Acts 14:15
"Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.
No Gods, Only GodR. Tuck Acts 14:15
At IconiumM. C. Hazard.Acts 14:1-18
Characteristics of Apostolic PreachingG. R. Leavett.Acts 14:1-18
Courage Requisite in ReformersW. H. Beecher.Acts 14:1-18
Effects of Gospel PreachingS. S. TimesActs 14:1-18
God's Testimony to His WordJames Jeffrey.Acts 14:1-18
God's Testimony to the Word of His GraceB. Beddome, M. A.Acts 14:1-18
God's Testimony to the Word of His GraceH. Stowell, M. A.Acts 14:1-18
IconiumLyman Abbott, D. D.Acts 14:1-18
Iconium and LystraT. H. Hanna, D. D.Acts 14:1-18
Mode of Preaching the Gospel Adapted to SuccessE. T. Fitch, D. D.Acts 14:1-18
Perils of Missionary LifeActs 14:1-18
Persecution Turned into InspirationJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 14:1-18
Proper Witness BearingLisco.Acts 14:1-18
Strike, But Hear UsA. Fuller.Acts 14:1-18
The Courage of Devoted ChristiansActs 14:1-18
The Ministry of the Apostles At IconiumD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 14:1-18
The Insufficient and the EfficaciousW. Clarkson Acts 14:7-20
Apostolic Service and TemptationJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 14:8-18
Paul and Barnabas in LystraJ. Dick, D. D.Acts 14:8-18
The Light Shining in Darkness - LystraR.A. Redford Acts 14:8-18
Three Instances of FaithP.C. Barker Acts 14:8-18
Worship: the False and the TrueM. C. Hazard.Acts 14:8-18
Healing of the Lame Man At LystraE. Johnson Acts 14:8-20
Apostolic SincerityG. V. Lechler, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
Effects of Turning to GodActs 14:15-18
Food and GladnessHenry Jones, M. A.Acts 14:15-18
Food and GladnessActs 14:15-18
Fruitful Seasons AreJ. Brown, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
God in NatureK. Gerok.Acts 14:15-18
God Known by His WorksActs 14:15-18
God's WitnessesDean Vaughan.Acts 14:15-18
Man Must have Some ReligionW. Sparrow, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
Natural Religion, its Uses and DefectsI. Watts, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
Rain a Divine BlessingJ. Eadie, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
Revelation to be ExpectedA. Oliver, B. A .Acts 14:15-18
Seasons of Spiritual FruitfulnessR. G. Dillon, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
The Apostolic Testimony Against HeathenismD. Jones Hamer.Acts 14:15-18
The Beneficence of GodJ. Hambleton, M. A.Acts 14:15-18
The Book of Revelation and of NatureSir T. Browne.Acts 14:15-18
The Danger of Accepting False HomageJ. Bennett, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
The Flatterer RepulsedBiblical MuseumActs 14:15-18
The Living GodH. J. Van Dyke, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
The Pastoral OfficeM. B. Hogg, B. A.Acts 14:15-18
The Sublimity of Christianity and the Worthlessness of Human PopularityD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 14:15-18
The Voices of the HarvestF. W. Brown.Acts 14:15-18
The Witness of HarvestJohn Hunter.Acts 14:15-18
The Witness of the HarvestG. A. Bennetts, B. A.Acts 14:15-18
Witnesses for GodT. J. Judkin.Acts 14:15-18

The subject may be introduced by such a sketch of the incidents as will bring prominently forward these points.

1. The apostles wrought a miraculous healing.

2. Their act was seriously misconceived.

3. Pagan sentiments overwhelmed the Christian teaching.

4. The apostles most deeply felt the insult which the proposed sacrifice offered to the Divine honor and sole claim. Remember that the first and supreme truth to a Jew is the unity and spirituality Of God, and observe that this should be as firmly and jealously conserved by the Christian as by the Jew. One of the most marked features of the pious man in all ages is supreme jealousy of God's sole honor. In describing the miracle out of which the incidents grew, the necessity for a moral preparation before we can receive Divine intervention and deliverance may be pointed out. Men may be set so as to receive, or so as to be indifferent to, God's saving grace. Our Lord pleads thus, "Ye will not come unto me." "The evident eagerness of this cripple marked him out to the quick insight of the apostle as one on whom a work of power could be wrought. It is evident on the face of the narrative that it was not every cripple or every sufferer that Paul would have attempted to heal; it was only such as, so to speak, met half-way the exertion of spiritual power by their own ardent faith." Fixing attention on the serious error of the excited populace, and the earnest efforts of the apostles to correct it, we notice -

I. THE NATURAL ARGUMENT FROM MIRACLES. We mean the first impulsive idea of them likely to spring up in men's minds. Things that are evidently beyond human power must be wrought by Divine power, and persons by whom the wondrous work is wrought must be Divine persons. Such reasoning was strengthened by the legends and superstitions of heathenism, and it may be shown that there lingered in the particular district of Lycaonia, traditions of incarnations of the deity (see instances in the exegetical portion of this Commentary). But the first and natural argument from miracles cannot be sustained when knowledge is advanced and critical thinking gains power. That they are wrought by Divine power and signs of Divine presence is not the only possible explanation of them. Men properly test their so-called miraculous character, and then they test the agency by which they are wrought. Therefore God never bears upon men with the force of miracles alone, and we are led to consider.

II. THE RELATION OF MIRACLES TO TEACHING. This close and necessary connection the heathen could not see, and to this day many Christians do not see. A miracle is nothing standing by itself; it may be most valuable as related to, and the exposition or illustration of, some truth. Renan says rightly that the ancient heathen had no conception of a miracle as the evidence of a doctrine. And Archbishop Trench points out that our Lord's miracles are never called merely wonders, "because the ethical meaning of the miracle would be wholly lost were blank astonishment or gaping wonder all which they aroused. They are also signs' and pledges of something more than and beyond themselves." It may be urged that miracles are never wrought save for the sake of the truth. Even when they are at first sight attestations of a person, they confirm our faith in him only for the sake of the truth which he brings, and they only fulfill their mission when they produce in us receptivity to the truth taught. This is fully illustrated in the incidents connected with our text. The people stayed with what the miracle seemed to say concerning the persons Barnabas and Saul. The apostles earnestly urged that the miracle was but designed to open their hearts to the truth. Much of the difficulty felt concerning the miraculous, would be removed if we dwelt more fully on its moral use, as producing a receptivity for the truth.

III. THE TEACHING OF THIS MIRACLE CAME OUT MORE CLEARLY THROUGH THE MISTAKE MADE CONCERNING IT. It had been designed to aid in securing attention to the apostles' message as sent from God. It came to be a means of correcting men's fundamental error on the being of God. Ordinarily the truth received may be left to push out cherished error. Monotheism, conceived from the Christian standpoint, will of itself destroy all polytheistic conceptions. But sometimes fundamental doctrinal errors need to be resolutely dealt with. The apostles dare not dishonor their Master by permitting a vital error to be cherished. So, at the utmost Personal peril, they declare that there are no gods; there is only God; and that they themselves are only men, his servants, who are permitted to put forth gracious power, as a persuasion to men to receive his blessed message of pardon and life. - R.T.

Sirs, why do ye these things?
In a position similar to that of Herod, they act in an opposite manner (Acts 12:22). And yet there was no small temptation in the matter. They might think this idolatrous prejudice must be excused: there is a spark of truth in it; the esteem for our persons may be serviceable in the spread of the gospel; the idea of the appearance of gods on earth may lead to the doctrine of Christ the Son of God. But that would be nothing else than to suppose that the end sanctifies the means. How often do we thus act? And always to the detriment of the truth and honour of God, which we thought to promote. The apostles took vigorous measures; they tore asunder the web of this delusion when it was yet forming itself, instead of helping to complete it; and God permits them to succeed.

(G. V. Lechler, D. D.)

Let no one say, this is nothing, for a creature, conscious of his infirmity and mortality, to refuse to be worshipped as a god. Alas! we have painful evidence that it is something. For, not to mention the deification of emperors, one of our own countrymen, Captain Cook, suffered himself to be taken for one, the god of war, in the Sandwich Islands, and to be worshipped with idolatrous ceremonies, thinking it afforded a fortunate opportunity of swaying the savage mind. Alas! the savages killed him whom they had adored.

(J. Bennett, D. D.)

Biblical Museum.
When the French ambassador visited the illustrious Bacon in his last illness, and found him in bed with the curtains drawn, he addressed this fulsome compliment to him: "You are like the angels, of whom we hear and read much, but have not the pleasure of seeing them." The reply was the sentiment of a philosopher and language not unworthy of a Christian: "If the complaisance of others compares me to an angel, my infirmities tell me I am a man."

(Biblical Museum.)

"I saw with mine own eyes, when in Africa two or three years ago," says the Rev. W. Allen, "the notorious skull temple, or Juju house, not long ago the scene of the most ghastly horrors; I saw the very men who had been the high priests of Juju, and ringleaders in all kinds of atrocities; I saw the accursed grove where human victims were constantly slain, and twins cast out to die; but the temple had fallen into ruins, the skulls were crumbling to dust, the idols lay grovelling on the ground, the grove was the highway to God's house, and the once cannibal priests and people were all assembled in church, and joining with earnest fervour in the worship of Almighty God. And since then, and within the last two years, the tottering temple has been deliberately razed to the ground, the human skulls decently interred, and all the detestable tokens of their former idolatry, some of which had been procured at a tremendous cost, and had been regarded as of priceless value, were handed over to Bishop Crowther, forwarded by him to me, and are now in London. In lieu of their former skull temple the natives have erected at their own expense, at a cost of not less than £2,000, a church which seats two thousand people, which is now Bishop Crowther's cathedral, and at the consecration of which over three thousand natives were present."


1. In the spirit it generates. It is the characteristic of mean-natured men that they seek homage from their fellows. Many of the heathen emperors put themselves up as gods; and there are those now in every circle who are craving to be the idols of their sphere. But here you have two men to whom the highest honours were unanimously and enthusiastically offered — repudiating them with a holy indignation. What gave them this spirit? Christianity! The man who has this spirit is too great, not only to seek, but to receive the honours which worldly men covet.

2. In the God it reveals.(1) The absolutely living One — "the living God"; not like their gods, dead idols. His life is the life of the universe.(2) The universal Creator.(3) The patient Governor of men. Their conduct was offensive to Him, and opposed to His requirements; but He allowed them full scope for the play of their intellect, genius, and passions.(4) The constant Worker in the universe. The operations of nature were only His power in action. He works everywhere in nature, always doing good, and all His works are "witnesses" of Himself. This discourse of the apostles shows how they adapted their subject to their hearers. When they address Jews, they deal with the Hebrew Scriptures; when they address heathens, they expound the Bible of nature.

3. In the revolutions it effects. The work of Christianity is to turn souls from the false to the true, from the shadowy to the real, from the creature to the Creator. The gods of men are vanities, whether Jupiter or Mercurius, or worldliness, fashion, pleasure, or pride. What a grand thing, then, is Christianity! All the systems of men to it are as tapers to the sun.

II. THE WORTHLESSNESS OF HUMAN POPULARITY. How long did this public desire to worship the apostles continue at Lystra? It had a very brief existence (ver. 19). What a rapid reaction! The enthusiastic adorers are transformed to malignant foes; the men who are honoured as gods one hour, are treated the next as wretched criminals deserving death. This is popularity. "Hosanna" today, "Crucify" tomorrow. What a worthless thing! How much beneath the man to value, still less to court. He who worships popularity worships —

1. A corrupt god. So long as the world is depraved, the popular thing must be wrong.

2. A capricious god. It approves today what it denounces tomorrow. Little men go after popularity, and their little souls adore it; great men are followed by popularity, and their great, natures care. nothing for it.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Derbe and Lystra would be as different from Iconium and Antioch as villages in India would be from the larger towns of the presidencies. But we need not go so far to find illustration. In spite of railways, telegraphs, newspapers, and cheap postage, there are many quiet places in our own land where the pulses of our great national life are feebly felt, and where the people are living very much as their fathers did fifty years ago. The gospel message confronts totally fresh circumstances. At Lystra there was heathenism densely ignorant and loyal, there were superstitions much less easily dealt with and destroyed. Three things are here declared —

I. A LIVING GOD OF REDEMPTION, AS AGAINST HERO WORSHIP. I do not see much to choose between the ancient heathen deification of heaven, and its more modern form of the canonisation of saints. I do know, however, that the men so dealt with would recoil from such worship. There was only one that accepted homage and worship. Angels and apostles repudiated it. And yet there has always been a readiness to offer homage to the heroes in every age, and especially when the honour is useless to him to whom it is paid. The fathers persecute and slay the prophet, whose sepulchre their children build. Is it wrong, then, that men should honour human greatness? By no means. No true man can read of heroisms of calm, patient endurance, as well as of daring, without having his nobler pulses stirred. But hero-worship has its dangers. It may be paralysing instead of inspiring. Because, when you come to think about it, a man's heroism is a lonely and incommunicable splendour. And the greatest men have their imperfections. Then what glad tidings are these of the apostles of the Christ, leading the generous and appreciative instincts of men aright! Our hopes and prayers, our trusts and appeals, are turned to Him from whom all heroes have their nobility, and in Him all we also may live and move and have a grander being. Our life is in the living God, and the gospel has not done its perfect work until the trust of the soul is drawn up away from all things lower and temporal, and fixed upon Him whom to know is life eternal. Then in our own kind and way we shall have heroes also.

II. A LIVING PROVIDENCE AS AGAINST THE WORSHIP OF NATURAL FORCES. Who shall say that this is aimed but at the superstition of a barbaric age, and that there is no such heathenism now? Heathenism is ignorance. Anciently it was an ignorance by reason of the clearer truth having been not yet proclaimed. Today it is an ignorance through rejection of the message of the Most High. The older heathenism is the nobler of these two. But better, happier than either, the glory of the gospel which points to the living God, who is the careful, loving Providence of all His children. To know this is to fear no evil; it is to live in the house of the Lord continually.

III. A LIVING GOD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUE COMMAND, AS AGAINST SELF-WILL. Who shall tell us what is right and good? Man's own reason and instinct, the agreement of society. Thus speaks heathenism, and its morality has been a disastrous failure. The nations who have walked, and still walk, in their own ways, are not the benefactors of the world. The gospel says national interests lie in the path of national duty. Selfishness is never right. Violence carries its own death sentence. A man is too wayward to guide his life in safety, too weak, too changeful to be left to fashion his own destiny. Thank God for the word He has spoken and the doings of His activity; good unto all, even to the unthankful and evil. The very heart of the glad tidings is the fact of a personal, living Lord. Not a force, not a general drift of things, but a Father, who is eager to redeem His children unto Himself.

(D. Jones Hamer.)

I. ITS TRUE SPIRIT. The minister of Christ is a man of "like passions" with his hearers, and his success depends on his establishing a sense of oneness with them. This is one of Paul's grand themes. It behoved Christ "to be made like unto His brethren."

II. ITS PERILS. Notwithstanding the levelling attacks on it, an undoubted respect for it still exists. In this lies danger. Our people place us on a high pedestal on which we are expected never to stagger. Should we fail in any degree our influence is diminished. If it be enjoined that men should account ministers "stewards of the mysteries of God," it is no less plainly declared that "we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves."

III. ITS WEEK. To call men to "turn from vanities to the living God."

1. No vanity can satisfy the human spirit.

2. God is ready to welcome all who turn to Him.

(M. B. Hogg, B. A.)

The living God
Is God real? This is the question of the ages. Four philosophers are discussing it together. The first says, "There is no God." This is the atheist. The second says, "I cannot tell, and therefore I do not think about it." This is the agnostic. The third says, "I cannot be sure that God is, nor what He is; but I think He is thus and so, and I act upon this supposition." The fourth says, "God is: I know Him." This is the apostle of religion. We have to ask, Which of these four has the facts on his side? In regard to the first, he stands alone, and is in the difficult position of having to prove a positive by negatives. He must sweep the universe from end to end, and show that it is empty, and prove that an effect may exist without a cause. The second and third stand together in theory, though they differ in practice. They both admit the idea of God, but they cannot discover the reality. The second says that he will have nothing to do with it. But the third declares it is so beautiful that he will worship it and make it the guide of his life. Now, in regard to their common view, one thing is clear. It is unreasonable. For if there were no God it would be impossible for us to find traces of Him. But if He is in the universe, there must be evidences of His being and power. We have, therefore, an antecedent probability in favour of the fourth view.

I. THE WORLD IS FULL OF GOD. He is on every side of you. You touch not His substance, nor see His face, but He is here as really as light, gravity, electricity, though you cannot see them. You know them; they are manifested by their workings. So God is manifested in the world. There are three forms in which this manifestation comes to us. Power, wisdom, beauty.

1. Look at these mighty forces which permeate our globe. Do not all these tell us of a living fountain of force? The heathen saw in a lightning flash a thunderbolt hurled by Jupiter. We call it an effect of electricity. But what is electricity but an effluence of an Almighty Will?

2. But consider how wonderfully these forces, and the material substances which they are incessantly changing, are adapted to the production of certain definite and desirable results. No intelligent person can fail to see in the universe that which in any human production we should call wisdom, though on a scale much more vast. How intricate and majestic the combination of forces which keeps the heavens balanced; how skilful and exact the construction of the eye!

3. And then, the beauty of it all! Whence is this derived? If the universe were but a vast machine, what power could it have to touch our spirits? Why should our hearts leap up when we behold a rainbow? It is but the refraction of certain rays of light in certain drops of water. An orchard in the springtime; a field of golden grain in summer, etc., these are but chemical effects, the natural results of the changes of the seasons. Why should they be so lovely? Surely the grain, the fruit, the snow, could have been produced just as well without beauty. Who has informed them with this gracious splendour? God it is whose presence makes the world alive with beauty: He it is whose vision thrills us when we know it not.

II. IN THE MORAL WORLD we touch Him yet more closely: He reveals Himself to us as a person. Here we stand in another world from that which is known to our senses. Absolutely different from the feelings of wonder or delight at the things which are seen is the sentiment of moral obligation, the distinction between right and wrong, the voluntary movement of the soul under the laws of good and evil. No external force, no law of nature, no command of man can create that which we call duty; and yet it is a reality which we cannot question. Nothing in the universe is more real than this, and in this I touch God. He it is that commands and binds me. He reveals to me this world within the world, and summons me to live aright. The universe is filled with His voice, saying, "Thou shalt," and "Thou shalt not." But, mark you, there is no constraint laid upon me. My will is free. I can, I must, choose for myself between good and evil. And here is the wonder of it; here is the manifest presence of the living God. For if the moral law were natural and impersonal, it would bind us resistlessly as gravity or electricity.

III. WE FIND GOD IN THE WORLD AS AN HISTORICAL REALITY. Just as we know the reality of the Persian, or the Grecian, or the Roman empires by their records on stone or parchment, by the traces which they have left in the world, so we know that God is a reality by the records sod results of His dealings with men. If you deny all traces of a supreme Providence, the history of the world becomes an inexplicable fable. How has the race been preserved in numberless perils? how have human industry and knowledge and character been unfolded and developed? how, amid the crash of falling empires and the dust of ruined civilisations, have learning and virtue been kept alive, and the happiness of humanity enlarged century by century; if it be not by the indwelling and in working of an almighty and all-wise Governor? God in history is a reality. And more than this, we have the actual record of His special dealings with men and nations. The Bible is a history of men and of God. Above all, He has shined forth clearly in the person and life of Jesus Christ. This Divine-human Master and Saviour of men is to us the unshaken evidence of the reality of God. When we see Him we see the Father, for He and the Father are one.

IV. IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE, the life of faith and hope and love and prayer, we meet and touch the living God. No mere vision of distempered sleep was that experience of Jacob, by the ford of Jabbok. It was a reality. When the tide of penitence sweeps over the soul, and we are humbled in the dust crying for pardon, have we not felt the touch of His forgiving hand laid upon us in secret? Have we not cast ourselves in faith upon Him whom we see not, as one who leaps into the darkness, and found our Father's everlasting arms embracing, bearing us up?

(H. J. Van Dyke, D. D.)

Which made heaven and earth.
as —




(K. Gerok.)

It is said of the great Galileo — who had been accused of infidelity, because he asserted that the earth went round the sun, in apparent contradiction to the language of Scripture — that when questioned by the Roman Inquisition as to his belief in God, he pointed to a straw lying on the floor of his dungeon, and said to his accusers, that from the structure of even so insignificant an object as that, he could infer the existence of an intelligent Creator.

There are two books whence I collect my divinity besides that written one of God, another of His servant, Nature — that universal and public manuscript that lies exposed to the eyes of all. Those who never saw Him in one have discovered Him in the other. Surely the heathens knew better how to read and join these mystical letters than we Christians, who cast a more careless eye on these common hieroglyphics, and disdain to suck divinity from the flowers of nature.

(Sir T. Browne.)


1. His existence; for it is certain that nothing could make itself, but must have been made by someone. Who but God made the worlds?

2. What He is, viz., that He is a Spirit, perfect in wisdom and power.

3. His absolute dominion over all things (Genesis 14:19), and His right to dispose of all things as He pleases (Romans 9:20).

4. That though He is the absolute and natural Lord of all things that He has made, yet He is pleased to deal with His rational creatures in a way of moral government, and will reward them according to their works. Conscience may discover so much of the natural law and will of God as a righteous Governor if it be properly and wisely employed (Romans 2:14, 15).

5. That He is a universal Benefactor to mankind, even above and beyond their deserts, and notwithstanding all their provocations. The text declares this.


1. To convince men of sin against the law of God, and to lay all mankind under a sense of guilt and self-condemnation. The Apostle Paul begins with this doctrine in the first chapter of Romans.

2. As it is designed to awaken men to the practice of their duty, so it has had some influence on mankind, at least by the fear of punishment, to keep, preserve, and restrain part of them from the extremest degrees of wickedness. Where there has been nothing of this knowledge, mankind have almost lost their superior rank among the creatures, and degenerated into a brutal nature.

3. It gives some encouragement to guilty creatures to repent of their sins, and to return to God by a general hope of acceptance, though they had no promise of pardoning grace. And this was the very principle upon which some of the better sort of the Gentiles set themselves to practise virtue, to worship God and endeavour to become like Him.

4. It serves to vindicate the conduct of God as a righteous Governor in His severe dealings with obstinate and wilful sinners both here and hereafter. This will leave them without excuse in the great day when God shall judge the secrets of all hearts. Their own consciences will accuse them and bear witness against them (Romans 1:20, 21; Romans 2:15; Romans 3:5, 6).

5. It prepares the way for preaching and receiving the gospel of His grace. St. Paul (Acts 17:22, etc.), by discoursing first on natural religion comes at last to awaken men to repentance, and preaches Jesus with the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment (ver. 31).


1. It is but a small portion of the things of God which the bulk of mankind can generally be supposed to learn merely by their own reasonings. The bulk of mankind, even in the learned nations, did actually know but little of the true God, or of their duty towards Him, or the way of obtaining future happiness.

2. The light of nature, even in those things which it did teach the heathen world, is but dim and feeble, and leaves mankind under many doubts and uncertainties in matters of considerable importance (Acts 17:27). "The world by wisdom knew not God."

3. All the knowledge of God which they arrived at by the light of nature had actually but little influence to reform the hearts or the lives of mankind (ver. 16). See the iniquities numbered up in a large and detestable catalogue (Romans 1.).

4. This knowledge of God by the light of nature doth rather serve to show men their sin and misery than discover any effectual relief; and in this respect it comes infinitely short of what the revelation of the gospel of Christ hath done.Reflections:

1. Since the rational knowledge of God and natural religion has its proper uses, and especially to lay a foundation for our receiving the gospel of Christ let it not be despised. There may be some necessary occasions for our recourse to it in a day of temptation, when our faith of the gospel may be tried and shaken.

2. Since this knowledge of God, which is attainable by the light of nature has so many defects, let us never venture to rest in it.

3. Since the nations which have only the light of nature are forced to feel out their way to God through such dusky glimmerings, let us bless the Lord that we are born in a land where the Book of Grace lies open before us, as well as the book of nature, to teach us the knowledge of God and His salvation.

(I. Watts, D. D.)

Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness.
I. THE TEXT IN ITS IMMEDIATE BEARING — that God hath a "witness" of Himself.

1. In His visible creation. "Which made heaven and earth," etc. Look at nature, composed of an endless diversity of organised substances. Examine these, and you will see that each part is admirably adapted to its particular end. The design indicates a designer. The universe could no more make itself, than a watch could make itself. Intelligence is equally visible in the contrivance by which the minutest creature puts out its smallest antennae to the warm sun, as in the very movements of the solar system. God "left not Himself without a witness" also of tits power; that evidences itself in carrying on the influence under which each thing severally performs its own functions.

2. In His providence. To wisdom and power He has superadded goodness. The great end in view is a benevolent end. The Creator is the Governor. He appointed certain seasons for the benefit of man; and this the apostles referred to. And this too amidst human unworthiness, superstitions, and idolatries. Justly had He swept away a rebellious people; but goodness withheld the sword, and it only pierced the cloud to let down fatness upon their heads. In the midst of wrath He "remembers mercy." Amidst the wonders of the visible creation are not many of you living "without God in the world"? Ask this yourselves; and ask, in all your unworthiness, in all your proneness to idolatry, if aught can restrain the Divine and righteous indignation but the Divine goodness.


1. The Bible — a standing exposition of His will, record of His laws, exhibition of His perfections; containing His judgments against sin; presenting His remonstrance against offending man. But the Bible — pregnant with the great scheme of human redemption; unfolding His new covenant; rich in promises to "all who call upon Him." The Bible is the grandest, the most magnificent monument of the love of God.

2. The Church. God has never been without a band of holy men upon the earth. They have been its salt to preserve it from a universal putrefaction. It is as old as Abel's day. It lived in the forms of patriarchal life. And from the time of Christ, amidst all the malice of the wicked, and the assaults and conspiracies of hell itself, its existence shall continue until the Church militant becomes the Church triumphant. God, in the foundations of His Church, in its appointed ordinances, in the burden of its devoted preachers, in the conversion, the blessed experience of its members, has a witness upon earth.

3. The Holy Spirit. He is a "witness" of God whom believers have within them, in an experimental knowledge of the truths and comforts from God, where all before was the utter darkness of ignorance and the barrenness of perished hopes.

4. The reason of man. This, in its healthy exercise, when it is unwarped by prejudice, makes certain discoveries of God in the moral relations which His character bears to us; and out of which great responsibilities grow. Reason, that in admitting His claims, draws an inference of the guilt of man in not fulfilling them; but whereby man, in His own eyes, becomes obnoxious to punishment, is a "witness" of God.

5. Conscience. If by its fears and its pains, painting a judgment to come, a man is restless and perturbed, there is in it surely a witnessing for God in the verity of His Word, "Be sure your sin shall find you out."

6. Believers are the witnesses of His faithfulness, of His power, of His love.

(T. J. Judkin.)

It has been perhaps too much the fashion to leave out this topic from our teaching. The Christian minister's one business is to preach Christ. But is he therefore bound to narrow his teaching to some one or two of Christ's doctrines? I do not find our Lord Himself, nor His apostles, refusing the topics of what is called the religion of nature. These things are the avenues of the gospel.


1. Paul says distinctly that nature is God's witness (Romans 1:20). Men may argue themselves out of anything: and so they may argue themselves out of the belief that this fair world, with its bright lights and its fruitful seasons, its ordinances of day and night, of life given and life replenished, is a proof of a personal Creator. But we can heartily echo the wise saying, "Nature could no more have made me, than fashion could have made the coat I wear."

2. And Providence too is God's witness. We can say with perfect confidence to any young man whose course in life is still undecided for good or evil, there is no doubt that that power, whatever it be, which presides over the course of the world is a power which loves righteousness and hates iniquity. If you live morally and religiously you will live, on the whole, happily. Act as if there were no God, and you will live to curse the day when you first gave way to temptation. Somehow or other human life is so ordered that in the long run it is well with the righteous and ill with the wicked.

3. And who shall deny that God has a witness also in the human conscience? What is this strange thing within me which presumes to sit in judgment upon myself? this thing which certainly I did not place there, and which however I may disregard and disobey I cannot wholly dethrone, but something through which God still communicates with me still threatens, punishes? These elementary evidences are too much left out or slurred over in our modern teaching. And they lie under all that is more distinctively Christian. It is only a man with a conscience to whom Christ can call. It is only a man whom Nature has instructed and Providence has disciplined who can feel the mercy of a gospel or see any beauty in a Saviour that he should desire Him. My brethren, have we all learned these elementary lessons? For these also, like the gospel, may be first disregarded and at last denied. And then, with them, goes all else; all living sense of responsibility, all godly fear, all quickening and sustaining hope.

4. Nor has God left Himself without a witness to you. You did not bring yourselves into being, nor can you preserve for one day, by any choice or any providence of your own, the very spark and seed of life. And as the gift, and the continuance, of being, so also the things which have befallen you; sickness and health, sorrow and joy, failure and success, danger and deliverance, neglect and love have been rather ordered for you than chosen by you. And not only so; but something within tells you how tenderly and how forbearingly you have been dealt with; that you have not been forgotten in trouble, nor let alone ill sin, nor rewarded entirely according to your wickedness: the lot assigned you has been even more medicinal than penal, and yet more evidently considerate and personal than either. These things your better self confesses to you; and the experience of life has been to you God's witness.

II. TO WHAT? To His own being and character. To the fact that there is a God, and that He is this and not that; a God of truth, not of falsehood; a God of holiness, not of evil; a God of love, not of hatred. You remember how often these words close a paragraph of the Old Testament prophecies; "And ye shall know that I am the Lord." Even so it is with those evidences of which we have spoken. They are to make God known to man. And for what purpose? As a point of theory or of doctrine? As a display of Divine greatness to end with itself? Not so: but for this end which is worthy of God; "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee." "That by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature," etc. This knowledge can be communicated only through Jesus Christ; only by the Holy Spirit of God working in man's heart as the Spirit of the Eternal Father and of the Eternal Son.

(Dean Vaughan.)

God never wrought a miracle to confute an atheist, because His ordinary works are sufficient. Yet many move among the works of God, without acknowledging their Divine Author. How useful to all such might be the serious study of our text. Consider —

I. THE BENEFICENCE OF GOD. This is too copious a thing to speak of as it deserves. Its origin is in past eternity; it extends throughout eternity to come. Think of a Being, all-perfect, all-powerful, all-wise, employing His mighty energies in perpetually doing good. What an immense amount of happiness He must be continually diffusing! It is true, God has other attributes, some of sterner aspect. He is the moral Governor of mankind; bound to punish all iniquity. And visitations of the Divine wrath against sin are no proofs against the Divine beneficence. It is also true that God's own people, who now love Him, do also suffer; but our very sufferings are sent in beneficence. They come with a message of our Father's love; they are softened by His kind pity; they do us good while they stay; they leave a fragrant remembrance when they go.


1. God "gave us rain from heaven." So Jeremiah: "Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain?" So, too, Zechariah: "Ask ye of the Lord rain...for the idols have spoken vanity." The rain coming in its season, is the gift of God. In giving rain God uses means; vapours, being exhaled from the sea and the surface of the earth, gather into clouds, and clouds being condensed by cold descend in showers; but who gave these laws to Nature? Is Nature God? Is she not rather a handmaid to Deity? Philosophers often stop at the second causes; and having shown how certain causes produce certain effects, seem reluctant to say who is the cause of these causes. Not so the apostle. "He gave us rain from heaven." Their danger was, to attribute to idols what was the gift of God. There is a danger now of making second causes idols. "Behold," says Elihu, "He maketh small the drops of water," etc. Think what the earth would become if God were to withhold the rain in its season.

2. God gives the rain, and the rain helps to make the fruitful seasons; but God is their true Author. He created the earth with its properties suited to vegetation; He made the plants; He has preserved their succession; He "giveth seed to the sower." The very strength and skill of the cultivator of the soil are from Him. And thus "He gives us fruitful seasons." Some, indeed, more so than others; but this is, that our dependence may be felt, our obligations owned, our prayers and our praises called forth. Take the seasons altogether through a considerable series of years; do we not find that fruitfulness is their general characteristic, unfruitfulness the exception? — while the Divine goodness is continually manifested both in giving and withholding, the very harshness in the latter case being meant as a salutary chastening.


1. Although "in times past God suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, He left not Himself without witness." The "rain" was His "witness"; all its showers testified of His power, His providence, and His beneficence. "Fruitful seasons" were His "witnesses"; the spring with its opening buds, the summer with its chaplets of flowers, autumn with its golden sheaves, the very winter with its well. stored fruits, all testified of God in the ears of nations, too often unheeding the voice from heaven and bent on their own ungodliness. How clear is Scripture in showing the inexcusableness of heathenism and idolatry!

2. Now surely, if the beneficence of God in "giving rain and fruitful seasons" was a witness for God to heathens, it is so also to us. To how many careless, thoughtless and ungrateful people, even in Christian lands, are the "fruitful seasons" a witness for God, leaving them without excuse!

(J. Hambleton, M. A.)

Lord Chesterfield, being in Brussels on one occasion, supped with Voltaire and a Madame C., his disciple. "I think," said the lady, "the British Parliament consists of some five or six hundred members, the best informed and sensible men in the kingdom, does it not?" "It is so supposed, madame," was the formal reply. "What then," continued she, "can be the reason they tolerate so great an absurdity as the Christian religion?" "I suppose, madame," said his lordship, "it is because they have not been able to substitute anything better in its place; when they can, I doubt not but that in their wisdom they will readily accept it." Chesterfield, in his sly, ironical reply, went on the assumptions —

I. THAT SOME RELIGION MEN MUST HAVE. This he shared with the most sagacious men in all ages. It has been inferred —

1. From the teachings of the past, as found in history, tradition, and fable. From the beginning to this hour, wherever the foot of man has trod, religion has been found.

2. From the necessity of religion to the well-being of society. All great legislators and statesmen have seen this and acted accordingly; for, as De Tocqueville remarks, "Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot."

3. From the manifest requirements of the individual. Every man stands in manifest need of religion, and that, however it may be with the living, when men come to die, almost all wish this want were supplied, and regret that they had not before taken measures to supply it.

4. From a consideration of human nature and the elements which compose it. The religious instinct belongs to it as much as any other. This religiousness is no accident: it comes of man's weakness and dependence as a finite being; of his intelligence, which looks for and is not satisfied without a first cause, personal and infinitely wise; above all of his conscience. Till this is torn from man's breast, he must believe there is a ruler over him in the heavens.

II. THAT IF ANY IS NOWADAYS ADOPTED IT MUST BE CHRISTIANITY. The choice is only between Paganism, Mohammedanism, Deism, and Christianity.

1. The first may be dismissed at once. When the world, under apostolic teaching, renounced heathenism, it renounced it forever.

2. The claims of Mohammedanism may be disposed of with like despatch. All that is contained in the Koran, which commends itself religiously to our judgment, has been taken from the Bible: the rest is folly and impurity. Bereft of external advantages, there is nothing within to recommend it, either in its origin, history, or spirit. The adoption of such a system by persons brought up under Christian influence is not to be thought of.

3. But what about Deism or natural religion — a system which acknowledges God, but rejects revelation and Christianity. Well, we need a religion which will with authority and certainty instruct us about the nature and character of God, and our relations to Him. We need it to assure us of and guide us to immortality. We need it to help us to bear the burdens of life; to strengthen us in holy living, and to cheer us with bright and well-grounded hope, and make us more than conquerors over death. So much for the individual's wants. But for society we further need a religion that will take strong hold on the general mind, and by its own inherent energy, acting through appropriate means on the public conscience, will purify and elevate it, giving us honesty in business, moderation and forbearance in ordinary intercourse, and kindliness and affection in domestic life. Now, can Deism accomplish these purposes for the world?(1) It has never proved its sufficiency by the actual accomplishment of these ends for any community. It lacks power. It has no aggressive energy. It was never the permanent religion of a nation.(2) An actual inspection of the system itself shows that it must needs be so. It is, indeed, not so much a system of unbelief as of unbeliefs. It is destructive, not constructive. Deism comes not with authority: it speaks as the Scribes. It is not the voice of God: it even spurns the idea that God has ever spoken to the race: it is confessedly the voice of man, In the matter of religion man needs the direct interposition of Divine authority. A religion, without such authority, is like a bank note, well engraved it may be, but lacking the proper signature. Further, Deism has no outward standard to which all may resort for information and direction. In all matters touching government (religion is governmental) we need a written constitution. We need it for protection and convenience. In civil and religious matters we want to know our duties and the rights of the government; and we further need to have them recorded where all may find access to them. Without such record we should be at the mercy of our own fickleness, of the crafty assaults of the plausible, of the weakness of the human memory, and of the strength of human passion. But Deism has no sacred book; no standard to walk by. Our conclusion then is, that the high purposes of religion for the world cannot be answered by Deism.

4. Thus has God shut us up to Christianity. God hath not left Himself without witness. By the very nature which He hath given us, the circumstances in which He has placed us, and the facilities which He has supplied to our hand (to say nothing of miracles, and prophecies, and various other historical, moral, and critical proofs), He has plainly and unmistakably shown where truth, interest, and duty lie. As by a voice from heaven He has said of Jesus: "This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him." "This is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."

(W. Sparrow, D. D.)


1. To give us more light respecting God. The light of nature shows us that there is one God, who is intelligent, powerful, righteous, good. But what do you find flooding almost the entire world? Polytheism — the belief that there is not simply one God, but many. And not only so; there is not a single instance of a nation rising out of its belief in many gods, and by its own culture attaining to the knowledge of one God.

2. To give us more light in reference to our duty. Some heathen moralists taught much and admirably respecting human duty, but they also taught what was the very reverse. But we have to look not at what one or two have reached through their unaided powers, but at what have been the prevalent views and moral practices of the world. Read the close of the first chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans. A man will in character take after the being he worships. The heathen gods were immoral. What could you expect, therefore, but to find the people as vile at least as the imaginary beings they worshipped. Nay, immorality of the foulest kind was a part of the worship of the gods. Both Cicero and Cato throw their apologetic mantle over the grossest vices.

3. To give us more light on human destiny. Taking the light of nature alone, there is good ground for the conclusion that the soul is immortal, and that sin will not go unpunished. But philosophers, who reasoned well of a future state, lost faith in their own conclusions. And then how dim and shadowy the notions of the future world! The druids believed in something like the transmigration of souls. The Scandinavians had their Flame world and their Mist world, and their Valhalla for the brave, and their Hellheim for the coward. The Greeks and Romans had their Tartarus and their Elysium.

4. To give us new power. We not only need more power than nature gives, but more power than nature has. The heathen moralists knew a great deal more than they practised. Whatever their amount of light, they never acted up to it, and had no power to act up to it. What was also needed was a new passion. Suppose, as some have averred, that you can extract a perfect code of morals from heathen teachers, there is one thing you cannot do, and that is make men love it. Kindle in the heart such a flame of love as burned in the heart of Paul, and then you will have done something to establish your position.

5. To give man comfort. Human sorrow is a great subject; and what is the root of our sorrow? It is sin. The conscience is guilty, and hence remorse, anxiety, and fear. Nature spake of God's goodness, but when man cried for mercy there was no answer. Nature spake of righteousness, and told him that sin would be punished; but when he asked if there could be no forgiveness, nature was dumb. That man might have peace for his conscience, joy in his grief, and hope in his death, a revelation from God was needed assuring him that there is forgiveness with Him.

II. REVELATION LIKELY FOR GUN. The grounds of this hope are —

1. The constitution of the human race. Humanity has descended from a single pair, and is continuing to multiply. The population of the globe is over 1,200,000,000, add to this the millions that have died, and the question raised is: Is it likely that God would have made man to multiply, if He had had no intention of counteracting in some way the ruin of his sin? I hardly think it, and therefore I see here something which begets the hope of a revelation.

2. The struggle which we see everywhere between good and evil. Sin certainly has the mastery, but it is not a mastery which is unchallenged. Now, if man had been abandoned of God, I can hardly think we should have had this struggle. Nay, more, look at the world, and say if it seems made for a race of beings who are as certainly given over to extinction. Is this not a world in which there is much goodness? "Thou hast sinned, but hope still; these are the two sayings that predominate in the vast murmur of nature."

3. The fatherly relationship of God to man. This idea is certainly one which obtains full recognition only in Christ, but wherever God has been acknowledged, He has been understood and worshipped as a Father. Now, we know what an earthly father's feelings are. Can we suppose that they are less strong and less tender in God? Now look at man's necessities on the one hand, and God's fatherly compassion on the other, and then say if it is likely that God would make no revelation of Himself, and give no relief.

(A. Oliver, B. A .)

Rain from heaven
Rain indicates sovereign power and goodness — "it tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men." In seasons of eastern drought, when the earth is parched, when "the field is wasted, and the land mourneth, and the new wine is dried up," when the dread of hunger appalls everyone, and even the dumb brutes are looking up to heaven in stupid despair; then it is felt that man cannot help himself, that he must only wait and long and pray till the clouds begin to gather, for he is conscious of being wholly in the power of a higher Will. Day after day passes, and the sun looks down on burnt pasture, dry channels, and a cracked and dusty soil. At evening there are hopeful symptoms, but they are vanished before the morning. The heavens are anxiously scanned if the smallest speck may be discovered, and the imagination often creates it. It is hoped that the wind may veer, and every breath excites, and then belies such an expectation. Spirit and energy are gone — "dimness of anguish" is seen on every countenance. Men dream of floods, and waken to more disappointment. They can do nothing, and devise nothing, to better themselves, No wonder, then, that the giving of rain was associated with Divinity. It is pointedly asked in a Greek drama, when the existence of Jupiter is denied — "And who then giveth rain?" as if this were proof beyond all doubt. In Southern Africa, where the idea of God is nearly effaced, there is still a belief in a Supreme Power, whose awful prerogative is, not to create men or govern them, but simply to give rain — a gift which is felt to be so necessary, and withal is conferred or withheld in such precarious and variable times and quantities; the dreaded Deity is He who brings them what they so much want, and on the gift of which they can never count — He is the rainmaker. Nay, in that dry upland region of Lycaonia water was often scarce; the heaven as iron, and the earth as brass, and water fetched up from deep wells was so precious as to be sold for money. It was with peculiar point, therefore, that the apostle turned his audience to God — who is doing good — giving rain from heaven.

(J. Eadie, D. D.)

Fruitful seasons
I. THE GIFT OF GOD. "He gave," "He fills." Among the numerous scenes of beauty with which the world is furnished, there are few more calculated to delight the eye and heart than a rich autumnal prospect. It is delightful to allow the mind to rest on a wide extent of country whose plains are richly covered with waving fields of corn, and the mountains clothed with verdant pasturage, or overshadowed by the stately forest. It is delightful to reflect what a prodigious amount of enjoyment is prepared for sensitive and rational beings by the fruits of the earth arriving and arrived at maturity. It is natural to put the question, Whence originates so rich a scene?

1. Man is a proud, vain creature, and he is very apt to take the credit of almost everything to himself. Even in what is the production of human ingenuity and industry, man has but little to boast; it is merely the result of powers, which God bestowed on him, on materials bestowed by God. But there is seen less to nourish pride when contemplating the riches of harvest. Man has been at work, but human ingenuity and labour have done but little in producing the results. Man can plant and water, but man cannot give the increase. He cannot cause it to rain on the earth, to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth.

2. But it may be said that it is to be traced to the eternal laws of nature, to the independent qualities and powers of matter. It is not very easy to attach meaning to these phrases; we question their existence altogether if they mean anything more or less than a name for the ordinary way in which the great Supreme Agent has been accustomed to manifest His wisdom and power in producing certain effects. And if we were to admit the existence of "the eternal laws of nature," or "the independent qualities and powers of matter," they could not satisfactorily account for the result; for surely they must operate always precisely in the same way, It the productions of the earth are to be attributed to them, we should naturally expect that all seasons would be alike. Nothing is more self-evident than that what is in itself inert can act only as it is acted upon. And it is a principle of our nature which we cannot resist, that whenever we perceive an end steadily prosecuted, and means employed in order to gain that end, there has been the operation of a superintending being — there has been intelligence at work. The language of the Bible is the language of sound philosophy. "Thou visitest the earth and waterest it," etc.

II. A WITNESS OF GOD TO MEN. When God gives us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, He gives us a testimony with regard to —

1. His existence. We reason from the effects to a cause. There is no way of accounting for the regular motion of the earth, but by admitting that there does exist such a Being, infinitely wise, powerful, and good, as the Being whom we describe by the name of God.

2. His power. All the created powers in the universe cannot produce the humblest weed that grows in our fields. If we allow our minds to reflect on what is necessary, in order to the production of a fertile harvest, we shall be struck with amazement at the display of the power of God. Think of what is exhaled in the shape of vapour from seas, and rivers, and lakes, in every part of the earth — taken into the upper regions of the atmosphere, and there condensed, and sent down on the earth in the shape of dew and of rain — insinuating itself into the soil, making the seeds that are imbedded there to expand and grow upward. Thus God brings forth the various fruits of the earth to maturity, and furnishes abundance of food for man and beast.

3. His wisdom. How wonderfully does God adapt different soils to different grains — different grains to the constitutions of different animals! How wonderfully does He regulate the various degrees of heat, and cold, and moisture, so as to gain the great end of producing abundance of salutary food for His prodigious family of sensible and irrational beings. "How wonderful are Thy works, O Lord! in wisdom hast Thou made them all."

4. His goodness. Think what a quantity of suffering is prevented by an abundant harvest. What mind can form any conception of the horrors produced by a single season failing? And there is also the communication of an incalculable measure of happiness. No mind can form any conception of the degree of enjoyment that is produced through the world in consequence of the bounties of harvest.

5. His sovereignty. Every season is not a fruitful season; and the same seasons are not equally fruitful in every district of the same country, or in different countries. The same God, who, when He causes it to rain on one land, withholds rain from another — punishes one part of the world with scarcity, whilst He blesses another with plenty. It is the voice of God proclaiming, "Be still, and know that I am God: have not I a right to do what I will with My own? None shall stay My arm; and none dare say to Me, What doest Thou?"

6. His patience. The pensioners upon the Divine bounty are rebels against it. Surely, though God be not slack concerning His threatenings, as some men count slackness, He is long suffering, not willing that any should perish. Oh, how hardened are men's hearts not to feel the force of this appeal.

(J. Brown, D. D.)

We are met to acknowledge the goodness of God in giving us the fruits of the earth in their season. It is a supreme function of the Church to idealise common things, to give a religious interpretation to all the great interests and occasions of our earthly life, and by means of prayer and praise, silent meditation and spoken discourse, to make men and women more truly and deeply conscious of the Eternal Presence and Care. The harvest is really an occasion which has a direct relation to all our lives. For us the sun shines and the rain falls, and the order of creation keeps its unbroken course, and the miracle of growth and fruition is yearly wrought. Agriculture is not only the oldest but the most fundamental of all human industries. Our whole social order rests upon it, and all our interests and activities are affected by it. We live by bread, though not by bread alone. Our daily bread is the material basis of all our higher functions and energies — trade and politics, science and art, law and poetry, religion and philanthropy.

1. A harvest thanksgiving service is helpful to us by making us include what are called the works of nature in our devout meditations. There are not a few religious people upon whom the manifestations of power and wisdom, of beauty and goodness in the natural order of the world are in a great part thrown away. In his diary of his travels on the Continent the saintly Fletcher laments the delight he took in the beauty of the Rhine as an evidence of his worldliness, and the type of religionists which he represented is far from being extinct. We need not judge them; only we have a right to turn to the book of Job, to the Psalms, and the parables of Jesus to prove that the highest order of the religious mind is that which is most alive to the spiritual significance of material things. By the whole-souled religious man nothing natural is treated with indifference. Every instance of beneficent order and ministry deepens his sense of the Divine wisdom and goodness. The moving life of nature is a parable of the higher life.

2. A harvest thanksgiving service is a distinct and beautiful confession of God as the living God, in whom we and all creatures and things live and move and have our being. Anything that helps to quicken and deepen this confidence is of real use when there is a spirit abroad in the world which would wither and destroy it. Physical science is in the ascendant, and the language of the ancient Scriptures which represents God as the living God, the living Spirit of thought, order, power, beauty, and goodness that pervadeth all things, does not appeal to us as it once did. The danger to faith is not in results and theories, but in the excessive and exclusive concentration of men's minds on the material side of things; in such an absorbing attention to one class of facts that other facts of transcendent importance are slighted or ignored. Indeed, all the great results of our latter-day knowledge instead of making the world less divine make it more divine, and if their significance was by us truly realised, then, instead of being set forth in abstract propositions and mathematical signs they would be expressed in poetry and set to music. The gains of science, instead of being the losses of faith, only enlarge, make more wonderful and glorious, the temple in which God is seen and worshipped. But there is another form of modern thought which some seem to think strikes at the root of the faith which gives meaning to this service, and is simply fatal to the spirit of thanksgiving to God. It is a human Providence, we are told, which makes us what we are and gives us what we have, and if we are to give praise and glory to anyone for the things which make the world beautiful, and human life fair and good and worth living, let it be to humanity, to the men in past and present times through whose thought and labour and sacrifice this hard, unfriendly earth has been subdued, and discoveries and inventions have been made, and all the things which are covered and expressed by the word "civilisation" have been won. It is little or nothing that any deity outside humanity does or has done for us; let us be grateful to mankind. Yes, grateful to mankind we ought to be; but must our gratitude end there, and the sacrifice of our thanksgiving be only for human altars? Nay! After we have done all that is meet and right in the way of expressing our gratitude to the human race and to individual members of the race, we still have left in our hearts an immense fund of gratitude which can only spend itself on one object, one Being, one God, the Father of all, who is above all, through all, and in all. The earth, God has given to the children of men, and like all God's best gifts we have to work for it in order to win it. And whence the power to work? In the last and final analysis we must ascribe all to God, confess the human providence to be after all the Divine Providence, and bow down before the Deity who not only transcends but is immanent in His creation and in His children, the ultimate and everlasting Source of all.

3. A harvest thanksgiving service is a recognition of the Divine presence in the regular courses and ordinary processes of nature. Among men from age to age the extraordinary phenomena have been regarded as most Divine. "If the sun were to rise but once," says Bishop Hall, "we should all be ready to turn Persians and worship it, but because we see it rising and setting every day no man regardeth it." Like the Jews of old, unless we see signs and wonders we will not believe. But to the devout and deep-seeing man the whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord, its sights and sounds a constant and continuous revelation of the living God; and for him to be impressed with the thought, "Surely God is here," things do not need to be invested with scarlet robes. The daily dawn, the depths of the midnight sky, the spring flowers breaking from the earth, the loveliness of June, the golden glories of the autumn, the outspread snow, are to the wise man none the less wonderful because they are familiar.

4. A harvest thanksgiving may also remind us that in our sowing and reaping, in our buying and selling, and in all our material interests and concerns we have to do with God. What atheism worse than that which excludes God from the world of daily life, which gives us practically a world without God except so far as the Church is concerned, which conceives the Lord of heaven and earth to be only interested in ecclesiastical assemblies and conferences, in missionary and evangelistic schemes, and societies for converting Jews, and such like things! We need to be reminded again and again that there is but one God, one law, one life, that the kingdom of God ruleth over all, over our cornfields as well as over our mission fields, over our shops as well as over our churches, over our domestic and business relations as well as over our holy orders and our ecclesiastical connections, over farmers, tradesmen, bankers, architects, lawyers, clerks, artisans as well as over bishops and curates, Scripture readers and travelling evangelists. Until we believe this and act upon the belief, the life that now is will never be what God meant it to be, and what it ought to be — a Divine discipline and service, holy throughout unto the Lord.

5. A harvest thanksgiving service reminds us in a very vivid and impressive way of the ever-old and ever-new fact of the Divine goodness. There are three aspects of the Divine goodness which the harvest more especially puts before us: first of all its free character. Its bounty is God's flee gift. Though we must work with God to get the Divine blessing out of many things, for we are not God's paupers but His children, yet from the help we get from the daisy at our feet to the unspeakable help that comes from the Christ dying on the Cross, it is all in a most real and profound sense the free gift of God. Then, secondly, harvest speaks to us of the universal character of the Divine goodness. The ungodly man who obeys faithfully the natural conditions which are but another name for the Divine order and will, succeeds as well as the godly man, even better, if the godly man is ignorant, indolent, and careless. God is good, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Then, again, harvest speaks to us of the constancy of the Divine goodness. While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease. O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness! Thanksgiving is born of a reasonable spiritual confidence in the Divine goodness. The mystery and sublimity of the universe may excite wonder and awe, but only the sense of the essential goodness of the universe can awaken and nourish gratitude. Gratitude in its highest sense and noblest quality is only possible to the man whose religious faith enables him to trust the world and life as meaning good to him and to all men. But how is gratitude to be shown? Only let gratitude be felt, and it cannot help showing itself. Words of thanksgiving are good when they are sincere, and expression develops and strengthens the inward feeling. But words are not the only form of self-expression, nor the highest. And how displeasing to God must be some kinds of thanksgiving — empty words, or the thanksgiving of successful wickedness, of men whose good things have been got by cheating and lying, by unjust and unbrotherly competition, and by grinding the faces of the poor! The praise God likes best is the praise of the life. Not in words only, but in acts of sympathy and loving kindness, in love giving itself in service to mankind, in lives consecrated to truth and goodness, to duty and charity, let our souls ascend now and always in thankfulness to God.

(John Hunter.)

Nothing is more worthy of note in St. Paul's methods than the care which he always took to adapt himself to the varying conditions and characters of those amongst whom he laboured. This statement concerning his mode of work is amply borne out by the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles. His theme was always the same, but his method of presenting that theme was constantly changing with his change of place and circumstances. He had but one gospel to preach — the gospel of Christ crucified; but he preached that gospel with an ever-varying accent and with great manifoldness of expression. At Athens he found his text not in Jewish lore, but in the altars of their gods, and in that literature of which every Greek was lawfully proud. And here at Lystra amongst the Barbarians of Lycaonia he speaks from that revelation of God whose "line is gone out through all the earth, and its words to the end of the world." Let us not suppose, however, that the witness of God's works, to which the apostle appeals in my text, is of importance only to such people as those of Lystra. There is, perhaps, a danger of our thinking that the teachings of Natural Religion have been superseded by those of Revelation. This is a great mistake. Our Lord came not to destroy, but to fulfil that exhibition of religious truth which is contained in the works of nature. The Bible does, it is true, exhibit the imperfection of that revelation; but it nowhere discredits it. On the contrary, it constantly pays its tribute to it, and urges us to study it, as containing the alphabet of its own more glorious disclosures. On the part of the first Christian teachers there was no wholesale churlish denunciation of other religions. They rejoiced to recognise the truths which they contained, though those truths were encrusted, and often hidden out of sight, by the accumulated errors of ages. Nor does the Bible regard natural theology as merely a stepping stone by which men are to pass into the holy of holies of its revelations, and which afterwards is to be disregarded as of no further use; but it speaks of it as being an essential part of the whole fabric of truth, which must ever remain an integral and necessary portion of it. Natural theology is the base of the ladder which rests upon the earth, while the top of it is in heaven; and the ladder cannot stand without its base. Nowhere is this more distinctly set forth than in the teaching of our blessed Master Himself. He directs our attention to the lilies, the mustard seed, the tares, and the harvest, as being Divinely ordained preachers of the truths of religion. Indeed, never was there any teacher who lived in such intimate communion with nature as Jesus of Nazareth. No writer of the New Testament was more perfectly versed in this department of the school of Christ than the apostle Paul. His sermons and his treatises teem with lessons drawn from the storehouse of nature.


1. I know that it is fashionable to sneer at the design argument for the Being of God. But sneering is a very common device resorted to by men who have no argument with which to sustain their cause. In spite of all the sneers of our critics we are prepared to maintain that the argument is irrefragable, that the universe exhibits thought, and that thought implies a thinker; that the universe exhibits uniformity of thought, and that this uniformity of thought implies that there is but one Thinker whose wisdom has laid the plans of this marvellous world in which we dwell. No, the man is without excuse who can look at this masterpiece of thought and say, "There is no Thinker behind it all."

2. For a moment let us single out from the midst of the manifold operations of nature those to which the apostle particularly refers in my text, that is to say, those connected with the supply of food for the creatures. When we consider that the seasons of our climate, with all their manifold effects, are produced by an inclination of the axis of the earth at an angle of 231/2° to the plane of its orbit, and when we consider what would follow if there were no such inclination, or were that inclination varied through ever so small an angle, we can not but feel that there must have been a Designer who gave the earth the exact tilt necessary to the production of its harvests. When we consider how that, in the production of every blade of corn, and of every apple upon the tree, there is a nice mathematical balancing of the forces of gravitation and life, in order that the vital force may be able to overcome the force of gravitation, and shoot forth the cornstalk or the tree to the proper height necessary for its fruit bearing; we cannot but believe that there must have been a great Mathematician who made these delicate adjustments. When we look at the marvellous machinery by which all this vegetable life takes up and appropriates to itself the fructifying properties of the sell beneath it, of the air around it, of the clouds above it, and of the sun which is millions of miles away from it, we are bound to confess that this machinery must have had a Constructor to make it. The apostle mentions rain, and well he may, for the laboratory in which God prepares His rain is well worthy of our inspection. Consider the mighty force which the sun exerts as he lifts the water up into the clouds. See how by the air currents God carries the fruit-bearing showers from one region to another. Look into the processes of rarefaction and condensation by which He prepares the golden drops to distil fatness upon the earth, and then answer the question which God put to Job, "Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven who hath gendered it?" (Job 38:28, 29).

3. "Ah, but," says the modern objector, "this is all done in obedience to law! Exactly, that is our point. It is all done in obedience to law. And law means order. And order means thought. And thought means a thinker. The fact that the whole world is under the sway of law is a proof that it has been created by a Designer, and is not the evolution of chance.

4. "Well, but," says the objector again, "it may be that God must have been there to give the laws, but, when He had given them, He left the universe to their sway, and now it is vain to seek for God in a world which He has given over to the control of law." Again we ask, "What is the use of laws without an executive to administer them?" He Himself administers the laws which He has given. God not only was in nature, He is in it.

5. In our stupidity, when the stupendous is often repeated before our eyes, we forget its wondrousness, and the very regularity and profusion with which God's mercies are bestowed seem to deaden our sense of obligation. Custom is a juggler who befools us all, and makes us think that a thing is not wonderful when we see it often. I know that to some the discoveries of science seem to militate against worship. But this is only because these persons imagine that when things are discovered and named they are brought out of the region of mystery. Ignorance is not the mother of religion.

II. OUR TEXT BIDS US SEE IN THE FRUITFUL SEASONS A PROOF OF GOD'S GOODNESS TOWARDS MEN. In spite of all the sorrow and discord of human life, the apostle declares that, even apart from revelation, there is in the bounteous provision of God's providence abundant proof of His goodness towards men. Notwithstanding men's wickedness, He makes age after age provision for their wants (Matthew 5:45). Nothing shows the hardness of men's hearts much more than the way in which they partake of the bounties of God's providence, without any grateful recognition of the Giver. Paul declares in my text that an unenlightened heathen ought to hear the harvest witness to God's goodness. How much more then ought we, who have the light of revelation, to acknowledge His hand in the bounty of His gifts! How careful should we be not to squander these blessings in the service of our lusts! These gifts of God proclaim how lovingly He provides for our happiness. He might have made our food unpleasant and insipid. Instead of that He has associated much pleasure even with the lowest actions of our life, to be a symbol to us of His good will respecting us in all things. Ungodly man, let God's mercies awaken thee to a sense of thy guilt, and let gratitude to Him, because He has not visited thee with the ruin clue to thy sins, constrain thee to offer the only harvest thanksgiving which God will accept.


(G. A. Bennetts, B. A.)

I. HARVEST TIME AS A WITNESS FOR GOD. The apostles reminded the people that they had no excuse for their ingratitude or idolatry; the order and fruitfulness of the seasons testified to the fact of —

I. The Divine existence. Every court in the temple of nature is crowded with witnesses to the Divine existence.

2. The Divine attributes —(1) Natural, e.g., self-existence, intelligence, almightiness.(2) Moral; e.g., rectitude, benevolence, faithfulness. The fertility, regularity, variety, beauty, freeness of the seasons, these all illustrate the excellency of the character and perfection of the working of the God of the harvest, who opens His hand and supplies the wants of every living thing.

II. HARVEST TIME AS AN APOCALYPSE TO MAN. The processes and phenomena speak to the reason and spiritual intuitions of man. The brutes gaze unconsciously upon creation, but man can reflect, deduce, conclude. When the brawny reapers thrust in the sickle and gather the harvest home, we have revealed —

1. The complex character of nature's laws. From the initial step in preparing the ground for the reception of the seed to the time when the garners are stored with the finest of the wheat, what majesty, manifoldness, mercy, and mystery are displayed! Life out of death; real good out of apparent evil — blight, mildew, etc. Kept under restraint, under constant control.

2. The connection between Divine sovereignty and human free agency.(1) Man's sphere in the economy of nature is clear and free, with liberty to plough, sow, reap; we may use our choice as to when, how, what, where.(2) God's sphere is absolute. He sends rain, gives fruitful seasons. We have no command or control over winds, or rain, or sun.

3. The correspondence between cause and effect. In quality and quantity. "Whatsoever a man soweth that also shall he reap." The more thorough and severe the cultivation of the soil, the richer the harvest. In moral discipline, the severer the trial, the nobler and richer the character.

4. The dependence of man upon God — "In Him we live and move," etc. "He gives rain," etc. "He fills our hearts with food and gladness." The thought with which we plan and purpose; the strength with which we labour and gather, all come from Him.

5. The duty of man to bless God.

(F. W. Brown.)


1. Its celestial origin. Neither rain nor that which it illustrates is a creature of man or nature. Spiritual influences come direct from God.

2. Its Divine manifestations.



3. Its connection with other gifts. The work of the Spirit must never be dissociated from that of Christ. In the spiritual world "the Sun of Righteousness" is as needful as the outpouring of the Spirit.


1. The seasons — private and public. There are spring, summer, autumn, winter for the soul; seed time and harvest. Each is as needful in grace as in nature.

2. Their fruitfulness. A fruitful season is beautiful and useful. The Christian is to grow in grace and utility.

III. THE RESULT EXPERIENCED — "filling our hearts."

1. The sphere — "the heart." Religion is experimental. When refreshing seasons come they are felt.

2. The action — "filling," not leaving the heart half empty.

3. The contents — "food and gladness."



IV. THE WITNESS OF ALL THIS TO GOD — to His wisdom, power, love, etc.

(R. G. Dillon, D. D.)

Food and gladness.
What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

I. HE GIVES FOOD. By the clumsy management and the disastrous sin of man, there are in some places and times many who want food. But this is not God's fault. He giveth food though we may waste or withhold it. He giveth milk to the babe from the breast of the mother, and bread to man from the bosom of the earth. Bad laws, bad government, artificial society, evil habits, ignorance, waste, extravagance, drink, and laziness starve the weaker children in His household, but the living God giveth food.

II. HE GIVES GLADNESS. Some think of this as a thing which God permits rather than gives; and some are driven from religion by a fancy that it is all gloomy and austere. This is not so. Learn, then, to thank God for what some of you have never associated with His gifts — your joys; passing gladness as well as spiritual ecstasy: for the sense of sight, hearing, taste, and touch. Learn to feel God as near you when the sun shines and the marriage bells ring as when the cloud depresses or the knell tolls. But remember that lasting gladness is dependent on union with Christ, the imperishable Bread of Life.

(Henry Jones, M. A.)

I propose to call your attention, first, to what God does for us through nature, and, secondly, to the limit of His beneficence, a limit which in our case, as in the case of the Lycaonians, points toward the kingdom of grace. First, then, God "fills our hearts with food and gladness," or, rather, more literally, He "fills our hearts with nourishment and cheerfulness." If through the agencies of nature we have food and gladness, we owe these to the kindness of God. But, further, in the case of man, who is far the highest of the animals, God supplies other wants besides the hunger and thirst of the body. He feeds our minds and hearts by furnishing us with various interests and resources. While He gives us work to do, He gives us also times for rest, and in our times of rest He surrounds us with objects of interest. Paul gives this truth a still deeper meaning when he says that God fills our hearts with gladness, or with cheerfulness — i.e., He gives us the material not only for living, but for living cheerfully. Those fresh children of nature at Lystra were happy in their lives — with their oxen, and their garlands, and their belief that the gods might come down to them any day in the likeness of men. Far from blaming their happiness, the apostle told them that God was pleased with it, and had arranged the world so as to secure it. To us, as to them, nature is a witness that He intends us to be happy. There is a certain free and reckless pleasure in nature which is one of God's straight gifts to our humanity. And if Nature thus makes even the ignorant and thoughtless happy, it brings fuller and more lasting joys to the well-trained mind. Observe, however, what Paul says about those teachings of nature. Not that they convince all men of the goodness of the living God. There are many upon whom they have no such influence — many who take nature's benefits thanklessly and sceptically. He merely says that God has "not left Himself without a witness." The teaching of nature confirms our faith, and deepens our faith, and enlarges our faith; but it is not sufficient in itself; it is incomplete, variable, and broken, requiring other teachers. We shall take note of some points at which nature may fail, and does fail, to effect this good work of witness bearing with which God has entrusted her.

1. Observe, then, that God does not fill the hearts of all men with food. Even in this, the plainest of her offices, nature fails. There is a dark cellar in her workshop, where she keeps many prisoners, and appears rather as a pitiless monster, "ravening with tooth and claw," than as a kindly fostering nurse.

2. Observe, secondly, that even when He fills the mouth with food He does not always fill the heart with gladness. We have seen that His general design in surrounding us with what is good and pleasant is to make us happy. But not always. Sometimes, through no fault of ours, but through His mysterious providence, there are causes of bitterness which turn all life's comforts into gall.

3. Thus we are led to the last consideration which will occupy us, viz., that even if God fills our hearts both with food and with gladness, we require something more. In order to reach the purpose of our existence it is not enough that we should be comfortable, well fed, cheerful, and appreciative of the general goodness of God. Food and gladness, for example, however plentifully and liberally they are supplied, do not prepare us for the time when our food may be taken away from us and our gladness turned into mourning. On the contrary, they only serve to accentuate the severity of such an issue by giving it the bitterness of contrast. Still less do these things equip us for the hour of death and for our reckoning with the laws of God. We have the hunger of our souls for peace — a restless craving which is also sure to grow, and which we shall never be able to satisfy so readily as we can now, even at this present time. We need a grasp of the Great Hand that orders our life, to steady us when our cup overflows with blessings.

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