothing about Rabbinical wisdom; they were'ignorant,' or, as the word ought rather to be rendered, 'persons in aprivate station,' without any kind of official dignity. And yet therethey stood, perfectly unembarrassed and at their ease, and said whatthey wanted to say, all of it, right out. So, as great astonishmentcrept over the dignified ecclesiastics who were sitting in judgmentupon them, their astonishment led them to remember what, of course,they knew before, only that it had not struck them so forcibly, asexplaining the Apostles' demeanour—viz.,'that they had been withJesus.' So they said to themselves: 'Ah, that explains it all! There isthe root of it. The company that they have kept accounts for theirunembarrassed boldness.'

Now, I need not notice by more than a word in passing, what a testimonyit is to the impression that that meek and gracious Sufferer had madeupon His judges, that when they saw these two men standing thereunfaltering, they began to remember how that other Prisoner had stood.And perhaps some of them began to think that they had made a mistake inthat last trial. It is a testimony to the impression that Christ hadmade that the strange demeanour of His two servants recalled the Masterto the mind of the judges.

I. The first thing that strikes us here is the companionship thattransforms.

The rulers were partly right, and they were partly wrong. The sourcefrom which these men had drawn their boldness was their being withChrist; but it was not such companionship with Christ, as Annas andCaiaphas had in view, that had given them courage. For as long as theApostles had His personal presence with them, there was no perceptibletransforming or elevating process going on in them; and it was notuntil after they had lost that corporeal presence that there came uponthem the change which even the prejudiced eyes of these judges couldnot help seeing.

The writer of Acts gives a truer explanation with which we may fill outthe incomplete explanation of the rulers, when he says, 'Then Peter,filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them.' Ah, that is it! They hadbeen with Jesus all the days that He went in and out amongst them. Theyhad companioned with Him, and they had gained but little from it. Butwhen He went away, and they were relegated to the same kind ofcompanionship with Him that you and I have or may have, then a changebegan to take place on them. And so the companionship that transformsis not what the Apostle calls 'knowing Christ after the flesh,' butinward communion with Him, the companionship and familiarity which areas possible for us as for any Peter or John of them all, and withoutwhich our Christianity is nothing but sounding brass and tinklingcymbal.

They were 'with Jesus,' as each of us may be. Their communion was in norespect different from the communion that is open and indispensable toany real Christian. To be with Him is possible for us all. When we goto our daily work, when we are compassed about by distracting andtrivial cares, when men come buzzing round us, and the ordinarysecularities of life seem to close in upon us like the walls of aprison, and to shut out the blue and the light—oh! it is hard, but itis possible, for every one of us to think these all away, and tocarry with us into everything that blessed thought of a Presence thatis not to be put aside, that sits beside me at my study table, thatstands beside you at your tasks, that goes with you in shop and mart,that is always near, with its tender encircling, with its mightyprotection, with its all-sufficing sweetness and power. To be withChrist is no prerogative, either of Apostles and teachers of theprimitive age, or of saints that have passed into the higher vision;but it is possible for us all. No doubt there are as yet unknown formsand degrees of companionship with Christ in the future state, incomparison with which to be 'present in the body is to be absent fromthe Lord'; but in the inmost depth of reality, the soul that loves iswhere it loves, and has whom it loves ever with it. 'Where the treasureis, there will the heart be also,' and we may be with Christ if only wewill honestly try hour by hour to keep ourselves in touch with Him, andto make Him the motive as well as the end of the work that other men doalong with us, and do from altogether secular and low motives.

Another phase of being with Christ lies in frank, full, and familiarconversation with Him. I do not understand a dumb companionship. Whenwe are with those that we love, and with whom we are at ease, speechcomes instinctively. If we are co-denizens of the Father's house withthe Elder Brother, we shall talk to Him. We shall not need to bereminded of the 'duty of prayer,' but shall rather instinctively and asa matter of course, without thinking of what we are doing, speak to Himour momentary wants, our passing discomforts, our little troubles.There may be a great deal more virtue in monosyllabic prayers than inlong liturgies. Little jets of speech or even of unspoken speech thatgo up to Him are likely to be heart-felt and to be heard. It is said ofIsrael's army on one occasion, 'they cried unto God in the battle, andHe was entreated of them.' Do you think that theirs would be veryelaborate prayers? Was there any time to make a long petition when thesword of a Philistine was whizzing about the suppliant's ears? It wasonly a cry, but it was a cry; and so 'He was entreated of them.' Ifwe are 'with Christ' we shall talk to Him; and if we are with Christ Hewill talk to us. It is for us to keep in the attitude of listening and,so far as may be, to hush other voices, in order that His may be heard,If we do so, even here 'shall we ever be with the Lord.'

II. Now, note next the character that this companionship produces.

Annas and Caiaphas said to each other: 'Ah, these two have been withthat Jesus! That is where they have got their boldness. They are likeHim.'

As is the Master, so is the servant. That is the broad, generalprinciple that lies in my text. To be with Christ makes men Christlike.A soul habitually in contact with Jesus will imbibe sweetness from Him,as garments laid away in a drawer with some preservative perfume absorbfragrance from that beside which they lie. Therefore the surest way forChristian people to become what God would have them to be, is to directthe greater part of their effort, not so much to the acquirement ofindividual characteristics and excellences, as to the keeping up ofcontinuity of communion with the Master. Then the excellences willcome. Astronomers, for instance, have found out that if they take asensitive plate and lay it so as to receive the light from a star, andkeep it in place by giving it a motion corresponding with the apparentmotion of the heavens, for hours and hours, there will become visibleupon it a photographic image of dim stars that no human eye ortelescope can see. Persistent lying before the light stamps the imageof the light upon the plate. Communion with Christ is the secret ofChristlikeness. So instead of all the wearisome, painful, futileattempts at tinkering one's own character apart from Him, here is theroyal road. Not that there is no effort in it. We must never forget norundervalue the necessity for struggle in the Christian life. But thattruth needs to be supplemented with the thought that comes from mytext—viz. that the fruitful direction in which the struggle is to bemainly made lies in keeping ourselves in touch with Jesus Christ, andif we do that, then transformation comes by beholding. 'We all,reflecting as a mirror does, the glory of the Lord, are transformedinto the same image.' 'They have been with Jesus,' and so they werelike Him.

But now look at the specific kinds of excellence which seem to havecome out of this communion. 'They beheld the boldness of Peter andJohn.' The word that is translated 'boldness' no doubt conveys thatidea, but it also conveys another. Literally it means 'the act ofsaying everything.' It means openness of unembarrassed speech, and socomes to have the secondary signification, which the text gives, of'boldness.'

Then, to be with Christ gives a living knowledge of Him and of truth,far in advance of the head knowledge of wise and learned people. It wasa fact that these two knew nothing about what Rabbi This, or RabbiThat, or Rabbi The Other had said, and yet could speak, as they hadbeen speaking, large religious ideas that astonished these hide-boundPharisees, who thought that there was no way to get to the knowledge ofthe revelation of God made to Israel, except by the road of their ownmusty and profitless learning. Ay! and it always is so. An ounce ofexperience is worth a ton of theology. The men that have summered andwintered with Jesus Christ may not know a great many things that aresupposed to be very important parts of religion, but they have got holdof the central truth of it, with a power, and in a fashion, that men ofbooks, and ideas, and systems, and creeds, and theological learning,may know nothing about. 'Not many wise men after the flesh, not manymighty, are called.' Let a poor man at his plough-tail, or a poor womanin her garret, or a collier in the pit, have Jesus Christ for theirCompanion, and they have got the kernel; and the gentlemen that likesuch diet may live on the shell if they will, and can. Religious ideasare of little use unless there be heart-experiences; andheart-experiences are wonderful teachers of religious truth.

Again, to be with Christ frees from the fear of man. It was a new thingfor such persons as Peter and John to stand cool and unawed before theCouncil. Not so very long ago one of the two had been frightened into amomentary apostasy by dread of being haled before the rulers, and nowthey are calmly heroic, and threats are idle words to them. I need notpoint to the strong presumption, raised by the contrast of theApostles' past cowardice and present courage, of the occurrence of somesuch extraordinary facts as the Resurrection, the Ascension, and theDescent of the Spirit. Something had happened which revolutionisedthese men. It was their communion with Jesus, made more real and deepby the cessation of His bodily presence, which made these unlearned andnon-official Galileans front the Council with calmly beating hearts andunfaltering tongues. Doubtless, temperament has much to do withcourage, but, no doubt, he who lives near Jesus is set free from unduedependence on things seen and on persons. Perfect love casts out fear,not only of the Beloved, but of all creatures. It is the bravest thingin the world.

Further, to be with Christ will open a man's lips. The fountain, if itis full, must well up. 'Light is light which circulates. Heat is heatwhich radiates.' The true possession of Jesus Christ will always makeit impossible for the possessor to be dumb. I pray you to testyourselves, as I would that all professing Christians should testthemselves, by that simple truth, that a full heart must findutterance. The instinct that drives a man to speak of the thing inwhich he is interested should have full play in the Christian life. Itseems to me a terribly sad fact that there are such hosts of good, kindpeople, with some sort of religion about them, who never feel anyanxiety to say a word to any soul concerning the Master whom theyprofess to love. I know, of course, that deep feeling is silent, andthat the secrets of Christian experience are not to be worn on thesleeve for daws to peck at. And I know that the conventionalities ofthis generation frown very largely upon the frank utterance ofreligious convictions on the part of religious people, except onSundays, in Sunday-schools, pulpits, and the like. But for all that,what is in you will come out. If you have never felt 'I was weary offorbearing, and I could not stay,' I do not think that there is muchsign in you of a very deep or a very real being with Jesus.

III. The last point to be noted is, the impression which such acharacter makes.

It was not so much what Peter and John said that astonished theCouncil, as the fact of their being composed and bold enough to sayanything.

A great deal more is done by character than by anything else. Mostpeople in the world take their notions of Christianity from itsconcrete embodiments in professing Christians. For one man that hasread his Bible, and has come to know what religion is thereby, thereare a hundred that look at you and me, and therefrom draw theirconclusions as to what religion is. It is not my sermons, but yourlife, that is the most important agency for the spread of the Gospel inthis congregation. And if we, as Christian people, were to live so asto make men say, 'Dear me, that is strange. That is not the kind ofthing that one would have expected from that man. That is of a higherstrain than he is of. Where did it come from, I wonder?' 'Ah, helearned it of that Jesus'—if people were constrained to speak in thatstyle to themselves about us, dear friends, and about all our brethren,England would be a different England from what it is to-day. It isChristians' lives, after all, that make dints in the world's conscience.

Do you remember one of the Apostle's lovely and strong metaphors? Paulsays that that little Church in Thessalonica rung out clear and strongthe name of Jesus Christ—resonant like the clang of a bugle, 'so thatwe need not to speak anything.' The word that he employs for 'soundedout' is a technical expression for the ringing blast of a trumpet. Verysmall penny whistles would be a better metaphor for the instrumentswhich the bulk of professing Christians play on.

'Adorn the doctrine of Christ.' And that you may, listen to His ownword, which says all I have been trying to say in this sermon: 'Abidein Me. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in thevine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.'


'But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right inthe sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20.For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. 21. Sowhen they had further threatened them, they let them go, findingnothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all menglorified God for that which was done. 22. For the man was above fortyyears old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed. 23. And beinglet go they went to their own company, and reported all that the chiefpriests and elders had said unto them. 24. And when they heard that,they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thouart God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all thatin them is: 25. Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Whydid the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26. The kingsof the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together againstthe Lord, and against His Christ. 27. For of a truth against Thy holychild Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate,with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,28. For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before tobe done. 29. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant untoThy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, 30. Bystretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may bedone by the name of Thy holy child Jesus. 31. And when they had prayed,the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they wereall filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God withboldness.'—ACTS iv. 19-31.

The only chance for persecution to succeed is to smite hard andswiftly. If you cannot strike, do not threaten. Menacing words onlygive courage. The rulers betrayed their hesitation when the end oftheir solemn conclave was but to 'straitly threaten'; and less heroicconfessors than Peter and John would have disregarded the prohibitionas mere wind. None the less the attitude of these two Galileanfishermen is noble and singular, when their previous cowardice isremembered. This first collision with civil authority gives, as hasbeen already noticed, the main lines on which the relations of theChurch to hostile powers have proceeded.

I. The heroic refusal of unlawful obedience. We shall probably not doinjustice to John if we suppose that Peter was spokesman. If so, thecontrast of the tone of his answer with all previously recordedutterances of his is remarkable. Warm-hearted impulsiveness, oftenwrong-headed and sometimes illogical, had been their mark; but here wehave calm, fixed determination, which, as is usually its manner, wastesno words, but in its very brevity impresses the hearers as beingimmovable. Whence did this man get the power to lay down once for allthe foundation principles of the limits of civil obedience, and of theduty of Christian confession? His words take rank with theever-memorable sayings of thinkers and heroes, from Socrates in hisprison telling the Athenians that he loved them, but that he must 'obeyGod rather than you,' to Luther at Worms with his 'It is neither safenor right to do anything against conscience. Here I stand; I can donothing else. God help me! Amen.' Peter's words are the first of a longseries.

This first instance of persecution is made the occasion for the clearexpression of the great principles which are to guide the Church. Theanswer falls into two parts, in the first of which the limits ofobedience to civil authority are laid down in a perfectly general formto which even the Council are expected to assent, and in the second anirresistible compulsion to speak is boldly alleged as driving the twoApostles to a flat refusal to obey.

It was a daring stroke to appeal to the Council for an endorsem*nt ofthe principle in verse 19, but the appeal was unanswerable; for thistribunal had no other ostensible reason for existence than to enforceobedience to the law of God, and to Peter's dilemma only one reply waspossible. But it rested on a bold assumption, which was calculated toirritate the court; namely, that there was a blank contradictionbetween their commands and God's, so that to obey the one was todisobey the other. When that parting of the ways is reached, thereremains no doubt as to which road a religious man must take.

The limits of civil obedience are clearly drawn. It is a duty, because'the powers that be are ordained of God,' and obedience to them isobedience to Him. But if they, transcending their sphere, claimobedience which can only be rendered by disobedience to Him who hasappointed them, then they are no longer His ministers, and the duty ofallegiance falls away. But there must be a plain conflict of commands,and we must take care lest we substitute whims and fancies of our ownfor the injunctions of God. Peter was not guided by his own conceptionsof duty, but by the distinct precept of his Master, which had bid himspeak. It is not true that it is the cause which makes the martyr, butit is true that many good men have made themselves martyrs needlessly.This principle is too sharp a weapon to be causelessly drawn andbrandished. Only an unmistakable opposition of commandments warrantsits use; and then, he has little right to be called Christ's soldierwho keeps the sword in the scabbard.

The articulate refusal in verse 20 bases itself on the ground ofirrepressible necessity: 'We cannot but speak.' The immediateapplication was to the facts of Christ's life, death, and glory. TheApostles could not help speaking of these, both because to do so wastheir commission, and because the knowledge of them and of theirimportance forbade silence. The truth implied is of wide reach. Whoeverhas a real, personal experience of Christ's saving power, and has heardand seen Him, will be irresistibly impelled to impart what he hasreceived. Speech is a relief to a full heart. The word, concealed inthe prophet's heart, burned there 'like fire in his bones, and he wasweary of forbearing.' So it always is with deep conviction. If a manhas never felt that he must speak of Christ, he is a very imperfectChristian. The glow of his own heart, the pity for men who know Himnot, his Lord's command, all concur to compel speech. The full rivercannot be dammed up.

II. The lame and impotent conclusion of the perplexed Council. Howplain the path is when only duty is taken as a guide, and howvigorously and decisively a man marches along it! Peter had nohesitation, and his resolved answer comes crashing in a straightcourse, like a cannon-ball. The Council had a much more ambiguousoracle to consult in order to settle their course, and they hesitateaccordingly, and at last do a something which is a nothing. They wantedto trim their sails to catch popular favour, and so they could not doanything thoroughly. To punish or acquit was the only alternative forjust judges. But they were not just; and as Jesus had been crucified,not because Pilate thought Him guilty, but to please the people, so HisApostles were let off, not because they were innocent, but for the samereason. When popularity-hunters get on the judicial bench, society mustbe rotten, and nearing its dissolution. To 'decree unrighteousness by alaw' is among the most hideous of crimes. Judges 'willing to wound, andyet afraid to strike,' are portents indicative of corruption. We mayremark here how the physician's pen takes note of the patient's age, asmaking his cure more striking, and manifestly miraculous.

III. The Church's answer to the first assault of the world's power. Howbeautifully natural that is, 'Being let go, they went to their own,'and how large a principle is expressed in the naive words! The greatlaw of association according to spiritual affinity has much to do indetermining relations here. It aggregates men, according to sorts; butit* operation is thwarted by other conditions, so that companionship isoften misery. But a time comes when it will work unhindered, and menwill be united with their like, as the stones on some sea-beaches arelaid in rows, according to their size, by the force of the sea. Judas'went to his own place,' and, in another world, like will draw to like,and prevailing tendencies will be increased by association with thosewho share them.

The prayer of the Church was probably the inspired outpouring of onevoice, and all the people said 'Amen,' and so made it theirs. Whosevoice it was which thus put into words the common sentiment we shouldgladly have known, but need not speculate. The great fact is that theChurch answered threats by prayer. It augurs healthy spiritual lifewhen opposition and danger neither make cheeks blanch with fear norflush with anger. No man there trembled nor thought of vengeance, or ofrepaying threats with threats. Every man there instinctively turnedheavenwards, and flung himself, as it were, into God's arms forprotection. Prayer is the strongest weapon that a persecuted Church canuse. Browning makes a tyrant say, recounting how he had tried to crusha man, that his intended victim

'Stood erect, caught at God's skirts, and prayed,
So I was afraid.'

The contents of the prayer are equally noteworthy. Instead of minutelystudying it verse by verse, we may note some of its salient points.Observe its undaunted courage. That company never quivered or wavered.They had no thought of obeying the mandate of the Council. They were alittle army of heroes. What had made them so? What but the convictionthat they had a living Lord at God's right hand, and a mighty Spirit intheir spirits? The world has never seen a transformation like that.Unique effects demand unique causes for their explanation, and nothingbut the historical truth of the facts recorded in the last pages of theGospels and first of the Acts accounts for the demeanour of these men.

Their courage is strikingly marked by their petition. All they ask is'boldness' to speak a word which shall not be theirs, but God's. Fearwould have prayed for protection; passion would have asked retributionon enemies. Christian courage and devotion only ask that they may notshrink from their duty, and that the word may be spoken, whateverbecomes of the speakers. The world is powerless against men like that.Would the Church of to-day meet threats with like unanimity of desirefor boldness in confession? If not, it must be because it has not thesame firm hold of the Risen Lord which these first believers had. Thetruest courage is that which is conscious of its weakness, and yet hasno thought of flight, but prays for its own increase.

We may observe, too, the body of belief expressed in the prayer. Firstit lays hold on the creative omnipotence of God, and thence passes tothe recognition of His written revelation. The Church has begun tolearn the inmost meaning of the Old Testament, and to find Christthere. David may not have written the second Psalm. Its attribution tohim by the Church stands on a different level from Christ's attributionof authorship, as, for instance, of the hundred and tenth Psalm. Theprophecy of the Psalm is plainly Messianic, however it may have had ahistorical occasion in some forgotten revolt against some Davidic king;and, while the particular incidents to which the prayer alludes do notexhaust its far-reaching application, they are rightly regarded aspartly fulfilling it. Herod is a 'king of the earth,' Pilate is a'ruler'; Roman soldiers are Gentiles; Jewish rulers are therepresentatives of 'the people.' Jesus is 'God's Anointed.' The factthat such an unnatural and daring combination of rebels was predictedin the Psalm bears witness that even that crime at Calvary wasforeordained to come to pass, and that God's hand and counsel ruled.Therefore all other opposition, such as now threatened, will turn outto be swayed by that same Mighty Hand, to work out His counsel. Why,then, should the Church fear? If we can see God's hand moving allthings, terror is dead for us, and threats are like the whistling ofidle wind.

Mark, too, the strong expression of the Church's dependence on God.'Lord' here is an unusual word, and means 'Master,' while the Churchcollectively is called 'Thy servants,' or properly, 'slaves.' It is adifferent word from that of 'servant' (rather than 'child') applied toJesus in verses 27 and 30. God is the Master, we are His 'slaves,'bound to absolute obedience, unconditional submission, belonging toHim, not to ourselves, and therefore having claims on Him for such careas an owner gives to his slaves or his cattle. He will not let them bemaltreated nor starved. He will defend them and feed them; but theymust serve him by life, and death if need be. Unquestioning submissionand unreserved dependence are our duties. Absolute ownership andunshared responsibility for our well-being belong to Him.

Further, the view of Christ's relationship to God is the same as occursin other of the early chapters of the Acts. The title of 'Thy holyServant Jesus' dwells on Christ's office, rather than on His nature.Here it puts Him in contrast with David, also called 'Thy servant.' Thelatter was imperfectly what Jesus was perfectly. His completerealisation of the prophetic picture of the Servant of the Lord inIsaiah is emphasised by the adjective 'holy,' implying completedevotion or separation to the service of God, and unsullied, unlimitedmoral purity. The uniqueness of His relation in this aspect isexpressed by the definite article in the original. He is the Servant,in a sense and measure all His own. He is further the AnointedMessiah. This was the Church's message to Israel and the stay of itsown courage, that Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed and perfectServant of the Lord, who was now in heaven, reigning there. All thatthis faith involved had not yet become clear to their consciousness,but the Spirit was guiding them step by step into all the truth; andwhat they saw and heard, not only in the historical facts of which theywere the witnesses, but in the teaching of that Spirit, they could notbut speak.

The answer came swift as the roll of thunder after lightning. They whoask for courage to do God's will and speak Christ's name have neverlong to wait for response. The place 'was shaken,' symbol of the effectof faithful witness-bearing, or manifestation of the power which wasgiven in answer to their prayer. 'They were all filled with the HolyGhost,' who now did not, as before, confer ability to speak with othertongues, but wrought no less worthily in heartening and fitting them tospeak 'in their own tongue, wherein they were born,' in bold defianceof unlawful commands.

The statement of the answer repeats the petition verbatim: 'With allboldness they spake the word.' What we desire of spiritual gifts weget, and God moulds His replies so as to remind us of our petitions,and to show by the event that these have reached His ear and guided Hisgiving hand.


'We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'—ACTSiv. 20.

The context tells us that the Jewish Council were surprised, as theywell might be, at the boldness of Peter and John, and traced it totheir having been with Jesus. But do you remember that they were by nomeans bold when they were with Jesus, and that the bravery came afterwhat, in ordinary circ*mstances, would have destroyed any of it in aman? A leader's execution is not a usual recipe for heartening hisfollowers, but it had that effect in this case, and the Peter who wasfrightened out of all his heroics by a sharp-eyed, sharp-tonguedservant-maid, a few weeks after bearded the Council and 'rejoiced thathe was counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name.' It was notChrist's death that did that, and it was not His life that did that.You cannot understand, to use a long word, the 'psychological'transformation of these cowardly deniers who fled and forsook Him,unless you bring in three things: Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost.Then it is explicable.

However the boldness came; these two men before the Council were makingan epoch at that moment, and their grand words are the Magna Charta ofthe right of every sincere conviction to free speech. They are thedirect parent of hundreds of similar sayings that flash out down theworld's history. Two things Peter and John adduced as making silenceimpossible—a definite divine command, and an inward impulse. 'Whetherit is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God,judge ye. We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'

But I wish to use these words now in a somewhat wider application. Theymay suggest that there are great facts which make silence andnon-aggressiveness an impossibility for an individual or a Church, andthat by the very law of its being, a Church must be a missionaryChurch, and a Christian cannot be a dumb Christian, unless he is a deadChristian. And so I turn to look at these words as suggesting to us twoor three of the grounds on which Christian effort, in some form oranother, is inseparable from Christian experience.

And, first, I wish you to notice that there is—

I. An inward necessity which makes silence impossible.

'We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,' is aprinciple that applies far more widely than to the work of a ChristianChurch, or to any activity that is put in force to spread the name ofJesus Christ. For there is a universal impulse which brings it aboutthat whatever, in the nature of profound conviction, of illuminatingtruth, especially as affecting moral and spiritual matters, is grantedto any man, knocks at the inner side of the door of his lips, anddemands an exit and free air and utterance. As surely as the tendergreen spikelet of the springing corn pushes its way through the hardclods, or as the bud in the fig-tree's polished stem swells and opens,so surely whatever a man, in his deepest heart, knows to be true, callsupon him to let it out and manifest itself in his words and in hislife. 'We believe, and therefore speak,' is a universal sequence. Therewere four leprous men long ago that, in their despair, made their wayinto the camp of the beleaguering enemy, found it empty; and after theyfeasted themselves—and small blame to them—then flashed upon them thethought, 'We do not well, this is a day of good tidings, and we holdour peace; if we tarry till the morning light, some evil will befallus.' Something like that is the uniform accompaniment of all profoundconviction. And if so, especially imperative and urgent will thisnecessity be, wherever there is true Christian life. For whether weconsider the greatness of the gift that is imparted to us, in the veryact of our receiving that Lord, or whether we consider the soreness ofthe need of a world that is without Him, surely there can be nothingthat so reinforces the natural necessity and impulse to impart what wepossess of truth or beauty or goodness as the greatness of theunspeakable gift, and the wretchedness of a world that wants it.Brethren, there are many things that come in the way—and perhaps nevermore than in our own generation—of Christian men and women makingdirect and specific efforts, by lip as well as by life, to speak aboutJesus Christ to other people. There is the standing hindrance of loveof ease and selfish absorption in our own concerns. There are theconventional hindrances of our canons of social intercourse which makeit 'bad form' to speak to men about anything beneath the surface, andGod forbid that I should urge any man to a brusque, and indiscriminate,and unwise forcing of his faith upon other people. But I believe, thatdeep down below all these reasons, there are two main reasons why thepractice of the clear utterance of their faith on the part of Christianpeople is so rare. The one is a deficient conception of what the Gospelis, and the other is a feeble grasp of it for ourselves. If you do notthink that you have very much to say, you will not be very anxious tosay it; and if your notion of Christianity, and of Christ's relation tothe world, is that of the superficial professing Christian, then ofcourse you will be smitten with no earnestness of desire to impart thetruth to others. Types of Christianity which enfeeble or obscure thecentral thought of Christ's work for the salvation of a world thatneeds a Saviour, and is perishing without Him, never were, never are,never will be, missionary or aggressive. There is no driving force inthem. They have little to say, and naturally they are in no hurry tosay it. But there is a deeper reason than that. I said a minute agothat a dumb Christian was an impossibility unless he were a deadChristian. And there is the reason why so many of us feel so little,so very little, of that knocking at the door of our hearts, and saying,'Let me out!' which we should feel if we deeply believed, and felt, aswell as intellectually accepted, the gospel of our salvation.

The cause of a silent Church is a defective conception of the Gospelentrusted to it, or a feeble grasp of the same. And as our silence orindifference is the symptom, so by reaction it is in its turn the causeof a greater enfeeblement of our faith, and of a weaker grasp of theGospel. Of course I know that it is perfectly possible for a man totalk away his convictions, and I am afraid that that temptation whichbesets all men of my profession, is not always resisted by us as itought to be. But, on the other hand, sure am I that no better way canbe devised of deepening my own hold of the truths of Christianity thanan honest, right attempt to make another share my morsel with me.Convictions bottled, like other things bottled up, are apt to evaporateand to spoil. They say that sometimes wine-growers, when they go downinto their cellars, find in a puncheon no wine, but a huge fungus. Thatis what befalls the Christianity of people that never let air in, andnever speak their faith out. 'We cannot but speak the things which wehave seen and heard'; and if we do not speak, the vision fades and thesound becomes faint.

Now there is another side to this same inward necessity of which I havebeen speaking, on which I must just touch. I have referred to theimpulse which flows from the possession of the Gospel. There is animpulse which flows from that which is but another way of putting thesame thing, the union with Jesus Christ, which is the result of ourfaith in the Gospel. If I am a Christian I am, in a very profound andreal sense, one with Jesus Christ, and have His Spirit for the life ofmy spirit. And in the measure in which I am thus one with Him, I shalllook at things as He looks at them, and do such things as He did. Ifthe mind of Jesus Christ is in us 'Who for the joy that was set beforeHim endured the Cross,' who 'counted not equality with God a thing tobe desired, but made Himself of no reputation,' and 'was found infashion as a man,' then we too shall feel that our work in the world isnot done, and our obligations to Him are not discharged, unless to thevery last particle of our power we spread His name. Brethren, if therewere no commandment at all from Christ's lips laying upon His followersthe specific duty of making His gospel known, still this inward impulseof which I am speaking would have created all the forms of Christianaggressiveness which we see round about us, because, if we have Christand His Gospel in our hearts, 'we cannot but speak the things which wehave seen and heard.'

And now turn to another aspect of this matter. There is—

II. A command which makes silence criminal.

I do not need to do more than remind you of the fact that the very lastwords which our Lord has left us according to the two versions of themwhich are given in the Gospel of Matthew, and the beginning of thisBook of the Acts, coincide in this. 'You are to be My witnesses to theends of the earth. Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel toevery creature.' Did you ever think what an extraordinary thing it isthat that confident anticipation of a worldwide dominion, and of beingHimself adapted to all mankind, in every climate and in every age, andat every stage of culture, should have been the conviction which thedeparting Christ sought to stamp upon the minds of those eleven poormen? What audacity! What tremendous confidence! What a task to which toset them! What an unexampled belief in Himself and His work! And it isall coming true; for the world is finding out, more and more, thatJesus Christ is its Saviour and its King.

This commandment which is laid upon us Christian men submerges alldistinctions of race, and speech, and nationality, and culture. Thereare high walls parting men off from one another. This great message andcommission, like some rising tide, rolls over them all, and obliteratesthem, and flows boundless, having drowned the differences, from horizonto horizon, east and west and south and north.

Now let me press the thought that this commandment makes indifferenceand silence criminal. We hear people talk, people whose Christianity itis not for me to question, though I may question two things about it,its clearness and its depth—we hear them talk as if to help or not tohelp, in the various forms of Christian activity, missionary orotherwise, was a matter left to their own inclination. No! it is not.Let us distinctly understand that to help or not to help is not thechoice open to any man who would obey Jesus Christ. Let us distinctlyunderstand—and God grant that we may all feel it more—that we darenot stand aside, be negligent, do nothing, leave other people to giveand to toil, and say, 'Oh! my sympathies do not go in that direction.'Jesus Christ told you that they were to go in that direction, and ifthey do not, so much the worse for the sympathies for one thing, and somuch the worse for you, the rebel, the disobedient in heart. I do notwant to bring down this great gift and token of love which Jesus Christhas given to His servants, in entrusting them with the spread of theGospel, to the low level of a mere commandment, but I do sometimesthink that the tone of feeling, ay! and of speech, and still more themanner of action, among professing Christian people, in regard to thewhole subject of the missionary work of God's Church, shows that theyneed to be reminded; as the Duke of Wellington said, 'There are yourmarching orders!' and the soldier who does not obey his marching ordersis a mutineer. There is a definite commandment which makes indifferencecriminal.

There is another thing I should like to say, viz. that this definitecommandment overrides everything else. We hear a great deal fromunsympathetic critics, which is but a reproduction of an old grumblethat did not come from a very creditable source. 'To what purpose isthis waste?' Why do you not spend your money upon technical schools,soup-kitchens, housing of the poor, and the like? Well, our answer is,'He told us.' We hear, too, especially just in these days, a great dealabout the necessity for increased caution in pursuing missionaryoperations in heathen lands. And some people that do not know anythingabout the subject have ventured to say, for instance, that themissionaries are responsible for Chinese antagonism to Europeans, andfor similar phenomena. Well, we are ready to be as wise and prudent asyou like. We do not ask any consuls to help us. Our brethren are menwho have hazarded their lives; and I never heard of a Baptistmissionary running under the skirts of an ambassador, or praying thegovernment to come and protect him. We do not ask for cathedrals to bebuilt, or territory to be ceded, as compensation for the loss ofprecious lives. But if these advisers of caution mean no more than theysay, 'Caution!' we agree. But if they mean, what some of them mean,that we are to be silent for fear of consequences, then, whether it beprime ministers, or magistrates, or mobs that say it, our answer is,'Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye!We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'

So, lastly, there is—

III. The bond of brotherhood which makes silence unnatural.

I have spoken of an inward impulse. That thought turns our attention toour own hearts. I have spoken of a definite command; that turns oureyes to the Throne. I speak now of a bond of brotherhood. That sendsour thoughts out over the whole world. There is such a bond. JesusChrist by His Incarnation has taken the nature of every man uponHimself, and has brought all men into one. Jesus Christ 'by the graceof God, has tasted death for every man,' and has brought all men intounity. And so the much-abused and vulgarised conception of'fraternity,' and even the very word 'humanity,' are the creation ofChristianity, and flow from these two facts—the Cradle of Bethlehemand the Cross of Calvary, besides that prior one that 'God hath made ofone blood all nations of men.' If that be so, then what flows from thatunity, from that brotherhood thus sacredly founded upon the facts ofthe life and death of Jesus Christ, the world's Redeemer? This to beginwith, that Christian men are bound to look out over humanity withChrist's eyes, and not—as is largely the case to-day—to regard othernations as enemies and rivals, and the 'lower races' as existing to beexploited for our wealth, to be coerced for our glory, to be conqueredfor our Empire. We have to think of them as Jesus Christ thought. Icannot but remember days in England when the humanitarian sentiment inregard to the inferior races was far more vigorous, and far moreoperative in national life than it is to-day. I can go back inboyhood's memory to the emancipation of the West Indian slaves, andthat was but the type of the general tendency of thought amongst thebetter minds of England in those days. Would that it were so now!

But further, brethren, we as Christian people have laid upon us thisresponsibility by that very bond of brotherhood, that we should carrywhithersoever our influence may go the great message of the ElderBrother who makes us all one. We give much to the 'heathen' populationswithin our Empire or the reach of our trade. We give them English laws,English science, English literature, English outlooks on life, theEnglish tongue, English vices—opium, profligacy, and the like. Arethese all the gifts that we are bound to carry to heathen lands?Dynamos and encyclopaedias, gin and rifles, shirtings and castings?Have we not to carry Christ? And all the more because we are so closelyknit with so many of them. I wonder how many of you get the greaterpart of your living out of India and China?

Surely, if there is a place in England where the missionary appealshould be responded to, it is Manchester. 'As a nest hast thou gatheredthe riches of the nations.' What have you given? Make up thebalance-sheet, brethren. 'We are debtors,' let us put down the items:—

Debtors by a common brotherhood.

Debtors by the possession of Christ for ourselves.

Debtors by benefits received.

Debtors by injuries inflicted.

The debit side of the account is heavy. Let us try to discharge someportion of the debt, in the fashion in which the Apostle from whom Ihave been quoting thought that he would best discharge it when, afterdeclaring himself debtor to many kinds of men, he added, 'So as much asin me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel.' May we all say, more trulythan we have ever said before, 'We cannot but speak the things which wehave seen and heard!'


'Thy servant David…'; 'Thy Holy Servant Jesus…'; 'Thyservants…'—ACTS iv. 26, 27, 29.

I do not often take fragments of Scripture for texts; but though theseare fragments, their juxtaposition results in by no means fragmentarythoughts. There is obvious intention in the recurrence of theexpression so frequently in so few verses, and to the elucidation ofthat intention my remarks will be directed. The words are parts of theChurch's prayer on the occasion of its first collision with the civilpower. The incident is recorded at full length because it is thefirst of a long and bloody series, in order that succeedinggenerations might learn their true weapon and their sure defence.Prayer is the right answer to the world's hostility, and they who onlyask for courage to stand by their confession will never ask in vain.But it is no part of my intention to deal either with the incident orwith this noble prayer.

A word or two of explanation may be necessary as to the language of ourtexts. You will observe that, in the second of them, I have followedthe Revised Version, which, instead of 'Thy holy child,' as in theAuthorised Version, reads 'Thy holy Servant.' The alteration is clearlycorrect. The word, indeed, literally means 'a child,' but, like our ownEnglish 'boy,' or even 'man,' or 'maid,' it is used to express therelation of servant, when the desire is to cover over the harsherfeatures of servitude, and to represent the servant as a part of thefamily. Thus the kindly centurion, who besought Jesus to come and healhis servant, speaks of him as his 'boy.' And that the word is here usedin this secondary sense of 'servant' is unmistakable. For there is nodiscernible reason why, if stress were meant to be laid on Christ asbeing the Son of God, the recognised expression for that relationshipshould not have been employed. Again, the Greek translation of the OldTestament, with which the Apostles were familiar, employs the veryphrase that is here used as its translation of the well-known OldTestament designation of the Messiah, 'the Servant of the Lord' and thewords here are really a quotation from the great prophecies of thesecond part of the Book of Isaiah. Further, the same word is employedin reference to King David and in reference to Jesus Christ. In regardto the former, it is evident that it must have the meaning of'servant'; and it would be too harsh to suppose that in the compass ofso few verses the same expression should be used, at one time in theone signification, and at another in the other. So, then, David andJesus are in some sense classified here together as both servants ofGod. That is the first point that I desire to make.

Then, in regard to the third of my texts, the expression is not thesame there as in the other two. The disciples do not venture to takethe loftier designation. Rather they prefer the humble one, 'slaves,'bondmen, the familiar expression found all through the New Testament asalmost a synonym to Christians.

So, then, we have here three figures: the Psalmist-king, the Messiah,the disciples; Christ in the midst, on the one hand a servant with whomHe deigns to be classed, on the other hand the slaves who, through Him,have become sons. And I think I shall best bring out the intendedlessons of these clauses in their connection if I ask you to note thesetwo contrasts, the servants and the Servant; the Servant and theslaves. 'David Thy servant'; 'Thy holy Servant Jesus'; us 'Thyservants.'

I. First, then, notice the servants and the Servant.

The reason for the application of the name to the Psalmist lies, not somuch in his personal character or in his religious elevation, as in thefact that he was chosen of God for a specific purpose, to carry on thedivine plans some steps towards their realisation. Kings, priests,prophets, the collective Israel, as having a specific function in theworld, and being, in some sense, the instruments and embodiments of thewill of God amongst men, have in an eminent degree the designation ofHis 'servants.' And we might widen out the thought and say that all menwho, like the heathen Cyrus, are God's shepherds, though they do notknow it—guided by Him, though they understand not whence comes theirpower, and blindly do His work in the world, being 'epoch-making' men,as the fashionable phrase goes now—are really, though in a subordinatesense, entitled to the designation.

But then, whilst this is true, and whilst Jesus Christ comes into thiscategory, and is one of these special men raised up and adapted forspecial service in connection with the carrying out of the divinepurpose, mark how emphatically and broadly the line is drawn herebetween Him and the other members of the class to which, in a certainsense, He does belong. Peter says, 'Thy servant David,' but he says'Thy holy Servant Jesus.' And in the Greek the emphasis is stillstronger, because the definite article is employed before the word'servant.' 'The holy Servant of Thine'—that is His specific andunique designation.

There are many imperfect instruments of the divine will. Thinkers andheroes and saints and statesmen and warriors, as well as prophets andpriests and kings, are so regarded in Scripture, and may profitably beso regarded by us; but amongst them all there is One who stands intheir midst and yet apart from them, because He, and He alone, can say,'I have done all Thy pleasure, and into my doing of Thy pleasure nobitter leaven of self-regard or by-ends has ever, in the faintestdegree, entered.' 'Thy holy Servant Jesus' is the unique designation ofthe Servant of the Lord.

And what is the meaning of holy? The word does not originally andprimarily refer to character so much as to relation to God. The rootidea of holiness is not righteousness nor moral perfectness, butsomething that lies behind these—viz, separation for the service anduses of God. The first notion of the word is consecration, and, builtupon that and resulting from it, moral perfection. So then these men,some of whom had lived beside Jesus Christ for all those years, and hadseen everything that He did, and studied Him through and through, hadsummered and wintered with Him, came away from the close inspection ofHis character with this thought; He is utterly and entirely devoted tothe service of God, and in Him there is neither spot nor wrinkle norblemish such as is found in all other men.

I need not remind you with what strange persistence of affirmation, andyet with what humility of self-consciousness, our Lord Himself alwaysclaimed to be in possession of this entire consecration, and completeobedience, and consequent perfection. Think of human lips saying, 'I doalways the things that please Him.' Think of human lips saying, 'Mymeat is to do the will of Him that sent me.' Think of a man whose wholelife's secret was summed up in this: 'As the Father hath given Mecommandment, so'—no more, no less, no otherwise—'so I speak.' Thinkof a man whose inspiring principle was, consciously to himself, 'not Mywill, but Thine be done'; and who could say that it was so, and not bemet by universal ridicule. There followed in Jesus the moralperfectness that comes from such uninterrupted and completeconsecration of self to God. 'Thy servant David,'—what aboutBathsheba, David? What about a great many other things in your life?The poet-king, with the poet-nature so sensitive to all the delights ofsense, and so easily moved in the matter of pleasure, is but like allGod's other servants in the fact of imperfection. In every machinepower is lost through friction; and in every man, the noblest and thepurest, there is resistance to be overcome ere motion in conformitywith the divine impulse can be secured. We pass in review before ourminds saints and martyrs and lovely characters by the hundred, andamongst them all there is not a jewel without a flaw, not a mirrorwithout some dint in it where the rays are distorted, or some darkplace where the reflecting surface has been rubbed away by theattrition of sin, and where there is no reflection of the divine light.And then we turn to that meek Figure who stands there with the questionthat has been awaiting an answer for nineteen centuries upon His lips,and is unanswered yet: 'Which of you convinceth Me of sin?' 'He is theholy Servant,' whose consecration and character mark Him off from allthe class to which He belongs as the only one of them all who, incompleteness, has executed the Father's purpose, and has neverattempted anything contrary to it.

Now there is another step to be taken, and it is this. The Servant whostands out in front of all the group—though the noblest names in theworld's history are included therein—could not be the Servant unlessHe were the Son. This designation, as applied to Jesus Christ, ispeculiar to these three or four earlier chapters of the Acts of theApostles. It is interesting because it occurs over and over againthere, and because it never occurs anywhere else in the New Testament.If we recognise what I think must be recognised, that it is a quotationfrom the ancient prophecies, and is an assertion of the Messianiccharacter of Jesus, then I think we here see the Church in a period oftransition in regard to their conceptions of their Lord. There is nosign that the proper Sonship and Divinity of our Lord was clear beforethem at this period. They had the facts, but they had not yet come tothe distinct apprehension of how much was involved in these. But, ifthey knew that Jesus Christ had died and had risen again—and they knewthat, for they had seen Him—and if they believed that He was theMessiah, and if they were certain that in His character of Messiahthere had been faultlessness and absolute perfection—and they werecertain of that, because they had lived beside Him—then it would notbe long before they took the next step, and said, as I say, 'He cannotbe the Servant unless He is more than man.'

And we may well ask ourselves the question, if we admit, as the worlddoes admit, the moral perfectness of Jesus Christ, how comes it thatthis Man alone managed to escape failures and deflections from theright, and sins, and that He only carried through life a stainlessgarment, and went down to the grave never having needed, and notneeding then, the exercise of divine forgiveness? Brethren, I ventureto say that it is hopeless to account for Jesus Christ on naturalisticprinciples; and that either you must give up your belief in Hissinlessness, or advance, as the Christian Church as a whole advanced,to the other belief, on which alone that perfectness is explicable:'Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ! Thou art the Everlasting Son ofthe Father!'

II. And so, secondly, let us turn to the other contrast here—the
Servant and the slaves.

I said that the humble group of praying, persecuted believers seemed tohave wished to take a lower place than their Master's, even whilst theyventured to assume that, in some sense, they too, like Him, were doingthe Father's will. So they chose, by a fine instinct of humility ratherthan from any dogmatical prepossessions, the name that expresses, inits most absolute and roughest form, the notion of bondage andservitude. He is the Servant; we standing here are slaves. And thatthis is not an overweighting of the word with more than is meant by itseems to be confirmed by the fact that in the first clause of thisprayer, we have, for the only time in the New Testament, God addressedas 'Lord' by the correlative word to slave, which has beentransferred into English, namely, despot.

The true position, then, for a man is to be God's slave. The harsh,repellent features of that wicked institution assume an altogetherdifferent character when they become the features of my relation toHim. Absolute submission, unconditional obedience, on the slave's part;and on the part of the Master complete ownership, the right of life anddeath, the right of disposing of all goods and chattels, the right ofseparating husband and wife, parents and children, the right of issuingcommandments without a reason, the right to expect that thosecommandments shall be swiftly, unhesitatingly, punctiliously, andcompletely performed—these things inhere in our relation to God.Blessed the man who has learned that they do, and has accepted them ashis highest glory and the security of his most blessed life! For,brethren, such submission, absolute and unconditional, the blending andthe absorption of my own will in His will, is the secret of all thatmakes manhood glorious and great and happy.

Remember, however, that in the New Testament these names of slave andowner are transferred to Christians and Jesus Christ. 'The Servant' hasHis slaves; and He who is God's Servant, and does not His own will butthe Father's will, has us for His servants, imposes His will upon us,and we are bound to render to Him a revenue of entire obedience likethat which He hath laid at His Father's feet.

Such slavery is the only freedom. Liberty does not mean doing as youlike, it means liking as you ought, and doing that. He only is free whosubmits to God in Christ, and thereby overcomes himself and the worldand all antagonism, and is able to do that which it is his life to do.A prison out of which we do not desire to go is no restraint, and thewill which coincides with law is the only will that is truly free. Youtalk about the bondage of obedience. Ah! 'the weight of too muchliberty' is a far sorer bondage. They are the slaves who say, 'Let usbreak His bonds asunder, and cast away His cords from us'; and they arethe free men who say, 'Lord, put Thy blessed shackles on my arms, andimpose Thy will upon my will, and fill my heart with Thy love; and thenwill and hands will move freely and delightedly.' 'If the Son make youfree, ye shall be free indeed.'

Such slavery is the only nobility. In the wicked old empires, as insome of their modern survivals to-day, viziers and prime ministers weremostly drawn from the servile classes. It is so in God's kingdom. Theywho make themselves God's slaves are by Him made kings and priests, andshall reign with Him on earth. If we are slaves, then are we sons andheirs of God through Jesus Christ.

Remember the alternative. You cannot be your own masters without beingyour own slaves. It is a far worse bondage to live as charteredlibertines than to walk in the paths of obedience. Better serve Godthan the devil, than the world, than the flesh. Whilst they promise menliberty, they make them 'the most abject and downtrodden vassals ofperdition.'

The Servant-Son makes us slaves and sons. It matters nothing to me thatJesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law of God; it is so much thebetter for Him, but of no value for me, unless He has the power ofmaking me like Himself. And He has it, and if you will trust yourselvesto Him, and give your hearts to Him, and ask Him to govern you, He willgovern you; and if you will abandon your false liberty which isservitude, and take the sober freedom which is obedience, then He willbring you to share in His temper of joyful service; and even we may beable to say, 'My meat and my drink is to do the will of Him that sentme,' and truly saying that, we shall have the key to all delights, andour feet will be, at least, on the lower rungs of the ladder whose topreaches to Heaven.

'What fruit had ye in the things of which ye are now ashamed? But beingmade free from sin, and become the slaves of God, ye have your fruitunto holiness; and the end everlasting life.' Brethren, I beseech you,by the mercies of God, that ye yield yourselves to Him, crying, 'OLord, truly I am Thy servant. Thou hast loosed my bonds.'


'And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of onesoul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which hepossessed was his own; but they had all things common.'—ACTS iv. 32.

'And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heardthese things.'—ACTS v. 11.

Once more Luke pauses and gives a general survey of the Church'scondition. It comes in appropriately at the end of the account of thetriumph over the first assault of civil authority, which assault wasitself not only baffled, but turned to good. Just because persecutionhad driven them closer to God and to one another, were the disciples sofull of brotherly love and of grace as Luke delights to paint them.

I. We note the fair picture of what the Church once was. The recentlarge accessions to it might have weakened the first feelings ofbrotherhood, so that it is by no means superfluous to repeatsubstantially the features of the earlier description (Acts ii. 44,45). 'The multitude' is used with great meaning, for it was a triumphof the Spirit's influence that the warm stream of brotherly love ranthrough so many hearts, knit together only by common submission toJesus. That oneness of thought and feeling was the direct issue of theinflux of the Spirit mentioned as the blessed result of the disciples'dauntless devotion (Acts iv. 31). If our Churches were 'filled with theHoly Ghost,' we too should be fused into oneness of heart and mind,though our organisations as separate communities continued, just as allthe little pools below high-water mark are made one when the tide comesup.

The first result and marvellous proof of that oneness was the so-called'community of goods,' the account of which is remarkable both becauseit all but fills this picture, and because it is broken into two byverse 33, rapidly summarising other characteristics. The two halves maybe considered together, and it may be noted that the former presentsthe sharing of property as the result of brotherly unity, while thelatter traces it ('for,' v. 34) to the abundant divine grace resting onthe whole community. The terms of the description should be noted, ascompletely negativing the notion that the fact in question was anythinglike compulsory abolition of the right of individual ownership. 'Notone of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was hisown.' That implies that the right of possession was not abolished. Itimplies, too, that the common feeling of brotherhood was stronger thanthe self-centred regard which looks on possessions as to be used forself. Thus they possessed as though they possessed not, and each heldhis property as a trust from God for his brethren.

We must observe, further, that the act of selling was the owners', aswas the act of handing the proceeds to the Apostles. The community hadnothing to do with the money till it had been given to them. Further,the distribution was not determined by the rule of equality, but by the'need' of the recipients; and its result was not that all had share andshare alike, but that 'none lacked.'

There is nothing of modern communism in all this, but there is a lessonto the modern Church as to the obligations of wealth and the claims ofbrotherhood, which is all but universally disregarded. The spectre ofcommunism is troubling every nation, and it will become more and moreformidable, unless the Church learns that the only way to lay it is tolive by the precepts of Jesus and to repeat in new forms the spirit ofthe primitive Church. The Christian sense of stewardship, not theabolition of the right of property, is the cure for the hideous factswhich drive men to shriek 'Property is theft.'

Luke adds two more points to his survey,—the power of the Apostolictestimony, and the great grace which lay like a bright cloud on thewhole Church. The Apostles' special office was to bear witness to theResurrection. They held a position of prominence in the Church byvirtue of having been chosen by Jesus and having been His companions,but the Book of Acts is silent about any of the other mysterious powerswhich later ages have ascribed to them. The only Apostles who appear init are Peter, John, and James, the last only in a parenthesis recordingHis martyrdom. Their peculiar work was to say, 'Behold! we saw, andknow that He died and rose again.'

II. The general description is followed by one example of the surrenderof wealth, which is noteworthy as being done by one afterwards to playa great part in the book, and also as leading on to an example ofhypocritical pretence. Side by side stand Barnabas and the wretchedcouple, Ananias and Sapphira.

Luke introduces the new personage with some particularity, and, as Hedoes not go into detail without good reason, we must note hisdescription. First, the man's character is given, as expressed in thename bestowed by the Apostles, in imitation of Christ's frequentcustom. He must have been for some time a disciple, in order that hisspecial gift should have been recognised. He was a 'son ofexhortation'; that is, he had the power of rousing and encouraging thefaith and stirring the believing energy of the brethren. An example ofthis was given in Antioch, where he 'exhorted them all, that withpurpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.' So much the morebeautiful was his self-effacement when with Paul, for it was the latterwho was 'the chief speaker.' Barnabas felt that his gift was less thanhis brother's, and so, without jealousy, took the second place. He,being silent, yet speaketh, and bids us learn our limits, and becontent to be surpassed.

We are next told his rank. He was a Levite. The tribe to which adisciple belongs is seldom mentioned, but probably the reason forspecifying Barnabas' was the same as led Luke, in another place, torecord that 'a great company of the priests was obedient to the faith.'The connection of the tribe of Levi with the Temple worship madeaccessions from it significant, as showing how surely the new faith wascreeping into the very heart of the old system, and winning convertsfrom the very classes most interested in opposing it. Barnabas'significance is further indicated by the notice that he was 'a man ofCyprus,' and as such, the earliest mentioned of the Hellenists orforeign-born and Greek-speaking Jews, who were to play so important apart in the expansion of the Church.

His first appearance witnessed to the depth and simple genuineness ofhis character and faith. The old law forbidding Levites to hold landhad gradually become inoperative, and perhaps Barnabas' estate was inCyprus, though more probably it was, like that of his relative Mary,the mother of Mark, in Jerusalem. He did as many others were doing, andbrought the proceeds to the assembly of the brethren, and therepublicly laid them at the Apostles' feet, in token of their authorityto administer them as they thought well.

III. Why was Barnabas' act singled out for mention, since there wasnothing peculiar about it? Most likely because it stimulated Ananiasand his wife to imitation. Wherever there are signal instances ofChristian self-sacrifice, there will spring up a crop of base copies.Ananias follows Barnabas as surely as the shadow the substance. It wasvery likely a pure impulse which led him and his wife to agree to selltheir land; and it was only when they had the money in their hands, andhad to take the decisive step of parting with it, and reducingthemselves to pennilessness, that they found the surrender harder thanthey could carry out. Satan spoils many a well-begun work, and we oftenbreak down half-way through a piece of Christian unselfishness. Wellbegun is half—but only half—ended.

Be that as it may, Peter's stern words to Ananias put all the stress ofthe sin on its being an acted lie. The motives of the trick are notdisclosed. They may have been avarice, want of faith, greed ofapplause, reluctance to hang back when others were doing like Barnabas.It is hard to read the mingled motives which lead ourselves wrong, andharder to separate them in the case of another. How much Ananias keptback is of no moment; indeed, the less he retained the greater the sin;for it is baser, as well as more foolish, to do wrong for a littleadvantage than for a great one.

Peter's two questions bring out very strikingly the double source ofthe sin. 'Why hath Satan filled thy heart?'—an awful antithesis tobeing filled with the Spirit. Then there is a real, malign Tempter, whocan pour evil affections and purposes into men's hearts. But he cannotdo it unless the man opens his heart, as that 'why?' implies. The samethought of our co-operation and concurrence, so that, however Satansuggests, it is we who are guilty, comes out in the second question,'How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart?'Reverently we may venture to say that not only Christ stands at thedoor and knocks, but that the enemy of Him and His stands there too,and he too enters 'if any man opens the door.' Neither heaven nor hellcan come in unless we will.

The death of Ananias was not inflicted by Peter, 'Hearing these words'he 'fell down and' died. Surely that expression suggests that the sternwords had struck at his life, and that his death was the result of theagitation of shame and guilt which they excited. That does not at allconflict with regarding his death as a punitive divine act.

One can fancy the awed silence that fell on the congregation, and therestrained, mournful movement that ran through it when Sapphiraentered. Why the two had not come in company can only be conjectured.Perhaps the husband had gone straight to the Apostles after completingthe sale, and had left the wife to follow at her convenience. Perhapsshe had not intended to come at all, but had grown alarmed at the delayin Ananias' return. She may have come in fear that something had gonewrong, and that fear would be increased by her not seeing her husbandin her quick glance round the company.

If she came expecting to receive applause, the silence and constraintthat hung over the assembly must have stirred a fear that somethingterrible had happened, which would be increased by Peter's question. Itwas a merciful opportunity given her to separate herself from the sinand the punishment; but her lie was glib, and indicated determinationto stick to the fraud. That moment was heavy with her fate, and sheknew it not; but she knew that she had the opportunity of telling thetruth, and she did not take it. She had to make the hard choice whichwe have sometimes to make, to be true to some sinful bargain or be trueto God, and she chose the worse part. Which of the two was tempter andwhich was tempted matters little. Like many a wife, she thought that itwas better to be loyal to her husband than to God, and so her honourwas 'rooted in dishonour,' and she was falsely true and truly false.

The judgment on Sapphira was not inflicted by Peter. He foretold it byhis prophetic power, but it was the hand of God which vindicated thepurity of the infant Church. The terrible severity of the punishmentcan only be understood by remembering the importance of preserving theyoung community from corruption at the very beginning. Unless thevermin are cleared from the springing plant, it will not grow. AsAchan's death warned Israel at the beginning of their entrance into thepromised land, so Ananias and Sapphira perished, that all generationsof the Church might fear to pretend to self-surrender while cherishingits opposite, and might feel that they have to give account to One whoknows the secrets of the heart, and counts nothing as given if anythingis surreptitiously kept back.


'Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (whichis the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18.And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the commonprison. 19. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors,and brought them forth, and said, 20. Go, stand and speak in the templeto the people all the words of this life. 21. And when they heard that,they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But thehigh priest came, and they that were with him, and called the counciltogether, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to theprison to have them brought. 22. But when the officers came, and foundthem not in the prison, they returned, and told, 23. Saying, The prisontruly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing withoutbefore the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. 24.Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chiefpriests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this wouldgrow. 25. Then came one and told them, saying. Behold, the men whom yeput in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. 26.Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them withoutviolence: for they feared the people, lest they should have beenstoned. 27. And when they had brought them, they set them before thecouncil: and the high priest asked them, 28. Saying, Did not westraitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and,behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend tobring this man's blood upon us. 29. Then Peter and the other apostlesanswered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30. The God ofour fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31. Himhath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, forto give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32. And we areHis witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom Godhath given to them that obey Him.'—ACTS v. 17-32.

The Jewish ecclesiastics had been beaten in the first round of thefight, and their attempt to put out the fire had only stirred theblaze. Popular sympathy is fickle, and if the crowd does not shout withthe persecutors, it will make heroes and idols of the persecuted. Sothe Apostles had gained favour by the attempt to silence them, and thatled to the second round, part of which is described in this passage.

The first point to note is the mean motives which influenced thehigh-priest and his adherents. As before, the Sadducees were at thebottom of the assault; for talk about a resurrection was gall andwormwood to them. But Luke alleges a much more contemptible emotionthan zeal for supposed truth as the motive for action. The wordrendered in the Authorised Version 'indignation,' is indeed literally'zeal,' but it here means, as the Revised Version has it, nothingnobler than 'jealousy.' 'Who are those ignorant Galileans that theyshould encroach on the office of us dignified teachers? and what foolsthe populace must be to listen to them! Our prestige is threatened. Ifwe don't bestir ourselves, our authority will be gone.' A lofty spiritin which to deal with grave movements of opinion, and likely to leadits possessors to discern truth!

The Sanhedrin, no doubt, talked solemnly about the progress of error,and the duty of firmly putting it down, and, like Jehu, said, 'Come,and see our zeal for the Lord'; but it was zeal for greetings in themarketplace, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the otheradvantages of their position. So it has often been since. Theinstruments which zeal for truth uses are argument, Scripture, andpersuasion. That zeal which betakes itself to threats and force is, atthe best, much mingled with the wrath and jealousy of man.

The arrest of the Apostles and their committal to prison was simply fordetention, not punishment. The rulers cast their net wider this time,and secured all the Apostles, and, having them safe under lock and key,they went home triumphant, and expecting to deal a decisive blowto-morrow. Then comes one of the great 'buts' of Scripture. Annas andCaiaphas thought that they had scored a success, but an angel upsettheir calculations. To try to explain the miracle away is hopeless. Itis wiser to try to understand it.

The very fact that it did not lead to the Apostles' deliverance, butthat the trial and scourging followed next day, just as if it had nothappened, which has been alleged as a proof of its uselessness, andinferentially of its falsehood, puts us on the right track. It was notmeant for their deliverance, but for their heartening, and for thebracing of all generations of Christians, by showing, at the firstconflict with the civil power, that the Lord was with His Church. Hisstrengthening power is operative when no miracle is wrought. If Hisservants are not delivered, it is not that He lacks angels, but that itis better for them and the Church that they should lie in prison or dieat the stake.

The miracle was a transient revelation of a perpetual truth, and hasshed light on many a dark dungeon where God's servants have lainrotting. It breathed heroic constancy into the Twelve. How striking andnoble was their prompt obedience to the command to resume the perilouswork of preaching! As soon as the dawn began to glimmer over Olivet,and the priests were preparing for the morning sacrifice, there werethese irrepressible disturbers, whom the officials thought they hadshut up safely last night, lifting up their voices again as if nothinghad happened. What a picture of dauntless persistence, and what alesson for us! The moment the pressure is off, we should spring back toour work of witnessing for Christ.

The bewilderment of the Council comes in strong contrast with theunhesitating action of the Apostles. There is a half ludicrous side toit, which Luke does not try to hide. There was the pompous assemblingof all the great men at early morning, and their dignified waiting tilltheir underlings brought in the culprits. No doubt, Annas put on hisseverest air of majesty, and all were prepared to look their sternestfor the confusion of the prisoners. The prison, the Temple, and thejudgment hall, were all near each other. So there was not long to wait.But, behold! the officers come back alone, and their report shakes theassembly out of its dignity. One sees the astonished underlings comingup to the prison, and finding all in order, the sentries patrolling,the doors fast (so the angel had shut them as well as opened them), andthen entering ready to drag out the prisoners, and—finding all silent.Such elaborate guard kept over an empty cage!

It was not the officers' business to offer explanations, and it doesnot seem that any were asked. One would have thought that the sentrieswould have been questioned. Herod went the natural way to work, when hehad Peter's guards examined and put to death. But Annas and his fellowsdo not seem to have cared to inquire how the escape had been made.Possibly they suspected a miracle, or perhaps feared that inquiry mightreveal sympathisers with the prisoners among their own officials. Atany rate, they were bewildered, and lost their heads, wondering whatwas to come next, and how this thing was to end.

The further news that these obstinate fanatics were at their old workin the Temple again, must have greatly added to the rulers' perplexity,and they must have waited the return of the officers sent off for thesecond time to fetch the prisoners, with somewhat less dignity thanbefore. The officers felt the pulse of the crowd, and did not ventureon force, from wholesome fear for their own skins. An excited mob inthe Temple court was not to be trifled with, so persuasion was adopted.The brave Twelve went willingly, for the Sanhedrin had no terrors forthem, and by going they secured another opportunity of ringing outtheir Lord's salvation. Wherever a Christian can witness for Christ, heshould be ready to go.

The high-priest discreetly said nothing about the escape. Possibly hehad no suspicion of a miracle, but, even if he had, chapter iv. 16shows that that would not have led to any modification of hishostility. Persecutors, clothed with a little brief authority, arestrangely blind to the plainest indications of the truth spoken bytheir victims. Annas did not know what a question about the escapemight bring out, so he took the safer course of charging the Twelvewith disobedience to the Sanhedrin's prohibition. How characteristic ofall his kind that is! Never mind whether what the martyr says is trueor not. He has broken our law, and defied our authority; that isenough. Are we to be chopping logic, and arguing with every ignorantupstart who chooses to vent his heresies? Gag him,—that is easier andmore dignified.

A world of self-consequence peeps out in that 'we straitly chargedyou,' and a world of contempt peeps out in the avoidance of namingJesus. 'This name' and 'this man' is the nearest that the proud priestwill come to soiling his lips by mentioning Him. He bears unconscioustestimony to the Apostles' diligence, and to the popular inclination tothem, by charging them with having filled the city with what hecontemptuously calls 'your teaching,' as if it had no other sourcethan their own ignorant notions.

Then the deepest reason for the Sanhedrin's bitterness leaks out in thecharge of inciting the mob to take vengeance on them for the death ofJesus. It was true that the Apostles had charged that guilt home onthem, but not on them only, but on the whole nation, so that noincitement to revenge lay in the charge. It was true that they hadbrought 'this man's blood' on the rulers, but only to draw them torepentance, not to hound at them their sharers in the guilt. Had Annasforgot 'His blood be on us, and on our children'? But, when an evildeed is complete, the doers try to shuffle off the responsibility whichthey were ready to take in the excitement of hurrying to do it. Annasdid not trouble himself about divine vengeance; it was the populacewhom he feared.

So, in its attempt to browbeat the accused, in its empty airs ofauthority, in its utter indifference to the truth involved, in itscontempt for the preachers and their message, in its brazen denial ofresponsibility, its dread of the mob, and its disregard of the far-offdivine judgment, his bullying speech is a type of how persecutors, fromRoman governors down, have hectored their victims.

And Peter's brave answer is, thank God! the type of what thousands oftrembling women and meek men have answered. His tone is severer nowthan on his former appearance. Now he has no courteous recognition ofthe court's authority. Now he brushes aside all Annas's attempts toimpose on him the sanctity of its decrees, and flatly denies that theCouncil has any more right to command than any other 'men.' Theyclaimed to be depositaries of God's judgments. This revolutionaryfisherman sees nothing in them but 'men,' whose commands point one way,while God's point the other. The angel bade them 'speak'; the Councilhad bid them be dumb. To state the opposition was to determine theirduty. Formerly Peter had said 'judge ye' which command it is right toobey. Now, he wraps his refusal in no folds of courtesy, but thruststhe naked 'We must obey God' in the Council's face. That was a greatmoment in the history of the world and the Church. How much lay in it,as in a seed,—Luther's 'Here I stand, I can do none other. God helpme! Amen'; Plymouth Rock, and many a glorious and blood-stained page inthe records of martyrdom.

Peter goes on to vindicate his assumption that in disobeying Annas theyare obeying God, by reiterating the facts which since Pentecost he hadpressed on the national conscience. Israel had slain, and God hadexalted, Jesus to His right hand. That was God's verdict on Israel'saction. But it was also the ground of hope for Israel; for theexaltatior of Jesus was that He might be 'Prince [or Leader] andSaviour,' and from His exalted hand were shed the gifts of 'repentanceand remission of sins,' even of the great sin of slaying Him. Thesethings being so, how could the Apostles be silent? Had not God bid themspeak, by their very knowledge of these? They were Christ's witnesses,constituted as such by their personal acquaintance with Him and theirhaving seen Him raised and ascending, and appointed to be such by Hisown lips, and inspired for their witnessing by the Holy Spirit shed onthem at Pentecost. Peter all but reproduces the never-to-be-forgottenwords heard by them all in the upper room, 'He shall bear witness ofMe: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me fromthe beginning.' Silence would be treason. So it is still. What wereAnnas and his bluster to men whom Christ had bidden to speak, and towhom He had given the Spirit of the Father to speak in them?


'Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince.'—ACTS v. 31.

The word rendered 'Prince' is a rather infrequent designation of ourLord in Scripture. It is only employed in all four times—twice inPeter's earlier sermons recorded in this Book of the Acts; and twice inthe Epistle to the Hebrews. In a former discourse of the Apostle's hehad spoken of the crime of the Jews in killing 'the Prince of life.'Here he uses the word without any appended epithet. In the Epistle tothe Hebrews we read once of the 'Captain of Salvation,' and once of the'Author of Faith.'

Now these three renderings 'Prince,' 'Captain,' 'Author,' seemsingularly unlike. But the explanation of their being all substantiallyequivalent to the original word is not difficult to find. It seems tomean properly a Beginner, or Originator, who takes the lead inanything, and hence the notions of chieftainship and priority areeasily deduced from it. Then, very naturally, it comes to meansomething very much like cause; with only this difference, that itimplies that the person who is the Originator is Himself the Possessorof that of which He is the Cause to others. So the two ideas of aLeader, and of a Possessor who imparts, are both included in the word.

My intention in this sermon is to deal with the various forms of thisexpression, in order to try to bring out the fulness of the notionwhich Scripture attaches to this leadership of Jesus Christ. He isfirst of all, generally, as our text sets Him forth, the Leader,absolutely. Then there are the specific aspects, expressed by the otherthree passages, in which He is set forth as the Leader through death tolife; the Leader through suffering to salvation; and the Leader in thepath of faith. Let us look, then, at these points in succession.

I. First, we have the general notion of Christ the Leader.

Now I suppose we are all acquainted with the fact that the names'Joshua' and 'Jesus' are, in the original, one. It is further to benoticed that, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which wasfamiliar to Peter's hearers, the word of our text is that employed todescribe the office of the military leaders of Israel. It is stillfurther to be observed that, in all the instances in the New Testament,it is employed in immediate connection with the name of Jesus. Now,putting all these things together, remembering to whom Peter wasspeaking, remembering the familiarity which many of his audience musthave had with the Old Testament in its Greek translation, rememberingthe identity of the two names Joshua and Jesus, it is difficult toavoid the supposition that the expression of our text is coloured by areference to the bold soldier who successfully led his brethren intothe Promised Land. Joshua was the 'Captain of the Lord's host' to leadthem to Canaan; the second Joshua is the Captain of the Host of theLord to lead them to a better rest. Of all the Old Testament heroesperhaps there is none, at first sight, less like the second Joshua thanthe first was. He is only a rough, plain, prompt, and bold soldier. Noprophet was he, no word of wisdom ever fell from his lips, no trace oftenderness was in anything that he did; meekness was alien from hischaracter, he was no sage, he was no saint, but decisive, swift,merciless when necessary, full of resource, sharp and hard as his ownsword. And yet a parallel may be drawn.

The second Joshua is the Captain of the Lord's host, as was typified tothe first one, in that strange scene outside the walls of Jericho,where the earthly commander, sunk in thought, was brooding upon thehard nut which he had to crack, when suddenly he lifted up his eyes,and beheld a man with a drawn sword. With the instinctive alertness ofhis profession and character, his immediate question was, 'Art thou forus or for our enemies?' And he got the answer 'No! I am not on thyside, nor on the other side, but thou art on Mine. As Captain of theLord's host am I come up.'

So Jesus Christ, the 'Strong Son of God,' is set forth by this militaryemblem as being Himself the first Soldier in the army of God, and theLeader of all the host. We forget far too much the militant characterof Jesus Christ. We think of His meekness, His gentleness, Hispatience, His tenderness, His humility, and we cannot think of thesetoo much, too lovingly, too wonderingly, too adoringly, but we toooften forget the strength which underlay the gentleness, and that Hislife, all gracious as it was, when looked at from the outside, hadbeneath it a continual conflict, and was in effect the warfare of Godagainst all the evils and the sorrows of humanity. We forget thecourage that went to make the gentleness of Jesus, the daring thatunderlay His lowliness; and it does us good to remember that all theso-called heroic virtues were set forth in supreme form, not in somevulgar type of excellence, such as a conqueror, whom the worldrecognises, but in that meek King whose weapon was love, yet waswielded with a soldier's hand.

This general thought of Jesus Christ as the first Soldier and Captainof the Lord's army not only opens for us a side of His character whichwe too often pass by, but it also says something to us as to what ourduties ought to be. He stands to us in the relation of General andCommander-in-Chief; then we stand to Him in the relation of privatesoldiers, whose first duty is unhesitating obedience, and who in doingtheir Master's will must put forth a bravery far higher than the vulgarcourage that is crowned with wreathed laurels on the bloodybattlefield, even the bravery that is caught from Him who 'set His faceas a flint' to do His work.

Joshua's career has in it a great stumbling-block to many people, inthat merciless destruction of the Canaanite sinners, which can only bevindicated by remembering, first, that it was a divine appointment, andthat God has the right to punish; and, second, that those old days wereunder a different law, or at least a less manifestly developed law ofloving-kindness and mercy than, thank God! we live in. But whilst welook with wonder on these awful scenes of destruction, may there notlie in them the lesson for us that antagonism and righteous wrathagainst evil in all its forms is the duty of the soldiers of Christ?There are many causes to-day which to further and fight for is thebounden duty of every Christian, and to further and fight for whichwill tax all the courage that any of us can muster. Remember that theleadership of Christ is no mere pretty metaphor, but a solemn fact,which brings with it the soldier's responsibilities. When our Centurionsays to us, 'Come!' we must come. When He says to us, 'Go!' we must go.When He says to us 'Do this!' we must do it, though heart and fleshshould shrink and fail. Unhesitating obedience to His authoritativecommand will deliver us from many of the miseries of self-will; andbrave effort at Christ's side is as much the privilege as the duty ofHis servants and soldiers.

II. So note, secondly, the Leader through death to life.

Peter, in the sermon which is found in the third chapter of this Bookof the Acts, has his mind and heart filled with the astounding fact ofthe Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, and in the same breathas he gives forth the paradoxical indictment of the Jewish sin, 'Youhave killed the Prince of Life'—the Leader of Life—he also says, 'AndGod hath raised Him from the dead.' So that the connection seems topoint to the risen and glorified life into which Christ Himself passed,and by passing became capable of imparting it to others. The same ideais here as in Paul's other metaphor: 'Now is Christ risen from thedead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept'—the first sheafof the harvest, which was carried into the Temple and consecrated toGod, and was the pledge and prophecy of the reaping in due season ofall the miles of golden grain that waved in the autumn sunshine. 'So,'says Peter, 'He is the Leader of Life, who Himself has passed throughthe darkness, for "you killed Him"; mystery of mysteries as it is thatyou should have been able to do it, deeper mystery still that youshould have been willing to do it, deepest mystery of all that you didit not when you did it, but that "He became dead and is alive forevermore." You killed the Prince of Life, and God raised Him from thedead.'

He has gone before us. He is 'the first that should rise from thedead.' For, although the partial power of His communicated life didbreathe for a moment resuscitation into two dead men and one deadmaiden, these shared in no resurrection-life, but only came back againinto mortality, and were quickened for a time, but to die at last thecommon death of all. But Jesus Christ is the first that has gone intothe darkness and come back again to live for ever. Across the untroddenwild there is one track marked, and the footprints upon it point bothways—to the darkness and from the darkness. So the dreary waste is notpathless any more. The broad road that all the generations have troddenon their way into the everlasting darkness is left now, and the'travellers pass by the byway' which Jesus Christ has made by the touchof His risen feet.

Thus, not only does this thought teach us the priority of Hisresurrection-life, but it also declares to us that Jesus Christ,possessing the risen life, possesses it to impart it. For, as Iremarked in my introductory observations, the conception of this wordincludes not only the idea of a Leader, but that of One who, Himselfpossessing or experiencing something, gives it to others. All men riseagain. Yes, 'but every man in his own order.' There are two principlesat work in the resurrection of all men. They are raised on differentgrounds, and they are raised to different issues. They that areChrist's are brought again from the dead, because the life of Christ isin them; and it is as 'impossible' that they, as that 'He, should beholden of it.' Union with Jesus Christ by simple faith is the means,and the only means revealed to us, whereby men shall be raised from thedead at the last by a resurrection which is anything else than aprolonged death. As for others, 'some shall rise unto shame andeverlasting contempt,' rising dead, and dead after they are risen—deadas long as they live. There be two resurrections, whether simultaneousin time or not is of no moment, and all of us must have our part in theone or the other; and faith in Jesus Christ is the only means by whichwe can take a place in the great army and procession that He leads downinto the valley and up to the sunny heights.

If He be the Leader through death unto life, then it is certain thatall who follow in His train shall attain to His side and shall share inHis glory. The General wears no order which the humblest private in theranks may not receive likewise, and whomsoever He leads, His leadingwill not end till He has led them close to His side, if they trust Him.So, calmly, confidently, we may each of us look forward to that darkjourney waiting for us all. All our friends will leave us at thetunnel's mouth, but He will go with us through the gloom, and bring usout into the sunny lands on the southern side of the icy whitemountains. The Leader of our souls will be our Guide, not only untodeath, but far beyond it, into His own life.

III. So, thirdly, note the Leader through suffering to salvation.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is written, 'It became Him for whomare all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons untoglory, to make the Captain'—or the Leader—'of their salvation perfectthrough sufferings.' That expression might seem at first to shut JesusChrist out from any participation in the thing which He gives. Forsalvation is His gift, but not that which He Himself possesses andenjoys; but it is to be noticed that in the context of the words whichI have quoted, 'glory' is put as substantially synonymous withsalvation, and that the whole is suffused with the idea of a longprocession, as shown by the phrase, 'bringing many sons.' Of thisprocession Jesus Christ Himself is the Leader.

So, clearly, the notion in the context now under consideration is thatthe life of Jesus Christ is the type to which all His servants are tobe conformed. He is the Representative Man, who Himself passes throughthe conditions through which we are to pass, and Himself reaches theglory which, given to us, becomes salvation.

'Christ is perfected through sufferings.' So must we be. Perfectedthrough sufferings? you say. Then did His humanity need perfecting?Yes, and No. There needed nothing to be hewn away from that whitemarble. There was nothing to be purged by fire out of that pure life.But I suppose that Jesus Christ's human nature needed to be unfolded bylife; as the Epistle to the Hebrews says, 'He learned obedience, thoughHe were a Son, through the things which He suffered.' And fitness forHis office of leading us to glory required to be reached through thesufferings which were the condition of our forgiveness and of ouracceptance with God. So, whether we regard the word as expressing theagony of suffering in unfolding His humanity, or in fitting Him for Hisredeeming work, it remains true that He was perfected by His sufferings.

So must we be. Our characters will never reach the refinement, thedelicacy, the unworldliness, the dependence upon God, which theyrequire for their completion, unless we have been passed through many asorrow. There are plants which require a touch of frost to perfectthem, and we all need the discipline of a Father's hand. The sorrowsthat come to us all are far more easily borne when we think that Christbore them all before us. It is but a blunted sword which sorrow wieldsagainst any of us; it was blunted on His armour. It is but a spent ballthat strikes us; its force was exhausted upon Him. Sorrow, if we keepclose to Him, may become solemn joy, and knit us more thoroughly toHimself. Ah, brother! we can better spare our joys than we can spareour sorrows. Only let us cleave to Him when they fall upon us.

Christ's sufferings led Him to His glory, so will ours if we keep byHis side—and only if we do. There is nothing in the mere fact of beingtortured and annoyed here on earth, which has in itself any direct andnecessary tendency to prepare us for the enjoyment, or to secure to usthe possession, of future blessedness. You often hear superficialpeople saying, 'Oh! he has been very much troubled here, but there willbe amends for it hereafter.' Yes; God would wish to make amends for ithereafter, but He cannot do so unless we comply with the conditions.And it needs that we should keep close to Jesus Christ in sorrow, inorder that it should work for us 'the peaceable fruit ofrighteousness.' The glory will come if the patient endurance haspreceded, and has been patience drawn from Jesus.

'I wondered at the beauteous hours,
The slow result of winter showers,
You scarce could see the grass for flowers.'

The sorrows that have wounded any man's head like a crown of thornswill be covered with the diadem of Heaven, if they are sorrows bornewith Christ.

IV. Lastly, we have Jesus, the Leader in the path of faith.

'The Author of faith,' says the verse in the Epistle to the Hebrews.'Author' does not cover all the ground, though it does part of it. Wemust include the other ideas which I have been trying to set forth Heis 'Possessor' first and 'Giver' afterwards. For Jesus Christ Himselfis both the Pattern and the Inspirer of our faith. It would undulyprotract my remarks to dwell adequately upon this; but let me justbriefly hint some thoughts connected with it.

Jesus Christ Himself walked by continual faith. His manhood dependedupon God, just as ours has to depend upon Jesus. He lived in thecontinued reception of continual strength from above by reason of Hisfaith, just as our faith is the condition of our reception of Hisstrength. We are sometimes afraid to recognise the fact that the ManJesus, who is our pattern in all things, is our pattern in this, themost special and peculiarly human aspect of the religious life. But ifChrist was not the first of believers, His pattern is wofully defectivein its adaptation to our need. Rather let us rejoice in the thoughtthat all that great muster-roll of the heroes of the faith, which theEpistle to the Hebrews has been dealing with, have for theirLeader—though, chronologically, He marches in the centre—JesusChrist, of whose humanity this is the document and proof that He says,in the Prophet's words: 'I will put My trust in Him.'

Remember, too, that the same Jesus who is the Pattern is the Object andthe Inspirer of our faith; and that if we fulfil the conditions in thetext now under consideration, 'looking off' from all others,stimulating and beautiful as their example may be, sweet and tender astheir love may be, and 'looking unto Jesus,' He will be in us, andabove us—in us to inspire, and above us to receive and to reward ourhumble confidence.

So, dear friends, it all comes to this, 'Follow thou Me!' In thatcommandment all duty is summed, and in obeying it all blessedness andpeace are ensured. If we will take Christ for our Captain, He willteach our fingers to fight. If we obey Him we shall not want guidance,and be saved from perplexities born of self-will. If we keep close toHim and turn our eyes to Him, away from all the false and fleeting joysand things of earth, we shall not walk in darkness, howsoever earthlylights may be quenched, but the gloomiest path will be illuminated byHis presence, and the roughest made smooth by His bleeding feet thatpassed along it. If we follow Him, He will lead us down into the darkvalley, and up into the blessed sunshine, where participation in Hisown eternal life and glory will be salvation. If we march in His rankson earth, then shall we

'With joy upon our heads arise
And meet our Captain in the skies.'


'Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel orthis work be of men, it will come to nought: 39. But if it be of God,ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight againstGod.'—ACTS v. 38, 39.

The little that is known of Gamaliel seems to indicate just such a manas would be likely to have given the advice in the text. His was acharacter which, on its good side and by its admirers, would bedescribed as prudent, wise, cautious and calm, tolerant, opposed tofanaticism and violence. His position as president of the Sanhedrin,his long experience, his Rabbinical training, his old age, and hisknowledge that the national liberty depended on keeping things quiet,would be very likely to exaggerate such tendencies into what hisenemies would describe as worldly shrewdness without a trace ofenthusiasm, indifference to truth, and the like.

It is, of course, possible that he bases his counsel of letting thefollowers of Jesus alone, on the grounds which he adduces, because heknew that reasons more favourable to Christians would have had noweight with the Sanhedrin. Old Church traditions make him out to havebeen a Christian, and the earliest Christian romance, a very singularbook, of which the main object was to blacken the Apostle Paul, roundlyasserts that at the date of this advice he was 'secretly our brother,'and that he remained in the Sanhedrin to further Christian views. Butthere seems not the slightest reason to suppose that. He lived and dieda Jew, spared the sight of the destruction of Jerusalem which,according to his own canon in the text, would have proved that thesystem to which he had given his life was not of God; and the onlyrelic of his wisdom is a prayer against Christian heretics.

It is remarkable that he should have given this advice; but two thingsoccur to account for it. Thus far Christianity had been veryemphatically the preaching of the Resurrection, a truth which thePharisees believed and held as especially theirs in opposition to theSadducees, and Gamaliel was old and worldly-wise enough to count all ashis friends who were the enemies of his enemies. He was not veryparticular where he looked for allies, and rather shrank from helpingSadducees to punish men whose crime was that they 'preached throughJesus a resurrection from the dead.'

Then the Jewish rulers had a very ticklish part to play. They wereafraid of any popular shout which might bring down the avalanche ofRoman power on them, and they were nervously anxious to keep thingsquiet. So Gamaliel did not wish to have any fuss made about 'thesem*n,' lest it should be supposed that another popular revolt was onfoot; and he thought that to let them alone was the best way to reducetheir importance. Perhaps, too, there was a secret hope in the oldman's mind, which he scarcely ventured to look at and dared not speak,that here might be the beginning of a rising which had more promise init than that abortive one under Theudas. He could not venture to saythis, but perhaps it made him chary of voting for repression. He had noobjection to let these poor Galileans fling away their lives instorming against the barrier of Rome. If they fail, it is but one morefailure. If they succeed, he and his like will say that they have donewell. But while the enterprise is too perilous for him to approve or bemixed up in it, he would let it have its chance.

Note that Gamaliel regards the whole movement as the probable germ ofan uprising against Rome, as is seen from the parallels that he quotes.It is not as a religious teaching which is true or false, but as apolitical agitation, that he looks at Christianity.

It is to his credit that he stood calm and curbed the howling of thefanatics round him, and that he was the first and only Jewish authoritywho counselled abstinence from persecution.

It is interesting to compare him with Gallio, who had a glimpse of thetrue relation of the civil magistrate to religious opinion. Gamalielhas a glimpse of the truth of the impotence of material force againsttruth, how it is of a quick and spiritual essence, which cannot becleaved in pieces with a sword, but lives on in spite of all. But whileall this may be true, the advice on the whole is a low and bad one. Itrests on false principles; it takes a false view of a man's duty; it isnot wholly sincere; and it is one impossible to be carried out. It issingularly in accordance with many of the tendencies of this age, andwith modes of thought and counsels of action which are in activeoperation amongst us to-day, and we may therefore criticise it now.

I. Here is disbelief professing to be 'honest doubt.' Gamalielprofesses not to have materials for judging. 'If—if'; was it a timefor 'ifs'? What was that Sanhedrin there for, but to try precisely suchcases as these?

They had had the works of Christ; miracles which they had investigatedand could not disprove; a life which was its own witness; propheciesfulfilled; His own presence before their bar; the Resurrection and thePentecost.

I am not saying whether these facts were enough to have convinced them,nor even whether the alleged miracles were true. All that I amconcerned with is that, so far as we know, neither Gamaliel nor any ofhis tribe had ever made the slightest attempt to inquire into them, buthad, without examination, complacently treated them as lies. All thatbody of evidence had been absolutely ignored. And now he is, with his'ifs,' posing as very calm and dispassionate.

So to-day it is fashionable to doubt, to hang up most of the Christiantruths in the category of uncertainties.

(a) When that is the fashion, we need to be on our guard.

(b) If you doubt, have you ever taken the pains to examine?

(c) If you doubt, you are bound to go further, and either reachbelief or rejection. Doubt is not the permanent condition for a man.The central truth of Christianity is either to be received or rejected.

II. Here is disbelief masquerading as suspension of judgment.

Gamaliel talked as if he did not know, or had not decided in his ownmind, whether the disciples' claims for their Master were just or not.But the attitude of impartiality and hesitation was the cover of rootedunbelief. He speaks as if the alternative was that either this 'counseland work' was 'of man' or 'of God.' But he would have been nearer thetruth if he had stated the antithesis—God or devil; a glorious truthor a hell-born lie. If Christ's work was not a revelation from above,it was certainly an emanation from beneath.

We sometimes hear disbelief, in our own days, talking in much the samefashion. Have we never listened to teachers who first of all prove totheir own satisfaction that Jesus is a myth, that all the gospel storyis unreliable, and all the gospel message a dream, and then turn roundand overflow in praise of Him and in admiration of it? Browning'sprofessor in Christmas Day first of all reduces 'the pearl of price'to dust and ashes, and then

'Bids us, when we least expect it,
Take back our faith—if it be not just whole,
Yet a pearl indeed, as his tests affect it.'

And that is very much the tone of not a few very superior personsto-day. But let us have one thing or the other—a Christ who was whatHe claimed to be, the Incarnate Word of God, who died for our sins androse again for our justification; or a Galilean peasant who was eithera visionary or an impostor, like Judas of Galilee and Theudas.

III. Here is success turned into a criterion of truth.

It is such, no doubt, in the long run, but not till then, and so tillthe end it is utterly false to argue that a thing is true becausemultitudes think it to be so. The very opposite is more nearly true. Itin usually minorities who have been right.

Gamaliel laid down an immoral principle, which is only too popularto-day, in relation to religion and to much else.

IV. Here is a selfish neutrality pretending to be judicial calmness.

Even if it were true that success is a criterion, we have to help Godto ensure the success of His truth. No doubt, taking sides is veryinconvenient to a cool, tolerant man of the world. And it is difficultto be in a party without becoming a partisan. We know all the beauty ofmild, tolerant wisdom, and that truth is usually shared betweencombatants, but the dangers of extremes and exaggeration must be faced,and perhaps these are better than the cool indifference of theeclectic, sitting apart, holding no form of creed, but contemplatingall. It is not good for a man to stand aloof when his brethren arefighting.

In every age some great causes which are God's are pressing fordecision. In many of them we may be disqualified for taking sides. Butfeel that you are bound to cast your influence on the side whichconscience approves, and bound to settle which side that is, Deborah'sfierce curse against Meroz because its people came not up to the helpof the Lord against the mighty was deserved.

But the region in which such judicial calmness, which shrinks fromtaking its side, is most fatal and sadly common, is in regard to ourown individual relation to Jesus, and in regard to the establishment ofHis kingdom among men.

'He that is not with Me is against Me.' Neutrality is opposition. Notto gather with Him is to scatter. Not to choose Him is to reject Him.

Gamaliel had a strange notion of what constituted 'refraining fromthese men and letting them alone,' and he betrayed his real positionand opposition by his final counsel to scourge them, before lettingthem go. That is what the world's neutrality comes to.

How poor a figure this politic ecclesiastic, mostly anxious not tocommit himself, ready to let whoever would risk a struggle with Rome,so that he kept out of the fray and survived to profit by it, cutsbeside the disciples, who had chosen their side, had done with 'ifs,'and went away from the Council rejoicing 'that they were counted worthyto suffer shame for His Name'! Who would not rather be Peter or Johnwith their bleeding backs than Gamaliel, sitting soft in hispresidential chair, and too cautious to commit himself to an opinionwhether the name of Jesus was that of a prophet or a pretender?


'Men … full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.' … 'A man full of faithand of the Holy Ghost….' 'Stephen, full of faith and power.'—ACTSvi. 3, 5, 8.

I have taken the liberty of wrenching these three fragments from theircontext, because of their remarkable parallelism, which is evidentlyintended to set us thinking of the connection of the variouscharacteristics which they set forth. The first of them is adescription, given by the Apostles, of the sort of man whom theyconceived to be fit to look after the very homely matter of stiflingthe discontent of some members of the Church, who thought that theirpoor people did not get their fair share of the daily ministration. Thesecond and third of them are parts of the description of the foremostof these seven men, the martyr Stephen. In regard to the first andsecond of our three fragmentary texts, you will observe that the causeis put first and the effect second. The 'deacons' were to be men 'fullof the Holy Ghost,' and that would make them 'full of wisdom.' Stephenwas 'full of faith,' and that made him 'full of the Holy Ghost.'Probably the same relation subsists in the third of our texts, of whichthe true reading is not, as it appears in our Authorised Version, 'fullof faith and power,' but as it is given in the Revised Version, 'fullof grace and power.' He was filled with grace—by which apparently ishere meant the sum of the divine spiritual gifts—and therefore he wasfull of power. Whether that is so or not, if we link these threepassages together, as I have taken the liberty of doing, we get a pointof view appropriate for such a day [Footnote: Preached on Whit Sunday.]as this, when all that calls itself Christendom is commemorating thedescent of the Holy Spirit, and His abiding influence upon the Church.So I simply wish to gather together the principles that come out ofthese three verses thus concatenated.

I. We may all, if we will, be full of the Holy Spirit.

If there is a God at all, there is nothing more reasonable than tosuppose that He can come into direct contact with the spirits of themen whom He has made. And if that Almighty God is not an Almightyindifference, or a pure devil—if He is love—then there is nothingmore certain than that, if He can touch and influence men's heartstowards goodness and His own likeness, He most certainly will.

The probability, which all religion recognises, and in often crudeforms tries to set forth, and by superstitious acts to secure, israised to an absolute certainty, if we believe that Jesus Christ, theIncarnate Truth, speaks truth to us about this matter. For there isnothing more certain than that the characteristic which distinguishesHim from all other teachers, is to be found not only in the fact thatHe did something for us on the Cross, as well as taught us by His word;but that in His teaching He puts in the forefront, not theprescriptions of our duty, but the promise of God's gift; and ever saysto us, 'Open your hearts and the divine influences will flow in andfill you and fit you for all goodness.' The Spirit of God fills thehuman spirit, as the mysterious influence which we call life permeatesand animates the whole body, or as water lies in a cup.

Consider how that metaphor is caught up, and from a different point ofview is confirmed, in regard to the completeness which it predicates,by other metaphors of Scripture. What is the meaning of the Baptist'ssaying, 'He shall baptise you in the Holy Ghost and fire'? Does thatnot mean a complete immersion in, and submersion under, the cleansingflood? What is the meaning of the Master's own saying, 'Tarry ye…till ye be clothed with power from on high'? Does not that meancomplete investiture of our nakedness with that heavenly-woven robe? Donot all these emblems declare to us the possibility of a human spiritbeing charged to the limits of its capacity with a divine influence?

We do not here discuss questions which separate good Christian peoplefrom one another in regard of this matter. My object now is not to laydown theological propositions, but to urge upon Christian men theacquirement of an experience which is possible for them. And so,without caring to enter by argument on controversial matters, I desiresimply to lay emphasis upon the plain implication of that word,'filled with the Holy Ghost.' Does it mean less than the completesubjugation of a man's spirit by the influence of God's Spirit broodingupon him, as the prophet laid himself on the dead child, lip to lip,face to face, beating heart to still heart, limb to limb, and sodiffused a supernatural life into the dead? That is an emblem of whatall you Christian people may have if you like, and if you will adoptthe discipline and observe the conditions which God has plainly laiddown.

That fulness will be a growing fulness, for our spirits are capable, ifnot of infinite, at any rate of indefinite, expansion, and there is nolimit known to us, and no limit, I suppose, which will ever be reached,so that we can go no further—to the possible growth of a createdspirit that is in touch with God, and is having itself enlarged andelevated and ennobled by that contact. The vessel is elastic, the wallsof the cup of our spirit, into which the new wine of the divine Spiritis poured, widen out as the draught is poured into them. The more a manpossesses and uses of the life of God, the more is he capable ofpossessing and the more he will receive. So a continuous expansion incapacity, and a continuous increase in the amount of the divine lifepossessed, are held out as the happy prerogative and possibility of aChristian soul.

This Stephen had but a very small amount of the clear Christianknowledge that you and I have, but he was leagues ahead of mostChristian people in regard to this, that he was 'filled with the HolySpirit.' Brethren, you can have as much of that Spirit as you want. Itis my own fault if my Christian life is not what the Christian lives ofsome of us, I doubt not, are. 'Filled with the Holy Spirit'! rather alittle drop in the bottom of the cup, and all the rest gapingemptiness; rather the fire died down, Pentecostal fire though it be,until there is scarcely anything but a heap of black cinders and greyashes in your grate, and a little sandwich of flickering flame in onecorner; rather the rushing mighty wind died down into all but a deadcalm, like that which afflicts sailing-ships in the equatorial regions,when the thick air is deadly still, and the empty sails have notstrength even to flap upon the masts; rather the 'river of the water oflife' that pours 'out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb,' dried upinto a driblet.

That is the condition of many Christian people. I say not of which ofus. Let each man settle for himself how that may be. At all events hereis the possibility, which may be realised with increasing completenessall through a Christian man's life. We may be filled with the HolySpirit.

II. If we are 'full of faith' we shall be filled with the Spirit.

That is the condition as suggested by one of our texts—'a man full offaith,' and therefore 'of the Holy Ghost.' Now, of course, I believe,as I suppose all people who have made any experience of their ownhearts must believe, that before a soul exercises confidence in JesusChrist, and passes into the household of faith, there have been playingupon it the influences of that divine Comforter whose first mission isto 'convince the world of sin.' But between such operations as these,which I believe are universally diffused, wheresoever the Word of Godand the message of salvation are proclaimed—between such operations asthese, and those to which I now refer, whereby the divine Spirit notonly operates upon, but dwells in, a man's heart, and not only bringsconviction to the world of sin, there is a wide gulf fixed; and for allthe hallowing, sanctifying, illuminating and strength-giving operationsof that divine Spirit, the pre-requisite condition is our trust. JesusChrist taught us so, in more than one utterance, and His Apostle, incommenting on one of the most remarkable of His sayings on thissubject, says, 'This spake He concerning the Holy Spirit which theythat believed in Him were to receive.' Faith is the condition ofreceiving that divine influence. But what kind of faith? Well, let usput away theological words. If you do not believe that there is anysuch influence to be got, you will not get it. If you do not want it,you will not get it. If you do not expect it, you will not get it. Ifprofessing to believe it, and to wish it, and to look for it, you arebehaving yourself in such a way as to show that you do not reallydesire it, you will never get it. It is all very well to talk aboutfaith as the condition of receiving that divine Spirit. Do not let uslose ourselves in the word, but try to translate the somewhatthreadbare expression, which by reason of its familiarity produceslittle effect upon some of us, and to turn it into non-theologicalEnglish. It just comes to this,—if we are simply trusting ourselves toJesus Christ our Lord, and if in that trust we do believe in thepossibility of even our being filled with the divine Spirit, and ifthat possibility lights up a leaping flame of desire in our heartswhich aspires towards the possession of such a gift, and if belief thatour reception of that gift is possible because we trust ourselves toJesus Christ, and longing that we may receive it, combine to producethe confident expectation that we shall, and if all of these combine toproduce conduct which neither quenches nor grieves that divine Guest,then, and only then, shall we indeed be filled with the Spirit.

I know of no other way by which a man can receive God into his heartthan by opening his heart for God to come in. I know of no other way bywhich a man can woo—if I may so say—the Divine Lover to enter intohis spirit than by longing that He would come, waiting for His coming,expecting it, and being supremely blessed in the thought that such aunion is possible. Faith, that is trust, with its appropriate andnecessary sequels of desire and expectation and obedience, is thecompleting of the electric circuit, and after it the spark is sure tocome. It is the opening of the windows, after which sunshine cannot butflood the chamber. It is the stretching out of the hand, and no manthat ever, with love and longing, lifted an empty hand to God, droppedit still empty. And no man who, with penitence for his own act, andtrust in the divine act, lifted blood-stained and foul hands to God,ever held them up there without the gory patches melting away, andbecoming white as snow. Not 'all the perfumes of Araby' can sweetenthose bloody hands. Lift them up to God, and they become pure.Whosoever wishes that he may, and believes that he shall, receive fromChrist the fulness of the Spirit, will not be disappointed. Brethren,'Ye have not because ye ask not.' 'If ye, being evil, know how to givegood gifts to your children,' shall not 'your Heavenly Father give theHoly Spirit to them that ask Him?'

III. Lastly, if we are filled with the Spirit we shall be 'full ofwisdom, grace, and power.'

The Apostles seemed to think that it was a very important business tolook after a handful of poor widows, and see that they had their fairshare in the dispensing of the modest charity of the half-pauperJerusalem church, when they said that for such a purely secular thingas that a man would need to be 'full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.'Surely, something a little less august might have served their turn toqualify men for such a task! 'Wisdom' here, I suppose, means practicalsagacity, common sense, the power of picking out an impostor when shecame whining for a dole. Very commonplace virtues!—but the Apostlesevidently thought that such everyday operations of the understanding asthese were not too secular and commonplace to owe their origin to thecommunication to men of the fulness of the Holy Spirit.

May we not take a lesson from that, that God's great influences, whenthey come into a man, do not concern themselves only with greatintellectual problems and the like, but that they will operate to makehim more fit to do the most secular and the most trivial things thatcan be put into his hand to do? The Holy Ghost had to fill Stephenbefore he could hand out loaves and money to the widows in Jerusalem.

And do you not think that your day's work, and your businessperplexities, come under the same category? Perhaps the best way tosecure understanding of what we ought to do, in regard to very smalland secular matters, is to keep ourselves very near to God, with thewindows of our hearts opened towards Jerusalem, that all the guidanceand light that can come from Him may come into us. Depend upon it,unless we have God's guidance in the trivialities of life, ninety percent., ay! and more, of our lives will be without God's guidance;because trivialities make up life. And unless my Father in heaven canguide me about what we, very mistakenly, call 'secular' things, andwhat we very vulgarly call trivial things, His guidance is not worthmuch. The Holy Ghost will give you wisdom for to-morrow, and all itslittle cares, as well as for the higher things, of which I am not goingto speak now, because they do not come within my text.

'Full of grace,'—that is a wide word, as I take it. If, by our faith,we have brought into our hearts that divine influence, the Spirit ofGod does not come empty-handed, but He communicates to us whatsoeverthings are lovely and of good report, whatsoever things are fair andhonourable, whatsoever things in the eyes of men are worthy to bepraised, and by the tongues of men have been called virtue. Thesethings will all be given to us step by step, not without our owndiligent co-operation, by that divine Giver. Effort without faith, andfaith without effort, are equally incomplete, and the co-operation ofthe two is that which is blessed by God.

Then the things which are 'gracious,' that is to say, given by Hislove, and also gracious in the sense of partaking of the celestialbeauty which belongs to all virtue, and to all likeness in character toGod, these things will give us a strange, supernatural power amongstmen. The word is employed in my third text, I presume, in its narrowsense of miracle-working power, but we may fairly widen it to somethingmuch more than that. Our Lord once said, when He was speaking about thegift of the Holy Spirit, that there were two stages in its operation.In the first, it availed for the refreshment and the satisfying of thedesires of the individual; in the second it became, by the ministrationof that individual, a source of blessing to others. He said, 'If anyman thirst, let him come to Me and drink,' and then, immediately, 'Hethat believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of livingwater.' That is to say, whoever lives in touch with God, having thatdivine Spirit in his heart, will walk amongst men the wielder of anunmistakable power, and will be able to bear witness to God, and movemen's hearts, and draw them to goodness and truth. The only power forChristian service is the power that comes from being clothed with God'sSpirit. The only power for self-government is the power that comes frombeing clothed with God's Spirit. The only power which will keep us inthe way that leads to life, and will bring us at last to the rest andthe reward, is the power that comes from being clothed with God'sSpirit.

I am charged to all who hear me now with this message. Here is a giftoffered to you. You cannot pare and batter at your own characters so asto make them what will satisfy your own consciences, still less whatwill satisfy the just judgment of God; but you can put yourself underthe moulding influences of Christ's love. Dear brethren, the one hopefor dead humanity, the bones very many and very dry, is that from thefour winds there should come the breath of God, and breathe in them,and they shall live, 'an exceeding great army.' Forget all else that Ihave been saying now, if you like, but take these two sentences to yourhearts, and do not rest till they express your own personal experience;If I am to be good I must have God's Spirit within me. If I am to haveGod's Spirit within me, I must be 'full of faith.'


'Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on theright hand of God'—ACTS vii. 56.

I. The vision of the Son of Man, or the abiding manhood of Jesus.

Stephen's Greek name, and his belonging to the Hellenistic part of theChurch, make it probable that he had never seen Jesus during Hisearthly life. If so, how beautiful that he should thus see andrecognise Him! How significant, in any case, is it he shouldinstinctively have taken on his lips that name, 'the Son of Man,' todesignate Him whom he saw, through the opened heavens, standing on theright hand of God! We remember that in the same Council-chamber andbefore the same court, Jesus had lashed the rulers into a paroxysm offury by declaring, 'Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting atthe right hand of power,' and now here is one of His followers, almost,as it were, flinging in their teeth the words which they had called'blasphemy,' and witnessing that he, at all events, saw their partialfulfilment. They saw only the roof of the chamber, or, if the Councilmet in the open court of the Temple, the quivering blue of the Syriansky; but to him the blue was parted, and a brighter light than that ofits lustre was flashed upon his inward eye. His words roused them to aneven wilder outburst than those of Jesus had set loose, and with yellsof fury, and stopping their ears that they might not hear theblasphemy, they flung themselves on him, unresisting, and dragged himto his doom. Their passion is a measure of the preciousness to theChristian consciousness of that which Stephen saw, and said that he saw.

Whatever more the great designation, 'Son of Man,' means, itunmistakably means the embodiment of perfect manhood. Stephen's visionswept into his soul, as on a mighty wave, the fact, overwhelming if ithad not been so transcendently strengthening to the sorely besteadprisoner, that the Jesus whom he had trusted unseen, was still the sameJesus that He had been 'in the days of His flesh,' and, with whateverchanges, still was 'found in fashion as a man.' He still 'bent on eartha brother's eye.' Whatever He had dropped from Him as He ascended, Hismanhood had not fallen away, and, whatever changes had taken place inHis body so as to fit it for its enthronement in the heavens, all thathad knit Him to His humble friends on earth was still His. The bondsthat united Him and them had not been snapped by being stretched tospan the distance between the Council-chamber and the right hand ofGod. His sympathy still continued. All that had won their hearts wasstill in Him, and every tender remembrance of His love and leading wastransformed into the assurance of a present possession. He was stillthe Son of Man.

We are all too apt to feel as if the manhood of Jesus was now but amemory, and, though our creed affirms the contrary, yet our faith hasdifficulty in realising the full force and blessedness of itsaffirmations. For the Resurrection and Ascension seem to remove Himfrom close contact with us, and sometimes we feel as if we stretch outgroping fingers into the dark and find no warm human hand to grasp. Hisexaltation seems to withdraw Him from our brotherhood, and the cloud,though it is a cloud of glory, sometimes seems to hide Him from oursight. The thickening veil of increasing centuries becomes more andmore difficult for faith to pierce. What Stephen saw was not for himonly but for us all, and its significance becomes more and moreprecious as we drift further and further away in time from the days ofthe life of Jesus on earth. More and more do we need to make veryvisible to ourselves this vision, and to lay on our hearts the strongconsolation of gazing steadfastly into heaven and seeing there the Sonof Man. So we shall feel that He is all to us that He was to those whocompanied with Him here. So shall we be more ready to believe that'this same Jesus shall so come in like manner as He went,' and thattill He come, He is knit to us and we to Him, by the bonds of a commonmanhood.

II. The vision of the Son of Man at the right hand of God, or the gloryof the Man Jesus.

We will not discuss curious questions which may be asked in connectionwith Stephen's vision, such as whether the glorified humanity of Jesusimplies His special presence in a locality; but will rather try tograsp its bearings on topics more directly related to more importantmatters than dim speculations on points concerning which confidentaffirmations are sure to be wrong. Whether the representation implieslocality or not, it is clear that the deepest meaning of the expression'the right hand of God,' is the energy of His unlimited power, andthat, therefore, the deepest meaning of the expression 'to be at Hisright hand,' is wielding the might of the divine Omnipotence. Thevision is but the visible confirmation of Jesus' words, 'All power isgiven unto Me in heaven and on earth.'

It is to be taken into account that Scripture usually represents theChrist as seated at the right hand of God, and that posture, taken inconjunction with that place, indicates the completion of His work, themajestic calm of His repose, like that creative rest, which did notfollow the creative work because the Worker was weary, but because Hehad fulfilled His ideal. God rested because His work was finished, andwas 'very good.' So Jesus sits, because He, too, has finished His workon earth. 'When,' and because 'He had by Himself purged our sins, Hesat down on the right hand of God.'

Further, that place at the right hand of God certifies that He is the

Further, it is a blessed vision for His children, as being the surepledge of their glory.

It is a glorious revelation of the capabilities of sinless human nature.

It makes heaven habitable for us.

'I go to prepare a place for you.' An emigrant does not feel a strangerin new country, if his elder brother has gone before him, and waits tomeet him when he lands. The presence of Jesus makes that dim, heavenlystate, which is so hard to imagine, and from which we often feel thateven its glories repel, or, at least, do not attract, home to those wholove Him. To be where He is, and to be as He is—that is heaven.

III. The vision of the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, orthe ever-ready help of the glorified Jesus.

The divergence of the vision from the usual representation of theattitude of Jesus is not the least precious of its elements. Stephensaw Him 'standing,' as if He had risen to His feet to see His servant'sneed and was preparing to come to his help.

What a rush of new strength for victorious endurance would floodStephen's soul as he beheld his Lord thus, as it were, starting to Hisfeet in eagerness to watch and to succour! He looks down from amid theglory, and His calm repose does not involve passive indifference to Hisservant's sufferings. Into it comes full knowledge of all that theybear for Him, and His rest is not the negation of activity on theirbehalf, but its intensest energy. Just as one of the Gospels ends witha twofold picture, which at first sight seems to draw a sad distinctionbetween the Lord 'received up into heaven and set down at the righthand of God,' and His servants left below, who 'went everywhere,preaching the word,' but of which the two halves are fused together bythe next words, 'the Lord also working with them,' so Stephen's visionbrought together the glorified Lord and His servant, and filled themartyr's soul with the fact that He not only 'worked,' but sufferedwith those who suffered for His sake.

That vision is a transient revelation of an eternal fact. Jesus knowsand shares in all that affects His servants. He stands in the attitudeto help, and He wields the power of God. He is, as the prophet puts it,'the Arm of the Lord,' and the cry, 'Awake, O Arm of the Lord!' isnever unanswered. He helps His servants by actually directing thecourse of Providence for their sakes. He helps by wielding the forcesof nature on their behalf. He 'rebukes kings for their sake, saying,Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm.' He helps bybreathing His own life and strength into them. He helps by disclosingto them the vision of Himself. He helps even when, like Stephen, theyare apparently left to the murderous hate of their enemies, for whatbetter help could any of His followers get from Him than that Heshould, as Stephen prayed that He would, receive their spirit, and 'sogive His beloved sleep'? Blessed they whose lives are lighted by thatVision, and whose deaths are such a falling on sleep!

THE YOUNG SAUL AND THE AGED PAUL [Footnote: To the young.]

'…the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whosename was Saul.'—ACTS vii. 58.

'…Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.'—PHILEMON9.

A far greater difference than that which was measured by yearsseparated the young Saul from the aged Paul. By years, indeed, thedifference was, perhaps, not so great as the words might suggest, forJewish usage extended the term of youth farther than we do, and beganage sooner. No doubt, too, Paul's life had aged him fast, and probablythere were not thirty years between the two periods. But the differencebetween him and himself at the beginning and the end of his career wasa gulf; and his life was not evolution, but revolution.

At the beginning you see a brilliant young Pharisee, Gamaliel'spromising pupil, advanced above many who were his equals in his ownreligion, as he says himself; living after its straitest sect, andeager to have the smallest part in what seemed to him the righteousslaying of one of the followers of the blaspheming Nazarene. At the endhe was himself one of these followers. He had cast off, as folly, thewisdom which took him so much pains to acquire. He had turned his backupon all the brilliant prospects of distinction which were opening tohim. He had broken with countrymen and kindred. And what had he made ofit? He had been persecuted, hunted, assailed by every weapon that hisold companions could fashion or wield; he is a solitary man, laden withmany cares, and accustomed to look perils and death in the face; he isa prisoner, and in a year or two more he will be a martyr. If he werean apostate and a renegade, it was not for what he could get by it.

What made the change? The vision of Jesus Christ. If we think of thetransformation on Saul, its causes and its outcome, we shall getlessons which I would fain press upon your hearts now. Do you wonderthat I would urge on you just such a life as that of this man as yourhighest good?

I. I would note, then, first, that faith in Jesus Christ will transformand ennoble any life.

It has been customary of late years, amongst people who do not likemiracles, and do not believe in sudden changes of character, to allegethat Paul's conversion was but the appearance, on the surface, of anunderground process that had been going on ever since he kept thewitnesses' clothes. Modern critics know a great deal more about thehistory of Paul's conversion than Paul did. For to him there was noconsciousness of undermining, but the change was instantaneous. He leftJerusalem a bitter persecutor, exceeding mad against the followers ofthe Nazarene, thinking that Jesus was a blasphemer and an impostor, andHis disciples pestilent vermin, to be harried off the face of theearth. He entered Damascus a lowly disciple of that Christ. Hisconversion was not an underground process that had been silentlysapping the foundations of his life; it was an explosion. And whatcaused it? What was it that came on that day on the Damascus road, amidthe blinding sunshine of an Eastern noontide? The vision of JesusChrist. An overwhelming conviction flooded his soul that He whom he hadtaken to be an impostor, richly deserving the Cross that He endured,was living in glory, and was revealing Himself to Saul then and there.That truth crumbled his whole past into nothing; and he stood theretrembling and astonished, like a man the ruins of whose house havefallen about his ears. He bowed himself to the vision. He surrenderedat discretion without a struggle. 'Immediately,' says he, 'I was notdisobedient to the heavenly vision,' and when he said 'Lord, Lord, whatwilt Thou have me to do?' he flung open the gates of the fortress forthe Conqueror to come in. The vision of Christ reversed his judgments,transformed his character, revolutionised his life.

That initial impulse operated through all the rest of his career.Hearken to him: 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. To me tolive is Christ. Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether wedie, we die unto the Lord. Living or dying, we are the Lord's.' 'Welabour that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.' Thetransforming agency was the vision of Christ, and the bowing of theman's whole nature before the seen Saviour.

Need I recall to you how noble a life issued from that fountain? I amsure that I need do no more than mention in a word or two the wondrousactivity, flashing like a flame of fire from East to West, andeverywhere kindling answering flames, the noble self-oblivion, thecontinual communion with God and the Unseen, and all the other greatvirtues and nobleness which came from such sources as these. I needonly, I am sure, remind you of them, and draw this lesson, that thesecret of a transforming and noble life is to be found in faith inJesus Christ. The vision that changed Paul is as available for you andme. For it is all a mistake to suppose that the essence of it is themiraculous appearance that flashed upon the Apostle's eyes. He speaksof it himself, in one of his letters, in other language, when he says,'It pleased God to reveal His Son in me.' And that revelation in allits fulness, in all its sweetness, in all its transforming andennobling power, is offered to every one of us. For the eye of faith isno less gifted with the power of direct and certain vision—yea! iseven more gifted with this—than is the eye of sense. 'If they hear notMoses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rosefrom the dead.' Christ is revealed to each one of us as really, asveritably, and the revelation may become as strong an impulse andmotive in our lives as ever it was to the Apostle on the Damascus road.What is wanted is not revelation, but the bowed will—not the heavenlyvision, but obedience to the vision. I suppose that most of you thinkthat you believe all that about Jesus Christ, which transformedGamaliel's pupil into Christ's disciple. And what has it done for you?In many cases, nothing. Be sure of this, dear young friends, that theshortest way to a life adorned with all grace, with all nobility,fragrant with all goodness, and permanent as that life which does thewill of God must clearly be, is this, to bow before the seen Christ,seen in His word, and speaking to your hearts, and to take His yoke andcarry His burden. Then you will build upon what will stand, and makeyour days noble and your lives stable. If you build on anything else,the structure will come down with a crash some day, and bury you in itsruins. Surely it is better to learn the worthlessness of anon-Christian life, in the light of His merciful face, when there isyet time to change our course, than to see it by the fierce light ofthe great White Throne set for judgment. We must each of us learn ithere or there.

II. Faith in Christ will make a joyful life, whatever its circ*mstances.

I have said that, judged by the standard of the Exchange, or by any ofthe standards which men usually apply to success in life, this life ofthe Apostle was a failure. We know, without my dwelling more largelyupon it, what he gave up. We know what, to outward appearance, hegained by his Christianity. You remember, perhaps, how he himselfspeaks about the external aspects of his life in one place, where hesays 'Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and arenaked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place, andlabour, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; beingpersecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat. We are made as thefilth of the world, and as the offscouring of all things unto this day.'

That was one side of it. Was that all? This man had that within himwhich enabled him to triumph over all trials. There is nothing moreremarkable about him than the undaunted courage, the unimpairedelasticity of spirit, the buoyancy of gladness, which bore him highupon the waves of the troubled sea in which he had to swim. If everthere was a man that had a bright light burning within him, in thedeepest darkness, it was that little weather-beaten Jew, whose 'bodilypresence was weak, and his speech contemptible.' And what was it thatmade him master of circ*mstances, and enabled him to keep sunshine inhis heart when winter bound all the world around him? What made thisbird sing in a darkened cage? One thing—the continual presence,consciously with Him by faith, of that Christ who had revolutionisedhis life, and who continued to bless and to gladden it. I have quotedhis description of his external condition. Let me quote two or threewords that indicate how he took all that sea of troubles and of sorrowsthat poured its waves and its billows over him. 'In all these things weare more than conquerors through Him that loved us.' 'As the sufferingsof Christ abound in us, so our consolation aboundeth also by Christ.''For which cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yetour inward man is renewed day by day.' 'Most gladly therefore will Irather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest uponme.' 'I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.''As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; ashaving nothing, yet possessing all things.'

There is the secret of blessedness, my friends; there is the fountainof perpetual joy. Cling to Christ, set His will on the throne of yourhearts, give the reins of your life and of your character into Hiskeeping, and nothing 'that is at enmity with joy' can either 'abolishor destroy' the calm blessedness of your spirits.

You will have much to suffer; you will have something to give up. Yourlife may look, to men whose tastes have been vulgarised by the glaringbrightnesses of this vulgar world, but grey and sombre, but it willhave in it the calm abiding blessedness which is more than joy, and isdiviner and more precious than the tumultuous transports of gratifiedsense or successful ambition. Christ is peace, and He gives His peaceto us; and then He gives a joy which does not break but enhances peace.We are all tempted to look for our gladness in creatures, each of whichsatisfies but a part of our desire. But no man can be truly blessed whohas to find many contributories to make up his blessedness. That whichmakes us rich must be, not a multitude of precious stones, howsoeverprecious they may be, but one Pearl of great price; the one Christ whois our only joy. And He says to us that He gives us Himself, if webehold Him and bow to Him, that His joy might remain in us, and thatour joy might be full, while all other gladnesses are partial andtransitory. Faith in Christ makes life blessed. The writer ofEcclesiastes asked the question which the world has been asking eversince: 'Who knoweth what is good for a man in this life, all the daysof this vain life which he passeth as a shadow?' You young people areasking, 'Who will show us any good?' Here is the answer—Faith inChrist and obedience to Him; that is the good part which no man takethfrom us. Dear young friend, have you made it yours?

III. Faith in Christ produces a life which bears being looked back upon.

In a later Epistle than that from which my second text is taken, we getone of the most lovely pictures that was ever drawn, albeit it isunconsciously drawn, of a calm old age, very near the gate of death;and looking back with a quiet heart over all the path of life. I am notgoing to preach to you, dear friends, in the flush of your early youth,a gospel which is only to be recommended because it is good to die by,but it will do even you, at the beginning, no harm to realise for amoment that the end will come, and that retrospect will take the placein your lives which hope and anticipation fill now. And I ask you whatyou expect to feel and say then?

What did Paul say? 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished mycourse, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me acrown of righteousness.' He was not self-righteous; but it is possibleto have lived a life which, as the world begins to fade, vindicatesitself as having been absolutely right in its main trend, and to feelthat the dawning light of Eternity confirms the choice that we made.And I pray you to ask yourselves, 'Is my life of that sort?' How muchof it would bear the scrutiny which will have to come, and which inPaul's case was so quiet and calm? He had had a stormy day, many athundercloud had darkened the sky, many a tempest had swept across theplain; but now, as the evening draws on, the whole West is filled witha calm amber light, and all across the plain, right away to the greyEast, he sees that he has been led by, and has been willing to walk in,the right way to the 'City of habitation.' Would that be yourexperience if the last moment came now?

There will be, for the best of us, much sense of failure andshortcoming when we look back on our lives. But whilst some of us willhave to say, 'I have played the fool and erred exceedingly,' it ispossible for each of us to lay himself down in peace and sleep,awaiting a glorious rising again and a crown of righteousness.

Dear young friends, it is for you to choose whether your past, when yousummon it up before you, will look like a wasted wilderness, or like agarden of the Lord. And though, as I have said, there will always bemuch sense of failure and shortcoming, yet that need not disturb thecalm retrospect; for whilst memory sees the sins, faith can grasp theSaviour, and quietly take leave of life, saying, 'I know in whom I havebelieved, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed toHim against that day.'

So I press upon you all this one truth, that faith in Jesus Christ willtransform, will ennoble, will make joyous your lives whilst you live,and will give you a quiet heart in the retrospect when you come to die.Begin right, dear young friends. You will never find it so easy to takeany decisive step, and most of all this chiefest step, as you doto-day. You will get lean and less flexible as you get older. You willget set in your ways. Habits will twine their tendrils round you, andhinder your free movement. The truth of the Gospel will becomecommonplace by familiarity. Associations and companions will have moreand more power over you; and you will be stiffened as an old tree-trunkis stiffened. You cannot count on to-morrow; be wise to-day. Begin thisyear aright. Why should you not now see the Christ and welcome Him? Ipray that every one of us may behold Him and fall before Him with thecry, 'Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do?'


'And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus,receive my spirit. 60. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loudvoice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And, when he had saidthis, he fell asleep.'—ACTS vii. 59, 60.

This is the only narrative in the New Testament of a Christianmartyrdom or death. As a rule, Scripture is supremely indifferent towhat becomes of the people with whom it is for a time concerned. Aslong as the man is the organ of the divine Spirit he is somewhat; assoon as that ceases to speak through him he drops into insignificance.So this same Acts of the Apostles—if I may so say—kills off James thebrother of John in a parenthesis; and his is the only other martyrdomthat it concerns itself even so much as to mention.

Why, then, this exceptional detail about the martyrdom of Stephen? Fortwo reasons: because it is the first of a series, and the Acts of theApostles always dilates upon the first of each set of things which itdescribes, and condenses about the others. But more especially, Ithink, because if we come to look at the story, it is not so much anaccount of Stephen's death as of Christ's power in Stephen's death. Andthe theme of this book is not the acts of the Apostles, but the acts ofthe risen Lord, in and for His Church.

There is no doubt but that this narrative is modelled upon the story ofour Lord's Crucifixion, and the two incidents, in their similaritiesand in their differences, throw a flood of light upon one another.

I shall therefore look at our subject now with constant reference tothat other greater death upon which it is based. It is to be observedthat the two sayings on the lips of the proto-martyr Stephen arerecorded for us in their original form on the lips of Christ, inLuke's Gospel, which makes a still further link of connection betweenthe two narratives.

So, then, my purpose now is merely to take this incident as it liesbefore us, to trace in it the analogies and the differences between thedeath of the Master and the death of the servant, and to draw from itsome thoughts as to what it is possible for a Christian's death tobecome, when Christ's presence is felt in it.

I. Consider, in general terms, this death as the last act of imitationto Christ.

The resemblance between our Lord's last moments and Stephen's has beenthought to have been the work of the narrator, and, consequently, tocast some suspicion upon the veracity of the narrative. I accept thecorrespondence, I believe it was intentional, but I shift the intentionfrom the writer to the actor, and I ask why it should not have beenthat the dying martyr should consciously, and of set purpose, have madehis death conformable to his Master's death? Why should not the dyingmartyr have sought to put himself (as the legend tells one of the otherApostles in outward form sought to do) in Christ's attitude, and to dieas He died?

Remember, that in all probability Stephen died on Calvary. It was theordinary place of execution, and, as many of you may know, recentinvestigations have led many to conclude that a little rounded knolloutside the city wall—not a 'green hill,' but still 'outside a citywall,' and which still bears a lingering tradition of connection withHim—was probably the site of that stupendous event. It was the placeof stoning, or of public execution, and there in all probability, onthe very ground where Christ's Cross was fixed, His first martyr saw'the heavens opened and Christ standing on the right hand of God.' Ifthese were the associations of the place, what more natural, and evenif they were not, what more natural, than that the martyr's deathshould be shaped after his Lord's?

Is it not one of the great blessings, in some sense the greatest of theblessings, which we owe to the Gospel, that in that awful solitudewhere no other example is of any use to us, His pattern may still gleambefore us? Is it not something to feel that as life reaches itshighest, most poignant and exquisite delight and beauty in the measurein which it is made an imitation of Jesus, so for each of us death maylose its most poignant and exquisite sting and sorrow, and becomesomething almost sweet, if it be shaped after the pattern and by thepower of His? We travel over a lonely waste at last. All clasped handsare unclasped; and we set out on the solitary, though it be 'thecommon, road into the great darkness.' But, blessed be His Name! 'theBreaker is gone up before us,' and across the waste there arefootprints that we

'Seeing, may take heart again.'

The very climax and apex of the Christian imitation of Christ may bethat we shall bear the image of His death, and be like Him then.

Is it not a strange thing that generations of martyrs have gone to thestake with their hearts calm and their spirits made constant by theremembrance of that Calvary where Jesus died with more of tremblingreluctance, shrinking, and apparent bewildered unmanning than many ofthe weakest of His followers? Is it not a strange thing that the deathwhich has thus been the source of composure, and strength, and heroismto thousands, and has lost none of its power of being so to-day, wasthe death of a Man who shrank from the bitter cup, and that cried inthat mysterious darkness, 'My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?'

Dear brethren, unless with one explanation of the reason for Hisshrinking and agony, Christ's death is less heroic than that of someother martyrs, who yet drew all their courage from Him.

How come there to be in Him, at one moment, calmness unmoved, andheroic self-oblivion, and at the next, agony, and all but despair? Iknow only one explanation, 'The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity ofus all.' And when He died, shrinking and trembling, and feelingbewildered and forsaken, it was your sins and mine that weighed Himdown. The servant whose death was conformed to his Master's had none ofthese experiences because he was only a martyr.

The Lord had them, because He was the Sacrifice for the whole world.

II. We have here, next, a Christian's death as being the voluntaryentrusting of the spirit to Christ.

'They stoned Stephen.' Now, our ordinary English idea of the manner ofthe Jewish punishment of stoning, is a very inadequate and mistakenone. It did not consist merely in a miscellaneous rabble throwingstones at the criminal, but there was a solemn and appointed method ofexecution which is preserved for us in detail in the Rabbinical books.And from it we gather that the modus operandi was this. Theblasphemer was taken to a certain precipitous rock, the height of whichwas prescribed as being equal to that of two men. The witnesses bywhose testimony he had been condemned had to cast him over, and if hesurvived the fall it was their task to roll upon him a great stone, ofwhich the weight is prescribed in the Talmud as being as much as twomen could lift. If he lived after that, then others took part in thepunishment.

Now, at some point in that ghastly tragedy, probably, we may suppose asthey were hurling him over the rock, the martyr lifts his voice in thisprayer of our text.

As they were stoning him he 'called upon'—not God, as our AuthorisedVersion has supplied the wanting word, but, as is obvious from thecontext and from the remembrance of the vision, and from the languageof the following supplication, 'called upon Jesus, saying, LordJesus! receive my spirit.'

I do not dwell at any length upon the fact that here we have a distinctinstance of prayer to Jesus Christ, a distinct recognition, in theearly days of His Church, of the highest conceptions of His person andnature, so as that a dying man turns to Him, and commits his soul intoHis hands. Passing this by, I ask you to think of the resemblance, andthe difference, between this intrusting of the spirit by Stephen to hisLord, and the committing of His spirit to the Father by His dying Son.Christ on the Cross speaks to God; Stephen, on Calvary, speaks, as Isuppose, to Jesus Christ. Christ, on the Cross, says, 'I commit.'Stephen says, 'Receive,' or rather, 'Take.' The one phrase carries init something of the notion that our Lord died not because He must, butbecause He would; that He was active in His death; that He chose tosummon death to do its work upon Him; that He 'yielded up His spirit,'as one of the Evangelists has it, pregnantly and significantly. ButStephen says, 'Take!' as knowing that it must be his Lord's power thatshould draw his spirit out of the coil of horror around him. So the onedying word has strangely compacted in it authority and submission; andthe other dying word is the word of a simple waiting servant. TheChrist says, 'I commit.' 'I have power to lay down My life, and I havepower to take it again.' Stephen says, 'Take my spirit,' as longing tobe away from the weariness and the sorrow and the pain and all the hellof hatred that was seething and boiling round about him, but yetknowing that he had to wait the Master's will.

So from the language I gather large truths, truths which unquestionablywere not present to the mind of the dying man, but are all the moreconspicuous because they were unconsciously expressed by him, as to theresemblance and the difference between the death of the martyr, done todeath by cruel hands, and the death of the atoning Sacrifice who gaveHimself up to die for our sins.

Here we have, in this dying cry, the recognition of Christ as the Lordof life and death. Here we have the voluntary and submissive surrenderof the spirit to Him. So, in a very real sense, the martyr's deathbecomes a sacrifice, and he too dies not merely because he must, but heaccepts the necessity, and finds blessedness in it. We need not bepassive in death; we need not, when it comes to our turn to die, clingdesperately to the last vanishing skirts of life. We may yield up ourbeing, and pour it out as a libation; as the Apostle has it, 'If I beoffered as a drink-offering upon the sacrifice of your faith, I joy andrejoice.' Oh! brethren, to die like Christ, to die yielding oneselfto Him!

And then in these words there is further contained the thought cominggleaming out like a flash of light into some murky landscape—ofpassing into perennial union with Him. 'Take my spirit,' says the dyingman; 'that is all I want. I see Thee standing at the right hand. Forwhat hast Thou started to Thy feet, from the eternal repose of Thysession at the right hand of God the Father Almighty? To help andsuccour me. And dost Thou succour me when Thou dost let these cruelhands cast me from the rock and bruise me with heavy stones? Yes, Thoudost. For the highest form of Thy help is to take my spirit, and to letme be with Thee.'

Christ delivers His servant from death when He leads the servant intoand through death. Brothers, can you look forward thus, and trustyourselves, living or dying, to that Master who is near us amidst thecoil of human troubles and sorrows, and sweetly draws our spirits, as amother her child to her bosom, into His own arms when He sends usdeath? Is that what it will be to you?

III. Then, still further, there are other words here which remind us ofthe final triumph of an all-forbearing charity.

Stephen had been cast from the rock, had been struck with the heavystone. Bruised and wounded by it, he strangely survives, strangelysomehow or other struggles to his knees even though desperatelywounded, and, gathering all his powers together at the impulse of anundying love, prays his last words and cries, 'Lord Jesus! Lay not thissin to their charge!'

It is an echo, as I have been saying, of other words, 'Father, forgivethem, for they know not what they do.' An echo, and yet an independenttone! The one cries 'Father!' the other invokes the 'Lord.' The onesays, 'They know not what they do'; the other never thinks of readingmen's motives, of apportioning their criminality, of discovering thesecrets of their hearts. It was fitting that the Christ, before whomall these blind instruments of a mighty design stood patent and nakedto their deepest depths, should say, 'They know not what they do.' Itwould have been unfitting that the servant, who knew no more of hisfellows' heart than could be guessed from their actions, should haveoffered such a plea in his prayer for their forgiveness.

In the very humiliation of the Cross, Christ speaks as knowing thehidden depths of men's souls, and therefore fitted to be their Judge,and now His servant's prayer is addressed to Him as actually being so.

Somehow or other, within a very few years of the time when our Lorddies, the Church has come to the distinctest recognition of HisDivinity to whom the martyr prays; to the distinctest recognition ofHim as the Lord of life and death whom the martyr asks to take hisspirit, and to the clearest perception of the fact that He is the Judgeof the whole earth by whose acquittal men shall be acquitted, and bywhose condemnation they shall be condemned.

Stephen knew that Christ was the Judge. He knew that in two minutes hewould be standing at Christ's judgment bar. His prayer was not, 'Laynot my sins to my charge,' but 'Lay not this sin to their charge.' Whydid he not ask forgiveness for himself? Why was he not thinking aboutthe judgment that he was going to meet so soon? He had done all thatlong ago. He had no fear about that judgment for himself, and so whenthe last hour struck, he was at leisure of heart and mind to pray forhis persecutors, and to think of his Judge without a tremor. Are you?If you were as near the edge as Stephen was, would it be wise for youto be interceding for other people's forgiveness? The answer to thatquestion is the answer to this other one,—have you sought your pardonalready, and got it at the hands of Jesus Christ?

IV. One word is all that I need say about the last point of analogy andcontrast here—the serene passage into rest: 'When he had said this hefell asleep.'

The New Testament scarcely ever speaks of a Christian's death as deathbut as sleep, and with other similar phrases. But that expression,familiar and all but universal as it is in the Epistles, in referenceto the death of believers, is never in a single instance employed inreference to the death of Jesus Christ. He did die that you and I maylive. His death was death indeed—He endured not merely the physicalfact, but that which is its sting, the consciousness of sin. And Hedied that the sting might be blunted, and all its poison exhausted uponHim. So the ugly thing is sleeked and smoothed; and the foul formchanges into the sweet semblance of a sleep-bringing angel. Death isgone. The physical fact remains, but all the misery of it, theessential bitterness and the poison of it is all sucked out of it, andit is turned into 'he fell asleep,' as a tired child on its mother'slap, as a weary man after long toil.

'Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.'

Death is but sleep now, because Christ has died, and that sleep isrestful, conscious, perfect life.

Look at these two pictures, the agony of the one, the calm triumph ofthe other, and see that the martyr's falling asleep was possiblebecause the Christ had died before. And do you commit the keeping ofyour souls to Him now, by true faith; and then, living you may have Himwith you, and, dying, a vision of His presence bending down to succourand to save, and when you are dead, a life of rest conjoined withintensest activity. To sleep in Jesus is to awake in His likeness, andto be satisfied.


'And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was agreat persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and theywere all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria,except the apostles. 2. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial,and made great lamentation over him. 3. As for Saul, he made havock ofthe church, entering into every house, and haling men and womencommitted them to prison. 4. Therefore they that were scattered abroadwent everywhere preaching the word. 5. Then Philip went down to thecity of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6. And the people withone accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing andseeing the miracles which he did. 7. For unclean spirits, crying withloud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and manytaken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8. And there wasgreat joy in that city, 9. But there was a certain man, called Simon,which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched thepeople of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10. Towhom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, Thisman is the great power of God. 11. And to him they had regard, becausethat of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12. But whenthey believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom ofGod, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men andwomen. 13. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized,he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles andsigns which were done. 14. Now when the apostles which were atJerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sentunto them Peter and John: 15. Who, when they were come down prayed forthem, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he wasfallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of theLord Jesus.) 17. Then laid they their hands on them, and they receivedthe Holy Ghost.'—ACTS viii. 1-17.

The note of time in verse 1 is probably to be rendered as in theRevised Version, 'on that day.' The appetite for blood roused byStephen's martyrdom at once sought for further victims. Thus far thepersecutors had been the rulers, and the persecuted the Church'sleaders; but now the populace are the hunters, and the whole Church theprey. The change marks an epoch. Luke does not care to make much of thepersecution, which is important to him chiefly for its bearing on thespread of the Church's message. It helped to diffuse the Gospel, andthat is why he tells of it. But before proceeding to narrate how it didso, he gives us a picture of things as they stood at the beginning ofthe assault.

Three points are noted: the flight of the Church except the Apostles,the funeral of Stephen, and Saul's eager search for the disciples. Weneed not press 'all,' as if it were to be taken with mathematicalaccuracy. Some others besides the Apostles may have remained, but thecommunity was broken up. They fled, as Christ had bid them do, ifpersecuted in one city. Brave faithfulness goes with prudentself-preservation, and a valuable 'part of valour is discretion.' Butthe disciples who fled were not necessarily less courageous than theApostles who remained, nor were the latter less prudent than thebrethren who fled. For noblesse oblige; high position demands highvirtues, and the officers should be the last to leave a wreck. TheApostles, no doubt, felt it right to hold together, and preserve acentre to which the others might return when the storm had blown itselfout.

In remarkable contrast with the scattering Church are the 'devout men'who reverently buried the martyr. They were not disciples, but probablyHellenistic Jews (Acts ii. 5); perhaps from the synagogue whose membershad disputed with Stephen and had dragged him to the council. His wordsor death may have touched them, as many a time the martyr's fire haslighted others to the martyr's faith. Stephen was like Jesus in hisburial by non-disciples, as he had been in his death.

The eager zeal of the young Pharisee brought new severity into thepersecution, in his hunting out his victims in their homes, and in hisincluding women among his prisoners. There is nothing so cruel asso-called religious zeal. So Luke lifts the curtain for a moment, andin that glimpse of the whirling tumult of the city we see the threeclasses, of the brave and prudent disciples, ready to flee or to standand suffer as duty called; the good men who shrunk from complicity witha bloodthirsty mob, and were stirred to sympathy with his victims; andthe zealot, who with headlong rage hated his brother for the love ofGod. But the curtain drops, and Luke turns to his true theme. He picksup the threads again in verse 4, telling of the dispersal of thedisciples, with the significant addition of their occupation whenscattered,—'preaching the word.'

The violent hand of the persecutor acted as the scattering hand of thesower. It flung the seeds broadcast, and wherever they fell theysprouted. These fugitives were not officials, nor were theycommissioned by the Apostles to preach. Without any special command orposition, they followed the instincts of believing hearts, and, as theycarried their faith with them, they spoke of it wherever they foundthemselves. A Christian will be impelled to speak of Christ if hispersonal hold of Him is vital. He should need no ecclesiasticalauthorisation for that. It is riot every believer's duty to get into apulpit, but it is his duty to 'preach Christ.' The scattering of thedisciples was meant by men to put out the fire, but, by Christ, tospread it. A volcanic explosion flings burning matter over a wide area.

Luke takes up one of the lines of expansion, in his narrative ofPhilip's doings in Samaria, which he puts first because Jesus hadindicated Samaria first among the regions beyond Judaea (i. 8).Philip's name comes second in the list of deacons (vi. 5), probably inanticipation of his work in Samaria. How unlike the forecast by theApostles was the actual course of things! They had destined the sevenfor purely 'secular' work, and regarded preaching the word as their ownspecial engagement. But Stephen saw and proclaimed more clearly thanthey did the passing away of Temple and ritual; and Philip, on his owninitiative, and apparently quite unconscious of the great strideforward that he was taking, was the first to carry the gospel torchinto the regions beyond. The Church made Philip a 'deacon,' but Christmade him an 'evangelist'; and an evangelist he continued, long after hehad ceased to be a deacon in Jerusalem (xxi. 8).

Observe, too, that, as soon as Stephen is taken away, Philip rises upto take his place. The noble army of witnesses never wants recruits.Its Captain sends men to the front in unbroken succession, and they arewilling to occupy posts of danger because He bids them. Probably Philipfled to Samaria for convenience' sake, but, being there, he probablyrecalled Christ's instructions in chapter i. 8, repealing Hisprohibition in Matthew x. 5. What a different world it would be, if itwas true of Christians now that they 'went down into the city ofSo-and-So and proclaimed Christ'! Many run to and fro, but some of themleave their Christianity at home, or lock it up safely in theirtravelling trunks.

Jerusalem had just expelled the disciples, and would fain have crushedthe Gospel; despised Samaria received it with joy. 'A foolish nation'was setting Israel an example (Deut. xxxii. 21; Rom. x. 19). TheSamaritan woman had a more spiritual conception of the Messiah than therun of Jews had, and her countrymen seem to have been ready to receivethe word. Is not the faith of our mission converts often a rebuke to us?

But the Gospel met new foes as well as new friends on the new soil.Simon the sorcerer, probably a Jew or a Samaritan, would have beenimpossible on Jewish ground, but was a characteristic product of thatage in the other parts of the Roman empire. Just as, to-day, people whoare weary of Christianity are playing with Buddhism, it was fashionablein that day of unrest to trifle with Eastern magic-mongers; and, ofcourse, demand created supply, and where there was a crowd of willingdupes, there soon came to be a crop of profit-seeking deceivers. Verycharacteristically, the dupes claimed more for the deceiver than he didfor himself. He probably could perform some simple chemical experimentsand conjuring tricks, and had a store of what sounded to ignorantpeople profound teaching about deep mysteries, and gave forthenigmatical utterances about his own greatness. An accomplishedcharlatan will leave much to be inferred from nods and hints, and hisadmirers will generally spin even more out of them than he meant. Sothe Samaritans bettered Simon's 'some great one' into 'that power ofGod which is called great,' and saw in him some kind of emanation ofdivinity.

The quack is great till the true teacher comes, and then he dwindles.Simon had a bitter pill to swallow when he saw this new man stealinghis audience, and doing things which he, with his sorceries, knew thathe only pretended to do. Luke points very clearly to the likeness anddifference between Simon and Philip by using the same word ('gaveheed') in regard to the Samaritan's attitude to both, while inreference to Philip it was 'the things spoken by' him, and in referenceto Simon it was himself to which they attended. The one preachedChrist, the other himself; the one 'amazed' with 'sorceries,' the otherbrought good tidings and hid himself, and his message called, not forstupid, open-mouthed astonishment, but for belief and obedience to thename of Jesus. The whole difference between the religion of Jesus andthe superstitions which the world calls religions, is involved in thesignificant contrast, so inartificially drawn.

'Simon also himself believed.' Probably there was in his action a gooddeal of swimming with the stream, in the hope of being able to divertit; but, also, he may have been all the more struck by Philip'smiracles, because he knew a real one, by reason of his experience ofsham ones. At any rate, neither Philip nor Luke drew a distinctionbetween his belief and that of the Samaritans; and, as in their cases,his baptism followed on his profession of belief. But he seems not tohave got beyond the point of wondering at the miracles, as it isemphatically said that he did even after his baptism. He believed thatJesus was the Messiah, but was more interested in studying Philip tofind out how he did the miracles than in listening to his teaching.Such an imperfect belief had no transforming power, and left him thesame man as before, as was soon miserably manifest.

The news of Philip's great step forward reached the Apostles by someunrecorded means. It is not stated that Philip reported his action, asif to superiors whose authorisation was necessary. More probably theinformation filtered through other channels. At all events, sending adeputation was natural, and needs not to be regarded as either a signof suspicion or an act necessary in order to supplement imperfectionsinherent in the fact that Philip was not an Apostle. The latter meaninghas been read—not to say forced—into the incident; but Luke'slanguage does not support it. It was not because they thought that theSamaritans were not admissible to the full privileges of Christianswithout Apostolic acts, but because they 'heard that Samaria hadreceived the word,' that the Apostles sent Peter and John.

The Samaritans had not yet received the Holy Ghost—that is, thespecial gifts, such as those of Pentecost. That fact proves thatbaptism is not necessarily and inseparably connected with the gift ofthe Spirit; and chapter x. 44, 47, proves that the Spirit may be givenbefore baptism. As little does this incident prove that the impositionof Apostolic hands was necessary in order to the impartation of theSpirit. Luke, at any rate, did not think so; for he tells how Ananias'hand laid on the blind Saul conveyed the gift to him. The laying on ofhands is a natural, eloquent symbol, but it was no prerogative of theApostles (Acts x. 17; 1 Tim. iv. 14).

The Apostles came down to Samaria to rejoice in the work which theirLord had commanded, and which had been begun without their help, towelcome the new brethren, to give them further instruction, and to knitclosely the bonds of unity between the new converts and the earlierones. But that they came to bestow spiritual gifts which, without them,could not have been imparted, is imported into, not deduced from, thesimple narrative of Luke.


'Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is notright in the sight of God.'—ACTS viii. 21.

The era of the birth of Christianity was one of fermenting opinion anddecaying faith. Then, as now, men's minds were seething and unsettled,and that unrest which is the precursor of great changes in intellectualand spiritual habitudes affected the civilised world. Such a period isever one of predisposition to superstition. The one true bond whichunites God and man being obscured, and to the consciousness of manysnapped, men's minds become the prey of visionary terrors. Demandcreates supply, and the magician and miracle-worker, the possessor ofmysterious ways into the Unknown, is never far off at such a time.Partly deceived and partly deceiving, he is as sure a sign of the lackof profound religious conviction and of the presence of unsatisfiedreligious aspirations in men's souls, as the stormy petrel or thefloating seaweed is of a tempest on the seas.

So we find the early preachers of Christianity coming into frequentcontact with pretenders to magical powers. Sadly enough, they weremostly Jews, who prostituted their clearer knowledge to personal ends,and having tacked on to it some theosophic rubbish which they hadlearned from Alexandria, or mysticism which had filtered to them fromthe East, or magic arts from Phrygia, went forth, the only missionariesthat Judaism sent out, to bewilder and torture men's minds. What a fallfrom Israel's destination, and what a lesson for the stewards of the'oracles of God'!

Of such a sort were Elymas, the sorcerer whom Paul found squatting atthe ear of the Roman Governor of Cyprus; the magicians at Ephesus; thevagabond Jews exorcists, who with profitable eclecticism, as theythought, tried to add the name of Jesus as one more spell to theirconjurations; and, finally, this Simon the sorcerer. Established inSamaria, he had been juggling and conjuring and seeing visions, andprofessing to be a great mysterious personality, and had more thanpermitted the half-heathen Samaritans, who seem to have had morereligious susceptibility and less religious knowledge than the Jews,and so were a prepared field for all such pretenders, to think of himas in some sense an incarnation of God, and perhaps to set him up as arival or caricature of Him who in the neighbouring Judaea was beingspoken of as the power of God, God manifest in the flesh.

To the city thus moved comes no Apostle, but a Christian man who beginsto preach, and by miracles and teaching draws many souls to Christ.

The story of Simon Magus in his attitude to the Gospel is a verystriking and instructive one. It presents for our purpose now mainlythree points to which I proceed to refer.

I. An instance of a wholly unreal, because inoperative, faith.

'He believed,' says the narrative, and believing was baptized. It isworth noting, in passing, how the profession of faith without anythingmore was considered by the Early Church sufficient. But obviously hiswas no true faith. The event showed that it was not.

What was it which made his faith thus unreal?

It rested wholly on the miracles and signs; he 'wondered' when he sawthem. Of course, miracles were meant to lead to faith; but if they didnot lead on to a deeper sense of one's own evil and need, and so to aspiritual apprehension, then they were of no use.

The very beginning of the story points to the one bond that unites toGod, as being the sense of need and the acceptance with heart and willof the testimony of Jesus Christ. Such a disposition is shown in theSamaritans, who make a contrast with Simon in that they believed Philippreaching, while Simon believed him working miracles. The trueplace of miracles is to attract attention, to prepare to listen to theword. They are only introductory. A faith may be founded on them, but,on the other hand, the impressions which they produce may beevanescent. How subordinate then, their place at the most! And the onething which avails is a living contact of heart and soul with JesusChrist.

Again, Simon's belief was purely an affair of the understanding. We arenot to suppose, I think, that he merely believed in Philip as amiracle-worker; he must have had some notion about Philip's Master, andwe know that it was belief in Jesus as the Christ that qualified in theApostolic age for baptism. So it is reasonable to suppose that he hadso much of head knowledge. But it was only head knowledge. There was init no penitence, no self-abandonment, no fruit in holy desires; or inother words, there was no heart. It was credence, but not trust.

Now it does not matter how much or how little you know about JesusChrist. It does not matter how you have come to that knowledge. It doesnot matter though you have received Christian ordinances as Simon had.If your faith is not a living power, leading to love andself-surrender, it is really nought. And here, on its earliest conflictwith heathen magic, the gospel proclaims by the mouth of the Apostlewhat is true as to all formalists and nominal Christians: 'Thou hastneither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right.' Onething only unites to God—a faith which cleanses the heart, a faithwhich lays hold on Christ with will and conscience, a faith which,resting on penitent acknowledgment of sin, trusts wholly to His greatmercy.

II. An instance of the constant tendency to corrupt Christianity withheathen superstition.

The Apostles' bestowal of the Holy Ghost, which was evidentlyaccompanied by visible signs, had excited Simon's desire for so usefulan aid to his conjuring, and he offers to buy the power, judging ofthem by himself, and betraying that what he was ready to buy he wasalso intending to sell.

The offer to buy has been taken as his great sin. Surely it was but theoutcome of a greater. It was not only what he offered, but what hedesired, that was wrong. He wanted that on 'whomsoever I lay hands, hemay receive the Holy Ghost.' That preposterous wish was quite as badas, and was the root of, his absurd offer to bribe Peter. Bribe Peter,indeed! Some of Peter's successors would have been amenable to suchconsiderations, but not the horny-handed fisherman who had once said,'Silver and gold have I none.'

Peter's answer, especially the words of my text, puts the Christianprinciple in sharp antagonism to the heathen one.

Simon regards what is sacred and spiritual purely as part of hisstock-in-trade, contributing to his prestige. He offers to buy it. Andthe foundation of all his errors is that he regards spiritual gifts ascapable of being received and exercised apart altogether from moralqualifications. He does not think at all of what is involved in thevery name, 'the Holy Ghost.'

Now, on the other hand, Peter's answer lays down broadly and sharplythe opposite truth, the Christian principle that a heart right in thesight of God is the indispensable qualification for all possession ofspiritual power, or of any of the blessings which Jesus gives.

How the heart is made right, and what constitutes righteousness isanother matter. That leads to the doctrine of repentance and faith.

The one thing that makes such participation impossible is being andcontinuing in 'the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity.' Or,to put it into more modern words, all the blessings of the Gospel are agift of God, and are bestowed only on moral conditions. Faith whichleads to love and personal submission to the will of God makes a man aChristian. Therefore, outward ordinances are only of use as they help aman to that personal act.

Therefore, no other man or body of men can do it for us, or comebetween us and God.

And in confirmation, notice how Peter here speaks of forgiveness. Hiswords do not sound as if he thought that he held the power ofabsolution, but he tells Simon to go to God who alone can forgive, andrefers Simon's fate to God's mercy.

These tendencies, which Simon expresses so baldly, are in us all, andare continually reappearing. How far much of what calls itselfChristianity has drifted from Peter's principle laid down here, thatmoral and spiritual qualifications are the only ones which avail forsecuring 'part or lot in the matter' of Christ's gifts received for,and bestowed on, men! How much which really rests on the oppositeprinciple, that these gifts can be imparted by men who are supposed topossess them, apart altogether from the state of heart of the would-berecipient, we see around us to-day! Simony is said to be the securingecclesiastical promotion by purchase. But it is much rather the beliefthat 'the gift of God can be purchased with' anything but personalfaith in Jesus, the Giver and the Gift. The effects of it are patentamong us. Ceremonies usurp the place of faith. A priesthood is exalted.The universal Christian prerogative of individual access to God isobscured. Christianity is turned into a kind of magic.

III. An instance of the worthlessness of partial convictions.

Simon was but slightly moved by Peter's stern rebuke. He paid no heedto the exhortation to pray for forgiveness and to repent of hiswickedness, but still remained in substantially his old error, in thathe accredited Peter with power, and asked him to pray for him, as ifthe Apostle's prayer would have some special access to God which his,though he were penitent, could not have. Further, he showed no sense ofsin. All that he wished was that 'none of the things which ye havespoken come upon me.'

How useless are convictions which go no deeper down than Simon's did!

What became of him we do not know. But there are old ecclesiasticaltraditions about him which represent him as a bitter enemy in future ofthe Apostle. And Josephus has a story of a Simon who played a degradingpart between Felix and Drusilla, and who is thought by some to havebeen he. But in any case, we have no reason to believe that he everfollowed Peter's counsel or prayed to God for forgiveness. So he standsfor us as one more tragic example of a man, once 'not far from thekingdom of God' and drifting ever further away from it, because, at thefateful moment, he would not enter in. It is hard to bring such a manas near again as he once was. Let us learn that the one key which opensthe treasury of God's blessings, stored for us all in Jesus, is our ownpersonal faith, and let us beware of shutting our ears and our heartsagainst the merciful rebukes that convict us of 'this our wickedness,'and point us to the 'Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of theworld,' and therefore our sin.


'And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and gotoward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza,which is desert. 27. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man ofEthiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of theEthiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come toJerusalem for to worship, 28. Was returning, and sitting in hischariot, read Esaias the prophet. 29. Then the Spirit said unto Philip,Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 80. And Philip ran thitherto him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandestthou what thou readest? 31. And he said, How can I, except some manshould guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sitwith him. 32. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He wasled as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before hisshearer, so opened He not His mouth: 33. In His humiliation Hisjudgment was taken away; and who shall declare His generation? for Hislife is taken from the earth. 34. And the eunuch answered Philip, andsaid, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or ofsome other man? 35. Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the samescripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36. And as they went on theirway, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here iswater; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37. And Philip said, If thoubelievest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said,I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38. And he commanded thechariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, bothPhilip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39. And when they were comeup out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, thatthe eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40. ButPhilip was found at Azotus: and passing through, he preached in all thecities, till he came to Caesarea.'—ACTS viii. 26-40.

Philip had no special divine command either to flee to, or to preachin, Samaria, but 'an angel of the Lord' and afterwards 'the Spirit,'directed him to the Ethiopian statesman. God rewards faithful work withmore work. Samaria was a borderland between Jew and Gentile, but inpreaching to the eunuch Philip was on entirely Gentile ground. So greata step in advance needed clear command from God to impel to it and tojustify it.

I. We have, then, first, the new commission. Philip might well wonderwhy he should be taken away from successful work in a populous city,and despatched to the lonely road to Gaza. But he obeyed at once. Heknew not for what he was sent there, but that ignorance did not troubleor retard him. It should be enough for us to see the next step. 'Wewalk by faith, not by sight,' for we none of us know what comes of ouractions, and we get light as we go. Do to-day's plain duty, and whento-morrow is to-day its duty will be plain too. The river on which wesail winds, and not till we round the nearest bend do we see the coursebeyond. So we are kept in the peaceful posture of dependent obedience,and need to hold our communications with God open, that we may be sureof His guidance.

No doubt, as Philip trudged along till he reached the Gaza road, hewould have many a thought as to what he was to find there, and, when hecame at last to the solitary track, would look eagerly over theuninhabited land for an explanation of his strange and vagueinstructions. But an obedient heart is not long left perplexed, and hewho looks for duty to disclose itself will see it in due time.

II. So we have next the explanation of the errand. Luke's 'Behold!'suggests the sudden sight of the great man's cortege in the distance.No doubt, he travelled with a train of attendants, as became hisdignity, and would be conspicuous from afar. Philip, of course, did notknow who he was when he caught sight of him, but Luke tells his rank atonce, in order to lay stress on it, as well as to bring out thesignificance of his occupation and subsequent conversion. Here was afull-blooded Gentile, an eunuch, a courtier, who had been drawn toIsrael's God, and was studying Israel's prophets as he rode. Perhaps hehad chosen that road to Egypt for its quietness. At any rate, hisoccupation revealed the bent of his mind.

Philip felt that the mystery of his errand was solved now, and herecognised the impulse to break through conventional barriers andaddress the evidently dignified stranger, as the voice of God's Spirit,and not his own. How he was sure of that we do not know, but thedistinction drawn between the former communication by an angel and thisfrom the Spirit points to a clear difference in his experiences, and tocareful discrimination in the narrator. The variation is not made atrandom. Philip did not mistake a buzzing in his ears from the heatingof his own heart for a divine voice. We have here no hallucinations ofan enthusiast, but plain fact.

How manifestly the meeting of these two, starting so far apart, and soignorant of each other and of the purpose of their being throwntogether, reveals the unseen hand that moved each on his own line, andbrought about the intersection of the two at that exact spot and hour!How came it that at that moment the Ethiopian was reading, of allplaces in his roll, the very words which make the kernel of the gospelof the evangelical prophet? Surely such 'coincidences' are a hard nutto crack for deniers of a Providence that shapes our ends!

It is further to be noticed that the eunuch's conversion does notappear to have been of importance for the expansion of the Church. Itexercised no recorded influence, and was apparently not communicated tothe Apostles, as, if it had been, it could scarcely have failed to havebeen referred to when the analogous case of Cornelius was underdiscussion. So, divine intervention and human journeying and work werebrought into play simply for the sake of one soul which God's eye sawto be ripe for the Gospel. He cares for the individual, and one sheepthat can be reclaimed is precious enough in the Shepherd's estimate tomove His hand to action and His heart to love. Not because he was a manof great authority at Candace's court, but because he was yearning forlight, and ready to follow it when it shone, did the eunuch meet Philipon that quiet road.

III. The two men being thus strangely brought together, we have nextthe conversation for the sake of which they were brought together. Theeunuch was reading aloud, as people not very much used to books, or whohave some difficult passage in hand, often do. Philip must have beenstruck with astonishment when he caught the, to him, familiar words,and must have seen at once the open door for his preaching. His abruptquestion wastes no time with apologies or polite, gradual approaches tohis object. Probably the very absence of the signs of deference towhich he was accustomed impressed the eunuch with a dim sense of thestranger's authority, which would be deepened by the home-thrust of hisquestion.

The wistful answer not only shows no resentment at the brusquestranger's thrusting himself in, but acknowledges bewilderment, andresponds to the undertone of proffered guidance in the question. Ateacher has often to teach a pupil his ignorance, to begin with; but itshould be so done as to create desire for instruction, and to kindleconfidence in him as instructor. It is insolent to ask, 'Understandestthou?' unless the questioner is ready and able to help to understand.

The invitation to a seat in the great man's chariot showed howeagerness to learn had obliterated distinctions of rank, and swiftlyknit a new bond between these two, who had never heard of each otherfive minutes before. A true heart will hail as its best and closestfriend him who leads it to know God's mind more clearly. How earthlydignities dwindle when God's messenger lays hold of a soul!

So the chariot rolls on, and through the silence of the desert thevoices of these two reach the wondering attendants, as they plod along.The Ethiopian was reading the Septuagint translation of Isaiah, which,though it missed part of the force of the original, brought clearlybefore him the great figure of a Sufferer, meek and dumb, swept fromthe earth by unjust judgment. He understood so much, but what he didnot understand was who this great, tragic Figure represented. Hisquestion goes to the root of the matter, and is a burning questionto-day, as it was all these centuries ago on the road to Gaza. Philiphad no doubt of the answer. Jesus was the 'lamb dumb before itsshearers.' This is not the place to enter on such wide questions, butwe may at least affirm that, whatever advance modern schools have madein the criticism and interpretation of the Old Testament, the veryspirit of the whole earlier Revelation is missed if Jesus is notdiscerned as the Person to whom prophet and ritual pointed, in whom lawwas fulfilled and history reached its goal.

No doubt much instruction followed. How long they had rode togetherbefore they came to 'a certain water' we know not, but it cannot havebeen more than a few hours. Time is elastic, and when the soil isprepared, and rain and sunlight are poured down, the seed springs upquickly. People who deny the possibility of 'sudden conversions' areblind to facts, because they wear the blinkers of a theory. Not alwayshave they who 'anon with joy receive' the word 'no root in themselves.'

As is well known, the answer to the eunuch's question (v. 37) iswanting in authoritative manuscripts. The insertion may have been dueto the creeping into the text of a marginal note. A recent and mostoriginal commentator on the Acts (Blass) considers that this, likeother remarkable readings found in one set of manuscripts, was writtenby Luke in a draft of the book, which he afterwards revised andsomewhat abbreviated into the form which most of the manuscriptspresent. However that may be, the required conditions in the doubtfulverse are those which the practice of the rest of the Acts shows tohave been required. Faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God was thequalification for the baptisms there recorded.

And there was no other qualification. Philip asked nothing about theeunuch's proselytism, or whether he had been circumcised or not. He didnot, like Peter with Cornelius, need the evidence of the gift of theSpirit before he baptized; but, notwithstanding his experience of anunworthy candidate in Simon the sorcerer, he unhesitatinglyadministered baptism. There was no Church present to witness the rite.We do not read that the Holy Ghost fell on the eunuch.

That baptism in the quiet wady by the side of the solitary road, whilethe swarthy attendants stood in wonder, was a mighty step in advance;and it was taken, not by an Apostle, nor with ecclesiastical sanction,but at the bidding of Christian instinct, which recognised a brother inany man who had faith in Jesus, the Son of God. The new faith isbursting old bonds. The universality of the Gospel is overflowing thebanks of Jewish narrowness. Probably Philip was quite unconscious ofthe revolutionary nature of his act, but it was done, and in it was theseed of many more.

The eunuch had said that he could not understand unless some man guidedhim. But when Philip is caught away, he does not bewail the loss of hisguide. He went on his road with joy, though his new faith might havecraved longer support from the crutch of a teacher, and fullerenlightenment. What made him able to do without the guide that a fewhours before had been so indispensable? The presence in his heart of abetter one, even of Him whom Jesus promised, to guide His servants intoall truth. If those who believe that Scripture without an authorisedinterpreter is insufficient to lead men aright, would consider the endof this story, they might find that a man's dependence on outwardteachers ceases when he has God's Spirit to teach him, and that forsuch a man the Word of God in his hand and the Spirit of God in hisspirit will give him light enough to walk by, so that, in the absenceof all outward instructors, he may still be filled with true wisdom,and in absolute solitude may go 'on his way rejoicing.'


'But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in allthe cities, till he came to Caesarea.'—ACTS viii. 40.

The little that is known about Philip, the deacon and evangelist, mayvery soon be told. His name suggests, though by no means conclusively,that he was probably one of the so-called Hellenists, or foreign-bornand Greek-speaking Jews. This is made the more probable because he wasone of the seven selected by the Church, and after that selectionappointed by the Apostles, to dispense relief to the poor. The purposeof the appointment being to conciliate the grumblers in the Hellenistsection of the Church, the persons chosen would probably belong to it.He left Jerusalem during the persecution 'that arose after the death ofStephen.' As we know, he was the first preacher of the Gospel inSamaria; he was next the instrument honoured to carry the Word to thefirst heathen ever gathered into the Church; and then, after a journeyalong the sea-coast to Caesarea, the then seat of government, heremained in that place in obscure toil for twenty years, dropped out ofthe story, and we hear no more of him but for one glimpse of his homein Caesarea.

That is all that is told about him. And I think that if we note thecontrast of the office to which men called him, and the work to whichGod set him; and the other still more striking contrast between thebrilliancy of the beginning of his course, and the obscurity of hislong years of work, we may get some lessons worth the learning. I take,then, not only the words which I read for my text, but the whole of theincidents connected with Philip, as our starting-point now; and I drawfrom them two or three very well-worn, but none the less needful,pieces of instruction.

I. First, then, we may gather a thought as to Christ's sovereignty inchoosing His instruments.

Did you ever notice that events exactly contradicted the intentions ofthe Church and of the Apostles, in the selection of Philip and his sixbrethren? The Apostles said, 'It is not reason that we should leave theWord of God and serve tables. Pick out seven relieving-officers; menwho shall do the secular work of the Church, and look after the poor;and we will give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.'So said man. And what did facts say? That as to these twelve, who wereto 'give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word,' we neverhear that by far the larger proportion of them were honoured to doanything worth mentioning for the spread of the Gospel. Their functionwas to be 'witnesses,' and that was all. But, on the other hand, of themen that were supposed to be fitted for secular work, two at all eventshad more to do in the expansion of the Church, and in the developmentof the universal aspects of Christ's Gospel, than the whole of theoriginal group of Apostles. So Christ picks His instruments. TheApostles may say, 'These shall do so-and-so; and we will do so-and-so.'Christ says, 'Stephen shall proclaim a wider Gospel than the Apostlesat first had caught sight of, and Philip shall be the first who will gobeyond the charmed circle of Judaism, and preach the Gospel.'

It is always so. Christ chooses His instruments where He will; and itis not the Apostle's business, nor the business of an ecclesiastic ofany sort, to settle his own work or anybody else's. TheCommander-in-Chief keeps the choosing of the men for special service inHis own hand. The Apostolic College said, 'Let them look after thepoor, and leave us to look after the ministry of the Word'; Christsays, 'Go and join thyself to that chariot, and speak there the speechthat I shall bid thee.'

Brethren, do you listen for that voice calling you to your tasks, andnever mind what men may be saying. Wait till He bids, and you willhear Him speaking to you if you will keep yourselves quiet. Wait tillHe bids you, and then be sure that you do it. Christ chooses Hisinstruments, and chooses them often in strange places.

II. The next lesson that I would take from this story is thespontaneous speech of a believing heart.

There came a persecution that scattered the Church. Men tried to flingdown the lamp; and all that they did was to spill the oil, and it ranflaming wherever it flowed. For the scattered brethren, without anyApostle with them, with no instruction given to them to do so, whereverthey went carried their faith with them; and, as a matter of course,wherever they went they spoke their faith. And so we read that, not byappointment, nor of set purpose, nor in consequence of anyecclesiastical or official sanction, nor in consequence of anysupernatural and distinct commandment from heaven, but just because itwas the natural thing to do, and they could not help it, they wenteverywhere, these scattered men of Cyprus and Cyrene, preaching theword.

And when this Philip, whom the officials had relegated to the secularwork of distributing charity, found himself in Samaria, he did thelike. The Samaritans were outcasts, and Peter and John had wanted tobring down fire from heaven to consume them. But Philip could not helpspeaking out the truth that was in his heart.

So it always will be: we can all talk about what we are interested in.The full heart cannot be condemned to silence. If there is no necessityfor speech felt by a professing Christian, that professing Christian'sfaith is a very superficial thing. 'We cannot but speak the things thatwe have seen and heard,' said one of the Apostles, thereby laying downthe great charter of freedom of speech for all profound convictions.'Thy word was as a fire in my bones when I said, I will speak no morein Thy name,' so petulant and self-willed was I, 'and I was weary withforbearing,' and ashamed of my rash vow; 'and I could not stay.'

Dear friends, do you carry with you the impulse for utterance ofChrist's name wherever you go? And is it so sweet in your hearts thatyou cannot but let its sweetness have expression by your lips? Surely,surely this spontaneous instinctive utterance of Philip, by which aloving heart sought to relieve itself, puts to shame the 'dumb dogs'that make up such an enormous proportion of professing Christians. Andsurely such an experience as his may well throw a very sinister lighton the reality—nay! I will not say the reality, that would be toouncharitable—but upon the depth and vitality of the profession ofChristianity which these silent ones make.

III. Another lesson that seems to me strikingly illustrated by thestory with which we are concerned, is the guidance of a divine hand incommon life, and when there are no visible nor supernatural signs.

Philip goes down to Samaria because he must, and speaks because hecannot help it. He is next bidden to take a long journey, from thecentre of the land, away down to the southern desert; and at a certainpoint there the Spirit says to him, 'Go! join thyself to this chariot.'And when his work with the Ethiopian statesman is done, then he isswept away by the power of the Spirit of God, as Ezekiel had been longbefore by the banks of the river Chebar, and is set down, no doubt allbewildered and breathless, at Azotus—the ancient Ashdod—thePhilistine city on the low-lying coast. Was Philip less under Christ'sguidance when miracle ceased and he was left to ordinary powers? Did hefeel as if deserted by Christ, because, instead of being swept by thestrong wind of heaven, he had to tramp wearily along the flat shorewith the flashing Mediterranean on his left hand reflecting the hotsunshine? Did it seem to him as if his task in preaching the Gospel inthese villages through which he passed on his way to Caesarea was lessdistinctly obedience to the divine command than when he heard theutterance of the Spirit, 'Go down to the road which leads to Gaza,which is desert'? By no means. To this man, as to every faithful soul,the guidance that came through his own judgment and common sense,through the instincts and impulses of his sanctified nature, by thecirc*mstances which he devoutly believed to be God's providence, was astruly direct divine guidance as if all the angels of heaven had blowncommandment with their trumpets into his waiting and stunned ears.

And so you and I have to go upon our paths without angel voices, orchariots of storm, and to be contented with divine commandments lessaudible or perceptible to our senses than this man had at one point inhis career. But if we are wise we shall hear Him speaking the word. Weshall not be left without His voice if we wait for it, stilling our owninclinations until His solemn commandment is made plain to us, and thenstirring up our inclinations that they may sway us to swift obedience.There is no gulf, for the devout heart, between what is calledmiraculous and what is called ordinary and common. Equally in both doesGod manifest His will to His servants, and equally in both is Hispresence perceived by faith. We do not need to envy Philip's brilliantbeginning. Let us see that we imitate his quiet close of life.

IV. The last lesson that I would draw is this—the nobility ofpersistence in unnoticed work.

What a contrast to the triumphs in Samaria, and the other greatexpansion of the field for the Gospel effected by the God-commandedpreaching to the eunuch, is presented by the succeeding twenty years ofaltogether unrecorded but faithful toil! Persistence in such unnoticedwork is made all the more difficult, and to any but a very true manwould have been all but impossible, by reason of the contrast whichsuch work offered to the glories of the earlier days. Some of us mayhave been tried in a similar fashion, all of us have more or less thesame kind of difficulty to face. Some of us perhaps may have hadgleams, at the beginning of our career, that seemed to give hope offields of activity more brilliant and of work far better than we haveever had or done again in the long weary toil of daily life. There mayhave been abortive promises, at the commencement of your careers, thatseemed to say that you would occupy a more conspicuous position thanlife has had really in reserve for you. At any rate, we have all hadour dreams, for

'If Nature put not forth her power
About the opening of the flower,
Who is there that could live an hour?'

and no life is all that the liver of it meant it to be when he began.We dream of building palaces or temples, and we have to contentourselves if we can put up some little shed in which we may shelter.

Philip, who began so conspicuously, and so suddenly ceased to be thespecial instrument in the hands of the Spirit, kept plod, plod,plodding on, with no bitterness of heart. For twenty years he had noshare in the development of Gentile Christianity, of which he had sowedthe first seed, but had to do much less conspicuous work. He toiledaway there in Caesarea patient, persevering, and contented, because heloved the work, and he loved the work because he loved Him that had setit. He seemed to be passed over by his Lord in His choice ofinstruments. It was he who was selected to be the first man that shouldpreach to the heathen. But did you ever notice that although he wasprobably in Caesarea at the time, Cornelius was not bid to apply toPhilip, who was at his elbow, but to send to Joppa for the ApostlePeter? Philip might have sulked and said: 'Why was I not chosen to dothis work? I will speak no more in this Name.'

It did not fall to his lot to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. One whocame after him was preferred before him, and the Hellenist Saul was setto the task which might have seemed naturally to belong to theHellenist Philip. He too might have said, 'He must increase, but I mustdecrease.' No doubt he did say it in spirit, with noble self-abnegationand freedom from jealousy. He cordially welcomed Paul to his house inCaesarea twenty years afterwards, and rejoiced that one sows andanother reaps; and that so the division of labour is the multiplicationof gladness.

A beautiful superiority to all the low thoughts that are apt to mar ourpersistency in unobtrusive and unrecognised work is set before us inthis story. There are many temptations to-day, dear brethren, what withgossiping newspapers and other means of publicity for everything thatis done, for men to say, 'Well, if I cannot get any notice for my workI shall not do it.'

Boys in the street will refuse to join in games, saying, 'I shall notplay unless I am captain or have the big drum.' And there are notwanting Christian men who lay down like conditions. 'Play well thypart' wherever it is. Never mind the honour. Do the duty God appoints,and He that has the two mites of the widow in His treasury will neverforget any of our works, and at the right time will tell them outbefore His Father, and before the holy angels.


'And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against thedisciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2. And desired of himletters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of thisway, whether they were men or women, he might bring them hound untoJerusalem. 3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenlythere shined round about him a light from heaven: 4. And he fell to theearth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutestthou Me? 5. And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I amJesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against thepricks. 6. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thouhave me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city,and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7. And the men whichjourneyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing noman. 8. And Saul arose from the earth: and when his eyes were opened,he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him intoDamascus. 9. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eatnor drink. 10. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, namedAnanias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said,Behold. I am here, Lord. 11. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and gointo the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house ofJudas for one called Saul, of Tarsus; for, behold, he prayeth, 12. Andhath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting hishand on him, that he might receive his sight…. 17. And Ananias wenthis way, and entered Into the house; and putting his hands on him said,Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the wayas thou earnest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight,and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18. And immediately there fell fromhis eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, andarose, and was baptized. 19. And when he had received meat, he wasstrengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which wereat Damascus. 20. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues,that He is the Son of God.'—ACTS ix. 1-12; 17-20.

This chapter begins with 'but,' which contrasts Saul's persistenthatred, which led him to Gentile lands to persecute, with Philip'sexpansive evangelistic work. Both men were in profound earnest, bothwent abroad to carry on their work, but the one sought to plant whatthe other was eager to destroy. If the 'but' in verse 1 contrasts, the'yet' connects the verse with chapter viii. 3. Saul's fury was nopassing outburst, but enduring. Like other indulged passions, it grewwith exercise, and had come to be as his very life-breath, and nowplanned, not only imprisonment, but death, for the heretics.

Not content with carrying his hateful inquisition into the homes of theChristians in Jerusalem, he will follow the fugitives to Damascus. Theextension of the persectution was his own thought. He was not the toolof the Sanhedrin, but their mover. They would probably have beencontent to cleanse Jerusalem, but the young zealot would not rest tillhe had followed the dispersed poison into every corner where it mighthave trickled. The high priest would not discourage such useful zeal,however he might smile at its excess.

So Saul got the letters he asked, and some attendants, apparently, tohelp him in his hunt, and set off for Damascus. Painters have imaginedhim as riding thither, but more probably he and his people went onfoot. It was a journey of some five or six days. The noon of the lastday had come, and the groves of Damascus were, perhaps, in sight. Nodoubt, the young Pharisee's head was busy settling what he was to beginwith when he entered the city, and was exulting in the thought of howhe would harry the meek Christians, when the sudden light shone.

At all events, the narrative does not warrant the view, often takennow, that there had been any preparatory process in Saul's mind, whichhad begun to sap his confidence that Jesus was a blasphemer, andhimself a warrior for God. That view is largely adopted in order to getrid of the supernatural, and to bolster up the assumption that thereare no sudden conversions; but the narrative of Luke, and Paul's ownreferences, are dead against it. At one moment he is 'yet breathingthreatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,' and inalmost the next he is prone on his face, asking, 'Lord, what wilt Thouhave me to do?' It was not a case of a landslide suddenly sweepingdown, but long prepared for by the gradual percolation of water to theslippery understrata, but the solid earth was shaken, and the mountaincrashed down in sudden ruin.

The causes of Saul's conversion are plain in the narrative, even thoughthe shortened form is adopted, which is found in the Revised Version.The received text has probably been filled out by additions from Paul'sown account in chapter xxvi. First came the blaze of light outshiningthe midday sun, even in that land where its beams are like swords. Thatblinding light 'shone round about him,' enveloping him in its glory.Chapter xxvi. (verse 13) tells that his companions also were wrapped inthe lustre, and that all fell to the earth, no doubt in terror.

Saul is not said, either in this or in his own accounts, to have seenJesus, but I Corinthians xv. 8 establishes that he did so, and Ananias(v. 17) refers to Jesus as having 'appeared.' That appearance, whatevermay have been the psychological account of it, was by Paul regarded asbeing equal in evidential value to the flesh-and-blood vision of therisen Lord which the other Apostles witnessed to, and as placing him inthe same line as a witness.

It is to be noted also, that, while the attendants saw the light, theywere not blinded, as Saul was; from which it may be inferred that hesaw with his bodily eyes the glorified manhood of Jesus, as we are toldthat one day, when He returns as Judge, 'every eye shall see Him.' Bethat as it may,—and we have not material for constructing a theory ofthe manner of Christ's appearance to Saul,—the overwhelming convictionwas flooded into his soul, that the Jesus whom he had thought of as ablasphemer, falsely alleged to have risen from the dead, lived inheavenly glory, amid celestial brightness too dazzling for human eyes.

The words of gentle remonstrance issuing from the flashing glory wentstill further to shake the foundations of the young Pharisee's life;for they, as with one lightning gleam, laid hare the whole madness andsin of the crusade which he had thought acceptable to God. 'Whypersecutest thou Me?' Then the odious heretics were knit by somemysterious bond to this glorious One, so that He bled in their woundsand felt their pains! Then Saul had been, as his old teacher dreadedthey of the Sanhedrin might be, fighting against God! How the reasonsfor Saul's persecution had crumbled away, till there were none leftwith which to answer Jesus' question! Jesus lived, and was exalted toglory. He was identified with His servants. He had appeared to Saul,and deigned to plead with him.

No wonder that the man who had been planning fresh assaults on thedisciples ten minutes before, was crushed and abject as he lay there onthe road, and these tremendous new convictions rushed like a cataractover and into his soul! No wonder that the lessons burned in on him inthat hour of destiny became the centre-point of all his futureteaching! That vision revolutionised his thinking and his life. Nonecan affirm that it was incompetent to do so.

Luke's account here, like Paul's in chapter xxii., represents furtherinstructions from Jesus as postponed till Saul's meeting with Ananias,while Paul's other account in chapter xxvi. omits mention of thelatter, and gives the substance of what he said in Damascus as said onthe road by Jesus. The one account is more detailed than the other,that is all. The gradual unfolding of the heavenly purpose which ournarrative gives is in accord with the divine manner. For the momentenough had been done to convert the persecutor into the servant, tolevel with the ground his self-righteousness, to reveal to him theglorified Jesus, to bend his will and make it submissive. The restwould be told him in due time.

The attendants had fallen to the ground like him, but seem to havestruggled to their feet again, while he lay prostrate. They saw thebrightness, but not the Person: they heard the voice, but not thewords. Saul staggered by their help to his feet, and then found thatwith open eyes he was blind. Imagination or hallucination does not playtricks of that sort with the organs of sense.

The supernatural is too closely intertwined with the story to be takenout of it without reducing it to tatters. The greatest of Christianteachers, who has probably exercised more influence than any man whoever lived, was made a Christian by a miracle. That fact is not to begot rid of. But we must remember that once when He speaks of it Hepoints to God's revelation of His Son 'in Him' as its essentialcharacter. The external appearance was the vehicle of the inwardrevelation. It is to be remembered, too, that the miracle did not takeaway Saul's power of accepting or rejecting the Christ; for he tellsAgrippa that he was 'not disobedient to the heavenly vision.'

What a different entry he made into Damascus from what he expected, andwhat a different man it was that crawled up to the door of Judas, inthe street that is called Straight, from the self-confident youngfanatic who had left Jerusalem with the high priest's letters in hisbosom and fierce hate in his heart!

Ananias was probably not one of the fugitives, as his language aboutSaul implies that he knew of his doings only by hearsay. The report ofSaul's coming and authority to arrest disciples had reached Damascusbefore him, with the wonderful quickness with which news travels in theEast, nobody knows how. Ananias's fears being quieted, he went to thehouse where for three days Saul had been lying lonely in the dark,fasting, and revolving many things in his heart. No doubt his Lord hadspoken many a word to him, though not by vision, but by whispering tohis spirit. Silence and solitude root truth in a soul. After such ashock, absolute seclusion was best.

Ananias discharged his commission with lovely tenderness and power. Howsweet and strange to speaker and hearer would that 'Brother Saul'sound! How strong and grateful a confirmation of his vision wouldAnanias's reference to the appearance of the Lord bring! How humblywould the proud Pharisee bow to receive, laid on his head, the handsthat he had thought to bind with chains! What new eyes would look outon a world in which all things had become new, when there fell fromthem as it had been scales, and as quickly as had come the blinding, soquickly came the restored vision!

Ananias was neither Apostle nor official, yet the laying on of hishands communicated 'the Holy Ghost.' Saul received that gift beforebaptism, not after or through the ordinance. It was important for hisfuture relations to the Apostles that he should not have beenintroduced to the Church by them, or owed to them his first humanChristian teaching. Therefore he could say that he was 'an Apostle, notfrom men, neither through man.' It was important for us that in thatgreat instance that divine gift should have been bestowed without theconditions accompanying, which have too often been regarded asnecessary for, its possession.


'Any of this way.'—ACTS ix. 2

The name of 'Christian' was not applied to themselves by the followersof Jesus before the completion of the New Testament. There were othernames in currency before that designation—which owed its origin to thescoffing wits of Antioch—was accepted by the Church. They calledthemselves 'disciples,' 'believers, 'saints,' 'brethren,' as if feelingabout for a title.

Here is a name that had obtained currency for a while, and wasafterwards disused. We find it five times in the Book of the Acts ofthe Apostles, never elsewhere; and always, with one exception, itshould be rendered, as it is in the Revised Version, not 'this way,'as if being one amongst many, but 'the way,' as being the only one.

Now, I have thought that this designation of Christians as 'those ofthe way' rests upon a very profound and important view of whatChristianity is, and may teach us some lessons if we will ponder it;and I ask your attention to two or three of these for a few moments now.

I. First, then, I take this name as being a witness to the convictionthat in Christianity we have the only road to God.

There may be some reference in the name to the remarkable words of ourLord Jesus Christ: 'I am the Way. No man cometh to the Father but byMe,'—words of which the audacity is unparalleled and unpardonable,except upon the supposition that He bears an unique relation to God onthe one hand, and to all mankind upon the other. In them He claims tobe the sole medium of communication between heaven and earth, God andman. And that same exclusiveness is reflected in this name forChristians. It asserts that faith in Jesus Christ, the acceptance ofHis teaching, mediation and guidance, is the only path that climbs toGod, and by it alone do we come into knowledge of, and communion with,our divine Father.

I do not dwell upon the fact that, according to our Lord's ownteaching, and according to the whole New Testament, Christ's work ofmaking God known to man did not begin with His Incarnation and earthlylife, but that from the beginning that eternal Word was the agent ofall divine activity in creation, and in the illumination of mankind. Sothat, not only all the acts of the self-revealing God were through Him,but that from Him, as from the light of men, came all the light inhuman hearts, of reason and of conscience, by which there were and arein all men, some dim knowledge of God, and some feeling after, or atthe lowest some consciousness of, Him. But the historical facts ofChrist's incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension are thesource of all solid certitude, and of all clear knowledge of our Fatherin Heaven. His words are spirit and life; His works are unspoken words;and by both He declares unto His brethren the Name, and is theself-manifestation of, the Father.

Think of the contrast presented by the world's conceptions of Godhead,and the reality as unveiled in Christ! On the one hand you have godslustful, selfish, passionate, capricious, cruel, angry, vile; or godsremote, indifferent, not only passionless, but heartless, inexorable,unapproachable, whom no man can know, whom no man can love, whom no mancan trust. On the other hand, if you look at Christ's tears as therevelation of God; if you look at Christ's ruth and pity as themanifestation of the inmost glory of the divine nature; if you takeyour stand at the foot of the Cross—a strange place to see 'the powerof God and the wisdom of God'!—and look up there at Him dying for theworld, and are able to say, 'Lo! this is our God! through all the wearycenturies we have waited for Him, and this is He!' then you canunderstand how true it is that there, and there only, is the good newsproclaimed that lifts the burden from every heart, and reveals God theLover and the Friend of every soul.

And if, further, we consider the difference between the dim'peradventures,' the doubts and fears, the uncertain conclusions drawnfrom questionable, and often partial, premises, which confessedly neveramount to demonstration, if we consider the contrast between these andthe daylight of fact which we meet in Jesus Christ, His love, life, anddeath, then we can feel how superior in certitude, as in substance, therevelation of God in Jesus is to all these hopes, longings, doubts, andhow it alone is worthy to be called the knowledge of God, or is solidenough to abide comparison with the certainties of the most arrogantphysical science.

There never was a time in the history of the world when, so clearly andunmistakably, every thinking soul amongst cultivated nations was beingbrought up to this alternative—Christ, the Revealer of God, or noknowledge of God at all. The old dreams of heathenism are impossiblefor us; modern agnosticism will make very quick work of a deism whichdoes not cling to the Christ as the Revealer of the Godhead. And I, formy part, believe that there is one thing, and one thing only, whichwill save modern Europe from absolute godlessness, and that is thecoming back to the old truth, 'No man hath seen God' by sense, orintuition, or reason, or conscience, 'at any time. The only begottenSon, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.'

But it is not merely as bringing to us the only certain knowledge ofour Father God that Christianity is 'the way,' but it is also becauseby it alone we come into fellowship with the God whom it reveals to us.If there rises up before your mind the thought of Him in the Heavens,there will rise up also in your consciousness the sense of your ownsin. And that is no delusion nor fancy; it is the most patent fact,that between you and your Father in Heaven, howsoever loving, tender,compassionate, and forgiving, there lies a great gulf. You cannot go toGod, my brother, with all that guilt heaped upon your conscience; youcannot come near to Him with all that mass of evil which you know isthere, working in your soul. How shall a sinful soul come to a holyGod? And there is only one answer—that great Lord, by His blesseddeath upon the Cross, has cleared away all the mountains of guilt andsin that rise up frowning between each single soul and the Father inHeaven; and through Him, by a new and living way, which He hath openedfor us, we have entrance to God, and dwell with Him.

And it is not only that He brings to us the knowledge of God, and thatHe clears away all obstacles, and makes fellowship between God and uspossible for the most polluted and sinful of spirits, but it is alsothat, by the knowledge of His great love to us, love is kindled in ourhearts, and we are drawn into that path which, as a matter of fact, weshall not tread unless we yield to the magnetic attraction of the loveof God as revealed 'in the face of Jesus Christ.'

Men do not seek fellowship with God until they are drawn to Him by thelove that is revealed upon the Cross. Men do not yield their hearts toHim until their hearts are melted down by the fire of that Infinitedivine love which disdained not to be humiliated and refused not to diefor their sakes. Practically and really we come to God, when—and Iventure upon the narrowness of saying, only when—God has come to usin His dear Son. 'The way' to God is through Christ. Have you trodit, my friend—that new and living way, which leads within the veil,into the secrets of loving communion with your Father in Heaven?

II. Then there is another principle, of which this designation of ourtext is also the witness, viz., that in Christianity we have the pathof conduct and practical life traced out for us all.

The 'way of a man' is, of course, a metaphor for his outward life andconduct. It is connected with the familiar old image which belongs tothe poetry of all languages, by which life is looked at as a journey.That metaphor speaks to us of the continual changefulness of our mortalcondition; it speaks to us, also, of the effort and the weariness whichoften attend it. It proclaims also the solemn thought that a man's lifeis a unity, and that, progressive, it goes some whither, and arrives ata definite goal.

And that idea is taken up in this phrase, 'the way,' in such afashion as that there are two things asserted: first, that Christianityprovides a way, a path for the practical activity, that it moulds ourlife into a unity, that it prescribes the line of direction which it isto follow, that it has a starting-point, and stages, and an end; also,that Christianity is the way for practical life, the only path andmode of conduct which corresponds with all the obligations and natureof a man, and which reason, conscience, and experience will approve.Let us look, just for a moment or two, at these two thoughts:Christianity is a way; Christianity is the way.

It is a way. These early disciples must have grasped with greatclearness and tenacity the practical side of the Gospel, or they wouldnever have adopted this name. If they had thought of it as being only acreed, they would not have done so.

And it is not only a creed. All creed is meant to influence conduct. IfI may so say, credenda, 'things to be believed,' are meant tounderlie the agenda, the things to be done. Every doctrine of the NewTestament, like the great blocks of concrete that are dropped into ariver in order to lay the foundation of a bridge, or the embankmentthat is run across a valley in order to carry a railway upon it,—everydoctrine of the New Testament is meant to influence the conduct, the'walk and conversation,' and to provide a path on which activity mayadvance and expatiate.

I cannot, of course, dwell upon this point with sufficient elaboration,or take up one after another the teachings of the New Testament, inorder to show how close is their bearing upon practical life. There isplenty of abstract theology in the form of theological systems,skeletons all dried up that have no life in them. There is nothing ofthat sort in the principles as they lie on the pages of the NewTestament. There they are all throbbing with life, and all meant toinfluence life and conduct.

Remember, my friend, that unless your Christianity is doing that foryou, unless it has prescribed a path of life for you, and moulded yoursteps into a great unity, and drawn you along the road, it isnought,—nought!

But the whole matter may be put into half a dozen sentences. The livingheart of Christianity, either considered as a revelation to a man, oras a power within a man, that is to say, either objective orsubjective, is love. It is the revelation of the love of God that isthe inmost essence of it as revelation. It is love in my heart that isthe inmost essence of it as a fact of my nature. And is not love themost powerful of all forces to influence conduct? Is it not 'thefulfilling of the law,' because its one single self includes allcommandments, and is the ideal of all duty, and also because it is thepower which will secure the keeping of all the law which itself laysdown?

But love may be followed out into its two main effects. These areself-surrender and imitation. And I say that a religious system whichis, in its inmost heart and essence, love, is thereby shown to be themost practical of all systems, because thereby it is shown to be agreat system of self-surrender and imitation.

The deepest word of the Gospel is, 'Yield yourselves to God.' Bringyour wills and bow them before Him, and say, 'Here am I; take me, anduse me as a pawn on Thy great chessboard, to be put where Thou wilt.'When once a man's will is absorbed into the divine will, as a drop ofwater is into the ocean, he is free, and has happiness and peace, andis master and lord of himself and of the universe. That system whichproclaims love as its heart sets in action self-surrender as the mostpractical of all the powers of life.

Love is imitation. And Jesus Christ's life is set before us as thepattern for all our conduct. We are to follow In His footsteps. Thesemark our path. We are to follow Him, as a traveller who knows not hisway will carefully tread in the steps of his guide. We are to imitateHim, as a scholar who is learning to draw will copy every touch of themaster's pencil.

Strange that that short life, fragmentarily reported in four littletracts, full of unapproachable peculiarities, and having no part inmany of the relationships which make so large a portion of most lives,is yet so transparently under the influence of the purest and broadestprinciples of righteousness and morality as that every age and eachsex, and men of all professions, idiosyncrasies, temperaments, andpositions, all stages of civilisation and culture, of every period, andof every country, may find in it the all-sufficient pattern for them!

Thus in Christianity we have a way. It prescribes a line of directionfor the life, and brings all its power to bear in marking the coursewhich we should pursue and in making us willing and able to pursue it.

How different, how superior to all other systems which aspire toregulate the outward life that system is! It is superior, in itsapplicability to all conditions. It is a very difficult thing for anyman to apply the generalities of moral law and righteousness to theindividual cases in his life. The stars are very bright, but they donot show me which street to turn up when I am at a loss; but Christ'sexample comes very near to us, and guides us, not indeed in regard toquestions of prudence or expediency, but in regard to all questions ofright or wrong. It is superior, in the help it gives to a soulstruggling with temptation. It is very hard to keep law or duty clearlybefore our eyes at such a moment, when it is most needful to do so. Thelighthouse is lost in the fog, but the example of Jesus Christdissipates many mists of temptation to the heart that loves Him; and'they that follow Him shall not walk in darkness.'

It is superior in this, further, that patterns fail because they areonly patterns, and cannot get themselves executed, and laws failbecause they are only laws and cannot get themselves obeyed. What isthe use of a signpost to a man who is lame, or who does not want to godown the road, though he knows it well enough? But Christianity bringsboth the commandment and the motive that keeps the commandment.

And so it is the path along which we can travel. It is the only roadthat corresponds to all our necessities, and capacities, andobligations.

It is the only path, my brother, that will be approved by reason,conscience, and experience. The greatest of our English mystics sayssomewhere—I do not profess to quote with verbal accuracy—'There aretwo questions which put an end to all the vain projects and designs ofhuman life. The one is, "What for?" the other, "What good will the aimdo you if attained?"'

If we look at 'all the ways of men' calmly, and with due regard to thewants of their souls, reason cannot but say that they are 'vain andmelancholy.' If we consult our own experience we cannot but confessthat whatsoever we have had or enjoyed, apart from God, has eitherproved disappointing in the very moment of its possession, or has beenfollowed by a bitter taste on the tongue; or in a little while hasfaded, and left us standing with the stalk in our hands from which thebloom has dropped. Generation after generation has sighed its 'Amen!'to the stern old word: 'Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!' And hereto-day, in the midst of the boasted progress of this generation, wefind cultured men amongst us, lapped in material comfort, and with allthe light of this century blazing upon them, preaching again the oldBuddhist doctrine that annihilation is the only heaven, and proclaimingthat life is not worth living, and that 'it were better not to be.'

Dear brother, one path, and one path only, leads to what all mendesire—peace and happiness. One path, and one path only, leads to whatall men know they ought to seek—purity and godliness. We are like menin the backwoods, our paths go circling round and round, we have lostour way. 'The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, for heknoweth not how to come to the city.' Jesus Christ has cut a paththrough the forest. Tread you in it, and you will find that it is 'theway of pleasantness' and 'the path of peace.'

III. And now, one last word. This remarkable designation seems to me tobe a witness also to another truth, viz. that in Christianity we havethe only way home.

The only way home! All other modes and courses of life and conduct stopat the edge of a great gulf, like some path that goes down an inclineto the edge of a precipice, and the heedless traveller that has beengoing on, not knowing whither it led, tilts over when he comes there.Every other way that men can follow is broken short off by death. Andif there were no other reason to allege, that is enough to condemnthem. What is a man to do in another world if all his life long he hasonly cultivated tastes which want this world for their gratification?What is the sensualist to do when he gets there? What is the shrewd manof business in Manchester to do when he comes into a world where thereare no bargains, and he cannot go on 'Change on Tuesdays and Fridays?What will he do with himself? What does he do with himself now, when hegoes away from home for a month, and does not get his ordinary work andsurroundings? What will he do then? What will a young lady do in another world, who spends her days here in reading trashy novels andmagazines? What will any of us do who have set our affections and ourtastes upon this poor, perishing, miserable world? Would you think itwas common sense in a young man who was going to be a doctor, and tookno interest in anything but farming? Is it not as stupid a thing formen and women to train themselves for a condition which is transient,and not to train themselves for the condition into which they arecertainly going?

And, on the other hand, the path that Christ makes runs clear on,without a break, across the gulf, like some daring railway bridgethrown across a mountain gorge, and goes straight on on the other sidewithout a curve, only with an upward gradient. The manner of work maychange; the spirit of the work and the principles of it will remain.Self-surrender will be the law of Heaven, and 'they shall follow theLamb whithersoever He goeth.' Better to begin here as we mean to endyonder! Better to begin here what we can carry with us, in essencethough not in form, into the other life; and so, through all thechanges of life, and through the great change of death, to keep oneunbroken straight course! 'They go from strength to strength; every oneof them in Zion appeareth before God'.

We live in an else trackless waste, but across the desert Jesus Christhas thrown a way; too high for ravenous beasts to spring on or ragingfoes to storm; too firm for tempest to overthrow or make impair able;too plain for simple hearts to mistake. We may all journey on it, if wewill, and 'come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon our heads.'

Christ is the Way. O brother I trust thy sinful soul to His blood andmediation, and thy sins will be forgiven. And then, loving Him, followHim. 'This is the way; walk ye in it.'


'So the Church throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria had peace,being edified; and, walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfortof the Holy Ghost, was multiplied.'—ACTS ix. 31 (R.V.).

A man climbing a hill stops every now and then to take breath and lookabout him; and in the earlier part of this Book of the Acts of theApostles there are a number of such landing-places where the writersuspends the course of his narrative, in order to give a general notionof the condition of the Church at the moment. We have in this verse oneof the shortest, but perhaps the most significant, of theseresting-places. The original and proper reading, instead of 'theChurches,' as our Version has it, reads 'the Church' as a whole—thewhole body of believers in the three districts named—Judaea, Galilee,and Samaria—being in the same circ*mstances and passing through likeexperiences. The several small communities of disciples formed a whole.They were 'churches' individually; they were collectively 'the Church.'Christ's order of expansion, given in chapter i., had been thus farfollowed, and the sequence here sums up the progress which the Acts hasthus far recorded. Galilee had been the cradle of the Church, but theonward march of the Gospel had begun at Jerusalem. Before Luke goes onto tell how the last part of our Lord's programme—'to the uttermostparts of the earth'—began to be carried into execution by theconversion of Cornelius, he gives us this bird's-eye view. To itssignificant items I desire to draw your attention now.

There are three of them: outward rest, inward progress, outwardincrease.

I. Outward rest.

'Then had the Church rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and

The principal persecutor had just been converted, and that wouldsomewhat damp the zeal of his followers. Saul having gone over to theenemy, it would be difficult to go on harrying the Church with the samespirit, when the chief actor was turned traitor. And besides that,historians tell us that there were political complications which gaveboth Romans and Jews quite enough to do to watch one another, insteadof persecuting this little community of Christians. I have nothing todo with these, but this one point I desire to make, that the conditionof security and tranquillity in which the Church found itself conducedto spiritual good and growth. This has not always been the case. As oneof our quaint divines says, 'as in cities where ground is scarce menbuild high up, so in times of straitness and persecution the Christiancommunity, and the individuals who compose it, are often raised to ahigher level of devotion than in easier and quieter times.' But theseprimitive Christians utilised this breathing-space in order to grow,and having a moment of lull and stillness in the storm, turned it tothe highest and best uses. Is that what you and I do with our quiettimes? None of us have any occasion to fear persecution or annoyance ofthat sort, but there are other thorns in our pillows besides these, andother rough places in our beds, and we are often disturbed in ournests. When there does come a quiet time in which no outwardcirc*mstances fret us, do we seize it as coming from God, in orderthat, with undistracted energies, we may cast ourselves altogether intothe work of growing like our Master and doing His will more fully? Howmany of us, dear brethren, have misused both our adversity and ourprosperity by making the one an occasion for deeper worldliness, andthe other a reason for forgetting Him in the darkness as in the light?To be absorbed by earthly things, whether by the enjoyment of theirpossession or by the bitter pain and misery of their withdrawal, isfatal to all our spiritual progress, and only they use thingsprosperous and things adverse aright, who take them both as means bywhich they may be wafted nearer to their God. Whatsoever forces actupon us, if we put the helm right and trim the sails as we ought, theywill carry us to our haven. And whatsoever forces act upon us, if weneglect the sailor's skill and duty, we shall be washed backwards andforwards in the trough of the sea, and make no progress in the voyage.'Then had the Church rest'—and grew lazy? 'Then had the Churchrest'—and grew worldly? Then was I happy and prosperous and peacefulin my home and in my business, and I said, 'I shall never be moved,'and I forgot my God? 'Then had the Church rest, and was edified.'

Now, in the next place, note the

II. Inward progress.

There are difficulties about the exact relation of the clauses here toone another, the discussion of which would be fitter for a lecture-roomthan for a pulpit. I do not mean to trouble you with these, but itseems to me that we may perhaps best understand the writer's intentionif we throw together the clauses which stand in the middle of thisverse, and take them as being a description of the inward progress,being 'edified' and 'walking in the fear of the Lord, and in thecomfort of the Holy Ghost.' There are two things, then—the being'edified' and 'walking'; and I wish to say a word or two about each ofthem.

Now that word 'edified' and the cognate one 'edification' have beenenfeebled in signification so as to mean very much less than they didto Luke. When we speak of 'being edified,' what do we mean? Little morethan that we have been instructed, and especially that we have beencomforted. And what is the instrument of edification in our ordinaryreligious parlance? Good words, wise teaching, or pious speech. But theNew Testament means vastly more than this by the word, and looks not somuch to other people's utterances as to a man's own strenuous efforts,as the means of edification. Much misunderstanding would have beenavoided if our translators had really translated, instead of putting usoff with a Latinised word which to many readers conveys little meaningand none of the significant metaphor of the original. 'Being edified'sounds very theological and far away from daily life. Would it notsound more real if we read 'being built up'? That is the emblem of theprocess that ought to go on, not only in the Christian community as awhole, but in every individual member of it. Each Christian is bound tobuild himself up and to help to build up other Christians; and Godbuilds them all up by His Spirit. We have brought before us the pictureof the rising of some stately fabric upon a firm foundation, course bycourse, stone by stone, each laid by a separate act of the builder'shand, and carefully bedded in its place until the whole is complete.

That is one emblem of the growth of the Christian community and of theChristian individual, and the other clause that is coupled with it inthe text seems to me to give the same idea under a slightly differentfigure. The rising of a stately building and the advance on a givenpath suggest substantially the same notion of progress.

And of these two metaphors, I would dwell chiefly on the former,because it is the less familiar of the two to modern readers, andbecause it is of some consequence to restore it to its weight and truesignificance in the popular mind. Edification, then, is the building upof Christian character, and it involves four things: a foundation, acontinuous progress, a patient, persistent effort, and a completion.

Now, Christian men and women, this is our office for ourselves, and,according to our faculty and opportunities, for the Churches with whichwe may stand connected, that on the foundation which is JesusChrist—'and other foundation can no man lay'—we all should slowly,carefully, unceasingly be at our building work; each day's attainment,like the course of stones laid in some great temple, becoming the basisupon which to-morrow's work is to be piled, and each having in it thetoil of the builder and being a result and monument of his strenuouseffort, and each being built in, according to the plan that the greatArchitect has given, and each tending a little nearer to the roof-tree,and the time that 'the top stone shall be brought forth with the shoutof rejoicing.' Is that a transcript of my life and yours? Do we make abusiness of the cultivation of Christian character thus? Do we rest thewhole structure of our lives upon Jesus Christ? And then, do we, hourby hour, moment by moment, lay the fair stones, until

'Firm and fair the building rise,
A temple to His praise.'

The old worn metaphor, which we have vulgarised and degraded into asynonym for a comfortable condition produced by a brother's words,carries in it the solemnest teaching as to what the duty and privilegeof all Christian souls is-to 'build themselves up for an habitation ofGod through the Spirit.'

But note further the elements of which this progress consists. May wenot suppose that both metaphors refer to the clauses that follow, andthat 'the fear of the Lord' and 'the comfort of the Holy Ghost' are theparticulars in which the Christian is built up and walks?

'The fear of the Lord' is eminently an Old Testament expression, andoccurs only once or twice in the New. But its meaning is thoroughly inaccordance with the loftiest teaching of the new revelation. 'The fearof the Lord' is that reverential awe of Him, by which we are everconscious of His presence with us, and ever seek, as our supreme aimand end, to submit our wills to His commandment, and to do the thingsthat are pleasing in His sight. Are you and I building ourselves up inthat? Do we feel more thrillingly and gladly to-day than we didyesterday, that God is beside us? And do we submit ourselves moreloyally, more easily, more joyously to His will, in blessed obedience,now than ever before? Have we learned, and are we learning, moment bymoment, more of that 'secret of the Lord' which 'is with them that fearHim,' and of that 'covenant' which 'He will show' to them? Unless wedo, our growth in Christian character is a very doubtful thing. And arewe advancing, too, in that other element which so beautifully completesand softens the notion of the fear of the Lord, 'the encouragement'which the divine Spirit gives us? Are we bolder to-day than we wereyesterday? Are we ready to meet with more undaunted confidence whateverwe may have to face? Do we feel ever increasing within us the fullblessedness and inspiration of that divine visitant? And do these sweetcommunications take all the 'torment' away from 'fear,' and leave onlythe bliss of reverential love? They who walk in the fear of the Lord,and who with the fear have the courage that the divine Spirit gives,will 'have rest,' like the first Christians, whatsoever storms may howlaround them, and whatsoever enemies may threaten to disturb their peace.

And so, lastly, note

III. The outward growth.

Thus building themselves up, and thus growing, the Church 'wasmultiplied.' Of course it was. Christian men and women that arespiritually alive, and who, because they are alive, grow, and grow inthese things, the manifest reverence of God, and the manifest 'comfort'of the divine Spirit's giving, will commend their gospel to a blindworld. They will be an attractive force in the midst of men, and theirinward growth will make them eager to hold forth the word of life, andwill give them 'a mouth and wisdom' which nothing but genuine spiritualexperience can give.

And so, dear friends, especially those of you who set yourselves to anyof the many forms of Christian work which prevail in this day, learnthe lesson of my text, and make sure of 'a' before you go on to'b,' and see to it that before you set yourselves to try to multiplythe Church, you set yourselves to build up yourselves in your most holyfaith.

We hear a great deal nowadays about 'forward movements,' and Isympathise with all that is said in favour of them. But I would remindyou that the precursor of every genuine forward movement is a Godwardmovement, and that it is worse than useless to talk about lengtheningthe cords unless you begin with strengthening the stakes. The littleprop that holds up the bell-tent that will contain half-a-dozensoldiers will be all too weak for the great one that will cover acompany. And the fault of some Christian people is that they setthemselves to work upon others without remembering that the firstrequisite is a deepened and growing godliness and devotion in their ownsouls. Dear friends, begin at home, and remember that whilst what theworld calls eloquence may draw people, and oddities will draw them,and all sorts of lower attractions will gather multitudes for a littlewhile, the one solid power which Christian men and women can exercisefor the numerical increase of the Church is rooted in, and only tenablethrough, their own personal increase day by day in consecration andlikeness to the Saviour, in possession of the Spirit, and in lovingfear of the Lord.


'And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole:arise, and make thy bed…. 40. But Peter put them all forth, andkneeled down and prayed; and, turning him to the body, said, Tabitha,arise.—ACTS ix. 34, 40.

I have put these two miracles together, not only because they wereclosely connected in time and place, but because they have a veryremarkable and instructive feature in common. They are both evidentlymoulded upon Christ's miracles; are distinct imitations of what Peterhad seen Him do. And their likenesses to and differences from ourLord's manner of working are equally noteworthy. It is to the lessonsfrom these two aspects, common to both miracles, that I desire to turnnow.

I. First, notice the similarities and the lesson which they teach.

The two cases before us are alike, in that both of them find parallelsin our Lord's miracles. The one is the cure of a paralytic, which pairsoff with the well-known story in the Gospels concerning the man thatwas borne by four, and let down through the roof into Christ'spresence. The other of them, the raising of Dorcas, or Tabitha, ofcourse corresponds with the three resurrections of dead people whichare recorded in the Gospels.

And now, note the likenesses. Jesus Christ said to the paralysed man,'Arise, take up thy bed.' Peter says to Aeneas, 'Arise, and make thybed.' The one command was appropriate to the circ*mstances of a man whowas not in his own house, and whose control over his long-disusedmuscles in obeying Christ's word was a confirmation to himself of thereality and completeness of his cure. The other was appropriate to aman bedridden in his own house; and it had precisely the same purposeas the analogous injunction from our Lord, 'Take up thy bed and walk.'Aeneas was lying at home, and so Peter, remembering how Jesus Christhad demonstrated to others, and affirmed to the man himself, thereality of the miraculous blessing given to him, copies his Master'smethod, 'Aeneas, make thy bed.' It is an echo and resemblance of theformer incident, and is a distinct piece of imitation of it.

And then, if we turn to the other narrative, the intentional mouldingof the manner of the miracle, consecrated in the eyes of the lovingdisciple, because it was Christ's manner, is still more obvious. WhenJesus Christ went into the house of Jairus there was the usual hubbub,the noise of the loud Eastern mourning, and He put them all forth,taking with Him only the father and mother of the damsel, and Peterwith James and John. When Peter goes into the upper room, where Tabithais lying, there are the usual noise of lamentation and the clack ofmany tongues, extolling the virtues of the dead woman. He remembers howChrist had gone about His miracle, and he, in his turn, 'put them allforth.' Mark, who was Peter's mouthpiece in his Gospel, gives us thevery Aramaic words which our Lord employed when He raised the littlegirl, Talitha, the Aramaic word for 'a damsel,' or young girl;cumi, which means in that language 'arise.' Is it not singular andbeautiful that Peter's word by the bedside of the dead Dorcas is, withthe exception of one letter, absolutely identical? Christ says,Talitha cumi. Peter remembered the formula by which the blessing wasconveyed, and he copied it. 'Tabitha cumi!' Is it not clear that he isposing after his Master's attitude; that he is, consciously orunconsciously, doing what he remembered so well had been done in thatother upper room, and that the miracles are both of them shaped afterthe pattern of the miraculous working of Jesus Christ?

Well, now, although we are no miracle-workers, the very same principlewhich underlay these two works of supernatural power is to be appliedto all our work, and to our lives as Christian people. I do not knowwhether Peter meant to do like Jesus Christ or not; I think ratherthat he was unconsciously and instinctively dropping into the fashionthat to him was so sacred. Love always delights in imitation; and thedisciples of a great teacher will unconsciously catch the trick of hisintonation, even the awkwardness of his attitudes or the peculiaritiesof his way of looking at things—only, unfortunately, outsides are agood deal more easily imitated than insides. And many a disciple copiessuch external trifles, and talks in the tones that have, first of all,brought blessed truths to him, whose resemblance to his teacher goesvery little further. The principle that underlies these miracles isjust this—get near Jesus Christ, and you will catch His manner. Dwellin fellowship with Him, and whether you are thinking about it or not,there will come some faint resemblance to that Lord into yourcharacters and your way of doing things, so that men will 'takeknowledge of you that you have been with Jesus.' The poor bit of clothwhich has held some precious piece of solid perfume will retainfragrance for many a day afterwards, and will bless the scentless airby giving it forth. The man who keeps close to Christ, and has foldedHim in his heart, will, like the poor cloth, give forth a sweetness nothis own that will gladden and refresh many nostrils. Live in the light,and you will become light. Keep near Christ, and you will beChristlike. Love Him, and love will do to you what it does to many awedded pair, and to many kindred hearts: it will transfuse into yousomething of the characteristics of the object of your love. It isimpossible to trust Christ, to obey Christ, to hold communion with Him,and to live beside Him, without becoming like Him. And if such be ourinward experience, so will be our outward appearance.

But there may be a specific point given to this lesson in regard toChristian people's ways of doing their work in the world and helpingand blessing other folk. Although, as I say, we have no miraculouspower at our disposal, we do not need it in order to manifest JesusChrist and His way of working in our work. And if we dwell beside Him,then, depend upon it, all the characteristics—far more precious thanthe accidents of manner, or tone, or attitude in working a miracle—allthe characteristics so deeply and blessedly stamped upon His life ofself-sacrifice and man-helping devotion will be reproduced in us. JesusChrist, when He went through the wards of the hospital of the world,was overflowing with quick sympathy for every sorrow that met His eye.If you and I are living near Him, we shall never steel our hearts norlock up our sensibilities against any suffering that it is within ourpower to stanch or to alleviate. Jesus Christ never grudged trouble,never thought of Himself, never was impatient of interruption, neverrepelled importunity, never sent away empty any outstretched hand. Andif we live near Him, self-oblivious willingness to spend and be spentwill mark our lives, and we shall not consider that we have the rightof possession or of sole enjoyment of any of the blessings that aregiven to us. Jesus Christ, according to the beautiful and significantwords of one of the Gospels, 'healed them that had need of healing.'Why that singular designation for the people that were standing aroundHim but to teach us that wide as men's necessity was His sympathy, andthat broad as the sympathy of Christ were the help and healing which Hebrought? And so, with like width of compassion, with like perfectnessof self-oblivion, with equal remoteness from consciousness ofsuperiority or display of condescension, Christian men should goamongst the sorrowful and the sad and the outcast and do theirmiracles—'greater works' than those which Christ did, as He Himselfhas told us—after the manner in which He did His. If they did, theworld would be a different place, and the Church would be a differentChurch, and you would not have people writing in the newspapers todemonstrate that Christianity was 'played out.'

II. Further, note the differences and the lessons from them.

Take the first of the two miracles. 'Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh theewhole: arise, and make thy bed.' That first clause points to the greatdifference. Take the second miracle, 'Jesus Christ put them all forth,and stretched out His hand, and said, Damsel, arise!' 'Peter put themall forth, … and said, Tabitha, arise!' but between the putting forthand the miracle he did something which Christ did not do, and he didnot do something which Christ did do. 'He kneeled down and prayed.'Jesus Christ did not do that. 'And Jesus put forth His hand, and said,Arise!' Peter did not do that. But he put forth his hand after themiracle was wrought; not to communicate life, but to help the livingwoman to get to her feet; and so, both by what he did in his prayer andby what he did not do after Christ's pattern, the extension of the handthat was the channel of the vitality, he drew a broad distinctionbetween the servant's copy and the Master's original.

The lessons from the differences are such as the following.

Christ works miracles by His inherent power; His servants do theirworks only as His instruments and organs. I need not dwell upon theformer thought; but it is the latter at which I wish to look for amoment. The lesson, then, of the difference is that Christian men, inall their work for the Master and for the world, are ever to keep clearbefore themselves, and to make very obvious to other people, that theyare nothing more than channels and instruments. The less the preacher,the teacher, the Christian benefactor of any sort puts himself in theforeground, or in evidence at all, the more likely are his words andworks to be successful. If you hear a man, for instance, preaching asermon, and you see that he is thinking about himself, he may talk withthe tongues of men and of angels, but he will do no good to anybody.The first condition of work for the Lord is—hide yourself behind yourmessage, behind your Master, and make it very plain that His is thepower, and that you are but a tool in the Workman's hand.

And then, further, another lesson is, Be very sure of the power thatwill work in you. What a piece of audacity it was for Peter to go andstand by the paralytic man's couch and say, 'Aeneas, Jesus Christmaketh thee whole.' Yes, audacity; unless he had been in such constantand close touch with his Master that he was sure that his Master wasworking through him. And is it not beautiful to see how absolutelyconfident he is that Jesus Christ's work was not ended when He went upinto heaven; but that there, in that little stuffy room, where the manhad lain motionless for eight long years, Jesus Christ was present, andworking? O brethren, the Christian Church does not half enough believein the actual presence and operation of Jesus Christ, here and now, inand through all His servants! We are ready enough to believe that Heworked when He was in the world long ago, that He is going to work whenHe comes back to the world, at some far-off future period. But do webelieve that He is verily putting forth His power, in no metaphor, butin simple reality, at present and here, and, if we will, through us?

'Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.' Be sure that if you keep near Christ,if you will try to mould yourselves after His likeness, if you expectHim to work through you, and do not hinder His work by self-conceit andself-consciousness of any sort, then it will be no presumption, butsimple faith which He delights in and will vindicate, if you, too, goand stand by a paralytic and say, 'Jesus Christ maketh thee whole,' orgo and stand by people dead in trespasses and sins and say, after youhave prayed, 'Arise.'

We are here for the very purpose for which Peter was in Lydda and
Joppa—to carry on and copy the healing and the quickening work of
Christ, by His present power, and after His blessed example.


'There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion ofthe band called the Italian band, 2. A devout man, and one that fearedGod with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayedto God alway. 3. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour ofthe day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him,Cornelius. 4. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, Whatis it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are comeup for a memorial before God. 5. And now send men to Joppa, and callfor one Simon, whose surname is Peter: 6. He lodgeth with one Simon atanner, whose house is by the sea-side: he shall tell thee what thououghtest to do. 7. And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius wasdeparted, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldierof them that waited on him continually; 8. And when he had declared allthese things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. 9. On the morrow, asthey went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went upupon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: 10. And he became veryhungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into atrance, 11. And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending untohim, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and letdown to the earth: 12. Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts ofthe earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.13. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14. ButPeter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that iscommon or unclean. 15. And the voice spake unto him again the secondtime, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 16. This wasdone thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. 17. Nowwhile Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seenshould mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had madeinquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate, 18. And called,and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.19. While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him,Behold, three men seek thee. 20. Arise therefore, and get thee down,and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.'—ACTS x.1-20.

The Church was at first in appearance only a Jewish sect; but the greatstride is now to be taken which carries it over the border into theGentile world, and begins its universal aspect. If we consider themagnitude of the change, and the difficulties of training and prejudicewhich it had to encounter in the Church itself, we shall not wonder atthe abundance of supernatural occurrences which attended it. Withoutsome such impulse, it is difficult to conceive of its having beenaccomplished.

In this narrative we see the supernatural preparation on both sides.God, as it were, lays His right hand on Cornelius, and His left onPeter, and impels them towards each other. Philip had already preachedto the Ethiopian, and probably the anonymous brethren in Acts xi. 20had already spoken the word to pure Greeks at Antioch; but theimportance of Peter's action here is that by reason of his Apostleship,his recognition of Gentile Christians becomes the act of the wholecommunity. His entrance into Cornelius's house ended the Jewish phaseof the Church. The epoch was worthy of divine intervention, and thestep needed divine warrant. Therefore the abundance of miracle at thispoint is not superfluous.

I. We have the vision which guided the seeker to the light. Caesarea,as the seat of government, was the focus of Gentilism, and that theGospel should effect a lodgment there was significant. Still more sowas the person whom it first won,—an officer of the Roman army, thevery emblem of worldly power, loathed by every true Jew. A centurionwas not an officer of high rank, but Cornelius's name suggests thepossibility of his connection with a famous Roman family, and the nameof the 'band' or 'cohort,' of which his troop was part, suggests thatit was raised in Italy, and therefore properly officered by Romans. Hisresidence in Judaea had touched his spirit with some knowledge of, andreverence for, the Jehovah whom this strange people worshipped. He wasone of a class numerous in these times of religious unrest, who hadbeen more or less affected by the pure monotheism of the Jew.

It is remarkable that the centurions of the New Testament are all moreor less favourably inclined towards Christ and Christianity, and thefact has been laid hold of to throw doubt on the narratives; but it isvery natural that similarity of position and training should haveproduced similarity of thought; and that three or four such personsshould have come in contact with Jesus and His Apostles makes noviolent demands on probability, while there was no occasion to mentionothers who were not like-minded. Quartered for considerable periods inthe country, and brought into close contact with its religion, andprofoundly sceptical of their own, as all but the lowest minds thenwere, Cornelius and his brother in arms and spirit whose faith drewwondering praise from Jesus, are bright examples of the possibility ofearnest religious life being nourished amid grave disadvantages, andpreach a lesson, often neglected, that we should be slow to formunfavourable opinions of classes of men, or to decide that those ofsuch and such a profession, or in such and such circ*mstances, must beof such and such a character.

It would have seemed that the last place to look for the first GentileChristian would have been in the barracks at Caesarea; and yet thereGod's angel went for him, and found him. It has often been discussedwhether Cornelius was a 'proselyte' or not. It matters very little. Hewas drawn to the Jews' religion, had adopted their hours of prayer,reverenced their God, had therefore cast off idolatry, gave alms to thepeople as acknowledgment that their God was his God, and cultivatedhabitual devotion, which he had diffused among his household, both ofslaves and soldiers. It is a beautiful picture of a soul feeling aftera deeper knowledge of God, as a plant turns its half-opened flowers tothe sun.

Such seekers do not grope without touching. It is not only 'unto theseed of Jacob' that God has never said, 'Seek ye Me in vain.' The storyhas a message of hope to all such seekers, and sheds precious light ondark problems in regard to the relation of such souls in heathen landsto the light and love of God, The vision appeared to Cornelius in themanner corresponding to his spiritual susceptibility, and it came atthe hour of prayer. God's angels ever draw near to hearts opened bydesire to receive them. Not in visible form, but in reality,'bright-harnessed angels stand' all around the chamber where prayer ismade. Our hours of supplication are God's hours of communication.

The vision to Cornelius is not to be whittled down to a mentalimpression. It was an objective, supernatural appearance,—whether tosense or soul matters little. The story gives most graphically thefixed gaze of terror which Cornelius fastened on the angel, and verycharacteristically the immediate recovery and quick question to whichhis courage and military promptitude helped him. 'What is it, Lord?'does not speak of terror, but of readiness to take orders and obey.'Lord' seems to be but a title of reverence here.

In the angel's answer, the order in which prayers and alms are named isthe reverse of that in verse 2. Luke speaks as a man, beginning withthe visible manifestation, and passing thence to the inward devotionwhich animated the external beneficence. The angel speaks as God sees,beginning with the inward, and descending to the outward. The strong'anthropomorphism' of the representation that man's prayer and almskeep God in mind of him needs no vindication and little explanation. Itsubstitutes the mental state which in us originates certain acts forthe acts themselves. God's 'remembrance' is in Scripture frequentlyused to express His loving deeds, which show that their recipient isnot forgotten of Him.

But the all-important truth in the words is that the prayers and alms(coming from a devout heart) of a man who had never heard of JesusChrist were acceptable to God. None the less Cornelius needed Jesus,and the recompense made to him was the knowledge of the Saviour. Thebelief that in many a heathen heart such yearning after a dimly knownGod has stretched itself towards light, and been accepted of God, doesnot in the least conflict with the truth that 'there is none other Namegiven among men, whereby we must be saved,' but it sheds a bright andmost welcome light of hope into that awful darkness. Christ is the onlySaviour, but it is not for us to say how far off from the channel inwhich it flows the water of life may percolate, and feed the roots ofdistant trees. Cornelius's religion was not a substitute for Christ,but was the occasion of his being led to Christ, and finding full,conscious salvation there. God leads seeking souls by His own wonderfulways; and we may leave all such in His hand, assured that no heart everhungered after righteousness and was not filled.

The instruction to send for Peter tested Cornelius's willingness to betaught by an unknown Jew, and his belief in the divine origin of thevision. The direction given by which to find this teacher was notpromising. A lodger in a tan-yard by the seaside was certainly not aman of position or wealth. But military discipline helped religiousreverence; and without delay, as soon as the angel 'was departed' (anexpression which gives the outward reality of the appearance strongly),Cornelius's confidential servants, sympathisers with him in hisreligion, were told all the story, and before nightfall were on theirmarch to Joppa. Swift obedience to whatever God points out as our pathtowards the light, even if it seem somewhat unattractive, will alwaysmark our conduct if we really long for the light, and believe that Heis pointing our way.

II. The vision which guided the light-bearer to the seeker.—Allthrough the night the messengers marched along the maritime plain inwhich both Caesarea and Joppa lay, much discussing, no doubt, theirstrange errand, and wondering what they would find. The preparation ofPeter, which was as needful as that of Cornelius, was so timed as to becompleted just as the messengers stood at the tanner's door.

The first point to note in regard to it is its scene. It is ofsubordinate importance, but it can scarcely have been entirelyunmeaning, that the flashing waters of the Mediterranean, blazing inmidday sunshine, stretched before Peter's eyes as he sat on thehousetop 'by the seaside.' His thoughts may have travelled across thesea, and he may have wondered what lay beyond the horizon, and whetherthere were men there to whom Christ's commission extended. 'The isles'of which prophecy had told that they should 'wait for His law' wereaway out in the mysterious distance. Some expansion of spirit towardsregions beyond may have accompanied his gaze. At all events, it was bythe shore of the great highway of nations and of truth that the visionwhich revealed that all men were 'cleansed' filled the eye and heart ofthe Apostle, and told him that, in his calling as 'fisher of men,' awider water than the land-locked Sea of Galilee was his.

We may also note the connection of the form of the vision with hiscirc*mstances. His hunger determined its shape. The natural bodilysensations coloured his state of mind even in trance, and afforded thepoint of contact for God's message. It does not follow that the visionwas only the consequence of his hunger, as has been suggested bycritics who wish to get rid of the supernatural. But the form which ittook teaches us how mercifully God is wont to mould His communicationsaccording to our needs, and how wisely He shapes them, so as to findentrance through even the lower wants. The commonest bodily needs maybecome avenues for His truth, if our prayer accompanies our hunger.

The significance of the vision is plain to us, though Peter was 'muchperplexed' about it. In the light of the event, we understand that the'great sheet let down from heaven by four corners,' and containing allmanner of creatures, is the symbol of universal humanity (to use modernlanguage). The four corners correspond to the four points of thecompass,—north, south, east, and west,—the contents to the swarmingmillions of men. Peter would perceive no more in the command to 'killand eat' than the abrogation of Mosaic restrictions. Meditation wasneedful to disclose the full extent of the revolution shadowed by thevision and its accompanying words. The old nature of Peter was not socompletely changed but that a flash of it breaks out still. The sameself-confidence which had led him to 'rebuke' Jesus, and to say, 'Thisshall not be unto Thee,' speaks in his unhesitating and irreverent 'Notso, Lord!'

The naive reason he gives for not obeying—namely, his never havingdone as he was now bid to do—is charmingly illogical and human. Godtells him to do a new thing, and his reason for not doing it is that itis new. Use and wont are set up by us all against the fresh disclosuresof God's will. The command to kill and eat was not repeated. It was butthe introduction to the truth which was repeated thrice, the samenumber of times as Peter had denied his Master and had received hischarge to feed His sheep.

That great truth has manifold applications, but its direct purpose asregards Peter is to teach that all restrictions which differentiatedJew from Gentile are abolished. 'Cleansing' does not here apply tomoral purifying, but to the admission of all mankind to the samestanding as the Jew. Therefore the Gospel is to be preached to all men,and the Jewish Christian has no pre-eminence.

Peter's perplexity as to the meaning of the vision is veryintelligible. It was not so plain as to carry its own interpretation,but, like most other of God's teachings, was explained bycirc*mstances. What was next done made the best commentary on what hadjust been beheld. While patient reflection is necessary to do duehonour to God's teachings and to discover their bearing on events, itis generally true that events unfold their significance as meditationalone never can. Life is the best commentator on God's word. The threemen down at the door poured light on the vision on the housetop. Butthe explanation was not left to circ*mstances. The Spirit directedPeter to go with the messengers, and thus taught him the meaning of theenigmatical words which he had heard from heaven.

It is to be remembered that the Apostle had no need of freshillumination as to the world-wide preaching of the Gospel. Christ'scommission to 'the uttermost parts of the earth' ever rang in his ears,as we may be sure. But what he did need was the lesson that theGentiles could come into the Church without going through the gate ofJudaism. If all peculiar sanctity was gone from the Jew, and all menshared in the 'cleansing,' there was no need for keeping up any of theold restrictions, or insisting on Gentiles being first received intothe Israelitish community as a stage in their progress towardsChristianity.

It took Peter and the others years to digest the lesson given on thehousetop, but he began to put it in practice that day. How little heknew the sweep of the truth then declared to him! How little we havelearned it yet! All exclusiveness which looks down on classes or races,all monkish asceticism which taboos natural appetites and tastes, allmorbid scrupulosity which shuts out from religious men large fields oflife, all Pharisaism which says 'The temple of the Lord are we,' aresmitten to dust by the great words which gather all men into the sameample, impartial divine love, and, in another aspect, give Christianculture and life the charter of freest use of all God's fair world, andplace the distinction between clean and unclean in the spirit of theuser rather than in the thing used. 'Unto the pure all things are pure:but unto them that are defiled… is nothing pure.'


'And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; andat the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood beforeme in bright clothing, 31. And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard,and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32. Sendtherefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; heis lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea-side: who, whenhe cometh, shall speak unto thee. 83. Immediately therefore I sent tothee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are weall here present before God, to hear all things that art commanded theeof God. 34. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth Iperceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35. But in every nationhe that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.35. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preachingpeace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all:) 37. That word, I say, yeknow, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began fromGalilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38. How God anointedJesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went aboutdoing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for Godwas with Him. 39. And we are witnesses of all things which He did bothin the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged ona tree: 40. Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; 41.Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even tous, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead. 42. AndHe commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is Hewhich was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. 43. To Himgive all the prophets witness, that through His Name whosoeverbelieveth in Him shall receive remission of sins. 44. While Peter yetspake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard theword.'—ACTS x. 30-44.

This passage falls into three parts: Cornelius's explanation, Peter'ssermon, and the descent of the Spirit on the new converts. The last isthe most important, and yet is told most briefly. We may surelyrecognise the influence of Peter's personal reminiscences in the scaleof the narrative, and may remember that Luke and Mark were throwntogether in later days.

I. Cornelius repeats what his messengers had already told Peter, but infuller detail. He tells how he was occupied when the angel appeared. Hewas keeping the Jewish hour of prayer, and the fact that the visioncame to him as he prayed had attested to him its heavenly origin. If wewould see angels, the most likely place to behold them is in the secretplace of prayer. He tells, too, that the command to send for Peter wasa consequence of God's remembrance of his prayer ('therefore,' verse32). His prayers and alms showed that he was 'of the light,' andtherefore he was directed to what would yield further light.

The command to send for Peter is noteworthy in two respects. It was,first, a test of humility and obedience. Cornelius, as a Roman officer,would be tempted to feel the usual contempt for one of the subjectrace, and, unless his eagerness to know more of God's will overbore hispride, to kick at the idea of sending to beg the favour of the presenceand instruction of a Jew, and of one, too, who could find no betterquarters than a tanner's house. The angel's voice commanded, but it didnot compel. Cornelius bore the test, and neither waived aside thevision as a hallucination to which it was absurd for a practical man toattend, nor recoiled from the lowliness of the proposed teacher. Hepocketed official and racial loftiness, and, as he emphasises,'forthwith' despatched his message. It was as if an English official inthe Punjab had been sent to a Sikh 'Guru' for teaching.

The other remarkable point about the command is that Philip wasprobably in Caesarea at the time. Why should Peter have been brought,then, by two visions and two long journeys? The subsequent historyexplains why. For the storm of criticism in the Jerusalem churchprovoked by Cornelius's baptism would have raged with tenfold fury ifso revolutionary an act had been done by any less authoritative personthan the leader of the Apostles. The Lord would stamp His own approvalon the deed which marked so great an expansion of the Church, andtherefore He makes the first of the Apostles His agent, and that by adouble vision.

'Thou hast well done that thou art come,'—a courteous welcome, withjust a trace of the doubt which had occupied Cornelius during the 'fourdays,' whether this unknown Jew would obey so strange an invitation.Courtesy and preparedness to receive the unknown message beautifullyblend in Cornelius's closing words, which do not directly ask Peter tospeak, but declare the auditors' eagerness to hear, as well as theirconfidence that what he says will be God's voice.

A variant reading in verse 33 gives 'in thy sight' for 'in the sight ofGod,' and has much to recommend it. But in any case we have here theright attitude for us all in the presence of the uttered will and mindof God. Where such open-eared and open-hearted preparedness marks thelisteners, feebler teachers than Peter will win converts. The reasonwhy much earnest Christian teaching is vain is the indifference andnon-expectant attitude of the hearers, who are not hearkeners. Seedthrown on the wayside is picked up by the birds.

II. Peter's sermon is, on the whole, much like his other addresseswhich are abundantly reported in the early part of the Acts. The greatbusiness of the preachers then was to tell the history of Jesus.Christianity is, first, a recital of historical events, from which, nodoubt, principles are deduced, and which necessarily lead on todoctrines; but the facts are first.

But the familiar story is told to Cornelius with some variation oftone. And it is prefaced by a great word, which crystallises the largetruth that had sprung into consciousness and startling power in Peter,as the result of his own and Cornelius's experience. He had notpreviously thought of God as 'a respecter of persons,' but theconviction that He was not had never blazed with such sun-clearnessbefore him as it did now. Jewish narrowness had, unconsciously tohimself, somewhat clouded it; but these four days had burned in on him,as if it were a new truth, that 'in every nation' there may be menaccepted of God, because they 'fear Him and work righteousness.'

That great saying is twisted from its right meaning when it isinterpreted as discouraging the efforts of Christians to carry theGospel to the heathen; for, if the 'light of nature' is sufficient,what was Peter sent to Caesarea for? But it is no less maltreated whenevangelical Christians fail to grasp its world-wide significance, ordoubt that in lands where Christ's name has not been proclaimed thereare souls groping for the light, and seeking to obey the law written ontheir hearts. That there are such, and that such are 'accepted of Him,'and led by His own ways to the fuller light, is obviously taught inthese words, and should be a welcome thought to us all.

The tangled utterances which immediately follow, sound as if speechstaggered under the weight of the thoughts opening before the speaker.Whatever difficulty attends the construction, the intention isclear,—to contrast the limited scope of the message, as confined tothe children of Israel, with its universal destination as now madeclear. The statement which in the Authorised and Revised Versions isthrown into a parenthesis is really the very centre of the Apostle'sthought. Jesus, who has hitherto been preached to Israel, is 'Lord ofall,' and the message concerning Him is now to be proclaimed, not invague outline and at second hand, as it had hitherto reached Cornelius,but in full detail, and as a message in which he was concerned.

Contrast the beginning and the ending of the discourse,—'the word sentunto the children of Israel' and 'every one that believeth on Him shallreceive remission of sins.' A remarkable variation in the text issuggested by Blass in his striking commentary, who would omit 'Lord'and read, 'The word which He sent to the children of Israel, bringingthe good tidings of peace through Jesus Christ,—this [word] belongs toall.' That reading does away with the chief difficulties, and bringsout clearly the thought which is more obscurely expressed in acontorted sentence by the present reading.

The subsequent resume of the life of Jesus is substantially the sameas is found in Peter's other sermons. But we may note that the highestconceptions of our Lord's nature are not stated. It is hard to supposethat Peter after Pentecost had not the same conviction as burned in hisconfession, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' But inthese early discourses neither the Divinity and Incarnation nor theatoning sacrifice of Jesus is set forth. He is the Christ, 'anointedwith the Holy Ghost and with power.' God is with Him (Nicodemus had gotas far as that). He is 'ordained of God to be the judge of quick anddead.'

We note, too, that His teaching is not touched upon, nor any of theprofounder aspects of His work as the Revealer of God, but Hisbeneficence and miraculous deliverances of devil-ridden men. His deathis declared, but without any of the accusations of His murderers,which, like lance-thrusts, 'pricked' Jewish hearers. Nor is theefficacy of that death as the sacrifice for the world's sin touchedupon, but it is simply told as a fact, and set in contrast with theResurrection. These were the plain facts which had first to be accepted.

The only way of establishing facts is by evidence of eye-witnesses. SoPeter twice (verses 39, 41) adduces his own and his colleagues'evidence. But the facts are not yet a gospel, unless they are furtherexplained as well as established. Did such things happen? The answeris, 'We saw them.' What did they mean? The answer begins by adducingthe 'witness' of the Apostles to a different order of truths, whichrequires a different sort of witness. Jesus had bidden them 'testify'that He is to be Judge of living and dead; that is, of all mankind.Their witness to that can only rest on His word.

Nor is that all. There is yet another body of 'witnesses' to yetanother class of truths. 'All the prophets' bear witness to the greattruth which makes the biography of the Man the gospel for allmen,—that the deepest want of all men is satisfied through the namewhich Peter ever rang out as all-powerful to heal and bless. Theforgiveness of sins through the manifested character and work of JesusChrist is given on condition of faith to any and every one whobelieves, be he Jew or Gentile, Galilean fisherman or Roman centurion.Cornelius may have known little of the prophets, but he knew the burdenof sin. He did not know all that we know of Jesus, and of the way inwhich forgiveness is connected with His work, but he did know now thatit was connected, and that this Jesus was risen from the dead, and wasto be the Judge. His faith went out to that Saviour, and as he heard hebelieved.

III. Therefore the great gift, attesting the divine acceptance of himand the rest of the hearers, came at once. There had been no confessionof their faith, much less had there been baptism, or laying on ofApostolic hands. The sole qualification and condition for the receptionof the Spirit which John lays down in his Gospel when he speaks of the'Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive,' was presenthere, and it was enough. Peter and his brethren might have hesitatedabout baptizing an uncircumcised believer. The Lord of the Churchshowed Peter that He did not hesitate.

So, like a true disciple, Peter followed Christ's lead, and though'they of the circumcision' were struck with amazement, he said tohimself, 'Who am I, that I should withstand God?' and opened his heartto welcome these new converts as possessors of 'like precious faith' aswas demonstrated by their possession of the same Spirit. Would thatPeter's willingness to recognise all who manifest the Spirit of Christ,whatever their relation to ecclesiastical regulations, had continuedthe law and practice of the Church!


'And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that theGentiles had also received the word of God. 2. And when Peter was comeup to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,3. Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat withthem. 4. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, andexpounded it by order unto them, saying, 5. I was in the city of Joppapraying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, asit had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and itcame even to me: 6. Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, Iconsidered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts,and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 7. And I heard a voicesaying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay, and eat. 8. But I said, Not so,Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into mymouth. 9. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hathcleansed, that call not thou common. 10. And this was done three times:and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11. And, behold, immediatelythere were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent fromCaesarea unto me. 12. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothingdoubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we enteredinto the man's house: 13. And he shewed us how he had seen an angel inhis house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and callfor Simon, whose surname is Peter; 14. Who shall tell thee words,whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. 15. And as I began tospeak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16. Thenremembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeedbaptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17.Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, whobelieved on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstandGod? 18. When they heard these things, they held their peace, andglorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles grantedrepentance unto life.'—ACTS xi. 1-18.

Peter's action in regard to Cornelius precipitated a controversy whichwas bound to come if the Church was to be anything more than a Jewishsect. It brought to light the first tendency to form a party in theChurch. 'They… of the circumcision' were probably 'certain of thesect of the Pharisees which believed,' and were especially zealous forall the separating prescriptions of the ceremonial law. They werescarcely a party as yet, but the little rift was destined to grow, andthey became Paul's bitterest opponents through all his life, dogginghim with calumnies and counterworking his toil. It is a black day for aChurch when differences of opinion lead to the formation of cliques.Zeal for truth is sadly apt to enlist spite, malice, and blindness to amanifest work of God, as its allies.

Poor Peter, no doubt, expected that the brethren would rejoice with himin the extension of the Gospel to 'the Gentiles,' but his reception inJerusalem was very unlike his hopes. The critics did not venture tocavil at his preaching to Gentiles. Probably none of them had anyobjection to such being welcomed into the Church, for they can scarcelyhave wished to make the door into it narrower than that into thesynagogue, but they insisted that there was no way in but through thesynagogue. By all means, said they, let Gentiles come, but they mustfirst become Jews, by submitting to circumcision and living as Jews do.Thus they did not attack Peter for preaching to the Roman centurion andhis men, but for eating with them. That eating not only was a breach ofthe law, but it implied the reception of Cornelius and his company intothe household of God, and so destroyed the whole fabric of Jewishexclusiveness. We condemn such narrowness, but do many of us notpractise it in other forms? Wherever Christians demand adoption ofexternal usages, over and above exercise of penitent faith, as acondition of brotherly recognition, they are walking in the steps ofthem 'of the circumcision.'

Peter's answer to the critics is the true answer to all similar hedgingup of the Church, for he contents himself with showing that he was onlyfollowing God's action in every step of the way which he took, and thatGod, by the gift of the divine Spirit, had shown that He had takenthese uncircumcised men into His fellowship, before Peter dared to 'eatwith them.' He points to four facts which show God's hand in thematter, and thinks that he has done enough to vindicate himselfthereby. The first is his vision on the housetop. He tells that he waspraying when it came, and what God shows to a praying spirit is notlikely to mislead. He tells that he was 'in a trance,'—a condition inwhich prophets had of old received their commands. That again was aguarantee for the divine origin of the vision in the eyes of every Jew,though nowadays it is taken by anti-supernaturalists as a demonstrationof its morbidness and unreliableness. He tells of his reluctance toobey the command to 'kill and eat.' A flash of the old brusque spiritimpelled his flat refusal, 'Not so, Lord!' and his daring to argue withhis Lord still, as he had done with Him on earth. He tells of theinterpreting and revolutionary word, evoked by his audacious objection,and then he tells how 'this was done thrice,' so that there could be nomistake in his remembrance of it, and then that the whole was drawn upinto heaven,—a sign that the purpose of the vision was accomplishedwhen that word was spoken. What, then, was the meaning of it?

Clearly it swept away at once the legal distinction of clean andunclean meats, and of it, too, may be spoken what Mark, Peter'smouthpiece, writes of earthly words of Christ's: 'This He said, makingall meats clean.' But with the sweeping away of that distinction muchelse goes, for it necessarily involves the abrogation of the wholeseparating ordinances of the law, and of the distinction between cleanand unclean persons. Its wider application was not seen at the moment,but it flashed on him, no doubt, when face to face with Cornelius. Godhad cleansed him, in that his prayers had 'gone up for a memorialbefore God,' and so Peter saw that 'in every nation,' and not amongJews only, there might be men cleansed by God. What was true ofCornelius must be true of many others. So the whole distinction betweenJew and Gentile was cut up by the roots. Little did Peter know thewidth of the principle revealed to him then, as all of us know butlittle of the full application of many truths which we believe. But heobeyed so much of the command as he understood, and more of itgradually dawned on his mind, as will always be the case if we obeywhat we know.

The second fact was the coincident arrival of the messengers and thedistinct command to accompany them. Peter could distinguish quiteassuredly his own thoughts from divine instructions, as his account ofthe dialogue in the trance shows. How he distinguished is not told;that he distinguished is. The coincidence in time clearly pointed toone divine hand working at both ends of the line,—Caesarea and Joppa.It interpreted the vision which had 'much perplexed' Peter as to whatit 'might mean.' But he was not left to interpret it by his ownpondering. The Spirit spoke authoritatively, and the whole force of hisjustification of himself depends on the fact that he knew that theimpulse which made him set out to Caesarea was not his own. If thereading of the Revised Version is adopted in verse 12, 'making nodistinction,' the command plainly referred to the vision, and showedPeter that he was to make no distinction of 'clean and unclean' in hisintercourse with these Gentiles.

The third fact is the vision to Cornelius, of which he was told onarriving. The two visions fitted into each other, confirmed each other,interpreted each other. We may estimate the greatness of the step inthe development of the Church which the admission of Cornelius into itmade, and the obstacles on both sides, by the fact that both visionswere needed to bring these two men together. Peter would never havedreamed of going with the messengers if he had not had his narrownessbeaten out of him on the housetop, and Cornelius would never havedreamed of sending to Joppa if he had not seen the angel. The cleftbetween Jew and Gentile was so wide that God's hand had to be appliedon both sides to press the separated parts together. He had plainlydone it, and that was Peter's defence.

The fourth fact is the gift of the Spirit to these Gentiles. That isthe crown of Peter's vindication, and his question, 'Who was I, that Icould withstand God?' might be profitably pondered and applied by thosewhose ecclesiastical theories oblige them to deny the 'orders' and the'validity of the sacraments' and the very name of a Church, to bodiesof Christians who do not conform to their polity. If God, by the giftof His Spirit manifest in its fruits, owns them, they have the true'notes of the Church,' and 'they of the circumcision' who recoil fromrecognising them do themselves more harm thereby than they inflict onthese. 'As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons ofGod,' even though some brother may be 'angry' that the Father welcomesthem.


'And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they warecome to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21.And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed,and turned unto the Lord.'—ACTS xi. 20, 21.

Thus simply does the historian tell one of the greatest events in thehistory of the Church. How great it was will appear if we observe thatthe weight of authority among critics and commentators sees here anextension of the message of salvation to Greeks, that is, to pureheathens, and not a mere preaching to Hellenists, that is, toGreek-speaking Jews born outside Palestine.

If that be correct, this was a great stride forward in the developmentof the Church. It needed a vision to overcome the scruples of Peter,and impel him to the bold innovation of preaching to Cornelius and hishousehold, and, as we know, his doing so gave grave offence to some ofhis brethren in Jerusalem. But in the case before us, some Cypriote andAfrican Jews—men of no note in the Church, whose very names haveperished, with no official among them, with no vision nor command toimpel them, with no precedent to encourage them, with nothing but thetruth in their minds and the impulses of Christ's love in theirhearts—solve the problem of the extension of Christ's message to theheathen, and, quite unconscious of the greatness of their act, do thething about the propriety of which there had been such serious questionin Jerusalem.

This boldness becomes even more remarkable if we notice that theincident of our text may have taken place before Peter's visit toCornelius. The verse before our text, 'They which were scattered abroadupon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled, … preachingthe word to none but unto the Jews only,' is almost a verbatimrepetition of words in an earlier chapter, and evidently suggests thatthe writer is returning to that point of time, in order to take upanother thread of his narrative contemporaneous with those alreadypursued. If so, three distinct lines of expansion appear to havestarted from the dispersion of the Jerusalem church in thepersecution—namely, Philip's mission to Samaria, Peter's to Cornelius,and this work in Antioch. Whether prior in time or no, the preaching inthe latter city was plainly quite independent of the other two. It isfurther noteworthy that this, the effort of a handful of unnamed men,was the true 'leader'—the shoot that grew. Philip's work, and Peter'sso far as we know, were side branches, which came to little; this ledon to a church at Antioch, and so to Paul's missionary work, and allthat came of that.

The incident naturally suggests some thoughts bearing on the generalsubject of Christian work, which we now briefly present.

I. Notice the spontaneous impulse which these men obeyed.

Persecution drove the members of the Church apart, and, as a matter ofcourse, wherever they went they took their faith with them, and, as amatter of course, spoke about it. The coals were scattered from thehearth in Jerusalem by the armed heel of violence. That did not put thefire out, but only spread it, for wherever they were flung they kindleda blaze. These men had no special injunction 'to preach the LordJesus.' They do not seem to have adopted this line of actiondeliberately, or of set purpose. 'They believed, and therefore spoke.'A spontaneous impulse, and nothing more, leads them on. They findthemselves rejoicing in a great Saviour-Friend. They see all aroundthem men who need Him, and that is enough. They obey the promptings ofthe voice within, and lay the foundations of the first Gentile Church.

Such a spontaneous impulse is ever the natural result of our ownpersonal possession of Christ. In regard to worldly good the instinct,except when overcome by higher motives, is to keep the treasure tooneself. But even in the natural sphere there are possessions which tohave is to long to impart, such as truth and knowledge. And in thespiritual sphere, it is emphatically the case that real possession isalways accompanied by a longing to impart. The old prophet spoke auniversal truth when he said: 'Thy word was as a fire shut up in mybones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.' If wehave found Christ for ourselves, we shall undoubtedly wish to speakforth our knowledge of His love. Convictions which are deep demandexpression. Emotion which is strong needs utterance. If our hearts haveany fervour of love to Christ in them, it will be as natural to tell itforth, as tears are to sorrow or smiles to happiness. True, there is areticence in profound feeling, and sometimes the deepest love can only'love and be silent,' and there is a just suspicion of loud or vehementprotestations of Christian emotion, as of any emotion. But for allthat, it remains true that a heart warmed with the love of Christ needsto express its love, and will give it forth, as certainly as light mustradiate from its centre, or heat from a fire.

Then, true kindliness of heart creates the same impulse. We cannottruly possess the treasure for ourselves without pity for those whohave it not. Surely there is no stranger contradiction than thatChristian men and women can be content to keep Christ as if He weretheir special property, and have their spirits untouched into anylikeness of His divine pity for the multitudes who were as 'sheephaving no shepherd.' What kind of Christians must they be who think ofChrist as 'a Saviour for me,' and take no care to set Him forth as 'aSaviour for you'? What should we think of men in a shipwreck who werecontent to get into the lifeboat, and let everybody else drown? Whatshould we think of people in a famine feasting sumptuously on theirprivate stores, whilst women were boiling their children for a meal andmen fighting with dogs for garbage on the dunghills? 'He thatwithholdeth bread, the people shall curse him.' What of him whowithholds the Bread of Life, and all the while claims to be a followerof the Christ, who gave His flesh for the life of the world?

Further, loyalty to Christ creates the same impulse. If we are true toour Lord, we shall feel that we cannot but speak up and out for Him,and that all the more where His name is unloved and unhonoured. He hasleft His good fame very much in our hands, and the very same impulsewhich hurries words to our lips when we hear the name of an absentfriend calumniated should make us speak for Him. He is a doubtfullyloyal subject who, if he lives among rebels, is afraid to show hiscolours. He is already a coward, and is on the way to be a traitor. OurMaster has made us His witnesses. He has placed in our hands, as asacred deposit, the honour of His name. He has entrusted to us, as Hisselectest sign of confidence, the carrying out of the purposes forwhich on earth His blood was shed, on which in heaven His heart is set.How can we be loyal to Him if we are not forced by a mighty constraintto respond to His great tokens of trust in us, and if we know nothingof that spirit which said: 'Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is untome, if I preach not the gospel!' I do not say that a man cannot be aChristian unless he knows and obeys this impulse. But, at least, we maysafely say that he is a very weak and imperfect Christian who does not.

II. This incident suggests the universal obligation on all Christiansto make known Christ.

These men were not officials. In these early days the Church had a veryloose organisation. But the fugitives in our narrative seem to have hadamong them none even of the humble office-bearers of primitive times.Neither had they any command or commission from Jerusalem. No one therehad given them authority, or, as would appear, knew anything of theirproceedings. Could there be a more striking illustration of the greattruth that whatever varieties of function may be committed to variousofficers in the Church, the work of telling Christ's love to menbelongs to every one who has found it for himself or herself? 'Thishonour have all the saints.'

Whatever may be our differences of opinion as to Church order andoffices, they need not interfere with our firm grasp of this truth.'Preaching Christ,' in the sense in which that expression is used inthe New Testament, implies no one special method of proclaiming theglad tidings. A word written in a letter to a friend, a sentencedropped in casual conversation, a lesson to a child on a mother's lap,or any other way by which, to any listeners, the great story of theCross is told, is as truly—often more truly—preaching Christ as theset discourse which has usurped the name.

We profess to believe in the priesthood of all believers, we are readyenough to assert it in opposition to sacerdotal assumptions. Are we asready to recognise it as laying a very real responsibility upon us, andinvolving a very practical inference as to our own conduct? We all havethe power, therefore we all have the duty. For what purpose did Godgive us the blessing of knowing Christ ourselves? Not for our ownwell-being alone, but that through us the blessing might be stillfurther diffused.

'Heaven doth with us as men with torches do,
Not light them for themselves.'

'God hath shined into our hearts' that we might give to others 'thelight of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of JesusChrist.' Every Christian is solemnly bound to fulfil this divineintention, and to take heed to the imperative command, 'Freely ye havereceived, freely give.'

III. Observe, further, the simple message which they proclaimed.

'Preaching the Lord Jesus,' says the text—or more accuratelyperhaps—'preaching Jesus as Lord.' The substance, then, of theirmessage was just this—proclamation of the person and dignity of theirMaster, the story of the human life of the Man, the story of the divinesacrifice and self-bestowment by which He had bought the right ofsupreme rule over every heart; and the urging of His claims on all whoheard of His love. And this, their message, was but the proclamation oftheir own personal experience. They had found Jesus to be forthemselves Lover and Lord, Friend and Saviour of their souls, and thejoy they had received they sought to share with these Greeks,worshippers of gods and lords many.

Surely anybody can deliver that message who has had that experience.All have not the gifts which would fit for public speech, but all whohave 'tasted that the Lord is gracious' can somehow tell how graciousHe is. The first Christian sermon was very short, and it was veryefficacious, for it 'brought to Jesus' the whole congregation. Here itis: 'He first findeth his brother Simon, and saith unto him, We havefound the Messias.' Surely we can all say that, if we have found Him.Surely we shall all long to say it, if we are glad that we have foundHim, and if we love our brother.

Notice, too, how simple the form as well as the substance of themessage. 'They spake.' It was no set address, no formal utterance,but familiar, natural talk to ones and twos, as opportunity offered.The form was so simple that we may say that there was none. What wewant is that Christian people should speak anyhow. What does the shapeof the cup matter? What does it matter whether it be gold or clay? Themain thing is that it shall bear the water of life to some thirsty lip.All Christians have to preach, as the word is used here, that is, totell the good news. Their task is to carry a message—no refinement ofwords is needed for that—arguments are not needed. They have to tellit simply and faithfully, as one who only cares to repeat what he hashad given to him. They have to tell it confidently, as having proved ittrue. They have to tell it beseechingly, as loving the souls to whomthey bring it. Surely we can all do that, if we ourselves are living onChrist and have drunk into His Spirit. Let His mighty salvation,experienced by yourselves, be the substance of your message, and letthe form of it be guided by the old words, 'It shall be, when theSpirit of the Lord is come upon thee, that thou shalt do as occasionshall serve thee.'

IV. Notice, lastly, the mighty Helper who prospered their work.

'The hand of the Lord was with them.' The very keynote of this Book ofthe Acts is the work of the ascended Christ in and for His Church. Atevery turning-point in the history, and throughout the wholenarratives, forms of speech like this occur, bearing witness to theprofound conviction of the writer that Christ's active energy was withHis servants, and Christ's Hand the origin of all their security and ofall their success.

So this is a statement of a permanent and universal fact. We do notlabour alone; however feeble our hands, that mighty Hand is laid onthem to direct their movements and to lend strength to their weakness.It is not our speech which will secure results, but His presence withour words which will bring it about that even through them a greatnumber shall believe and turn to the Lord. There is our encouragementwhen we are despondent. There is our rebuke when we are self-confident.There is our stimulus when we are indolent. There is our quietness whenwe are impatient. If ever we are tempted to think our task heavy, letus not forget that He who set it helps us to do it, and from His throneshares in all our toils, the Lord still, as of old, working with us. Ifever we feel that our strength is nothing, and that we stand solitaryagainst many foes, let us fall back upon the peace-giving thought thatone man against the world, with Christ to help him, is always in themajority, and let us leave issues of our work in His hands, whose handwill guard the seed sown in weakness, whose smile will bless thespringing thereof.

How little any of us know what will become of our poor work, under Hisfostering care! How little these men knew that they were laying thefoundations of the great change which was to transform the Christiancommunity from a Jewish sect into a world-embracing Church! So is itever. We know not what we do when simply and humbly we speak His name.The far-reaching results escape our eyes. Then, sow the seed, and Hewill 'give it a body as it pleaseth Him.' On earth we may never knowthe fruits of our labours. They will be among the surprises of heaven,where many a solitary worker shall exclaim with wonder, as he looks onthe hitherto unknown children whom God hath given him, 'Behold, I wasleft alone; these, where had they been?' Then, though our names mayhave perished from earthly memories, like those of the simple fugitivesof Cyprus and Cyrene, who 'were the first that ever burst' into thenight of heathendom with the torch of the Gospel in their hands, theywill be written in the Lamb's book of life, and He will confess them inthe presence of His Father in heaven.

THE EXHORTATION OF BARNABAS [Footnote: Preached before the
Congregational Union of England and Wales.]

'Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, andexhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave untothe Lord.'—ACTS xi. 23.

The first purely heathen converts had been brought into the Church bythe nameless men of Cyprus and Cyrene, private persons with no officeor commission to preach, who, in simple obedience to the instincts of aChristian heart, leaped the barrier which seemed impassable to theChurch in Jerusalem, and solved the problem over which Apostles werehesitating. Barnabas is sent down to see into this surprising newphenomenon, and his mission, though probably not hostile, was, at allevents, one of inquiry and doubt. But like a true man, he yielded tofacts, and widened his theory to suit them. He saw the tokens ofChristian life in these Gentile converts, and that compelled him toadmit that the Church was wider than some of his friends in Jerusalemthought. A pregnant lesson for modern theorists who, on one ground oranother of doctrine or of orders, narrow the great conception ofChrist's Church! Can you see 'the grace of God' in the people? Thenthey are in the Church, whatever becomes of your theories, and thesooner you let them out so as to fit the facts, the better for you andfor them.

Satisfied as to their true Christian character, Barnabas sets himselfto help them to grow. Now, remember how recently they had beenconverted; how, from their Gentile origin, they can have had next to nosystematic instruction; how the taint of heathen morals, such as werecommon in that luxurious, corrupt Antioch, must have clung to them; howunformed must have been their loose Church organisation—andremembering all this, think of this one exhortation as summing up allthat Barnabas had to say to them. He does not say, Do this, or Believethat, or Organise the other; but he says, Stick to Jesus Christ theLord. On this commandment hangs all the law; it is the oneall-inclusive summary of the duties of the Christian life.

So, brethren and fathers, I venture to take these words now, ascontaining large lessons for us all, appropriate at all times, andespecially in a sermon on such an occasion as the present.

We may deal with the thoughts suggested by these words very simply,just looking at the points as they lie—what Barnabas saw, what hefelt, what he said.

I. What Barnabas saw.

The grace of God here has very probably the specific meaning of themiracle-working gift of the Holy Spirit. That is rendered probable bythe analogy of other instances recorded in the Acts of the Apostles,such as Peter's experience at Caesarea, where all his hesitations andreluctance were swept away when 'the Holy Ghost fell on them as on usat the beginning, and they spake with tongues.' If so, what convincedBarnabas that these uncircumcised Gentiles were Christians likehimself, may have been their similar possession of the visible andaudible effects of that gift of God. But the language does not compelthis interpretation; and the absence of all distinct reference to theseextraordinary powers as existing there, among the new converts atAntioch, may be intended to mark a difference in the nature of theevidence. At any rate, the possibly intentional generality of theexpression is significant and fairly points to an extension of thespiritual gifts much beyond the limits of miraculous powers. There areother ways by which the grace of God may be seen and heard, thank God!than by speaking with tongues and working miracles; and the firstlesson of our text is that wherever that grace is made visible by itsappropriate manifestations, there we are to recognise a brother.

Augustine said, 'Where Christ is there is the Church,' and that istrue, but vague; for the question still remains, 'And where isChrist?' The only satisfying answer is, Christ is wherever Christlikemen manifest a life drawn from, and kindred with, His life. And so thetrue form of the dictum for practical purposes comes to be: 'Where thegrace of Christ is visible, there is the Church.'

That great truth is sinned against and denied in many ways. Mostchiefly, perhaps, by the successors in modern garb of the more Jewishportion of that Church at Jerusalem who sent Barnabas to Antioch. Theyhad no objection to Gentiles entering the Church, but they must come inby the way of circumcision; they quite believed that it was Christ whosaved, and His grace which sanctified, but they thought that His gracewould only flow in a given channel; and so do their modernrepresentatives, who exalt sacraments, and consequently priests, to thesame place as the Judaizers in the early Church did the rite of the oldCovenant. Such teachers have much to say about the notes of the Church,and have elaborated a complicated system of identification by which youmay know the genuine article, and unmask impostors. The attempt isabout as wise as to try to weave a network fine enough to keep back astream. The water will flow through the closest meshes, and when Christpours out the Spirit, He is apt to do it in utter disregard of notes ofthe Church, and of channels of sacramental grace.

We Congregationalists, who have no orders, no sacraments, no Apostolicsuccession; who in order not to break loose from Christ and consciencehave had to break loose from 'Catholic tradition,' and have been drivento separation by the true schismatics, who have insisted on anotherbond of Church unity than union to Christ, are denied nowadays a placein His Church.

The true answer to all that arrogant assumption and narrow pedantrywhich confine the free flow of the water of life to the conduits ofsacraments and orders, and will only allow the wind that bloweth whereit listeth to make music in the pipes of their organs, is simply thehomely one which shivered a corresponding theory to atoms in the fairopen mind of Barnabas.

The Spirit of Christ at work in men's hearts, making them pure andgentle, simple and unworldly, refining their characters, elevatingtheir aims, toning their whole being into accord with the music of Hislife, is the true proof that men are Christians, and that communitiesof such men are Churches of His. Mysterious efficacy is claimed forChristian ordinances. Well, the question is a fair one: Is the type ofChristian character produced within these sacred limits, which we arehopelessly outside, conspicuously higher and more manifestly Christlikethan that nourished by no sacraments, and grown not under glass, but inthe unsheltered open? Has not God set His seal on these communities towhich we belong? With many faults for which we have to be, and are,humble before Him, we can point to the lineaments of the familylikeness, and say, 'Are they Hebrews? so are we. Are they Israelites?so are we. Are they the seed of Abraham? so are we.'

Once get that truth wrought into men's minds, that the true test ofChristianity is the visible presence of a grace in character which isevidently God's, and whole mountains of prejudice and error melt away.We are just as much in danger of narrowing the Church in accordancewith our narrowness as any 'sacramentarian' of them all. We are temptedto think that no good thing can grow up under the baleful shadow ofthat tree, a sacerdotal Christianity. We are tempted to think that allthe good people are Dissenters, just as Churchmen are to think thatnobody can be a Christian who prays without a prayer-book. Our own typeof denominational character—and there is such a thing—comes to beaccepted by us as the all but exclusive ideal of a devout man; and wehave not imagination enough to conceive, nor charity enough to believein, the goodness which does not speak our dialect, nor see with oureyes. Dogmatical narrowness has built as high walls as ceremonialChristianity has reared round the fold of Christ, And the onedeliverance for us all from the transformed selfishness, which has somuch to do with shaping all these wretched narrow theories of theChurch, is to do as this man did—open our eyes with sympatheticeagerness to see God's grace in many an unexpected place, and squareour theories with His dealings.

It used to be an axiom that there was no life in the sea beyond acertain limit of a few hundred feet. It was learnedly and conclusivelydemonstrated that pressure and absence of light, and I know not whatbeside, made life at greater depths impossible. It was proved that insuch conditions creatures could not live. And then, when that wassettled, the Challenger put down her dredge five miles, and broughtup healthy and good-sized living things, with eyes in their heads, fromthat enormous depth. So, then, the savant had to ask, How can therebe life? instead of asserting that there cannot be; and, no doubt, theanswer will be forth coming some day.

We have all been too much accustomed to set arbitrary limits to thediffusion of the life of Christ among men. Let us rather rejoice whenwe see forms of beauty, which bear the mark of His hand, drawn fromdepths that we deemed waste, and thankfully confess that the bounds ofour expectation, and the framework of our institutions, do not confinethe breadth of His working, nor the sweep of His grace.

II. What Barnabas felt.

'He was glad.' It was a triumph of Christian principle to recognise thegrace of God under new forms, and in so strange a place. It was a stillgreater triumph to hail it with rejoicing. One need not have wonderedif the acknowledgment of a fact, dead in the teeth of all hisprejudices, and seemingly destructive of some profound convictions, hadbeen somewhat grudging. Even a good, true man might have beenbewildered and reluctant to let go so much as was destroyed by theadmission—'Then hath God granted to the Gentiles also repentance untolife,'—and might have been pardoned if he had not been able to do morethan acquiesce and hold his peace. We are scarcely just to these earlyJewish Christians when we wonder at their hesitation on this matter,and are apt to forget the enormous strength of the prejudices andsacred conviction which they had to overcome. Hence the context seemsto consider that the quick recognition of Christian character on thepart of Barnabas, and his gladness at the discovery, need explanation,and so it adds, with special reference to these, as it would seem, 'forhe was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith,' as if nothingshort of such characteristics could have sufficiently emancipated himfrom the narrowness that would have refused to discern the good, or thebitterness that would have been offended at it.

So, dear brethren, we may well test ourselves with this question: Doesthe discovery of the working of the grace of God outside the limits ofour own Churches and communions excite a quick, spontaneous emotion ofgladness in our hearts? It may upset some of our theories; it mayteach us that things which we thought very important, 'distinctiveprinciples' and the like, are not altogether as precious as we thoughtthem; it may require us to give up some pleasant ideas of oursuperiority, and of the necessary conformity of all good people to ourtype. Are we willing to let them all go, and without a twinge of envyor a hanging back from prejudice, to welcome the discovery that 'Godfulfils Himself in many ways'? Have we schooled ourselves to sayhonestly, 'Therein I do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice'?

There is much to overcome if we would know this Christlike gladness.The good and the bad in us may both oppose it. The natural deeperinterest in the well-being of the Churches of our own faith and order,the legitimate ties which unite us with these, our conscientiousconvictions, our friendships, the esprit de corps born of fightingshoulder to shoulder, will, of course, make our sympathies flow mostquickly and deeply in denominational channels. And then come inabundance of less worthy motives, some altogether bad and some theexaggeration of what is good, and we get swallowed up in our ownindividual work, or in that of our 'denomination,' and have but a verytepid joy in anybody else's prosperity.

In almost every town of England, your Churches, and those to which Ibelong, with Presbyterians and Wesleyans, stand side by side. Theconditions of our work make some rivalry inevitable, and none of us, Isuppose, object to that. It helps to keep us all diligent: a sturdyadherence to our several 'distinctive principles' and an occasionalhard blow in fair fight on their behalf we shall all insist upon. Ourbrotherhood is all the more real for frank speech, and 'the animatedNo!' is an essential in all intercourse which is not stagnant ormawkish. There is much true fellowship and much good feeling among allthese. But we want far more of an honest rejoicing in each other'ssuccess, a quicker and truer manly sympathy with each other's work, afuller consciousness of our solidarity in Christ, and a clearerexhibition of it before the world.

And on a wider view, as our eyes travel over the wide field ofChristendom, and our memories go back over the long ages of the storyof the Church, let gladness, and not wonder or reluctance, be thetemper with which we see the graces of Christian character liftingtheir meek blossoms in corners strange to us, and breathing theirfragrance over the pastures of the wilderness. In many a cloister, inmany a hermit's cell, from amidst the smoke of incense, through thedust of controversies, we should see, and be glad to see, faces brightwith the radiance caught from Christ. Let us set a jealous watch overour hearts that self-absorption, or denominationalism, or envy do notmake the sight a pain instead of a joy; and let us remember that theeye-salve which will purge our dim sight to behold the grace of God inall its forms is that grace itself, which ever recognises its ownkindred, and lives in the gladness of charity, and the joy of beholdinga brother's good. If we are to have eyes to know the grace of God whenwe see it, and a heart to rejoice when we know it, we must get them asBarnabas got his, and be good men, because we are full of the HolyGhost, and full of the Holy Ghost because we are full of faith.

III. What Barnabas said.

'He exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleaveunto the Lord.' The first thing that strikes one about thisall-sufficient directory for Christian life is the emphasis with whichit sets forth 'the Lord' as the one object to be grasped and held. Thesum of all objective Religion is Christ—the sum of all subjectiveReligion is cleaving to Him. A living Person to be laid hold of, and apersonal relation to that Person, such is the conception of Religion,whether considered as revelation or as inward life, which underliesthis exhortation. Whether we listen to His own words about Himself, andmark the altogether unprecedented way in which He was His own theme,and the unique decisiveness and plainness with which He puts His ownpersonality before us as the Incarnate Truth, the pattern for all humanconduct, the refuge and the rest for the world of weary ones; orwhether we give ear to the teaching of His Apostles; from whateverpoint of view we approach Christianity, it all resolves itself into theperson of Jesus Christ. He is the Revelation of God; theology,properly so called, is but the formulating of the facts which He givesus; and for the modern world the alternative is, Christ the manifestedGod, or no God at all, other than the shadow of a name. He is theperfect Exemplar of humanity! The law of life and the power to fulfilthe law are both in Him; and the superiority of Christian moralityconsists not in this or that isolated precept, but in the embodiment ofall goodness in His life, and in the new motive which He supplies forkeeping the commandment. Wrenched away from Him, Christian morality hasno being. He is the sacrifice for the world, the salvation of whichflows from what He does, and not merely from what He taught or was. Hispersonality is the foundation of His work, and the gospel offorgiveness and reconciliation is all contained in the name of Jesus.

There is a constant tendency to separate the results of Christ's lifeand death, whether considered as revelation, atonement, or ethics, fromHim, and unconsciously to make these the sum of our Religion, and theobject of our faith. Especially is this the case in times of restlessthought and eager canvassing of the very foundations of religiousbelief, like the present. Therefore it is wholesome for us all to bebrought back to the pregnant simplicity of the thought which underliesthis text, and to mark how vividly these early Christians apprehended aliving Lord as the sum and substance of all which they had to grasp.

There is a whole world between the man to whom God's revelationconsists in certain doctrines given to us by Jesus Christ, and the manto whom it consists in that Christ Himself. Grasping a living person isnot the same as accepting a proposition. True, the propositions areabout Him, and we do not know Him without them. But equally true, weneed to be reminded that He is our Saviour and not they, and thatGod has revealed Himself to us not in words and sentences but in a life.

For, alas! the doctrinal element has overborne the personal among allChurches and all schools of thought, and in the necessary process offormulating and systematising the riches which are in Jesus, we are allapt to confound the creeds with the Christ, and so to manipulateChristianity until, instead of being the revelation of a Person and agospel, it has become a system of divinity. Simple, devout souls haveto complain that they cannot find even a dead Christ, to say nothing ofa living one, for the theologians have 'taken away their Lord, and theyknow not where they have laid Him.'

It is, therefore, to be reckoned as a distinct gain that one result ofthe course of more recent thought, both among friends and foes, hasbeen to make all men feel more than before, that all revelation iscontained in the living person of Jesus Christ. So did the Churchbelieve before creeds were. So it is coming to feel again, with aconsciousness enriched and defined by the whole body of doctrine, whichhas flowed from Him during all the ages. That solemn, gracious Figurerises day by day more clearly before men, whether they love Him or no,as the vital centre of this great whole of doctrines, laws,institutions, which we call Christianity. Round the story of His lifethe final struggle is to be waged. The foe feels that, so long as thatremains, all other victories count for nothing. We feel that if thatgoes, there is nothing to keep. The principles and the precepts willperish alike, as the fair palace of the old legend, that crumbled todust when its builder died. But so long as He stands before mankind asHe is painted in the Gospel, it will endure. If all else wereannihilated, Churches, creeds and all, leave us these four Gospels, andall else would be evolved again. The world knows now, and the Churchhas always known, though it has not always been true to thesignificance of the fact, that Jesus Christ is Christianity, and thatbecause He lives, it will live also.

And consequently the sum of all personal religion is this simple actdescribed here as cleaving to Him.

Need I do more than refer to the rich variety of symbols and forms ofexpression under which that thought is put alike by the Master and byHis servants? Deepest of all are His own great words, of which our textis but a feeble echo, 'Abide in Me, and I in you.' Fairest of all isthat lovely emblem of the vine, setting forth the sweet mystery of ourunion with Him. Far as it is from the outmost pliant tendril to theroot, one life passes to the very extremities, and every cluster swellsand reddens and mellows because of its mysterious flow. 'So also isChrist.' We remember how often the invitation flowed from His lips,Come unto Me; how He was wont to beckon men away from self and theworld with the great command, Follow Me; how He explained the secretof all true life to consist in eating Him. We may recall, too, theemphasis and perpetual reiteration with which Paul speaks of being 'inJesus' as the condition of all blessedness, power, and righteousness;and the emblems which he so often employs of the building bound into awhole on the foundation from which it derives its stability, of thebody compacted and organised into a whole by the head from which itderives its life.

We begin to be Christians, as this context tells us, when we 'turn tothe Lord.' We continue to be Christians, as Barnabas reminded theseignorant beginners, by 'cleaving to the Lord.' Seeing, then, that ourgreat task is to preserve that which we have as the very foundation ofour Christian life, clearly the truest method of so keeping it will bethe constant repetition of the act by which we got it at first. Inother words, faith joined us to Christ, and continuously reiteratedacts of faith keep us united to Him. So, if I may venture, fathers andbrethren, to cast my words into the form of exhortation, even to suchan audience as the present, I would earnestly say, Let us cleave toChrist by continual renewal of our first faith in Him.

The longest line may be conceived of as produced simply by the motionof its initial point. So should our lives be, our progress notconsisting in leaving our early acts of faith behind us, but inrepeating them over and over again till the points coalesce in oneunbroken line which goes straight to the Throne and Heart of Jesus.True, the repetition should be accompanied with fuller knowledge, withcalmer certitude, and should come from a heart ennobled and encircledby a Christ-possessing past. As in some great symphony the theme whichwas given out in low notes on one poor instrument recurs over and overagain, embroidered with varying harmonies, and unfolding a richermusic, till it swells into all the grandeur of the triumphant close, soour lives should be bound into a unity, and in their unity bound toChrist by the constant renewal of our early faith, and the fathersshould come round again to the place which they occupied when aschildren they first knew Him that is 'from the beginning' to the endone and the same.

Such constant reiteration is needed, too, because yesterday's trust hasno more power to secure to-day's union than the shreds of cloth andnails which hold last year's growth to the wall will fasten this year'sshoots. Each moment must be united to Christ by its own act of faith,or it will be separated from Him. So living in the Lord we shall bestrong and wise, happy and holy. So dying in the Lord we shall be ofthe dead who are blessed. So sleeping in Jesus we shall at the last befound in Him at that day, and shall be raised up together, and made tosit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

But more specially let us cleave to Christ by habitual contemplation.There can be no real continuous closeness of intercourse with Him,except by thought ever recurring to Him amidst all the tumult of ourbusy days. I do not mean professional thinking or controversialthinking, of which we ministers have more than enough. There is anothermood of mind in which to approach our Lord than these, a mood sadlyunfamiliar, I am afraid, in these days: when poor Mary has hardly achance of a reputation for 'usefulness' by the side of busy, bustlingMartha—that still contemplation of the truth which we possess, notwith the view of discovering its foundations, or investigating itsapplications, or even of increasing our knowledge of its contents, butof bringing our own souls more completely under its influence, andsaturating our being with its fragrance. The Church has forgotten howto meditate. We are all so occupied arguing and deducing andelaborating, that we have no time for retired, still contemplation, andtherefore lose the finest aroma of the truth we profess to believe.Many of us are so busy thinking about Christianity that we have lostour hold of Christ. Sure I am that there are few things more needed byour modern religion than the old exhortation, 'Come, My people, enterinto thy chambers and shut thy doors about thee.' Cleave to the Lord byhabitual play of meditative thought on the treasures hidden in Hisname, and waiting like gold in the quartz, to be the prize of ourpatient sifting and close gaze.

And when the great truths embodied in Him stand clear before us, thenlet us remember that we have not done with them when we have seenthem. Next must come into exercise the moral side of faith, thevoluntary act of trust, the casting ourselves on Him whom we behold,the making our own of the blessings which He holds out to us. Flee toChrist as to our strong habitation to which we may continually resort.Hold tightly by Christ with a grasp which nothing can slacken (thatwhitens your very knuckles as you clutch Him), lean on Christ all yourweight and all your burdens. Cleave to the Lord with full purpose ofheart.

Let us cleave to the Lord by constant outgoings of our love to Him.That is the bond which unites human spirits together in the only realunion, and Scripture teaches us to see in the sweetest, sacredest,closest tie that men and women can know, a real, though faint, shadowof the far deeper and truer union between Christ and us. The same lovewhich is the bond of perfectness between man and man, is the bondbetween us and Christ. In no dreamy, semi-pantheistic fusion of thebeliever with his Lord do we find the true conception of the unity ofChrist and His Church, but in a union which preserves theindividualities lest it should slay the love. Faith knits us to Christ,and faith is the mother of love, which maintains the blessed union. Solet us not be ashamed of the emotional side of our religion, nor deemthat we can cleave to Christ unless our hearts twine their tendrilsround Him, and our love pours its odorous treasures on His sacred feet,not without weeping and embraces. Cold natures may carp, but Love isjustified of her children, and Christ accepts the homage that has aheart in it. Cleaving to the Lord is not merely love, but it isimpossible without it. The order is Faith, Love, Obedience—thatthreefold cord knits men to Christ, and Christ to men. For theunderstanding, a continuous grasp of Him as the object of thought. Forthe heart, a continuous outgoing to Him as the object of our love. Forthe will, a continuous submission to Him as the Lord of our obedience.For the whole nature, a continuous cleaving to Him as the object of ourfaith and worship.

Such is the true discipline of the Christian life. Such is theall-sufficient command; as for the newest convert from heathenism, withlittle knowledge and the taint of his old vices in his soul, so for thesaint fullest of wisdom and nearest the Light.

It is all-sufficient. If Barnabas had been like some of us, he wouldhave had a very different style of exhortation. He would have said,'This irregular work has been well done, but there are no authorisedteachers here, and no provision has been made for the dueadministration of the sacraments of the Church. The very first thing ofall is to give these people the blessing of bishops and priests.' Someof us would have said, 'Valuable work has been done, but these goodpeople are terribly ignorant. The best thing would be to get ready assoon as possible some manual of Christian doctrine, and in the meantimeprovide for their systematic instruction in at least the elements ofthe faith.' Some of us would have said, 'No doubt they have beenconverted, but we fear there has been too much of the emotional in thepreaching. The moral side of Christianity has not been pressed home,and what they chiefly need is to be taught that it is not feeling, butrighteousness. Plain, practical instruction in Christian duty is theone thing they want.'

Barnabas knew better. He did not despise organisation, nor orthodoxy,nor practical righteousness, but he knew that all three, and everythingelse that any man needed for his perfecting would come, if only theconverts kept near to Christ, and that nothing else was of any use ifthey did not. That same conviction should for us settle the relativeimportance which we attach to these subordinate and derivative things,and to the primary and primitive duty. Obedience to it will securethem. They, without it, are not worth securing.

We spend much pains and effort nowadays in perfecting our organisationsand consolidating our resources, and I have not a word to say againstthat. But heavier machinery needs more power in the engine, and thatmeans greater capacity in your boilers and more fire in your furnace.The more complete our organisation, the more do we need a firm hold ofChrist, or we shall be overweighted by it, shall be in danger ofburning incense to our own net, shall be tempted to trust in drillrather than in courage, in mechanism rather than in the life drawn fromChrist. On the other hand, if we put as our first care the preservationof the closeness of our union with Christ, that life will shape a bodyfor itself, and 'to every seed its own body.'

True conceptions of Him, and a definite theology, are good and needful.Let us cleave to Him with mind and heart, and we shall receive all theknowledge we need, and be guided into the deep things of God. In Himare hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and the basis of alltheology is the personal possession of Him who is 'the wisdom of God'and 'the Light of the world.' Every one that loveth is born of God andknoweth God. Pectus facit Theologum.

Plain, straightforward morality and everyday righteousness are betterthan all emotion and all dogmatism and all churchism, says the world,and Christianity says much the same; but plain, straightforwardrighteousness and everyday morality come most surely when a man iskeeping close to Christ. In a word, everything that can adorn thecharacter with beauty, and clothe the Church with glorious apparel,whatsoever things are lovely and of good report, all that the world orGod calls virtue and crowns with praise, they are all in their fulnessin Him, and all are most surely derived from Him by keeping fast holdof His hand, and preserving the channels clear through which Hismanifold grace may flow into our souls. The same life is strength inthe arm, pliancy in the fingers, swiftness in the foot, light in theeye, music on the lips; so the same grace is Protean in its forms, andto His servants who trust Him Christ ever says, 'What would ye that Ishould do unto you? Be it even as thou wilt.' The same mysterious powerlives in the swaying branch, and in the veined leaf, and in theblushing clusters. With like wondrous transformations of the one grace,the Lord pours Himself into our spirits, filling all needs and fittingfor all circ*mstances. Therefore for us all, individuals and Churches,this remains the prime command, 'With purpose of heart cleave unto theLord.' Dear brethren in the ministry, how sorely we need thisexhortation! Our very professional occupation with Christ and His truthis full of danger for us; we are so accustomed to handle these sacredthemes as a means of instructing or impressing others that we get toregard them as our weapons, even if we do not degrade them stillfurther by thinking of them as our stock-in-trade and means oforatorical effect. We must keep very firm hold of Christ for ourselvesby much solitary communion, and so retranslating into the nutriment ofour own souls the message we bring to men, else when we have preachedto others we ourselves may be cast away. All the ordinary tendencieswhich draw men from Him work on us, and a host of others peculiar toourselves, and all around us run strong currents of thought whichthreaten to sweep many away. Let us tighten our grasp of Him in theface of modern doubt; and take heed to ourselves that neither vanity,nor worldliness, nor sloth; neither the gravitation earthward common toall, nor the temptations proper to our office; neither unbelievingvoices without nor voices within, seduce us from His side. There onlyis our peace, there our wisdom, there our power.

Subtly and silently the separating forces are ever at work upon us, andall unconsciously to ourselves our hold may relax, and the flow of thisgrace into our spirits may cease, while yet we mechanically keep up theround of outward service, nor even suspect that our strength isdeparted from us. Many a stately elm that seems full of vigorous life,for all its spreading boughs and clouds of dancing leaves, is hollow atthe heart, and when the storm comes goes down with a crash, and menwonder, as they look at the ruin, how such a mere shell of life with acore of corruption could stand so long. It rotted within, and fell atlast, because its roots did not go deep down to the rich soil, wherethey would have found nourishment, but ran along near the surface amonggravel and stones. If we would stand firm, be sound within, and bringforth much fruit, we must strike our roots deep in Him who is theanchorage of our souls, and the nourisher of all our being.

Hearken, beloved brethren, in this great work of the ministry, not tothe exhortation of the servant, but to the solemn command of theMaster, 'Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit ofitself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide inMe.' And let us, knowing our own weakness, take heed of theself-confidence that answers, 'Though all should forsake Thee, yet willnot I,' and turn the vows which spring to our lips into the lowlyprayer, 'My soul cleaveth unto the dust, quicken Thou me according toThy word.' Then, thinking rather of His cleaving to us than of ourcleaving to Him, let us resolutely take as the motto of our lives thegrand words: 'I follow after, if that I may lay hold of that for whichI am also laid hold of by Christ Jesus!'


'He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.'—ACTSxi, 24.

'A good man.' How easily that title is often gained! There is, perhaps,no clearer proof that men are bad than the sort of people whom theyconsent to call good.

It is a common observation that all words describing moral excellencetend to deteriorate and to contract their meaning, just as bright metalrusts by exposure, or coins become light and illegible by use. So itcomes to pass that any decently respectable man, especially if he hasan easy temper and a dash of frankness and good humour, is christenedwith this title 'good.' The Bible, which is the verdict of the Judge,is a great deal more chary in its use of the word. You remember howJesus Christ once rebuked a man for addressing Him so, not that Herepudiated the title, but that the giver had bestowed it lightly andout of mere conventional politeness. The word is too noble to beapplied without very good reason.

But here we have a picture of Barnabas hung in the gallery of Scriptureportraits, and this is the description of it in the catalogue, 'He wasa good man.'

You observe that my text is in the nature of an analysis. It begins atthe outside, and works inwards. 'He was a good man.' Indeed;—how camehe to be so? He was 'full of the Holy Ghost.' Full of the Holy Ghost,was he? How came he to be that? He was 'full of faith.' So the writerdigs down, as it were, till he gets to the bed-rock, on which all thehigher strata repose; and here is his account of the way in which it ispossible for human nature to win this resplendent title, and to beadjudged of God as 'good,' 'full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.'

So these three steps in the exposition of the character and its secretwill afford a framework for what I have to say now.

I. Note, then, first, the sort of man whom the Judge will call 'good.'

Now, I suppose I need not spend much time in massing together, in briefoutline, the characteristics of Barnabas. He was a Levite, belonging tothe sacerdotal tribe, and perhaps having some slight connection withthe functions of the Temple ministry. He was not a resident in the HolyLand, but a Hellenistic Jew, a native of Cyprus, who had come intocontact with heathenism in a way that had beaten many a prejudice outof him. We first hear of him as taking a share in the self-sacrificingburst of brotherly love, which, whether it was wise or not, was noble.'He, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at theApostles' feet.' And, as would appear from a reference in one of Paul'sletters, he had to support himself afterwards by manual labour.

Then the next thing that we hear of him is that, when the young man whohad been a persecuting Pharisee, and the rising hope of theanti-Christian party, all at once came forward with some story of avision which he had seen on the road to Damascus, and when the olderChristians were suspicious of a trick to worm himself into theirsecrets by a pretended conversion, Barnabas, with the generosity of anunsuspicious nature, which often sees deeper into men than dosuspicious eyes, was the first to cast the aegis of his recognitionround him. In like manner, when Christianity took an entirelyspontaneous and, to the Church at Jerusalem, rather unwelcome newdevelopment and expansion, when some unofficial believers, without anyauthority from headquarters, took upon themselves to stride cleanacross the wall of separation, and to speak of Jesus Christ to blankheathens, and found, to the not altogether gratified surprise of theChristians at Jerusalem, 'that on the Gentiles also was poured out thegift of the Holy Ghost,' it was Barnabas who was sent down to look intothis surprising new phenomenon, and we read that 'when he came and sawthe grace of God, he was glad.' The reason why he rejoiced over themanifestation of the grace of God in such a strange form was because'he was a good man,' and his goodness recognised goodness in others andwas glad at the work of the Lord. The new condition of affairs sent himto look for Paul, and to put him to work. Then we find him set apart tomissionary service, and the leader of the first missionary band, inwhich he was accompanied by his friend Saul. He acquiesced frankly, andwithout a murmur, in the superiority of the junior, and yielded uppre-eminence to him quite willingly. The story of that missionaryjourney begins 'Barnabas and Saul,' but very soon it comes to be 'Pauland Barnabas,' and it keeps that order throughout. He was an older manthan Paul, for when at Lystra the people thought that the gods had comedown in the likeness of men; Barnabas was Jupiter, and Paul thequick-footed Mercury, messenger of the gods. He was in the work beforePaul was thought of, and it must have taken a great deal of goodness toacquiesce in 'He must increase and I must decrease.' Then came thequarrel between them, the foolish fondness for his runaway nephew JohnMark, whom he insisted on retaining in a place for which he wasconspicuously unfitted. And so he lost his friend, the confidence ofthe Church, and his work. He sulked away into Cyprus; he had hisnephew, for whom he had given up all these other things. A little faultmay wreck a life, and the whiter the character the blacker the smalleststain upon it.

We do not hear anything more of him. Apparently, from one casualallusion, he continued to serve the Lord in evangelistic work, but thesweet communion of the earlier days, and the confident friendship withthe Apostle, seem to have come to an end with that sharp contention. SoBarnabas drops out of the rank of Christian workers. And yet 'he was agood man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.'

Now I have spent more time than I meant over this brief outline of thesort of character here pointed at. Let me just gather into one or twosentences what seem to me to be the lessons of it. The first is this,that the tap-root of all goodness is reference to God and obedience toHim. People tell us that morality is independent of religion. I admitthat many men are better than their creeds, and many men are worse thantheir creeds; but I would also venture to assert that morality is thegarment of religion; the body of which religion is the soul; theexpression of religion in daily life. And although I am not going tosay that nothing which a man does without reference to God has anycomparative goodness in it, or that all the acts which are thus void ofreference to Him stand upon one level of evil, I do venture to say thatthe noblest deed, which is not done in conscious obedience to the willof God, lacks its supreme nobleness. The loftiest perfection of conductis obedience to God. And whatever excellence of self-sacrifice,'whatsoever things lovely and of good report,' there may be, apart fromthe presence of this perfect motive, those deeds are imperfect. They donot correspond either to the whole obligations or to the wholepossibilities of man, and, therefore, they are beneath the level of thehighest good. Good is measured by reference to God.

Then, further, let me remark that one broad feature which characterisesthe truest goodness is the suppression of self. That is only anotherway of saying the same thing as I have been saying. It is illustratedfor us all through this story of Barnabas. Whosoever can say, 'I thinknot of myself, but of others; of the cause; of the help I can give tomen; and I lay not goods only, nor prejudices only, nor the pride ofposition and the supremacy of place only at the feet of God, but I laydown my whole self; and I desire that self may be crucified, that Godmay live in me,'—he, and only he, has reached the height of goodness.Goodness requires the suppression of self.

Further, note that the gentler traits of character are pre-eminent inChristian goodness. There is nothing about this man heroic orexceptional. His virtues are all of the meek and gracious sort—thosewhich we relegate sometimes to an inferior place in our estimates.These things make but a poor show by the side of some of the tawdrysplendours of what the vulgar world calls virtues. It requires aneducated eye to see the harmony of the sober colouring of some greatpainter. A child, a clown, a vulgar person—and there are such in allranks—will prefer flaring reds and blues and yellows heaped togetherin staring contrast. A thrush or a blackbird is but a soberly cladcreature by the side of macaws and paroquets; but the one has a songand the others have only a screech. The gentle virtues are the trulyChristian virtues—patience and meekness and long-suffering andsympathy and readiness to efface oneself for the sake of God and of men.

So there is a bit of comfort for us commonplace, humdrum people, towhom God has only given one or two talents, and who can never expect tomake a figure before men. We may be little violets below a stone, if wecannot be flaunting hollyhocks and tiger lilies. We may have the beautyof goodness in us after Christ's example, and that is better than to begreat.

Barnabas was no genius. He was not even a genius in goodness; he didnot strike out anything original and out of the way. He seems to havebeen a commonplace kind of man enough; but 'he was a good man.' And theweakest and the humblest of us may hope to have the same thing said ofus, if we will.

And then, note further, that true goodness, thank God! does not excludethe possibility of falling and sinning. There is a black spot in thisman's history; and there are black spots in the histories of allsaints. Thank God! the Bible is, as some people would say, almostbrutally frank in telling us about the imperfections of the best. Veryoften imperfections are the exaggerations of characteristic goodnesses,and warn us to take care that we do not push, as Barnabas did, ourfacility to the point of criminal complicity with weaknesses; and thatwe do not indulge, instead of strenuously rebuking when need is. Neverlet our gentleness fall away, like a badly made jelly, into a tremblingheap, and never let our strength gather itself together into arepulsive attitude, but guard against the exaggeration of virtue intovice.

Remember that whilst there may be good men who sin, there is One entireand flawless, in whom all types of excellence do meet, and who alone ofhumanity can front the verdict of the world, and has fronted it now fornineteen centuries, with the question upon His lips, which none havedared to answer, 'Which of you convinceth Me of sin?'

II. Secondly, notice the divine Helper who makes men good.

Luke, if he be the writer of the Acts, goes on with his analysis. Hehas done with the first fold, the outer garment, as it were; he stripsit off and shows us the next fold, 'full of the Holy Ghost.'

A divine Helper, not merely a divine influence, but a divine Person,who not only helps men from without, but so enters into a man as thatthe man's whole nature is saturated with Him—that is strange language.Mystical and unreal I dare say some of you may think it, but let usconsider whether some such divine Helper is not plainly pointed asnecessary, by the experience of every man that ever honestly tried tomake himself good.

I have no doubt that I am speaking to many persons who, more or lessconstantly and courageously and earnestly, have laboured at the task ofself-improvement and self-culture. I venture to think that, if theirstandard of what they wish to attain is high, their confession of whatthey have attained will be very low. Ah, brother! if we think of whatit is that we need to make us good—viz. the strengthening of theseweak wills of ours, which we cannot strengthen but to a very limiteddegree by any tonics that we can apply, or any supports with which wemay bind them round; if we consider the resistance which ourselves, ourpassions, our tastes, our habits, our occupations offer, and theresistance which the world around us, friends, companions, and all theaggregate, dread and formidable, of material things present to ourbecoming, in any lofty and comprehensive sense of the term, good menand women, I think we shall be ready to listen, as to a true Gospel, tothe message that says, 'You do not need to do it by yourself.' You havegot the wolf by the ears, perhaps, for a moment, but there istremendous strength in the brute, and your hands and wrists will achein holding him presently, and what will happen then? You do not need totry it yourself. There is a divine Helper standing at your sides andwaiting to strengthen you, and that Helper does not work from outside;He will pass within, and dwell in your hearts and mould and strengthenyour wills to what is good, and suppress your inclinations to evil,and, by His inward presence, teach 'your hands to war and your fingersto fight.'

Surely, surely, the experience of the world from the beginning,confirmed by the consciousness and conscience of every one of us, tellsus that of ourselves we are impotent, and that the good that is withinthe reach of our unaided efforts is poor and fragmentary andsuperficial indeed.

The great promise of the Gospel is precisely this promise. We terriblylimit and misunderstand what we call the Gospel if we give suchexclusive predominance to one part of it, as some of us are accustomedto do. Thank God I the first word that Jesus Christ says to any soulis, 'Thy sins be forgiven thee.' But that first word has a second thatfollows it, 'Arise! and walk!' and it is for the sake of the secondthat the first is spoken. The gift of pardon, the consciousness ofacceptance, the fact of reconciliation with God, the closing of thedoors of the place of retribution, the quieting of the stings ofaccusing conscience, all these are but meant to be introductory to thatwhich Jesus Christ Himself, in the Gospel of John, emphatically callsmore than once 'the gift of God,' which He symbolised by 'livingwater,' which whosoever drank should never thirst, and which whosoeverpossessed would give it forth in living streams of holy life and nobledeeds. The promise of the Gospel is the promise of new life, derivedfrom Christ and maintained in us by the indwelling Spirit, which willcome like fresh reinforcements to an all but beaten army in somehard-fought field, which will stand like a stay behind a man, to usalmost blown over by the gusts of temptation, which will strengthenwhat is weak, raise what is low, illumine what is dark, and will makeus who are evil good with a goodness given by God through His Son.

Surely there is nothing more congruous with that divine character thanthat He who Himself is good, and good from Himself, should rejoice inmaking us, His poor children, into His own likeness. Surely He wouldnot be good unless He delighted to make us good. Surely it is somethingvery like presumption in men to assert that the direct communication ofthe Spirit of God with the spirits whom God has made is animpossibility. Surely it is flying in the face of Scripture teaching todeny that such communication is a promise. Surely it is a flagrantcontradiction of the depths of Christian experience to falter in thebelief that it is a very solid reality.

'Full of the Holy Ghost,' as a vessel might be to its brim of goldenwine; Christian men and women! does that describe you? Full? Adribbling drop or two in the bottom of the jar. Whose fault is it? Why,with that rushing mighty wind to fill our sails if we like, should webe lying in the sickly calms of the tropics, with the pitch oozing outof the seams, and the idle canvas flapping against the mast? Why, withthose tongues of fire hovering over our heads, should we be coweringover grey ashes in which there lives a little spark? Why, with thatgreat rushing tide of the river of the water of life, should we be likethe dry watercourses of the desert, with bleached and white stonesbaking where the stream should be running? 'O! Thou that art named theHouse of Israel, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? Are these Hisdoings?'

III. And so, lastly, we are shown how that divine Helper comes to men.

'Full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith.' There is no goodness withoutthe impulse and indwelling of the divine Spirit, and there is no divineSpirit to dwell in a man's heart without that man's trusting in JesusChrist. The condition of receiving the gift that makes us good issimply and solely that we should put our trust in Jesus Christ theGiver. That opens the door, and the divine Spirit enters.

True! there are convincing operations which He effects upon the world;but these are not in question here. These come prior to, andindependent of, faith. But the work of the Spirit of God, presentwithin us to heal and hallow us, has as condition our trust in JesusChrist, the Great Healer. If you open a chink, the water will come in.If you trust in Jesus Christ, He will give you the new life of HisSpirit, which will make you free from the law of sin and death. Thatdivine Spirit 'which they that believe in Him should receive' delightsto enter into every heart where His presence is desired. Faith isdesire; and desires rooted in faith cannot be in vain. Faith isexpectation; and expectations based upon the divine promise can neverbe disappointed. Faith is dependence, and dependence that reckons uponGod, and upon God's gift of His Spirit, will surely be recompensed.

The measure in which we possess the power that makes us good dependsaltogether upon ourselves. 'Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.'You may have as much of God as you want, and as little as you will. Themeasure of your faith will determine at once the measure of yourgoodness, and of your possession of the Spirit that makes good. Just aswhen the prophet miraculously increased the oil in the cruse, thegolden stream flowed as long as they brought vessels, and stayed whenthere were no more, so as long as we open our hearts for the reception,the gift will not be withheld, but God will not let it run like waterspilled upon the ground that cannot be gathered up. If we will desire,if we will expect, if we will reckon on, if we will look to, JesusChrist, and, beside all this, if we will honestly use the power that wepossess, our capacity will grow, and the gift will grow, and ourholiness and purity will grow with it.

Some of you have been trying more or less continuously, all your lives,to mend your own characters and improve yourselves. Brethren, there isa better way than that. A modern poet says—

'Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,
These three alone lift life to sovereign power.'

Taken by itself that is pure heathenism. Self cannot improve self. Putself into God's keeping, and say, 'I cannot guard, keep, purge, hallowmine own self. Lord, do Thou do it for me!' It is no use to try tobuild a tower whose top shall reach to heaven. A ladder has been letdown on which we may pass upwards, and by which God's angels of graceand beauty will come down to dwell in our hearts. If the Judge is tosay of each of us, 'He was a good man,' He must also be able to say,'He was full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.'


'The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch'—ACTS xi. 26.

Nations and parties, both political and religious, very often callthemselves by one name, and are known to the outside world by another.These outside names are generally given in contempt; and yet theysometimes manage to hit the very centre of the characteristics of thepeople on whom they are bestowed, and so by degrees get to be adoptedby them, and worn as an honour.

So it has been with the name 'Christian.' It was given at the first bythe inhabitants of the Syrian city of Antioch, to a new sort of peoplethat had sprung up amongst them, and whom they could not quite makeout. They would not fit into any of their categories, and so they hadto invent a new name for them. It is never used in the New Testament byChristians about themselves. It occurs here in this text; it occurs inAgrippa's half-contemptuous exclamation: 'You seem to think it is avery small matter to make me—me, a king!—a Christian, one of thosedespised people!' And it occurs once more, where the Apostle Peter isspecifying the charges brought against them: 'If any man suffer as aChristian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on thisbehalf (1 Peter iv. 16). That sounds like the beginning of the processwhich has gone on ever since, by which the nickname, flung by thesarcastic men of Antioch, has been turned into the designation bywhich, all over the world, the followers of Jesus Christ have beenproud to call themselves.

Now in this text there are the outside name by which the world callsthe followers of Jesus Christ, and one of the many interior names bywhich the Church called itself. I have thought it might be profitablenow to put all the New Testament names for Christ's followers together,and think about them.

I. So, to begin with, we deal with this name given by the world to the
Church, which the Church has adopted.

Observe the circ*mstances under which it was given. A handful oflarge-hearted, brave men, anonymous fugitives belonging to the littleChurch in Jerusalem, had come down to Antioch; and there, withoutpremeditation, without authority, almost withoutconsciousness—certainly without knowing what a great thing they weredoing—they took, all at once, as if it were the most natural thing inthe world, a great step by preaching the Gospel to pure heathen Greeks;and so began the process by which a small Jewish sect was transformedinto a world-wide church. The success of their work in Antioch, amongstthe pure heathen population, has for its crowning attestation this,that it compelled the curiosity-hunting, pleasure-loving, sarcasticAntiocheans to find out a new name for this new thing; to write out anew label for the new bottles into which the new wine was being put.Clearly the name shows that the Church was beginning to attract theattention of outsiders.

Clearly it shows, too, that there was a novel element in the Church.The earlier disciples had been all Jews, and could be lumped togetheralong with their countrymen, and come under the same category. But herewas something that could not be called either Jew or Greek, because itembraced both. The new name is the first witness to the cosmopolitancharacter of the primitive Church. Then clearly, too, the nameindicates that in a certain dim, confused way, even these superficialobservers had got hold of the right notion of what it was that didbind these people together. They called them 'Christians'—Christ'smen, Christ's followers. But it was only a very dim refraction of thetruth that had got to them; they had no notion that 'Christ' was not aproper name, but the designation of an office; and they had no notionthat there was anything peculiar or strange in the bond which unitedits adherents to Christ. Hence they called His followers 'Christians,'just as they would have called Herod's followers 'Herodians,' in thepolitical world, or Aristotle's followers 'Aristotelians' in thephilosophical world. Still, in their groping way, they bad put theirfinger on the fact that the one power that held this heterogeneous masstogether, the one bond that bound up 'Jew and Gentile, barbarian,Scythian, bond and free' into one vital unity, was a personal relationto a living Person. And so they said—not understanding the wholesignificance of it, but having got hold of the right end of theclue—they said, 'They are Christians!' 'Christ's people,' 'thefollowers of this Christ.'

And their very blunder was a felicity. If they had called them'Jesuits' that would have meant the followers of the mere man. They didnot know how much deeper they had gone when they said, not followers ofJesus, but 'followers of Christ'; for it is not Jesus the Man, butJesus Christ, the Man with His office, that makes the centre and thebond of the Christian Church.

These, then, are the facts, and the fair inferences from them. A plainlesson here lies on the surface. The Church—that is to say, the menand women who make its members—should draw to itself the notice of theoutside world. I do not mean by advertising, and ostentation, andsounding trumpets, and singularities, and affectations. None of allthese are needed. If you are live Christians it will be plain enough tooutsiders. It is a poor comment on your consistency, if, being Christ'sfollowers, you can go through life unrecognised even by 'them that arewithout.' What shall we say of leaven which does not leaven, or oflight which does not shine, or of salt which does not repelcorruption? It is a poor affair if, being professed followers of JesusChrist, you do not impress the world with the thought that 'here is aman who does not come under any of our categories, and who needs a newentry to describe him.' The world ought to have the same impressionabout you which Haman had about the Jews—'Their laws are diverse fromall people.'

Christian professors, are the world's names for each other enough todescribe you by, or do you need another name to be coined for you inorder to express the manifest characteristics that you display? TheChurch that does not provoke the attention—I use the word in itsetymological, not its offensive sense—the Church that does not callupon itself the attention and interest of outsiders, is not a Church asJesus Christ meant it to be, and it is not a Church that is worthkeeping alive; and the sooner it has decent burial the better foritself and for the world!

There is another thing here, viz.: this name suggests that the clearimpression made by our conduct and character, as well as by our words,should be that we belong to Jesus Christ. The eye of an outsideobserver may be unable to penetrate the secret of the deep sweet tieuniting us to Jesus, but there should be no possibility of the mostsuperficial and hasty glance overlooking the fact that we are His. Heshould manifestly be the centre and the guide, the impulse and thepattern, the strength and the reward, of our whole lives. We areChristians. That should be plain for all folks to see, whether we speakor be silent. Brethren, is it so with you? Does your life need nocommentary of your words in order that men should know what is thehidden spring that moves all its wheels; what is the inward spirit thatco-ordinates all its motions into harmony and beauty? Is it true thatlike 'the ointment of the right hand which bewrayeth itself' yourallegiance to Jesus Christ, and the overmastering and supreme authoritywhich He exercises upon you, and upon your life, 'cannot be hid'? Doyou think that, without your words, if you, living in the way you do,were put down into the middle of Pekin, as these handful of people wereput down into the middle of the heathen city of Antioch, the wits ofthe Chinese metropolis would have to invent a name for you, as theclever men of Antioch did for these people; and do you think that ifthey had to invent a name, the name that would naturally come to theirlips, looking at you, would be 'Christians,' 'Christ's men'? If itwould not, there is something wrong.

The last word that I say about this first part of my text is this. Itis a very sad thing, but it is one that is always occurring, that theworld's inadequate notions of what makes a follower of Jesus Christ getaccepted by the Church. Why was it that the name 'Christian' ran allover Christendom in the course of a century and a half? I believe verylargely because it was a conveniently vague name; because it did notdescribe the deepest and sacredest of the bonds that unite us to JesusChrist. Many a man is quite willing to say, 'I am a Christian,' whowould hesitate a long time before he said, 'I am a believer,' 'I am adisciple.' The vagueness of the name, the fact that it erred by defectin not touching the central, deepest relation between man and JesusChrist, made it very appropriate to the declining spirituality andincreasing formalism of the Christian Church in the post-Apostolic age.It is a sad thing when the Church drops its standard down to theworld's notion of what It ought to be, and adopts the world's name foritself and its converts.

II. I turn now to set side by side with this vague, general, outsidename the more specific and interior names—if I may so call them—bywhich Christ's followers at first knew themselves.

The world said, 'You are Christ's men'; and the names which wereself-imposed and are now to be considered might be taken as being theChurch's explanation of what the world was fumbling at when it socalled them. There are four of them: of course, I can only just touchon them.

(a) The first is in this verse-'disciples.' The others arebelievers, saints, brethren. These four are the Church's ownchristening of itself; its explanation and expansion, its deepening andheightening, of the vague name given by the world.

As to the first, disciples, any concordance will show that the namewas employed almost exclusively during the time of Christ's life uponearth. It is the only name for Christ's followers in the Gospels; itoccurs also, mingled with others, in the Acts of the Apostles, and itnever occurs thereafter.

The name 'disciple,' then, carries us back to the historical beginningof the whole matter, when Jesus was looked upon as a Rabbi havingfollowers called disciples; just as were John the Baptist and hisfollowers, Gamaliel and his school, or Socrates and his. It sets forthChrist as being the Teacher, and His followers as being His adherents,His scholars, who learned at His feet.

Now that is always true. We are Christ's scholars quite as much aswere the men who heard and saw with their eyes and handled with theirhands, of the Word of Life. Not by words only, but by gracious deedsand fair, spotless life, He taught them and us and all men to the endof time, our highest knowledge of God of whom He is the finalrevelation, our best knowledge of what men should and shall be by Hisperfect life in which is contained all morality, our only knowledge ofthat future in that He has died and is risen and lives to help andstill to teach. He teaches us still by the record of His life, and bythe living influence of that Spirit whom He sends forth to guide usinto all truth. He is the Teacher, the only Teacher, the Teacher forall men, the Teacher of all truth, the Teacher for evermore. He speaksfrom Heaven. Let us give heed to His voice.

But that Name is not enough to tell all that He is to us, or we to Him,and so after He had passed from earth it unconsciously and graduallydropped out of use by the disciples, as they felt a deepened bonduniting them to Him who was not only their Teacher of the Truth whichwas Himself, but was their Sacrifice and Advocate with the Father. Andfor all who hold the, as I believe, essentially imperfect conception ofJesus Christ as being mainly a Teacher, either by word or by pattern;whether it be put into the old form or into the modern form ofregarding Him as the Ideal and Perfect Man, it seems to me a fact wellworthy of consideration, that the name of disciple and the relationexpressed by it were speedily felt by the Christian Church to beinadequate as a representation of the bond that knit them to Him. He isour Teacher, we His scholars. He is more than that, and a more sacredbond unites us to Him. As our Master we owe Him absolute submission.When He speaks, we have to accept His dictum. What He says is truth,pure and entire. His utterance is the last word upon any subject thatHe touches, it is the ultimate appeal, and the Judge that ends thestrife. We owe Him submission, an open eye for all new truth, constantdocility, as conscious of our own imperfections, and a confidentexpectation that He will bless us continuously with high and as yetunknown truths that come from His inexhaustible stores of wisdom andknowledge.

(b) Teacher and scholars move in a region which, though it beimportant, is not the central one. And the word that was needed next toexpress what the early Church felt Christ was to them, and they to Him,lifts us into a higher atmosphere altogether,—'believers,' they whoare exercising not merely intellectual submission to the dicta of theTeacher, but who are exercising living trust in the person of theRedeemer. The belief which is faith is altogether a higher thing thanits first stage, which is the belief of the understanding. There is init the moral element of trust. We believe a truth, we trust a Person;and the trust which we are to exercise in Jesus Christ, and which knitsus to Him, is our trust in Him, not in any character that we may chooseto ascribe to Him, but in the character in which He is revealed in theNew Testament—Redeemer, Saviour, Manifest God; and therefore, theInfinite Friend and Helper of our souls.

That trust, my brethren, is the one bond that binds, men to God, andthe one thing that makes us Christ's men. Apart from it, we may be verynear Him, but we are not joined to Him. By it, and by it alone, theunion is completed, and His power and His grace flow into our spirits.Are you, not merely a 'Christian,' in the world's notion, being boundin some vague way to Jesus Christ, but are you a Christian in the senseof trusting your soul's salvation to Him?

(c) Then, still further, there is another name—'saints.' It hassuffered perhaps more at the hands both of the world and of the Churchthan any other. It has been taken by the latter and restricted to thedead, and further restricted to those who excel, according to thefantastic, ascetic standard of mediaeval Christianity. It has sufferedfrom the world in that it has been used with a certain bitter emphasisof resentment at the claim of superior purity supposed to be implied init, and so has come to mean on the world's lips one who pretends to bebetter than other people and whose actions contradict his claim. Butthe name belongs to all Christ's followers. It makes no claim tospecial purity, for the central idea of the word 'saint' is not purity.Holiness, which is the English for the Latinised 'sanctity,' holinesswhich is attributed in the Old Testament to God first, to men onlysecondarily, does not primarily mean purity, but separation. God isholy, inasmuch as by that whole majestic character of His, He is liftedabove all bounds of creatural limitations, as well as above man's sin.A sacrifice, the Sabbath, a city, a priest's garment, a mitre—allthese things are 'holy,' not when they are pure, but when they aredevoted to Him. And men are holy, not because they are clean, butbecause by free self-surrender they have consecrated themselves to Him.

Holiness is consecration, that is to say, holiness is giving myself upto Him to do what He will with. 'I am holy' is not the declaration ofmy estimate 'I am pure,' but the declaration of the fact 'I am thine, OLord.' So the New Testament idea of saint has in it theseelements—consecration, consecration resting on faith in Christ, andconsecration leading to separation from the world and its sin. And thatglad yielding of oneself to God, as wooed by His mercies, and therebydrawn away from communion with our evil surroundings and fromsubmission to our evil selves, must be a part of the experience ofevery true Christian. All His people are saints, not as being pure, butas being given up to Him, in union with whom alone will the cleansingpowers flow into their lives and clothe them with 'the righteousness ofsaints.' Have you thus consecrated yourself to God?

(d) The last name is 'brethren,'—a name which has been muchmaltreated both by the insincerity of the Church, and by the sarcasm ofthe world. It has been an unreal appellation which has meant nothingand been meant to mean nothing, so that the world has said that our'brethren' signified a good deal less than their 'brothers.' ''Tistrue, 'tis pity; pity 'tis, 'tis true.'

But what I ask you to notice is that the main thing about that name'brethren' is not the relation of the brethren to one another, buttheir common relation to their Father.

When we call ourselves as Christian people 'brethren,' we mean firstthis: that we are the possessors of a supernatural life, which has comefrom one Father, and which has set us in altogether new relations toone another, and to the world round about us. Do you believe that ifyou have any of that new life which comes through faith in JesusChrist, then you are the brethren of all those that possess the same?

As society becomes more complicated, as Christian people grow unlikeeach other in education, in social position, in occupation, in theirgeneral outlook into the world, it is more and more difficult to feelwhat is nevertheless true: that any two Christian people, howeverunlike each other, are nearer each other in the very roots of theirnature, than a Christian and a non-Christian, however like each other.It is difficult to feel that, and it is getting more and moredifficult, but for all that it is a fact.

And now I wish to ask you, Christian men and women, whether you feelmore at home with people who love Jesus Christ—as you say that youlove Him—or whether you like better to be with people who do not?

There are some of you who choose your intimate associates, whom you askto your homes and introduce to your children as desirable companions,with no reference at all to their religious character. The duties ofyour position, of course, oblige each of you to be much among peoplewho do not share your faith, and it is cowardly and wrong to shrinkfrom the necessity. But for Christian people to make choice of heartfriends, or close intimates, among those who have no sympathy withtheir professed belief about, and love to, Jesus Christ, does not saymuch for the depth and reality of their religion. A man is known by thecompany he keeps, and if your friends are picked out for other reasons,and their religion is no part of their attraction, it is not an unfairconclusion that there are other things for which you care more than youdo for faith in Jesus Christ and love to Him. If you deeply feel thebond that knits you to Christ, and really live near to Him, you will benear to your brethren. You will feel that 'blood is thicker thanwater,' and however like you may be to irreligious people in manythings, you will feel that the deepest bond of all knits you to thepoorest, the most ignorant, the most unlike you in social position; ay!and the most unlike you in theological opinion, who love the Lord JesusChrist in sincerity.

Now that is the sum of the whole matter. And my last word to you isthis: Do not you be contented with the world's vague notions of whatmakes Christ's man. I do not ask you if you are Christians; plenty ofyou would say: 'Oh yes! of course! Is not this a Christian country? Wasnot I christened when I was a child? Are we not all members of theChurch of England by virtue of our birth? Yes! of course I am!'

I do not ask you that; I do not ask you anything; but I pray you toask yourselves these four questions: Am I Christ's scholar? Am Ibelieving on Him? Am I consecrated to Him? Am I the possessor of a newlife from Him? And never give yourselves rest until you can say humblyand yet confidently, 'Yes! thank God, I am!'


'Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword.'—ACTS xii. 2.

One might have expected more than a clause to be spared to tell thedeath of a chief man and the first martyr amongst the Apostles. James,as we know, was one of the group of the Apostles who were in especiallyclose connection with Jesus Christ. He is associated in the Gospelswith Peter and his brother John, and is always named before John, as ifhe were the more important of the two, by reason of age or of othercirc*mstances unknown to us. But yet we know next to nothing about him.In the Acts of the Apostles he is a mere lay figure; his name is onlymentioned in the catalogue at the beginning, and here again in thebrief notice of his death. The reticent and merely incidental characterof the notice of his martyrdom is sufficiently remarkable. I think thelessons of the fact, and of the, I was going to say, slight way inwhich the writer of this book refers to it, may perhaps be mostpointedly brought out if we take four contrasts—James and Stephen,James and Peter, James and John, James and James. Now, if we take thesefour I think we shall learn something.

I. First, then, James and Stephen.

Look at the different scale on which the incidents of the deaths ofthese two are told: the martyrdom of the one is beaten out overchapters, the martyrdom of the other is crammed into a corner of asentence. And yet, of the two men, the one who is the less noticedfilled the larger place officially, and the other was only a simpledeacon and preacher of the Word. The fact that Stephen was the firstChristian to follow his Lord in martyrdom is not sufficient to accountfor the extraordinary difference. The difference is to be sought for inanother direction altogether. The Bible cares so little about thepeople whom it names because its true theme is the works of God, andnot of man; and the reason why the 'Acts of the Apostles' kills off oneof the chief Apostles in this fashion is simply that, as the writertells us, his theme is 'all that Jesus' continued 'to do and to teachafter He was taken up.' Since it is Christ who is the true actor, itmatters uncommonly little what becomes of James or of the other ten.This book is not the 'Acts of the Apostles,' but it is the Acts ofJesus Christ.

I might suggest, too, in like manner, that there is another contrastwhich I have not included in my four, between the scale on which thedeath of Jesus Christ is told by Luke, and that on which this death isnarrated. What is the reason why so disproportionate a space of theGospel is concerned with the last two days of our Lord's life on earth?What is the reason why years are leaped over in silence and moments arespread out in detail, but that the death of a man is only a death, butthe death of the Christ is the life of the world? It is little needfulthat we should have poetical, emotional, picturesque descriptions ofmartyrdoms and the like in a book which is altogether devoted totracking the footsteps of Christ in history; and which regards men asnothing more than the successive instruments of His purpose, and thedepositories of His grace.

Another lesson which we may draw from the reticence in the case of theApostle, and the expansiveness in the case of the protomartyr, is thatof a wise indifference to the utterly insignificant accident ofposthumous memory or oblivion of us and our deeds and sufferings. Jamessleeps none the less sweetly in his grave, or, rather, wakes none theless triumphantly in heaven, because his life and death are both soscantily narrated. If we 'self-infold the large results' of faithfulservice, we need not trouble ourselves about its record on earth.

But another lesson which may be learned from this cursory notice of theApostle's martyrdom is—how small a thing death really is! Looked atfrom beside the Lord of life and death, which is the point of view ofthe author of this narrative, 'great death' dwindles to a very littlething. We need to revise our notions if we would understand how trivialit really is. To us it frowns like a black cliff blocking the upper endof our valley, but there is a path round its base, and though thethroat of the pass be narrow, it has room for us to get through and upto the sunny uplands beyond. From a mountain top the country belowseems level plain, and what looked like an impassable precipice hasdwindled to be indistinguishable. The triviality of death, to those wholook upon it from the heights of eternity, is well represented by thesebrief words which tell of the first breach thereby in the circle of theApostles.

II. There is another contrast, James and Peter.

Now this chapter tells of two things: the death of one of that pair offriends; the miracle that was wrought for the deliverance of the otherfrom death. Why could not the parts have been exchanged, or why couldnot the miraculous hand that was stretched out to save the onefisherman of Bethsaida have been put forth to save the other? Whyshould James be slain, and Peter miraculously delivered? A questioneasily asked; a question not to be answered by us. We may say that theone was more useful for the development of the Church than the other.But we have all seen lives that, to our poor vision, seemed to be allbut indispensable, ruthlessly swept away, and lives that seemed to be,and were, perfectly profitless, prolonged to extreme old age. We maysay that maturity of character, development of Christian graces, madethe man ready for glory. But we have all seen some struck down whenanything but ready; and others left for the blessing of mankind many,many a day after they were far fitter for heaven than thousands that,we hope, have gone there.

So all these little explanations do not go down to the bottom of thematter, and we are obliged just to leave the whole question in theloving Hands that hold the keys of life and death for us all. Only wemay be sure of this, that James was as dear to Christ as Peter was, andthat there was no greater love shown in sending the angel thatdelivered the one out of the 'hand of Herod and from all theexpectation of the people of the Jews,' than was shown in sending theangel that stood behind the headsman and directed the stroke of thefatal sword on the neck of the other.

The one was as dear to the Christ as the other—ay, and the one was assurely, and more blessedly, delivered 'from the mouth of the lion' asthe other was, though the one seemed to be dragged from his teeth, andthe other seemed to be crushed by his powerful jaws. James escaped fromHerod when Herod slew him but could not make him unfaithful to hisMaster, and his deliverance was not less complete than the deliveranceof his friend.

But let us remember, also, that if thus, to two equally beloved, therewere dealt out these two different fates, it must be because that evil,which, as I said, is not so great as it looks, is also not so bitter asit tastes, and there is no real evil, for the loving heart, in thestroke that breaks its bands and knits it to Jesus Christ. If we areChristians, the deepest desire of our souls is fuller communion withour Lord. We realise that, in some stunted and scanty measure, by life;but oh! is it not strange that we should shrink from that change whichwill enable us to realise it fully and eternally? The contrast of Jamesand Peter may teach us the equal love that presides over the life ofthe living and the death of the dying.

III. Another contrast is that of James and John.

The close union, and subsequent separation by this martyrdom, of thatpair of brothers is striking and pathetic. They seem to have togetherpursued their humble trade of fishermen in the little fishing villageof Bethsaida, apparently as working partners with their father Zebedee.They were not divided by discipleship, as was the sad fate of many abrother delivered by a brother to death. If we may attach any weight tothe suggestion that the expression in John's narrative, 'He firstfindeth his own brother, Simon,' implies that 'the other disciple'did the same by his brother, James was brought to Jesus by John, andnew tenderness and strength thereby given to their affection. They wereclosely associated in their Apostleship, and were together thecompanions of Jesus in the chief incidents of His life. They wereafterwards united in the leadership of the Church. By death they wereseparated very far: the one the first of all the Apostles to 'become aprey to Satan's rage,' the other 'lingering out his fellows all,' and'dying in bloodless age,' living to be a hundred years old or more, andlooking back through all the long parting to the brother who had joinedwith him in the wish that even Messiah's Kingdom should not part them,and yet had been parted so soon and parted so long.

Ah! may we not learn the lesson that we should recognise the mercy andwisdom of the ministry of Death the separator, and should tread withpatience the lonely road, do calmly the day's work, and tarry till Hecomes, though those that stood beside us be gone? We may look forwardwith the assurance that 'God keeps a niche in heaven to hide ouridols'; and 'albeit He breaks them to our face,' yet shall we find themagain, like Memnon's statue, vocal in the rising sunshine of theheavens.

The brothers, so closely knit, so soon parted, so long separated, wereat last reunited. Even to us here, with the chronology of earth stillours, the few years between the early martyrdom of James and the deathof the centenarian John seem but a span. The lapse of the centuriesthat have rolled away since then makes the difference of the dates ofthe two deaths seem very small, even to us. What a mere nothing it willhave looked to them, joined together once more before God!

IV. Lastly, James and James. In his hot youth, when he deserved thename of a son of thunder—so energetic, boisterous, I suppose,destructive perhaps, he was—he and his brother, and their foolishmother, whose name is kindly not told us, go to Christ and say, 'Grantthat we may sit, the one on Thy right hand and the other on Thy left,in Thy kingdom.' That was what he wished and hoped for, and what he gotwas years of service, and a taste of persecution, and finally the swishof the headsman's sword.

And so our dreams get disappointed, and their disappointment is oftenthe road to their fulfilment, for Jesus Christ was answering James'prayer, 'Grant that we may sit on Thy right hand in Thy kingdom,' whenHe called him to Himself, by the brief and bloody passage of martyrdom.James said, when he did not know what he meant, and the vow was noblethough it was ignorant, 'we can drink of the cup that Thou drinkest.'And all honour to him! he stuck to his vow; and when the cup wasproffered to him he manfully, and like a Christian, took it and drankit to the dregs; and, I suppose, went silently to his grave. But thechange between his ardent anticipations and his calm resignation, andbetween his foolish dream and the stern reality, may well teach usthat, whether our wishes be fulfilled or disappointed, they all need tobe purified, and that the disappointment of them on earth is oftenGod's way of fulfilling them for us in higher fashion than we dreamedor asked.

So, brethren, let us leave for ourselves, and for all dear ones, thatquestion of living or dying, to His decision. Only let us be sure thatwhether our lives be long like John's, or short like James', 'living ordying we are the Lord's.' And then, whatever be the length of life orthe manner of death, both will bring us the fulfilment of our highestwishes, and will lead us to His side at whose right hand all thoseshall sit who have loved Him here, and, though long parted, shall bereunited in common enjoyment of the pleasures for evermore which bloomunfading there. 'And so shall we ever be with the Lord.'


'Peter therefore was kept in the prison: but prayer was made earnestlyof the Church unto God for him.'—ACTS xii. 5 (R.V.)

The narrative of Peter's miraculous deliverance from prison is full oflittle vivid touches which can only have come from himself. The wholetone of it reminds us of the Gospel according to St. Mark, which is inlike manner stamped with peculiar minuteness and abundance of detail.One remembers that at a late period in the life of the Apostle Paul,Mark and Luke were together with him; and no doubt in those days inRome, Mark, who had been Peter's special companion and is called by oneof the old Christian writers his 'interpreter,' was busy in tellingLuke the details about Peter which appear in the first part of thisBook of the Acts.

The whole story seems to me to be full of instruction as well as ofpicturesque detail; and I desire to bring out the various lessons whichappear to me to lie in it.

I. The first of them is this: the strength of the helpless.

Look at that eloquent 'but' in the verse that I have taken as astarting-point: 'Peter therefore was kept in prison, but prayer wasmade earnestly of the Church unto God for him.' There is anothersimilarly eloquent 'but' at the end of the chapter:

'Herod … was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost, but the Word ofGod grew and multiplied.' Here you get, on the one hand, all thepompous and elaborate preparations—'four quaternions ofsoldiers'—four times four is sixteen—sixteen soldiers, two chains,three gates with guards at each of them, Herod's grim determination,the people's malicious expectation of having an execution as a pleasantsensation with which to wind up the Passover Feast. And what had thehandful of Christian people? Well, they had prayer; and they had JesusChrist. That was all, and that is more than enough. How ridiculous allthe preparation looks when you let the light of that great 'but' inupon it! Prayer, earnest prayer, 'was made of the Church unto God forhim.' And evidently, from the place in which that fact is stated, it isintended that we should say to ourselves that it was because prayerwas made for him that what came to pass did come to pass. It is notjerked out as an unconnected incident; it is set in a logical sequence.'Prayer was made earnestly of the Church unto God for him'—and sowhen Herod would have brought him forth, behold, the angel of the Lordcame, and the light shined into the prison. It is the same sequence ofthought that occurs in that grand theophany in the eighteenth Psalm,'My cry entered into His ears; then the earth shook and trembled'; andthere came all the magnificence of the thunderstorm and the earthquakeand the divine manifestation; and this was the purpose of it all—'Hesent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters.' The wholeenergy of the divine nature is set in motion and comes swooping downfrom highest heaven to the trembling earth. And of that fact the oneend is one poor man's cry, and the other end is his deliverance. Themoving spring of the divine manifestation was an individual's prayer;the aim of it was the individual's deliverance. A little water is putinto a hydraulic ram at the right place, and the outcome is the liftingof tons. So the helpless men who could only pray are stronger thanHerod and his quaternions and his chains and his gates. 'Prayer wasmade,' therefore all that happened was brought to pass, and Peter wasdelivered.

Peter's companion, James, was killed off, as we read in a verse or twobefore. Did not the Church pray for him? Surely they did. Why was theirprayer not answered, then? God has not any step-children. James was asdear to God as Peter was. One prayer was answered; was the other leftunanswered? It was the divine purpose that Peter, being prayed for,should be delivered; and we may reverently say that, if there had notbeen the many in Mary's house praying, there would have been no angelin Peter's cell.

So here are revealed the strength of the weak, the armour of theunarmed, the defence of the defenceless. If the Christian Church in itstimes of persecution and affliction had kept itself to the one weaponthat is allowed it, it would have been more conspicuously victorious.And if we, in our individual lives—where, indeed, we have to dosomething else besides pray—would remember the lesson of that eloquent'but,' we should be less frequently brought to perplexity and reducedto something bordering on despair. So my first lesson is the strengthof the weak.

II. My next is the delay of deliverance.

Peter had been in prison for some time before the Passover, and thepraying had been going on all the while, and there was no answer. Dayafter day 'of the unleavened bread' and of the festival was slippingaway. The last night had come; 'and the same night' the light shone,and the angel appeared. Why did Jesus Christ not hear the cry of thesepoor suppliants sooner? For their sakes; for Peter's sake; for oursakes; for His own sake. For the eventual intervention, at the verylast moment, and yet at a sufficiently early moment, tested faith. Andlook how beautifully all bore the test. The Apostle who was to bekilled to-morrow is lying quietly sleeping in his cell. Not a verycomfortable pillow he had to lay his head upon, with a chain on eacharm and a legionary on each side of him. But he slept; and whilst hewas asleep Christ was awake, and the brethren were awake. Their faithwas tested, and it stood the test, and thereby was strengthened. AndPeter's patience and faith, being tested in like manner and in likemanner standing the test, were deepened and confirmed. Depend upon it,he was a better man all his days, because he had been brought close upto Death and looked it in the fleshless eye-sockets, unwinking andunterrified. And I dare say if, long after, he had been asked, 'Wouldyou not have liked to have escaped those two or three days of suspense,and to have been let go at an earlier moment?' he would have said, 'Notfor worlds! For I learned in those days that my Lord's time is thebest. I learned patience'—a lesson which Peter especially needed—'andI learned trust.'

Do you remember another incident, singularly parallel in essence,though entirely unlike in circ*mstances, to this one? The two weepingsisters at Bethany send their messenger across the Jordan, grudgingevery moment that he takes to travel to the far-off spot where Jesusis. The message sent is only this: 'He whom Thou lovest is sick.' Whatan infinite trust in Christ's heart that form of the message showed!They would not say 'Come!'; they would not ask Him to do anything; theydid not think that to do so was needful: they were quite sure that whatHe would do would be right.

And how was the message received? 'Jesus loved Martha and Mary andLazarus.' Well, did that not make Him hurry as fast as He could to thebedside? No; it rooted Him to the spot. 'He abode,therefore'—because He loved them—'two days still in the same placewhere He was,' to give him plenty of time to die, and the sistersplenty of time to test their confidence in Him. Their confidence doesnot seem to have altogether stood the test. 'Lord, if Thou hadst beenhere my brother had not died.' 'And why wast Thou not here?' isimplied. Christ's time was the best time. It was better to get a deadbrother back to their arms and to their house than that they should nothave lost him for those dreary four days. So delay tests faith, andmakes the deliverance, when it comes, not only the sweeter, but themore conspicuously divine. So, brother, 'men ought always to pray, andnot to faint'—always to trust that 'the Lord will help them, and thatright early.'

III. The next lesson that I would suggest is the leisureliness of thedeliverance.

A prisoner escaping might be glad to make a bolt for it, dressed orundressed, anyhow. But when the angel comes into the cell, and thelight shines, look how slowly and, as I say, leisurely, he goes aboutit. 'Put on thy shoes.' He had taken them off, with his girdle and hisupper garment, that he might lie the less uncomfortably. 'Put on thyshoes; lace them; make them all right. Never mind about these twolegionaries; they will not wake. Gird thyself; tighten thy girdle. Puton thy garment. Do not be afraid. Do not be in a hurry; there is plentyof time. Now, are you ready? Come!' It would have been quite as easyfor the angel to have whisked him out of the cell and put him down atMary's door; but that was not to be the way. Peter was led past all theobstacles—'the first ward,' and the soldiers at it; 'the second ward,'and the soldiers at it; 'and the third gate that leads into the city,'which was no doubt bolted and barred. There was a leisurely processionthrough the prison.

Why? Because Omnipotence is never in a hurry, and God, not only in Hisjudgments but in His mercies, very often works slowly, as becomes Hismajesty. 'Ye shall not go out with haste; nor go by flight, for theLord will go before you; and the God of Israel shall be your rereward.'We are impatient, and hurry our work over; God works slowly; for Heworks certainly. That is the law of the divine working in all regions;and we have to regulate the pace of our eager expectation so as to fallin with the slow, solemn march of the divine purposes, both in regardto our individual salvation and the providences that affect usindividually, and in regard to the world's deliverance from the world'sevils. 'An inheritance may be gotten hastily in the beginning, but theend thereof shall not be blessed.' 'He that believeth shall not makehaste.'

IV. We see here, too, the delivered prisoner left to act for himself assoon as possible.

As long as the angel was with Peter, he was dazed and amazed. He didnot know—and small blame to him—whether he was sleeping or waking;but he gets through the gates, and out into the empty street,glimmering in the morning twilight, and the angel disappears, and theslumbering city is lying around him. When he is left to himself, hecomes to himself. He could not have passed the wards without amiracle, but he can find his way to Mary's house without one. He neededthe angel to bring him as far as the gate and down into the street, buthe did not need him any longer. So the angel vanished into the morninglight, and then he felt himself, and steadied himself, whenresponsibility came to him. That is the thing to sober a man. So hestood in the middle of the unpeopled street, and 'he considered thething,' and found in his own wits sufficient guidance, so that he didnot miss the angel. He said to himself, 'I will go to Mary's house.'Probably he did not know that there were any praying there, but it wasnear, and it was, no doubt, convenient in other respects that we do notknow of. The economy of miraculous power is a remarkable feature inScriptural miracles. God never does anything for us that we could dofor ourselves. Not but that our doing for ourselves is, in a deepersense, His working on us and in us, but He desires us to take the sharethat belongs to us in completing the deliverance which must begin bysupernatural intervention of a Mightier than the angel, even the Lordof angels.

And so this little picture of the angel leading Peter through theprison, and then leaving him to his own common sense and courage assoon as he came out into the street, is just a practical illustrationof the great text, 'Work out your own salvation with fear andtrembling, for it is God that worketh in you.'


'And, behold, the angel of the Lord … smote Peter…. 23. Andimmediately the angel of the Lord smote him [Herod].'—ACTS xii. 7, 23.

The same heavenly agent performs the same action on Peter and on Herod.To the one, his touch brings freedom and the dropping off of hischains; to the other it brings gnawing agonies and a horrible death.These twofold effects of one cause open out wide and solemn thoughts,on which it is well to look.

I. The one touch has a twofold effect.

So it is always when God's angels come, or God Himself lays His hand onmen. Every manifestation of the divine power, every revelation of thedivine presence, all our lives' experiences, are charged with thesolemn possibility of bringing us one or other of two directly oppositeresults. They all offer us an alternative, a solemn 'either—or.'

The Gospel too comes charged with that double possibility, and is theintensest and most fateful example of the dual effect of all God'smessages and dealings. Just as the ark maimed Dagon and decimated thePhilistine cities and slew Uzzah, but brought blessing and prosperityto the house of Obed-edom, just as the same pillar was light to Israelall the night long, but cloud and darkness to the Egyptians, so isChrist set 'for the fall of' some and 'for the rising of' others amidstthe 'many in Israel,' and His Gospel is either 'the savour of life untolife or of death unto death,' but in both cases is in itself 'untoGod,' one and the same 'sweet savour in Christ.'

II. These twofold effects are parts of one plan and purpose.

Peter's liberation and Herod's death tended in the same direction—tostrengthen and conserve the infant Church, and thus to prepare the wayfor the conquering march of the Gospel. And so it is in all God'sself-revelations and manifested energies, whatever may be theireffects. They come from one source and one motive, they arefundamentally the operations of one changeless Agent, and, as they areone in origin and character, so they are one in purpose. We are not toseparate them into distinct classes and ascribe them to differentelements in the divine nature, setting down this as the work of Loveand that as the outcome of Wrath, or regarding the acts of deliveranceas due to one part of that great whole and the acts of destruction asdue to another part of it. The angel was the same, and his celestialfingers were moved by the same calm, celestial will when he smote Peterinto liberty and life, and Herod to death.

God changes His ways, but not His heart. He changes His acts, but not
His purposes. Opposite methods conduce to one end, as winter storms and
June sunshine equally tend to the yellowed harvest.

III. The character of the effects depends on the men who are touched.

As is the man, so is the effect of the angel's touch. It could onlybring blessing to the one who was the friend of the angel's Lord, andit could bring only death to the other, who was His enemy. It could donothing to the Apostle but cause his chains to drop from his wrists,nor anything to the vainglorious king but bring loathsome death.

This, too, is a universal truth. It is we ourselves who settle whatGod's words and acts will be to us. The trite proverb, 'One man's meatis another man's poison,' is true in the highest regions. It iseminently, blessedly or tragically true in our relation to the Gospel,wherein all God's self-revelation reaches its climax, wherein 'the armof the Lord' is put forth in its most blessed energy, wherein is laidon each of us the touch, tender and more charged with blessing thanthat of the angel who smote the calmly sleeping Apostle. That Gospelmay either be to us the means of freeing us from our chains, andleading us out of our prison-house into sunshine and security, or bethe fatal occasion of condemnation and death. Which it shall be dependson ourselves. Which shall I make it for myself?


'And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety,that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of thehand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of theJews.'—ACTS xii. 11.

Where did Luke get his information of Peter's thoughts in that hour?This verse sounds like first-hand knowledge. Not impossibly John Markmay have been his informant, for we know that both were in Rometogether at a later period. In any case, it is clear that, throughwhatever channels this piece of minute knowledge reached Luke, it musthave come originally from Peter himself. And what a touch ofnaturalness and evident truth it is! No wonder that the Apostle washalf dazed as he came from his dungeon, through the prison corridorsand out into the street. To be wakened by an angel, and to have suchfollowing experiences, would amaze most men.

I. The bewilderment of the released captive.

God's mercies often come suddenly, and with a rush and a completenessthat outrun our expectations and our power of immediate comprehension.And sometimes He sends us sorrows in such battalions and sooverwhelming that we are dazed for the moment. A Psalmist touched adeep experience when he sang, 'When the Lord turned again the captivityof Zion, we were like unto them that dream.'

The angel has to be gone before we are sure that he was really here.The tumult of emotion in an experience needs to be calmed down beforewe understand the experience. Reflection discovers more of heaven andof God in the great moments of our lives than was visible to us whilewe were living through them,

There is one region in which this is especially true—that of thereligious life. There sometimes attend its beginnings in a soul acertain excitement and perturbation which disable from calm realisingof the greatness of the change which has passed. And it is well whenthat excitement is quieted down and succeeded by meditative reflectionon the treasures that have been poured into the lap, almost as in thedark. No man understands what he has received when he first receivesChrist and Christ's gifts. It occupies a lifetime to take possession ofthat which we possess from the first in Him, and the oldest saint is asfar from full possession of the unspeakable and infinite 'gift of God,'as the babes in Christ are.

But, looking more generally at this characteristic of not rightlyunderstanding the great epochs of our lives till they are past, we maynote that, while in part it is inevitable and natural, there is anelement of fault in it. If we lived in closer fellowship with God, weshould live in an atmosphere of continual calm, and nothing, eithersorrowful or joyful, would be able so to sweep us off our feet that weshould be bewildered by it. Astonishment would never so fill our soulsas that we could not rightly appraise events, nor should we need anytime, even in the thick of the most wonderful experiences, to 'come to'ourselves and discern the angel.

But if it be so that our lives disclose their meanings best, when welook back on them, how much of the understanding of them, and thedrawing of all its sweetness out of each event in them, is entrusted tomemory! And how negligent of a great means of happiness and strength weare, if we do not often muse on 'all the way by which God the Lord hasled us these many years in the wilderness'! It is needful for Christianprogress to 'forget the things that are behind,' and not to let themlimit our expectations nor prescribe our methods, but it is quite asneedful to remember our past, or rather God's past with us, in order toconfirm our grateful faith and enlarge our boundless hope.

II. The disappearance of the angel.

Why did he leave Peter standing there, half dazed and with hisdeliverance incomplete? He 'led him through one street' only, and'straightway departed from him.' The Apostle delivered by miracle hasnow to use his brains. One distinguishing characteristic of NewTestament miracles is their economy of miraculous power. Jesus raisedLazarus, for He alone could do that, but other hands must 'loose himand let him go,' He gave life to Jairus's little daughter, but He bidothers 'give her something to eat' God does nothing for us that we cando for ourselves. That economy was valuable as a preservative of theApostles from the possible danger of expecting or relying on miracles,and as stirring them to use their own energies. Reliance on divinepower should not lead us to neglect ordinary means. Alike in thenatural and in the spiritual life we have to do our part, and to besure that God will do His.

III. The symbol here of a greater deliverance.

Fancy may legitimately employ this story as setting forth for us undera lovely image the facts of Christian death, if only we acknowledgethat such a use is entirely the work of fancy. But, making thatacknowledgment, may we not make the use? Is not Death, too, God'smessenger to souls that love Him, 'mighty and beauteous, though hisface be hid'? Would it not be more Christian-like, and more congruouswith our eternal hope, if we pictured him thus than by the hideousemblems of our cemeteries and tombs? He comes to Christ's servants, andhis touch is gentle though his fingers are icy-cold. He removes onlythe chains that bind us, and we ourselves are emancipated by his touch.He leads us to 'the iron gate that leadeth into the city,' and it opensto us 'of its own accord.' But he disappears as soon as our happy feethave touched the pavement of that street of the city which is 'puregold, as transparent as glass,' and in the midst of which flows theriver of the crystal-bright 'water of life proceeding out of the throneof God and of the Lamb.' Then, when we see the Face as of the sunshining in his strength, we shall come to ourselves, and 'know of asurety that the Lord hath sent His angel and delivered' us from all ourfoes and ills for evermore.


'A damsel … named Rhoda.'—ACTS xii 13.

'Rhoda' means 'a rose,' and this rose has kept its bloom for eighteenhundred years, and is still sweet and fragrant! What a lottery undyingfame is! Men will give their lives to earn it; and this servant-girlgot it by one little act, and never knew that she had it, and I supposeshe does not know to-day that, everywhere throughout the whole worldwhere the Gospel is preached, 'this that she hath done is spoken of asa memorial to her.' Is the love of fame worthy of being called 'thelast infirmity of noble minds'? Or is it the delusion of ignoble ones?Why need we care whether anybody ever hears of us after we are dead andburied, so long as God knows about us? The 'damsel named Rhoda' waslittle the better for the immortality which she had unconsciously won.

Now there is a very singular resemblance between the details of thisincident and those of another case, when Peter was recognised in dimlight by his voice, and the Evangelist Luke, who is the author of theActs of the Apostles, seems to have had the resemblance between the twoscenes—that in the high priest's palace and that outside Mary'sdoor—in his mind, because he uses in this narrative a word whichoccurs, in the whole of the New Testament, only here and in his accountof what took place on that earlier occasion. In both instances amaid-servant recognises Peter by his voice, and in both 'she constantlyaffirms' that it was so. I do not think that there is anything to bebuilt upon the resemblance, but at all events I think that the use ofthe same unusual word in the two cases, and nowhere else, seems tosuggest that Luke felt how strangely events sometimes doublethemselves; and how the Apostle who is here all but a martyr isre-enacting, with differences, something like the former scene, when hewas altogether a traitor. But, be that as it may, there are somelessons which we may gather from this vivid picture of Rhoda and herbehaviour on the one side of the door, while Peter stood hammering, inthe morning twilight, on the other.

I. We may notice in the relations of Rhoda to the assembled believers astriking illustration of the new bond of union supplied by the Gospel.

Rhoda was a slave. The word rendered in our version 'damsel' means afemale slave. Her name, which is a Gentile name, and her servilecondition, make it probable that she was not a Jewess. If one mightventure to indulge in a guess, it is not at all unlikely that hermistress, Mary, John Mark's mother, Barnabas' sister, a well-to-dowoman of Jerusalem, who had a house large enough to take in the membersof the Church in great numbers, and to keep up a considerableestablishment, had brought this slave-girl from the island of Cyprus.At all events, she was a slave. In the time of our Lord, and longafter, these relations of slavery brought an element of suspicion,fear, and jealous espionage into almost every Roman household, becauseevery master knew that he passed his days and nights among men andwomen who wanted nothing better than to wreak their vengeance upon him.A man's foes were eminently those of his own household. And now herethis child-slave, a Gentile, has been touched by the same mighty loveas her mistress; and Mary and Rhoda were kneeling together in theprayer-meeting when Peter began to hammer at the door. Neither womanthought now of the unnatural, unwholesome relation which had formerlybound them. In God's good time, and by the slow process of leaveningsociety with Christian ideas, that diabolical institution perished inChristian lands. Violent reformation of immoralities is always ablunder. 'Raw haste' is 'half-sister to delay.' Settlers in forestlands have found that it is endless work to grub up the trees, or evento fell them. 'Root and branch' reform seldom answers. The true way isto girdle the tree by taking off a ring of bark round the trunk, andletting nature do the rest. Dead trees are easily dealt with; livingones blunt many axes and tire many arms, and are alive after all. Thusthe Gospel waged no direct war with slavery, but laid down principleswhich, once they are wrought into Christian consciousness, made itscontinuance impossible. But, pending that consummation, the immediateaction of Christianity was to ameliorate the condition of the slave.The whole aspect of the ugly thing was changed as soon as master andslave together became the slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospelhas the same sort of work to do to-day, and there are institutions infull flourishing existence in this and every other civilised communityas entirely antagonistic to the spirit and principles of Christianityas Roman slavery was. I, for my part, believe that the one uniting bondand healing medicine for society is found in Jesus Christ; and that inHim, and that the principles deducible from His revelation by word andwork, applied to all social evils, are their cure, and their only cure.That slight, girlish figure standing at the door of Mary, her slave andyet her sister in Christ, may be taken as pointing symbolically the wayby which the social and civic evils of this day are to be healed, andthe war of classes to cease.

II. Note how we get here a very striking picture of the sacredness andgreatness of small common duties.

Bhoda came out from the prayer-meeting to open the gate. It was herbusiness, as we say, 'to answer the door,' and so she left off prayingto go and do it. So doing, she was the means of delivering the Apostlefrom the danger which still dogged him. It was of little use to bepraying on one side of the shut door when on the other he was standingin the street, and the day was beginning to dawn; Herod's men would beafter him as soon as daylight disclosed his escape. The one thingneedful for him was to be taken in and sheltered. So the praying groupand the girl who stops praying when she hears the knock, to which itwas her business to attend, were working in the same direction. It isnot necessary to insist that no heights or delights of devotion andsecret communion are sufficient excuses for neglecting or delaying thedoing of the smallest and most menial task which is our task. If yourbusiness is to keep the door, you will not be leaving, but abiding in,the secret place of the Most High, if you get up from your knees in themiddle of your prayer, and go down to open it. The smallest, commonestacts of daily life are truer worship than is rapt and solitarycommunion or united prayer, if the latter can only be secured by theneglect of the former. Better to be in the lower parts of the houseattending to the humble duties of the slave than to be in the upperchamber, uniting with the saints in supplication and leaving tasksunperformed.

Let us remember how we may find here an illustration of another greattruth, that the smallest things, done in the course of the quietdischarge of recognised duty, and being, therefore, truly worship ofGod, have in them a certain quality of immortality, and may beeternally commemorated. It was not only the lofty and unique expressionof devotion, which another woman gave when she broke the alabaster boxto anoint the feet of the Saviour which were to be pierced with nailsto-morrow, that has been held worthy of undying remembrance. The nameand act of a poor slave girl have been commemorated by that Spirit whopreserves nothing in vain, in order that we should learn that thingswhich we vulgarly call great, and those which we insolently call small,are regarded by Him, not according to their apparent magnitude, butaccording to their motive and reference to Him. He says, 'I will neverforget any of their works'; and this little deed of Rhoda's, like therose petals that careful housekeepers in the country keep upon thesideboard in china bowls to diffuse a fragance through the room, isgiven us to keep in memory for ever, a witness of the sanctity ofcommon life when filled with acts of obedience to Him.

III. The same figure of the 'damsel named Rhoda' may give us a warningas to the possibility of forgetting very plain duties under thepressure of very legitimate excitement.

'She opened not the door for gladness,' but ran in and told them. Andif, whilst she was running in with her message, Herod's quaternions ofsoldiers had come down the street, there would have been 'no smallstir' in the church as to 'what had become of Peter.' He would havegone back to his prison sure enough. Her first duty was to open thedoor; her second one was to go and tell the brethren, 'we have gothim safe inside'; but in the rush of joyous emotions she naively forgotwhat her first business was, 'lost her head,' as we say, and so wentoff to tell that he was outside, instead of letting him in. Now joy andsorrow are equally apt to make us forget plain and pressing duties, andwe may learn from this little incident the old-fashioned, but alwaysnecessary advice, to keep feeling well under control, to use it asimpulse, not as guide, and never to let emotion, which should be downin the engine-room, come on deck and take the helm. It is dangerous toobey feeling, unless its decrees are countersigned by calm common senseilluminated by Scripture. Sorrow is apt to obscure duty by itsdarkness, and joy to do so by its dazzle. It is hard to see the road atmidnight, or at midday when the sun is in our eyes. Both need to becontrolled. Duty remains the same, whether my heart is beating like asledge-hammer, or whether 'my bosom's lord sits lightly on its throne.'Whether I am sad or glad, the door that God has given me to watch hasto be opened and shut by me. And whether I am a door-keeper in thehouse of the Lord, like Rhoda in Mary's, or have an office that peoplethink larger and more important, the imperativeness of my duties isequally independent of my momentary emotions and circ*mstances.Remember, then, that duty remains while feeling fluctuates, and that,sorrowful or joyful, we have still the same Lord to serve and the samecrown to win.

IV. Lastly, we have here an instance of a very modest but positive andfully-warranted trust in one's own experience in spite of opposition.

I need not speak about that extraordinary discussion which the brethrengot up in the upper room. They had been praying, as has often beenremarked, for Peter's deliverance, and now that he is delivered theywill not believe it. I am afraid that there is often a dash of unbeliefin immediate answers to our prayers mingling with the prayers. Andalthough the petitions in this case were intense and fervent, as theoriginal tells us, and had been kept up all night long, and althoughtheir earnestness and worthiness are guaranteed by the fact that theywere answered, yet when the veritable Peter, in flesh and blood, stoodbefore the door, the suppliants first said to the poor girl, 'Thou artmad,' and then, 'It is his angel! It cannot be he.' Nobody seems tohave thought of going to the door to see whether it was he or not, butthey went on arguing with Rhoda as to whether she was right or wrong.The unbelief that alloys even golden faith is taught us in thisincident.

Rhoda 'constantly affirmed that it was so,' like the other porteressthat had picked out Peter's voice amongst the men huddled round thefire in the high priest's chamber.

The lesson is—trust your own experience, whatever people may have tosay against it. If you have found that Jesus Christ can help you, andhas loved you, and that your sins have been forgiven, because you havetrusted in Him, do not let anybody laugh or talk you out of thatconviction. If you cannot argue, do like Rhoda, 'constantly affirm thatit is so.' That is the right answer, especially if you can say to theantagonistic party, 'Have you been down to the door, then, to see?' Andif they have to say 'No!' then the right answer is, 'You go and look asI did, and you will come back with the same belief which I have.'

So at last they open the door and there he stands. Peter's hammer,hammer, hammer at the gate is wonderfully given in the story. It goeson as a kind of running accompaniment through the talk between Rhodaand the friends. It might have put a stop to the conversation, onewould have thought. But Another stands at the door knocking, still morepersistently, still more patiently. 'Behold! I stand at the door andknock. If any man open the door I will come in.'


'But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace,declared unto them how the Lord had brought him forth out of theprison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to thebrethren, And he departed, and went into another place.'—ACTS xii. 17.

When the angel 'departed from him,' Peter had to fall back on his ownwits, and they served him well. He 'considered the thing,' and resolvedto make for the house of Mary. He does not seem to have intended toremain there, so dangerously near Herod, but merely to have told itsinmates of his deliverance, and then to have hidden himself somewhere,till the heat of the hunt after him was abated. Apparently he did notgo into the house at all, but talked to the brethren, when they cametrooping after Rhoda to open the gate. The signs of haste in the latterpart of the story, where Peter has to think and act for himself,contrast strikingly with the majestic leisureliness of the action ofthe angel, who gave his successive commands to him to dress completely,as if careless of the sleeping legionaries who might wake at anymoment. There was need for haste, for the night was wearing thin, andthe streets of Jerusalem were no safe promenade for a condemnedprisoner, escaped from his guards.

We do not deal here with the scene in Mary's house and at the gate. Weonly note, in a word, the touch of nature in Rhoda's forgetting to open'for gladness,' and so leaving Peter in peril, if a detachment of hisguards had already been told off to chase him. Equally true to nature,alas, is the incredulity of the praying 'many,' when the answer totheir prayers was sent to them. They had rather believe that the poorgirl was 'mad' or that, for all their praying, Peter was dead, and thiswas his 'angel,' than that their intense prayer had been so swiftly andcompletely answered. Is their behaviour not a mirror in which we maysee our own?

Very like Peter, as well as very intelligible in the circ*mstances, isit that he 'continued knocking,' Well he might, and evidently hisenergetic fusillade of blows was heard even above the clatter of eagertongues, discussing Rhoda's astonishing assertions. Some one, at last,seems to have kept his head sufficiently to suggest that perhaps,instead of disputing whether these were true or not, it might be wellto go to the door and see. So they all went in a body, Rhoda beingpossibly afraid to go alone, and others afraid to stay behind, andthere they saw his veritable self. But we notice that there is no signof his being taken in and refreshed or cared for. He waved animperative hand, to quiet the buzz of talk, spoke two or three briefwords, and departed.

I. Note Peter's account of his deliverance.

We have often had occasion to remark that the very keynote of this Bookof Acts is the working of Christ from heaven, which to its writer is asreal and efficient as was His work on earth. Peter here traces hisdeliverance to 'the Lord.' He does not stay to mention the angel. Histhoughts went beyond the instrument to the hand which wielded it. Nordoes he seem to have been at all astonished at his deliverance. Hismoment of bewilderment, when he did not know whether he was dreaming orawake, soon passed, and as soon as 'the sober certainty of his wakingbliss' settled on his mind, his deliverance seemed to him perfectlynatural. What else was it to be expected that 'the Lord' would do? Wasit not just like Him? There was nothing to be astonished at, there waseverything to be thankful for. That is how Christian hearts shouldreceive the deliverances which the Lord is still working for them.

II. Note Peter's message to the brethren.

James, the Lord's brother, was not an Apostle. That he should have beennamed to receive the message indicates that already he held someconspicuous position, perhaps some office, in the Church. It may alsoimply that there were no Apostles in Jerusalem then. We note also thatthe 'many' who were gathered in Mary's house can have been only a smallpart of the whole. We here get a little glimpse into the conditions ofthe life of a persecuted Church, which a sympathetic imagination candwell on till it is luminous. Such gatherings as would attract noticehad to be avoided, and what meetings were held had to be in privatehouses and with shut doors, through which entrance was not easy. Mary's'door' had a 'gate' in it, and only that smaller postern, whichadmitted but one at a time, was opened to visitors, and that afterscrutiny. But though assemblies were restricted, communications werekept up, and by underground ways information of events important to thecommunity spread through its members. The consciousness of brotherhoodwas all the stronger because of the common danger, the universal perilhad not made the brethren selfish, but sympathetic. We may note, too,how great a change had come since the time when the Christians were infavour with all the people, and may reflect how fickle are the world'ssmiles for Christ's servants.

III. Note Peter's disappearance.

All that is said of it is that he 'went into another place.' ProbablyLuke did not know where he went. It would be prudent at the time toconceal it, and the habit of concealment may have survived the need forit. But two points suggest themselves in regard to the Apostle'sflight. There may be a better use for an Apostle than to kill him, andChrist's boldest witnesses are sometimes bound to save themselves byfleeing into another city. To hide oneself 'till the calamity beoverpast' may be rank cowardice or commendable prudence. All depends onthe circ*mstances of each case. Prudence is an element in courage, andcourage without it is fool-hardiness. There are outward dangers fromwhich it is Christian duty to run, and there are outward dangers whichit is Christian duty to face. There are inward temptations which it isbest to avoid, as there are others which have to be fought to thedeath. Peter was as brave and braver when he went and hid himself, thanwhen he boasted, 'Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I!' Amorbid eagerness for martyrdom wrought much harm in the Church at alater time. The primitive Church was free from it.

But we must not omit to note that here Peter is dropped out of thehistory, and is scarcely heard of any more. We have a glimpse of him inchapter xv., at the Council in Jerusalem, but, with that exception,this is the last mention of him in Acts. How little this Book cares forits heroes! Or rather how it has only one Hero, and one Name which itcelebrates, the name of that Lord to whom Peter ascribed hisdeliverance, and of whom he himself declared that 'there is none otherName under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.'






TO THE REGIONS BEYOND (Acts xiii. 1-13)


JOHN MARK (Acts xiii. 13)


LUTHER—A STONE ON THE CAIRN (Acts xiii. 36, 37)

REJECTERS AND RECEIVERS (Acts xiii. 44-52; xiv. 1-7)

UNWORTHY OF LIFE (Acts xiii. 46)

'FULL OF THE HOLY GHOST' (Acts xiii. 52)

DEIFIED AND STONED (Acts xiv. 11-22)

DREAM AND REALITY (Acts xiv. 11)

'THE DOOR OF FAITH' (Acts xiv. 27)



A GOOD MAN'S FAULTS (Acts xv. 37, 38)


PAUL AT PHILIPPI (Acts xvi. 13, R.V.)

THE RIOT AT PHILIPPI (Acts xvi. 19-34)



PAUL AT ATHENS (Acts xvii. 22-34)

THE MAN WHO IS JUDGE (Acts xvii. 31)

PAUL AT CORINTH (Acts xviii. 1-11)


GALLIO (Acts xviii. 14, 15)

TWO FRUITFUL YEARS (Acts xix. 1-12)



PARTING COUNSELS (Acts xx. 22-85)

A FULFILLED ASPIRATION (Acts xx. 24; 2 Tim. iv. 7)

PARTING WORDS (Acts xx. 32)




AN OLD DISCIPLE (Acts xxi. 16)

PAUL IN THE TEMPLE (Acts xxi. 27-39)


ROME PROTECTS PAUL (Acts xxii. 17-30)

CHRIST'S WITNESSES (Acts xxiii. 11)

A PLOT DETECTED (Acts xxiii. 12-22)

A LOYAL TRIBUTE (Acts xxiv. 2, 3)

PAUL BEFORE FELIX (Acts xxiv. 10-25)

FELIX BEFORE PAUL (Acts xxiv. 25)


FAITH IN CHRIST (Acts xxvi. 18)


'THE HEAVENLY VISION' (Acts xxvi. 19)

'ME A CHRISTIAN!' (Acts xxvi. 28)

TEMPEST AND TRUST (Acts xxvii 13-26)


A TOTAL WRECK, ALL HANDS SAVED (Acts xxvii. 30-44)

AFTER THE WRECK (Acts xxviii. 1-16)

THE LAST GLIMPSE OF PAUL (Acts xxviii. 17-31)

PAUL IN ROME (Acts xxviii. 30, 31)


'Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets andteachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius ofCyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch,and Saul. 2. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghostsaid, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I havecalled them. 3. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid theirhands on them, they sent them away. A. So they, being sent forth by theHoly Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed toCyprus. 5. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of Godin the synagogues of the Jews; and they had also John to theirminister. 6. And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, theyfound a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name wasBar-jesus: 7. Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus,a prudent man, who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hearthe word of God. 8. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name byinterpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy fromthe faith. 9. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with theHoly Ghost, set his eyes on him, 10. And said, O full of all subtiltyand all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of allrighteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of theLord? 11. And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thoushalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately therefell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some tolead him by the hand. 12. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done,believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. 13. Now whenPaul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga inPamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.'—ACTSxiii. 1-13.

We stand in this passage at the beginning of a great step forward.Philip and Peter had each played a part in the gradual expansion of thechurch beyond the limits of Judaism; but it was from the church atAntioch that the messengers went forth who completed the process. Bothits locality and its composition made that natural.

I. The solemn designation of the missionaries is the first point in thenarrative. The church at Antioch was not left without signs of Christ'sgrace and presence. It had its band of 'prophets and teachers.' Asmight be expected, four of the five named are Hellenists,—that is,Jews born in Gentile lands, and speaking Gentile languages. Barnabaswas a Cypriote, Simeon's byname of Niger ('Black') was probably givenbecause of his dark complexion, which was probably caused by his birthin warmer lands. He may have been a North African, as Lucius of Cyrenewas. Saul was from Tarsus, and only Manaen remains to represent thepure Palestinian Jew. His had been a strange course, from beingfoster-brother of the Herod who killed John to becoming a teacher inthe church at Antioch. Barnabas was the leader of the little group, andthe younger Pharisee from Tarsus, who had all along been Barnabas'sprotege, brought up the rear.

The order observed in the list is a little window which shows a greatdeal. The first and last names all the world knows; the other three arenever heard of again. Immortality falls on the two, oblivion swallowsup the three. But it matters little whether our names are sounded inmen's ears, if they are in the Lamb's book of life.

These five brethren were waiting on the Lord by fasting and prayer.Apparently they had reason to expect some divine communication, forwhich they were thus preparing themselves. Light will come to those whothus seek it. They were commanded to set apart two of their number for'the work whereunto I have called them.' That work is not specified,and yet the two, like carrier pigeons on being let loose, make straightfor their line of flight, and know exactly whither they are to go.

If we strictly interpret Luke's words ('I have called them'), aprevious intimation from the Spirit had revealed to them the sphere oftheir work. In that case, the separation was only the recognition bythe brethren of the divine appointment. The inward call must comefirst, and no ecclesiastical designation can do more than confirm that.But the solemn designation by the Church identifies those who remainbehind with the work of those who go forth; it throws responsibilityfor sympathy and support on the former, and it ministers strength andthe sense of companionship to the latter, besides checking thattendency to isolation which accompanies earnestness. To go forth oneven Christian service, unrecognised by the brethren, is not good foreven a Paul.

But although Luke speaks of the Church sending them away, he takes careimmediately to add that it was the Holy Ghost who 'sent them forth.'Ramsay suggests that 'sent them away' is not the meaning of the phrasein verse 3, but that it should be rendered 'gave them leave to depart.'In any case, a clear distinction is drawn between the action of theChurch and that of the Spirit, which constituted Paul's real commissionas an Apostle. He himself says that he was an Apostle, 'not from men,neither through man.'

II. The events in the first stage of the journey are next summarilypresented. Note the local colouring in 'went down to Seleucia,' theseaport of Antioch, at the mouth of the river. The missionaries werenaturally led to begin at Cyprus, as Barnabas's birthplace, and that ofsome of the founders of the church at Antioch.

So, for the first time, the Gospel went to sea, the precursor of somany voyages. It was an 'epoch-making moment' when that ship droppeddown with the tide and put out to sea. Salamis was the nearest port onthe south-eastern coast of Cyprus, and there they landed,—Barnabas, nodoubt, familiar with all he saw; Saul probably a stranger to it all.Their plan of action was that to which Paul adhered in all his afterwork,—to carry the Gospel to the Jew first, a proceeding for which themanner of worship in the synagogues gave facilities. No doubt, manysuch were scattered through Cyprus, and Barnabas would be well known inmost.

They thus traversed the island from east to west. It is noteworthy thatonly now is John Mark's name brought in as their attendant. He had comewith them from Antioch, but Luke will not mention him, when he istelling of the sending forth of the other two, because Mark was notsent by the Spirit, but only chosen by his uncle, and his subsequentdefection did not affect the completeness of their embassy. Hisentirely subordinate place is made obvious by the point at which heappears.

Nothing of moment happened on the tour till Paphos was reached. Thatwas the capital, the residence of the pro-consul, and the seat of thefoul worship of Venus. There the first antagonist was met. It is notSergius Paulus, pro-consul though he was, who is the central figure ofinterest to Luke, but the sorcerer who was attached to his train. Hischaracter is drawn in Luke's description, and in Paul's fieryexclamation. Each has three clauses, which fall 'like the beats of ahammer.' 'Sorcerer, false prophet, Jew,' make a climax of wickedness.That a Jew should descend to dabble in the black art of magic, and playtricks on the credulity of ignorant people by his knowledge of somesimple secrets of chemistry; that he should pretend to prophetic giftswhich in his heart he knew to be fraud, and should be recreant to hisancestral faith, proved him to deserve the penetrating sentence whichPaul passed on him. He was a trickster, and knew that he was: hisinspiration came from an evil source; he had come to hate righteousnessof every sort.

Paul was not flinging bitter words at random, or yielding to passion,but was laying the black heart bare to the man's own eyes, that theseeing himself as God saw him might startle him into penitence. 'Thecorruption of the best is the worst.' The bitterest enemies of God'sways are those who have cast aside their early faith. A Jew who hadstooped to be a juggler was indeed causing God's 'name to be blasphemedamong the Gentiles.'

He and Paul each recognised in the other his most formidable foe.Elymas instinctively felt that the pro-consul must be kept fromlistening to the teaching of these two fellow-countrymen, and 'soughtto pervert him from the faith,' therein perverting (the same wordis used in both cases) 'the right ways of the Lord'; that is, opposingthe divine purpose. He was a specimen of a class who attained influencein that epoch of unrest, when the more cultivated and nobler part ofRoman society had lost faith in the old gods, and was turning wistfullyand with widespread expectation to the mysterious East forenlightenment.

So, like a ship which plunges into the storm as soon as it clears thepier-head, the missionaries felt the first dash of the spray and blastof the wind directly they began their work. Since this was their firstencounter with a foe which they would often have to meet, the duelassumes importance, and we understand not only the fulness of thenarrative, but the miracle which assured Paul and Barnabas of Christ'shelp, and was meant to diffuse its encouragement along the line oftheir future work. For Elymas it was chastisem*nt, which might lead himto cease to pervert the ways of the Lord, and himself begin to walk inthem. Perhaps, after a season, he did see 'the better Sun.'

Saul's part in the incident is noteworthy. We observe the vivid touch,he 'fastened his eyes on him.' There must have been something verypiercing in the fixed gaze of these flashing eyes. But Luke takes painsto prevent our thinking that Paul spoke from his own insight or wasmoved by human passion. He was 'filled with the Holy Ghost,' and, asHis organ, poured out the scorching words that revealed the coweringapostate to himself, and announced the merciful punishment that was tofall. We need to be very sure that we are similarly filled beforeventuring to imitate the Apostle's tone.

III. The shifting of the scene to the mainland presents some noteworthypoints. It is singular that there is no preaching mentioned as havingbeen attempted in Perga, or anywhere along the coast, but that the twoevangelists seem to have gone at once across the great mountain rangeof Taurus to Antioch of Pisidia.

A striking suggestion is made by Ramsay to the effect that the reasonwas a sudden attack of the malarial fever which is endemic in thelow-lying coast plains, and for which the natural remedy is to get upamong the mountains. If so, the journey to Antioch of Pisidia may nothave been in the programme to which John Mark had agreed, and hisreturn to Jerusalem may have been due to this departure from theoriginal intention. Be that as it may, he stands for us as a beacon,warning against hasty entrance on great undertakings of which we havenot counted the cost, no less than against cowardly flight from work,as soon as it begins to involve more danger or discomfort than we hadreckoned on.

John Mark was willing to go a-missionarying as long as he was inCyprus, where he was somebody and much at home, by his relationship toBarnabas; but when Perga and the climb over Taurus into strange landscame to be called for, his zeal and courage oozed out at hisfinger-ends, and he skulked back to his mother's house at Jerusalem. Nowonder that Paul 'thought not good to take with them him who withdrewfrom them.' But even such faint hearts as Mark's may take courage fromthe fact that he nobly retrieved his youthful error, and won backPaul's confidence, and proved himself 'profitable to him for theministry.'


'Saul (who also is called Paul)' …—ACTS xiii. 9

Hitherto the Apostle has been known by the former of these names,henceforward he is known exclusively by the latter. Hitherto he hasbeen second to his friend Barnabas, henceforward he is first. In anearlier verse of the chapter we read that 'Barnabas and Saul' wereseparated for their missionary work, and again, that it was 'Barnabasand Saul' for whom the governor of Cyprus sent, to hear the word of theLord. But in a subsequent verse of the chapter we read that 'Paul andhis company loosed from Paphos.'

The change in the order of the names is significant, and the change inthe names not less so. Why was it that at this period the Apostle tookup this new designation? I think that the coincidence between his nameand that of the governor of Cyprus, who believed at his preaching,Sergius Paulus, is too remarkable to be accidental. And though, nodoubt, it was the custom for the Jews of that day, especially for thoseof them who lived in Gentile lands, to have, for convenience' sake, twonames, one Jewish and one Gentile—one for use amongst their brethren,and one for use amongst the heathen—still we have no distinctintimation that the Apostle bore a Gentile name before this moment. Andthe fact that the name which he bears now is the same as that of hisfirst convert, seems to me to point the explanation.

I take it, then, that the assumption of the name of Paul instead of thename of Saul occurred at this point, stood in some relation to hismissionary work, and was intended in some sense as a memorial of hisfirst victory in the preaching of the Gospel.

I think that there are lessons to be derived from the substitution ofone of these names for the other which may well occupy us for a fewmoments.

I. First of all, then, the new name expresses a new nature.

Jesus Christ gave the Apostle whom He called to Himself in the earlydays, a new name, in order to prophesy the change which, by thediscipline of sorrow and the communication of the grace of God, shouldpass over Simon Barjona, making him into a Peter, a 'Man of Rock.' Withcharacteristic independence, Saul chooses for himself a new name, whichshall express the change that he feels has passed over his inmostbeing. True, he does not assume it at his conversion, but that is noreason why we should not believe that he assumes it because he isbeginning to understand what it is that has happened to him at hisconversion.

The fact that he changes his name as soon as he throws himself intopublic and active life, is but gathering into one picturesque symbolhis great principle; 'If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a newcreature. Old things are passed away and all things are become new.'

So, dear brethren, we may, from this incident before us, gather thisone great lesson, that the central heart of Christianity is thepossession of a new life, communicated to us through faith in that Sonof God, Who is the Lord of the Spirit. Wheresoever there is a truefaith, there is a new nature. Opinions may play upon the surface of aman's soul, like moonbeams on the silver sea, without raising itstemperature one degree or sending a single beam into its dark caverns.And that is the sort of Christianity that satisfies a great many ofyou—a Christianity of opinion, a Christianity of surface creed, aChristianity which at the best slightly modifies some of our outwardactions, but leaves the whole inner man unchanged.

Paul's Christianity meant a radical change in his whole nature. He wentout of Jerusalem a persecutor, he came into Damascus a Christian. Herode out of Jerusalem hating, loathing, despising Jesus Christ; hegroped his way into Damascus, broken, bruised, clinging contrite to Hisfeet, and clasping His Cross as his only hope. He went out proud,self-reliant, pluming himself upon his many prerogatives, his blueblood, his pure descent, his Rabbinical knowledge, his Pharisaicaltraining, his external religious earnestness, his rigid morality; herode into Damascus blind in the eyes, but seeing in the soul, anddiscerning that all these things were, as he says in his strong,vehement way, 'but dung' in comparison with his winning Christ.

And his theory of conversion, which he preaches in all his Epistles, isbut the generalisation of his own personal experience, which suddenly,and in a moment, smote his old self to shivers, and raised up a newlife, with new tastes, views, tendencies, aspirations, with newallegiance to a new King. Such changes, so sudden, so revolutionary,cannot be expected often to take place amongst people who, like us,have been listening to Christian teaching all our lives. But unlessthere be this infusion of a new life into men's spirits which shallmake them love and long and aspire after new things that once they didnot care for, I know not why we should speak of them as beingChristians at all. The transition is described by Paul as 'passing fromdeath unto life.' That cannot be a surface thing. A change which needsa new name must be a profound change. Has our Christianityrevolutionised our nature in any such fashion? It is easy to be aChristian after the superficial fashion which passes muster with somany of us. A verbal acknowledgment of belief in truths which we neverthink about, a purely external performance of acts of worship, asubscription or two winged by no sympathy, and a fairly respectablelife beneath the cloak of which all evil may burrow undetected—makethe Christianity of thousands. Paul's Christianity transformed him;does yours transform you? If it does not, are you quite sure that itis Christianity at all?

II. Then, again, we may take this change of name as being expressive ofa life's work.

Paul is a Roman name. He strips himself of his Jewish connections andrelationships. His fellow-countrymen who lived amongst the Gentileswere, as I said at the beginning of these remarks, in the habit ofdoing the same thing; but they carried both their names; their Jewishfor use amongst their own people, their Gentile one for use amongstGentiles. Paul seems to have altogether disused his old name of Saul.It was almost equivalent to seceding from Judaism. It is like the actsof the renegades whom one sometimes hears of, who are found bytravellers, dressed in turban and flowing robes, and bearing someTurkish name, or like some English sailor, lost to home and kindred,who deserts his ship in an island of the Pacific, and drops his Englishname for a barbarous title, in token that he has given up his faith andhis nationality.

So Paul, contemplating for his life's work preaching amongst theGentiles, determines at the beginning, 'I lay down all of which I usedto be proud. If my Jewish descent and privileges stand in my way I castthem aside. "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of thetribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, aPharisee,"—all these I wrap together in one bundle, and toss thembehind me that I may be the better able to help some to whom they wouldhave hindered my access.' A man with a heart will throw off his silkenrobes that his arm may be bared to rescue, and his feet free to run tosuccour.

So we may, from the change of the Apostle's name, gather this lesson,never out of date, that the only way to help people is to go down totheir level. If you want to bless men, you must identify yourself withthem. It is no use standing on an eminence above them, andpatronisingly talking down to them. You cannot scold, or hector, orlecture men into the possession and acceptance of religious truth ifyou take a position of superiority. As our Master has taught us, if wewant to make blind beggars see we must take the blind beggars by thehand.

The spirit which led the Apostle to change the name of Saul, with itsmemories of the royal dignity which, in the person of its great wearer,had honoured his tribe, for a Roman name is the same which he formallyannounces as a deliberately adopted law of his life. 'To them that arewithout law I became as without law … that I might gain them that arewithout law … I am made all things to all men, that I might by allmeans save some.'

It is the very inmost principle of the Gospel. The principle thatinfluenced the servant in this comparatively little matter, is theprinciple that influenced the Master in the mightiest of all events.'He who was in the form of God, and thought not equality with God athing to be eagerly snatched at, made Himself of no reputation, and wasfound in fashion as a man and in form as a servant, and became obedientunto death.' 'For as much as the children were partakers of flesh andblood, He Himself likewise took part of the same'; and the mystery ofincarnation came to pass, because when the Divine would help men, theonly way by which the Infinite love could reach its end was that theDivine should become man; identifying Himself with those whom He wouldhelp, and stooping to the level of the humanity that He would lift.

And as it is the very essence and heart of Christ's work, so, mybrother, it is the condition of all work that benefits our fellows. Itapplies all round. We must stoop if we would raise. We must put awaygifts, culture, everything that distinguishes us, and come to the levelof the men that we seek to help. Sympathy is the parent of all wisecounsel, because it is the parent of all true understanding of ourbrethren's wants. Sympathy is the only thing to which people willlisten, sympathy is the only disposition correspondent to the messagethat we Christians are entrusted with. For a Christian man to carry theGospel of Infinite condescension to his fellows in a spirit other thanthat of the Master and the Gospel which he speaks, is an anomaly and acontradiction.

And, therefore, let us all remember that a vast deal of so-calledChristian work falls utterly dead and profitless, for no other reasonthan this, that the doers have forgotten that they must come to thelevel of the men whom they would help, before they can expect to blessthem.

You remember the old story of the heroic missionary whose heart burnedto carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ amongst captives, and as there wasno other way of reaching them, let himself be sold for a slave, and putout his hands to have the manacles fastened upon them. It is the lawfor all Christian service; become like men if you will help them,—'Tothe weak as weak, all things to all men, that we might by all meanssave some.'

And, my brother, there was no obligation on Paul's part to do Christianwork which does not lie on you.

III. Further, this change of name is a memorial of victory.

The name is that of Paul's first convert. He takes it, as I suppose,because it seemed to him such a blessed thing that at the very momentwhen he began to sow, God helped him to reap. He had gone out to hiswork, no doubt, with much trembling, with weakness and fear. And lo!here, at once, the fields were white already to the harvest,

Great conquerors have been named from their victories; Africanus,Germanicus, Nelson of the Nile, Napier of Magdala, and the like. Paulnames himself from the first victory that God gives him to win; and so,as it were, carries ever on his breast a memorial of the wonder thatthrough him it had been given to preach, and that not without success,amongst the Gentiles 'the unsearchable riches of Christ.'

That is to say, this man thought of it as his highest honour, and thething best worthy to be remembered about his life, that God had helpedhim to help his brethren to know the common Master. Is that your ideaof the best thing about a life? What would you, a professing Christian,like to have for an epitaph on your grave? 'He was rich; he made a bigbusiness in Manchester'; 'He was famous, he wrote books'; 'He was happyand fortunate'; or, 'He turned many to righteousness'? This man flungaway his literary tastes, his home joys, and his personal ambition, andchose as that for which he would live, and by which he would fain beremembered, that he should bring dark hearts to the light in which heand they together walked.

His name, in its commemoration of his first success, would act as astimulus to service and to hope. No doubt the Apostle, like the rest ofus, had his times of indolence and languor, and his times ofdespondency when he seemed to have laboured in vain, and spent hisstrength for nought. He had but to say 'Paul' to find the antidote toboth the one and the other, and in the remembrance of the past to finda stimulus for service for the future, and a stimulus for hope for thetime to come. His first convert was to him the first drop that predictsthe shower, the first primrose that prophesies the wealth of yellowblossoms and downy green leaves that will fill the woods in a day ortwo. The first convert 'bears in his hand a glass which showeth manymore.' Look at the workmen in the streets trying to get up a piece ofthe roadway. How difficult it is to lever out the first paving stonefrom the compacted mass! But when once it has been withdrawn, the restis comparatively easy. We can understand Paul's triumph and joy overthe first stone which he had worked out of the strongly cemented walland barrier of heathenism; and his conviction that having thus made abreach, if it were but wide enough to let the end of his lever in, thefall of the whole was only a question of time. I suppose that if theold alchemists had turned but one grain of base metal into gold theymight have turned tons, if only they had had the retorts and theappliances with which to do it. And so, what has brought one man's soulinto harmony with God, and given one man the true life, can do the samefor all men. In the first fruits we may see the fields whitening to theharvest. Let us rejoice then, in any little work that God helps us todo, and be sure that if so great be the joy of the first fruits, greatbeyond speech will be the joy of the ingathering.

IV. And now last of all, this change of name is an index of the spiritof a life's work.

'Paul' means 'little'; 'Saul' means 'desired.' He abandons the namethat prophesied of favour and honour, to adopt a name that bears uponits very front a profession of humility. His very name is thecondensation into a word of his abiding conviction: 'I am less than theleast of all saints.' Perhaps even there may be an allusion to his lowstature, which may be pointed at in the sarcasm of his enemies that hisletters were strong, though his bodily presence was 'weak.' If he was,as Renan calls him, 'an ugly little Jew,' the name has a doubleappropriateness.

But, at all events, it is an expression of the spirit in which hesought to do his work. The more lofty the consciousness of his vocationthe more lowly will a true man's estimate of himself be. The higher mythought of what God has given me grace to do, the more shall I feelweighed down by the consciousness of my unfitness to do it. And themore grateful my remembrance of what He has enabled me to do, the moreshall I wonder that I have been enabled, and the more profoundly shallI feel that it is not my strength but His that has won the victories.

So, dear brethren, for all hope, for all success in our work, for allgrowth in Christian grace and character, this disposition of lowlyself-abasem*nt and recognised unworthiness and infirmity is absolutelyindispensable. The mountain-tops that lift themselves to the stars arebarren, and few springs find their rise there. It is in the lowlyvalleys that the flowers grow and the rivers run. And it is they whoare humble and lowly in heart to whom God gives strength to serve Him,and the joy of accepted service.

I beseech you, then, learn your true life's task. Learn how to do it byidentifying yourselves with the humbler brethren whom you would help.Learn the spirit in which it must be done; the spirit of lowlyself-abasem*nt. And oh! above all, learn this, that unless you have thenew life, the life of God in your hearts, you have no life at all.

Have you, my brother, that faith by which we receive into our spiritsChrist's own Spirit, to be our life? If you have, then you are a newcreature, with a new name, perhaps but dimly visible and faintlyaudible, amidst the imperfections of earth, but sure to shine out onthe pages of the Lamb's Book of Life; and to be read 'with tumults ofacclaim' before the angels of Heaven. 'I will give him a white stone,and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save he thatreceiveth it.'


'… John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.'—ACTS xiii. 13.

The few brief notices of John Mark in Scripture are sufficient to giveus an outline of his life, and some inkling of his character. He wasthe son of a well-to-do Christian woman in Jerusalem, whose houseappears to have been the resort of the brethren as early as the periodof Peter's miraculous deliverance from prison. As the cousin ofBarnabas he was naturally selected to be the attendant and secularfactotum of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Forsome reason, faint-heartedness, lack of interest, levity ofdisposition, or whatever it may have been, he very quickly abandonedthat office and returned to his home. His kindly-natured and indulgentrelative sought to reinstate him in his former position on the secondjourney of Paul and himself. Paul's kinder severity refused to complywith the wish of his colleague Barnabas, and so they part, and Barnabasand Mark sail away to Cyprus, and drop out of the Acts of the Apostles.We hear no more about him until near the end of the Apostle Paul'slife, when the Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon show him asagain the companion of Paul in his captivity. He seems to have left himin Rome, to have gone to Asia Minor for a space, to have returned tothe Apostle during his last imprisonment and immediately prior to hisdeath, and then to have attached himself to the Apostle Peter, andunder his direction and instruction to have written his Gospel.

Now these are the bones of his story; can we put flesh and blood uponthem: and can we get any lessons out of them? I think we may; at anyrate I am going to try.

I. Consider then, first, his—what shall I call it? well, if I may usethe word which Paul himself designates it by, in its correctsignification, we may call it his—apostasy.

It was not a departure from Christ, but it was a departure from veryplain duty. And if you will notice the point of time at which Markthrew up the work that was laid upon him, you will see the reason forhis doing so. The first place to which the bold evangelists went wasCyprus. Barnabas was a native of Cyprus, which was perhaps the reasonfor selecting it as the place in which to begin the mission. For thesame reason, because it was the native place of his relative, it wouldbe very easy work for John Mark as long as they stopped in Cyprus,among his friends, with people that knew him, and with whom no doubt hewas familiar. But as soon as they crossed the strait that separated theisland from the mainland, and set foot upon the soil of Asia Minor, sosoon he turned tail; like some recruit that goes into battle, full offervour, but as soon as the bullets begin to 'ping' makes the best ofhis way to the rear. He was quite ready for missionary work as long asit was easy work; quite ready to do it as long as he was moving uponknown ground and there was no great call upon his heroism, or hisself-sacrifice; he does not wait to test the difficulties, but isfrightened by the imagination of them, does not throw himself into thework and see how he gets on with it, but before he has gone a mile intothe land, or made any real experience of the perils and hardships, hashad quite enough of it, and goes away back to his mother in Jerusalem.

Yes, and we find exactly the same thing in all kinds of strenuous life.Many begin to run, but one after another, as 'lap' after 'lap' of theracecourse is got over, has had enough of it, and drops on one side; ahundred started, and at the end the field is reduced to three or four.All you men that have grey hairs on your heads can remember many ofyour companions that set out in the course with you, 'did run well' fora little while: what has become of them? This thing hindered one, theother thing hindered another; the swiftly formed resolution died downas fast as it blazed up; and there are perhaps some three or four that,'by patient continuance in well-doing,' have been tolerably faithful totheir juvenile ideal; and to use the homely word of the homely AbrahamLincoln, kept 'pegging away' at what they knew to be the task that waslaid upon them.

This is very 'threadbare' morality, very very familiar andold-fashioned teaching; but I am accustomed to believe that no teachingis threadbare until it is practised; and that however well-worn theplatitudes may be, you and I want them once again unless we have obeyedthem, and done all which they enjoin. And so in regard to every careerwhich has in it anything of honour and of effort, let John Mark teachus the lesson not swiftly to begin and inconsiderately to venture upona course, but once begun to let nothing discourage, 'nor bate one jotof heart or hope, but still bear up and steer right onward.'

And still further and more solemnly still, how like this story is tothe experience of hundreds and thousands of young Christians! Any manwho has held such an office as I hold, for as many years as I havefilled it, will have his memory full—and, may I say, his eyes notempty—of men and women who began like this man, earnest, fervid, fullof zeal, and who, like him, have slackened in their work; who wereSunday-school teachers, workers amongst the poor, I know not what, whenthey were young men and women, and who now are idle and unprofitableservants.

Some of you, dear brethren, need the word of exhortation and earnestbeseeching to contrast the sluggishness, the indolence of your present,with the brightness and the fervour of your past. And I beseech you, donot let your Christian life be like that snow that is on the groundabout us to-day—when it first lights upon the earth, radiant andwhite, but day by day gets more covered with a veil of sooty blacknessuntil it becomes dark and foul.

Many of us have to acknowledge that the fervour of early days has dieddown into coldness. The river that leapt from its source rejoicing, andbickered amongst the hills in such swift and musical descent, creepssluggish and almost stagnant amongst the flats of later life, or hasbeen lost and swallowed up altogether in the thirsty and encroachingsands of a barren worldliness. Oh! my friends, let us all ponder thislesson, and see to it that no repetition of the apostasy of this mandarken our Christian lives and sadden our Christian conscience.

II. And now let me ask you to look next, in the development of thislittle piece of biography, to Mark's eclipse.

Paul and Barnabas differed about how to treat the renegade. Which ofthem was right? Would it have been better to have put him back in hisold post, and given him another chance, and said nothing about thefailure; or was it better to do what the sterner wisdom of Paul did,and declare that a man who had once so forgotten himself and abandonedhis work was not the man to put in the same place again? Barnabas'highest quality, as far as we know, was a certain kind of broadgenerosity and rejoicing to discern good in all men. He was a 'son ofconsolation'; the gentle kindness of his natural disposition, added tothe ties of relationship, influenced him in his wish regarding hiscousin Mark. He made a mistake. It would have been the cruellest thingthat could have been done to his relative to have put him back againwithout acknowledgment, without repentance, without his ridingquarantine for a bit, and holding his tongue for a while. He would notthen have known his fault as he ought to have known it, and so therewould never have been the chance of his conquering it.

The Church manifestly sympathised with Paul, and thought that he tookthe right view; for the contrast is very significant between theunsympathising silence which the narrative records as attending thedeparture of Barnabas and Mark—'Barnabas took Mark, and sailed away toCyprus'—and the emphasis with which it tells us that the other partnerin the dispute, Paul, 'took Silas and departed, being recommended bythe brethren to the grace of God.'

The people at Antioch had no doubt who was right, and I think they wereright in so deciding. So let us learn that God treats His renegades asPaul treated Mark, and not as Barnabas would have treated him, He isready, even infinitely ready, to forgive and to restore, but desires tosee the consciousness of the sin first, and desires, before large tasksare re-committed to hands that once have dropped them, to have somekind of evidence that the hands have grown stronger and the heartpurified from its cowardice and its selfishness. Forgiveness does notmean impunity. The infinite mercy of God is not mere weak indulgencewhich so deals with a man's failures and sins as to convey theimpression that these are of no moment whatsoever. And Paul's severitywhich said: 'No, such work is not fit for such hands until the hearthas been "broken and healed,"' is of a piece with God's severity whichis love. 'Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though Thou tookestvengeance of their inventions.' Let us learn the difference between aweak charity which loves too foolishly, and therefore too selfishly, tolet a man inherit the fruit of his doings, and the large mercy whichknows how to take the bitterness out of the chastisem*nt, and yet knowshow to chastise.

And still further, this which I have called Mark's eclipse may teach usanother lesson, viz., that the punishment for shirking work is to bedenied work, just as the converse is true, that in God's administrationof the world and of His Church, the reward for faithful work is to getmore to do, and the filling a narrower sphere is the sure way to have awider sphere to fill. So if a man abandons plain duties, then he willget no work to do. And that is why so many Christian men and women areidle in this world; and stand in the market-place, saying, with acertain degree of truth, 'No man hath hired us.' No; because so oftenin the past tasks have been presented to you, forced upon you, almostpressed into your unwilling hands, that you have refused to take; andyou are not going to get any more. You have been asked to work,—Ispeak now to professing Christians—duties have been pressed upon you,fields of service have opened plainly before you, and you have not hadthe heart to go into them. And so you stand idle all the day now, andthe work goes to other people that will do it. Thus God honours them,and passes you by.

Mark sails away to Cyprus, he does not go back to Jerusalem; he andBarnabas try to get up some little schismatic sort of mission of theirown. Nothing comes of it; nothing ought to have come of it. He dropsout of the story; he has no share in the joyful conflicts andsacrifices and successes of the Apostle. When he heard how Paul, byGod's help, was flaming like a meteor from East to West, do you notthink he wished that he had not been such a coward? When the Lord wasopening doors, and he saw how the work was prospering in the hands ofancient companions, and Silas filled the place that he might havefilled, if he had been faithful to God, do you not think the bitterthought occupied his mind, of how he had flung away what never couldcome back to him now? The punishment of indolence is absolute idleness.

So, my friends, let us learn this lesson, that the largest reward thatGod can give to him that has been faithful in a few things, is to givehim many things to be faithful over. Beware, all of you professingChristians, lest to you should come the fate of the slothful servantwith his one burled talent, to whom the punishment of burying it unusedwas to lose it altogether; according to that solemn word which wasfulfilled in the temporal sphere in this story on which I amcommenting: 'To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hathnot, even that he hath shall be taken away.'

III. Again consider the process of recovery.

Concerning it we read nothing indeed in Scripture; but concerning it weknow enough to be able at least to determine what its outline must havebeen. The silent and obscure years of compulsory inactivity had theirfruit, no doubt. There is only one road, with well-marked stages, bywhich a backsliding or apostate Christian can return to his Master. Andthat road has three halting-places upon it, through which the heartmust pass if it have wandered from its early faith, and falsified itsfirst professions. The first of them is the consciousness of the fall,the second is the resort to the Master for forgiveness; and the last isthe deepened consecration to Him.

The patriarch Abraham, in a momentary lapse from faith to sense,thought himself compelled to leave the land to which God had sent him,because a famine threatened; and when he came back from Egypt, as thenarrative tells us with deep significance, he went to the 'place wherehe had pitched his tent at the beginning; to the altar which lie hadreared at the first.' Yes, my friends, we must begin over again, treadall the old path, enter by the old wicket-gate, once more take theplace of the penitent, once more make acquaintance with the pardoningChrist, once more devote ourselves in renewed consecration to Hisservice. No man that wanders into the wilderness but comes back by theKing's highway, if he comes back at all.

IV. And so lastly, notice the reinstatement of the penitent renegade.

If you turn at your leisure to the remaining notices of John Mark inScripture, you will find, in two of Paul's Epistles of the captivity,viz., those to the Colossians and Philemon, references to him; andthese references are of a very interesting and beautiful nature. Paulsays that in Rome Mark was one of the four born Jews who had been acordial and a comfort to him in his imprisonment. He commends him, inthe view of a probable journey, to the loving reception of the churchat Colosse, as if they knew something derogatory to his character, theimpression of which the Apostle desired to remove. He sends to Philemonthe greetings of the repentant renegade in strange juxtaposition withthe greetings of two other men, one who was an apostate at the end ofhis career instead of at the beginning, and of whom we do not read thathe ever came back, and one who all his life long is the type of afaithful friend and companion, 'Mark, Demas, Luke' are bracketed asgreeting Philemon; the first a runaway that came back, the second afugitive who, so far as we know, never returned, and the last thefaithful friend throughout.

And then in Paul's final Epistle, and in almost the last words of it,we read his request to Timothy. 'Take Mark, and bring him with thee,for he is profitable to me for the ministry.' The first notice of himwas: 'They had John to their minister'; the last word about him is: 'heis profitable for the ministry.' The Greek words in the original arenot identical, but their meaning is substantially the same. Sonotwithstanding the failure, notwithstanding the wise refusal of Paulyears before to have anything more to do with him, he is now reinstatedin his old office, and the aged Apostle, before he dies, would like tohave the comfort of his presence once more at his side. Is not thelesson out of that, this eternal Gospel that even early failures,recognised and repented of, may make a man better fitted for the tasksfrom which once he fled? Just as they tell us—I do not know whether itis true or not, it will do for an illustration—just as they tell usthat a broken bone renewed is stronger at the point of fracture than itever was before, so the very sin that we commit, when once we know itfor a sin, and have brought it to Christ for forgiveness, may ministerto our future efficiency and strength. The Israelites fought twice uponone battlefield. On the first occasion they were shamefully defeated;on the second, on the same ground, and against the same enemies, theyvictoriously emerged from the conflict, and reared the stone whichsaid, 'Ebenezer!' 'Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.'

And so the temptations which have been sorest may be overcome, the sinsinto which we most naturally fall we may put our foot upon; the past isno specimen of what the future may be. The page that is yet to bewritten need have none of the blots of the page that we have turnedover shining through it. Sin which we have learned to know for sin andto hate, teaches us humility, dependence, shows us where our weakplaces are. Sin which is forgiven knits us to Christ with deeper andmore fervid love, and results in a larger consecration. Think of thetwo ends of this man's life—flying like a frightened hare from thevery first suspicion of danger or of difficulty, sulking in hissolitude, apart from all the joyful stir of consecration and ofservice; and at last made an evangelist to proclaim to the whole worldthe story of the Gospel of the Servant. God works with broken reeds,and through them breathes His sweetest music.

So, dear brethren, 'Take with you words, and return unto the Lord; sayunto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously,' and theanswer will surely be:—'I will heal their backsliding; I will lovethem freely; I will be as the dew unto Israel.'


'Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoeveramong you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. 27.For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knewHim not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read everySabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28. And thoughthey found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that heshould be slain. 29. And when they had fulfilled all that was writtenof Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre.30. But God raised Him from the dead: 31. And He was seen many days ofthem which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are Hiswitnesses unto the people. 32. And we declare unto you glad tidings,how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33. God hathfulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised upJesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm. Thou art mySon, this day have I begotten Thee. 34. And as concerning that Heraised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, Hesaid on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35.Wherefore He saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thineHoly One to see corruption. 36. For David, after he had served his owngeneration by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto hisfathers, and saw corruption: 37. But He, whom God raised again, saw nocorruption. 38. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, thatthrough this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39. Andby Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which yecould not be justified by the law of Moses.'—ACTS xiii. 26-39.

The extended report of Paul's sermon in the synagogue at Antioch ofPisidia marks it, in accordance with Luke's method, as the first of aseries. It was so because, though the composition of the audience wasidentical with that of those in the synagogues of Cyprus, this was thebeginning of the special work of the tour, the preaching in the citiesof Asia Minor. The part of the address contained in the passage fallsinto three sections,—the condensed narrative of the Gospel facts (vs.26-31), the proof that the resurrection was prophesied (vs. 32-37), andthe pungent personal application (v. 38 to end).

I. The substance of the narrative coincides, as it could not but do,with Peter's sermons, but yet with differences, partly due to thedifferent audience, partly to Paul's idiosyncrasy. After the precedinghistorical resume, he girds himself to his proper work of proclaimingthe Gospel, and he marks the transition in verse 26 by reiterating hisintroductory words.

His audience comprised the two familiar classes of Jews and Gentileproselytes, and he seeks to win the ears of both. His heart goes out inhis address to them all as 'brethren,' and in his classing himself andBarnabas among them as receivers of the message which he has toproclaim. What skill, if it were not something much more sacred, evenhumility and warm love, lies in that 'to us is the word of thissalvation sent'! He will not stand above them as if he had any otherpossession of his message than they might have. He, too, has receivedit, and what he is about to say is not his word, but God's message tothem and him. That is the way to preach.

Notice, too, how skilfully he introduces the narrative of the rejectionof Jesus as the reason why the message has now come to them his hearersaway in Antioch. It is 'sent forth' 'to us,' Asiatic Jews, for thepeople in the sacred city would not have it. Paul does not prick hishearers' consciences, as Peter did, by charging home the guilt of therejection of Jesus on them. They had no share in that initial crime.There is a faint purpose of dissociating himself and his hearers fromthe people of Jerusalem, to whom the Dispersion were accustomed to lookup, in the designation, 'they that dwell in Jerusalem, and theirrulers.' Thus far the Antioch Jews had had hands clean from that crime;they had now to choose whether they would mix themselves up with it.

We may further note that Paul says nothing about Christ's life ofgentle goodness, His miracles or teaching, but concentrates attentionon His death and resurrection. From the beginning of his ministry thesewere the main elements of his 'Gospel' (1 Cor. xv. 3, 4). The fullsignificance of that death is not declared here. Probably it wasreserved for subsequent instruction. But it and the Resurrection, whichinterpreted it, are set in the forefront, as they should always be. Themain point insisted on is that the men of Jerusalem were fulfillingprophecy in slaying Jesus. With tragic deafness, they knew not thevoices of the prophets, clear and unanimous as they were, though theyheard them every Sabbath of their lives, and yet they fulfilled them. Aprophet's words had just been read in the synagogue; Paul's words mightset some hearer asking whether a veil had been over his heart while hisears had heard the sound of the word.

The Resurrection is established by the only evidence for a historicalfact, the testimony of competent eyewitnesses. Their competence isestablished by their familiar companionship with Jesus during His wholecareer; their opportunities for testing the reality of the fact, by the'many days' of His appearances.

Paul does not put forward his own testimony to the Resurrection, thoughwe know, from 1 Corinthians xv. 8, that he regarded Christ's appearanceto him as being equally valid evidence with that afforded by the otherappearances; but he distinguishes between the work of the Apostles, as'witnesses unto the people'—that is, the Jews of Palestine—and thatof Barnabas and himself. They had to bear the message to the regionsbeyond. The Apostles and he had the same work, but different spheres.

II. The second part turns with more personal address to his hearers.Its purport is not so much to preach the Resurrection, which could onlybe proved by testimony, as to establish the fact that it was thefulfilment of the promises to the fathers. Note how the idea offulfilled prophecy runs in Paul's head. The Jews had fulfilled it bytheir crime; God fulfilled it by the Resurrection. This reiterationof a key-word is a mark of Paul's style in his Epistles, and itsappearance here attests the accuracy of the report of his speech.

The second Psalm, from which Paul's first quotation is made, isprophetic of Christ, inasmuch as it represents in vivid lyricallanguage the vain rebellion of earthly rulers against Messiah, andJehovah's establishing Him and His kingdom by a steadfast decree. Peterquoted its picture of the rebels, as fulfilled in the coalition ofHerod, Pilate, and the Jewish rulers against Christ. The Messianicreference of the Psalm, then, was already seen; and we may not be goingtoo far if we assume that Jesus Himself had included it among thingswritten in the Psalms 'concerning Himself,' which He had explained tothe disciples after the Resurrection. It depicts Jehovah speaking toMessiah, after the futile attempts of the rebels: 'This day have Ibegotten Thee.' That day is a definite point in time. The Resurrectionwas a birth from the dead; so Paul, in Colossians i. 18, calls Jesus'the first begotten from the dead.' Romans i. 4,'declared to be the Sonof God … by the resurrection from the dead,' is the best commentaryon Paul's words here.

The second and third quotations must apparently be combined, for thesecond does not specifically refer to resurrection, but it promises to'you,' that is to those who obey the call to partake in the Messianicblessings, a share in the 'sure' and enduring 'mercies of David'; andthe third quotation shows that not 'to see corruption' was one of these'mercies.' That implies that the speaker in the Psalm was, in Paul'sview, David, and that his words were his believing answer to a divinepromise. But David was dead. Had the 'sure mercy' proved, then, abroken reed? Not so: for Jesus, who is Messiah, and is God's 'Holy One'in a deeper sense than David was, has not seen corruption. ThePsalmist's hopes are fulfilled in Him, and through Him, in all who will'eat' that their 'souls may live,'

III. But Paul's yearning for his brethren's salvation is not contentwith proclaiming the fact of Christ's resurrection, nor with pointingto it as fulfilling prophecy; he gathers all up into a loving, urgentoffer of salvation for every believing soul, and solemn warning todespisers. Here the whole man flames out. Here the characteristicevangelical teaching, which is sometimes ticketed as 'Pauline' by wayof stigma, is heard. Already had he grasped the great antithesisbetween Law and Gospel. Already his great word 'justified' has takenits place in his terminology. The essence of the Epistles to Romans andGalatians is here. Justification is the being pronounced and treated asnot guilty. Law cannot justify. 'In Him' we are justified. Observe thatthis is an advance on the previous statement that 'through Him' wereceive remission of sins.

'In Him' points, thought but incidentally and slightly, to the greattruth of incorporation with Jesus, of which Paul had afterwards so muchto write. The justifying in Christ is complete and absolute. And thesole sufficient condition of receiving it is faith. But the greater theglory of the light the darker the shadow which it casts. The broadoffer of complete salvation has ever to be accompanied with the plainwarning of the dread issue of rejecting it. Just because it is so freeand full, and to be had on such terms, the warning has to be rung intodeaf ears, 'Beware therefore!' Hope and fear are legitimatelyappealed to by the Christian evangelist. They are like the two wingswhich may lift the soul to soar to its safe shelter in the Rock of Ages.


'For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God,fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37.But He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.'—ACTS xiii. 36, 37.

I take these words as a motto rather than as a text. You will haveanticipated the use which I purpose to make of them in connection withthe Luther Commemoration. They set before us, in clear sharp contrast,the distinction between the limited, transient work of the servants andthe unbounded, eternal influence of the Master. The former areservants, and that but for a time; they do their work, they are laid inthe grave, and as their bodies resolve into their elements, so theirinfluence, their teaching, the institutions which they may havefounded, disintegrate and decay. He lives. His relation to the world isnot as theirs; He is 'not for an age, but for all time.' Death is notthe end of His work. His Cross is the eternal foundation of the world'shope. His life is the ultimate, perfect revelation of the divine Naturewhich can never be surpassed, or fathomed, or antiquated. Therefore thelast thought, in all commemorations of departed teachers and guides,should be of Him who gave them all the force that they had; and thefinal word should be: 'They were not suffered to continue by reason ofdeath, this Man continueth ever.'

In the same spirit then as the words of my text, and taking them asgiving me little more than a starting-point and a framework, I drawfrom them some thoughts appropriate to the occasion.

I. First, we have to think about the limited and transient work of thisgreat servant of God.

The miner's son, who was born in that little Saxon village four hundredyears ago, presents at first sight a character singularly unlike thetraditional type of mediaeval Church fathers and saints. Their ascetichabits, and the repressive system under which they were trained,withdraw them from our sympathy; but this sturdy peasant, with hisfull-blooded humanity, unmistakably a man, and a man all round, is anew type, and looks strangely out of place amongst doctors andmediaeval saints.

His character, though not complex, is many-sided and in some respectscontradictory. The face and figure that look out upon us from the bestportraits of Luther tell us a great deal about the man. Strong,massive, not at all elegant; he stands there, firm and resolute, on hisown legs, grasping a Bible in a muscular hand. There is plenty ofanimalism—a source of power as well as of weakness—in the thick neck;an iron will in the square chin; eloquence on the full, loose lips; amystic, dreamy tenderness and sadness in the steadfast eyes—altogethera true king and a leader of men!

The first things that strike one in the character are the iron willthat would not waver, the indomitable courage that knew no fear, thesplendid audacity that, single-handed, sprang into the arena for acontest to the death with Pope, Emperors, superstitions, and devils;the insight that saw the things that were 'hid from the wise andprudent,' and the answering sincerity that would not hide what he saw,nor say that he saw what he did not.

But there was a great deal more than that in the man. He was no merebrave revolutionary, he was a cultured scholar, abreast of all thelearning of his age, capable of logic-chopping and scholasticdisputation on occasion, and but too often the victim of his ownover-subtle refinements. He was a poet, with a poet's dreaminess andwaywardness, fierce alternations of light and shade, sorrow and joy.All living things whispered and spoke to him, and he walked incommunion with them all. Little children gathered round his feet, andhe had a big heart of love for all the weary and the sorrowful.

Everybody knows how he could write and speak. He made the Germanlanguage, as we may say, lifting it up from a dialect of boors tobecome the rich, flexible, cultured speech that it is. And his Bible,his single-handed work, is one of the colossal achievements of man;like Stonehenge or the Pyramids. 'His words were half-battles,' 'theywere living creatures that had hands and feet'; his speech, direct,strong, homely, ready to borrow words from the kitchen or the gutter,is unmatched for popular eloquence and impression. There was music inthe man. His flute solaced his lonely hours in his home at Wittemberg;and the Marseillaise of the Reformation, as that grand hymn of his hasbeen called, came, words and music, from his heart. There was humour inhim, coarse horseplay often; an honest, hearty, broad laugh frequently,like that of a Norse god. There were coarse tastes in him, tastes ofthe peasant folk from whom he came, which clung to him through life,and kept him in sympathy with the common people, and intelligible tothem. And withal there was a constitutional melancholy, aggravated byhis weary toils, perilous fightings, and fierce throes, which led himdown often into the deep mire where there was no standing; and whichsighs through all his life. The penitential Psalms and Paul's wail: 'Owretched man that I am,' perhaps never woke more plaintive echo in anyhuman heart than they did in Martin Luther's.

Faults he had, gross and plain as the heroic mould in which he wascast. He was vehement and fierce often; he was coarse and violentoften. He saw what he did see so clearly, that he was slow to believethat there was anything that he did not see. He was oblivious ofcounterbalancing considerations, and given to exaggerated, incautious,unguarded statements of precious truths. He too often aspired to be adriver rather than a leader of men; and his strength of will becameobstinacy and tyranny. It was too often true that he had dethroned thepope of Rome to set up a pope at Wittemberg. And foul personalitiescame from his lips, according to the bad controversial fashion of hisday, which permitted a licence to scholars that we now forbid tofishwives.

All that has to be admitted; and when it is all admitted, what then?This is a fastidious generation; Erasmus is its heroic type a greatdeal more than Luther—I mean among the cultivated classes of ourday—and that very largely because in Erasmus there is no quicksensibility to religious emotion as there is in Luther, and noinconvenient fervour. The faults are there—coarse, plain,palpable—and perhaps more than enough has been made of them. Let usremember, as to his violence, that he was following the fashion of theday; that he was fighting for his life; that when a man is atdeath-grips with a tiger he may be pardoned if he strikes withoutconsidering whether he is going to spoil the skin or not; and that onthe whole you cannot throttle snakes in a graceful attitude. Men foughtthen with bludgeons; they fight now with dainty polished daggers,dipped in cold, colourless poison of sarcasm. Perhaps there was lessmalice in the rougher old way than in the new.

The faults are there, and nobody who is not a fool would think ofpainting that homely Saxon peasant-monk's face without the warts andthe wrinkles. But it is quite as unhistorical, and a great deal morewicked, to paint nothing but the warts and wrinkles; to rake all thefaults together and make the most of them; and present them in answerto the question: 'What sort of a man was Martin Luther?'

As to the work that he did, like the work of all of us, it had itslimitations, and it will have its end. The impulse that hecommunicated, like all impulses that are given from men, will wear outit* force. New questions will arise of which the dead leaders neverdreamed, and in which they can give no counsel. The perspective oftheological thought will alter, the centre of interest will change, anew dialect will begin to be spoken. So it comes to pass that allreligious teachers and thinkers are left behind, and that their wordsare preserved and read rather for their antiquarian and historicalinterest than because of any impulse or direction for the present whichmay linger in them; and if they founded institutions, these too, intheir time, will crumble and disappear.

But I do not mean to say that the truths which Luther rescued from thedust of centuries, and impressed upon the conscience of TeutonicEurope, are getting antiquated. I only mean that his connection withthem and his way of putting them, had its limitations and will have itsend: 'This man, having served his own generation by the will of God,was gathered to his fathers, and saw corruption.'

What were the truths, what was his contribution to the illuminationof Europe, and to the Church? Three great principles—which perhapscloser analysis might reduce to one; but which for popular use, on suchan occasion as the present, had better be kept apart—will state hisservice to the world.

There were three men in the past who, as it seems to me, reach outtheir hands to one another across the centuries—Paul, St. Augustine,and Martin Luther, The three very like each other, all three of themjoining the same subtle speculative power with the same capacity ofreligious fervour, and of flaming up at the contemplation of divinetruth; all of them gifted with the same exuberant, and to fastidiouseyes, incorrect eloquence; all three trained in a school of religiousthought of which each respectively was destined to be the antagonistand all but the destroyer.

The young Pharisee, on the road to Damascus, blinded, bewildered, withall that vision flaming upon him, sees in its light his past, which hethought had been so pure, and holy, and God-serving, and amazedlydiscovers that it had been all a sin and a crime, and a persecution ofthe divine One. Beaten from every refuge, and lying there, he cries:'What wouldst Thou have me to do, Lord?'

The young Manichean and profligate in the fourth century, and the youngmonk in his convent in the fifteenth, passed through a similarexperience;—different in form, identical in substance—with that ofPaul the persecutor. And so Paul's Gospel, which was the descriptionand explanation, the rationale, of his own experience, became theirGospel; and when Paul said: 'Not by works of righteousness which ourown hands have done, but by His mercy He saved us' (Titus iii. 5), thegreat voice from the North African shore, in the midst of the agoniesof barbarian invasions and a falling Rome, said 'Amen. Man lives byfaith,' and the voice from the Wittemberg convent, a thousand yearsafter, amidst the unspeakable corruption of that phosphorescent anddecaying Renaissance, answered across the centuries, 'It is true!''Herein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.'Luther's word to the world was Augustine's word to the world; andLuther and Augustine were the echoes of Saul of Tarsus—and Paullearned his theology on the Damascus road, when the voice bade him goand proclaim 'forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which aresanctified by faith that is in Me' (Acts xxvi. 18). That is Luther'sfirst claim on our gratitude, that he took this truth from the shelveswhere it had reposed, dust-covered, through centuries, that he liftedthis truth from the bier where it had lain, smothered with sacerdotalgarments, and called with a loud voice, 'I say unto thee, arise!' andthat now the commonplace of Christianity is this: All men are sinfulmen, justice condemns us all, our only hope is God's infinite mercy,that mercy comes to us all in Jesus Christ that died for us, and hethat gets that into his heart by simple faith, he is forgiven, pure,and he is an heir of Heaven.

There are other aspects of Christian truth which Luther failed toapprehend. The Gospel is, of course, not merely a way of reconciliationand forgiveness. He pushed his teaching of the uselessness of goodworks as a means of salvation too far. He said rash and exaggeratedthings in his vehement way about the 'justifying power' of faith alone.Doubtless his language was often overstrained, and his thoughtsone-sided, in regard to subjects that need very delicate handling andcareful definition. But after all this is admitted, it remains truethat his strong arm tossed aside the barriers and rubbish that had beenpiled across the way by which prodigals could go home to their Father,and made plain once more the endless mercy of God, and the power ofhumble faith. He was right when he declared that whatever heights anddepths there may be in God's great revelation, and however needful itis for a complete apprehension of the truth as it is in Jesus thatthese should find their place in the creed of Christendom, still thefirmness with which that initial truth of man's sinfulness and hisforgiveness and acceptance through simple faith in Christ is held, andthe clear earnestness with which it is proclaimed, are the test of astanding or a falling Church.

And then closely connected with this central principle, and yetsusceptible of being stated separately, are the other two; of neitherof which do I think it necessary to say more than a word. Following onthat great discovery—for it was a discovery—by the monk in hisconvent, of justification by faith, there comes the other principle ofthe entire sweeping away of all priesthood, and the direct access toGod of every individual Christian soul. There are no more externalrites to be done by a designated and separate class. There is onesacrificing Priest, and one only, and that is Jesus Christ, who hassacrificed Himself for us all, and there are no other priests, exceptin the sense in which every Christian man is a priest and minister ofthe most high God. And no man comes between me and my Father; and noman has power to do anything for me which brings me any grace, exceptin so far as mine own heart opens for the reception, and mine own faithlays hold of the grace given.

Luther did not carry that principle so far as some of us modernNonconformists carry it. He left illogical fragments of sacramentarianand sacerdotal theories in his creed and in his Church. But, for allthat, we owe mainly to him the clear utterance of that thought, thewarm breath of which has thawed the ice chains which held Europe inbarren bondage. Notwithstanding the present portentous revival ofsacerdotalism, and the strange turning again of portions of society tothese beggarly elements of the past, I believe that the figments of asacrificing priesthood and sacramental efficacy will never againpermanently darken the sky in this land, the home of the men who speakthe tongue of Milton, and owe much of their religious and politicalfreedom to the reformation of Luther.

And the third point, which is closely connected with these other two,is this, the declaration that every illuminated Christian soul has aright and is bound to study God's Word without the Church at his elbowto teach him what to think about it. It was Luther's great achievementthat, whatever else he did, he put the Bible into the hands of thecommon people. In that department and region, his work perhaps bearsmore distinctly the traces of limitation and imperfection than anywhereelse, for he knew nothing—how could he?—of the difficult questions ofthis day in regard to the composition and authority of Scripture, norhad he thought out his own system or done full justice to his ownprinciple.

He could be as inquisitorial and as dogmatic as any Dominican of themall. He believed in force; he was as ready as all his fellows were toinvoke the aid of the temporal power. The idea of the Church, as helpedand sustained—which means fettered, and weakened, and paralysed—bythe civic government, bewitched him as it did his fellows. We needed towait for George Fox, and Roger Williams, and more modern names still,before we understood fully what was involved in the rejection ofpriesthood, and the claim that God's Word should speak directly to eachChristian soul. But for all that, we largely owe to Luther the creedthat looks in simple faith to Christ, a Church without a priest, inwhich every man is a priest of the Most High,—the only true democracythat the world will ever see—and a Church in which the open Bible andthe indwelling Spirit are the guides of every humble soul within itspale. These are his claims on our gratitude.

Luther's work had its limitations and its imperfections, as I have beensaying to you. It will become less and less conspicuous as the ages goon. It cannot be otherwise. That is the law of the world. As a wholegreen forest of the carboniferous era is represented now in the rocksby a thin seam of coal, no thicker than a sheet of paper, so the stormylives and the large works of the men that have gone before, arecompressed into a mere film and line, in the great cliff that slowlyrises above the sea of time and is called the history of the world.

II. Be it so; be it so! Let us turn to the other thought of our text,the perpetual work of the abiding Lord.

'He whom God raised up saw no corruption.' It is a fact that there arethousands of men and women in the world to-day who have a feeling aboutthat nineteen-centuries-dead Galilean carpenter's son that they haveabout no one else. All the great names of antiquity are but ghosts andshadows, and all the names in the Church and in the world, of men whomwe have not seen, are dim and ineffectual to us. They may evoke ouradmiration, our reverence, and our wonder, but none of them can touchour hearts. But here is this unique, anomalous fact that men and womenby the thousand love Jesus Christ, the dead One, the unseen One, faraway back there in the ages, and feel that there is no mist of oblivionbetween them and Him.

That is because He does for you and me what none of these other men cando. Luther preached about the Cross; Christ died on it. 'Was Paulcrucified for you?' there is the secret of His undying hold upon theworld. The further secret lies in this, that He is not a past force buta present one. He is no exhausted power but a power mighty to-day;working in us, around us, on us, and for us—a living Christ. 'This Manwhom God raised up from the dead saw no corruption,' the others moveaway from us like figures in a fog, dim as they pass into the mists,having a blurred half-spectral outline for a moment, and then gone.

Christ's death has a present and a perpetual power. He has 'offered onesacrifice for sins for ever'; and no time can diminish the efficacy ofHis Cross, nor our need of it, nor the full tide of blessings whichflow from it to the believing soul. Therefore do men cling to Him todayas if it was but yesterday that He had died for them. When all othernames carved on the world's records have become unreadable, likeforgotten inscriptions on decaying grave-stones, His shall endure forever, deep graven on the fleshly tables of the heart. His revelation ofGod is the highest truth. Till the end of time men will turn to Hislife for their clearest knowledge and happiest certainty of theirFather in heaven. There is nothing limited or local in His character orworks. In His meek beauty and gentle perfectness, He stands so highabove us all that, to-day, the inspiration of His example and thelessons of His conduct touch us as much as if He had lived in thisgeneration, and will always shine before men as their best and mostblessed law of conduct. Christ will not be antiquated till He isoutgrown, and it will be some time before that happens.

But Christ's power is not only the abiding influence of His earthlylife and death. He is not a past force, but a present one. He isputting forth fresh energies to-day, working in and for and by all wholove Him. We believe in a living Christ.

Therefore the final thought, in all our grateful commemoration of deadhelpers and guides, should be of the undying Lord. He sent whatsoeverpower was in them. He is with His Church to-day, still giving to menthe gifts needful for their times. Aaron may die on Hor, and Moses belaid in his unknown grave on Pisgah, but the Angel of the Covenant, whois the true Leader, abides in the pillar of cloud and fire, Israel'sguide in the march, and covering shelter in repose. That is ourconsolation in our personal losses when our dear ones are 'not sufferedto continue by reason of death.' He who gave them all their sweetnessis with us still, and has all the sweetness which He lent them for atime. So if we have Christ with us we cannot be desolate. Looking onall the men, who in their turn have helped forward His cause a littleway, we should let their departure teach us His presence, theirlimitations His all-sufficiency, their death His life.

Luther was once found, at a moment of peril and fear, when he had needto grasp unseen strength, sitting in an abstracted mood, tracing on thetable with his finger the words 'Vivit! vivit!'—'He lives! Helives!' It is our hope for ourselves, and for God's truth, and formankind. Men come and go; leaders, teachers, thinkers speak and workfor a season and then fall silent and impotent. He abides. They die,but He lives. They are lights kindled, and therefore sooner or laterquenched, but He is the true light from which they draw all theirbrightness, and He shines for evermore. Other men are left behind and,as the world glides forward, are wrapped in ever-thickening folds ofoblivion, through which they shine feebly for a little while, likelamps in a fog, and then are muffled in invisibility. We honour othernames, and the coming generations will forget them, but 'His name shallendure for ever, His name shall continue as long as the sun, and menshall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed.'


'And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hearthe word of God. 45. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they werefilled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken byPaul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46. Then Paul and Barnabas waxedbold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first havebeen spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselvesunworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47. For sohath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light ofthe Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of theearth. 48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, andglorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternallife believed. 49. And the word of the Lord was published throughoutall the region. 50. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourablewomen, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution againstPaul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. 51. But theyshook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.52. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.

'And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into thesynagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of theJews and also of the Greeks believed. 2. But the unbelieving Jewsstirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against thebrethren. 3. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in theLord, which gave testimony unto the word of His grace, and grantedsigns and wonders to be done by their hands. 4. But the multitude ofthe city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with theApostles. 5. And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles,and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, andto stone them, 6. They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe,cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: 7. Andthere they preached the Gospel.'—ACTS xiii. 44-52; xiv. 1-7.

In general outline, the course of events in the two great cities ofAsia Minor, with which the present passage is concerned, was the same.It was only too faithful a forecast of what was to be Paul's experienceeverywhere. The stages are: preaching in the synagogue, rejectionthere, appeal to the Gentiles, reception by them, a little nucleus ofbelievers formed; disturbances fomented by the Jews, who swallow theirhatred of Gentiles by reason of their greater hatred of the Apostles,and will riot with heathens, though they will not pray nor eat withthem; and finally the Apostles' departure to carry the gospel fartherafield. This being the outline, we have mainly to consider any specialfeatures diversifying it in each case.

Their experience in Antioch was important, because it forced Paul andBarnabas to put into plain words, making very clear to themselves aswell as to their hearers, the law of their future conduct. It is alwaysa step in advance when circ*mstances oblige us to formularise ourmethod of action. Words have a wonderful power in clearing up our ownvision. Paul and Barnabas had known all along that they were sent tothe Gentiles; but a conviction in the mind is one thing, and the sameconviction driven in on us by facts is quite another. The discipline ofAntioch crystallised floating intentions into a clear statement, whichhenceforth became the rule of Paul's conduct. Well for us if we haveopen eyes to discern the meaning of difficulties, and promptitude anddecision to fix and speak out plainly the course which they prescribe!

The miserable motives of the Jews' antagonism are forcibly stated invs. 44, 45. They did not 'contradict and blaspheme,' because they hadtaken a week to think over the preaching and had seen its falseness,but simply because, dog-in-the-manger like, they could not bear that'the whole city' should be welcome to share the message. No doubt therewas a crowd of 'Gentile dogs' thronging the approach to the synagogue;and one can almost see the scowling faces and hear the rustle of therobes drawn closer to avoid pollution. Who were these wanderingstrangers that they should gather such a crowd? And what had theuncircumcised rabble of Antioch to do with 'the promises made to thefathers'? It is not the only time that religious men have taken offenceat crowds gathering to hear God's word. Let us take care that we do notrepeat the sin. There are always some who—

'Taking God's word under wise protection,
Correct its tendency to diffusiveness.'

It needed some courage to front the wild excitement of such a mob, withcalm, strong words likely to increase the rage.

'Lo, we turn to the Gentiles.' This is not to be regarded as announcinga general course of action, but simply as applying to the actualrejecters in Antioch. The necessity that the word should first bespoken to the Jews continued to be recognised, in each new sphere ofwork, by the Apostle; but wherever, as here, men turned from themessage, the messengers turned from them without further waste of time.Paul put into words here the law for his whole career. The fitpunishment of rejection is the withdrawal of the offer. There issomething pathetic in the persistence with which, in place after place,Paul goes through the same sequence, his heart yearning over hisbrethren according to the flesh, and hoping on, after all repulses. Itwas far more than natural patriotism; it was an offshoot of Christ'sown patient love.

Note also the divine command. Paul bases his action on a prophecy as tothe Messiah. But the relation on which prophecy insists between thepersonal servant of Jehovah and the collective Israel, is such that thegreat office of being the Light of the world devolves from Him on itand the true Israel is to be a light to the Gentiles. These very Jewsin Antioch, lashing themselves into fury because Gentiles were to beoffered a share in Israel's blessings, ought to have been dischargingthis glorious function. Their failure showed that they were no parts ofthe real Israel. No doubt the two missionaries left the synagogue asthey spoke, and, as the door swung behind them, it shut hope out andunbelief in. The air was fresh outside, and eager hearts welcomed theword. Very beautifully is the gladness of the Gentile hearers set incontrast with the temper of the Jews. It is strange news to heathenhearts that there is a God who loves them, and a divine Christ who hasdied for them. The experience of many a missionary follows Paul's here.

'As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.' The din of many atheological battle has raged round these words, the writer of whichwould have probably needed a good deal of instruction before he couldhave been made to understand what the fighting was about. But it is tobe noted that there is evidently intended a contrast between theenvious Jews and the gladly receptive Gentiles, which is made moreobvious by the repetition of the words 'eternal life.' It would seemmuch more relevant and accordant with the context to understand theword rendered 'ordained' as meaning 'adapted' or 'fitted,' than to findin it a reference to divine foreordination. Such a meaning islegitimate, and strongly suggested by the context. The reference thenwould be to the 'frame of mind of the heathen, and not to the decreesof God.'

The only points needing notice in the further developments at Antiochare the agents employed by the Jews, the conduct of the Apostles, andthe sweet little picture of the converts. As to the former, piouslyinclined women in a heathen city would be strongly attracted by Judaismand easily lend themselves to the impressions of their teachers. Weknow that many women of rank were at that period powerfully affected inthis manner; and if a Rabbi could move a Gentile of influence throughwhispers to the Gentile's wife, he would not be slow to do it. The easewith which the Jews stirred up tumults everywhere against the Apostleindicates their possession of great influence; and their willingness tobe hand in glove with heathen for so laudable an object as crushing oneof their own people who had become a heretic, measures the venom oftheir hate and the depth of their unscrupulousness.

The Apostles had not to fear violence, as their enemies were contentwith turning them out of Antioch and its neighbourhood; but they obeyedChrist's command, shaking off the dust against them, in token ofrenouncing all connection. The significant act is a trace of earlyknowledge of Christ's words, long before the date of our Gospels.

While the preachers had to leave the little flock in the midst ofwolves, there was peace in the fold. Like the Ethiopian courtier whendeprived of Philip, the new believers at Antioch found that thewithdrawal of the earthly brought the heavenly Guide. 'They were filledwith joy.' What! left ignorant, lonely, ringed about with enemies, howcould they be glad? Because they were filled 'with the Holy Ghost.'Surely joy in such circ*mstances was no less supernatural a token ofHis presence than rushing wind or parting flames or lips opened tospeak with tongues. God makes us lonely that He may Himself be ourCompanion.

It was a long journey to the great city of Iconium. According to somegeographers, the way led over savage mountains; but the two brethrentramped along, with an unseen Third between them, and that Presencemade the road light. They had little to cheer them in their prospects,if they looked with the eye of sense; but they were in good heart, andthe remembrance of Antioch did not embitter or discourage them.Straight to the synagogue, as before, they went. It was their bestintroduction to the new field. There, if we take the plain words ofActs xiv. 1, they found a new thing, 'Greeks,' heathens pure andsimple, not Hellenists or Greek-speaking Jews, nor even proselytes, inthe synagogue. This has seemed so singular that efforts have been madeto impose another sense on the words, or to suppose that the notice ofGreeks, as well as Jews, believing is loosely appended to the statementof the preaching in the synagogue, omitting notice of widerevangelising. But it is better to accept than to correct our narrative,as we know nothing of the circ*mstances that may have led to thispresence of Greeks in the synagogue. Some modern setters of the Biblewriters right would be all the better for remembering occasionally thatimprobable things have a strange knack of happening.

The usual results followed the preaching of the Gospel. The Jews wereagain the mischief-makers, and, with the astuteness of their race,pushed the Gentiles to the front, and this time tried a new piece ofannoyance. 'The brethren' bore the brunt of the attack; that is, theconverts, not Paul and Barnabas. It was a cunning move to dropsuspicions into the minds of influential townsmen, and so to harass,not the two strangers, but their adherents. The calculation was thatthat would stop the progress of the heresy by making its adherentsuncomfortable, and would also wound the teachers through theirdisciples.

But one small element had been left out of the calculation—the sort ofmen these teachers were; and another factor which had not hithertoappeared came into play, and upset the whole scheme. Paul and Barnabasknew when to retreat and when to stand their ground. This time theystood; and the opposition launched at their friends was the reason whythey did so. 'Long time therefore abode they.' If their own safetyhad been in question, they might have fled; but they could not leavethe men whose acceptance of their message had brought them intostraits. But behind the two bold speakers stood 'the Lord,' ChristHimself, the true Worker. Men who live in Him are made bold by theircommunion with Him, and He witnesses for those who witness for Him.

Note the designation of the Gospel as 'the word of His grace.' It hasfor its great theme the condescending, giving love of Jesus. Itssubject is grace; its origin is grace; its gift is grace. Observe, too,that the same connection between boldness of speech and signs andwonders is found in Acts iv. 29, 30. Courageous speech for Christ isever attended by tokens of His power, and the accompanying tokens ofHis power make the speech more courageous.

The normal course of events was pursued. Faithful preaching provokedhostility, which led to the alliance of discordant elements, fused fora moment by a common hatred—alas! that enmity to God's truth should beoften a more potent bond of union than love!—and then to a wisewithdrawal from danger. Sometimes it is needful to fling away life forJesus; but if it can be preserved without shirking duty, it is betterto flee than to die. An unnecessary martyr is a suicide. The Christianreadiness to be offered has nothing in common with fanaticalcarelessness of life, and still less with the morbid longing formartyrdom which disfigures some of the most pathetic pages of theChurch's history. Paul living to preach in the regions beyond was moreuseful than Paul dead in a street riot in Iconium. A heroic prudenceshould ever accompany a trustful daring, and both are best learned incommunion with Jesus.


'… Seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy ofeverlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.'—ACTS xiii. 46.

So ended the first attempt on Paul's great missionary journey to preachto the Jews. It is described at great length and the sermon given infull because it is the first. A wonderful sermon it was; touching allkeys of feeling, now pleading almost with tears, now flashing withindignation, now calmly dealing with Scripture prophecies, now glowingas it tells the story of Christ's death for men. It melted some of thehearers, but the most were wrought up to furious passion—and withcharacteristic vehemence, like their ancestors and their descendantsthrough long dreary generations, fell to 'contradicting andblaspheming.' We can see the scene in the synagogue, the eager faces,the vehement gestures, the hubbub of tongues, the bitter words thatstormed round the two in the midst, Barnabas like Jupiter, grave,majestic, and venerable; Paul like Mercury, agile, mobile, swift ofspeech. They bore the brunt of the fury till they saw it to be hopelessto try to calm it, and then departed with these remarkable words.

They are even more striking if we notice that 'judge' here may be usedin its full legal sense. It is not merely equivalent to consider, forthese Jews by no means thought themselves unworthy of eternal life, butit means, 'ye adjudge and pass sentence on yourselves to be.' Theirrejection of the message was a self-pronounced sentence. It proved themto be, and made them, 'unworthy of eternal life.' There are two orthree very striking thoughts to be gathered from these words which Iwould dwell on now.

I. What constitutes worthiness and unworthiness.

There are two meanings to the word 'worthy'—deserving or fit. They runinto each other and yet they may be kept quite apart. For instance youmay say of a man that 'he is worthy' to be something or other, forwhich he is obviously qualified, not thinking at all whether hedeserves it or not.

Now in the first of these senses—we are all unworthy of eternal life.That is just to state in other words the tragic truth of universalsinfulness. The natural outcome and issue of the course which all menfollow is death. But yet there are men who are fit for and capable ofeternal life. Who they are and what fitness is can only be ascertainedwhen we rightly understand what eternal life is. It is not merelyfuture blessedness or a synonym for a vulgar heaven. That is the commonnotion of its meaning. Men think of that future as a blessed state towhich God can admit anybody if He will, and, as He is good, will admitpretty nearly everybody. But eternal life is a present possession aswell as a future one, and passing by its deeper aspects, it includes—

Deliverance from evil habits and desires.

Purity, and love of all good and fair things.

Communion with God.

As well as forgiveness and removal of punishment.

What then are the qualifications making a man worthy of, in the senseof fit for, such a state?

(a) To know oneself to be unworthy.

He who judges himself to be worthy is unworthy. He who knows himself tobe unworthy is worthy.

The first requisite is consciousness of sin, leading to repentance.

(b) To abandon striving to make oneself worthy.

By ourselves we never can do so. Many of us think that we must do ourbest, and then God will do the rest.

There must be the entire cessation of all attempt to work out by ourown efforts characters that would entitle us to eternal life.

(c) To be willing to accept life on God's terms.

As a mere gift.

(d) To desire it.

God cannot give it to any one who does not want it. He cannot force Hisgifts on us.

This then is the worthiness.

II. How we pass sentence on ourselves as unworthy.

It is quite clear that 'judge' here does not mean consider, for a senseof unworthiness is not the reason which keeps men away from the Gospel.Rather, as we have seen, a proud belief in our worthiness keeps verymany away. But 'judge' here means 'adjudicate' or 'pronounce sentenceon,' and worthy means fit, qualified.

Consider then—

(a) That our attitude to the Gospel is a revelation of our deepestselves.

The Gospel is a 'discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart.' Itjudges us here and now, and by their attitude to it 'the thoughts ofmany hearts shall be revealed.'

(b) That our rejection of it plainly shows that we have not thequalifications for eternal life.

No doubt some men are kept from accepting Christ by intellectual doubtsand difficulties, but even these would alter their whole attitude toHim if they had a profound consciousness of sin, and a desire fordeliverance from it.

But with regard to the great bulk of its hearers, no doubt thehindrance is chiefly moral. Many causes may combine to produce theabsence of qualification. The excuses in the parable'—farm, oxen,wife'—all amount to engrossment with this present world, and suchabsorption in the things seen and temporal deadens desire. So theGospel preached excites no longings, and a man hears the offer ofsalvation without one motion of his heart towards it, and thusproclaims himself 'unworthy of eternal life.'

But the great disqualification is the absence of all consciousness ofsin. This is the very deepest reason which keeps men away from Christ.

How solemn a thing the preaching and hearing of this word is!

How possible for you to make yourselves fit!

How simple the qualification! We have but to know ourselves sinners andto trust Jesus and then we 'shall be counted worthy to obtain thatworld and the resurrection from the dead.' Then we shall be 'worthy toescape and to stand before the Son of Man.' Then shall we be 'worthy ofthis calling,' and the Judge himself shall say: 'They shall walk withMe in white, for they are worthy.'


'And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy
Ghost.'—Acts xiii. 52.

That joy was as strange as a garden full of flowers would be in bitterwinter weather. For everything in the circ*mstances of these disciplestended to make them sad. They had been but just won from heathenism,and they were raw, ignorant, unfit to stand alone. Paul and Barnabas,their only guides, had been hunted out of Antioch by a mob, and itwould have been no wonder if these disciples had felt as if they hadbeen taken on to the ice and then left, when they most needed a hand tosteady them. Luke emphasises the contrast between what might have beenexpected, and what was actually the case, by that eloquent 'and' at thebeginning of our verse, which links together the departure of theApostles and the joy of the disciples. But the next words explain theparadox. These new converts, left in a great heathen city, with nohelpers, no guides, to work out as best they might a faith of whichthey had but newly received the barest rudiments, were 'full of joy'because they were 'full of the Holy Ghost.'

Now that latter phrase, so striking here, is characteristic of thisbook of the Acts, and especially of its earlier chapters, which areall, as it were, throbbing with wonder at the new gift which Pentecosthad brought. Let me for a moment, in the briefest possible fashion, tryto recall to you the instances of its occurrence, for they are verysignificant and very important.

You remember how at Pentecost 'all' the disciples were 'filled with theHoly Ghost.' Then when the first persecution broke over the Church,Peter before the Council is 'filled with the Holy Spirit,' andtherefore he beards them, and 'speaks with all boldness.' When he goesback to the Church and tells them of the threatening cloud that washanging over them, they too are filled with the Holy Spirit, andtherefore rise buoyantly upon the tossing wave, as a ship might do whenit passes the bar and meets the heaving sea. Then again the Apostleslay down the qualifications for election to the so-called office ofdeacon as being that the men should be 'full of the Holy Ghost andwisdom'; and in accordance therewith, we read of the first of theseven, Stephen, that he was 'full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,' andtherefore 'full of grace and power.' When he stood before the Councilhe was 'full of the Holy Ghost,' and therefore looked up into heavenand saw it opened, and the Christ standing ready to help him. In likemanner we read of Barnabas that he 'was a good man, full of the HolyGhost and of faith.' And finally we read in our text that these newconverts, left alone in Antioch of Pisidia, were 'full of joy and ofthe Holy Ghost.'

Now these are the principal instances, and my purpose now is rather todeal with the whole of these instances of the occurrence of thisremarkable expression than with the one which I have selected as atext, because I think that they teach us great truths bearing veryclosely on the strength and joyfulness of the Christian life which arefar too much neglected, obscured, and forgotten by us to-day.

I wish then to point you, first, to the solemn thought that is here, asto what should be—

I. The experience of every Christian,

Note the two things, the universality and the abundance of this divinegift. I have often had occasion to say to you, and so I merely repeatit again in the briefest fashion, that we do not grasp the centralblessedness of the Christian faith unless, beyond forgiveness andacceptance, beyond the mere putting away of the dread of punishmenteither here or hereafter, we see that the gift of God in Jesus Christis the communication to every believing soul of that divine life whichis bestowed by the Spirit of Christ granted to every believing heart.But I would have you notice how the universality of the gift isunmistakably taught us by the instances which I have briefly gatheredtogether in my previous remarks. It was no official class on which, onthe day of Pentecost, the tongues of fire fluttered down. It was to thewhole Church that courage to front the persecutor was imparted. When inSamaria the preaching of Philip brought about the result of thecommunication of the Holy Spirit, it was to all the believers that itwas granted, and when, in the Roman barracks at Caesarea, Cornelius andhis companion listened to Peter, it was upon them all that that DivineSpirit descended.

I suppose I need not remind you of how, if we pass beyond this book ofthe Acts into the Epistles of Paul, his affirmations do mostemphatically insist upon the fact that 'we are all made to drink intoone Spirit'; and so convinced is he of the universality of thepossession of that divine life by every Christian, that he does nothesitate to say that 'if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he isnone of His,' and to clear away all possibility of misunderstanding thedepth and wonderfulness of the gift, he further adds in another place,'Know ye not that the Spirit is in you, except ye be reprobates?'Similarly another of the New Testament writers declares, in thebroadest terms, that 'this spake he of the Holy Spirit,which'—Apostles? no; office-bearers? no; ordained men? no;distinguished and leading men? No—'they that believe on Him shouldreceive.' Christianity is the true democracy, because it declares thatupon all, handmaidens and servants, young men and old men, there comesthe divine gift. The world thinks of a divine inspiration in a more orless superficial fashion, as touching only the lofty summits, the greatthinkers and teachers and artists and mighty men of light and leadingof the race. The Old Testament regarded prophets and kings, and thosewho were designated to important offices, as the possessors of theDivine Spirit. But Christianity has seen the sun rising so high in theheavens that the humblest floweret, in the deepest valley, basks in itsbeams and opens to its light. 'We have all been made to drink intothe one Spirit.'

Let me remind you too of how, from the usage of this book, as well asfrom the rest of the New Testament teaching, there rises the otherthought of the abundance of the gift. 'Full of the Holy Spirit'—thecup is brimming with generous wine. Not that that fulness is such as tomake inconsistencies impossible, as, alas, the best of us know. Thehighest condition for us is laid down in the sad words which yet havetriumph in their sadness—'The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, andthe Spirit against the flesh.' But whilst the fulness is not such as toexclude the need of conflict, it is such as to bring the certainty ofvictory.

Again if we turn to the instances to which I have already referred, weshall find that they fall into two classes, which are distinguished inthe original by a slight variation in the form of the words employed.Some instances refer to a habitual possession of an abundant spirituallife moulding the character constantly, as in the cases of Stephen andBarnabas. Others refer rather to occasional and special influxes ofspecial power on account of special circ*mstances, and drawn forth byspecial exigencies, as when there poured into Peter's heart the DivineSpirit that made him bold before the Council; or as when the dyingmartyr's spirit was flooded with a new clearness of vision that piercedthe heavens and beheld the Christ. So then there may be and ought tobe, in each of us, a fulness of the Spirit, up to the edge of ourcapacity, and yet of such a kind as that it may be reinforced andincreased when special needs arise.

Not only so, but that which fills me to-day should not fill meto-morrow, because, as in earthly love, so in heavenly, no man can tellto what this thing shall grow. The more of fruition the more there willbe of expansion, and the more of expansion the more of desire, and themore of desire the more of capacity, and the more of capacity the moreof possession. So, brethren, the man who receives a spark of the divinelife, through his most rudimentary and tremulous faith, if he is afaithful steward of the gift that is given to him, will find that itgrows and grows, and that there is no limit to its growth, and that inits limitless growth there lies the surest prophecy of an eternalgrowth in the heavens.

A universal gift, that is to say, a gift to each of us if we areChristians, an abundant gift that fills the whole nature of a man,according to the measure of his present power to receive—that is theideal, that is what God means, that is what these first believers had.It did not make them perfect, it did not save them from faults or fromerrors, but it was real, it was influential, it was moulding theircharacters, it was progressive. And that is the ideal for allChristians. Is it our actual? We are meant to be full of the HolyGhost. Ah! how many of us have never realised that there is such athing as being thus possessed with a divine life, partly because we donot understand that such a fulness will not be distinguishable from ourown self, except by bettering of the works of self, and partly becauseof other reasons which I shall have to touch upon presently! Brethren,we may, every one of us, be filled with the Spirit. Let each of us ask,'Am I? and if I am not, why this emptiness in the presence of suchabundance?'

And now let me ask you to look, in the second place, at what we gatherfrom these instances as to—

II. The results of that universal, abundant life.

Do not let us run away with the idea that the New Testament, or anypart of it, regards miracles and tongues and the like as being thenormal and chiefest gifts of that Divine Spirit. People read this bookof the Acts of the Apostles and, averse from the supernatural,exaggerate the extent to which the primitive gift of the Holy Spiritwas manifested by signs and wonders, tongues of fire, and so on. Wehave only to look at the instances to which I have already referred tosee that far more lofty and far more conspicuous than any such externaland transient manifestations, which yet have their place, are thepermanent and inward results, moulding character, and making men. AndPaul's First Epistle to the Corinthians goes as far in the way ofsetting the moral and spiritual effects of the divine influence abovethe merely miraculous and external ones, as the most advanced opponentof the supernatural could desire.

Let us look, and it can only be briefly, at the various results whichare presented in the instances to which I have referred. The mostgeneral expression for all, which is the result of the Divine Spiritdwelling in a man, is that it makes him good. Look at one of theinstances to which we have referred. 'Barnabas was a good man'—was he?How came he to be so? Because he was 'full of the Holy Ghost.' And howcame he to be 'full of the Holy Ghost'? Because he was 'full of faith.'Get the divine life into you, and that will make you good; and,brethren, nothing else will. It is like the bottom heat in agreen-house, which makes all the plants that are there, whatever theirorders, grow and blossom and be healthy and strong. Therein is thedifference between Christian morality and the world's ethics. They maynot differ much, they do in some respects, in their ideal of whatconstitutes goodness, but they differ in this, that the one says, 'Begood, be good, be good!' but, like the Pharisees of old, puts out not afinger to help a man to bear the burdens that it lays upon him. Theother says, 'Be good,' but it also says, 'take this and it will makeyou good.' And so the one is Gospel and the other is talk, the one is aword of good tidings, and the other is a beautiful speculation, or acrushing commandment that brings death rather than life. 'If there hadbeen a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness hadbeen by the law.' But since the clearest laying down of duty brings usno nearer to the performance of duty, we need and, thank God! we have,a gift bestowed which invests with power. He in whom the 'Spirit ofHoliness' dwells, and he alone, will be holy. The result of the life ofGod in the heart is a life growingly like God's, manifested in theworld.

Then again let me remind you of how, from another of our instances,there comes another thought. The result of this majestic, supernatural,universal, abundant, divine life is practical sagacity in the commonestaffairs of life. 'Look ye out from among you seven men, full of theHoly Ghost and of wisdom.' What to do? To meet wisely the claims ofsuspicious and jealous poverty, and to distribute fairly a littlemoney. That was all. And are you going to invoke such a lofty gift asthis, to do nothing grander than that? Yes. Gravitation holds planetsin their orbits, and keeps grains of dust in their places. And oneresult of the inspiration of the Almighty, which is granted toChristian people, is that they will be wise for the little affairs oflife. But Stephen was also 'full of grace and power,' two things thatdo not often go together—grace, gentleness, loveliness, graciousness,on the one side, and strength on the other, which divorced, make wildwork of character, and which united, make men like God. So if we desireour lives to be full of sweetness and light and beauty, the best way isto get the life of Christ into them; and if we desire our lives not tobe made placid and effeminate by our cult of graciousness andgracefulness, but to have their beauty stiffened and strengthened bymanly energy, then the best way is to get the life of the 'strong Sonof God, immortal love,' into our lives.

The same Stephen, 'full of the Holy Ghost,' looked up into heaven andsaw the Christ. So one result of that abundant life, if we have it,will be that even though as with him, when he saw the heavens opened,there may be some smoke-darkened roof above our heads, we can lookthrough all the shows of this vain world, and our purged eyes canbehold the Christ. Again the disciples in our text 'were full of joy,'because 'they were full of the Holy Spirit,' and we, if we have thatabundant life within us, shall not be dependent for our gladness on theouter world, but like explorers in the Arctic regions, even if we haveto build a hut of snow, shall be warm within it when the thermometer isfar below zero; and there will be light there when the long midnight isspread around the dwelling. So, dear friends, let us understand what isthe main thing for a Christian to endeavour after,—not so much thecultivation of special graces as the deepening of the life of Christ inthe spirit.

We gather from some of these instances—

III. The way by which we may be thus filled.

We read that Stephen was 'full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,' andthat Barnabas was 'full of the Holy Ghost and of faith,' and it isquite clear from the respective contexts that, though the order inwhich these fulnesses are placed is different in the two clauses, theirrelation to each other is the same. Faith is the condition ofpossessing the Spirit. And what do we mean in this connection by faith?I mean, first, a belief in the truth of the possible abiding of thedivine Spirit in our spirits, a truth which the superficialChristianity of this generation sorely needs to have forced upon itsconsciousness far more than it has it. I mean aspiration and desireafter; I mean confident expectation of. Your wish measures yourpossession. You have as much of God as you desire. If you have no more,it is because you do not desire any more. The Christian people ofto-day, many of whom are so empty of God, are in a very tragic sense,'full,' because they have as much as they can take in. If you bring atiny cup, and do not much care whether anything pours into it or not,you will get it filled, but you might have had a gallon vessel filledif you had chosen to bring it. Of course there are other conditionstoo. We have to use the life that is given us. We have to see that wedo not quench it by sin, which drives the dove of God from a man'sheart. But the great truth is that if I open the door of my heart byfaith, Christ will come in, in His Spirit. If I take away the blindsthe light will shine into the chamber. If I lift the sluice the waterwill pour in to drive my mill. If I deepen the channels, more of thewater of life can flow into them, and the deeper I make them the fullerthey will be.

Brethren, we have wasted much time and effort in trying to mend ourcharacters. Let us try to get that into them which will mend them. Andlet us remember that, if we are full of faith, we shall be full of theHoly Spirit, and therefore full of wisdom, full of grace and power,full of goodness, full of joy, whatever our circ*mstances. And whendeath comes, though it may be in some cruel form, we shall be able tolook up and see the opened heavens and the welcoming Christ.


'And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up theirvoices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to usin the likeness of men. 12. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; andPaul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. 13. Then the priestof Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands untothe gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14. Whichwhen the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent theirclothes, and ran in among the people, crying out. 15. And saying, Sirs,why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, andpreach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the livingGod, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that aretherein: 16. Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in theirown ways. 17. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in thathe did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,filling our hearts with food and gladness. 18. And with these sayingsscarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrificeunto them. 19. And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch andIconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew himout of the city, supposing he had been dead. 20. Howbeit, as thedisciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city:and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21. And when theyhad preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, theyreturned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch. 22. Confirmingthe souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in thefaith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdomof God.'—ACTS xiv. 11-22.

The scene at Lystra offers a striking instance of the impossibility ofeliminating the miraculous element from this book. The cure of a lameman is the starting-point of the whole story. Without it the rest ismotiveless and inexplicable. There can be no explosion without a trainand a fuse. The miracle, and the miracle only, supplies these. We maychoose between believing and disbelieving it, but the rejection of thesupernatural does not make this book easier to accept, but utterlychaotic.

I. We have, first, the burst of excited wonder which floods the crowdwith the conviction that the two Apostles are incarnations of deities.It is difficult to grasp the indications of locality in the story, butprobably the miracle was wrought in some crowded place, perhaps theforum. At all events, it was in full view of 'the multitudes,' and theywere mostly of the lower orders, as their speaking in 'the speech ofLycaonia' suggests.

This half-barbarous crowd had the ancient faith in the gods unweakened,and the legends, which had become dim to pure Greek and Roman, some ofwhich had originated in their immediate neighbourhood, still found fullcredence among them. A Jew's first thought on seeing a miracle was, 'bythe prince of the devils'; an average Greek's or Roman's was 'sorcery';these simple people's, like many barbarous tribes to which white menhave gone with the marvels of modern science, was 'the gods have comedown'; our modern superior person's, on reading of one, is'hallucination,' or 'a mistake of an excited imagination.' Perhaps thecry of the multitudes at Lystra gets nearer the heart of the thing thanthose others. For the miracle is a witness of present divine power, andthough the worker of it is not an incarnation of divinity, 'God iswith him.'

But that joyful conviction, which shot through the crowd, reveals howdeep lies the longing for the manifestation of divinity in the form ofhumanity, and how natural it is to believe that, if there is a divinebeing, he is sure to draw near to us poor men, and that in our ownlikeness. Then is the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation but onemore of the many reachings out of the heart to paint a fair picture ofthe fulfilment of its longings? Well, since it is the only such that isalleged to have taken place in historic times, and the only one thatcomes with any body of historic evidence, and the only one that bringswith it transforming power, and since to believe in a God, and also tobelieve that He has never broken the awful silence, nor done anythingto fulfil a craving which He has set in men's hearts, is absurd, it isreasonable to answer, No. 'The gods are come down in the likeness ofmen' is a wistful confession of need, and a dim hope of its supply.'The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us' is the supply.

Barnabas was the older man, and his very silence suggested his superiordignity. So he was taken for Jupiter (Zeus in the Greek), and theyounger man for his inferior, Mercury (Hermes in the Greek), 'themessenger of the gods.' Clearly the two missionaries did not understandwhat the multitudes were shouting in their 'barbarous' language, orthey would have intervened. Perhaps they had left the spot before theexcitement rose to its height, for they knew nothing of thepreparations for the sacrifice till they 'heard of it, and then they'sprang forth,' which implies that they were within some place,possibly their lodging.

If we could be sure what 'gates' are meant in verse 13, the course ofevents would be plainer. Were they those of the city, in which case thepriest and procession would be coming from the temple outside thewalls? or those of the temple itself? or those of the Apostles'lodging? Opinions differ, and the material for deciding is lacking. Atall events, whether from sharing in the crowd's enthusiasm, or with aneye to the reputation of his shrine, the priest hurriedly procured oxenfor a sacrifice, which one reading of the text specifies as an'additional' offering—that is, over and above the statutorysacrifices. Is it a sign of haste that the 'garlands,' which shouldhave been twined round the oxen's horns, are mentioned separately? Ifso, we get a lively picture of the exultant hurry of the crowd.

II. The Apostles are as deeply moved as the multitude is, but by whatdifferent emotions! The horror of idolatry, which was their inheritancefrom a hundred generations, flamed up at the thought of themselvesbeing made objects of worship. They had met many different sorts ofreceptions on this journey, but never before anything like this.Opposition and threats left them calm, but this stirred them to thedepths. 'Scoff at us, fight with us, maltreat us, and we will endure;but do not make gods of us.' I do not know that their 'successors' havealways felt exactly so.

In verse 14 Barnabas is named first, contrary to the order prevailingsince Paphos, the reason being that the crowd thought him the superior.The remonstrance ascribed to both, but no doubt spoken by Paul,contains nothing that any earnest monotheist, Jew or Gentilephilosopher, might not have said. The purpose of it was not to preachChrist, but to stop the sacrifice. It is simply a vehemently earnestprotest against idolatry, and a proclamation of one living God. Thecomparison with the speech in Athens is interesting, as showing Paul'sexquisite felicity in adapting his style to his audience. There isnothing to the peasants of Lycaonia about poets, no argumentation aboutthe degradation of the idea of divinity by taking images as itslikeness, no wide view of the course of history, no glimpse of themystic thought that all creatures live and move in Him. All that mightsuit the delicate ears of Athenians, but would have been wasted inLystra amidst the tumultuous crowd. But we have instead of these thefearless assertion, flung in the face of the priest of Jupiter, thatidols are 'vanities,' as Paul had learned from Isaiah and Jeremiah; theplain declaration of the one God, 'living,' and not like theseinanimate images; of His universal creative power; and the earnestexhortation to turn to Him.

In verse 16 Paul meets an objection which rises in his mind as likelyto be springing in his hearers: 'If there is such a God, why have wenever heard of Him till now?' That is quite in Paul's manner. Theanswer is undeveloped, as compared with the Athenian address or withRomans i. But there is couched in verse 16 a tacit contrast between'the generations gone by' and the present, which is drawn out in thespeech on Mars Hill: 'but now commandeth all men everywhere torepent,' and also a contrast between the 'nations' left to walk intheir own ways, and Israel to whom revelation had been made. The placeand the temper of the listeners did not admit of enlarging on suchmatters.

But there was a plain fact, which was level to every peasant'sapprehension, and might strike home to the rustic crowd. God had left'the nations to walk in their own ways,' and yet not altogether. Thatthought is wrought out in Romans i., and the difference between itsdevelopment there and here is instructive. Beneficence is thesign-manual of heaven. The orderly sequence of the seasons, the rainfrom heaven, the seat of the gods from which the two Apostles werethought to have come down, the yearly miracle of harvest, and thegladness that it brings—all these are witnesses to a living Personmoving the processes of the universe towards a beneficent end for man.

In spite of all modern impugners, it still remains true that thephenomena of 'nature,' their continuity, their co-operation, and theirbeneficent issues, demand the recognition of a Person with a lovingpurpose moving them all. 'Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness;and Thy paths drop fatness.'

III. The malice of the Jews of Antioch is remarkable. Not content withhounding the Apostles from that city, they came raging after them toLystra, where there does not appear to have been a synagogue, since wehear only of their stirring up the 'multitudes.' The mantle of Saul hadfallen on them, and they were now 'persecuting' him 'even untostrange cities.'

No note is given of the time between the attempted sacrifice and theaccomplished stoning, but probably some space intervened. Persuadingthe multitudes, however fickle they were, would take some time; andindeed one ancient text of Acts has an expansion of the verse: 'Theypersuaded the multitudes to depart from them [the Apostles], sayingthat they spake nothing true, but lied in everything.'

No doubt some time elapsed, but few emotions are more transient thansuch impure religious excitement as the crowd had felt, and the ebb isas great as the flood, and the oozy bottom laid bare is foul. Popularfavourites in other departments have to experience the same fate—oneday, 'roses, roses, all the way'; the next, rotten eggs and curses.Other folks than the ignorant peasants at Lystra have had devoutemotion surging over them and leaving them dry.

Who are 'they' who stoned Paul? Grammatically, the Jews, and probablyit was so. They hated him so much that they themselves began thestoning; but no doubt the mob, which is always cruel, because it needsstrong excitement, lent willing hands. Did Paul remember Stephen, asthe stones came whizzing on him? It is an added touch of brutality thatthey dragged the supposed corpse out of the city, with no gentle hands,we may be sure. Perhaps it was flung down near the very temple 'beforethe city,' where the priest that wanted to sacrifice was on duty.

The crowd, having wreaked their vengeance, melted away, but a handfulof brave disciples remained, standing round the bruised, unconsciousform, ready to lay it tenderly in some hastily dug grave. No previousmention of disciples has been made. The narrative of Acts does notprofess to be complete, and the argument from its silence is precarious.

Luke shows no disposition to easy belief in miracles. He does not knowthat Paul was dead; his medical skill familiarised him with protractedstates of unconsciousness; so all he vouches for is that Paul lay as ifdead on some rubbish heap 'without the camp,' and that, with courageand persistence which were supernatural, whether his reviving was so ornot, the man thus sorely battered went back to the city, and next daywent on with his work, as if stoning was a trifle not to be takenaccount of.

The Apostles turned at Derbe, and coming back on their outward route,reached Antioch, encouraging the new disciples, who had now to be lefttruly like shepherdless sheep among wolves. They did not encourage themby making light of the dangers waiting them, but they plainly setbefore them the law of the Kingdom, which they had seen exemplified inPaul, that we must suffer if we would reign with the King. That 'we' inverse 22 is evidently quoted from Paul, and touchingly shows how hepointed to his own stoning as what they too must be prepared to suffer.It is a thought frequently recurring in his letters. It remains true inall ages, though the manner of suffering varies.


'The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.'—ACTS xiv. 11.

This was the spontaneous instinctive utterance of simple villagers whenthey saw a deed of power and kindness. Many an English traveller andsettler among rude people has been similarly honoured. And in Lycaoniathe Apostles were close upon places that were celebrated in Greekmythology as having witnessed the very two gods, here spoken of,wandering among the shepherds and entertained with modest hospitalityin their huts.

The incident is a very striking and picturesque one. The shepherdpeople standing round, the sudden flash of awe and yet of gladnesswhich ran through them, the tumultuous outcry, which, being in theirrude dialect, was unintelligible to the Apostles till it wasinterpreted by the appearance of the priest of Jupiter with oxen andgarlands for offerings, the glimpse of the two Apostles—the older,graver, venerable Barnabas, the younger, more active, ready-tonguedPaul, whom their imaginations converted into the Father of gods andmen, and the herald Mercury, who were already associated in locallegends; the priest, eager to gain credit for his temple 'before thecity,' the lowing oxen, and the vehement appeal of the Apostles, make apicture which is more vividly presented in the simple narrative thaneven in the cartoon of the great painter whom the narrative hasinspired.

But we have not to deal with the picturesque element alone. Thenarratives of Scripture are representative because they are sopenetrating and true. They go to the very heart of the men and thingswhich they describe: and hence the words and acts which they record arefound to contain the essential characteristics of whole classes of men,and the portrait of an individual becomes that of a class. This joyfuloutburst of the people of Lycaonia gives utterance to one of the moststriking and universal convictions of heathenism, and stands in veryclose and intimate relations with that greatest of all facts in thehistory of the world, the Incarnation of the Eternal Word. That thegods come down in the likeness of men is the dream of heathenism. 'TheWord was made flesh and dwelt among us,' is the sober, waking truthwhich meets and vindicates and transcends that cry.

I. The heathen dream of incarnation.

In all lands we find this belief in the appearance of the gods in humanform. It inspired the art and poetry of Greece. Rome believed that godshad charged in front of their armies and given their laws. The solemn,gloomy religion of Egypt, though it worshipped animal forms, yet toldof incarnate and suffering gods. The labyrinthine mythologies of theEast have their long-drawn stories of the avatars of their godsfloating many a rood on the weltering ocean of their legends. Tibetcherishes each living sovereign as a real embodiment of the divine. Andthe lowest tribes, in their degraded worship, have not departed so farfrom the common type but that they too have some faint echoes of theuniversal faith.

Do these facts import anything at all to us? Are we to dismiss them assimply the products of a stage which we have left far behind, and toplume ourselves that we have passed out of the twilight?

Even if we listen to what comparative mythology has to say, it stillremains to account for the tendency to shape legends of the earthlyappearance of the gods; and we shall have to admit that, while theybelong to an early stage of the world's progress, the feelings whichthey express belong to all stages of it.

Now I think we may note these thoughts as contained in this universalbelief:

The consciousness of the need of divine help.

The certainty of a fellowship between heaven and earth.

The high ideal of the capacities and affinities of man.

We may note further what were the general characteristics of theseincarnations. They were transient, they were 'docetic,' as they arecalled—that is, they were merely apparent assumptions of human formwhich brought the god into no nearer or truer kindred with humanity,and they were, for the most part, for very self-regarding and oftenmost immoral ends, the god's personal gratification of very ungodlikepassions and lust, or his winning victories for his favourites, orsatisfying his anger by trampling on those who had incurred his veryhuman wrath.

II. The divine answer which transcends the human dream.

We have to insist that the truth of the Incarnation is the corner-stoneof Christianity. If that is struck out the whole fabric falls. Withoutit there may be a Christ who is the loftiest and greatest of men, butnot the Christ who 'saves His people from their sins.'

That being so, and Christianity having this feature in common with allthe religions of men, how are we to account for the resemblance? Are weto listen to the rude solution which says, 'All lies alike'? Are we tosee in it nothing but the operation of like tendencies, or ratherillusions, of human thought—man's own shadow projected on anilluminated mist? Are we to let the resemblance discredit the Christianmessage? Or are we to say that all these others are unconsciousprophecies—man's half-instinctive expression of his deep need and muchmisunderstood longing, and that the Christian proclamation that Jesusis 'God manifest in the flesh' is the trumpet-toned announcement ofHeaven's answer to earth's cry?

Fairly to face that question is to go far towards answering it. For assoon as we begin to look steadily at the facts, we find that thedifferences between all these other appearances and the Incarnation areso great as to raise the presumption that their origins are different.The 'gods' slipped on the appearance of humanity over their garment ofdeity in appearance only, and that for a moment. Jesus is 'bone of ourbone and flesh of our flesh,' and is not merely 'found in fashion as aman,' but is 'in all points like as we are.' And that garb of manhoodHe wears for ever, and in His heavenly glory is 'the Man Christ Jesus.'

But the difference between all these other appearances of gods andthe Incarnation lies in the acts to which they and it respectively led,and the purposes for which they and it respectively took place. A godwho came down to suffer, a god who came to die, a god who came to bethe supreme example of all fair humanities, a god who came to sufferand to die that men might have life and be victors over sin—where ishe in all the religions of the world? And does not the fact thatChristianity alone sets before men such a God, such an Incarnation, forsuch ends, make the assertion a reasonable one, that the sources of theuniversal belief in gods who come down among men and of the Christianproclamation that the Eternal Word became flesh are not the same, butthat these are men's half-understood cries, and this is Heaven's answer?


'And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, theyrehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened thedoor of faith unto the Gentiles.'—ACTS xiv. 27.

There are many instances of the occurrence of this metaphor in the NewTestament, but none is exactly like this. We read, for example, of 'agreat door and effectual' being opened to Paul for the free ministry ofthe word; and to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia, 'He thatopeneth and none shall shut' graciously says, 'I have set before thee adoor opened, which none can shut.' But here the door is faith, that isto say faith is conceived of as the means of entrance for the Gentilesinto the Kingdom, which, till then, Jews had supposed to be entered byhereditary rite.

I. Faith is the means of our entrance into the Kingdom.

The Jew thought that birth and the rite of circumcision were the door,but the 'rehearsing' of the experiences of Paul and Barnabas on theirfirst missionary tour shattered that notion by the logic of facts.Instead of that narrow postern another doorway had been broken in thewall of the heavenly city, and it was wide enough to admit ofmultitudes entering. Gentiles had plainly come in. How had they comein? By believing in Jesus. Whatever became of previous exclusivetheories, there was a fact that had to be taken into account. Itdistinctly proved that faith was 'the gate of the Lord into which,' notthe circumcised but the 'righteous,' who were righteous becausebelieving, 'should enter.'

We must not forget the other use of the metaphor, by our Lord Himself,in which. He declares that He is the Door. The two representations arevarying but entirely harmonious, for the one refers to the objectivefact of Christ's work as making it possible that we should draw near toand dwell with God, and the other to our subjective appropriation ofthat possibility, and making it a reality in our own blessed experience.

II. Faith is the means of God's entrance into our hearts.

We possess the mysterious and awful power of shutting God out of thesehearts. And faith, which in one aspect is our means of entrance intothe Kingdom of God, is, in another, the means of God's entrance intous. The Psalm, which invokes the divine presence in the Temple, callson the 'everlasting doors' to be 'lifted up,' and promises that then'the King of Glory will come in.' And the voice of the ascended Christ,the King of Glory, knocking at the closed door, calls on us with ourown hands to open the door, and promises that He 'will come in.'

Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians 'that Christ may dwell in yourhearts through faith,' and there is no other way by which Hisindwelling is possible. Faith is not constituted the condition of thatdivine indwelling by any arbitrary appointment, as a sovereign mightdetermine that he would enter a city by a certain route, chosen withoutany special reason from amongst many, but in the nature of things it isnecessary that trust, and love which follows trust, and longing whichfollows love should be active in a soul if Christ is to enter in andabide there.

III. Faith is the means of the entrance of the Kingdom into us.

If Christ comes in He comes with His pierced hands full of gifts.Through our faith we receive all spiritual blessings. But we must everremember, what this metaphor most forcibly sets forth, that faith isbut the means of entrance. It has no worth in itself, but is preciousonly because it admits the true wealth. The door is nothing. It is onlyan opening. Faith is the pipe that brings the water, the flinging widethe shutters that the light may flood the dark room, the puttingoneself into the path of the electric circuit. Salvation is notarbitrarily connected with faith. It is not the reward of faith but thepossession of what comes through faith, and cannot come in any otherway. Our 'hearts' are 'purified by faith,' because faith admits intoour hearts the life, and instals as dominant in them the powers, themotives, the Spirit, which purify. We are 'saved by faith,' for faithbrings into our spirits the Christ who saves His people from theirsins, when He abides in them and they abide in Him through their faith.


'And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, andsaid, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot besaved. 2. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension anddisputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, andcertain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles andelders about this question. 3. And being brought on their way by thechurch, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring theconversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all thebrethren. 4. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were receivedof the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared allthings that God had done with them. 5. But there rose up certain of thesect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful tocircumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6. Andthe apostles and elders came together 'for to consider of thismatter.'—ACTS xv. 1-6.

The question as to the conditions on which Gentiles could be receivedinto Christian communion had already been raised by the case ofCornelius, but it became more acute after Paul's missionary journey.The struggle between the narrower and broader views was bound to cometo a head. Traces of the cleft between Palestinian and Hellenistbelievers had appeared as far back as the 'murmuring' about the unfairneglect of the Hellenist widows in the distribution of relief, and thewhole drift of things since had been to widen the gap.

Whether the 'certain men' had a mission to the Church in Antioch ornot, they had no mandate to lay down the law as they did. Lukedelicately suggests this by saying that they 'came down from Judaea,'rather than from Jerusalem. We should be fair to these men, andremember how much they had to say in defence of their position. Theydid not question that Gentiles could be received into the Church, but'kept on teaching' (as the word in the Greek implies) that the divinelyappointed ordinance of circumcision was the 'door' of entrance. God hadprescribed it, and through all the centuries since Moses, all who cameinto the fold of Israel had gone in by that gate. Where was thecommandment to set it aside? Was not Paul teaching men to climb up someother way, and so blasphemously abrogating a divine law?

No wonder that honest believers in Jesus as Messiah shrank with horrorfrom such a revolutionary procedure. The fact that they werePalestinian Jews, who had never had their exclusiveness rubbed off, asHellenists like Paul and Barnabas had had, explains, and to some extentexcuses, their position. And yet their contention struck a fatal blowat the faith, little as they meant it. Paul saw what they did notsee—that if anything else than faith was brought in as necessary toknit men to Christ, and make them partakers of salvation, faith wasdeposed from its place, and Christianity sank back to be a religion of'works.' Experience has proved that anything whatever introduced asassociated with faith ejects faith from its place, and comes to berecognised as the means of salvation. It must be faith orcircumcision, it cannot be faith and circumcision. The lesson isneeded to-day as much as in Antioch. The controversy started then is aperennial one, and the Church of the present needs Paul's exhortation,'Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made usfree, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.'

The obvious course of appealing to Jerusalem was taken, and it isnoteworthy that in verse 2 the verb 'appointed' has no specifiedsubject. Plainly, however, it was the Church which acted, and sonatural did that seem to Luke that he felt it unnecessary to say so. Nodoubt Paul concurred, but the suggestion is not said to have come fromhim. He and Barnabas might have asserted their authority, and declinedto submit what they had done by the Spirit's guidance to the decisionof the Apostles, but they seek the things that make for peace.

No doubt the other side was represented in the deputation. Jerusalemwas the centre of unity, and remained so till its fall. The Apostlesand elders were the recognised leaders of the Church. Elders hereappear as holding a position of authority; the only previous mention ofthem is in Acts xi. 30, where they receive the alms sent from Antioch.It is significant that we do not hear of their first appointment. Theorganisation of the Church took shape as exigencies prescribed.

The deputation left Antioch, escorted lovingly for a little way by theChurch, and, journeying by land, gladdened the groups of believers in'Phenicia and Samaria' with the news that the Gentiles were turning toGod. We note that they are not said to have spoken of the thornyquestion in these countries, and that it is not said that there was joyin Judaea. Perhaps the Christians in it were in sympathy with thenarrower view.

The first step taken in Jerusalem was to call a meeting of the Churchto welcome the deputation. It is significant that the latter did notbroach the question in debate, but told the story of the success oftheir mission. That was the best argument for receiving Gentileconverts without circumcision. God had received them; should not theChurch do so? Facts are stronger than theories. It was Peter's argumentin the case of Cornelius: they 'have received the Holy Ghost as well aswe,' 'who was I, that I could withstand God?' It is the argument whichshatters all analogous narrowing of the conditions of Christian life.If men say, 'Except ye be' this or that 'ye cannot be saved,' it isenough to point to the fruits of Christian character, and say, 'Theseshow that the souls which bring them forth are saved, and you mustwiden your conceptions of the possibilities to include theseactualities.' It is vain to say 'Ye cannot be' when manifestly they are.

But the logic of facts does not convince obstinate theorists, and sothe Judaising party persisted in their 'It is needful to circumcisethem.' None are so blind as those to whom religion is mainly a matterof ritual. You may display the fairest graces of Christian characterbefore them, and you get no answer but the reiteration of 'It isneedful to circumcise you.' But on their own ground, in Jerusalem, thespokesmen of that party enlarged their demands. In Antioch they hadinsisted on circumcision, in Jerusalem they added the demand for entireconformity to the Mosaic law. They were quite logical; their principledemanded that extension of the requirement, and was thereby condemnedas utterly unworkable. Now that the whole battery was unmasked theissue was clear—Is Christianity to be a Jewish sect or the universalreligion? Clear as it was, few in that assembly saw it. But the partingof the ways had been reached.


'Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas andPaul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among theGentiles by them. 13. And after they had held their peace, Jamesanswered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14. Simeon hathdeclared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out ofthem a people for His name. 15. And to this agree the words of theprophets; as it is written, 16. After this I will return, and willbuild again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I willbuild again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17. That theresidue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, uponwhom My name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18.Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. 19.Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from amongthe Gentiles are turned to God: 20. But that we write unto them, thatthey abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and fromthings strangled, and from blood. 21. For Moses of old time hath inevery city them that preach Him, being read in the synagogues everysabbath day. 22. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with thewhole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch withPaul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chiefmen among the brethren: 23. And they wrote letters by them after thismanner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto thebrethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:24. Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from ushave troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must becircumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25.It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosenmen unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26. Men that havehazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27. We havesent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same thingsby mouth. 28. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to layupon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29. That yeabstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from thingsstrangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, yeshall do well. Fare ye well.'—ACTS xv. 12-29.

Much was at stake in the decision of this gathering of the Church. Ifthe Jewish party triumphed, Christianity sank to the level of a Jewishsect. The question brought up for decision was difficult, and there wasmuch to be said for the view that the Mosaic law was binding on Gentileconverts. It must have been an uprooting of deepest beliefs for aJewish Christian to contemplate the abrogation of that law, venerableby its divine origin, by its hoary antiquity, by its nationalassociations. We must not be hard upon men who clung to it; but weshould learn from their final complete drifting away from Christianityhow perilous is the position which insists on the necessity to truediscipleship of any outward observance.

Our passage begins in the middle of the conference. Peter has, withcharacteristic vehemence, dwelt upon the divine attestation of thegenuine equality of the uncircumcised converts with the Jewish, givenby their possession of the same divine Spirit, and has flung fieryquestions at the Judaisers, which silenced them. Then, after theimpressive hush following his eager words, Barnabas and Paul tell theirstory once more, and clinch the nail driven by Peter by asserting thatGod had already by 'signs and wonders' given His sanction to theadmission of Gentiles without circumcision. Characteristically, inJerusalem Barnabas is restored to his place above Paul, and is namedfirst as speaking first, and regarded by the Jerusalem Church as thesuperior of the missionary pair.

The next speaker is James, not an Apostle, but the bishop of the Churchin Jerusalem, of whom tradition tells that he was a zealous adherent tothe Mosaic law in his own person, and that his knees were as hard as acamel's through continual prayer. It is singular that this meetingshould be so often called 'the Apostolic council,' when, as a fact,only one Apostle said a word, and he not as an Apostle, but as thechosen instrument to preach to the Gentiles. 'The elders,' of whoseexistence we now hear for the first time in this wholly incidentalmanner, were associated with the Apostles (ver. 6), and the 'multitude'(ver. 12) is most naturally taken to be 'the whole Church' (ver. 22).James represents the eldership, and as bishop in Jerusalem and an eagerobserver of legal prescriptions, fittingly speaks. His wordspractically determined the question. Like a wise man, he begins withfacts. His use of the intensely Jewish form of the name Simeon is aninteresting reminiscence of old days. So he had been accustomed to callPeter when they were all young together, and so he calls him still,though everybody else named him by his new name. What God had done byhim seems to James to settle the whole question; for it was nothingelse than to put the Gentile converts without circumcision on anequality with the Jewish part of the Church.

Note the significant juxtaposition of the words 'Gentiles' and'people'—the former the name for heathen, the latter the sacreddesignation of the chosen nation. The great paradox which, throughPeter's preaching at Caesarea, had become a fact was that the 'peopleof God' were made up of Gentiles as well as Jews—that His name wasequally imparted to both. If God had made Gentiles His people, had Henot thereby shown that the special observances of Israel were putaside, and that, in particular, circumcision was no longer thecondition of entrance? The end of national distinction and the openingof a new way of incorporation among the people of God were clearlycontained in the facts. How much Christian narrowness would be blown toatoms if its advocates would do as James did, and let God's facts teachthem the width of God's purposes and the comprehensiveness of Christ'sChurch! We do wisely when we square our theories with facts; but manyof us go to work in the opposite way, and snip down facts to thedimension of our theories.

James's next step is marked equally by calm wisdom and open-mindedness.He looks to God's word, as interpreted by God's deeds, to throw lightin turn on the deeds and to confirm the interpretation of these. Twothings are to be noted in considering his quotation from Amos—itsbearing on the question in hand, and its divergence from the existingHebrew text. As to the former, there seems at first sight nothingrelevant to James's purpose in the quotation, which simply declaresthat the Gentiles will seek the Lord when the fallen tabernacle ofDavid is rebuilt. That period of time has at least begun, thinks James,in the work of Jesus, in whom the decayed dominion of David is again inhigher form established. The return of the Gentiles does not merelysynchronise with, but is the intended issue of, Christ's reign. Liftedfrom the earth, He will draw all men unto Him, and they shall 'seek theLord,' and on them His name will be called.

Now the force of this quotation lies, as it seems, first in the factthat Peter's experience at Caesarea is to be taken as an indication ofhow God means the prophecy to be fulfilled, namely, withoutcircumcision; and secondly, in the argumentum a silentio, since theprophet says nothing about ritual or the like, but declares that moraland spiritual qualifications—on the one hand a true desire after God,and on the other receiving the proclamation of His name and callingthemselves by it—are all that are needed to make Gentiles God'speople. Just because there is nothing in the prophecy about observingJewish ceremonies, and something about longing and faith, James thinksthat these are the essentials, and that the others may be dropped bythe Church, as God had dropped them in the case of Cornelius, and asAmos had dropped them in his vision of the future kingdom. God knewwhat He meant to do when He spoke through the prophet, and what He hasdone has explained the words, as James says in verse 18.

The variation from the Hebrew text requires a word of comment. Thequotation is substantially from the Septuagint, with a slightalteration. Probably James quoted the version familiar to many of hishearers. It seems to have been made from a somewhat different Hebrewtext in verse 17, but the difference is very much slighter than anEnglish reader would suppose. Our text has 'Edom' where the Septuaginthas 'men'; but the Hebrew words without vowels are identical but forthe addition of one letter in the former. Our text has 'inherit' wherethe Septuagint has 'seek after'; but there again the difference in thetwo Hebrew words would be one letter only, so that there may well havebeen a various reading as preserved in the Septuagint and Acts. Jamesadds to the Septuagint 'seek' the evidently correct completion 'theLord.'

Now it is obvious that, even if we suppose his rendering of the wholeverse to be a paraphrase of the same Hebrew text as we have, it is acorrect representation of the meaning; for the 'inheriting of Edom' isno mere external victory, and Edom is always in the Old Testament thetype of the godless man. The conquest of the Gentiles by the restorerof David's tabernacle is really the seeking after the Lord, and thecalling of His name upon the Gentiles.

The conclusion drawn by James is full of practical wisdom, and wouldhave saved the Church from many a sad page in its history, if itsspirit had been prevalent in later 'councils.' Note how the verydesignation given to the Gentile converts in verse 19 carriesargumentative force. 'They turn to God from among the Gentiles'—ifthey have done that, surely their new separation and new attachment areenough, and make insistence on circumcision infinitely ridiculous. Theyhave the thing signified; what does it matter about the sign, which isgood for us Jews, but needless for them? If Church rulers had alwaysbeen as open-eyed as this bishop in Jerusalem, and had been content ifpeople were joined to God and parted from the world, what torrents ofblood, what frowning walls of division, what scandals and partings ofbrethren would have been spared!

The observances suggested are a portion of the precepts enjoined byJudaism on proselytes. The two former were necessary to the Christianlife; the two latter were not, but were concessions to the Jewishfeelings of the stricter party. The conclusion may be called acompromise, but it was one dictated by the desire for unity, and hadnothing unworthy in it. There should be giving and taking on bothsides. If the Jewish Christians made the, to them, immense concessionof waiving the necessity of circumcision, the Gentile section mightsurely make the small one of abstinence from things strangled and fromblood. Similarities in diet would daily assimilate the lives of the twoparties, and would be a more visible and continuous token of theironeness than the single act of circumcision.

But what does the reason in verse 21 mean? Why should the reading ofMoses every Sabbath be a reason for these concessions? Various answersare given: but the most natural is that the constant promulgation ofthe law made respect for the feelings (even if mistaken) of JewishChristians advisable, and the course suggested the most likely to winJews who were not yet Christians. Both classes would be flung fartherapart if there were not some yielding. The general principle involvedis that one cannot be too tender with old and deeply rooted convictionseven if they be prejudices, and that Christian charity, which is truestwisdom, will consent to limitations of Christian liberty, if therebyany little one who believes in Him shall be saved from being offended,or any unbeliever from being repelled.

The letter embodying James's wise suggestion needs little furthernotice. We may observe that there was no imposing and authoritativedecision of the Ecclesia, but that the whole thing was threshed out infree talk, and then the unanimous judgment of the community, 'Apostles,elders and the whole Church,' was embodied in the epistle. Observe theaccurate rendering of verse 25 (R.V.), 'having come to one accord,'which gives a lively picture of the process. Note too that James'sproposal of a letter was mended by the addition of a deputation,consisting of an unknown 'Judas called Barsabas' (perhaps a relative of'Joseph called Barsabas,' the unsuccessful nominee for Apostleship inchap. i.), and the well-known Silas or Silvanus, of whom we hear somuch in Paul's letters. That journey was the turning-point in his life,and he henceforward, attracted by the mass and magnetism of Paul'sgreat personality, revolved round him, and forsook Jerusalem.

Probably James drew up the document, which has the same somewhatunusual 'greeting' as his Epistle. The sharp reference to the Judaisingteachers would be difficult for their sympathisers to swallow, butcharity is not broken by plain repudiation of error and its teachers.'Subverting your souls' is a heavy charge. The word is only here foundin the New Testament, and means to unsettle, the image in it being thatof packing up baggage for removal. The disavowal of these men is morecomplete if we follow the Revised Version in reading (ver. 24) 'nocommandment' instead of 'no such commandment.'

These unauthorised teachers 'went'; but, in strong contrast with them,Judas and Silas are chosen out and sent. Another thrust at theJudaising teachers is in the affectionate eulogy of Paul and Barnabasas 'beloved,' whatever disparaging things had been said about them, andas having 'hazarded their lives,' while these others had taken verygood care of themselves, and had only gone to disturb converts whomPaul and Barnabas had won at the peril of their lives.

The calm matter-of-course assertion that the decision which commendeditself to 'us' is the decision of 'the Holy Ghost' was warranted byChrist's promises, and came from the consciousness that they hadobserved the conditions which He had laid down. They had brought theirminds to bear upon the question, with the light of facts and ofScripture, and had come to a unanimous conclusion. If they believedtheir Lord's parting words, they could not doubt that His Spirit hadguided them. If we lived more fully in that Spirit, we should know moreof the same peaceful assurance, which is far removed from the delusionof our own infallibility, and is the simple expression of trust in theveracious promises of our Lord.

The closing words of the letter are beautifully brotherly, sinkingauthority, and putting in the foreground the advantage to the Gentileconverts of compliance with the injunctions. 'Ye shall do well,'rightly and conformably with the requirements of brotherly love toweaker brethren. And thus doing well, they will 'fare well,' and bestrong. That is not the way in which 'lords over God's heritage' areaccustomed to end their decrees. Brotherly affection, rather thanauthority imposing its will, breathes here. Would that all succeeding'Councils' had imitated this as well as 'it seemed good to the HolyGhost, and to us'!


'And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname wasMark. 38. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departedfrom them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.'—ACTSxv. 37, 38.

Scripture narratives are remarkable for the frankness with which theytell the faults of the best men. It has nothing in common with thecynical spirit in historians, of which this age has seen eminentexamples, which fastens upon the weak places in the noblest natures,like a wasp on bruises in the ripest fruit, and delights in showing howall goodness is imperfect, that it may suggest that none is genuine.Nor has it anything in common with that dreary melancholy which alsohas its representatives among us, that sees everywhere only failuresand fragments of men, and has no hope of ever attaining anything beyondthe common average of excellence. But Scripture frankly confesses thatall its noblest characters have fallen short of unstained purity, andwith boldness of hope as great as its frankness teaches the weakest toaspire, and the most sinful to expect perfect likeness to a perfectLord, It is a plane mirror, giving back all images without distortion.

We recall how emphatically and absolutely it eulogised Barnabas as 'agood man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith'—and now we have tonotice how this man, thus full of the seminal principle of allgoodness, derived into his soul by deep and constant communion throughfaith, and showing in his life practical righteousness and holiness,yet goes sadly astray, tarnishes his character, and mars his wholefuture.

The two specific faults recorded of him are his over-indulgence in thecase of Mark, and his want of firmness in opposition to the Judaisingteachers who came down to Antioch. They were neither of them gravefaults, but they were real. In the one he was too facile in overlookinga defect which showed unfitness for the work, and seems to have yieldedto family affection and to have sacrificed the efficiency of a missionto it. Not only was he wrong in proposing to condone Mark's desertion,but he was still more wrong in his reception of the opposition to hisproposal. With the firmness which weak characters so often display atthe wrong time, he was resolved, come what would, to have his own way.Temper rather than principle made him obstinate where he should havebeen yielding, as it had made him in Antioch yielding, where he shouldhave been firm. Paul's remonstrances have no effect. He will ratherhave his own way than the companionship of his old friend, and so therecome alienation and separation. The Church at Antioch takes Paul'sview—all the brethren are unanimous in disapproval. But Barnabas willnot move. He sets up his own feeling in opposition to them all. Thesympathy of his brethren, the work of his life, the extension ofChrist's kingdom, are all tossed aside. His own foolish purpose is moreto him in that moment of irritation than all these. So he snaps thetie, abandons his work, and goes away without a kindly word, without ablessing, without the Church's prayers—but with his nephew for whom hehad given up all these. Paul sails away to do God's work, and theChurch 'recommends him to the grace of God,' but Barnabas steals awayhome to Cyprus, and his name is no more heard in the story of theplanting of the kingdom of Christ.

One hopes that his work did not stop thus, but his recorded work does,and in the band of friends who surrounded the great Apostle, the nameof his earliest friend appears no more. Other companions and associatesin labour take his place; he, as it appears, is gone for ever. Onereference (1 Cor. ix. 6) at a later date seems most naturally tosuggest that he still continued in the work of an evangelist, and stillpractised the principle to which he and Paul had adhered when together,of supporting himself by manual labour. The tone of the referenceimplies that there were relations of mutual respect. But the most wecan believe is that probably the two men still thought kindly of eachother and honoured each other for their work's sake, but found itbetter to labour apart, and not to seek to renew the old companionshipwhich had been so violently torn asunder.

The other instance of weakness was in some respects of a still graverkind. The cause of it was the old controversy about the obligations ofJewish law on Gentile Christians. Paul, Peter, and Barnabas allconcurred in neglecting the restrictions imposed by Judaism, and inliving on terms of equality and association in eating and drinking withthe heathen converts at Antioch. A principle was involved, to whichBarnabas had bean the first to give in his adhesion, in the frankrecognition of the Antioch Church. But as soon as emissaries from theother party came down, Peter and he abandoned their association withGentile converts, not changing their convictions but suppressing theaction to which their convictions should have led. They pretended to beof the same mind with these narrow Jews from Jerusalem. They insultedtheir brethren, they deserted Paul, they belied their convictions, theyimperilled the cause of Christian liberty, they flew in the face ofwhat Peter had said that God Himself had showed him, they did theirutmost to degrade Christianity into a form of Judaism—all for the sakeof keeping on good terms with the narrow bigotry of these Judaisingteachers.

Now if we take these two facts together, and set them side by side withthe eulogy pronounced on Barnabas as 'a good man, full of the HolyGhost and of faith,' we have brought before us in a striking form someimportant considerations.

I. The imperfect goodness of good men.

A good man does not mean a faultless man. Of course the power whichworks on a believing soul is always tending to produce goodness andonly goodness. But its operation is not such that we are alwaysequally, uniformly, perfectly under its influence. Power in germ is onething, in actual operation another. There may be but a little raggedpatch of green in the garden, and yet it may be on its way to become aflower-bed. A king may not have established dominion over all his land.The actual operation of that transforming Spirit at any given moment islimited, and we can withdraw ourselves from it. It does not begin byleavening all our nature.

So we have to note—

The root of goodness.

The main direction of a life.

The progressive character of goodness.

The highest style of Christian life is a struggle. So we draw practicalinferences as to the conduct of life.

This thought of imperfection does not diminish the criminality ofindividual acts.

It does not weaken aspiration and effort towards higher life.

It does alleviate our doubts and fears when we find evil in ourselves.

II. The possible evil lurking in our best qualities.

In Barnabas, his amiability and openness of nature, the verycharacteristics that had made him strong, now make him weak and wrong.

How clearly then there is brought out here the danger that lurks evenin our good! I need not remind you how every virtue may be run to anextreme and become a vice. Liberality is exaggerated into prodigality;firmness, into obstinacy; mercy, into weakness; gravity, into severity;tolerance, into feeble conviction; humility, into abjectness.

And these extremes are reached when these graces are developed at theexpense of the symmetry of the character.

We are not simple but complex, and what we need to aim at is acharacter, not an excrescence. Some people's goodness is like a wart ora wen. Their virtues are cases of what medical technicality callshypertrophy. But our goodness should be like harmonious Indianpatterns, where all colours blend in a balanced whole.

Such considerations enforce the necessity for rigid self-control. Andthat in two directions.

(a) Beware of your excellences, your strong points.

(b) Cultivate sedulously the virtues to which you are not inclined.

The special form of error into which Barnabas fell is worth notice. Itwas over-indulgence, tolerance of evil in a person; feebleness ofgrasp, a deficiency of boldness in carrying out his witness to adisputed truth. In this day liberality, catholicity, are pushed so farthat there is danger of our losing the firmness of our grasp ofprinciples, and indulgence for faults goes so far that we are apt tolose the habit of unsparing, though unangry, condemnation of unworthycharacters. This generation is like Barnabas; very quick in sympathy,generous in action, ready to recognise goodness where-ever it isbeheld. But Barnabas may be a beacon, warning us of the possible evilsthat dog these excellences like their shadows.

III. The grave issues of small faults.

Comparatively trivial as was Barnabas's error, it seems to have wreckedhis life, at least to have marred it for long years, and to have brokenhis sweet companionship with Paul. I think we may go further and say,that most good men are in more danger from trivial faults than fromgreat ones. No man reaches the superlative degree of wickedness all atonce. Few men spring from the height to the abyss, they usually slipdown. The erosive action of the sand of the desert is said to begradually cutting off the Sphinx's head. The small faults are mostnumerous. We are least on our guard against them. There is amicroscopic weed that chokes canals. Snow-flakes make the sky as darkas an eclipse does. White ants eat a carcase quicker than a lion does.

So we urge the necessity for bringing ordinary deeds and small actionsto be ruled and guided by God's Spirit.

How the contemplation of the imperfection, which is the law of life,should lead us to hope for that heaven where perfection is.

How the contemplation of the limits of all human goodness should leadus to exclusive faith in, and imitation of, the one perfect Lord. Hestands stainless among the stained. In Him alone is no sin, from Himalone like goodness may be ours.


'And after [Paul] had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to gointo Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for topreach the gospel unto them. 11. Therefore … we came with a straightcourse.'—ACTS xvi. 10, 11.

This book of the Acts is careful to point out how each fresh step inthe extension of the Church's work was directed and commanded by JesusChrist Himself. Thus Philip was sent by specific injunction to 'joinhimself' to the chariot of the Ethiopian statesman. Thus Peter on thehouse-top at Joppa, looking out over the waters of the western sea, hadthe vision of the great sheet, knit at the four corners. And thus Paul,in singularly similar circ*mstances, in the little seaport of Troas,looking out over the narrower sea which there separates Asia fromEurope, had the vision of the man of Macedonia, with his cry, 'Comeover and help us!' The whole narrative before us bears upon the onepoint, that Christ Himself directs the expansion of His kingdom. Andthere never was a more fateful moment than that at which the Gospel, inthe person of the Apostle, crossed the sea, and effected a lodgment inthe progressive quarter of the world.

Now what I wish to do is to note how Paul and his little companybehaved themselves when they had received Christ's commandment. For Ithink there are lessons worth the gathering to be found there. Therewas no doubt about the vision; the question was what it meant. So notethree stages. First, careful consideration, with one's own commonsense, of what God wants us to do—'Assuredly gathering that the Lordhad called us.' Then, let no grass grow under our feet—immediateobedience—'Straightway we endeavoured to go into Macedonia.' And then,patient pondering and instantaneous submission get the reward—'We camewith a straight course.' He gave the winds and the waves chargeconcerning them. Now there are three lessons for us. Taken together,they are patterns of what ought to be in our experience, and will be,if the conditions are complied with.

I. First, Careful Consideration.

Paul had no doubt that what he saw was a vision from Christ, and not amere dream of the night, born of the reverberation of waking thoughtsand anxieties, that took the shape of the plaintive cry of the man ofMacedonia. But then the next step was to be quite sure of what thevision meant. And so, wisely, he does not make up his mind himself, butcalls in the three men who were with him. And what a significant littlegroup it was! There were Timothy, Silas, and Luke—Silas, fromJerusalem; Timothy, half a Gentile; Luke, altogether a Gentile; andPaul himself—and these four shook the world. They come together, andthey talk the matter over. The word of my text rendered 'assuredlygathering' is a picturesque one. It literally means 'laying thingstogether.' They set various facts side by side, or as we say in ourcolloquial idiom, 'They put this and that together,' and so they cameto understand what the vision meant.

What had they to help them to understand it? Well, they had this fact,that in all the former part of their journey they had been met byhindrances; that their path had been hedged up here, there, andeverywhere. Paul set out from Antioch, meaning a quiet little tour ofvisitation amongst the churches that had been already established.Jesus Christ meant Philippi and Athens and Corinth and Ephesus, beforePaul got back again. So we read in an earlier portion of the chapterthat the Spirit of Jesus forbade them to speak the Word in one region,and checked and hindered them when, baffled, they tried to go toanother. There then remained only one other road open to them, and thatled to the coast. Thus putting together their hindrances and theirstimuluses, they came to the conclusion that unitedly the two saidplainly, 'Go across the sea, and preach the word there.'

Now it is a very commonplace and homely piece of teaching to remind youthat time is not wasted in making quite sure of the meaning ofprovidences which seem to declare the will of God, before we begin toact. But the commonest duties are very often neglected; and wepreachers, I think, would very often do more good by hammering atcommonplace themes than by bringing out original and fresh ones. And soI venture to say a word about the immense importance to Christian lifeand Christian service of this preliminary step—'assuredly gatheringthat the Lord had called us.' What have we to do in order to be quitesure of God's intention for us?

Well, the first thing seems to me to make quite sure that we want toknow it, and that we do not want to force our intentions upon Him, andthen to plume ourselves upon being obedient to His call, when we areonly doing what we like. There is a vast deal of unconsciousinsincerity in us all; and especially in regard to Christian work thereis an enormous amount of it. People will say, 'Oh, I have such a strongimpulse in a given direction, to do certain kinds of Christian service,that I am quite sure that it is God's will.' How are you sure? A strongimpulse may be a temptation from the devil as well as a call from God.And men who simply act on untested impulses, even the most benevolentwhich spring directly from large Christian principles, may be makingdeplorable mistakes. It is not enough to have pure motives. It isuseless to say, 'Such and such a course of action is clearly the resultof the truths of the Gospel.' That may be all perfectly true, and yetthe course may not be the course for you. For there may be practicalconsiderations, which do not come into our view unless we carefullythink about them, which forbid us to take such a path. So remember thatstrong impulses are not guiding lights; nor is it enough to vindicateour pursuing some mode of Christian service that it is in accordancewith the principles of the Gospel. 'Circ*mstances alter cases' is avery homely old saying; but if Christian people would only bring thecommon sense to bear upon their religious life which they need to bringto bear upon their business life, unless they are going into theGazette, there would be less waste work in the Christian Church thanthere is to-day. I do not want less zeal; I want that the reins of thefiery steed shall be kept well in hand. The difference between afanatic, who is a fool, and an enthusiast, who is a wise man, is thatthe one brings calm reason to bear, and an open-eyed consideration ofcirc*mstances all round; and the other sees but one thing at a time,and shuts his eyes, like a bull in a field, and charges at that. So letus be sure, to begin with, that we want to know what God wants us todo; and that we are not palming our wishes upon Him, and calling themHis providences.

Then there is another plain, practical consideration that comes out ofthis story, and that is, Do not be above being taught by failures andhindrances. You know the old proverb, 'It is waste time to flog a deadhorse.' There is not a little well-meant work flung away, because it isexpended on obviously hopeless efforts to revivify, perhaps, somemoribund thing or to continue, perhaps, in some old, well-worn rut,instead of striking out into a new path. Paul was full of enthusiasmfor the evangelisation of Asia Minor, and he might have said a greatdeal about the importance of going to Ephesus. He tried to do it, butChrist said 'No.' and Paul did not knock his head against the stonewall that lay between him and the accomplishment of his purpose, but hegave it up and tried another tack. He next wished to go up intoBithynia, and he might have said a great deal about the needs of thepeople by the Euxine; but again down came the barrier, and he had oncemore to learn the lesson, 'Not as thou wilt, but as I will.' He was notabove being taught by his failures. Some of us are; and it is verydifficult, and needs a great deal of Christian wisdom andunselfishness, to distinguish between hindrances in the way of workwhich are meant to evoke larger efforts, and hindrances which are meantto say, 'Try another path, and do not waste time here any longer.'

But if we wish supremely to know God's will, He will help us todistinguish between these two kinds of difficulties. Some one has said,'Difficulties are things to be overcome.' Yes, but not always. Theyvery often are, and we should thank God for them then; but theysometimes are God's warnings to us to go by another road. So we needdiscretion, and patience, and suspense of judgment to be brought tobear upon all our purposes and plans.

Then, of course, I need not remind you that the way to get light is toseek it in the Book and in communion with Him whom the Book reveals tous as the true Word of God: 'He that followeth Me shall not walk indarkness, but shall have the light of life.' So careful considerationis a preliminary to all good Christian work. And, if you can, talk tosome Timothy and Silas and Luke about your course, and do not be abovetaking a brother's advice.

II. The next step is Immediate Submission.

When they had assuredly gathered that the Lord had called them,'immediately'—there is great virtue in that one word—'we endeavouredto go into Macedonia.' Delayed obedience is the brother—and, if I maymingle metaphors, sometimes the father—of disobedience. It sometimesmeans simple feebleness of conviction, indolence, and a general lack offervour. It means very often a reluctance to do the duty that liesplainly before us. And, dear brethren, as I have said about the formerlesson, so I say about this. The homely virtue, which we all know to beindispensable to success in common daily life and commercialundertakings, is no less indispensable to all vigour of Christian lifeand to all nobleness of Christian service. We have no hours to waste;the time is short. In the harvest-field, especially when it is gettingnear the end of the week, and the Sunday is at hand, there are littleleisure and little tolerance of slow workers. And for us the fields arewhite, the labourers are few, the Lord of the harvest is imperative,the sun is hurrying to the west, and the sickles will have to be laiddown before long. So, 'immediately we endeavoured.'

Delayed duty is present discomfort. As long as a man has a conscience,so long will he be restless and uneasy until he has, as the Quakerssay, 'cleared himself of his burden,' and done what he knows that heought to do, and got done with it. Delayed obedience means wastedpossibilities of service, and so is ever to be avoided. The moredisagreeable anything is which is plainly a duty, the more reason thereis for doing it right away. 'I made haste, and delayed not, but madehaste to keep Thy commandments.'

Did you ever count how many 'straightways' there are in the firstchapter of Mark's Gospel? If you have not, will you do it when you gohome; and notice how they come in? In the story of Christ's openingministry every fresh incident is tacked on to the one before it, inthat chapter, by that same word 'straightway.' 'Straightway' He doesthat; 'anon' He does this; 'immediately' He does the other thing. Allis one continuous stream of acts of service. The Gospel of Mark is theGospel of the servant, and it sets forth the pattern to which allChristian service ought to be conformed.

So if we take Jesus Christ for our Example, unhasting and unresting inthe work of the Lord, we shall let no moment pass burdened withundischarged duty; and we shall find that all the moments are fewenough for the discharge of the duties incumbent upon us.

III. So, lastly, careful consideration and unhesitating obedience leadto a Straight Course.

Well, it is not so always, but it is so generally. There is a wonderfulpower in diligent doing of God's known will to smooth away difficultiesand avoid troubles. I do not, of course, mean that a man who thuslives, patiently ascertaining and then promptly doing what God wouldhave him do, has any miraculous exemption from the ordinary sorrows andtrials of life. But sure I am that a very, very large proportion of allthe hindrances and disappointments, storms and quicksands, calms whichprevent progress and headwinds that beat in our faces, are directly theproducts of our negligence in one or other of these two respects, andthat although by no means absolutely, yet to an extent that we shouldnot believe if we had not the experience of it, the wish to do God'swill and the doing of it with our might when we know what it is have atalismanic power in calming the seas and bringing us to the desiredhaven.

But though this is not always absolutely true in regard of outwardthings, it is, without exception or limitation, true in regard of theinward life. For if my supreme will is to do God's will then nothingwhich is His will, and comes to me because it is can be a hindrance inmy doing that.

As an old proverb says, 'Travelling merchants can never be out of theirroad.' And a Christian man whose path is simple obedience to the willof God can never be turned from that path by whatever hindrances mayaffect his outward life. So, in deepest truth, there is always a calmvoyage for the men whose eyes are open to discern, and whose hands areswift to fulfil, the commandments of their Father in heaven. For themall winds blow them to their port; for them 'all things work togetherfor good'; with them God's servants who hearken to the voice of Hiscommandments, and are His ministers to do His pleasure, can never beother than in amity and alliance. He who is God's servant is theworld's master. 'All things are yours if ye are Christ's.'

So, brethren, careful study of providences and visions, of hindrancesand stimulus, careful setting of our lives side by side with theMaster's, and a swift delight in doing the will of the Lord, willsecure for us, in inmost truth, a prosperous voyage, till all stormsare hushed, 'and they are glad because they be quiet; so He bringeththem to their desired haven.'


'And on the sabbath day we went forth without the gate, by a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down,and spake unto the women which were come together.'—ACTS xvi. 13(R.V.).

This is the first record of the preaching of the Gospel in Europe, andprobably the first instance of it. The fact that the vision of the manof Macedonia was needed in order to draw the Apostle across the straitsinto Macedonia, and the great length at which the incidents at Philippiare recorded, make this probable. If so, we are here standing, as itwere, at the wellhead of a mighty river, and the thin stream of waterassumes importance when we remember the thousand miles of its course,and the league-broad estuary in which it pours itself into the ocean.Here is the beginning; the Europe of to-day is what came out of it.There is no sign whatever that the Apostle was conscious of an epoch inthis transference of the sphere of his operations, but we can scarcelyhelp being conscious of such.

And so, looking at the words of my text, and seeing here howunobtrusively there stole into the progressive part of the world thepower which was to shatter and remould all its institutions, to guideand inform the onward march of its peoples, to be the basis of theirliberties, and the starting-point of their literature, we can scarcelyavoid drawing lessons of importance.

The first point which I would suggest, as picturesquely enforced for usby this incident, is—

I. The apparent insignificance and real greatness of Christian work.

There did not seem in the whole of that great city that morning a morecompletely insignificant knot of people than the little weather-beatenJew, travel-stained, of weak bodily presence, and of contemptiblespeech, with the handful of his attendants, who slipped out in theearly morning and wended their way to the quiet little oratory, beneaththe blue sky, by the side of the rushing stream, and there talkedinformally and familiarly to the handful of women. The great men ofPhilippi would have stared if any one had said to them, 'You will beforgotten, but two of these women will have their names embalmed in thememory of the world for ever. Everybody will know Euodia and Syntyche.Your city will be forgotten, although a battle that settled the fate ofthe civilised world was fought outside your gates. But that little Jewand the letter that he will write to that handful of believers that areto be gathered by his preaching will last for ever.' The mightiestthing done in Europe that morning was when the Apostle sat down by theriverside, 'and spake to the women which resorted thither.'

The very same vulgar mistake as to what is great and as to what issmall is being repeated over and over again; and we are all tempted toit by that which is worldly and vulgar in ourselves, to the enormousdetriment of the best part of our natures. So it is worth while to stopfor a moment and ask what is the criterion of greatness in our deeds? Ianswer, three things—their motive, their sphere, their consequences.What is done for God is always great. You take a pebble and drop itinto a brook, and immediately the dull colouring upon it flashes upinto beauty when the sunlight strikes through the ripples, and themagnitude of the little stone is enlarged. If I may make use of such aviolent expression, drop your deeds into God, and they will all begreat, however small they are. Keep them apart from Him, and they willbe small, though all the drums of the world beat in celebration, andall the vulgar people on the earth extol their magnitude. This altarmagnifies and sanctifies the giver and the gift. The great things arethe things that are done for God.

A deed is great according to its sphere. What bears on and is confinedto material things is smaller than what affects the understanding. Theteacher is more than the man who promotes material good. And on thevery same principle, above both the one and the other, is the doer ofdeeds which touch the diviner part of a man's nature, his will, hisconscience, his affections, his relations to God. Thus the deeds thatimpinge upon these are the highest and the greatest; and far above thescientific inventor, and far above the mere teacher, as I believe, andas I hope you believe, stands the humblest work of the poorestChristian who seeks to draw any other soul into the light and libertywhich he himself possesses. The greatest thing in the world is charity,and the purest charity in the world is that which helps a man topossess the basis and mother-tincture of all love, the love towards Godwho has first loved us, in the person and the work of His dear Son.

That which being done has consequences that roll through souls, 'andgrow for ever and for ever,' is a greater work than the deed whoseissues are more short-lived. And so the man who speaks a word which maydeflect a soul into the paths which have no end until they areswallowed up in the light of the God who 'is a Sun,' is a worker whosework is truly great. Brethren, it concerns the nobleness of the life ofus Christian people far more closely than we sometimes suppose, that weshould purge our souls from the false estimate of magnitudes whichprevails so extensively in the world's judgment of men and theirdoings. And though it is no worthy motive for a man to seek to live sothat he may do great things, it is a part of the discipline of theChristian mind, as well as heart, that we should be able to reduce theswollen bladders to their true flaccidity and insignificance, and thatwe should understand that things done for God, things done on men'ssouls, things done with consequences which time will not exhaust, noreternity put a period to, are, after all, the great things of humanlife.

Ah, there will be a wonderful reversal of judgments one day! Names thatnow fill the trumpet of fame will fall silent. Pages that now are readas if they were leaves of the 'Book of Life' will be obliterated andunknown, and when all the flashing cressets in Vanity Fair have smokedand stunk themselves out, 'They that be wise shall shine as thebrightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousnessas the stars for ever and ever.' The great things are the Christianthings, and there was no greater deed done that day, on this roundearth, than when that Jewish wayfarer, travel-stained andinsignificant, sat himself down in the place of prayer, and 'spake untothe women which resorted thither.' Do not be over-cowed by the loudtalk of the world, but understand that Christian work is the mightiestwork that a man can do.

Let us take from this incident a hint as to—

II. The law of growth in Christ's Kingdom.

Here, as I have said, is the thin thread of water at the source. Weto-day are on the broad bosom of the expanded stream. Here is thelittle beginning; the world that we see around us has come from this,and there is a great deal more to be done yet before all the power thatwas transported into Europe, on that Sabbath morning, has wrought itslegitimate effects. That is to say, 'the Kingdom of God cometh not byobservation.' Let me say a word, and only a word, based on thisincident, about the law of small beginnings and the law of slow,inconspicuous development.

We have here an instance of the law of small, silent beginnings. Let usgo back to the highest example of everything that is good; the life ofJesus Christ. A cradle at Bethlehem, a carpenter's shop in Nazareth,thirty years buried in a village, two or three years, at most, going upand down quietly in a remote nook of the earth, and then He passed awaysilently and the world did not know Him. 'He shall not strive nor cry,nor cause His voice to be heard in the streets.' And as the Christ soHis Church, and so His Gospel, and so all good movements that beginfrom Him. Destructive preparations may be noisy; they generally are.Constructive beginnings are silent and small. If a thing is launchedwith a great beating of drums and blowing of trumpets, you may bepretty sure there is very little in it. Drums are hollow, or they wouldnot make such a noise. Trumpets only catch and give forth wind. Theysay—I know not whether it is true—that the Wellingtonia gigantea,the greatest of forest trees, has a smaller seed than any of itscongeners. It may be so, at any rate it does for an illustration. Thegerm-cell is always microscopic. A little beginning is a prophecy of agreat ending.

In like manner there is another large principle suggested here which,in these days of impatient haste and rushing to and fro, and religiousas well as secular advertising and standing at street corners, we arevery apt to forget, but which we need to remember, and that is that therate of growth is swift when the duration of existence is short. A reedsprings up in a night. How long does an oak take before it gets toohigh for a sheep to crop at? The moth lives its full life in a day.There is no creature that has helpless infancy so long as a man. Wehave the slow work of mining; the dynamite will be put into the holeone day, and the spark applied—and then? So 'an inheritance may begotten hastily at the beginning, but the end thereof shall not beblessed.'

Let us apply that to our own personal life and work, and to the growthof Christianity in the world, and let us not be staggered becauseeither are so slow. 'The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, assome men count slackness. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years,and a thousand years as one day.' How long will that day be of which athousand years are but as the morning twilight? Brethren, you have needof patience. You Christian workers, and I hope I am speaking to a greatmany such now; how long does it take before we can say that we aremaking any impression at all on the vast masses of evil and sin thatare round about us? God waited, nobody knows how many millenniums andmore than millenniums, before He had the world ready for man. He waitedfor more years than we can tell before He had the world ready for theIncarnation. His march is very slow because it is ever onwards. Let usbe thankful if we forge ahead the least little bit; and let us not beimpatient for swift results which are the fool's paradise, and whichthe man who knows that he is working towards God's own end can wellafford to do without.

And now, lastly, let me ask you to notice, still further as drawn fromthis incident—

III. The simplicity of the forces to which God entrusts the growth of
His Kingdom.

It is almost ludicrous to think, if it were not pathetic and sublime,of the disproportion between the end that was aimed at and the way thatwas taken to reach it, which the text opens before us. 'We went out tothe riverside, and we spake unto the women which resorted thither.'That was all. Think of Europe as it was at that time. There was Greeceover the hills, there was Rome ubiquitous and ready to exchange itscontemptuous toleration for active hostility. There was the unknownbarbarism of the vague lands beyond. Think of the establishedidolatries which these men had to meet, around which had gathered, bythe superstitious awe of untold ages, everything that was obstinate,everything that was menacing, everything that was venerable. Think ofthe subtleties to which they had to oppose their unlettered message.Think of the moral corruption that was eating like an ulcer into thevery heart of society. Did ever a Cortez on the beach, with his shipsin flames behind him, and a continent in arms before, cast himself on amore desperate venture? And they conquered! How? What were the smallstones from the brook that slew Goliath? Have we got them? Here theyare, the message that they spoke, the white heat of earnestness withwhich they spoke it, and the divine Helper who backed them up. And wehave this message. Brethren, that old word, 'God was in Christreconciling the world to Himself,' is as much needed, as potent, astruly adapted to the complicated civilisation of this generation, assurely reaching the deepest wants of the human soul, as it was in thedays when first the message poured, like a red-hot lava flood, from theutterances of Paul. Like lava it has gone cold to-day, and stiff inmany places, and all the heat is out of it. That is the fault of thespeaker, never of the message. It is as mighty as ever it was, and ifthe Christian Church would keep more closely to it, and would realisemore fully that the Cross does not need to be propped up so much as tobe proclaimed, I think we should see that it is so. That sword has notlost its temper, and modern modes of warfare have not antiquated it. AsDavid said to the high priests at Nob, when he was told that Goliath'ssword was hid behind the ephod, 'Give me that. There is none like it.'It was not miracles, it was the Gospel that was preached, which was'the power of God unto salvation.'

And that message was preached with earnestness. There is one point inwhich every successful servant of Jesus Christ who has done work forHim, winning men to Him, has been like every other successful servant,and there is only one point. Some of them have been wise men, some ofthem have been foolish. Some of them have been clad with many puerilenotions and much rubbish of ceremonial and sacerdotal theories. Some ofthem have been high Calvinists, some of them low Arminians; some ofthem have been scholars, some of them could hardly read. But they haveall had this one thing: they believed with all their hearts what theyspake. They fulfilled the Horatian principle, 'If you wish me to weep,your own eyes must overflow'—and if you wish me to believe, you mustspeak, not 'with bated breath and whispering humbleness,' but as if youyourself believed it, and were dead set on getting other people tobelieve it, too.

And then the third thing that Paul had we have, and that is thepresence of the Christ. Note what it says in the context about oneconvert who was made that morning, Lydia, 'whose heart the Lordopened.' Now I am not going to deduce Calvinism or any other 'ism' fromthese words, but I pray you to note that there is emerging on thesurface here what runs all through this book of Acts, and animates thewhole of it, viz., that Jesus Christ Himself is working, doing all thework that is done through His servants. Wherever there are men aflamewith that with which every Christian man and woman should be aflame,the consciousness of the preciousness of their Master, and their ownresponsibility for the spreading of His Name, there, depend upon it,will be the Christ to aid them. The picture with which one of theEvangelists closes his Gospel will be repeated: 'They went everywherepreaching the word, the Lord working with them, and confirming the wordwith signs following.'

Dear brethren, the vision of the man of Macedonia which drew Paulacross the water from Troas to Philippi speaks to us. 'Come over andhelp us,' comes from many voices. And if we, in however humble andobscure, and as the foolish purblind world calls it, 'small,' way,yield to the invitation, and try to do what in us lies, then we shallfind that, like Paul by the riverside in that oratory, we are buildingbetter than we know, and planting a little seed, the springing whereofGod will bless. 'Thou sowest not that which shall be, but bare grain… and God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him.'


'And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, theycaught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto therulers, 20. And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men,being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21. And teach customs,which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, beingRomans. 22. And the multitude rose up together against them: and themagistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23. Andwhen they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison,charging the jailer to keep them safely: 24. Who, having received sucha charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fastin the stocks. 25. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sangpraises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26. And suddenly therewas a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison wereshaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one'sbands were loosed. 27. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of hissleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, andwould have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.28. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: forwe are all here. 29. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, andcame trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30. And broughtthem out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31. And theysaid, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, andthy house. 32. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to allthat were in his house. 33. And he took them the same hour of thenight, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his,straightway. 34. And when he had brought them into his house, he setmeat before them, and rejoiced, believing In God with all hishouse.'—ACTS xvi. 19-34.

This incident gives us the Apostle's first experience of purely Gentileopposition. The whole scene has a different stamp from that of formerantagonisms, and reminds us that we have passed into Europe. Theaccusers and the grounds of accusation are new. Formerly Jews had ledthe attack; now Gentiles do so. Crimes against religion were chargedbefore; now crimes against law and order. Hence the narrative is moreextended, in accordance with the prevailing habit of the book, todilate on the first of a series and to summarise subsequent members ofit. We may note the unfounded charge and unjust sentence; the joyfulconfessors and the answer to their trust; the great light that shone onthe jailer's darkness.

I. This was a rough beginning of the work undertaken at the call ofChrist. Less courageous and faithful men might have thought, 'Were weright in "assuredly gathering" that His hand pointed us hither, sincethis is the reception we find?' But though the wind meets us as soon aswe clear the harbour, the salt spray dashing in our faces is no signthat we should not have left shelter. A difficult beginning often meansa prosperous course; and hardships are not tokens of having made amistake.

The root of the first antagonism to the Gospel in Europe was purelymercenary. The pythoness's masters had no horror of Paul's doctrines.They were animated by no zeal for Apollo. They only saw a source ofprofit drying up. Infinitely more respectable was Jewish opposition,which was, at all events, the perverted working of noble sentiments.Zeal for religion, even when the zeal is impure and the notions ofreligion imperfect, is higher than mere anger at pecuniary loss. Howmuch of the opposition since and to-day comes from the same meansource! Lust and appetite organise profitable trades, in which 'themoney has no smell,' however foul the cesspool from which it has beenbrought. And when Christian people set themselves against theseabominations, capital takes the command of the mob of drink-sellers andconsumers, or of those from haunts of fleshly sin, and shrieks aboutinterfering with honest industry, and seeking to enforce sour-facedPuritanism on society. The Church may be very sure that it is failingin some part of its duty, if there is no class of those who fatten onproviding for sin howling at its heels, because it is interfering withthe hope of their gains.

The charge against the little group took no heed of the real characterof their message. It artfully put prominent their nationality. Theseearly anti-Semitic agitators knew the value of a good solid prejudice,and of a nickname. 'Jews'—that was enough. The rioters were'Romans'—of a sort, no doubt, but it was poor pride for a Macedonianto plume himself on having lost his nationality. The great crime laidto Paul's charge was—troubling the city. So it always is. Whether itbe George Fox, or John Wesley, or the Salvation Army, the disorderlyelements of every community attack the preachers of the Gospel in thename of order, and break the peace in their eagerness to have it kept.There was no 'trouble' in Philippi, but the uproar which theythemselves were making. The quiet praying-place by the riverside, andthe silencing of the maiden's shout in the streets, were not exactlythe signs of disturbers of civic tranquillity.

The accuracy of the charge may be measured by the ignorance of theaccusers that Paul and his friends were in any way different from therun of Jews. No doubt they were supposed to be teaching Jewishpractices, which were supposed to be inconsistent with Romancitizenship. But if the magistrates had said, 'What customs?' thecharge would have collapsed. Thank God, the Gospel has a witness tobear against many 'customs'; but it does not begin by attacking eventhese, much less by prescribing illegalities. Its errand was and is tothe individual first. It sets the inner man right with God, and thenthe new life works itself out, and will war against evils which the oldlife deemed good; but the conception of Christianity as a coderegulating actions is superficial, whether it is held by friends orfoes.

There is always a mob ready to follow any leader, especially if thereis the prospect of hurting somebody. The lovers of tranquillity showedhow they loved it by dragging Paul and Silas into the forum, andbellowing untrue charges against them. The mob seconded them; 'theyrose up together [with the slave-owners] against Paul and Silas.' Themagistrates, knowing the ticklish material that they had to deal with,and seeing only a couple of Jews from nobody knew where, did not thinkit worth while to inquire or remonstrate. They were either cowed orindifferent; and so, to show how zealous they and the mob were forRoman law, they drove a coach-and-six clean through it, and without theshow of investigation, scourged and threw into prison the silentApostles. It was a specimen of what has happened too often since. Howmany saints have been martyred to keep popular feeling in good tune!And how many politicians will strain conscience to-day, because theyare afraid of what Luke here unpolitely calls 'the multitude,' or as wemight render it, 'the mob,' but which we now fit with a much morerespectful appellation!

The jailer, on his part, in the true spirit of small officials, wasready to better his instructions. It is dangerous to give vaguedirections to such people. When the judge has ordered unlawfulscourging, the turnkey is not likely to interpret the requirement ofsafe keeping too leniently. One would not look for much human kindnessin a Philippian jail. So it was natural that the deepest, darkest, mostfoul-smelling den should be chosen for the two, and that they should hethrust, bleeding backs and all, into the stocks, to sleep if they could.

II. These birds could sing in a darkened cage. The jailer's treatmentof them after his conversion shows what he had neglected to do atfirst. They had no food; their bloody backs were unsponged; they werethrust into a filthy hole, and put in a posture of torture. No wonderthat they could not sleep! But what hindered sleep would, with mostmen, have sorely dimmed trust and checked praise. Not so with them. Godgave them 'songs in the night.' We can hear the strains through all thecenturies, and they bid us be cheerful and trustful, whatever befalls.Surely Christian faith never is more noble than when it triumphs overcirc*mstances, and brings praises from lips which, if sense had itsway, would wail and groan. 'This is the victory that overcometh theworld.' The true anaesthetic is trust in God. No wonder that the basersort of prisoners—and base enough they probably were—'were listeningto them,' for such sounds had never been heard there before. In howmany a prison have they been heard since!

We are not told that the Apostles prayed for deliverance. Suchdeliverance had not been always granted. Peter indeed had been setfree, but Stephen and James had been martyred, and these two heroes hadno ground to expect a miracle to free them. But thankful trust isalways an appeal to God. And it is always answered, whether bydeliverance from or support in trial.

This time deliverance came. The tremor of the earth was the token ofGod's answer. It does not seem likely that an earthquake could loosenfetters in a jail full of prisoners, but more probably the opening ofthe doors and the falling off of the chains were due to a separate actof divine power, the earthquake being but the audible token thereof. Atall events, here again, the first of a series has distinguishingfeatures, and may stand as type of all its successors. God will neverleave trusting hearts to the fury of enemies. He sometimes will stretchout a hand and set them free, He sometimes will leave them to bear theutmost that the world can do, but He will always hear their cry andsave them. Paul had learned the lesson which Philippi was meant toteach, when he said, though anticipating a speedy death by martyrdom,'The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me intoHis heavenly Kingdom.'

III. The jailer behaves as such a man in his position would do. Heapparently slept in a place that commanded a view of the doors; and helay dressed, with his sword beside him, in case of riot or attemptedescape. His first impulse on awaking is to look at the gates. They areopen; then some of his charge have broken them. His immediate thoughtof suicide not only shows the savage severity of punishment which heknew would fall on him, but tells a dreary tale of the desperate senseof the worthlessness of life and blank ignorance of anything beyondwhich then infected the Roman world. Suicide, the refuge of cowards orof pessimists, sometimes becomes epidemic. Faith must have died andhope vanished before a man can say, 'I will take the leap into thedark.'

Paul's words freed the man from one fear, but woke a less selfish andprofounder awe. What did all this succession of strange things mean?Here are doors open; how came that? Here are prisoners with thepossibility of escape refusing it; how came that? Here is one of hisvictims tenderly careful of his life and peacefulness, and taking theupper hand of him; how came that? A nameless awe begins to creep overhim; and when he gets lights, and sees the two whom he had made fast inthe stocks standing there free, and yet not caring to go forth, hisrough nature is broken down. He recognises his superiors. He remembersthe pythoness's testimony, that they told 'the way of salvation.'

His question seems 'psychologically impossible' to critics, who haveprobably never asked it themselves. Wonderful results follow from thejudicious use of that imposing word 'psychologically'; but while we arenot to suppose that this man knew all that 'salvation' meant, there isno improbability in his asking such a question, if due regard is paidto the whole preceding events, beginning with the maiden's words, andincluding the impression of Paul's personality and the mysteriousfreeing of the prisoners.

His dread was the natural fear that springs when a man is brought faceto face with God; and his question, vague and ignorant as it was, isthe cry of the dim consciousness that lies dormant in all men—theconsciousness of needing deliverance and healing. It erred in supposingthat he had to 'do' anything; but it was absolutely right in supposingthat he needed salvation, and that Paul could tell him how to get it.How many of us, knowing far more than he, have never asked the samewise question, or have never gone to Paul for an answer? It is aquestion which we should all ask; for we all need salvation, which isdeliverance from danger and healing for soul-sickness.

Paul's answer is blessedly short and clear. Its brevity and decisiveplainness are the glory of the Gospel. It crystallises into a shortsentence the essential directory for all men.

See how little it takes to secure salvation. But see how much it takes;for the hardest thing of all is to be content to accept it as a gift,'without money and without price.' Many people have listened to sermonsall their lives, and still have no clear understanding of the way ofsalvation. Alas that so often the divine simplicity and brevity ofPaul's answer are darkened by a multitude of irrelevant words andexplanations which explain nothing!

The passage ends with the blessing which we may all receive. Of coursethe career begun then had to be continued by repeated acts of faith,and by growing knowledge and obedience. The incipient salvation is veryincomplete, but very real. There is no reason to doubt that, for somecharacters, the only way of becoming Christians is to become so by onedead-lift of resolution. Some things are best done slowly; some thingsbest quickly. One swift blow makes a cleaner fracture than filing orsawing. The light comes into some lives like sunshine in northernlatitudes, with long dawn and slowly growing brightness; but in somethe sun leaps into the sky in a moment, as in the tropics. What matterhow long it takes to rise, if it does rise, and climb to the zenith?


'He brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31.And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall besaved.'—ACTS xvi. 30, 31.

The keeper of a Macedonian jail was not likely to be a very nervous orsusceptible person. And so the extraordinary state of agitation andpanic into which this rough jailer was cast needs some kind ofexplanation. There had been, as you will all remember, an earthquake ofa strange kind, for it not only opened the prison doors, but shook theprisoner's chains off. The doors being opened, there was on the part ofthe jailer, who probably ought not to have been asleep, a very naturalfear that his charge had escaped.

So he was ready, with that sad willingness for suicide which marked hisage, to cast himself on his sword, when Paul encouraged him.

That fear then was past; what was he afraid of now? He knew theprisoners were all safe; why should he have come pale and trembling?Perhaps we shall find an answer to the question in another one. Whyshould he have gone to Paul and Silas, his two prisoners, for ananodyne to his fears?

The answer to that may possibly be found in remembering that for manydays before this a singular thing had happened. Up and down the streetsof Philippi a woman possessed with 'a spirit of divination' had gone atthe heels of these two men, proclaiming in such a way as to disturbthem: 'These are the servants of the Most High God, which show unto usthe way of salvation.' It was a new word and a new idea in Philippi orin Macedonia. This jailer had got it into his mind that these two menhad in their hands a good which he only dimly understood. The paniccaused by the earthquake deepened into a consciousness of somesupernatural atmosphere about him, and stirred in his rude natureunwonted aspirations and terrors other than he had known, which casthim at Paul's feet with this strange question.

Now do you think that the jailer's question was a piece of foolishsuperstition? I daresay some of you do, or some of you may suppose toothat it was one very unnecessary for him or anybody to ask. So I wishnow, in a very few words, to deal with these three points—the questionthat we should all ask, the answer that we may all take, the blessingthat we may all have.

I. The question that we should all ask.

I know that it is very unfashionable nowadays to talk about 'salvation'as man's need. The word has come to be so worn and commonplace andtechnical that many men turn away from it; but for all that, let me tryto stir up the consciousness of the deep necessity that it expresses.

What is it to be saved? Two things; to be healed and to be safe. Inboth aspects the expression is employed over and over again inScripture. It means either restoration from sickness or deliverancefrom peril. I venture to press upon every one of my hearers these twoconsiderations—we all need healing from sickness; we all need safetyfrom peril.

Dear brethren, most of you are entire strangers to me; I daresay manyof you never heard my voice before, and probably may never hear itagain. But yet, because 'we have all of us one human heart,' abrother-man comes to you as possessing with you one common experience,and ventures to say on the strength of his knowledge of himself, if onno other ground, 'We have all sinned and come short of the glory ofGod.'

Mind, I am not speaking about vices. I have no doubt you are aperfectly respectable man, in all the ordinary relations of life. I amnot speaking about crimes. I daresay there may be a man or two herethat has been in a dock in his day. Possibly. It does not matterwhether there is or not. But I am not speaking about either vices orcrimes; I am speaking about how we stand in reference to God. And Ipray you to bring yourselves—for no one can do it for you, and nowords of mine can do anything but stimulate you to the act—face toface with the absolute and dazzlingly pure righteousness of your Fatherin Heaven, and to feel the contrast between your life and what you knowHe desires you to be. Be honest with yourselves in asking and answeringthe question whether or not you have this sickness of sin, itsparalysis in regard to good or its fevered inclination to evil. Ifsalvation means being healed of a disease, we all have the disease; andwhether we wish it or no, we want the healing.

And what of the other meaning of the word? Salvation means being safe.Are you safe? Am I safe? Is anybody safe standing in front of thatawful law that rules the whole universe, 'Whatsoever a man soweth, thatshall he also reap'? I am not going to talk about any of the mootpoints which this generation has such a delight in discussing, as tothe nature, the duration, the purpose, or the like, of futureretribution. All that I am concerned in now is that all men, deep downin the bottom of their consciousness—and you and I amongst therest—know that there is such a thing as retribution here; and ifthere be a life beyond the grave at all, necessarily in an infinitelyintenser fashion there. Somewhere and somehow, men will have to lie onthe beds that they have made; to drink as they have brewed. If sinmeans separation from God, and separation from God means, as itassuredly does, death, then I ask you—and there is no need for anyexaggerated words about it—Are we not in danger? And if salvation be astate of deliverance from sickness, and a state of deliverance fromperil, do we not need it?

Ah, brethren, I venture to say that we need it more than anything else.You will not misunderstand me as expressing the slightest depreciationof other remedies that are being extensively offered now for thevarious evils under which society and individuals groan. I heartilysympathise with them all, and would do my part to help them forward;but I cannot but feel that whilst culture of the intellect, of thetaste, of the sense of beauty, of the refining agencies generally, isvery valuable; and whilst moral and social and economical and politicalchanges will all do something, and some of them a great deal, todiminish the sum of human misery, you have to go deeper down than thesereach. It is not culture that we want most; it is salvation. Brethren,you and I are wrong in our relation to God, and that means deathand—if you do not shrink from the vulgar old word—damnation. We arewrong in our relation to God, and that has to be set right before weare fundamentally and thoroughly right. That is to say, salvation isour deepest need.

Then how does it come that men go on, as so many of my friends here nowhave gone on, all their days paying no attention to that need? Is thereany folly, amidst all the irrationalities of that irrational creatureman, to be matched with the folly of steadily refusing to look forwardand settle for ourselves the prime element in our condition—viz., ourrelation to God? Strange is it not—that power that we have of refusingto look at the barometer when it is going down, of turning away fromunwholesome subjects just because we know them to be so unwelcome andthreatening, and of buying a moment's exemption from discomfort at theprice of a life's ruin?

Do you remember that old story of the way in which the prisoners in thetime of the French Revolution used to behave? The tumbrils came everymorning and carried off a file of them to the guillotine, and the restof them had a ghastly make-believe of carrying on the old frivolitiesof the life of the salons and of society. And it lasted for an houror two, but the tumbril came next morning all the same, and theguillotine stood there gaping in the Place. And so it is useless,although it is so frequently done by so many of us, to try to shut outfacts instead of facing them. A man is never so wise as when he says tohimself, 'Let me fairly know the whole truth of my relation to theunseen world in so far as it can be known here, and if that is wrong,let me set about rectifying it if it be possible.' 'What will ye do inthe end?' is the wisest question that a man can ask himself, when theend is as certain as it is with us, and as unsatisfactory as I amafraid it threatens to be with some of us if we continue as we are.

Have I not a right to appeal to the half-sleeping and half-wakingconsciousness that endorses my words in some hearts as I speak? Obrethren, you would be far wiser men if you did like this jailer in theMacedonian prison, came and gave yourselves no rest till you have thisquestion cleared up, 'What must I do to be saved?'

There was an old Rabbi who used to preach to his disciples, 'Repent theday before you die.' And when they said to him, 'Rabbi, we do not knowwhat day we are going to die.' 'Then,' said he, 'repent to-day.' And soI say to you, 'Settle about the end before the end comes, and as you donot know when it may come, settle about it now.'

II. That brings me to the next point here, viz., the blessed, clearanswer that we may all take.

Paul and Silas were not non-plussed by this question, nor did theyreply to it in the fashion in which many men would have answered it.Take a specimen of other answers. If anybody were so far left tohimself as to go with this question to some of our modern wise men andteachers, they would say, 'Saved? My good fellow, there is nothing tobe saved from. Get rid of delusions, and clear your mind of cant andsuperstition.' Or they would say, 'Saved? Well, if you have gone wrong,do the best you can in the time to come.' Or if you went to some of ourfriends they would say, 'Come and be baptized, and receive the grace ofregeneration in holy baptism; and then come to the sacraments, and befaithful and loyal members of the Church which has Apostolic successionin it.' And some would say, 'Set yourselves to work and toil andlabour.' And some would say, 'Don't trouble yourselves about suchwhims. A short life and a merry one; make the best of it, and jump thelife to come.' Neither cold morality, nor godless philosophy, nor wilddissipation, nor narrow ecclesiasticism prompted Paul's answer. Hesaid, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'

What did that poor heathen man know about the Lord Jesus Christ? Nextto nothing. How could he believe upon Him if he knew so little aboutHim? Well, you hear in the context that this summary answer to thequestion was the beginning, and not the end, of a conversation, whichconversation, no doubt, consisted largely in extending and explainingthe brief formulary with which it had commenced. But it is a grandthing that we can put the all-essential truth into half a dozen simplewords, and then expound and explain them as may be necessary. And Icome to you now, dear brethren, with nothing newer or more wonderful,or more out of the ordinary way than the old threadbare message whichmen have been preaching for nineteen hundred years, and have notexhausted, and which some of you have heard for a lifetime, and havenever practised, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.'

Now I am not going to weary you with mere dissertations upon thesignificance of these words. But let me single out two points aboutthem, which perhaps though they may be perfectly familiar to you, maycome to you with fresh force from my lips now.

Mark, first, whom it is that we are to believe on. 'The Lord,' thatis the divine Name; 'Jesus,' that is the name of a Man; 'Christ,'that is the name of an office. And if you put them all together, theycome to this, that He on whom we sinful men may put our sole trust andhope for our healing and our safety, is the Son of God, who came downupon earth to live our life and to die our death that He might bear onHimself our sins, and fulfil all which ancient prophecy and symbol hadproclaimed as needful, and therefore certain to be done, for men. It isnot a starved half-Saviour whose name is only Jesus, and neither Lordnor Christ, faith in whom will save you. You must grasp the wholerevelation of His nature and His power if from Him there is to flow thelife that you need.

And note what it is that we are to exercise towards Jesus Christ. To'believe on Him' is a very different thing from believing Him. Youmay accept all that I have been saying about who and what He is, and beas far away from the faith that saves a soul as if you had never hoardHis name. To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is to lean the wholeweight of yourselves upon Him. What do you do when you trust a man whopromises you any small gift or advantage? What do you do when dear onessay, 'Rest on my love'? You simply trust them. And the very sameexercise of heart and mind which is the blessed cement that holds humansociety together, and the power that sheds peace and grace overfriendships and love, is the power which, directed to Jesus Christ,brings all His saving might into exercise in our lives. Brethren, trustHim, trust Him as Lord, trust Him as Jesus, trust Him as Christ. Learnyour sickness, learn your danger; and be sure of your Healer andrejoice in your security. 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thoushalt be saved.'

III. Lastly, consider the blessing we may all receive. This jailerabout whom we have been speaking was a heathen when the sun set and aChristian when it rose. On the one day he was groping in darkness, aworshipper of idols, without hope in the future, and ready indesperation to plunge himself into the darkness beyond, when he thoughthis prisoners had fled. In an hour or two 'he rejoiced, believing inGod with all his house.'

A sudden conversion, you say, and sudden conversions are alwayssuspicious. I am not so sure about that; they may be, or they may notbe, according to circ*mstances. I know very well that it is notfashionable now to preach the possibility or the probability of menturning all at once from darkness to light, and that people shrug theirshoulders at the old theory of sudden conversions. I think, so much theworse. There are a great many things in this world that have to be donesuddenly if they are ever to be done at all. And I, for my part, wouldhave far more hope for a man who, in one leap, sprung from the depth ofthe degradation of that coarse jailer into the light and joy of theChristian life, than for a man who tried to get to it by slow steps.You have to do everything in this world worth doing by a suddenresolution, however long the preparation may have been which led up tothe resolution. The act of resolving is always the act of an instant.And when men are plunged in darkness and profligacy, as are, perhaps,some of my hearers now, there is far more chance of their casting offtheir evil by a sudden jerk than of their unwinding the snake by slowdegrees from their arms. There is no reason whatever why the soundestand solidest and most lasting transformation of character should notbegin in a moment's resolve.

And there is an immense danger that with some of you, if that changedoes not begin in a moment's resolve now, you will be further away fromit than ever you were. I have no doubt there are many of you who, atany time for years past, have known that you ought to be Christians,and who, at any time for years past, have been saying to yourselves:'Well, I will think about it, and I am tending towards it, but I cannotquite make the plunge.' Why not; and why not now? You can if you will;you ought; you will be a better and happier man if you do. You will besaved from your sickness and safe from your danger.

The outcast jailer changed nationalities in a moment. You who havedwelt in the suburbs of Christ's Kingdom all your lives—why cannot yougo inside the gate as quickly? For many of us the gradual 'growing upin the nurture and admonition of the Lord' has been the appointed way.For some of us I verily believe the sudden change is the best. Some ofus have a sunrise as in the tropics, where the one moment is grey andcold, and next moment the seas are lit with the glory. Others of ushave a sunrise as at the poles, where a long slowly-growing lightprecedes the rising, and the rising itself is scarce observable. But itmatters little as to how we get to Christ, if we are there, and itmatters little whether a man's faith grows up in a moment, or is theslow product of years. If only it be rooted in Christ it will bearfruit unto life eternal.

And so, dear brethren, I come to you with my last question, this manrejoiced, believing in the Lord; why should not you; and why should notyou now? 'Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.' Alook is a swift act, but if it be the beginning of a lifelong gaze, itwill be the beginning of salvation and of a glory longer than life.


'Now, when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they cameto Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2. And Paul, as hismanner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath-days reasoned withthem out of the scriptures, 3. Opening and alleging, that Christ mustneeds have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that thisJesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 4. And some of them believed,and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a greatmultitude, and of the chief women not a few. 5. But the Jews whichbelieved not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows ofthe baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on anuproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them outto the people, 6. And when they found them not, they drew Jason andcertain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that haveturned the world upside down are come hither also; 7. Whom Jason hathreceived; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, sayingthat there is another king, one Jesus. 8. And they troubled the peopleand the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9. And whenthey had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.10. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night untoBerea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11.These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they receivedthe word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily,whether those things were so. 12. Therefore many of them believed; alsoof honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.'—ACTSxvii. 1-12.

'Shamefully entreated at Philippi,' Paul tells the Thessalonians, he'waxed bold in our God to' preach to them. His experience in the formercity might well have daunted a feebler faith, but opposition affectedPaul as little as a passing hailstorm dints a rock. To change the fieldwas common sense; to abandon the work would have been sin. But Paul'sbrave persistence was not due to his own courage; he drew it from God.Because he lived in communion with Him, his courage 'waxed' as dangersgathered. He knew that he was doing a daring thing, but he knew who washis helper. So he went steadily on, whatever might front him. Histemper of mind and the source of it are wonderfully revealed in hissimple words.

The transference to Thessalonica illustrates another principle of hisaction; namely, his preference of great centres of population as fieldsof work. He passes through two less important places to establishhimself in the great city. It is wise to fly at the head. Conquer thecities, and the villages will fall of themselves. That was the policywhich carried Christianity through the empire like a prairie fire.Would that later missions had adhered to it!

The methods adopted in Thessalonica were the usual ones. Luke bids usnotice that Paul took the same course of action in each place: namely,to go to the synagogue first, when there was one, and there to provethat Jesus was the Christ. The three Macedonian towns already mentionedseem not to have had synagogues. Probably there were comparatively fewJews in them, and these were ecclesiastically dependent onThessalonica. We can fancy the growing excitement in the synagogue, asfor three successive Sabbaths the stranger urged his proofs of the twoall-important but most unwelcome assertions, that their own scripturesforetold a suffering Messiah,—a side of Messianic prophecy which wasignored or passionately denied—and that Jesus was that Messiah. Many avehement protest would be shrieked out, with flashing eyes and abundantgesticulation, as he 'opened' the sense of Scripture, and 'quotedpassages'—for that is the meaning here of the word rendered'alleging.' He gives us a glimpse of the hot discussions when he saysthat he preached 'in much conflict'(1 Thess. ii. 2).

With whatever differences in manner of presentation, the true messageof the Christian teacher is still the message that woke such oppositionin the synagogue of Thessalonica,—the bold proclamation of thepersonal Christ, His death and resurrection. And with whateverdifferences, the instrument of conviction is still the Scriptures, 'thesword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.' The more closely wekeep ourselves to that message and that weapon the better.

The effects of the faithful preaching of the gospel are as uniform asthe method. It does one of two things to its hearers—either it meltstheir hearts and leads them to faith, or it stirs them to more violentenmity. It is either a stone of stumbling or a sure corner-stone. Weeither build on or fall over it, and at last are crushed by it. Theconverts included Jews and proselytes in larger numbers, as may begathered from the distinction drawn by 'some'—referring to the former,and 'a great multitude'—referring to the latter. Besides these therewere a good many ladies of rank and refinement, as was also the casepresently at Beroea. Probably these, too, were proselytes.

The prominence of women among the converts, as soon as the gospel isbrought into Europe, is interesting and prophetic. The fact of thesocial position of these ladies may suggest that the upper classes werefreer from superstition than the lower, and may point a not favourablecontrast with present social conditions, which do not result in asimilar accession of women of 'honourable estate' to the Church.

Opposition follows as uniform a course as the preaching. The broadoutlines are the same in each case, while the local colouring varies.If we compare Paul's narrative in I Thessalonians, which throbs withemotion, and, as it were, pants with the stress of the conflict, withLuke's calm account here, we see not only how Paul felt, but why theJews got up a riot. Luke says that they 'became jealous.' Paul expandsthat into 'they are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to theGentiles that they may be saved.' Then it was not so much dislike tothe preaching of Jesus as Messiah as it was rage that their Jewishprerogative was infringed, and the children's bread offered to thedogs, that stung them to violent opposition. Israel had been chosen,that it might be God's witness, and diffuse the treasure it possessedthrough all the world. It had become, not the dispenser, but thewould-be monopolist, of its gift. Have there been no Christiancommunities in later days animated by the same spirit?

There were plenty of loafers in the market-place ready for anymischief, and by no means particular about the pretext for a riot.Anything that would give an opportunity for hurting somebody, and forloot, would attract them as corruption does flesh-flies. So the Jewishringleaders easily got a crowd together. To tell their real reasonswould scarcely have done, but to say that there was a house to beattacked, and some foreigners to be dragged out, was enough for thepresent. Jason's house was probably Paul's temporary home, where, as hetells us in 1 Thessalonians ii. 9, he had worked at his trade, that hemight not be burdensome to any. Possibly he and Silas had been warnedof the approach of the rioters and had got away elsewhere. At allevents, the nest was empty, but the crowd must have its victims, andso, failing Paul, they laid hold of Jason. His offence was a veryshadowy one. But since his day there have been many martyrs, whose onlycrime was 'harbouring' Christians, or heretics, or recusant priests, orCovenanters. If a bull cannot gore a man, it will toss his cloak.

The charge against Jason is that he receives the Apostle and his party,and constructively favours their designs. The charge against them isthat they are revolutionists, rebels against the Emperor, and partisansof a rival. Now we may note three things about the charge. First, itcomes with a very distinct taint of insincerity from Jews, who were, tosay the least, not remarkable for loyalty or peaceful obedience. TheGracchi are complaining of sedition! A Jew zealous for Caeesar is ananomaly, which might excite the suspicions of the least suspiciousruler. The charge of breaking the peace comes with remarkableappropriateness from the leaders of a riot. They were the troublers ofthe city, not Paul, peacefully preaching in the synagogue. The wolfscolds the lamb for fouling the river.

Again, the charges are a violent distortion of the truth. Possibly theJewish ringleaders believed what they said, but more probably theyconsciously twisted Paul's teachings, because they knew that no othercharges would excite so much hostility or be so damning as those whichthey made. The mere suggestion of treason was often fatal. The wildexaggeration that the Christians had 'turned the whole civilised worldupside down' betrays passionate hatred and alarm, if it was genuine, orcrafty determination to rouse the mob, if it was consciously trumpedup. But whether the charges were believed or not by those who madethem, here were Jews disclaiming their nation's dearest hope, and, likethe yelling crowd at the Crucifixion, declaring they had no king butCaesar. The degradation of Israel was completed by these fanaticalupholders of its prerogatives.

But, again, the charges were true in a far other sense than theirbringers meant. For Christianity is revolutionary, and its very aim isto turn the world upside down, since the wrong side is uppermost atpresent, and Jesus, not Caesar, or any king or emperor or czar, is thetrue Lord and ruler of men. But the revolution which He makes is therevolution of individuals, turning them from darkness to light; for Hemoulds single souls first and society afterwards. Violence is always amistake, and the only way to change evil customs is to change men'snatures, and then the customs drop away of themselves. The true rulebegins with the sway of hearts; then wills are submissive, and conductis the expression of inward delight in a law which is sweet because thelawgiver is dear.

Missing Paul, the mob fell on Jason and the brethren. They were 'boundover to keep the peace.' Evidently the rulers had little fear of thesealleged desperate revolutionaries, and did as little as they dared,without incurring the reproach of being tepid in their loyalty.

Probably the removal of Paul and his travelling companions from theneighbourhood was included in the terms to which Jason had to submit.Their hurried departure does not seem to have been caused by a renewalof disturbances. At all events, their Beroean experience repeated thatof Philippi and of Thessalonica, with one great and welcome difference.The Beroean Jews did exactly what their compatriots elsewhere would notdo—they looked into the subject with their own eyes, and tested Paul'sassertions by Scripture. 'Therefore,' says Luke, with grand confidencein the impregnable foundations of the faith, 'many of them believed.'True nobility of soul consists in willingness to receive the Word,combined with diligent testing of it. Christ asks for no blindadhesion. The true Christian teacher wishes for no renunciation, on thepart of his hearers, of their own judgments. 'Open your mouth and shutyour eyes, and swallow what I give you,' is not the language ofChristianity, though it has sometimes been the demand of its professedmissionaries, and not the teacher only, but the taught also, have beenbut too ready to exercise blind credulity instead of intelligentexamination and clear-eyed faith. If professing Christians to-day werebetter acquainted with the Scriptures, and more in the habit ofbringing every new doctrine to them as its touchstone, there would beless currency of errors and firmer grip of truth.


'Then Paul stood In the midst of Mars-hill, and said, Ye men of Athens,I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23. For as Ipassed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with thisinscription, To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship,him declare I unto you. 24. God, that made the world, and all thingstherein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not intemples made with hands; 25. Neither is worshipped with men's hands, asthough He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath,and all things; 26. And hath made of one blood all nations of men forto dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the timesbefore appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27. That theyshould seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him,though He be not far from every one of us: 28. For in Him we live, andmove, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said,For we are also His offspring. 29. Forasmuch then as we are theoffspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like untogold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. 30. And thetimes of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: 31. Because he hath appointed a day, in the which Hewill judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hathordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hathraised Him from the dead. 32. And when they heard of the resurrectionof the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again ofthis matter. 33. So Paul departed from among them. 34. Howbeit certainmen clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius theAreopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.'—ACTSxvii. 22-34.

'I am become all things to all men,' said Paul, and his address atAthens strikingly exemplifies that principle of his action. Contrast itwith his speech in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch, which appealsentirely to the Old Testament, and is saturated with Jewish ideas, orwith the remonstrance to the rude Lycaonian peasants (Acts xiv. 15,etc.), which, while handling some of the same thoughts as at Athens,does so in a remarkably different manner. There he appealed to God'sgifts of 'rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,' the things mostclose to his hearers' experience; here, speaking to educated'philosophers,' he quotes Greek poetry, and sets forth a reasoneddeclaration of the nature of the Godhead and the relations of aphilosophy of history and an argument against idolatry. The glories ofGreek art were around him; the statues of Pallas Athene and many morefair creations looked down on the little Jew who dared to proclaimtheir nullity as representations of the Godhead.

Paul's flexibility of mind and power of adapting himself to everycirc*mstance were never more strikingly shown than in that greataddress to the quick-witted Athenians. It falls into three parts: theconciliatory prelude (vers. 22, 23); the declaration of the Unknown God(vers. 24-29); and the proclamation of the God-ordained Man (vers. 30,31).

I. We have, first, the conciliatory prelude. It is always a mistake forthe apostle of a new truth to begin by running a tilt at old errors. Itis common sense to seek to find some point in the present beliefs ofhis hearers to which his message may attach itself. An orator whoflatters for the sake of securing favour for himself is despicable; amissionary who recognises the truth which lies under the system whichhe seeks to overthrow, is wise.

It is incredible that Paul should have begun his speech to so criticalan audience by charging them with excessive superstition, as theAuthorised Version makes him do. Nor does the modified translation ofthe Revised Version seem to be precisely what is meant. Paul is notblaming the Athenians, but recording a fact which he had noticed, andfrom which he desired to start. Ramsay's translation gives the truernotion of his meaning—'more than others respectful of what is divine.''Superstition' necessarily conveys a sense of blame, but the word inthe original does not.

We can see Paul as a stranger wandering through the city, and notingwith keen eyes every token of the all-pervading idolatry. He does nottell his hearers that his spirit burned within him when he saw the cityfull of idols; but he smothers all that, and speaks only of theinscription which he had noticed on one, probably obscure andforgotten, altar: 'To the Unknown God.' Scholars have given themselvesa great deal of trouble to show from other authors that there were suchaltars. But Paul is as good an 'authority' as these, and we may takehis word that he did see such an inscription. Whether it had the fullsignificance which he reads into it or not, it crystallised in anexpress avowal that sense of Something behind and above the 'gods many'of Greek religion, which found expression in the words of their noblestthinkers and poets, and lay like a nightmare on them.

To charge an Athenian audience, proud of their knowledge, withignorance, was a hazardous and audacious undertaking; to make themcharge themselves was more than an oratorical device. It appealed tothe deepest consciousness even of the popular mind. Even with thisprelude, the claims of this wandering Jew to pose as the instructor ofEpicureans and Stoics, and to possess a knowledge of the Divine whichthey lacked, were daring. But how calmly and confidently Paul makesthem, and with what easy and conciliatory adoption of their ownterminology, if we adopt the reading of verse 23 in Revised Version('What ye worship … this,' etc.), which puts forward the abstractconception of divinity rather than the personal God.

The spirit in which Paul approached his difficult audience teaches allChristian missionaries and controversialists a needed and neglectedlesson. We should accentuate points of resemblance rather than ofdifference, to begin with. We should not run a tilt against evenerrors, and so provoke to their defence, but rather find in creeds andpractices an ignorant groping after, and so a door of entrance for, thetruth which we seek to recommend.

II. The declaration of the Unknown God has been prepared for, and nowfollows, and with it is bound up a polemic against idolatry.Conciliation is not to be carried so far as to hide the antagonismbetween the truth and error. We may give non-Christian systems ofreligion credit for all the good in them, but we are not to blink theircontrariety to the true religion. Conciliation and controversy are bothneedful; and he is the best Christian teacher who has mastered thesecret of the due proportion between them.

Every word of Paul's proclamation strikes full and square at somecounter belief of his hearers. He begins with creation, which hedeclares to have been the act of one personal God, and neither of amultitude of deities, as some of his hearers held, nor of an impersonalblind power, as others believed, nor the result of chance, nor eternal,as others maintained. He boldly proclaims there, below the shadow ofthe Parthenon, that there is but one God,—the universal Lord, becausethe universal Creator. Many consequences from that fact, no doubt,crowded into Paul's mind; but he swiftly turns to its bearing on thepomp of temples which were the glory of Athens, and the multitude ofsacrifices which he had beheld on their altars. The true conception ofGod as the Creator and Lord of all things cuts up by the roots thepagan notions of temples as dwelling-places of a god and of sacrificesas ministering to his needs. With one crushing blow Paul pulverises thefair fanes around him, and declares that sacrifice, as practised there,contradicted the plain truth as to God's nature. To suppose that mancan give anything to Him, or that He needs anything, is absurd. Allheathen worship reverses the parts of God and man, and loses sight ofthe fact that He is the giver continually and of everything. Life inits origination, the continuance thereof (breath), and all whichenriches it, are from Him. Then true worship will not be giving to, butthankfully accepting from and using for, Him, His manifold gifts.

So Paul declares the one God as Creator and Sustainer of all. He goeson to sketch in broad outline what we may call a philosophy of history.The declaration of the unity of mankind was a wholly strange message toproud Athenians, who believed themselves to be a race apart, not onlyfrom the 'barbarians,' whom all Greeks regarded as made of other claythan they, but from the rest of the Greek world. It flatly contradictedone of their most cherished prerogatives. Not only does Paul claim oneorigin for all men, but he regards all nations as equally cared for bythe one God. His hearers believed that each people had its own patrondeities, and that the wars of nations were the wars of their gods, whowon for them territory, and presided over their national fortunes. Toall that way of thinking the Apostle opposes the conception, whichnaturally follows from his fundamental declaration of the one Creator,of His providential guidance of all nations in regard to their place inthe world and the epochs of their history.

But he rises still higher when he declares the divine purpose in allthe tangled web of history—the variety of conditions of nations, theirrise and fall, their glory and decay, their planting in their lands andtheir rooting out,—to be to lead all men to 'seek God.' That is thedeepest meaning of history. The whole course of human affairs is God'sdrawing men to Himself. Not only in Judea, nor only by specialrevelation, but by the gifts bestowed, and the schooling brought tobear on every nation, He would stir men up to seek for Him.

But that great purpose has not been realised. There is a tragic 'ifhaply' inevitable; and men may refuse to yield to the impulses towardsGod. They are the more likely to do so, inasmuch as to find Him theymust 'feel after Him,' and that is hard. The tendrils of a plant turnto the far-off light, but men's spirits do not thus grope after God.Something has come in the way which frustrates the divine purpose, andmakes men blind and unwilling to seek Him.

Paul docs not at once draw the two plain inferences, that there must besomething more than the nations have had, if they are to find God, evenHis seeking them in some new fashion; and that the power whichneutralises God's design in creation and providence is sin. He has aword to say about both these, but for the moment he contents himselfwith pointing to the fact, attested by his hearers' consciousness, andby many a saying of thinkers and poets, that the failure to find Goddoes not arise from His hiding Himself in some remote obscurity. Menare plunged, as it were, in the ocean of God, encompassed by Him as anatmosphere, and—highest thought of all, and not strange to Greekthought of the nobler sort—kindred with Him as both drawing life fromHim and being in His image. Whence, then, but from their own fault,could men have failed to find God? If He is 'unknown,' it is notbecause He has shrouded Himself in darkness, but because they do notlove the light. One swift glance at the folly of idolatry, asdemonstrated by this thought of man's being the offspring of God, leadsnaturally to the properly Christian conclusion of the address.

III. It is probable that this part of it was prematurely ended by themockery of some and the impatience of others, who had had enough ofPaul and his talk, and who, when they said, 'We will hear thee again,'meant, 'We will not hear you now.' But, even in the compass permittedhim, he gives much of his message.

We can but briefly note the course of thought. He comes back to hisformer word 'ignorance,' bitter pill as it was for the Atheniancultured class to swallow. He has shown them how their religion ignoresor contradicts the true conceptions of God and man. But he no soonerbrings the charge than he proclaims God's forbearance. And he no soonerproclaims God's forbearance than he rises to the full height of hismission as God's ambassador, and speaks in authoritative tones, asbearing His 'commands.'

Now the hint in the previous part is made more plain. The demand forrepentance implies sin. Then the 'ignorance' was not inevitable orinnocent. There was an element of guilt in men's not feeling after God,and sin is universal, for 'all men everywhere' are summoned to repent.Philosophers and artists, and cultivated triflers, and sincereworshippers of Pallas and Zeus, and all 'barbarian' people, are alikehere. That would grate on Athenian pride, as it grates now on ours. Thereason for repentance would be as strange to the hearers as the commandwas—a universal judgment, of which the principle was to be rigidrighteousness, and the Judge, not Minos or Rhadamanthus, but 'a Man'ordained for that function.

What raving nonsense that would appear to men who had largely lost thebelief in a life beyond the grave! The universal Judge a man! No wonderthat the quick Athenian sense of the ridiculous began to rise againstthis Jew fanatic, bringing his dreams among cultured people like them!And the proof which he alleged as evidence to all men that it is so,would sound even more ridiculous than the assertion meant to be proved.'A man has been raised from the dead; and this anonymous Man, whomnobody ever heard of before, and who is no doubt one of the speaker'scountrymen, is to judge us, Stoics, Epicureans, polished people, and weare to be herded to His bar in company with Boeotians and barbarians!The man is mad.'

So the assembly broke up in inextinguishable laughter, and Paulsilently 'departed from among them,' having never named the name ofJesus to them. He never more earnestly tried to adapt his teaching tohis audience; he never was more unsuccessful in his attempt by allmeans to gain some. Was it a remembrance of that scene in Athens thatmade him write to the Corinthians that his message was 'to the Greeksfoolishness'?


'…He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hathordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hathraised Him from the dead.'—ACTS xvii. 31.

I. The Resurrection of Jesus gives assurance of judgment.

(a) Christ's Resurrection is the pledge of ours.

The belief in a future life, as entertained by Paul's hearers on MarsHill, was shadowy and dashed with much unbelief. Disembodied spiritswandered ghostlike and spectral in a shadowy underworld.

The belief in the Resurrection of Jesus converts the Greek peradventureinto a fact. It gives that belief solidity and makes it easier to graspfirmly. Unless the thought of a future life is completed by the beliefthat it is a corporeal life, it will never have definiteness andreality enough to sustain itself as a counterpoise to the weight ofthings seen.

(b) Resurrection implies judgment.

A future bodily life affirms individual identity as persisting beyondthe accident of death, and can only be conceived of as a state in whichthe earthly life is fully developed in its individual results. Thedead, who are raised, are raised that they may 'receive the things donein the body, according to that they have done, whether it be good orbad.' Historically, the two thoughts have always gone together; and ashas been the clearness with which a resurrection has been held ascertain, so has been the force with which the anticipation of judgmentto come has impinged on conscience.

Jesus is, even in this respect, our Example, for the glory to which Hewas raised and in which He reigns now is the issue of His earthly life;and in His Resurrection and Ascension we have the historical fact whichcertifies to all men that a life of self-sacrifice here will assuredlyflower into a life of glory there, 'Ours the Cross, the grave, theskies.'

II. The Resurrection of Jesus gives the assurance that He is Judge.

The bare fact that He is risen does not carry that assurance; we haveto take into account that He has risen.

After such a life.

His Resurrection was God's setting the seal of His approval andacceptance on Christ's work; His endorsem*nt of Christ's claims tospecial relations with Him; His affirmation of Christ's sinlessness.Jesus had declared that He did always the things that pleased theFather; had claimed to be the pure and perfect realisation of thedivine ideal of manhood; had presented Himself as the legitimate objectof utter devotion and of religious trust, love, and obedience, and asthe only way to God. Men said that He was a blasphemer; God said, andsaid most emphatically, by raising Him from the dead: 'This is Mybeloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'

With such a sequel.

'Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more,' and that fact setsHim apart from others who, according to Scripture, have been raised.His resurrection is, if we may use such a figure, a point; HisAscension and Session at the right hand of God are the line into whichthe point is prolonged. And from both the point and the line come theassurance that He is the Judge.

III. The risen Jesus is Judge because He is Man.

That seems a paradox. It is a commonplace that we are incompetent tojudge another, for human eyes cannot read the secrets of a human heart,and we can only surmise, not know, each other's motives, which are theall-important part of our deeds. But when we rightly understandChrist's human nature, we understand how fitted He is to be our Judge,and how blessed it is to think of Him as such. Paul tells the Athenianswith deep significance that He who is to be their and the world's Judgeis 'the Man.' He sums up human nature in Himself, He is the ideal andthe real Man.

And further, Paul tells his hearers that God judges 'through' Him, anddoes so 'in righteousness.' He is fitted to be our Judge, because Heperfectly and completely bears our nature, knows by experience all itsweaknesses and windings, as from the inside, so to speak, and is'wondrous kind' with the kindness which 'fellow-feeling' enkindles. Heknows us with the knowledge of a God; He knows us with the sympathy ofa brother.

The Man who has died for all men thereby becomes the Judge of all. Evenin this life, Jesus and His Cross judge us. Our disposition towards Himis the test of our whole character. By their attitude to Him, thethoughts of many hearts are revealed. 'What think ye of Christ?' is thequestion, the answer to which determines our fate, because it revealsour inmost selves and their capacities for receiving blessing or harmfrom God and His mercy. Jesus Himself has taught us that 'in that day'the condition of entrance into the Kingdom is 'doing the will of MyFather which is in heaven.' He has also taught us that 'this is thework of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.' Faith in Jesusas our Saviour is the root from which will grow the good tree whichwill bring forth good fruit, bearing which our love will be 'madeperfect, that we may have boldness before Him in the day of judgment.'


'After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 2.And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come fromItaly, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commandedall Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 3. And because hewas of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by theiroccupation they were tent-makers. 4. And he reasoned in the synagogueevery sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. 5. And when Silasand Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit,and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. 6. And when theyopposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said untothem, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth Iwill go unto the Gentiles. 7. And he departed thence, and entered intoa certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whosehouse joined hard to the synagogue. 8. And Crispus, the chief ruler ofthe synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of theCorinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. 9. Then spake the Lordto Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and holdnot thy peace: 10. For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee tohurt thee: for I have much people in this city. 11. And he continuedthere a year and six months, teaching the word of God amongthem.'—ACTS xviii. 1-11.

Solitude is a hard trial for sensitive natures, and tends to weakentheir power of work. Paul was entirely alone in Athens, and appears tohave cut his stay there short, since his two companions, who were tohave joined him in that city, did not do so till after he had been sometime in Corinth. His long stay there has several well-marked stages,which yield valuable lessons.

I. First, we note the solitary Apostle, seeking friends, toiling forbread, and withal preaching Christ. Corinth was a centre of commerce,of wealth, and of moral corruption. The celebrated local worship ofAphrodite fed the corruption as well as the wealth. The Apostle metthere with a new phase of Greek life, no less formidable in antagonismto the Gospel than the culture of Athens. He tells us that he enteredon his work in Corinth 'in weakness, and in fear, and in muchtrembling,' but also that he did not try to attract by adaptation ofhis words to the prevailing tastes either of Greek or Jew, but preached'Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,' knowing that, while that appeared togo right in the teeth of the demands of both, it really met theirwants. This ministry was begun, in his usual fashion, veryunobtrusively and quietly. His first care was to find a home; hissecond, to provide his daily bread; and then he was free to take theSabbath for Christian work in the synagogue.

We cannot tell whether he had had any previous acquaintance with Aquilaand his wife, nor indeed is it certain that they had previously beenChristians. Paul's reason for living with them was simply theconvenience of getting work at his trade, and it seems probable that,if they had been disciples, that fact would have been named as part ofhis reason. Pontus lay to the north of Cilicia, and though widelyseparated from it, was near enough to make a kind of bond as offellow-countrymen, which would be the stronger because they had thesame craft at their finger-ends.

It was the wholesome practice for every Rabbi to learn some trade. Ifall graduates had to do the same now there would be fewer educatedidlers, who are dangerous to society and burdens to themselves andtheir friends. What a curl of contempt would have lifted the lips ofthe rich men of Corinth if they had been told that the greatest man intheir city was that little Jew tent-maker, and that in thisunostentatious fashion he had begun to preach truths which would belike a charge of dynamite to all their social and religious order! Truezeal can be patiently silent.

Sewing rough goat's-hair cloth into tents may be as truly servingChrist as preaching His name. All manner of work that contributes tothe same end is the same in worth and in recompense. Perhaps thewholesomest form of Christian ministry is that after the Apostolicpattern, when the teacher can say, as Paul did to the people ofCorinth, 'When I was present with you and was in want, I was not aburden on any man.' If not in letter, at any rate in spirit, hisexample must be followed. If the preacher would win souls he must befree from any taint of suspicion as to money.

II. The second stage in Paul's Corinthian residence is the increasedactivity when his friends, Silas and Timothy, came from Beroea. Welearn from Philippians iv. 15, and 2 Corinthians xi. 9, that theybrought gifts from the Church at Philippi; and from 1 Thessaloniansiii. 6, that they brought something still more gladdening namely, goodaccounts of the steadfastness of the Thessalonian converts. The moneywould make it less necessary to spend most of the week in manuallabour; the glad tidings of the Thessalonians' 'faith and love' didbring fresh life, and the presence of his helpers would cheer him. So aperiod of enlarged activity followed their coming.

The reading of verse 5, 'Paul was constrained by the word,' brings outstrikingly the Christian impulse which makes speech of the Gospel anecessity. The force of that impulse may vary, as it did with Paul; butif we have any deep possession of the grace of God for ourselves, weshall, like him, feel it pressing us for utterance, as soon as the needof providing daily bread becomes less stringent and our hearts aregladdened by Christian communion. It augurs ill for a man's hold of theword if the word does not hold him. He who never felt that he was wearyof forbearing, and that the word was like a fire, if it was 'shut up inhis bones,' has need to ask himself if he has any belief in the Gospel.The craving to impart ever accompanies real possession.

The Apostle's solemn symbolism, announcing his cessation of effortsamong the Jews, has of course reference only to Corinth, for we findhim in his subsequent ministry adhering to his method, 'to the Jewfirst.' It is a great part of Christian wisdom in evangelical work torecognise the right time to give up efforts which have been fruitless.Much strength is wasted, and many hearts depressed, by obstinatecontinuance in such methods or on such fields as have cost much effortand yielded no fruit. We often call it faith, when it is only pride,which prevents the acknowledgment of failure. Better to learn thelessons taught by Providence, and to try a new 'claim,' than to keep ondigging and washing when we only find sand and mud. God teaches us byfailures as well as by successes. Let us not be too conceited to learnthe lesson or to confess defeat, and shift our ground accordingly.

It is a solemn thing to say 'I am clean.' We need to have been verydiligent, very loving, very prayerful to God, and very persuasive inpleading with men, before we dare to roll all the blame of theircondemnation on themselves. But we have no right to say, 'Henceforth Igo to' others, until we can say that we have done all that man—or, atany rate, that we—can do to avert the doom.

Paul did not go so far away but that any whose hearts God had touchedcould easily find him. It was with a lingering eye to his countrymenthat he took up his abode in the house of 'one that feared God,' thatis, a proselyte; and that he settled down next door to the synagogue.What a glimpse of yearning love which cannot bear to give Israel up ashopeless, that simple detail gives us! And may we not say that theyearning of the servant is caught from the example of the Master? 'Howshall I give thee up, Ephraim?' Does not Christ, in His long-sufferinglove, linger in like manner round each closed heart? and if Hewithdraws a little way, does He not do so rather to stimulate searchafter Him, and tarry near enough to be found by every seeking heart?

Paul's purpose in his solemn warning to the Jews of Corinth was partlyaccomplished. The ruler of the synagogue 'believed in the Lord with allhis house.' Thus men are sometimes brought to decision for Christ bythe apparently impending possibility of His Gospel leaving them tothemselves. 'Blessings brighten as they take their flight.' Severitysometimes effects what forbearance fails to achieve. If the train is onthe point of starting, the hesitating passenger will swiftly make uphis mind and rush for a seat. It is permissible to press for immediatedecision on the ground that the time is short, and that soon thesethings 'will be hid from the eyes.'

We learn from 1 Corinthians i. 14, that Paul deviated from his usualpractice, and himself baptized Crispus. We may be very sure that hisdoing so arose from no unworthy subserviency to an important convert,but indicated how deeply grateful he was to the Lord for giving him, asa seal to a ministry which had seemed barren, so encouraging a token.The opposition and blasphemy of many are outweighed, to a trueevangelist, by the conversion of one; and while all souls are in oneaspect equally valuable, they are unequal in the influence which theymay exert on others. So it was with Crispus, for 'many of theCorinthians hearing' of such a signal fact as the conversion of thechief of the synagogue, likewise 'believed.' We may distinguish in ourestimate of the value of converts, without being untrue to the greatprinciple that all men are equally precious in Christ's eyes.

III. The next stage is the vision to Paul and his consequent protractedresidence in Corinth. God does not waste visions, nor bid men put awayfears which are not haunting them. This vision enables us to conceivePaul's state of mind when it came to him. He was for some reason castdown. He had not been so when things looked much more hopeless. Butthough now he had his friends and many converts, some mood of sadnesscrept over him. Men like him are often swayed by impulses risingwithin, and quite apart from outward circ*mstances. Possibly he hadreason to apprehend that his very success had sharpened hostility, andto anticipate danger to life. The contents of the vision make this notimprobable.

But the mere calming of fear, worthy object as it is, is by no meansthe main part of the message of the vision. 'Speak, and hold not thypeace,' is its central word. Fear which makes a Christian dumb isalways cowardly, and always exaggerated. Speech which comes fromtrembling lips may be very powerful, and there is no better remedy forterror than work for Christ. If we screw ourselves up to do what wefear to do, the dread vanishes, as a bather recovers himself as soon ashis head has once been under water.

Why was Paul not to be afraid? It is easy to say, 'Fear not,' butunless the exhortation is accompanied with some good reason shown, itis wasted breath. Paul got a truth put into his heart which ends allfear—'For I am with thee.' Surely that is enough to exorcise alldemons of cowardice or despondency, and it is the assurance that allChrist's servants may lay up in their hearts, for use at all momentsand in all moods. His presence, in no metaphor, but in deepest inmostreality, is theirs, and whether their fears come from without orwithin, His presence is more than enough to make them brave and strong.

Paul needed a vision, for Paul had never seen Christ 'after the flesh,'nor heard His parting promise. We do not need it, for we have theunalterable word, which He left with all His disciples when Heascended, and which remains true to the ends of the world and till theworld ends.

The consequence of Christ's presence is not exemption from attacks, butpreservation in them. Men may 'set on' Paul, but they cannot 'hurt'him. The promise was literally fulfilled when the would-be accuserswere contemptuously sent away by Gallio, the embodiment of Romaneven-handedness and despising of the deepest things. It is fulfilled noless truly to-day; for no hurt can come to us if Christ is with us, andwhatever does come is not hurt.

'I have much people in this city.' Jesus saw what Paul did not, thesouls yet to be won for Him. That loving Eye gladly beholds His ownsheep, though they may be yet in danger of the wolves, and far from theShepherd. 'Them also He must bring'; and His servants are wise if, inall their labours, they cherish the courage that comes from theconsciousness of His presence, and the unquenchable hope, which sees inthe most degraded and alienated those whom the Good Shepherd will yetfind in the wilderness and bear back to the fold. Such a hope willquicken them for all service, and such a vision will embolden them inall peril.


'And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul waspressed in the spirit, and testified.'—ACTS xviii. 5.

The Revised Version, in concurrence with most recent authorities,reads, instead of 'pressed in the spirit,' 'constrained by the word.'One of these alterations depends on a diversity of reading, the otheron a difference of translation. The one introduces a significantdifference of meaning; the other is rather a change of expression. Theword rendered here 'pressed,' and by the Revised Version 'constrained,'is employed in its literal use in 'Master, the multitude throng Theeand press Thee,' and in its metaphorical application in 'The love ofChrist constraineth us.' There is not much difference between'constrained' and 'pressed,' but there is a large difference between'in the spirit' and 'by the word.' 'Pressed in the spirit' simplydescribes a state of feeling or mind; 'constrained by the word'declares the force which brought about that condition of pressure orconstraint. What then does 'constrained by the word' refer to? Itindicates that Paul's message had a grip of him, and held him hard, andforced him to deliver it.

One more preliminary remark is that our text evidently brings thisstate of mind of the Apostle, and the coming of his two friends Silasand Timothy, into relation as cause and effect. He had been alone inCorinth. His work of late had not been encouraging. He had beencomparatively silent there, and had spent most of his time intent-making. But when his two friends came a cloud was lifted off hisspirit, and he sprang back again, as it were, to his old form and tohis old work.

Now if we take that point of view with regard to the passage before us,I think we shall find that it yields valuable lessons, some of which Iwish to try to enforce now.

I. Let me ask you to look with me at the downcast Apostle.

'Downcast,' you say; 'is not that an unworthy word to use about aminister of Jesus Christ inspired as Paul was?' By no means. We shallvery much mistake both the nature of inspiration and the character ofthis inspired Apostle, if we do not recognise that he was a man of manymoods and tremulously susceptible to external influences. Such musicwould never have come from him if his soul had not been like an Aeolianharp, hung in a tree and vibrating in response to every breeze. And sowe need not hesitate to speak of the Apostle's mood, as revealed to usin the passage before us, as being downcast.

Now notice that in the verses preceding my text his conduct isextremely abnormal and unlike his usual procedure. He goes intoCorinth, and he does next to nothing in evangelistic work. He repairsto the synagogue once a week, and talks to the Jews there. But that isall. The notice of his reasoning in the synagogue is quite subordinateto the notice that he was occupied in finding a lodging with anotherpauper Jew and stranger in the great city, and that these two poor menwent into a kind of partnership, and tried to earn a living by hardwork. Such procedure makes a singular contrast to Paul's usual methodsin a strange city.

Now the reason for that slackening of impulse and comparative cessationof activity is not far to seek. The first Epistle to Thessalonica waswritten immediately after these two brethren rejoined Paul. And howdoes the Apostle describe in that letter his feelings before they came?He speaks of 'all our distress and affliction.' He tells that he wastortured by anxiety as to how the new converts in Thessalonica weregetting on, and could not forbear to try to find out whether they werestill standing steadfast. Again in the first Epistle to theCorinthians, you will find that there, looking back to this period, hedescribes his feelings in similar fashion and says: 'I was with you inweakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.' And if you look forwarda verse or two in our chapter you will see that a vision came to Paul,which presupposes that some touch of fear, and some temptation tosilence, were busy in his heart. For God shapes His communicationsaccording to our need, and would not have said, 'Do not be afraid, andhold not thy peace, but speak,' unless there had been a danger both ofPaul's being frightened and of his being dumb.

And what thus brought a cloud over his sky? A little exercise ofhistorical imagination will very sufficiently answer that. A few weeksbefore, in obedience, as he believed, to a direct divine command, Paulhad made a plunge, and ventured upon an altogether new phase of work.He had crossed into Europe, and from the moment that he landed at theharbour of Philippi, up to the time when he took refuge in some quietlittle room in Corinth, he had had nothing but trouble and danger anddisappointment. The prison at Philippi, the riots that hounded him outof Thessalonica, the stealthy, hurried escape from Beroea, the almostentire failure of his first attempt to preach the Gospel to Greeks inAthens, his loneliness, and the strangeness of his surroundings in theluxurious, wicked, wealthy Greek city of Corinth—all these thingsweighed on him, and there is no wonder that his spirits went down, andhe felt that now he must lie fallow for a time and rest, and pullhimself together again.

So here we have, in this great champion of the faith, in this strongrunner of the Christian race, in this chief of men, an example of thefluctuation of mood, the variation in the way in which we look at ourduties and our obligations and our difficulties, the slackening of theimpulse which dominates our lives, that are too familiar to us all. Itbrings Paul nearer us to feel that he, too, knew these ups and downs.The force that drove this meteor through the darkness varied, as theforce that impels us varies to our consciousness. It is the prerogativeof God to be immutable; men have their moods and their fluctuations.Kindled lights flicker; the sun burns steadily. An Elijah to-day beardsAhab and Jezebel and all their priests, and to-morrow hides his head inhis hands, and says, 'Take me away, I am not better than my fathers.'There will be ups and down in the Christian vigour of our lives, aswell as in all other regions, so long as men dwell in this materialbody and are surrounded by their present circ*mstances.

Brethren, it is no small part of Christian wisdom and prudence torecognise this fact, both in order that it may prevent us from becomingunduly doubtful of ourselves when the ebb tide sets in on our souls,and also in order that we may lay to heart this other truth, thatbecause these moods and changes of aspect and of vigour will come tous, therefore the law of life must be effort, and the duty of everyChristian man be to minimise, in so far as possible, the fluctuationswhich, in some degree, are inevitable. No human hand has ever drawn anabsolutely straight line. That is the ideal of the mathematician, butall ours are crooked. But we may indefinitely diminish the magnitude ofthe curves. No two atoms are so close together as that there is no filmbetween them. No human life has ever been an absolutely continuous,unbroken series of equally holy and devoted thoughts and acts, but wemay diminish the intervals between kindred states, and may make ourlives so far uniform as that to a bystander they shall look like thebright circle, which a brand whirled round in the air makes theimpression of, on the eye that beholds. We shall have times ofbrightness and of less brilliancy, of vigour and of consequent reactionand exhaustion. But Christianity has, for one of its objects, to helpus to master our moods, and to bring us nearer and nearer, by continualgrowth, to the steadfast, immovable attitude of those whose faith isever the same.

Do not forget the plain lesson which comes from the incident beforeus—viz., that the wisest thing that a man can do, when he feels thatthe wheels of his religious being are driving heavily, is to sethimself doggedly to the plain, homely work of daily life. Paul did notsit and bemoan himself because he felt this slackening of impulse, buthe went away to Aquila, and said, 'Let us set to work and makecamel's-hair cloth and tents.' Be thankful for your homely, prosaic,secular, daily task. You do not know from how many sickly fancies itsaves you, and how many breaches in the continuity of your Christianfeeling it may bridge over. It takes you away from thinking aboutyourselves, and sometimes you cannot think about anything lessprofitably. So stick to your work; and if ever you feel, as Paul did,'cast down,' be sure that the workshop, the office, the desk, thekitchen will prevent you from being 'destroyed,' if you give yourselvesto the plain duties which no moods alter, but which can alter a greatmany moods.

II. And now note the 'constraining word.'

I have already said that the return of the two, who had been sent tosee how things were going with the recent converts in the infantChurches, brought the Apostle good tidings, and so lifted off a greatload of anxiety from his heart. No wonder! He had left raw recruitsunder fire, with no captain, and he might well doubt whether they wouldkeep their ranks. But they did. So the pressure was lifted off, and thepressure being lifted off, spontaneously the old impulse gripped himonce more; like a spring which leaps back to its ancient curve whensome alien force is taken from it. It must have been a very deep and avery habitual impulse, which thus instantly reasserted itself themoment that the pressure of anxiety was taken out of the way.

The word constrained him. What to do? To declare it. Paul's examplebrings up two thoughts—that that impulse may vary at times, accordingto the pressure of circ*mstances, and may even be held in abeyance fora while; and that if a man is honestly and really a Christian, as soonas the incumbent pressure is taken away, he will feel, 'Necessity islaid upon me; yea, woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.' For thoughPaul's sphere of work was different from ours, his obligation to workand his impulse to work were such as are, or should be, common to allChristians. The impulse to utter the word that we believe and live byseems to me to be, in its very nature, inseparable from earnestChristian faith. All emotion demands expression; and if a man has neverfelt that he must let his Christian faith have vent, it is a very badsign. As certainly as fermentation or effervescence demands outgush, socertainly does emotion demand expression. We all know that. The sameimpulse that makes a mother bend over her babe with unmeaning words andtokens that seem to unsympathetic onlookers foolish, ought to influenceall Christians to speak the Name they love. All conviction demandsexpression. There may be truths which have so little bearing upon humanlife that he who perceives them feels little obligation to say anythingabout them. But these are the exceptions; and the more weighty and themore closely affecting human interests anything that we have learned tobelieve as truth is, the more do we feel in our hearts that, in makingus its believers, it has made us its apostles. Christ's saying, 'Whatye hear in the ear, that preach ye on the housetops,' expresses auniversal truth which is realised in many regions, and ought to be mostemphatically realised in the Christian. For surely of all the truthsthat men can catch a glimpse of, or grapple to their hearts, or storein their understandings, there are none which bring with them suchtremendous consequences, and therefore are of so solemn import toproclaim to all the children of men, as the truth, which we profess wehave received, of personal salvation through Jesus Christ.

If there never had been a single commandment to that effect, I know nothow the Christian Church or the Christian individual could haveabstained from declaring the great and sweet Name to which it and heowe so much. I do not care to present this matter as a commandment, norto speak now of obligation or responsibility. The impulse is what Iwould fix your attention upon. It is inseparable from the Christianlife. It may vary in force, as we see in the incident before us. Itwill vary in grip, according as other circ*mstances and duties insistupon being attended to. The form in which it is yielded to will varyindefinitely in individuals. But if they are Christian people it isalways there.

Well then, what about the masses of so-called Christians who feelnothing of any such constraining force? And what about the many whofeel enough of it to make them also feel that they are wrong in notyielding to it, but not enough to make their conduct be influenced byit? Brethren, I venture to believe that the measure in which thisimpulse to speak the word and use direct efforts for somebody'sconversion is felt by Christians, is a very fair test of the depth oftheir own religion. If a vessel is half empty it will not run over. Ifit is full to the brim, the sparkling treasure will fall on all sides.A weak plant may never push its green leaves above the ground, but astrong one will rise into the light. A spark may be smothered in a heapof brushwood, but a steady flame will burn its way out. If this wordhas not a grip of you, impelling you to its utterance, I would have younot to be too sure that you have a grip of it.

III. Lastly, we have here the witness to the word.

'He was constrained by the word, testifying.' Now I do not knowwhether it is imposing too much meaning upon a non-significantdifference of expression, if I ask you to note the difference betweenthat phrase and the one which describes his previous activity: 'Hereasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade' theJews and the Greeks, but when the old impulse came back in new force,reasoning was far too cold a method, and Paul took to testifying.Whether that be so or no, mark that the witness of one's own personalconviction and experience is the strongest weapon that a Christian canuse. I do not despise the place of reasoning, but arguments do notoften change opinions; they never change hearts. Logic andcontroversial discoursing may 'prepare the way of the Lord,' but it is'in the wilderness.' But when a man calls aloud, 'Come and hear all ye,and I will declare what God hath done for my soul'; or when he tellshis brother, 'We have found the Messias'; or when he sticks to 'Onething I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see,' it is difficult forany one to resist, and impossible for any one to answer, that way oftestifying,

It is a way that we can all adopt if we will. Christian men and womencan all say such things. I do not forget that there are indirect waysof spreading the Gospel. Some of you think that you do enough when yougive your money and your interest in order to diffuse it. You can buy asubstitute in the militia, but you cannot buy a substitute in Christ'sservice. You have each some congregation to which you can speak, if itis no larger than Paul's—namely, two people, Aquila and Priscilla.What talks they would have in their lodging, as they plaited the wispsof black hair into rough cloth, and stitched the strips into tents!Aquila was not a Christian when Paul picked him up, but he became onevery soon; and it was the preaching in the workshop, amidst the dust,that made him one. If we long to speak about Christ we shall findplenty of people to speak to. 'Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.'

Now, dear friends, I have only one word more. I have no doubt there aresome among us who have been saying, 'This sermon does not apply to meat all.' Does it not? If it does not, what does that mean? It meansthat you have not the first requisite for spreading the word—viz.personal faith in the word. It means that you have put away, or atleast neglected to take in, the word and the Saviour of whom it speaks,into your own lives. But it does not mean that you have got rid ofthe word thereby. It will not in that case lay the grip of which I havebeen speaking upon you, but it will not let you go. It will lay on youa far more solemn and awful clutch, and like a jailer with his hand onthe culprit's shoulder, will 'constrain' you into the presence of theJudge. You can make it a savour of life unto life, or of death untodeath. And though you do not grasp it, it grasps and holds you. 'Theword that I speak unto him, the same shall judge him at the last day.'


'And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto theJews, If it were a matter of wrong: or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews,reason would that I should bear with you: 15. But if it be a questionof words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be nojudge of such matters.'—ACTS xviii. 14, 15.

There is something very touching in the immortality of fame which comesto the men who for a moment pass across the Gospel story, like shootingstars kindled for an instant as they enter our atmosphere. How littleGallio dreamed that he would live for ever in men's mouths by reason ofthis one judicial dictum! He was Seneca's brother, and was possiblyleavened by his philosophy and indisposed to severity. He has beenunjustly condemned. There are some striking lessons from the story.

I. The remarkable anticipation of the true doctrine as to the functionsof civil magistrates.

Gallio draws a clear distinction between conduct and opinion, andexcepts the whole of the latter region from his sway. It is the firstcase in which the civil authorities refused to take cognisance of acharge against a man on account of his opinions. Nineteen hundred yearshave not brought all tribunals up to that point yet. Gallio indeed wasinfluenced mainly by philosophic contempt for the trivialities of whathe thought a superstition. We are influenced by our recognition of thesanctity of individual conviction, and still more by reverence fortruth and by the belief that it should depend only on its own power forprogress and on itself for the defeat of its enemies.

II. The tragic mistake about the nature of the Gospel which men make.

There is something very pathetic in the erroneous estimates made bythose persons mentioned in Acts who some once or twice come in contactwith the preachers of Christ. How little they recognise what was beforethem! Their responsibility is in better hands than ours. But in Galliothere is a trace of tendencies always in operation.

We see in him the practical man's contempt for mere ideas. The man ofaffairs, be he statesman or worker, is always apt to think that thingsare more than thoughts. Gallio, proconsul in Corinth, and his brotherofficial, Pilate, in Jerusalem, both believed in powers that they couldsee. The question of the one, for an answer to which he did not wait,was not the inquiry of a searcher after truth, but the exclamation of asceptic who thought all the contradictory answers that rang through theworld to be demonstrations that the question had no answer. Theimpatient refusal of the other to have any concern in settling 'suchmatters' was steeped in the same characteristically Roman spirit ofimpatient distrust and suspicion of mere ideas. He believed in Romanforce and authority, and thought that such harmless visionaries as Pauland his company might be allowed to go their own way, and he did notknow that they carried with them a solvent and constructive powerbefore which the solid-seeming structure of the Empire was destined tocrumble, as surely as thick-ribbed ice before the sirocco.

And how many of us believe in wealth and material progress, and regardthe region of truth as very shadowy and remote! This is a dangerbesetting us all. The true forces that sway the world are ideas.

We see in Gallio supercilious indifference to mere 'theologicalsubtleties.' To him Paul's preaching and the Jews' passionate denialsof it seemed only a squabble about 'words and names.' Probably he hadgathered his impression from Paul's eager accusers, who would chargehim with giving the name of 'Christ' to Jesus.

Gallio's attitude was partly Stoical contempt for all superstitions,partly, perhaps, an eclectic belief that all these warring religionswere really saying the same thing and differed only in words and names;and partly sheer indifference to the whole subject. Thus Christianityappears to many in this day.

What is it in reality? Not words but power: a Name, indeed, but a Namewhich is life. Alas for us, who by our jangling have given colour tothis misconception!

We see in Gallio the mistake that the Gospel has little relation toconduct. Gallio drew a broad distinction between conduct and opinion,and there he was right. But he imagined that this opinion had nothingto do with conduct, and how wrong he was there we need not elaborate.

The Gospel is the mightiest power for shaping conduct.

III. The ignorant levity with which men pass the crisis of their lives.

How little Gallio knew of what a possibility was opened out before him!Angels were hovering unseen. We seldom recognise the fateful moments ofour lives till they are past.

The offer of salvation in Christ is ever a crisis. It may never berepeated. Was Gallio ever again brought into contact with Paul orPaul's Lord? We know not. He passes out of sight, the search-light isturned in another direction, and we lose him in the darkness. Theextent of his criminality is in better hands than ours, though wecannot but let our thoughts go forward to the time when he, like usall, will stand at the judgment bar of Jesus, no longer a judge butjudged. Let us hope that before he passed hence, he learned how full ofspirit and of life the message was, which he once took for a meresquabble about 'words and names,' and thought too trivial to occupy hiscourt. And let us remember that the Jesus, whom we are sometimestempted to judge as of little importance to us, will one day judge us,and that His judgment will settle our fate for evermore.


'And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul havingpassed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certaindisciples. 2. He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost sinceye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heardwhether there be any Holy Ghost. 3. And he said unto them, Unto whatthen were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. 4. Then saidPaul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying untothe people, that they should believe on Him which should come afterhim, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5. When they heard this, they werebaptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6. And when Paul had laid hishands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake withtongues, and prophesied. 7. And all the men were about twelve. 8. Andhe went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of threemonths, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom ofGod. 9. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evilof that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separatedthe disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10. Andthis continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dweltin Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. 11. AndGod wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: 12. So that from hisbody were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and thediseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out ofthem.'—ACTS xix. 1-12.

This passage finds Paul in Ephesus. In the meantime he had paid thatcity a hasty visit on his way back from Greece, had left his friends,Aquila and Priscilla, in it, and had gone on to Jerusalem, thencereturning to Antioch, and visiting the churches in Asia Minor which hehad planted on his former journeys. From the inland and higherdistricts he has come down to the coast, and established himself in thegreat city of Ephesus, where the labours of Aquila, and perhaps others,had gathered a small band of disciples. Two points are especially madeprominent in this passage—the incorporation of John's disciples withthe Church, and the eminent success of Paul's preaching in Ephesus.

The first of these is a very remarkable and, in some respects, puzzlingincident. It is tempting to bring it into connection with theimmediately preceding narrative as to Apollos. The same stage ofspiritual development is presented in these twelve men and in thateloquent Alexandrian. They and he were alike in knowing only of John'sbaptism; but if they had been Apollos' pupils, they would most probablyhave been led by him into the fuller light which he received throughPriscilla and Aquila. More probably, therefore, they had been John'sdisciples, independently of Apollos. Their being recognised as'disciples' is singular, when we consider their very small knowledge ofChristian truth; and their not having been previously instructed in itsrudiments, if they were associating with the Church, is not less so.But improbable things do happen, and part of the reason for an eventbeing recorded is often its improbability. Luke seems to have beenstruck by the singular similarity between Apollos and these men, and tohave told the story, not only because of its importance but because ofits peculiarity.

The first point to note is the fact that these men were disciples. Paulspeaks of their having 'believed,' and they were evidently associatedwith the Church. But the connection must have been loose, for they hadnot received baptism. Probably there was a fringe of partial convertshanging round each church, and Paul, knowing nothing of the men beyondthe fact that he found them along with the others, accepted them as'disciples.' But there must have been some reason for doubt, or hisquestion would not have been asked. They 'believed' in so far as Johnhad taught the coming of Messiah. But they did not know that Jesus wasthe Messiah whose coming John had taught.

Paul's question is, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when youbelieved?' Obviously he missed the marks of the Spirit in them, whetherwe are to suppose that these were miraculous powers or moral andreligious elevation. Now this question suggests that the possession ofthe Holy Spirit is the normal condition of all believers; and thattruth cannot be too plainly stated or urgently pressed to-day. He is'the Spirit, which they that believe on Him' shall 'receive.' The outermethods of His bestowment vary: sometimes He is given after baptism,and sometimes, as to Cornelius, before it; sometimes by laying on ofApostolic hands, sometimes without it. But one thing constantlyprecedes, namely, faith; and one thing constantly follows faith,namely, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Modern Christianity does not graspthat truth as firmly or make it as prominent as it ought.

The question suggests, though indirectly, that the signs of theSpirit's presence are sadly absent in many professing Christians. Paulasked it in wonder. If he came into modern churches, he would have toask it once more. Possibly he looked for the visible tokens in powersof miracle-working and the like. But these were temporary accidents,and the permanent manifestations are holiness, consciousness ofsonship, God-directed longings, religious illumination, victory overthe flesh. These things should be obvious in disciples. They will be,if the Spirit is not quenched. Unless they are, what sign of beingChristians do we present?

The answer startles. They had not heard whether the Holy Ghost had beengiven; for that is the true meaning of their reply. John had foretoldthe coming of One who should baptize with the fire of that divineSpirit. His disciples, therefore, could not be ignorant of theexistence thereof; but they had never heard whether their Master'sprophecy had been fulfilled. What a glimpse that gives us of the smallpublicity attained by the story of Jesus!

Paul's second question betrays even more astonishment than did hisfirst. He had taken for granted that, as disciples, the men had beenbaptized; and his question implies that a pre-requisite of Christianbaptism was the teaching which they said that they had not had, andthat a consequence of it was the gift of the Spirit, which he saw thatthey did not possess. Of course Paul's teaching is but summarised here.Its gist was that Jesus was the Messiah whom John had heralded, thatJohn had himself taught that his mission was preliminary, and thattherefore his true disciples must advance to faith in Christ.

The teaching was welcomed, for these men were not of the sort who sawin Jesus a rival to John, as others of his disciples did. They became'disciples indeed,' and then followed baptism, apparently notadministered by Paul, and imposition of Paul's hands. The Holy Spiritthen came on them, as on the disciples on Pentecost, and 'they spokewith tongues and prophesied.' It was a repetition of that day, as atestimony that the gifts were not limited by time or place, but werethe permanent possession of believers, as truly in heathen Ephesus asin Jerusalem; and we miss the meaning of the event unless we add, astruly in Britain to-day as in any past. The fire lit on Pentecost hasnot died down into grey ashes. If we 'believe,' it will burn on ourheads and, better, in our spirits.

Much ingenuity has been expended in finding profound meanings in thenumber of 'twelve' here. The Apostles and their supernatural gifts, thepatriarchs as founders of Israel, have been thought of as explainingthe number, as if these men were founders of a new Israel, orApostolate. But all that is trifling with the story, which gives nohint that the men were of any special importance, and it omits the factthat they were 'about twelve,' not precisely that number. Luke simplywishes us to learn that there was a group of them, but how many he doesnot exactly know. More important is it to notice that this is the lastreference to John or his disciples in the New Testament. The narratorrejoices to point out that some at least of these were led onwards intofull faith.

The other part of the section presents mainly the familiar features ofApostolic ministration, the first appeal to the synagogue, therejection of the message by it, and then the withdrawal of Paul and theJewish disciples. The chief characteristics of the narrative are Paul'sprotracted stay in Ephesus, the establishment of a centre of publicevangelising in the lecture hall of a Gentile teacher, the unhinderedpreaching of the Gospel, and the special miracles accompanying it. Theimportance of Ephesus as the eye and heart of proconsular Asia explainsthe lengthened stay. 'A great door and effectual,' said Paul, 'isopened unto me'; and he was not the man to refrain from pushing in atit because 'there are many adversaries.' Rather opposition was part ofhis reason for persistence, as it should always he.

There comes a point in the most patient labour, however, when it isbest no longer to 'cast pearls' before those who 'trample them underfoot,' and Paul set an example of wise withdrawal as well as of bravepertinacity, in leaving the synagogue when his remaining there onlyhardened disobedient hearts. Note that word disobedient. It teachesthat the moral element in unbelief is resistance of the will. The twowords are not synonyms, though they apply to the same state of mind.Rather the one lays bare the root of the other and declares its guilt.Unbelief comes from disobedience, and therefore is fit subject forpunishment. Again observe that expression for Christianity, 'the Way,'which occurs several times in the Acts. The Gospel points the path forus to tread. It is not a body of truth merely, but it is a guide forpractice. Discipleship is manifested in conduct. This Gospel points theway through the wilderness to Zion and to rest. It is 'the Way,' theonly path, 'the Way everlasting.'

It was a bold step to gather the disciples in 'the school of Tyrannus.'He was probably a Greek professor of rhetoric or lecturer onphilosophy, and Paul may have hired his hall, to the horror, no doubt,of the Rabbis. It was a complete breaking with the synagogue and a boldappeal to the heathen public. Ephesus must have been better governedthan Philippi and Lystra, and the Jewish element must have beenrelatively weaker, to allow of Paul's going on preaching with so muchpublicity for two years.

Note the flexibility of his methods, his willingness to use even aheathen teacher's school for his work, and the continuous energy of theman. Not on Sabbath days only, but daily, he was at his post. Themultitudes of visitors from all parts to the great city supplied aconstant stream of listeners, for Ephesus was a centre for the wholecountry. We may learn from Paul to concentrate work in importantcentres, not to be squeamish about where we stand to preach the Gospel,and not to be afraid of making ourselves conspicuous. Paul's messagehallows the school of Tyrannus; and the school of Tyrannus, where menhave been accustomed to go for widely different teaching, is a goodplace for Paul to give forth his message in.

The 'special miracles' which were wrought are very remarkable, andunlike the usual type of miracles. It does not appear that Paul himselfsent the 'handkerchiefs and aprons,' which conveyed healing virtue, butthat he simply permitted their use. The converts had faith to believethat such miracles would be wrought, and God honoured the faith. Butnote how carefully the narrative puts Paul's part in its right place.God 'wrought'; Paul was only the channel. If the eager people, whocarried away the garments, had superstitiously fancied that there wasvirtue in Paul, and had not looked beyond him to God, it is impliedthat no miracles would have been wrought. But still the cast of thesehealings is anomalous, and only paralleled by the similar instances inPeter's case.

The principle laid down by Peter (ch. iii. 12) is to be kept in view inthe study of all the miracles in the Acts. It is Jesus Christ whoworks, and not His servants who heal by their 'own power or holiness.'Jesus can heal with or without material channels, but sometimes choosesto employ such vehicles as these, just as on earth He chose to anointblind eyes with clay, and to send the man to wash it off at the pool.Sense-bound faith is not rejected, but is helped according to its need,that it may be strengthened and elevated.


'…Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?'—ACTS xix. 15.

These exorcists had no personal union with Jesus. To them He was only'Jesus whom Paul preached.' They spoke His name tentatively, as anexperiment, and imitatively. To command 'in the name of Jesus' was anappeal to Jesus to glorify His name and exert His power, and so whenthe speaker had no real faith in the name or the power, there was noanswer, because there was really no appeal.

I. The only power which can cast out the evil spirits is the name of

That is a commonplace of Christian belief. But it is often held in adangerously narrow way and leads to most unwise pitting of the Gospelagainst other modes of bettering and elevating men, instead ofrecognising them as allies. Earnest Christian workers are tempted toforget Jesus' own word: 'He that is not against us is for us.' There isno need to disparage other agencies because we believe that it is theGospel which is 'the power of God unto salvation.' Many of the popularphilanthropic movements of the day, many of its curbing andenlightening forces, many of its revolutionary social ideas, are reallyin their essence and historically in their origin, profoundlyChristian, and are the application of the principles inherent in 'theName' to the evils of society. No doubt many of their eager apostlesare non-Christian or even anti-Christian, but though some of them havetried violently to pluck up the plant by the root from the soil inwhich it first flowered, much of that soil still adheres to it, and itwill not live long if torn from its native 'habitat.'

It is not narrowness or hostility to non-Christian efforts to cast outthe demons from humanity, but only the declaration of a truth which istaught by the consideration of what is the difference between all othersuch efforts and Christianity, and is confirmed by experience, if wemaintain that, whatever good results may follow from these otherinfluences, it is the powers lodged in the Name of Jesus, and thesealone which can, radically and completely, conquer and eject the demonsfrom a single soul, and emancipate society from their tyranny.

For consider that the Gospel which proclaims Jesus as the Saviour isthe only thing which deals with the deepest fact in our natures, thefact of sin; gives a personal Deliverer from its power; communicates anew life of which the very essence is righteousness, and which bringswith it new motives, new impulses, and new powers.

Contrast with this the inadequate diagnosis of the disease and theconsequent imperfection of the remedy which other physicians of theworld's sickness present. Most of them only aim at repressing outwardacts. None of them touch more than a part of the whole dreadfulcircumference of the dark orb of evil. Law restrains actions. Ethicsproclaims principles which it has no power to realise. It shows men ashining height, but leaves them lame and grovelling in the mire.Education casts out the demon of ignorance, and makes the demons whomit does not cast out more polite and perilous. It brings its own evilsin its train. Every kind of crop has weeds which spring with it. Thesocial and political changes, which are eagerly preached now, will domuch; but one thing, which is the all-important thing, they will notdo, they will not change the nature of the individuals who make up thecommunity. And till that nature is changed any form of society willproduce its own growth of evils. A Christless democracy will be as badas, if not worse than, a Christless monarchy or aristocracy. If thebricks remain the same, it does not much matter into what shape youbuild them.

These would-be exorcists but irritated the demons by their vainattempts at ejecting them, and it is sometimes the case that efforts tocure social diseases only result in exacerbating them. If one hole in aDutch dyke is stopped up, more pressure is thrown on another weak pointand a leak will soon appear there. There is but one Name that casts aspell over all the ills that flesh is heir to. There is but one Saviourof society—Jesus who saves from sin through His death, and byparticipation in His life delivers men from that life of self which isthe parent of all the evils from which society vainly strives to bedelivered by any power but His.

II. That Name must be spoken by believing men if it is to put forth itsfull power.

These exorcists had no faith. All that they knew of Jesus was that Hewas the one 'whom Paul preached.' Even the name of Jesus is spoiled andis powerless on the lips of one who repeats it, parrot-like, because hehas seen its power when it came flame-like from the fiery lips of someman of earnest convictions.

In all regions, and especially in the matter of art or literature,imitators are poor creatures, and men are quick to detect thedifference between the original and the copy. The copyists generallyimitate the weak points, and seldom get nearer than the imitation ofexternal and trivial peculiarities. It is more feasible to reproducethe 'contortions of the Sibyl' than to catch her 'inspiration.'

This absence or feebleness of personal faith is the explanation of muchfailure in so-called Christian work. No doubt there may be other causesfor the want of success, but after all allowance is made for these, itstill remains true that the chief reason why the Gospel message isoften proclaimed without casting out demons is that it is proclaimedwith faltering faith, tentatively and without assured confidence in itspower, or imitatively, with but little, if any, inward experience ofthe magic of its spell. The demons have ears quick to discriminatebetween Paul's fiery accents and the cold repetition of them.Incomparably the most powerful agency which any man can employ inproducing conviction in others is the utterance of his own intenseconviction. 'If you wish me to weep, your own tears must flow,' saidthe Roman poet. Other factors may powerfully aid the exorcising powerof the word spoken by faith, and no wise man will disparage these, butthey are powerless without faith and it is powerful without them.

Consider the effect of that personal faith on the speaker—in bringingall his force to bear on his words; in endowing him for a