He was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. And he received living words to pass on to us.
Deuteronomy 18:18, and, as introduction, the difficulties which Moses found in executing his mission may be vividly described. In Stephen's day it was the fashion to exalt Moses and the Mosaic system, but this was done in forgetfulness of the facts connected with Moses' career. Again and again his leadership was refused. The stiff-neckedness and unspirituality of the people tried him very sorely; once, to so great an extent, that he spake unadvisedly with his lips, and threw down the tables of the Law. This Moses, in whom now they trusted, they were not really willing to heed, any more than their fathers had been; for Moses had himself prophesied of the Messiah, and any one who chose could make the comparison between Moses and Jesus of Nazareth, and see that the one answered to the other just as the great lawgiver had indicated. Some of the points of similarity between Moses and Messiah may be considered and illustrated.
I. EACH HAD A DIVINE CALL. Both in childhood: Moses in his mysterious preservation; Messiah in his mysterious birth. Both in early manhood (each early relatively to the age they lived): Moses in the vision of the flaming bush; Messiah in the dove-vision and heavenly voice at his baptism.
II. EACH HAD A SPECIAL PREPARATION. Moses in the experience of the Egyptian court and in the solitudes of Horeb; Messiah in the experiences of the carpenter's house at Nazareth, and in the temptations of the Jordan desert.
III. EACH FOUNDED A DISPENSATION. Moses, one which was both an advance and a decline from the older patristic dispensation; an advance as a fuller revelation of God's will, and a decline as imprisoning spiritual truth, for a time and purpose, in stiff religious rites and ceremonies. Messiah, one which was in every way an advance, liberating men from all ritual bonds, and bringing to open hearts the fuller revelations of the Father.
IV. EACH WAS A NEW SPIRITUAL FORCE. As bringing God near to men; exhibiting afresh his claims, and revealing himself. Every man who sees God thereby becomes a power on his fellows. Moses, in a surprising manner, saw God on Sinai; and with his vision there may be compared our Lord's vision on the Mount of Transfiguration.
V. EACH WAS A TEACHER. Precisely of that which man could not gain by any studies and inquiries of his own. Both were
(1) moral teachers;
(2) religious teachers;
(3) teachers of a specific Divine truth;
(4) each enabled, by the power of miracle, to attest their teaching claims.
VI. EACH CLAIMED A HEARING ON DIVINE AUTHORITY. Moses made it continually known that God sent him and God spake by him. Messiah made it fully known that he did not speak of himself, but the words which the Father gave him he gave forth to men. This claim, based on Divine authority, Stephen presses on the attention of the Sanhedrim, urging that it makes their rejection of Christ positively criminal.
VII. EACH WERE REJECTED BY THEIR OWN GENERATION. See ver. 35 and compare the rejection of Messiah. Impress that the many-sided and abundant proofs that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of God, and the Savior, bring his personal claims closely home to us, and make great indeed the guilt of our rejecting him. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" - R.T.
This is he... who received the lively oracles to give unto us.
I. LIFE INVOLVES GROWTH; growth is at once a characteristic and an evidence of life. We speak of life in a plant or tree, because it puts forth leaves and flowers and throws out fresh branches. We do not speak of a crystal as living. A crystal may be a very beautiful thing, but one thing it wants — Life. This figure fitly describes the Bible as contrasted with other sacred books. It did not come into being all at once; it was not the product of one mind or age; it is not a book, but a library; it is legislation, chronicles, poetry, philosophy, epistolography, allegory, romance, apocalyptic. It spreads over some thousands of years; it traverses the history of the race from the earliest dawn to the full noon-day of an elaborate civilisation. It was not written in any one place; Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, all contribute. Now we find ourselves wandering with nomadic tribes over lonely pastures beneath the starry sky; now we are dazzled by all the splendid surroundings of an Oriental despot's court; now we are lodged in some humble peasant household, and now we stand face to face with the majesty and the insignia of the imperial law. Sea and land, mountain, field and forest, crowded city and trackless desert, each in its turn furnishes a theme for this ever-shifting drama. All the vicissitudes of human life, poverty, and wealth, mourning and joy, the marriage and the funeral, the secret communings of the individual soul, and the tumultuous activity of public life — all contribute their quota to its incidents.
II. LIFE INVOLVES UNITY — a unity underlying the various devolopment. There must be some principle of life from which all the growth is evolved, which stamps its character on all the parts, which secures the harmony and coherence of the whole. We speak of the germ in the plant, of the soul in the man. So it is with the Bible. Amidst all these marvellous diversities of time, place, condition, form, subject-matter, there is a principle of unity which is also the principle of life. This unity is quite as real in the different parts of the Bible as in the different; parts of a plant, or in the different ages of man. The first chapter of Genesis finds its natural and appropriate climax in the last chapter of Revelation, while all the intermediate parts have their proper place in the sequence written though they were long centuries apart and gathered together we hardly know when and we cannot say how; the New Testament latent in the Old, the Old Testament patent in the New. Its fame can never grow old or out of date. And this principle of life, this animated soul — what is it but the Eternal Word speaking through lawgiver and captain and priest and prophet and king, speaking in the continuous history of a nation and in the chequered but unbroken light of the Church until at length He became incarnate in the man Christ Jesus. The many modes and the many parts of the Divine revelation were harmonised, explained, completed when in the last days God spoke through His Son. Contrast this infinite variety, these worldwide interests and associations with the monotony of other great books. The Koran is Arabian, the Vedas are Indian, the Zendavesta is Persian, the Bible alone is cosmopolitan. Other books for the most part have a oneness of treatment, of subject-matter, even of style. They are like the statue fused in a mould; it may have a beauty of its own, but it is rigid; it has no movement and no life, and the purpose served by all this is that life speaks to life. As a living thing the Bible appeals to the mind, affections, historical instincts, domestic sympathies, political aspirations. It arrests first that it may instruct afterwards. And here in this intimate union of intensely human sympathies and interests with intensely Divine teaching, this close alliance of heaven and earth, the Bible ever is a type, a reflection, a counterpart of the Incarnation itself. In the Bible God stoops to man, in the Incarnation God becomes man. Thus the Incarnation is the ultimate satisfaction of all religious craving and the final goal of all religious history, beyond which no other step is possible or conceivable.
III. LIFE INVOLVES STRUGGLE. The Scriptures have proved themselves as living oracles by the controversies which they excite and the antipathies which they provoke. Is it not an eloquent fact that in the early persecutions, pre-eminently in the last and fiercest of all, the main object of attack was the sacred writings; that the foes of the gospel were ready enough to spare the lives of men if only they might take the life of the Book; that those were branded by their fellow-Christians with the name of traitor, not who had surrendered a human being, whether leader or confederate or friend, but who had betrayed the Book into the hands of the destroyer? Aye, these heathen persecutors were wise in their generation; they felt instinctively that these Scriptures were living things; that they were active and aggressive; that, as Luther said of St. Paul's Epistles, "They have hands and feet — hands to grasp and feet to march; therefore they must be killed; they must be hurried out of sight." Was Milton so far wrong after all when he said that one who killed a good book is worse than a homicide; for, striking at the very breath of reason, he slays an immortality rather than a life? And as it was with the Greek Bible in the days of Diocletian, so was it also with the English Bible in the days of Henry. What a testimony to its living power is the record of its early days when that great man, who has won for himself an undying name, not only in English Christianity, but in English literature also, an outlaw and a wanderer in a foregin land, fled from city to city, carrying with him the half-translated texts, the half-printed sheets of his new version, the parent of our English Bible of to-day! Can we reflect without the deepest thanksgiving on this magnificent irony of the Divine goodness that within a stone's-throw of the place where the gentle, tender-hearted, reasonable Tunstall committed to the flames the first issue of Tyndale's New Testament as a thing to be abhorred and detested by all faithful Christian people, his latest successor in the see of Durham is able this day to congratulate a large, powerful, and wealthy society on its distributing within a single year no less than one million and a half copies of the English Bible, whole or in parts?
(Bp. Lightfoot.)I. IN ITSELF it is living — an efflux of the living God; and was thus for man, in a state of innocence, a lawgiving life, not killing and oppressing, but regulating and forming.
II. IN A STATE OF SIN it indeed at first proves itself as killing; it reveals spiritual death and threatens eternal; but even then it is not dead, but living, otherwise it could not as a fire burn in the hearts of sinners, and as a sword pierce them; and also it there operates to life, awakening the conscience and pointing to Him whose Word gives life.
III. IN A STATE OF GRACE it is not dead and abolished, but objectively in Christ, the Revealer and Fulfiller of the law, it has become living and embodied; and subjectively by the Holy Ghost it is employed as a motive of life, and as a power of sanctification in the heart and life of the believer.
(K. Gerok.)glory which was upon them when long ago the Holy Spirit spake by them.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(A. Saphir, D. D.)I. THE EXCELLENCE OF THE SCRIPTURES.
1. They are lively oracles so called —(1) In contradistinction to heathen oracles which proceeded from the pretended responses of senseless idols or departed spirits under the artful management of impostors. The Bible is the voice of the living and true God.(2) Because they instruct men in the way of life.(3) The Scriptures of both Testaments are called by this name because they are the means by which God communicates the knowledge of His will and of the way of salvation.
2. If we consider the sacred volume merely as history it is the most complete, entertaining, and instructive ever written. We have a view of the world from its creation to its final dissolution.
3. How grand, solemn, and interesting are its doctrines.
4. It exhibits the most correct view of human nature.
5. It prescribes the most excellent precepts and rules of life.
(1) (2) (3) (4) 6. It gives us affecting illustrations of God's attributes and providence in His various dealings toward the children of men. 1. If the Scriptures are of such importance to ourselves they are equally so to our children. 2. Their excellence demonstrates our obligation to transmit them. 3. If we regard the temporal much more ought we to regard the eternal happiness of posterity. The former is promoted, the latter essential depends on the knowledge of the Scriptures. 4. That we may transmit them (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (J. Lathrop, D. D.)
(2) (3) (4) 6. It gives us affecting illustrations of God's attributes and providence in His various dealings toward the children of men. 1. If the Scriptures are of such importance to ourselves they are equally so to our children. 2. Their excellence demonstrates our obligation to transmit them. 3. If we regard the temporal much more ought we to regard the eternal happiness of posterity. The former is promoted, the latter essential depends on the knowledge of the Scriptures. 4. That we may transmit them (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (J. Lathrop, D. D.)
(3) (4) 6. It gives us affecting illustrations of God's attributes and providence in His various dealings toward the children of men. 1. If the Scriptures are of such importance to ourselves they are equally so to our children. 2. Their excellence demonstrates our obligation to transmit them. 3. If we regard the temporal much more ought we to regard the eternal happiness of posterity. The former is promoted, the latter essential depends on the knowledge of the Scriptures. 4. That we may transmit them (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (J. Lathrop, D. D.)
1. If the Scriptures are of such importance to ourselves they are equally so to our children. 2. Their excellence demonstrates our obligation to transmit them. 4. That we may transmit them (J. Lathrop, D. D.)
1. If the Scriptures are of such importance to ourselves they are equally so to our children.
2. Their excellence demonstrates our obligation to transmit them.
4. That we may transmit them
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)