Acts 20:18
When they came to him, he said, "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I arrived in the province of Asia.
Sermons
Paul At Miletus: the Review Which GratifiesW. Clarkson Acts 20:17, 20, 27, 31, 33-35
Mingled Fidelity and Tenderness: an Example for Christian MinistersP.C. Barker Acts 20:17-36
Last WordsR.A. Redford Acts 20:17-38
Paul's Farewell to the Elders of EphesusE. Johnson Acts 20:17-38
Example Better than PreceptA. F. Schauffler.Acts 20:18-19
HumilityC. Hodge, D. D.Acts 20:18-19
HumilityC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 20:18-19
Humility Aided by SorrowJ. Cumming.Acts 20:18-19
Humility Leads to UsefulnessRowland Hill.Acts 20:18-19
Humility of the Truly Great Servants of ChristActs 20:18-19
The Energy of HumilityScientific IllustrationsActs 20:18-19


It has been truly said that our whole life is divisible into the past and the future. The present is a mere point which separates the two. And there is a certain time which must come, if it have not already arrived, when, instead of finding our satisfaction in looking forward to the earthly good which we are to partake of, we shall seek our comfort and our joy in looking back on the path we have trodden and the results we have achieved. Ill indeed will it be for those who will then have no future for which to hope, and no past which they can survey with grateful pleasure. It was well with Paul, for when he had to turn his eye backward on a ministry which had been fulfilled, he could regard it with pure and devout gratification. That we may stand in that enviable position in which he now stood, we must be able to remember -

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
That our whole lives were thine."

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.







Ye know...after what manner I have been with you.
Words are cannonballs. Example is the powder that gives the words their force. Many men may be able to say, "Heed what I tell you," but not many could so confidently say, "Follow my example." Yet this was what Paul said to the Ephesian elders, and what he wrote to the disciples at Philippi (Philippians 4:9). Example is always better than precept, because talk is cheap, but deeds are dear. To preach the gospel can be done in a moment, but to practise the gospel is a very different thing. If we can have only one of these things, we prefer practice to preaching. Much of our profession goes for nothing, because we profess one thing with our lips and then deny our profession by our deeds. But since actions speak louder than words, our actions drown our speech. A man who walks to church one day in the week, and to queer places six days in the week, must not be surprised if people call him a hypocrite.

(A. F. Schauffler.)

Serving the Lord with all humility of mind.
I. ITS NATURE. All Christian graces are products of truth. So humility is the state of mind which the truth concerning our character and relations ought to produce. It includes —

1. A sense of insignificance, because we are both absolutely and relatively insignificant. We are as nothing before God, in the universe, in the hierarchy of intelligences, in the millions of mankind. We are insignificant in capacity, learning, influence, and power, compared to thousands of our predecessors and contemporaries. Humility is not only the consciousness of this insignificance, but the recognition and acknowledgment of it, and acquiescence in it. Pride is the denial of or forgetfulness of this fact, the assertion of our own importance.

2. A sense of weakness. Humility stands opposed to pride as including self-confidence, and especially pride of intellect, either as consisting in Rational. ism, or the refusal to submit to the teaching of God; or in a sense of superiority to others. No man can be a Christian without becoming as a little child.

3. A sense of guilt. Humility stands opposed to self-righteousness. When we consider the number and aggravations of our sins we are lost in wonder that men can be so infatuated as to arrogate merit to themselves. The parable of the Pharisee and the publican shows that a moral man propped up with a sense of his good desert is more offensive to God than an immoral man bowed down with a sense of guilt.

II. ITS IMPORTANCE appears from —

1. Its nature, as the want of it implies ignorance or disbelief of the truth concerning our true character.

2. The frequent declarations of Scripture; that God resisteth the proud but showeth grace to the humble; that those who exalt themselves shall be abased, etc.

3. Its connection with the whole economy of redemption, which is intended to humble man. Men must stoop to enter heaven.

4. Its influence on our fellow men. As nothing is so offensive as pride, so nothing is so conciliating as humility.

5. Its influence on ourselves. The humble only are peaceful.

III. ITS CULTIVATION.

1. Bring your mind under the operation of truth.

2. Especially live in the presence of God.

3. Never act from the impulse of pride.

4. Humble yourselves by not seeking great things.

5. Seek the indwelling of the Spirit, and the aid of Christ.

(C. Hodge, D. D.)

I. ITS COMPREHENSIVENESS. Serving the Lord not only with humility, but with all humility.

1. There are many sorts of pride, and you will be able, by looking at the contrast, to see that there must be also many kinds of humility. There is the pride of —(1) The heretic, who will utter false doctrines, because he thinks his own judgment to be better than the Word of God; he is a disputant but not a disciple. Now Paul never had this. So willing was he to sit at the feet of Jesus that he counted all the learning which he had received at the feet of Gamaliel to be of no value in itself, but became a fool that he might be wise.(2) The Papist, who attaches merit to his own works, and hopes to win heaven by them. From this Paul was totally free. He learnt to count his righteousness as filthy rags.(3) The curious. He would if he could climb to the Eternal Throne, and break the seven seals of the book of destiny. Paul was never curious; he was perfectly content to take his doctrine from his Master's spirit, and leave endless genealogies and questionings to those who had no better guests to entertain.(4) The persecutor. The pride which suggests that I am infallible, and that if any man should differ from me, the stake and the rack would be the due deserts of so great a sin. But Paul had the humility of a man of generous spirit.(5) The impenitent man who will not yield to God. Not so our apostle. He was ever filled with a sense of his own unworthiness.

2. To give you a clearer view of this comprehensiveness I will put it in another shape. There is humility —(1) Before serving God. When a man lacks this he proposes to himself his own honour and esteem in serving God. How little too many Christians have of that humility. They will pick that position in the Church which will give them most honour. But it never was so with the apostle. I think I see him now, working long past midnight making his tents. Then I see that tent maker going into the pulpit with his hands all blistered with his hard work. You would say of him at once, "That man never proposes to himself the praises of his hearers."(2) During the act. That is a splendid psalm which begins, "Not unto us." David thought it needful to say it twice. Then he deals the death blow with the other sentence, "But unto Thy Name be all the glory." To sing that song when you are reaping the great harvest, when you are going on from strength to strength, will prove a healthy state of heart.(3) After the service is done. In looking back upon success achieved, upon heights attained, it is so easy to say, "My right hand and my mighty arm hath gotten me the victory." Christian workers, see to it that never when your work is done you speak of yourselves or of your work.

II. ITS TRIALS, or the dangers through which it has to pass.

1. The possession of great ability. When a man hath seven talents he must recollect that he hath seven burdens of responsibility; and therefore he should be bowed down. Let a man feel that he possesses more power than another, more learning, and he is so apt to say, "I am somebody in the Church." It is so ridiculous; for the more we have the more we owe, and how can there be any ground for boasting there? Great talents make it hard for a man to maintain humility. Yet little talents have precisely the same effect. "There," says one, "I have but a trifle in the world, I must make a flare with it. I have but one ring, and I will always put the finger that wears that outwards so that it may be seen." If you have little talents, do not swell and burst with envy. The frog was never contemptible as a frog, but when he tried to blow himself out to the size of the ox then he was contemptible indeed. It is just as easy for a man to be proud in his rags as my Lord Mayor in his gold chain. There is many a costermonger riding in his little cart, quite as vain as my lord who rides in a gilded coach. You may be a king and yet be humble; you may be a beggar and yet be proud.

2. Success. Great success is like a full cup it is hard to hold it with a steady hand. It is swimming in deep waters, and there is always a fear of being drowned there. But want of success has just the same tendency. Have you not seen the man who could not get a good congregation, and who insisted upon it, that it was because he was a better preacher than the man who did?

3. Long enjoyment of the Master's presence. To walk all day in the sunlight brings us in danger of a sunstroke. If we have nothing but full assurance, we may come to be presumptuous. When you have long-continued joys, fear and tremble for all the goodness of God. But long-continued doubts also will breed pride. When a man has long been doubting his God, and mistrusting His promise, what is that but pride? He wants to be somebody and something. He is not willing to believe his God in the dark; he thinks he always ought to have joy and satisfaction, and so it comes to pass that his doubts and fears are as ready parents of pride as assurance could have been. There is not a position in the world where a man cannot be humble if he have grace; there is not a station under heaven where a man will not be proud if left to himself.

III. THE ARGUMENTS BY WHICH WE OUGHT TO BE PROVOKED TO IT.

1. From ourselves. What am I that I should be proud? I am a man. An angel — how much he surpasseth me, and yet the Lord charged His angels with folly. How much less, then, should the son of man exalt himself? Verily, man at his best estate is altogether vanity. But there is a yet stronger argument. What are you but depraved creatures? When the child of God is at his best he is no better than a sinner at his worst, except so far as God has made him to differ. "There goes John Bradford — but for the grace of God." A sinner saved by grace and yet proud! Out on such impudence!

2. In Christ. Our Master was never exalted above measure. He condescended to men of low estate, but in such a way that there was not the appearance of stooping. "And shall the servant be above his Master, or the disciple above his Lord?" Ye that are purse proud, or talent proud, or beauty proud, I beseech you, think how unlike you are to the Master. "He made Himself of no reputation," etc. Look at that strange sight, and never be proud again.

3. In God's goodness towards us. What was there in you that Christ should buy you with His precious blood? What in you that you should be made the temple of the Holy Ghost? What is there in you that you should be brought to heaven?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Scientific Illustrations.
The little and the lowly may be found in combination with wondrous energy. The coralline (Corrallina officinalis), which only be found most abundantly on any of our coasts, growing in greatest perfection near low watermark, is a small plant seldom exceeding five or six inches in height, and not even reaching that size. However, it compensates refits low stature by its luxuriant growth, being usually found in dense masses wherever it can find a convenient shelter. If the vital force of this plant had shot upwards, pushing out numerous and majestic branches in the air, and covering itself with abundant leafage and blossom, it would have attracted more attention and admiration, but it would not have gained force, or perhaps usefulness, thereby. Thus with human minds. Those whose powers shoot upward by some splendid feat of genius in literature or battle, arrest public attention and win public plaudits. Whereas possibly they neither gain more strength nor achieve more usefulness than those less showy men who work modestly for the common good in the obscurer regions of human life, and who, like the coralline plant, are always accessible to those who seek them at the low watermark of life's affairs.

(Scientific Illustrations.)

See yon evening star, how bright it shines! how pure, how gentle are its rays! But, look, it is lower in the heavens than those that sparkle with a restless twinkling in the highest regions of the sky. God keeps you low that you may shine bright. Where do the rivers run that fertilise our soil? Is it in the barren top of yonder hill? No; in the vales beneath. If you would have the river, whose streams make glad the city of our God, to run through your hearts, and enrich them to His glory, you must abide in the vale of humility.

(Rowland Hill.)

Canon Auriol was invited on one occasion to preach an ordination sermon, at Carlisle, by the late Bishop Waldegrave. On the Sunday morning, as a large party, consisting of the Bishop's family, the chaplains, and the candidates for holy orders, were sitting round the breakfast table at the Bishop's residence, the Bishop repeated a text of Scripture suited to the occasion, and then called on each of those present do the same. This being a well-known weekly custom at Rose Castle, everyone was prepared, and as each text was repeated it was most interesting to remark what was the uppermost feeling in the minds of the several young men about to be ordained, some expressing bright hope as to their future, such as "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," some rather breathing a prayer for grace and guidance, such as "Hold up my goings in Thy paths that my footsteps slip not." But when it came to Mr. Auriol's turn there was a pause of a moment or two; and then it was seen that the old veteran was overcome by emotion. At last he began "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints," here his voice faltered and his eyes moistened, but recovering himself, he went on, his voice gaining strength as he proceeded, "is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." The effect was most impressive. It was felt that if such are the feelings of one who has spent so many years in the Master's service, and who has been so highly honoured of Him as His minister in holy things, what ought to be the humility and the casting away of high-mindedness on the part of younger men. His words produced a hush of reverential awe.

About the ruins of an ancient castle, abbey, or cathedral, green moss and incidental flowerets break out from the rifts and rents as if they would beautify the ruin. So it is amid the wrecks of a broken heart that the sweet flowerets of humility, and lowliness, and love, and peace begin to germinate and grow, refreshed by God's sun and watered by His dews, and adorning the character that His grace has created, and making it the admiration of others and acceptable to Himself.

(J. Cumming.)

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