Acts 20:37
The great regard of the Ephesian elders to Paul was genuinely spoken in their great regret as now manifested. Farewells have a pathos all their own, and share it with nothing else. They legitimately exhibit what has been long years, perhaps, as legitimately concealed. They are often acts of pardon, and ought always to be such. They bring out better qualities than have been seen before or even suspected of existing. And sometimes they are the inauguration of a far higher love than all that had been, when love of the personal presence is superseded by the love of souls. The farewells of an average human life, could their added effect be calculated, would in many instances be found to have constituted some of its most potent and its highest influences. Notice some of the leading causes of the deep affection recorded in this place.

I. THE ACQUAINTANCE OF THE EPHESIANS WITH PAUL HAD BEEN ONE IN WHICH THEY HAD RECEIVED THE NEW AND PRICELESS BLESSING OF HOLY TEACHING.

II. THE ACQUAINTANCE HAD BEEN ONE IN THE SURE BACKGROUND OF WHICH HAD BEEN ALWAYS A HOLY LIVING EXAMPLE.

III. THE ACQUAINTANCE HAD BEEN ONE FAR REMOVED FROM ALL NARROWNESS OR LIMITEDNESS OF AIM: IT HAD BEEN STAMPED WITH USEFULNESS. The behavior of the sabbath and even of the Lord's day is far more easily taught than the behavior of all life's "common days," and to teach this it is abundantly plain Paul did not disdain.

IV. THE ACQUAINTANCE WAS ONE ALL THE MEMORIES OF WHICH WERE MEMORIES OF UNAFFECTED KINDLINESS AND CONDESCENSION. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8.) - B.







And they all wept sore...sorrowing most of all...that they should see his face no more.
I. THE TEARS OF THE NOBLE SERVANTS OF GOD.

1. A painful tax of human weakness, which even the best have to pay in —(1) External trials.(2) Internal temptations.

2. A precious ornament of holy souls from which shines forth the faithfulness which follows the Lord in suffering, and the love which weeps over the misery of the world.

3. A fruitful seed for the beautiful harvest of joy, which shall ripen to those who weep —(1) Not only in heaven, when those who have sown in tears will reap in joy; but also —(2) Here, on the field of the heart, since their labour is not in vain in the Lord.

II. THE SAYING OF SEPARATING LOVE (cf. John 16:16).

1. With its bitterness — sorrow of orphanage — reproaches of conscience, if we have neglected the hour of our merciful visitation.

2. With its sweet comfort.(1) Continued uniting in the Lord.(2) Reunion with the Lord.

(K. Gerok.)

Surely there is nothing so sad in life as the sadness of partings. I listened the other day to two little children talk — two little simple children — without any experience of the sorrows of life. They were about to part for a short time, and I overheard their words. "I am so sorry to leave you, dear," said one, almost an infant. "And so am I, so sorry to part with you." What was the meaning of such words from young lips? Dear innocent hearts! They knew little or nothing of the sorrows of life. For them all that was to come; if black the future, the present was in sunlight. It was the expression of one of those deep truths which lie buried in the very essence of our mortal nature. It was the expression of the pang of parting. Partings are the saddest things in life. Partings create sorrows whilst we are living; partings robe the beds of death in the deepest gloom; partings fill the eyes of the dying with looks of anguish; partings make our hearts ache as we gaze at those who lie before us loved and dead.

(Knox-Little.)

Robert Moffat laboured for more than fifty years in South Africa and chiefly at Kuruman. On Sunday, March 20, 1870, he preached for the last time in Kuruman church. In all that great congregation there were few of his own contemporaries. With a pathetic grace he pleaded with those who still remained unbelieving. It was an impressive close to an impressive career. On the Friday following the aged missionary and his wife took their departure. As they came out of their house and walked to their waggon they were beset with crowds of the Bechuanas, each longing for a handshake and another word of farewell, and as the waggon drove away it was followed by all who could walk, and a long and pitiful wail arose, enough to melt the hardest heart.

A Zulu missionary, the Rev. Daniel Lindley, D.D., died at Morristown, U.S. He sailed from Boston to South Africa in 1834. During eleven years he and his wife were not privileged to see a single soul brought to Christ. But when they left Zululand, in 1873, after labouring there for thirty-eight years, they left, as the fruit of the blessing of God on their work, a flourishing Christian Church at Inanda, with a native pastor. At their departure a farewell sermon was preached, at the close of which the native minister, Thomas Hawes, said that the Zulu Christians were left orphans; they had gathered to bury their father and mother. The missionary, he said, knew all, from the governor to the poorest man, and he is called by all "Unicwawes," Father. His authority might have been greater than the chief's, but he governed not. He was as meek as a little child. He added: "His wife has taught our wives and daughters, and has by precept upon precept, and an unwavering example of goodness and faithfulness, done her work for Christ."

It is the measure of hope which gives joy or sorrow to a parting. To part with a loved one in the morning, in the confident expectation of meeting again at the day's close, hardly causes a twinge of sorrow to the most sensitive heart. A parting which looks forward to a reunion at the close of a summer's vacation, or of a European tour, or on the return of an anniversary gathering, has more of brightness than of shadow in its firmament. But when the parting is with a soldier son or brother, who is starting out for active service at the front; or with a missionary worker who leaves his country with no thought of a return to it; or, when for any reason the hope of another meeting in this life is faint or is lacking — then its sadness is intensified. So it is when the parting is at the grave's border. Even the brightest-hearted Christian has a right to have sorrow in parting with a loved friend, with no hope of seeing him again on earth. It is not that the friend is a loser by passing out from earth's prison house; but it is that he who remains here shall see that friend's face no more. But even in such a parting, believers in Christ can have hope of a meeting beyond the grave; and this hope it is which should encourage the believer to sorrow not as those who have no hope.

(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

Let us consider —

I. ITS SOURCE.

1. The loss of a true friend. Next to the assurance that we have the best friend in heaven is the conviction that we have a true friend on earth. A Christian minister should be this, and felt to be this, by his people. The apostle evidently stood in this relation to these Ephesians.

2. The close of lengthened religious privileges.

3. The recollection of numerous changes which this death suggests.

II. ITS COMFORT.

1. To him it is immeasurable gain. Our departed Christian friends have but entered on a farther voyage than that to which these Ephesians accompanied the apostle; but surely a more favouring one; for death is that ship into which the disciples received their Master, in the gloom of night, that He might scatter their fears, and still the waves for them, and bring them immediately to the land whither they went. They have not died; they have emigrated to the better country.

2. Results may still remain. No man can live and labour for Christ without bequeathing to the world such a legacy, which our eye may not be able to separate from the great whole, but which is still there, increasing the amount and hastening on the grand and glorious close. A man may scatter precious seed, and be called away; but if he has done his work faithfully and well, the green blade shall spring, and the yellow harvest shall wave, though the head of the sower be in the dust beneath.

3. Changes are preparing the way for a world that is immutable. "We look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Every good and perfect gift comes from above; but more, it departs thither also.

III. ITS IMPROVEMENT. Christian sorrow for the departed should lead us —

1. To seek reunion with the object of our affection. This is the instinct of grief, wherever it is genuine — to be where the lost one is. The gospel does not destroy human grief with its natural longings; it comes to consecrate it to the noblest ends, and make a ladder of it that shall reach to heaven.

2. To cultivate what they had most at heart while with us.

(J. Ker, D. D.).

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