But Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!"
I. A great example of PERSONAL, WEALTH. "Such as I have." What was it? The Holy Ghost filling all the nature. Consider the two men, Peter and John. What wealth of knowledge, insight, power over the souls of others! Even in external aspects, the results upon the life of the world traceable to these two names, immeasurable; yet they were both fishermen of Galilee. What they had had been given them by God. The endowment which enabled them to heal one whom the world could not lift up. Surely an infinitely greater gift to be able to work such works than any of those distinctions of literary genius or artistic skill which the world so extravagantly rewards. Such wealth is ours as believers, in greater or less degree - a wealth which no man can take from us, which grows by prayer and effort, which cannot die with us; "their works do follow them." The Church should seek this wealth of the Spirit, not, as the false Church has done, the wealth that perishes, lest the money should perish with it.
II. An impressive illustration of GOD'S METHOD OF LIFTING UP THE WOUND from its ruin. Show that both Church and State have failed. The temple may have beautiful gates, but be full of hideous idolatry and shame. The State may abound in silver and gold, and yet present to the eye such lamentable pictures of helplessness, revealing its own impotence, as the poor mendicant, daily passed by at the most public place and the most sacred place of the city. The present aspect of both the professedly religions world and the social condition of our great populations demand a confession of man's inability to produce a really happy society. Here there is:
1. The Name of Jesus Christ proclaimed as the new power that is wanted, as a redemption of the world from sin, setting spiritual life at the root of all other life, healing the miseries of men with compassion and wonderful works, promising the entire renovation both of body and soul in another world.
2. The true Church holds the lever in its hand by which the world shall be lifted up. We want the two apostles, the Petrine spirit of faith, the Johannine spirit of love. We must speak clearly and without reserve, in the Name of Christ, not in the name of ecclesiastical power and ritualistic display, to the poorest, and without greed of filthy lucre; and we must prepare to put forth such energy and gifts as we have, all alike, and in the spirit of fellowship; then we shall fill the world with praise, and the lame man shall leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing (see Isaiah 35., as a prediction of the Church's power over the world). The message is individual to the rich and to the poor, "Rise up and walk." No life is true life which is not blessed of God. - R.
Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee.
I. A SYMBOLICAL ACCOUNT OF THE CHURCH'S WORK IN MANY AGES. It was specially true of the apostles, considering the place they filled, the work they wrought, the testimony they bore, the blessings they dispensed, that being "poor," they "made many rich"; but numbers, like-minded with them, have trod in their steps, and have earned their praise. The Church which they founded has often been poor as they were. Yet at those very times, more than in her more prosperous days, she has said to many a crippled soul, "Rise up and serve thy God." Just when she had nothing to bribe men with, when her life would have been destroyed if it had not been "hidden with Christ in God," then she has been strengthened with might by Him whose servant and witness she is, and her tones have been louder than before, her port loftier, her message clearer, her triumphs more blessed. She has gone abroad from city to city, or from village to village, proclaiming aloud, "'Silver and gold have I none.' Let the men who covet either go elsewhere and seek them; they are often baits to snare men's souls. But I carry with me better treasures. I teach the man of halting pace and crippled limb to run in the ways of righteousness." Thus often has the Church prophesied in sackcloth, and while many have called her traitress because she would not bow down to images of gold, and some have branded her with heresy, because her message squared not with the creeds that were most in favour at court, others have come thronging from their homes to give her their greeting and blessing. Look, e.g., at the sixteenth century, and the man who did more than any other to distinguish it from the ages of black darkness which went before it. Who was it that said to prostrate Europe, "Rise up and walk"? It was the son of a Saxon miner, singing Christmas carols at fourteen, that he might earn a few pence to supply the cravings of hunger, the companion of the poor till the fame of his deeds brought him to the company of princes. There were mighty princes in that day, one of them governing a larger portion of Europe, and swaying its destinies more absolutely than any single potentate of our own time. On one occasion the monk and the emperor met face to face, and who that reads the scene must not see that the man of power grew little by the side of the fearless, upright champion of truth? It was Peter and the Jewish council over again. If. But we will come to humbler scenes and more every-day characters.
1. Look at one of God's saints. He has lived a life of faith, and in his humble way has honoured God, served the Church, blessed his generation. And now the day is come that he must depart hence. No inventory need be taken of his goods; no will is wanted. Such an one might say to his weeping children, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee." And who shall despise the legacy? It is better than the miser's gold. They are not poor, but rich, who inherit his blessing and his prayers; but how often does the portion of the covetous turn to poverty! It looks like a spreading tree rich in foliage and fruit; but a worm is at the root, and lo! one branch withers, and then another, till at last nothing but a bare trunk is left.
2. Take instances from among the living. Look at the lone woman, whose week's pittance just buys her week's bread, giving kind looks, pleasant words, spare half-hours, to some ailing or afflicted friend. Look at the little child, who never had a sixpence perhaps of its own, dutiful at home, gentle and patient abroad, running on errands for the sick, brightening with its innocent look and cheerful prattle some desolate fireside where infant -voices were once heard, but are now heard no more. Look at some aged man of God, who finds it hard to make his weakened limbs hold out from Sunday to Sunday, ministering to the sick, offering a word in season to the reckless, pointing the dying sinner to the Lamb of God, comforting many a tried and tempted brother with cordials from the storehouse of God's promises. Do not all these say in turn, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee"? Is it not a blessed work, that of ministering out of our little to those who have less? Is not your scanty fare the sweeter when you come home from making some dark chambers more bright, and some heavy hearts more hopeful? Very precious are alms like these, worth a hundred times more than the money gifts of the wealthy, ranking higher in God's account, bestowed at greater cost, more blessed proofs of the power .of faith. Oh! if the poor, one and all, were a brotherhood of living, loving Christians, they might almost do without help from others, help from each other to each other would be dispensed so wisely and so seasonably, and large-hearted generosity would find such a response in warm-hearted gratitude.
3. God forbid, however, that because they might befriend their equals more, we should befriend any of them less! God forbid that the miserably stinted measure of all our charities should descend to a yet lower standard!(1) Many have leisure. How many hours in a month are given by many to any public object? What is the world the better for their mot being compelled to toil at some allotted task?(2) We might pursue the subject and speak of knowledge, worldly influence, talents of any special kind. Whose are they? Who gave them? Whose are you? Who redeemed you and told you that you were not your own?(3) And if we speak of what man may do for his brother-man, our prayers, surely, must not be forgotten. Who can say to a neighbour, "What I have give I thee," if he be not one who remembers them all in turn, when he pleads for his own mercies before the throne of grace?
(J. Hampden Gurney, M. A.)I. SILVER AND GOLD CAN DO MANY THINGS. To speak of them as of no value would be folly. Money —
1. Can save our minds from anxiety, supply our wants, educate our children, fill our life with comfort. To speak of such blessings as trivial were both foolish and unthankful.
2. As an instrument of commerce is an essential element in the activity and interest of life. Without it our markets would sink back into the system of barter, and we should be in a ruder condition than those who lived centuries ago.
3. Can he used to relieve distress, to cheer the desolate, to help the struggling.
4. Can be employed in the direct furtherance of religious ends.
5. Gives influence which can be used in the promotion of its highest purposes, and when consecrated by the Christian life of its possessor becomes one of the noblest offerings for the honour of God and the blessing of the world.
II. THERE ARE SOME THINGS WHICH SILVER AND COLD CANNOT DO.
1. You may buy a man's work, but you cannot buy his affection. By paying him his wages you do not on that account secure his respect; while by indiscriminate almsgiving it is not certain that you will earn or deserve any real gratitude.
2. The possession of wealth does not improve, but sometimes spoils a man's character. It seldom makes him more generous. But those who are very poor may be rich in better things — in the respect and gratitude of others, the sweet temper, the generous heart. How rich the poor are sometimes, in She kindness of disposition which gives happiness to themselves and those around them!
3. Money cannot purchase health, whether for ourselves or those whom we love. David's treasury was well filled when Nathan told him his child must die. Hezekiah had proud thoughts of wealth when Isaiah commanded him to "set his house in order."
4. Money cannot purchase grace. Simon Magus thought it could; but Peter said, "Thy money perish with thee."
(Dean Howson.)I. GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS, BUT AS A MATTER OF FACT POOR MEN STAND FOREMOST IN THE GREAT HUMAN LINE. Weigh what Dives has done for the world, and what the penniless. Because Peter and John, though they had not a penny in their purses, had something to give to that poor man, and to all poor men, and gave it, we are here to-day, and the great world lives. He was the poorest of the poor who brought that gift to us. "Foxes have holes," etc.; and by hands as poor the gift has been distributed. Perhaps the most heavenly men and women living are among the poorest. The men who have drawn forth the great inventions, poems, thoughts which have blessed mankind have seldom enriched themselves by their toils. They have loved their work too well for that. The world is not bountiful to genius and to love. And thank God it is not: genius lives on a nobler nourishment, and love has a nobler hire. Socrates, Paul, Epictetus, Dante, Luther, Milton found it so. And yet that we may not idolise poverty the world's most glorious psalms came forth from one of the most splendid and prosperous monarchies of the world. But David knew want before he came to wealth, and perhaps his best work was done in his most struggling days. Still there are eminent instances of the noblest service to humanity from those in the loftiest station to rebuke the supposition that any class has a monopoly of the highest ministries. Sokya-Mouni was a prince, and few out of Christianity have done such work for man as his; and our own great Alfred did, perhaps, the noblest life-work that was ever done by one man for his generation from the height of a throne. The poor may be bigots as well as the rich. St. Giles is as contemptuous as St. James, and God rebukes them both.
II. WHAT ARE SILVER AND GOLD COMPARED WITH THE RICH ENDOWMENT OF FACULTY WITH WHICH GOD HAS BLESSED OUR RACE? Which of you now, moaning over your poverty, would exchange for the wealth of Dives, your sight, hearing, or soundness of limb? It would do us good, when we make our plaint against providence, if God compelled us to make the exchange awhile, and try how we liked a splendid paralysis, a gilded blindness or deafness, a park big enough for a province and a shrivelled limb. What cries would rise to heaven for poverty again! Take this healed man, as he clings to Peter and John, half afraid of a relapse, and suggest that he go back to his cripple's lair with a mountain of gold for his store. Faculty is the true wealth of man. There is many a poor workman trudging to his work at sunrise who has a joy in beholding the pomp and glow of the eastern heavens, hearing the lark's glad carol, and bathing his brow in the clear air such as Dives would give any price to enjoy.
III. IF IT IS A GOD-LIKE GIFT TO BESTOW HEALTH ON A CRIPPLED BODY, WHAT MUST IT BE TO GIVE HEALTH TO A CRIPPLED SOUL? The healing of bodily disease was but the mere fringe of the work of Christ and His apostles. The real disease that paralyses man underlies all that. Sin makes disease the first form of death in every bodily organ. You know why there are so many bleared eyes, bloated faces, shaking hands, and limping feet; and Christ knows too, and He knows also that the only way, in the long run and on a large scale, to heal sick bodies is to save sick souls. And He who can do this for you gives you a boon of which gold and silver yield no measures.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Christian Age.A shrewd old gentleman once said to his daughter, "Be sure, my dear, you never marry a poor man; but remember that the poorest man in the world is one that has money and nothing else."
(Christian Age.)A nobleman who painted remarkably well for an amateur, showing one of his pictures to Poussin, the latter exclaimed, "Your lordship only requires a little poverty to make you a complete artist."
Christian Age.We sometimes think that money is omnipotent, that it can purchase for us every good thing. This is a great mistake. Money cannot buy love. It often wins its semblance. Summer friends swarm around him who rolls in wealth, but the love of a mother, the fidelity of a father, the affection of a sister, the sympathy of a brother, the trust of a friend, are never bought with gold. Money cannot bring contentment, and "Our content is our best having." Money alone will not secure for us a good education. A rich man, who had neglected his early opportunities, was heard to say sadly, "I would give all my wealth for a thorough education and well-trained mind." But his money and his riches were alike unavailing. Plenty of money will not of itself insure culture and gentility, yet next to Christian graces and robust health nothing is so desirable as refinement and pleasing, self-possessed manners. The wealth of a Croesus could not give a peaceful conscience. Sin scourges the soul of the rich as surely as of the poor. The poorest boy or girl who has "always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men," is richer than the richest with a "conscience seared with a hot iron." A good character is more precious than gold. Yet money is not to be despised. If we have it let us accept it as God's gift, and use it, not so much for our own pleasure as for the benefit of others. If we have it not let us believe that for our good it has been withheld from us. But whether we have it or not let us remember that it cannot purchase love, contentment, education, culture, refinement, nor a good conscience, and that it will not secure for us either peace, purity, holiness, or heaven.
(S. R. Crockett.)
1. The disciples of Christ in the regular performance of their daily duties have ample opportunities for charity, and hence the necessity of mutual helpfulness. Objects of charity naturally divide themselves into two classes: first, those who are strong enough to approach us for help; and, secondly, those who are so weak that we must approach them to give help. Peter dealt with the latter class. While energy lies at the basis of benevolent deeds, yet no extraordinary exertion is required to discover the impotent men of this world. God usually finds them for us somewhere along the line of our daily duty. God may discover one man's object of charity in the heathenism of China; another's on the frontiers of our own civilisation; and yours between your own dwelling and the village church.
2. Wherever there is ability to do good there is always close at hand some object that needs it. The Christian system is so manifold in its organism that a place is afforded for every variety and degree of talents. No Christian is wholly lacking in ability. We are all creatures of want, and mutually dependent on one another. In practice, as in theory, the subjective and the objective are in juxtaposition. We are sometimes misled by the impression that only great deeds count in the kingdom of God.
3. Every Christian can impart vastly more than the impotent man anticipates. Peter's object of charity was a most dismal sight. Placed before a temple whose cost and magnificence filled all the world with its fame. It is the old, old story repeated again and again to the burning shame of the ages, that costly temples can be built while the more valuable temple of humanity must beg beneath their sculptured arches for bread. We may pause to inquire what Peter had to give more valuable than silver and gold. He had the Christ of history, the Christ of his own rich experience, to impart, which was infinitely more valuable than all the world's material treasure. "Christ, Christ," I hear the impotent man repeat, "what need I of Christ? I only want the means of driving away the pangs of starvation." Then says Peter, with all the authority accorded to an inspired apostle, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." You will notice that the man had merely asked for the means of buying bread; he receives the power to earn his own bread, which was far better. Do we not all receive from God more than we ask for, and infinitely more than we deserve? Two inferences from the above. Men are everywhere about us in spiritual impotency, and they recognise it not. We, as Christ's disciples, have power to help them more than they anticipate, or we ourselves imagine, until it has been put forth. If religion is of supreme moment to the human soul, how is spiritual impotency possible? Simply because the sinner's free will positively refuses the spiritual antidote. We have seen that want and the ability to relieve it go hand in hand. Is it true in the vegetable world where by the side of every poison grows its antidote? Is it true in the animal world where the bitten creature knows where to go for remedial efficacy? Who tells the birds of the tropics that a certain leaf placed over the nest protects their little ones from preying reptiles? Is it likely that "man, the paragon of animals," when bitten by sin should be in ignorance as to the antidote? Let the spiritual impotent "fasten his eyes" on the Truth, and he will receive a larger blessing than he anticipates.
4. Through human means a complete work is accomplished by bringing Christ into actual contact with human wants. There is a mighty power in human sympathy. But sympathy in the abstract is meaningless. It has content only as it is applied to an object. There are two ways in which we may express our sympathy with sinners. First by mingling with them for mere companionship, which always lowers us to their level; and, secondly, by mingling with them for the sole purpose of doing them good, which tends to raise them to our level. We need never be ashamed nor afraid to go wherever we can take Christ with us. It is only through personal, sympathetic contact that the impotent men of this world are likely to know of God and the power of His salvation. Suppose Peter had sent a written message from his home to the impotent man, saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk," the presumption is that the man would have died as he had lived, impotent. No, the two must come into vital, sympathetic contact. The weakness of the one must arouse the curative energies of the other as they associate.
5. The place where impotent men first find their Lord is always a beautiful gate to them. The place of our natural birth is dear to us. But the place of our spiritual new birth cannot be any the less so. It is a beauty that overrides every material consideration. Thus through life by doing and receiving good are beautiful gates made. By doing good along the quiet lines of our daily duties not only do we confirm our own Christian characters, but strengthen the characters and increase the joys of our fellow-men.
(C. H. Ricketts.)
I. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF POWER "Such as I have give I thee." It must have been a very high and inspiring moment for Peter when he thus felt the healing energy of Christ ready to work through him. We have often been disposed to envy the skilful physician who, when visiting a diseased sufferer, is so conscious of mastery over the disease that he is able to say, "I can heal you." So many of the sorrows of our life master us that we feel to grow big when we are conscious of the power to make and master any one of them. A simple illustration taken from the life of M'Cheyne sets this point clearly: "His custom in preparing for the pulpit was to impress on his memory the substance of what he had before carefully written, and then to speak as he found liberty. One morning, as he rode rapidly along to Dunipace, his written sermons were dropped on the roadside. This accident prevented him from having the opportunity of preparing in his usual manner, but he was enabled to preach with more than his usual freedom. For the first time in his life he discovered that he possessed the gift of extemporaneous composition, and learned, to his own surprise, that he had more composedness of mind and command of language than he had believed." That is to say, through this providential circumstance he was awakened to the consciousness of power. What we need in these our times is a higher faith in the varied and abundant gifts with which the Church .and the individual Christian are endowed, and a keener power of discernment to find these gifts in ourselves and in others. But powers differ in different persons, both in kind and in degree. None are without some kind of faculty and ability which they may lay on the altar of God's service.
1. What is called "wealth" is power. All beyond needful expenditure is a man's wealth. Wealth is what I can save and win by self-denial for the service of others and the glory of God. In that sense we are all of us more or less wealthy, and we might be much wealthier than we are. Such wealth is holy power. A poor widow could glorify God with the wealth of her two mites. But some have wealth in the commoner sense. And your wealth is power — a dreadful power if it has not been first presented to God to be used for Him; a glorious power if it has.
2. Intellect is power. Every man who knows a little more than his neighbour has the trust of a power. It is evident that he can teach and lead others. Surely these times are making larger demands every day on Christian intelligence in these sceptical days. The battle of Christian truth is as that great battle of Inkerman — a soldiers' battle, a people's battle — each one of us in our varied spheres making Christian knowledge and experience tell upon the conservation of the Christian verities.
3. Art is power. Such painters as Holman Hunt and Sir Noel Paten are but the high examples of endowments that come in measure to some of us. In Sunday-school spheres and among the children there is room for the consecration of the draughtsman's skill. And still there is given to men and women the Divine gift of song, and they may "sing for Jesus." No door will be shut against your song.
4. But every Christian has spiritual power. In this he is like Peter. He may, if he will, lay hold of and use the great power of God. But this lies dormant in so many of us. We could give something to men, something healing, vitalising, the very thing which the dying world wants. And what more do we want? Only what Peter had that day — the consciousness of power. This would stir in us holy impulses, would shake us out of selfishness and apathy. Remember that the words "I cannot" have no place upon a Christian's lips, if they are applied to any right and good and holy work. Thou hast power with God and with men, and thou mightest prevail.
II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CONSCIOUS POWER. All God's gifts to us are for our giving away to others. Keep any of God's gifts to yourself and they will speedily rot. You can no more store up God's present-day manna than the old Israelites could store up the bread that came down from heaven. If He makes an arm strong, it is for work. If He makes a leg strong, it is for walking in search of somebody to help. If He makes a voice strong, it is that we may plead earnestly with our fellow-men for Him, or that we may win men with the gospel-song. If He makes a heart strong, it is that we may inspire others to a nobler life. Try to dam up God's living streams of blessing, and make a pond in your own grounds, and they will cease to be living streams, they will soon become disease-breeding, stagnant waters, and you will have to be content with the pond, for God will cut off the waters at the fountain-head. "He that hath not (does not make a worthy use of what he has), from him shall be taken away that which he seemeth to have."
(R. Tuck, B. A.)
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk
I. MAN MORALLY CRIPPLED, HELPLESS, AND WRETCHED. Bodily infirmities are the shadows of the sins and weaknesses of the soul. All sin works by privation. It shuts up senses and organs which God meant to be inlets of joy and channels of life. But there is something very suggestive in this cripple's case — he never knew the joy of movement, "Lame from his mother's womb." Can you remember the time when sin was not a source of suffering and weakness? How long have you been borne by the storm of passion into excesses and follies when you have craved the beggar's dole? You ought to be taking your part with the angels in God's great workshop; but where are you? In the devil's, where you labour and are sheltered and sleep like the brute through long monotonous years. A change sometimes breaks the monotony — quarrels, drinkings, and all the rest, and I have heard men talk of this as life! What stroke has crippled you to put up with such a life as this — without God, joy, hope, like the beasts that perish?' Are you in love with such a life, poor cripple? or are you heartily sick of it, as this man was of his?
II. THERE IS A NAME WHICH CAN MAKE YOU WHOLE AGAIN, SOUND, GLAD, AND FREE. Your soul wants what that poor cripple's body wanted — power, and that power is in Christ alone. A man whose system is worn out can be patched up awhile by the physicians, but a new gush of life into it is what he needs. They try to do something like it sometimes, they pour some fresh young life-blood into. the exhausted veins. But this is what Christ can truly do for your soul. His life will pass into every crippled faculty and unbind it, and open to your powers a field of the most glorious activity. Lie no longer moaning, "O wretched man that I am!" "The gift of God is eternal life."
III. THIS IS THE TIME TO BELIEVE ON THAT NAME AND TO RISE UP AND WALK. You have been there fearfully too long. How much of your time has been spent wearily in the devil's service? How much faculty, how much life is left for God? But will God welcome such a wreck as I am? Let that poor cripple and Christ's works of mercy answer. "The blind receive their sight,... the lame walk." They were mostly broken fragments of' humanity that He gathered. Such as you He needs. You have made many an effort at reformation, but the poor palsied limbs have doubled up again. Now rise once more; there is a hand outstretched to you — I.ay hold of it. Refuse it, and to-morrow all power to make the effort may be gone.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
(P. J. Gloag, D. D.)
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