Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE SCANTY RECORD OF HUMAN LIFE. We have six verses of this valuable chronicle given to the unimportant incident of the accident which befell Eutychus (vers. 7-12), and only three to Paul's visit to Macedonia and Greece. We do not understand why Luke should thus apportion his space, but the fact that he did so reminds us how often most interesting and instructive scenes, or even precious and influential periods, of our life are left unreported. We should have liked to read a full description, in copious detail, of the apostle's visit to the Churches of Macedonia, and especially of his interview with the Church at Corinth. But we are not gratified. Doubtless some of the most heroic deeds have been wrought in secret, and no tongue has told the story; doubtless some of the most saintly sufferings have been endured unseen by mortal eye, and no pen has described the scene.
"If singing breath or echoing chord II. THE PRICELESSNESS OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP. "After the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them" (ver. 1). After the storm was over, it was an intense relief to pour out their agitated hearts in mutual sympathy, congratulation, devotion. We know (2 Corinthians 2:13) that Paul found no rest in his spirit because he found not Titus his brother at Tress, and accordingly went on to Macedonia to seek him, and that he was greatly comforted by finding him there (2 Corinthians 7:6, 7). We read of the friends who "accompanied him into Asia" (ver. 4), and throughout we feel how precious beyond all reckoning was the sympathy and succor which came to the wearied and buffeted apostle from true human hearts. Loyal Christian fellowship is one of those beneficent gifts from God which we should count among our chief treasures, for which we should render heartiest thanksgiving; it is also one of those ways in which we can render invaluable service to faithful men, and thus an appreciated service to Christ, the Lord. III. THE PENALTY OF UNFLINCHING FAITHFULNESS. When Paul was about to return to Syria, he found the enmity of his countrymen ready to waylay him. "The Jews laid wait for him" (ver. 3). He could not but speak as Christ, by his Spirit, taught him; and his preaching became more clear and distinct as to the non-necessity of the Law of Moses; his doctrine became less exclusive, more liberal, i.e. increasingly repugnant to the narrow-minded Jews; and the fierceness of their hostility found vent in plots against his life. Whoso will follow Christ in "bearing witness to the truth" must be ready to "take up his cross and follow him" along the path of the persecuted. To be quite true to our convictions, to be fearlessly faithful to the Lord who reveals to us his will, is to bear the penalty of the dislike, the hatred, the intrigues of men. IV. THE OVERRULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD. His enemies schemed, but God thwarted their schemes; he "turned aside," and their murderous designs were defeated. Christ had more work for him to do, and the uplifted hand of the enemy must be arrested. "Though destruction walk around us, V. THE OVERFLOW OF SACRED ZEAL. Paul desired to use his opportunity at Troas, and "on the first day of the week" he preached, "ready to depart on the morrow" (ver. 7). In the" multitude of his thoughts within him," or conscious that he was soon to leave and feeling that he might never return to them, disregarding the lateness of the hour and the condition of the chamber, he still preached on. He "continued his speech until midnight." That which would be unwise as a rule is allowable as an exception. If "anger hath a privilege," much more so has zeal. We admire the man whose fullness of soul makes him oblivious of all attendant circumstances. It is well to have a capacity for devotedness which will sometimes lift us far above the level of ordinary moods, and make us forget everything but our subject and our cause, or rather everything but the truth of God and the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ. - C.
II. THE PRICELESSNESS OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP. "After the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them" (ver. 1). After the storm was over, it was an intense relief to pour out their agitated hearts in mutual sympathy, congratulation, devotion. We know (2 Corinthians 2:13) that Paul found no rest in his spirit because he found not Titus his brother at Tress, and accordingly went on to Macedonia to seek him, and that he was greatly comforted by finding him there (2 Corinthians 7:6, 7). We read of the friends who "accompanied him into Asia" (ver. 4), and throughout we feel how precious beyond all reckoning was the sympathy and succor which came to the wearied and buffeted apostle from true human hearts. Loyal Christian fellowship is one of those beneficent gifts from God which we should count among our chief treasures, for which we should render heartiest thanksgiving; it is also one of those ways in which we can render invaluable service to faithful men, and thus an appreciated service to Christ, the Lord.
III. THE PENALTY OF UNFLINCHING FAITHFULNESS. When Paul was about to return to Syria, he found the enmity of his countrymen ready to waylay him. "The Jews laid wait for him" (ver. 3). He could not but speak as Christ, by his Spirit, taught him; and his preaching became more clear and distinct as to the non-necessity of the Law of Moses; his doctrine became less exclusive, more liberal, i.e. increasingly repugnant to the narrow-minded Jews; and the fierceness of their hostility found vent in plots against his life. Whoso will follow Christ in "bearing witness to the truth" must be ready to "take up his cross and follow him" along the path of the persecuted. To be quite true to our convictions, to be fearlessly faithful to the Lord who reveals to us his will, is to bear the penalty of the dislike, the hatred, the intrigues of men.
IV. THE OVERRULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD. His enemies schemed, but God thwarted their schemes; he "turned aside," and their murderous designs were defeated. Christ had more work for him to do, and the uplifted hand of the enemy must be arrested.
"Though destruction walk around us, V. THE OVERFLOW OF SACRED ZEAL. Paul desired to use his opportunity at Troas, and "on the first day of the week" he preached, "ready to depart on the morrow" (ver. 7). In the" multitude of his thoughts within him," or conscious that he was soon to leave and feeling that he might never return to them, disregarding the lateness of the hour and the condition of the chamber, he still preached on. He "continued his speech until midnight." That which would be unwise as a rule is allowable as an exception. If "anger hath a privilege," much more so has zeal. We admire the man whose fullness of soul makes him oblivious of all attendant circumstances. It is well to have a capacity for devotedness which will sometimes lift us far above the level of ordinary moods, and make us forget everything but our subject and our cause, or rather everything but the truth of God and the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ. - C.
V. THE OVERFLOW OF SACRED ZEAL. Paul desired to use his opportunity at Troas, and "on the first day of the week" he preached, "ready to depart on the morrow" (ver. 7). In the" multitude of his thoughts within him," or conscious that he was soon to leave and feeling that he might never return to them, disregarding the lateness of the hour and the condition of the chamber, he still preached on. He "continued his speech until midnight." That which would be unwise as a rule is allowable as an exception. If "anger hath a privilege," much more so has zeal. We admire the man whose fullness of soul makes him oblivious of all attendant circumstances. It is well to have a capacity for devotedness which will sometimes lift us far above the level of ordinary moods, and make us forget everything but our subject and our cause, or rather everything but the truth of God and the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ. - C.
I. FUGITIVE SERVICE. "When they persecute you in one city, flee into another," had said the Lord. But not as a hireling who sees the wolf coming; rather as a brave warrior who retreats fighting. The brave retreat may reflect more honor than the hopeless prolongation of warfare. We must know when to give way. There is a "wise passiveness" and a "masterly inactivity." If we can but gain our Christian point, we should suffer no scruple of vanity to stand in our way. And how much good may be done in this furtive way! The runner drops the seed as he goes. The greatest works have been done for God and the world by sufferers and in the midst of suffering. In the world the faithful apostle has tribulation, but peace in his heart; and it distils from his lips upon his brethren as he goes. Perfect ease is not to be coveted by the true servant of Christ. The pulpit is not an easy-chair. Men are goaded to their best by pain. They are perfected for teaching in the school of suffering. Sympathy and love are deepened by common experiences. Courage is truly learned; they that kill the body are not feared, but only they that injure the soul.
II. LOVING FELLOWSHIP OF THE SAINTS. (Vers. 7-16.)
1. Exhibited in the feast of love and the common hearing of the Word. The one prepares for the other; together they explain each other and enrich each other. Here is the first trace of the Sunday observance in the history of the Church. Christian associations are engrafted upon old customs.
2. As disturbed by grief, and restored. Eutychus sleeps during the preaching, and falls down. He was taken up dead, or "for dead," as some expositors would interpret. Paul falls upon him, like Elisha in the case of the Shunammite's son (2 Kings 4:34), and Elijah with the widow's son at Sarepta (1 Kings 17:21); so that by vital warmth he may restore him to life. This striking coincidence of death in the midst of life, of life in the midst of death, must have powerfully reminded the disciples of him who is the Resurrection and the Life, of his promise; and so must have strengthened faith, and drawn the bonds of love closer together. "He that brought him back is here." Not small was the consolation of the brethren as the young man was restored.
III. AN IMPRESSIVE SCENE.
1. The apostle. He is on his last mission journey. He "works while it is day;" preaching the Word with power; sealing his testimony with miracle, pursuing with constancy the end set before him.
2. The sleeper. A warning against weakness and idleness. "I say unto all, Watch!" "The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak."
3. The unsleeping Divine watchfulness and providence. "We have a God who helps, and the Lord God who saves from death."
4. The energy of the apostolic personality. He goes down in compassionate pity, falls upon Eutychus with earnest prayer, embraces him with urgent love.
5. The hush of the Divine presence. "Make no noise!" A lesson here for the chamber of the dead. God is here; his "finger touched him and he slept." Bow before his power and decree; collect the heart from distraction, in recollection of its consolations. "They are not dead, but sleep," may be said of our Christian friends. Amidst such humble and resigned silence angels pass through the house, with errands of ministry. - J.
I. The cautious vigilance of Paul in superintending THE RISING SPIRITUAL LIFE of the infant Churches; a lesson in faithfulness and devotion to the interests of fellow-Christians, as well as in allegiance to Christ. It was not enough that the Churches had the truth. It was endangered by many difficulties and surrounding obstructive influences, both from Jews and heathen.
II. THE SELF-SACRIFICE involved in such journeys, not only in the great toil, but in danger to life.
III. THE INCREASING INFLUENCE of the apostle seen in his gathering so many round him as his fellow-travelers and fellow-laborers, a testimony to the hold which his teaching had upon the Churches, showing that the view of Christianity given in the Pauline Epistles, written about this time, was a fair representation of the current belief of the early Gentile Church. Nor could it have been widely different from that taught by the Jewish leaders; otherwise Paul could not have declared that he taught "the whole counsel of God." - R.
Acts 16:9), Paul had received his call into Europe by the man of Macedonia. And after this visit how many fresh memories would cluster around the place and the people and that seven days' halt! We may, amid the exceeding brevity of record here, be nevertheless reminded -
I. HOW TO THE HARDEST LIFE THE MASTER DOES NOT FORGET TO GIVE SOME NEEDFUL INTERVAL OF REPOSE AND REFRESHMENT. No life is more wearing than that which men live who think for nothing, care for nothing, but making wealth. This life often kills the best of the heart, the best of the mind, and the best of even the bodily constitution. In this sense, men work themselves harder and more mercilessly than ever God works them. God never works us mercilessly. But in the hardest work he gives, he mingles much mercy. Yet his work in a healthy sense is hard, will match any for hardness, nor probably did the hardest-worked slave of self or Satan ever work harder than Paul did. But now, so far as we can see, the seven days at Troas, undisturbed by persecution from without or dissuasion from within, must have been days of happy converse and of peaceful rest. How much this party of ten would have to say to one another, to hear of the people at Troas and to tell to them!
II. HOW THE HOLIEST SERVICE ON EARTH MAY BE EXPOSED TO THE INTERRUPTION OF APPARENT ACCIDENT, ANYWAY TO INTERRUPTION WELCOME TO NO ONE. The cause of the interruption on this occasion probably infers a very minimum of blame to Eutychus. Some one has spoken to this effect - that hours of sleep are rarely broken by devotion, often enough for light causes. But it may be added that hours of sleep are rarely forfeited, indeed, for hours of devotion, but hours of professed devotion are often broken by sleep, or by what in the long run is even more disastrous - by sleepiness. But as we are told more than once that Eutychus was "overpowered by sleepiness, and that there were even physical reasons separate from his individual self to increase the tendency, it is not necessary to fix any blame on him. Nor on Paul. Who did not wish him to prolong last words? What a spirit moved him! What a message he had, and how much for years to come, for the souls of not a few, and for the collected disciples there, might depend on his not omitting to say, and to say at leisure, and to say touchingly, the word given him! Yes; we would think nothing of the small hours being reached, and the many lights in the upper chamber fading before the return of the sun, were it the converse of merely human affection that detained us - men and women anti families together. The people at Troas had learnt the superior power and o'er mastering attraction" of Divine affection and Divine discourse.
III. HOW WITH SOVEREIGN EASE CHRIST TRANSMUTES THE MOST INOPPORTUNE CALAMITY INTO MERCY'S CHOICE MEMORIALS. The calamity no doubt seemed inopportune. The disciples had already learned, of their own grateful will, to come together for religious exercises on "the first day of the week," and to "break bread" together. Paul and probably some of his companions, if not all of them (ver. 13), had desired to stay with the believers for the service of praise and prayer, of exhortation and of the communion, and perhaps had strained a point to stay over that "first day of the week." And hearts were full that evening. There was not any general weariness. And Paul was speaking that same hour what the Spirit gave him to speak. Had he spoken less, it would have been "the Spirit's course" that he was restraining, not his own vanity, not his own inconsiderateness. The confusion in that natural but solemn assembly, the disturbance to thought, and the pain of mind especially to some, - these were quite enough to unhinge the occasion. The peaceful stream of holy thought and of deep-flowing joy was checked. Yes; but not long. The Master is again present, and "by the hands" of Paul works, all things considered, a "special miracle." And the service goes on. Thought sinks deeper, faith triumphs more proudly, and in many a glowing heart great was the joy. The meeting gathers impulse from its pause, and, a bright morning dawning upon it, offered a dim type of the morning, brightest of the bright, when the calamity of the present life and the broken service of the lower Church, and even the deepest, fullest, purest joy of the now redeemed heart shall give way to a safety which no foe can surprise, a service that shall ask no rest, and a joy that shall be supreme. - B.
I. A great SIGN OF DIVINE POWER accompanying Paul's preaching. Had he not been approved of God, he could not have wrought such a miracle. It spoke:
1. To the world, testifying to the nearness of the kingdom of God; to the merciful and restoring grace of the gospel, which came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
2. To the Church; stamping Pauline teaching with authority; lifting up the courage and hope of disciples. The same Divine power ever with the Church always to the end.
II. A SOLEMN ASSOCIATION with a great and important occasion. Eutyehus could scarcely be without blame. The people would never forget that it was the Lord's Supper, and that those who partake in such a service should watch against human infirmities. The wonderful recovery of the lad seemed to shed a new light on the whole service. What glorious power was set forth in that little society! They were comforted for Eutychus and for themselves and for the whole Church. Jesus is life from the dead. - R.
1. Such a recurring period of rest is practically proved to be necessary for man's physical well-being. It is more and more clearly shown, that the recovering and restoring power of nightly sleep is not sufficient, and that the weekly prolonged rest is essential to the continued maintenance of the bodily powers.
2. A man is not chiefly a body. He is a composite being; but he is, in the truest conception of him, a soul, having a body for his use. And it is of the first importance that the soul should have its due and adequate opportunities of culture. For the securing of such opportunities, the tension of bodily claims must be at times relieved. The change of the day kept as the sabbath, from the seventh to the first of the week, does not seem to have taken place by any revelation or any distinct apostolic arrangement. It came about in the natural course of events. Probably at first the Jewish Christian disciples kept the Jewish sabbath in the usual way, and also had some special meeting of their own, in remembrance of the Lord's resurrection, on the evening of the first day of the week. As the gospel won its way among the Gentiles, the distinctively Christian meetings would grow in importance; and when St. Paul separated the disciples from the synagogue, Jewish customs and rules ceased to have authority over them. As Judaism faded away, the Christian day of rest took the place of the older sabbath; and the Christian forms of worship superseded the temple and the synagogue ordinances. We dwell on two points.
I. THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH WAS A RETENTION, IN SPIRIT, OF THE OLDER JEWISH SABBATH. What was essential in the original institution was the devotement to God of one day in seven. No importance attached to its being the first, or fourth, or seventh, as men may arbitrarily reckon the days of the week. The division of time into weeks is not a natural division, dependent on movements of earth or of moon. It is an arrangement made entirely in view of man's physical and spiritual interests. And the change of the precise day teaches us the important lesson that God cares for the essence of obedience, for the spirit of service; and while this finds its proper expression in minute and careful observance of his requirements, God is not limited by the mere formality of his commands, but graciously leaves the times, seasons, and modes of our obedience to our good will and judgment. Wherever there is the spirit of obedience, there need be little fear as to the finding of right modes. All that is essential in the Jewish sabbath holy souls jealously preserve in the Christian Sunday.
II. THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH IS A PRECISE SANCTIFYING OF ONE DAY IN SEVEN TO THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. We are to "keep the sabbath day holy;" that is, we are to fill it fully up with thoughts of God and work for God. But to us God has been "manifest in the flesh;" "he was made flesh and dwelt among us." As with us here in our humanity, Jesus was the "Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his person." And so the keeping the Christian Sunday holy is filling it fully up with thoughts of Christ and work for him. And that they might be helped to such remembrances, the early disciples, every Sunday evening, broke bread together, this being the appointed means for recalling to their minds their Lord's broken body and shed blood. For our soul's life, the Sunday is a day for communion with Christ. For the world's salvation, Sunday is a day for witnessing of Christ and working for him. We may learn, then, in what lies the very essence of the rightly kept Christian sabbath. It must have two things always in it.
1. Conscious communion with Christ.
2. Active co-operation with him in his sublime purpose to redeem and save the world. - R.T.
2 Kings 1:2, 17). The word that is translated "young man" implies that Eutychus was quite a youth, and not likely to be very directly interested in St. Paul's address. He very probably was a child of the house where the meeting was held. While the narrative does not positively say that Eutychus was killed by the fall, and indeed leaves it possible for us to assume that he was only badly stunned, the simplest reading of it - without prejudice in relation to the miraculous - certainly leaves the impression of a real death and restoration. We bend attention to the conduct of St. Paul in relation to the matter, and inquire why he took the trouble thus to recover the fallen and dead youth. Dismissing, with a brief mention, the interest he would feel in such a calamity affecting the people of the house, and seeking for explanations having a more general application, we notice -
I. ST. PAUL FELT THAW EUTYCHUS WAS NOT TO BLAME. If any one was to blame, it was the apostle himself, who had been led on to talk so long and keep the meeting to unreasonable hours for young folk. Long services make too great a demand on the physical strength of young people. They are trying even to the elder Christians, but their awakened spiritual interest will enable them to bear such fatigue of body. It was not wrong for Eutychus to sleep. He was simply overborne by the heat of the place and the lateness of the hour. And still we need to distinguish between failings, which come out of human frailties, and sins that come out of human willfulness. Too often the young are punished for what is merely due to the influence of surrounding circumstances and the undeveloped bodily conditions. The relation of public services to the young needs careful and judicious treatment.
1. Services for them are advisable and necessary.
2. Their share in the general service of the Church is important.
3. Such services may exert a gracious influence apart from the actual mental comprehension of what is said and done.
4. Such services need not be unduly limited or too easily altered in character for the sake of the young.
5. Such services should take into due account, and deal considerately with, the physical infirmities of the young. It is possible, by securing variety in forms of worship, changing attitudes, and efficient illustration in preaching, to successfully resist the infirmities of the children. If we find our public services uninteresting, we may question whether we are not, like the apostle, ourselves to blame.
II. ST. PAUL FELT THAT THE DEATH OF EUTYCHUS WOULD BE MISUNDERSTOOD. Too easily the company would take up the notion that this was a judgment on inattention, and such an idea must be at once and fully corrected. In such a case as that of Ananias and Sapphira, no apostle would feel impelled to put forth miraculous power; the judgment of God on sin must stand. But the case of Eutychus belonged to what may fairly be called "accidents. A conjunction of circumstances brought it about - heat, sleepiness, the position in which Eutychus sat, the open window, etc.; and this St. Paul may deal with in a way of miracle, just as Elijah and Elisha had done in cases of sudden death from disease (see 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34). It is quite true that Christianity makes great demands on self-control and self-denial. It expects the spirit to master the body; but it makes its demands of the full-grown man in Christ;" and, only in appropriate measures and degrees, on those who are young in years and young in the faith. The restoration of Eutychus may be regarded as a prominent and interesting illustration of the "sweet reasonableness" of Christianity. - R.T.
such an audience; the joy of the audience is such a preacher. Tell of the associations of St. Paul with Troas, and give illustrative instances of his singular power to draw out towards himself the affection of those whom he served for Christ's sake. A feeling of oppression and anxiety at this time rested on the apostle - he felt that his missionary labors were almost done, and this gave a peculiar urgency and tenderness and pathos to his preachings. They had the characteristics of "last utterances" and "farewells.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR HAVING PERSONAL CONFIDENCE IN, AND GLOWING AFFECTION FOE, OUR TEACHERS. So far as mere truth is concerned, a stranger with competent knowledge can instruct us; but truth, in its personal relations with us, can only be taught by those who know us; and our ability to receive such influence depends largely on our love for those who give it. Press the importance of settled ministries, of regular attendance at the same worship, and of coming into such relations with our pastors and teachers" as may bring on us the power of their personal characters. Apply the principle, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend;" and our pastors should be felt such friends that we can receive both reproof and comfort and instruction from them.
II. THE DEMANDS WHICH TRUST AND AFFECTION MAKE UPON OUR TEACHERS. These people would not let St. Paul go; they kept him talking all night. He was compelled to respond to such love, and to pour forth his best treasures of knowledge and experience for their help. Trust and love still make the highest demands on our teachers, demands sometimes so great that ministers feel overwhelmed with the tremendous responsibility. Nothing draws out the best in a man like trusting him and loving him. Money can never buy a man's best; duty can never compel a man's best; love can always win a man's best, just as a pure love makes a man noble, and a babe's love calls a mother to sublime self-denials. The one condition of receiving the best spiritual blessings from a Christian teacher is that you must trust and love him as his disciples did St. Paul. His relations with his disciples are models, and happy are they who can give a like joy to their teacher and can win like blessings from him. In conclusion, deal practically with those things which constitute fitting preparation of hearers for receiving the best spiritual blessings through their teachers. Such preparations are:
1. General bearing upon good worshipping habits; right relations with Church life; and personal knowledge of, and affection for, the teacher.
2. Special to each particular occasion of intercourse or of worshipping; the value of all services depending directly upon a man's mood of soul, as won by home culture. The profit of a hearer depends first and chiefly upon himself. - R.T.
I. His extraordinary ENERGY. Walking probably some twenty miles to Assos to meet the vessel. His independence of character. Although a man of strong affections, he loved to be alone sometimes. His purposes were maturely formed and resolutely carried out.
II. His spiritual life was sustained by FELLOWSHIP WITH BRETHREN. The long voyages made in those days in sailing-vessels of only moderate speed would afford time for conversation with Luke and others, for a narrative of the past labor to be at least laid up in Luke's memory. Possibly prepared under the apostle's direction.
III. The movements of the messenger of Christ were not capricious and arbitrary, but under the SPECIAL GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT. He passed by Ephesus because the Spirit urged him on towards Jerusalem. He was lifted above all thought of self and offered as a sacrifice in spirit. An example of Christ-like devotion. - R.
I. LOWLY-MENDED CONSECRATION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. "From the first day that I came in into Asia... I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind" (vers. 18, 19). The man who spends his days in spiritual pride, or godless unconcern, or arrogant infidelity, will, if not in the later years of this life, from the other side of the grave, look back on his earthly course with bitterest shame, with fearful pangs of remorse. He who in old age can survey an entire life yielded, with a deep sense of dependence and obligation, to the living God and the loving Savior will have a cheering ray to light up his shaded path. Well may youthful lips take up the strain-
"'Twill please us to look back to see II. FIDELITY IN OUR SPECIAL SPHERE. Paul could feel that, as a minister of Jesus Christ, he had done his work thoroughly, conscientiously, faithfully, as in the eye of Christ himself. "I kept back nothing,... I have taught you publicly, and from house to house" (ver. 20); "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (ver. 27); "I ceased not to warn every one... with tears" (ver. 31). He had thrown the utmost energy of his soul into his work; he had wrought good "with both hands earnestly." Whatever our vocation may be, it will be a sorry thing to have to recall to our memory duties hardly and punctiliously discharged, just gone through decently and creditably; still worse to have to remember duty left undone or miserably mismanaged. Pleasant and gratifying, on the other hand, to feel that we went to our work with agile step and eager spirit, went through it with conscientious care, and threw into it our utmost strength. Heartiness and zest today mean a harvest of refreshing memories for to-morrow. III. ENDURANCE OF TRIAL. Paul reflected that he had served the Lord "with many tears and temptations [trials]" (ver. 19). These trials unto tears were hard to bear patiently at the hour of endurance, but it was a comfort and satisfaction to his spirit afterwards to think that they had never withdrawn him from his confidence in Christ or from his post of active service. The secure and strong position of manhood is all the more satisfactory for the yoke that was borne in youth; the quietude of age is the more acceptable and enjoyable for the struggle or burden of middle life; the rest and rejoicing of the future will be the sweeter and the keener for the toils and. the troubles of this present time. The evils that have been left behind, when taken meekly and acquiesced in nobly, materially enhance the blessedness of the hour of freedom and felicity. IV. THE DILIGENCE THAT MEANS HONESTY AND THAT INCLUDES BENEFICENCE. (Vers. 33-35.) It is not only that (1) we should pay the debts which we have formally and deliberately incurred; but that (2) in a world where we are daily receiving the benefit of the toils and sufferings of past ages and of our contemporaries, we are bound, in all honesty, to do something in return - something by which our fellows and, if possible, the future shall be enriched; (3) where self-support is not positively demanded, it may be wisely rendered, in order (as with Paul) that there may be no reason for injurious suspicion; and (4) we should strive to gain enough that we may spare something for the strengthless and dependent - so laboring that we "may support the weak," and know the greater blessedness of giving, according to the Word of our Lord (ver. 35; see Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 13:16). - C.
II. FIDELITY IN OUR SPECIAL SPHERE. Paul could feel that, as a minister of Jesus Christ, he had done his work thoroughly, conscientiously, faithfully, as in the eye of Christ himself. "I kept back nothing,... I have taught you publicly, and from house to house" (ver. 20); "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (ver. 27); "I ceased not to warn every one... with tears" (ver. 31). He had thrown the utmost energy of his soul into his work; he had wrought good "with both hands earnestly." Whatever our vocation may be, it will be a sorry thing to have to recall to our memory duties hardly and punctiliously discharged, just gone through decently and creditably; still worse to have to remember duty left undone or miserably mismanaged. Pleasant and gratifying, on the other hand, to feel that we went to our work with agile step and eager spirit, went through it with conscientious care, and threw into it our utmost strength. Heartiness and zest today mean a harvest of refreshing memories for to-morrow.
III. ENDURANCE OF TRIAL. Paul reflected that he had served the Lord "with many tears and temptations [trials]" (ver. 19). These trials unto tears were hard to bear patiently at the hour of endurance, but it was a comfort and satisfaction to his spirit afterwards to think that they had never withdrawn him from his confidence in Christ or from his post of active service. The secure and strong position of manhood is all the more satisfactory for the yoke that was borne in youth; the quietude of age is the more acceptable and enjoyable for the struggle or burden of middle life; the rest and rejoicing of the future will be the sweeter and the keener for the toils and. the troubles of this present time. The evils that have been left behind, when taken meekly and acquiesced in nobly, materially enhance the blessedness of the hour of freedom and felicity.
IV. THE DILIGENCE THAT MEANS HONESTY AND THAT INCLUDES BENEFICENCE. (Vers. 33-35.) It is not only that
(1) we should pay the debts which we have formally and deliberately incurred; but that
(2) in a world where we are daily receiving the benefit of the toils and sufferings of past ages and of our contemporaries, we are bound, in all honesty, to do something in return - something by which our fellows and, if possible, the future shall be enriched;
(3) where self-support is not positively demanded, it may be wisely rendered, in order (as with Paul) that there may be no reason for injurious suspicion; and
(4) we should strive to gain enough that we may spare something for the strengthless and dependent - so laboring that we "may support the weak," and know the greater blessedness of giving, according to the Word of our Lord (ver. 35; see Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 13:16). - C.
I. THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE EVANGELICAL PREACHING. (Vers. 17-21.)
1. The spirit and conduct of the preacher himself; for this is inseparable from the preaching (vers. 18-20). He had lived with his flock. His life had been devoted to their service. He had entered the sphere of their life as the loving sharer in their joys and sorrows. He had presented to them a pattern of humility. He had borne them on his heart. He had been like a sower going forth weeping, to bear the precious seed. The life of the true pastor is a life of many tears - tears of self-doubt and weakness; tears of compassion and sorrow over others, like those of Jeremiah over Jerusalem's fall, of Jesus over her deeper fall. Bat this sowing of tears prepares for a harvest of joy. Suggestive was the word of Monica, Augustine's mother, "The child of so many tears cannot be lost." Good is verbal preaching; better the preaching of the life; and, perhaps, most impressive of all, the preaching of suffering and self-sacrifice for the truth.
2. The matter of his preaching. Repentance: a universal necessity. It includes knowledge of sin; remorse; desire for salvation. Repentance has been described as a ladder of sorrow by which we descend into the depths of the heart. Faith: this, on the other hand, the celestial ladder, by which we rise to God and to eternity. It includes the knowledge of a Savior; joy in the reception of him; and firm confidence in his reconciling, sanctifying, and blessing grace.
3. The self-devotion of the preacher. (Vers. 22-35.) He should be cast in the heroic mould - that of the hero of the cross. The voice of the Almighty, "Upward and onward!" sounds in his ears evermore. He must be ready at any moment to say "Good-bye" to dearest friends, and uproot himself from fondest associations. Past battles have only trained his faith and courage for greater struggles. This heroic word -
"Theirs not to make reply; Theirs but to do or die" - was essentially the motto of the apostle. He must fulfill himself - cannot rest till he has striven to the end in the "noble contest," finished the race, attained the goal. In the heat of coming storm and darkness kindles the core of light; the Divine love has given all for him, and for it he will give all in return. Extremes meet in this suffering but triumphant man; bound by the irresistible command of his Lord, yet free in the joyous obedience of love. II. EXHORTATION AND CONFIRMATION. 1. Exhortation to faithfulness. They are solemnly adjured to this by the recollection of his own faithfulness to them. He is clear from responsibility in their regard; for he has not shunned to declare to them "the whole counsel of God." His ministry has been, not merely general, but particular, individual - to each man's heart and conscience. He has discharged himself of his burden; they must bear their own. To whom much has been given, of them much will be required. The duty of the faithful shepherd comprises two things - the feeding and tendance of the sheep, and the defense of the flock against its foes. The great word is "Watch " - over self, the spirit, teaching, and conversation; over the flock, - its Divine constitution does not exempt it from human weakness; and against the wolves, who would glide in, under false clothing, to ravage and devour. 2. Solemn commendatory prayer. "I commend you to God" - the best conclusion of every sermon, of every period of Christian labor. Prayer is the expression of evangelical love; it throws the arms of care and affection around the flock when one's own time of personal labor is past. It is the expression of lowliness: after all we have done, the issue must be left to God. He alone can turn the feeble service into a means of power, he alone give the increase to human sowing and watering. It is the expression of faith: there need be no fear on the part of the under-shepherd in leaving the flock in the hands of the almighty Shepherd himself. "God and the Word of his grace:" in these lies endless power. God and truth: in times of persecution or of unsettled belief, these forces go on upbuilding, reclaiming, converting, finishing, and fitting souls for eternal glory. We need not be anxious about the "reconstruction of theology;" God is ever reconstructing the new out of the old; and fulfilling himself in many ways. Our constructions break; but in him is the unbroken continuity of life itself. 3. Farewell reminder. Of his own example, and of all the lessons condensed into it. He had not been a seeker of personal gain; not of "theirs, but of them" (2 Corinthians 12:14). A mirror for all pastors. Happy for them if they can practically prove their disinterestedness by supporting themselves independently of the "altar (1 Corinthians 9:13). But this may not always be desirable. At least they can show that they do not preach to live" so much as "live to preach." To give is more blessed than to receive. God is the eternal Giver, forth-pouring himself in natural and spiritual bounty evermore. And the nearer we come to him, the happier we are. The more we take from God, the more we have to give; and again, the more we give, the more we have. To impart is to obtain release from self, from self-seeking, from the burden of superfluity. It is to reap love and. thanks, provided always that in imparting anything we truly impart ourselves. 4. The parting scene. It is of mingled joy and sorrow. There is the bitterness of orphanage and desolation of John 16:16; but the brightness of the hoped-for reunion. Reproaches of conscience at missed opportunities, but yet the sense that "now is the accepted time and the day of salvation." The pain of disruption; but the consciousness of abiding in Christ, and of the final recovery of all we have loved and lost - in him. - J.
II. EXHORTATION AND CONFIRMATION.
1. Exhortation to faithfulness. They are solemnly adjured to this by the recollection of his own faithfulness to them. He is clear from responsibility in their regard; for he has not shunned to declare to them "the whole counsel of God." His ministry has been, not merely general, but particular, individual - to each man's heart and conscience. He has discharged himself of his burden; they must bear their own. To whom much has been given, of them much will be required. The duty of the faithful shepherd comprises two things - the feeding and tendance of the sheep, and the defense of the flock against its foes. The great word is "Watch " - over self, the spirit, teaching, and conversation; over the flock, - its Divine constitution does not exempt it from human weakness; and against the wolves, who would glide in, under false clothing, to ravage and devour.
2. Solemn commendatory prayer. "I commend you to God" - the best conclusion of every sermon, of every period of Christian labor. Prayer is the expression of evangelical love; it throws the arms of care and affection around the flock when one's own time of personal labor is past. It is the expression of lowliness: after all we have done, the issue must be left to God. He alone can turn the feeble service into a means of power, he alone give the increase to human sowing and watering. It is the expression of faith: there need be no fear on the part of the under-shepherd in leaving the flock in the hands of the almighty Shepherd himself. "God and the Word of his grace:" in these lies endless power. God and truth: in times of persecution or of unsettled belief, these forces go on upbuilding, reclaiming, converting, finishing, and fitting souls for eternal glory. We need not be anxious about the "reconstruction of theology;" God is ever reconstructing the new out of the old; and fulfilling himself in many ways. Our constructions break; but in him is the unbroken continuity of life itself.
3. Farewell reminder. Of his own example, and of all the lessons condensed into it. He had not been a seeker of personal gain; not of "theirs, but of them" (2 Corinthians 12:14). A mirror for all pastors. Happy for them if they can practically prove their disinterestedness by supporting themselves independently of the "altar (1 Corinthians 9:13). But this may not always be desirable. At least they can show that they do not preach to live" so much as "live to preach." To give is more blessed than to receive. God is the eternal Giver, forth-pouring himself in natural and spiritual bounty evermore. And the nearer we come to him, the happier we are. The more we take from God, the more we have to give; and again, the more we give, the more we have. To impart is to obtain release from self, from self-seeking, from the burden of superfluity. It is to reap love and. thanks, provided always that in imparting anything we truly impart ourselves.
4. The parting scene. It is of mingled joy and sorrow. There is the bitterness of orphanage and desolation of John 16:16; but the brightness of the hoped-for reunion. Reproaches of conscience at missed opportunities, but yet the sense that "now is the accepted time and the day of salvation." The pain of disruption; but the consciousness of abiding in Christ, and of the final recovery of all we have loved and lost - in him. - J.
I. Of the relations between the apostolic leaders and the Churches.
2. Founded on a common faith in the gospel of the grace of God.
3. Absolutely free from all sordid and worldly entanglements.
4. While recognizing the eminence o! the leaders, still not dependent on individual men. Sorrowing separation was not overwhelming despair.
II. Of the character of primitive Christianity as exemplified in the words of the apostle and in the elders of Ephesus.
1. Simplicity of the faith.
2. Confidence in the final victory of the truth as it is in Jesus, notwithstanding the inroads of error.
3. Dependence on the Holy Spirit.
4. Brotherhood; helping the weak and ministering to the needy. The love felt towards the apostle an example of the kind of feeling prevailing at Ephesus and in the early Church, so different from the formal and conventional Church life now seen, which is content with a very superficial recognition of brotherly sympathy. The heroism of Paul a fruit of the Spirit. - R.
(1) that Paul has designedly and probably also of Divine design treated Ephesus as the center from which the light and truth of Christ and the typical order of his Church were to spread throughout a very wide district; and
(2) that Paul is divinely directed here to leave a forcible and a touching example to later generations. He examples the extent to which the fidelity and love of apostles, and of all spiritual successors of apostles, ought to be on the look out, and the limits within which also they ought to be restrained, in respect of those portions of the Church over which men may have had the leading oversight. The modern Church surely cries out for admonition, in these very senses supplied by this long passage - whether on the part of its members or of its ministers. The most sacred, most responsible love on earth is too often regarded as a relationship that may be lightly entered upon, and is treated as one that may be, not only lightly broken, but when broken perfunctorily forgotten. The study of this passage must help to inspire very different views. From this farewell address of Paul to those whom he had specially invited to meet him, lest it should be the last time, the chief impressions left on us are these.
I. PAUL'S UNMOVED CONFIDENCE IN HIS MISSION. All that is spoken personal to himself, and all that is spoken personal to the Ephesian elders, is spoken for the honor and glory and prospects of the gospel off Christ. The "ministry... of testifying the gospel of the grace of God" is his steadfast supreme thought. It appears in and through all.
II. PAUL'S UNMOVED CONFIDENCE AS TO WHEREIN CONSISTS ITS EXACT OPERATION UPON MEN. If it is his last exposition of the saving message of his "ministry," it shall be thus summarized and thus repeated: "Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." These two articles constitute the Christian magna charta. They clear the past, they give the key for the future and for all its hope and unfolding promise. "Repentance toward God" clears the very sky of human life, and with a glorious sky indeed over vaults the heart itself. While "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" will secure all else that can be wanted till the time comes for faith to turn to sight.
III. PAUL'S ANXIOUS OUTLOOK - THE OUTLOOK OF SPIRITUAL LOVE. He is not the man to feel he has done his work, and may leave all the rest. He feels he can't leave all the rest. Care and anxiety for the morrow, not of earthly good and personal gain, possess him, but for the morrow of the spiritual career and the very souls of those he had called and testified to and led by his example at Ephesus. That a people see this and feel this genuinely present in their spiritual teacher and pastor, is an influence of great effect upon them. And there is another way in which it acts to great advantage. As time flows on, and the hour of trial and temptation and darkness may come, men are wonderfully helped when they can recall the voice and look and earnestness of one who "told them of these things before they came to pass."
IV. PAUL'S FAITH IN EXAMPLE AND HIS RESPECTFUL REGARD FOR THE "WITNESS" OF THOSE AMONG WHOM HE HAD LABORED. Pride and priestly superciliousness never give expression to this side of the question. That the priest's eye is on the people is their haughty doctrine, and the so genuinely true other side of the matter, that the people's eyes are on the priest, to which Paul gives here such humble and kindly expression, is pushed into coldest shade by them. Without doubt, we are justified in thus regarding all that Paul here says of himself that might seem to be said in a self-commendatory style; there is in very truth nothing of this in his spirit. He does but speak facts, and can say "ye know" (vers. 18, 34) about them. If the elders of Ephesus do not know them, or know them to be not as Paul says, he has courted contradiction, not hidden himself away from it. Of what incalculable consequence example ever is! Of what thrilling consequence it is in the career of the Christian minister and pastor! What quiet rebuke it is, free from bitterness of tongue! What choicest stimulus and suggestion it is, full of life and movement as it is! The leading items of conduct and example, in which the Ephesian elders had been able to take witness of Paul, are interesting to follow.
1. They had witnessed a long stretch of time and variety of state and temper.
2. They had witnessed an humility of mind that bended itself to circumstances, and endured aright what caused tears not idle and jeopardy of life many a time.
3. They had witnessed frankness of relations, plainness of speech, constancy of ministry, in public and in private.
4. They had witnessed a three years' continued impartial "warning of every one night and day with tears."
5. They had not witnessed any self-seeking, any desire of "silver, or gold, or apparel."
6. They had, on the contrary, witnessed their chief pastor at manual labor, to supply his own temporal needs and to help his companions. And in reminding the Ephesian elders of these things, Paul has enshrined for all generations one of the sweetest words of Jesus, unrecorded elsewhere. Yes; and whatever might come to be, there was no doubt that Paul had, by all these uncontradicted methods, become unspeakably endeared to those whom he now addresses.
V. PAUL'S USE OF APPEAL. Direct practical appeal is evidently one of the recognized gospel forces. The preacher is not to forget it (vers. 28, 31).
VI. PAUL'S FINAL RESORT TO PRAYER. The particularity with which even this testimony of Paul to prayer is recorded is worthy of remark, "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all." Prayer is the renunciation of self-confidence. Prayer is the authorized summons for higher help. Prayer is the sure signal of the approach of strength to weakness, continuance to uncertainty, and power to prevail in place of the temptation by which men should fall.
VII. LASTLY, PAUL'S MOVING TENDERNESS OF SPIRIT IN ALL. This tenderness and highly moved state of soul is betokened at every turn. If Paul speak of the relations that had subsisted between the Ephesians and himself (vers. 18-20); if he speak of his own future (vers. 22-25) or allude to his own past (vers. 31-35); if he introduce the names of the Lord Jesus (vers. 24, 35), of the Holy Ghost, and the Church (ver. 28), of God (ver. 32); - the touch is of the tenderest, the tone is of the warmest, and softest, the suggestion is sure to be of the most solemn and pathetic in equal proportions. And in every one of these respects it must be maintained that Paul is an example for all Christian teachers and pastors, for all time. Whatever can be obtained by human instrumentality out of the mysterious mass of humanity will be best obtained thus. No force, no authority, no policy, will obtain souls. Nor will care, and love, and tenderness, and foresight, and faithful "warning" keep all that they shall seem to obtain. The "grievous wolves will enter in;" "men out of" that very number who listened and wept, and were both wept and prayed over, "will arise, speaking perverse things," and, drawn away themselves, "they will draw away others after them." "Offences will come!" But it is to be said that when Paul and the successors of Paul have done and said what Paul now did and said, and something in the same manner, the solemn damning "woe," wherever it fall, will not fall on one of them. They have saved their souls, and they are "pure from the blood of all men." - B.
I. THE TURNING OF THE HEART AND LIFE UNTO GOD. This is what constitutes repentance. Repentance may include, but is not constituted by:
1. Strong feelings of sorrow and shame in view of past sin. It is possible and even common to produce very pungent and powerful feelings by means of energetic oratory; but these, if they are not real, profound convictions, will be temporary, if not even momentary; they are not the essential thing. Repentance will, at some time, include strong feeling of abhorrence of sin, but it may net commence with vivid and convulsive emotions, and is not to be identified with these.
2. Change of outward behavior. It is indeed true that, when really penitent, the idolater will abandon his idolatry, the thief his dishonesty, the drunkard his intemperance, the liar his falsehoods, the truculent man his violence, etc.; but it must be remembered that men sometimes change their habits for other reasons than those of religious conviction. Amendment in outward behavior, valuable and desirable as it is, does not constitute "repentance unto God;" it has also to be considered that there may be, and often is, the truest repentance where there is no alteration of conduct observable by man. The essence of repentance is the turning of the heart to God, and therefore of the life; it is that "change of mind" which consists in the soul turning from forgetfulness of God to thoughtfulness about him, from indifference to his claims to earnest consideration of them, from unwillingness to own his sway to a perfect readiness to yield everything to him, from the guilty retention of our powers for ourselves to a cheerful surrender of ourselves and our days to the living God, our Father and our Redeemer. Thence will follow all the compunction for sin and all the change of conduct which the past career of the soul will demand. Of this "Greek and Jew" alike have need: the Greek (the Gentile) has need to change his thought of God, and the Jew his also; whether from superstition, or from indifference, or from formality, all have to come into a different relation to God - that of humble subjection to his will and surrender to his service.
II. THE ACCEPTANCE OF JESUS CHRIST AS LORD AND SAVIOR. "And faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." The faith of which Paul testified to Greek and Jew was, we are sure, a living power. It was not a mere passive assent to a form of sound words. It was more than an intellectual acceptance of certain propositions. It was the cordial, hearty acceptance by the soul of a Divine Savior and Lord; it was the soul in all its need welcoming a Redeemer in all his strength to save and bless. It meant that acceptance of Jesus Christ in which the soul, conscious of sin and condemnation, flees to him as to the Rock in which it can hide; in which the heart, recognizing its rightful Lord, goes to him in glad self-surrender, and yields itself to him that he may
(1) guide it in his own paths,
(2) use it for his own glory, and
(3) conduct it to his own kingdom. - C.
I. THE UNIVERSAL REQUIREMENT,
1. The temptations of Jews and Greeks, by which they were hindered from repenting and believing - formalism; self-righteousness; ritualism; ignorance. Both in the synagogue and in the heathen temple need of such a proclamation.
2. The blessedness of the change which such a message would effect, The Jewish and Gentile characters, though very different, both requiring an entire renovation. Helplessness apart from the gospel. The message worked wonders in families. Contrast of the new life of the Christian Church with the old life of Judaism and paganism. The same message the substance of all Christian teaching, both in our own populations and in heathen lands.
II. THE FIRM FOUNDATION OF MINISTERIAL SUCCESS. The testimony was clear and undoubted; public and private. Repentance and faith.
1. Apostolic preaching aimed at personal conversion. It was not merely intellectual, or sentimental, or doubtful in doctrine, or perfunctory and cold.
2. The foundation on which the truth was placed was the firm one of the gospel facts. Repentance looked towards God who had spoken in the Old Testament, and faith looked towards Christ whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension Paul testified. Mere change of life is not all, but spiritual renovation through Christ.
3. A clear announcement from the pulpit must be accompanied by a faithful testimony from house to house. The private ministry is as important as the public.
4. Such a testimony of repentance and faith involves all who listen to it in immeasurable responsibility. Let each ere add to his seal by personal repentance and personal faith. - R.
1 Timothy 1:12-16), of the good tidings that God was not a harsh Judge, but a gracious Father, willing all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), that was the truth to the proclamation of which his life was to be devoted." As the subjects are familiar, only an outline of treatment is necessary. We take the latter expression first, as being the more general one.
I. GOD'S GRACE UNTO FORGIVENESS. The gospel is precisely a message concerning God. It is:
1. A corrective message. God is not as men have thought.
2. A revealing message, bringing to light the fact that, by a sublime act of self-sacrifice, he has declared himself to be love, and has shown his grace.
3. A practical message, bearing directly on our sins, and giving assurance of forgiveness.
II. GOD'S CONDITIONS FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS GRACE UNTO FORGIVENESS. Without conditions we should set no value on the grace, the gift, or the forgiveness. The conditions are reasonable and necessary. They are:
1. Repentance. If we are not troubled about out' sin, we shall not care about forgiveness.
2. Faith. If we do not open our hearts to God, he cannot work his good work in us. These are gospel foundations; but how much we have to build thereon! - R.T.
Matthew 5:10-12). The anticipated future, with its bonds and its sufferings and possibly death itself, raised the soul of the man, exalted him; and he stands before us in the noblest stature to which even he ever attained. Loftier words never came from human lips than these (vers. 22-24). His spiritual exaltation included -
I. CHEERFUL ANTICIPATION OF PERSONAL SUFFERING. "I go bound in the spirit," etc. He felt as one who already wore the bonds and was happy in the bondage. He was already "the prisoner of the Lord," and was proud thus to esteem himself. So far from casting about to see whether there was any open door of escape, he gladly went forth to meet the trials that were in front.
II. SUBLIME INDIFFERENCE TO BODILY ESTATE. "None of these things move me" (ver. 24). He was not affected by considerations which are everything to most men; they did not make him wince; he could be poor or rich, hungry or full, confined or at liberty, - it mattered not to him so long as he was following and serving Christ. And here is the explanation of his nobility; it sprang from
III. ABSORPTION IN THE SAVIOR'S WORK. "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish," etc. (ver. 24). "To testify the gospel of the grace of God " - this was the commanding, all-controlling, all-consuming passion of his soul. It impressed everything else into the service; it burnt up everything that stood in the way. It was the dominating force under which every other power ranged itself obediently,
IV. CONFIDING PRAYER. "I commend you to God," etc. (ver. 32). Leaving these converts and, as he surely believed (ver. 25), to see their face no more, he left them in the hands of God; he trustfully committed them to almighty love, to Divine wisdom, to the "faithful Creator" A blessed thing it is for the departing minister, for the dying parent, to leave his people or his family to the tender care of him who wilt make good the kindest and fullest of his promises.
V. EXALTED HOPE. "An inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (ver. 32). Paul continually looked forward to the time when he and his converts should meet in the heavenly kingdom; this helped to sustain him under persecution and disappointment. He turned from the shame which was put upon him by man to the glory which waited to be revealed, and his heart was more than satisfied. This should be the result of our contemplation of the future; it should lead to inward exaltation. It should lead to
(1) such devotedness to the work we are doing for our Master that we shall rise above the fear of man, and even welcome the losses we endure for Christ's sake;
(2) the devout committing of ourselves and of our charge to the love and faithfulness of him who is unfailingly gracious and true;
(3) a sustaining, animating hope, in whose blessed radiance all earthly experiences are lighted up. But in order to this there is presupposed in us what there was in Paul
(4) an entire surrender of ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. - C.
2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Additional "hardness" came out of St. Paul's peculiarly nervous and sensitive temperament. He felt both joys and sorrows so keenly. With the apostle's life compare that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both were divided into two parts:
(1) a working part, in which God was served by active labors;
(2) a suffering part, in which God was served by bearing and enduring afflictions, persecutions, and troubles. By both doing and bearing God may still be served; and in both ways God tests the faithfulness of his people in our times. St. Paul was taught "how great things he must suffer for Christ's Name's sake;" and in the passage before us we see him learning this lesson, and giving some expression to his feeling in regard to it. The Spirit said in St. Paul that the time was now near when a special testimony for Christ amid scenes of suffering would be required of him; and the apostle received the revelation, not only calmly, but cheerfully, like the older apostles, counting it all joy that he was thought worthy to suffer for his Master's sake.
I. EXACTLY WHAT HIS LOT WAS TO BE HE DID NOT KNOW. The Spirit was only pleased to give general indications. Complete knowledge of what is about to happen can never be good for man, because
(1) it takes away the simplicity and naturalness of his conduct;
(2) it prevents the proper exercise of his will upon due consideration of circumstances that arise;
(3) it stops the process of moral and spiritual culture; and
(4) it takes from him the call to a living, daily trust in God. The feeling that all is settled and known tends to prevent faith from keeping up a daily dependence. We cannot too thankfully rejoice that our future is wholly unknown to us, and that we are cast entirely upon the promise of" grace for the day," and upon the assurance that the "Lord will provide." "I'd rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light." We know nothing. Nay, we know everything if we know our ever-present Guide.
II. ST. PAUL WAS AS TRULY MOVED TO GO FORWARD TO SUFFERING AS HE HAD BEEN TO GO FORWARD TO WORK. Recall the previous scene at (Acts 16.), when the man of Macedonia called the apostle to begin missionary labors' in Europe. He had no doubt then that he was following the Divine lead; and he had no more doubt now that he was called to Jerusalem to suffer. We might think that God gave him notice of coming troubles only to warn him and guard him against them; but we must understand that God may in this way test faithfulness. A plain path of duty may be before us, but we may come to know that suffering lies that way; then we are tested whether we will do the duty or shrink back on account of the suffering. The apostle clearly knew his duty, so matters of personal suffering could be no serious concern to him.
III. HIS LOYALTY AND LOVE TO CHRIST MADE HIM WILLING TO SERVE HIM IN WHATSOEVER WAY HE WILLED. Service to Christ, under the inspiration of his love, was St. Paul's simple and sublime idea. "To him to live was Christ." The place, or time, or way of service it was for his Master to settle; and what had to be borne in rendering the service he was willing to let his Master wholly arrange. He set before himself this aim, that he "might finish his course with joy." "It is required of stewards that they be found faithful." Apply to some of the suffering lots now given to God's people. They are spheres of service for Christ, and they lose all their "hardness" when they can be thus regarded.
IV. HIS CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE MADE TRIUMPH OVER HIS AFFLICTIONS AN EASY THING. So much depends on the spirit in which our lot in life is taken up. The apostle is a beautiful example of cheerfulness and hopefulness. He will not let circumstances crush him, or opposition and adversity overwhelm him. He will not lose heart or hope. He sings in his own soul the song with which he has cheered thousands of the saints through the long Christian ages. "All things work together for good to them that love God. So the trials cannot hurt him. He is more than conqueror. He even finds how to look upon a "hard lot" as an opportunity for rendering fuller and heartier witness for the Lord whom he serves. - R.T.
I. A DIVINE CREATION. "Received of the Lord Jesus."
1. After the pattern of Christ's own mission.
2. By the inspiration of the Divine Spirit. Not by education or any lower means. Not influenced by worldly motives.
3. In the spirit of a witness, simply declaring the gospel; recognizing that "the gospel of the grace of God" is "the power of God" to men's salvation.
II. AN EXAMPLE OF SPIRITUAL HEROISM.
1. Victory over fear and selfish calculation.
2. Endurance in toil. The work of the ministry never finished while there are souls to be saved.
3. Superiority to the influence of lower types of character in the Church of Christ. A true man will not be swayed by opinion. The spiritual hero must reckon with the world's spirit of compromise and the Church's lack of sympathy; he must be sometimes misunderstood and maligned.
4. Lively expectation of the future. Paul constantly animated by the prospect of the whole world the kingdom of Christ. The true missionary must lay hold of the future by faith. The missionary spirit in the Church is very different from mere visionary optimism, or speculative scheming for mankind. It is not like the socialistic spirit which easily becomes revolutionary, or the spirit of religious fanaticism which easily becomes cruel and self-destructive; it is based on distinct promises, and it lifts up the whole nature into the light of God. It is the true enthusiasm of humanity (see Isaac Taylor's 'Lectures on Spiritual Christianity'). - R.
I. THE GRACE OF GOD IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MESSAGE, Not a new law, seeing that the old Law cannot be fulfilled, but a proclamation of Divine forgiveness and life in One set forth as a Propitiation, whose righteousness is unto all and upon all them that believe.
II. THE WORLD'S NECESSITIES ARE SUPPLIED BY THE GOSPEL.
1. Individually. The glad tidings of reconciliation. The creation of a new principle of life in the soul.
2. Socially. The kingdom of grace. Tidings for the home; for the state; for the community of nations; for all sorts and conditions of men. All other gospels set up in vain as rivals to this. Preach it in Paul's spirit, and let all who have themselves heard it become evangelists, "pure from the blood of all men." - R.
(1) was to the honor of the Ephesian elders, for they must have been receptive and willing hearers if the apostle found that he might even teach them the mysteries of the gospel; and which
(2) was to the honor of St. Paul as a teacher, who was so skilful in dividing the Word of truth that he could make the very mysteries plain. Compare his language in Ephesians 3:4, where he speaks of their 'being' "able to understand his knowledge, in the mystery of Christ." It is right to declare the whole counsel of God; but it is wise only to declare it to those who are prepared to receive it. Compare St. Peter's counsel and reference to St. Paul in 2 Peter 3:15, 16. The "whole counsel of God" may be regarded as including -
I. THE COMPLETE CIRCLE OF REVEALED TRUTH. This embraces
(1) the Divine revelations made in different ages;
(2) in different forms;
(3) to different individuals.
While the complete circle may be regarded as contained in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, we may not absolutely limit Divine revelation to the written Word. The Spirit of God has full and free access to the minds and hearts of men, and can reveal his will directly to them if it shall please him so to do. To this circle there is a center, but the repetition of this cannot be the Divine idea of "preaching the gospel." Every truth within the circle must be held by, and filled with the spirit of, the central truth. Everything within the circle is the gospel. Ministers may not, and they need not, shun to declare to men the very "mysteries" of revelation, since by the consideration of such the higher culture of the soul is gained. Infants take the milk of first principles; strong men need to feed upon strong meat of difficult and advanced truth.
II. THE TRUTH IN ITS ANTAGONISTIC PHASES. This side of the truth may not be left untouched by any teacher, but its treatment calls for much care and wisdom. There are times when we are required to show how truth opposes error; but usually it is far better to preach the positive truth, and let it by its own force gradually root out and destroy error. Three points may here be illustrated.
1. Christ's truth seemed opposed to Judaism. It was not really opposed to the system as given by God to Moses. It was the natural and necessary outgrowth and completion of it. It was opposed to the corrupt Judaism of the rabbis - a formal and ceremonial system out of which all spiritual life had gone.
2. Christ's truth was opposed to paganism, both in its theories, principles, and practices.
3. Christ's truth is made to appear opposed to science, but only by the undue assumptions and prejudiced bias of some who really misrepresent science.
4. Christ's truth is always opposed to worldly maxims, because it demands the whole soul for God, while the world wants the whole soul for self.
III. THE TRUTH IN ITS PRACTICAL PHASES. Illustrate from the Epistles how directly it bears:
1. On individual habits; teaching us how to possess the vessels of our bodies in sanctification and honor.
2. On family relations; culturing good fatherhood and motherhood, and requiring honorable obedience from children, and service from dependents.
3. On social fellowships; binding man to man in a gracious brotherhood of common helpfulness.
IV. THE TRUTH WITH THE PERSONAL STAMP ON IT. When uttered with the force of a man's own experience, persuasion, and conviction, the truth gains a new power; but we must also recognize that it comes under limitations by getting apprehension and expression only through limited minds - limited by capacity and limited by education. Individuality is on one side power, but on the other side weakness. Conclude by fully unfolding what now may be thought of as included in the "whole counsel of God," especially pointing out that, while the field of revelation is the same that St Paul had, the field of speculation has marvelously grown and enlarged. But still, what men have to preach to their fellow-men is not their speculation, but God's revelation. - R.T.
I. HUMAN APPREHENSION. We often go forward with painful apprehension that some ill is about to befall us; therefore with hesitating step, with trembling heart.
1. It has been that men had an intimation from God that evil was in store for them. This was not uncommon in Old Testament times, when the purpose of God was frequently revealed. It was the case with Paul now; it was revealed to him that dark days were ahead in the experience of the Church at Ephesus.
2. It may be the action of individual insight. By the use of a keen and penetrating judgment, a man can often perceive that events are leading up to a disaster.
3. It may be a simple and sound conclusion from the common heritage of man. It is certain that dark shadows must be across the path we tread, and that we shall be entering them before long.
II. THE SPECIAL ANXIETY OF THE CHRISTIAN PASTOR. Paul apprehended:
1. Attack from without: "Grievous wolves entering in... not sparing the flock" (ver. 29).
2. Mischief from within: "Of your own selves shall men arise, etc. (ver. 30). This is what the Church of Christ has now to fear: the attacks of infidelity, the invitation to immorality, from without; and the subtler and more perilous dangers of spiritual decline, of the decay of faith, of injurious doctrines, of the breath of worldliness, within.
III. THE ATTITUDE OF THE RESPONSIBLE. (Vers. 28-31.) Paul solemnly charged these elders, as those to whose care was committed the Church of God - that sacred body which the Lord had redeemed by his own blood - to do these three things.
1. To keep diligently their own hearts: "Take heed to yourselves" (see Proverbs 4:23).
2. To watch carefully the spirit and course of their people: "And to all the flock."
3. To sustain the life of the members by providing spiritual nourishment: "Feed the Church of God." If we would do what the Divine Head of the Church demands of us, and if we would follow in the footsteps of the most devoted of his servants (see ver. 31), we must
(1) cultivate a deep sense of our responsibility;
(2) exercise unremitting vigilance over ourselves and our charge;
(3) supply that kind and measure of sacred truth which is fitted to strengthen and to purify those whom we undertake to teach. - C.
I. THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE CHURCH. "Purchased with his own blood." Therefore neither an external organism nor a mere idea, but composed of living souls, whose salvation is secured by the merit of his blood. Not a mixed multitude, united by a formal rite, but, professedly at least, these who are partakers of Christ, The admixture of the evil with the good is the work of the "enemy" who sows the tares, not of the original formation of the Church.
II. INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRITUAL VIEW or CHURCH LIFE.
1. On those who "feed the Church," helping them to take heed to themselves and their flocks.
2. On the individual members of the Church, in the assurance of Divine grace, in the maintenance of vigilance.
3. On the world, both in "warning" away these who would defile the Church, and in inviting those who would enter in at the open gate into eternal life. The apostle's words regarded as prophetic. The greatest dangers of the Church have always arisen from lowering the conception of what the Church is. In our proneness to error, let us turn "to the Law and to the testimony." - R.
flock; to the officers as overseers, or shepherds; and to their duty as feeding the flock. It is important to inquire how far the shepherd and sheep figure will explain the scriptural allusions to redemption, or salvation by blood. The figure as used by our Lord in John 10. should be compared with the expression in our text, "which he hath purchased with his own blood." The question which we have to consider is - How does a shepherd purchase his sheep with his blood? The answer takes two possible forms.
I. THE SHEPHERD PUTS HIS LIFE IN PERIL IN DEFENDING HIS SHEEP. This is the characteristic feature of the good shepherd as opposed to the hireling. The good shepherd purchases their safety every day by his willingness to shed his blood in their defense. So a mother may be said to purchase the health of a sick child by her willingness to give her life for his, imperiling her own life by her anxious watching and care.
II. THE SHEPHERD MAY ACTUALLY GIVE HIS LIFE IN FIGHTING AND KILLING THE WOLVES. If he kills the wolves he saves the sheep, though he may himself die of his wounds; and then he plainly purchases the safety of the flock with his blood. These figures may be applied to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He imperiled his life for our defense. He met our great foe in conflict. He overcame sin and death, and plucked death's sting away. He died indeed in the struggle, but he set us free; and so he has purchased us by his own blood. He has won, by his great act of self-sacrifice, our love and life forever. Compare the figure as employed by St. Peter (1 Peter 1:18, 19). - R.T.
fourfold biography," has been preserved to us. It may be said to be Divine indeed. It gives the heavenly aspect of human life. It is the exact and perfect contravention of that which is low, worldly, evil. It breathes the air of the upper kingdom. It puts into language the very spirit of Jesus Christ. It is the life of the Savior in a sentence. To receive is quite on a low level. Any one and anything can do that; and the further we go down in the scale, the more we find recipiency common and supreme. The selfish man, the spoiled child, the ravenous animal, - these are remarkable for receiving. And although it may be said that there are truths which only the educated and inspired mind can receive, that there are inducements which only noble souls can receive, yet the act of receiving is one which is common to lower natures, and is one which ordinarily requires only the humbler, if not indeed the baser, faculties. To give is on the higher level; for -
I. IT IS ESSENTIALLY DIVINE. God lives to bless his universe. His Name is Love; in other words, that which is his distinguishing characteristic, underlying, interpenetrating, crowning all others, is his disposition to bless, his Divine habit of giving. He then most truly expresses his own nature, reveals his essential spirit, when he is giving light, love, truth, joy, life, unto his children. When we give forth of ourselves to others, we are living the life which is intrinsically Divine.
II. IT IS CHRIST-LIKE. He "went about doing good." He lived to enlighten, to comfort, to bestow, to redeem. It was little indeed that he received; it was simply everything that he gave to mankind.
III. IT IS ANGELIC. "Are they not all ministering spirits?"
IV. IT IS HEROIC. By living to expend ourselves for others, we take our stand with the best and noblest of our race. As the world grows wiser it has a diminishing regard for those "great" men who signalized their career by splendid surroundings, or by brilliant exploits, or by displays of muscular or intellectual strength; it is learning to reserve its admiration and its honor for those who generously spent their faculties and their possessions on behalf of others. These are our heroes and our heroines now; and they will be so more and more. If we would take our place - though it be a humble one - with the best and worthiest of our kind, we must be giving rather than receiving.
V. IT IS HUMAN, in the higher sense of the word. It may be human, as sin has unmade man, to be coveting, grasping, enjoying. But it is human, as God first wade man, and as Jesus Christ is renewing him, to think of others, to care for others, to strive and suffer for others, to give freely and self-denyingly to those who are in need.
VI. IT IS ELEVATING. To be constantly receiving is to be in danger of becoming selfish, of making our own poor self the central object of regard, of depending on continually fresh supplies for satisfaction; in a word, of moral and spiritual degeneracy. But to be giving - to be spending time, thought, sympathy, strength, money, on behalf of others, - is to be sowing in the soil of our souls the seeds of all that is sweetest and noblest; is to be building up in ourselves a character which our Divine Lord will delight to look upon. To receive is to be superficially and momentarily happy; to give is to be inwardly and abidingly blessed. It is far more blessed to give than to receive.
VII. ITS RECOMPENSE IS IN THE ETERNAL FUTURE. (See Matthew 25:31-46.) - C.
I. AN INSIGHT INTO THE NATURE OF TRUE BLESSEDNESS. Not in external things, not in a passive state, either intellectually or morally. As we give out from ourselves, we grow in knowledge and enjoyment. Especially true of the active efforts of Christians for the world. To teach is to be taught. To comfort is to be comforted. To sacrifice self is to be rewarded with inward peace and strength.
II. A HELP TO THE CULTIVATION OF PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN LIFE.
1. Remember Christ's care of the poor. The Church an organization for the help of mankind. The poor should see that Christianity is on their side.
2. Remember Christ's zeal for the house of God. The passive state unworthy of God's children. Scanty giving a great discouragement to zealous workers; a great hindrance to the progress of the gospel.
3. Remember the claims of the world. The example of the Lord Jesus in laying down life, not to be remembered only by missionaries, but to teach all his disciples to "count all things but loss for his sake." - R.
1. St. Paul's own life.
2. Christ's teaching.
3. Christ's own life of giving.
4. All human experience.
One of the best things said by the late George Peabody is this, spoken at a reunion at his native town: "It is sometimes hard for one who has devoted the best part of his life to the accumulation of money to spend it for others; but practice it, and keep on practicing it, and I assure you it comes to be a pleasure." It was a saying of Julius Caesar that no music was so charming in his ears as the requests of his friends, and the supplications of those in want of his assistance. Our Lord did not say that there was no blessedness in receiving, only that it is more blessed to give. We may feel how true are his words in relation to -
I. GIVING PRESENTS. These not only win and keep our friends, but they greatly increase our love for them by finding it expression.
II. GIVING SYMPATHY. This so greatly blesses us, because we have to fetch up the very best in us if we are to sympathize with sufferers and sinners. We want our holiest power.
III. GIVING KNOWLEDGE. We cannot clear and complete our own knowledge better than by making the effort to impart it to others.
IV. GIVING LOVE. It is very precious to be loved, but it is surely more precious to love, to give our love to another; it is so ennobling and inspiring that we give our love to Christ.
V. GIVING PRAYERS. Intercessory prayers are the holiest kind, and the most directly and abundantly fruitful in blessings to ourselves. Let us bear in mind that the blessedness of giving we all can win. All of us can give, and we all can give in the various possible ways of giving above referred to. Those even that seem to have nothing yet can give, if a comprehensive view of giving be taken. A poor widow who had only two mites could give. Our Lord himself, though he had nothing, could give. Peter and John could say, "Silver and gold have we none, but such as we have we give thee." There are better things to give away than money; and it is in such things that we find the best blessedness of giving. - R.T.
I. THE ACQUAINTANCE OF THE EPHESIANS WITH PAUL HAD BEEN ONE IN WHICH THEY HAD RECEIVED THE NEW AND PRICELESS BLESSING OF HOLY TEACHING.
II. THE ACQUAINTANCE HAD BEEN ONE IN THE SURE BACKGROUND OF WHICH HAD BEEN ALWAYS A HOLY LIVING EXAMPLE.
III. THE ACQUAINTANCE HAD BEEN ONE FAR REMOVED FROM ALL NARROWNESS OR LIMITEDNESS OF AIM: IT HAD BEEN STAMPED WITH USEFULNESS. The behavior of the sabbath and even of the Lord's day is far more easily taught than the behavior of all life's "common days," and to teach this it is abundantly plain Paul did not disdain.
IV. THE ACQUAINTANCE WAS ONE ALL THE MEMORIES OF WHICH WERE MEMORIES OF UNAFFECTED KINDLINESS AND CONDESCENSION. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8.) - B.