The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth.
1. An inquirer.
2. A spiritually awakened inquirer, one who had come to see that his own personal relations with God were matters of extreme importance.
3. A wise seeker, who had found the revealed Word of God, and was searching it in full confidence that therein was the "eternal life." To such a seeker help will never be long withheld. "God waiteth to be gracious." Philip was divinely guided to meet the eunuch on his return from the holy city, and to join him in the chariot just when he was hopelessly puzzled with his reading. The passage which engaged his attention was one which opened up the applications of truth to sinful souls. The great chapter of the evangelical Isaiah deals with human sins, calling them transgressions; and it discloses that wonderful scheme of Divine wisdom and love by which those transgressions were vicariously borne, and borne away. Philip preached unto him Jesus, who "was wounded for our transgressions," on whom the "Lord laid the iniquity of us all," whose "soul was made an offering for sin;" who now saves his people from their sins; from the penalty of their sins, by the virtue of his great sacrifice, from the power of their sinfulness by the cleansing energies of his Holy Spirit. With opened soul the eunuch listened, and the truth dawned upon him; Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, was revealed to him. He believed the record, and longed at once to seal in baptism his faith and love to the crucified One. He thus simply declares his faith, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." What was this eunuch's faith? and can we learn from him what the saving faith is? Evidently it was a simple acceptance of and confidence in the testimony rendered by Philip to Christ, based as the testimony was upon the revealed Word of God. And that is faith still - receiving the record which God hath given us of his Son, and acting on the record. Faith is the great difficulty in the way of seekers, yet, when it is won, it seems strange that so simple a matter should have hindered. Some of the expressions and figures of Scripture may help us.
I. To BELIEVE IN CHRIST IS TO APPREHEND OR LAY HOLD OF HIM. AS St. Peter, sinking in the waters, put out his hand and grasped the offered hand of Christ, so our souls, sinking in sin and despair, by faith lay hold of the strong, rescuing Savior.
II. To BELIEVE IN CHRIST IS TO RECEIVE HIM. As the imprisoned debtor welcomes and receives the man who brings into his cell the money of his ransom, so our souls, by faith, welcome and receive him by whose precious blood we have been bought out of our prison-house of sin.
III. To BELIEVE IN CHRIST IS TO ROLL OUR BURDEN UPON HIM. To shift the weight of all the trouble and anxiety from our own shoulders, and let Christ bear it all for us; as one might do who had an important trial coming on, but trusted the whole matter to his skilful lawyer-friend.
IV. To BELIEVE IN CHRIST IS TO APPLY TO HIM. As the hungry and the thirsty apply for food and drink, so the hungry soul applies to Christ for the bread which, if a man eats, he lives for ever.
V. To BELIEVE IN CHRIST IS TO COME TO HIM. To flee to him as the villagers flee into the strongholds before invading armies; as the doomed man fled into the sanctuary to lay hold of the horns of the altar, or as the manslayer fled before the avenger of blood to gain the shelter of the city of refuge. So the soul enters the stronghold of Christ, takes sanctuary with Christ, passes within the gates of Christ, the Refuge for the sinner.
VI. To BELIEVE IN CHRIST IS TO LEAN UPON HIM, TO STAY UPON HIM, as we lean upon a staff for support. Christ is the strong Staff, on which the soul, with all its eternal interests, may safely lean; Christ is the healthy, strong Friend, on whom the sick, fainting, weary soul may wholly rely.
VII. To BELIEVE IN CHRIST IS TO ADHERE TO HIM, TO CLEAVE TO HIM. As the drowning man clutches so must we grasp, cling to, cleave to, the Lord Jesus, binding the soul to him as with everlasting bands. With so many and so simple illustrations, how well you may be urged now - even now - to believe on the Son of God, and find the pardon he speaks, the life he gives, and the love with which he will make you his own forever. - R.T.
The place of the Scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter... Then Philip... began at the same Scripture and preached unto him Jesus.I. THE TEXT. "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter," etc. Here is no difficulty, but there are two difficulties following which require explanation.
1. "In His humiliation His judgment was taken away." He appeared in such a condition that Pilate, though convinced of His innocence, did not consider Him of importance enough to risk anything for His deliverance. "Taking away His judgment" means the denial of the rights of legal justice.
2. "And who shall declare His generation?" Some have referred this to His eternal generation from the Father; some to His being conceived by the Holy Ghost; others to His resurrection; others again to His spiritual seed. But there are only two probable meanings:(1) Who shall declare the manner of His life? Before the execution of criminals, proclamation was made, "Will any one testify anything in favour of the condemned?" Sometimes they saw one hastening with a long white flag, and exclaiming, "A witness is come." But there was no white flag on Calvary! "They all forsook Him and fled."(2) Who shall declare the generation of men in which He lived? Thus Luke says, "He shall suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation." Therefore there was no one in this sense to declare His generation, the wickedness of the men in whose day He lived, suffered, and was slain.
II. THE SERMON.
1. It was unpremeditated. The apostles were admonished not to meditate beforehand, for "it should be given them in that same hour," etc. And ministers should never be at a loss to say something about Christ. Our Saviour says "Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto an householder," etc. Ye would not deem him a good housekeeper who, if a friend calls suddenly, could not bring something to feed him. Sometimes a minister's best thoughts will be those produced by present circumstances and present feelings. Baxter was once preaching, when there occurred a tremendous storm which threw his audience into great consternation. He paused and exclaimed, "My brethren, we are assembled this morning to prepare against that day when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat; the earth and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up." This hushed and calmed the audience. When Peter was preaching, a multitude exclaimed, "What shall we do?" but Peter was not disconcerted.
2. Its subject was Jesus, as it was in Samaria. This was his constant practice, nor was it peculiar to him. Paul said to the Corinthians, "I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." The Saviour, when He commissioned the apostles, instructed them to preach in His name. This is the subject which, though so old, is always so new; and not only a faithful saying, but "worthy of all acceptation." In order to be useful to others we must preach the truth as it is in Jesus; "for "there is salvation in no other."
3. This sermon was very Scriptural: "He began at the same Scripture," and this was a good beginning; but we must extend the thing. According to Christ's own testimony there are things concerning Him in all the Scriptures. "Search the Scriptures, for they are they that testify of Me." Divide them, arrange them as you please, and you will find that He is "all in all." Wherever, therefore, you step on this holy ground, immediately a star is in motion, going before you till it stands over where the young child is; wherever you listen, you hear a voice saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world"; wherever you open the leaves in this sacred book, "His name is as ointment poured forth."
(W. Jay.)I. THE SUBJECT OF PHILIP'S PREACHING.
1. The "Scripture" here referred to was one of the most striking prophecies concerning Christ. It is very minute, and seems to unite the most opposite extremes; so that this Jewish proselyte might well inquire, "Of whom speaketh the prophet this?"(1) The mysterious person mentioned by the prophet was to be treated with hatred and scorn (Isaiah 53:2, 8).(2) He was to suffer from God as well as from His countrymen (ver. 10).(3) He was to be free from sin (ver. 9).(4) He was to be an example of perfect meekness and submission under all His sufferings (ver. 7).(5) He was to be subjected to a violent death, with which some peculiar circumstances were connected (vers. 8, 9)(6) He was to rise from the dead (ver. 10).(7) He was to have a progeny, be invested with great power, and to carry on a prosperous work in the earth, under the Divine approval, and to His own satisfaction (vers. 10, 12). Here, then, we have a prophecy most comprehensive in its range, most minute and singular in its details, which alone, in all its particulars, is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. To what conclusion are we then brought by a comparison of the prophecy with the events of our Lord's history? First, that the prophet was inspired; for no human sagacity could foresee, at a distance of more than seven hundred years, the facts which he has described: and, secondly, that Jesus is the Son and the Christ of God. None but a Divine person could endure the sufferings He underwent, could redeem, and govern, and save mankind; and Jesus was anointed of God to accomplish these momentous objects. Philip therefore preached Jesus to the Ethiopian, and when this subject was presented to his candid mind conviction immediately flashed upon his understanding and conscience; and being inspired with a love of the truth, he "received Christ Jesus the Lord."
2. In this prophecy several of the leading truths of Christianity are explicitly asserted.(1) The universal sinfulness of mankind. "All we like sheep have gone astray," etc., and it is assumed not only that we have "infirmities" and "sorrows," but also "sins," "transgressions," "iniquities."(2) The fact of Christ's substitution in the place of sinners. His " soul" was made "an offering for sin"; our "iniquities were laid upon Him"; "He bare the sin of many," etc.(3) The universality of Christ's atonement. The remedy is as extensive as the evil. "The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all."(4) The use which Christ makes of His atonement with regard to God. He "made intercession for-the transgressors."(5) The fruit of Christ's atonement with regard to fallen man. The sufferings which He endured were "the chastisement of our peace " (Romans 3:24, 25).
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE ETHIOPIAN RECEIVED THE EVANGELICAL MESSAGE.
1. With deep seriousness and attention. The man who had renounced idolatry, who had become a worshipper of God, who had taken a long and dangerous journey that he might render to Jehovah the homage He required, was not a man to treat any question of religion with indifference. His heart was evidently deeply impressed with the things of God. The relations in which men stand to their Maker, the obligations which He has laid upon them, the provision which He has made for their salvation, the final happiness of the just, and the perdition of ungodly men — these are subjects which none but either the grossly ignorant or wicked will ever treat with levity. Every wise man will perceive that, if Christianity is true, it is worse than madness to neglect it, and will make it his first and most anxious concern to inquire into its nature and claims; that he may not run the terrible risk of neglecting that mercy which, when it is once passed away, will never return.
2. With exemplary meekness and humility. He did not resent the inquiry of Philip, abrupt as it might seem. No feeling of self-importance, as a man of office and rank, induced him to turn away. With the utmost frankness he at once confessed his ignorance, invited Philip into the chariot, solicited instruction, and assumed the character and.attitude of a learner. This is precisely the spirit in which Divine light is received. The wrangling disputant has a thousand objections to offer before he can admit one single principle of evangelical truth, and when all those objections have been met his dark and vain mind is as far from true wisdom as it was when he began his idle toil. The philosopher, full of his own speculations, has almost everything to unlearn before he can receive the truth as the instrument of his salvation.
3. In faith. That he trusted in Christ as his Redeemer and Saviour we have ample proof in the subsequent part of the narrative.
4. In the spirit of submission and obedience. As the Ethiopian was "swift to hear" and to understand, so was he prompt to obey. When his understanding was enlightened, the assent of his will was gained. Being instructed in "the doctrine of baptism," he waited not to be earnestly and repeatedly urged to a compliance with the Lord's command. He was the first to propose the immediate administration of the ordinance; that he might at once practically declare his subjection to Christ, and receive the salvation which the gospel reveals as the fruit of His passion.
III. The happy result of his conversion — "He went on his way rejoicing." He was miraculously deprived of his teacher, but he was left in possession of a treasure which filled him with sacred joy.
1. He doubtless rejoiced that he had found the truth. To be ignorant of God, and of the things belonging to our peace, is one of the greatest calamities.
2. As a believer in Jesus Christ he rejoiced in the favour of God. The favour of God is better than life, as His wrath is more terrible than death.
3. The approbation of his own conscience would be another ground of rejoicing. Conscience is a powerful instrument both of happiness and of misery.
4. He rejoiced to be the bearer of good tidings to others. A regenerated heart yearns over men who are dying in their sins, and at the same time it burns with desire to promote the honour of the Lord Jesus, and the extension of His kingdom. Under the impulse of these feelings a believer cannot be silent on the subject of his religion. He who had so unexpectedly found mercy could not be indifferent to the spiritual wants and claims of his own countrymen.
5. In common with all true believers he rejoiced in hope of eternal life.Conclusion: The subject forcibly reminds us —
1. Of the great benefit connected with the public worship of God. Bad not this noble Ethiopian attended the temple at Jerusalem the probability is that he would have remained a stranger to the Christian salvation.
2. That the great object at which we should aim in the use of God's ordinances is the knowledge of Christ as our Saviour. The Ethiopian, with all his sincerity, failed in this grand point, and an angel was employed in providing for him the requisite instruction so that he might believe to the saving of his soul.
3. Of the necessity of missions to the heathen.
(T. Jackson.)I. THE UNITY OF SCRIPTURE. And that "same Scripture," while so eminently illustrious, is only one of many innumerable scriptures at which Philip might have begun and by which he might have sustained his proclamation of the Jesus. Gather into your hands, as so many threads, all "the same scriptures" from which Philip might have pursued his theme, and delightedly gaze on the Pattern into which the New Testament fashions them. Can the charm of their unity be surpassed?
II. THE END OF SCRIPTURE. To set forth Christ, to attract human thought and fix it on Him, is the steadfast aim to which everything is subordinated. Many are the "voices of the prophets," but they swell into only one chorus of which He is the song.
III. In the intensity of the converse of Philip and the eunuch we see THE INTEREST OF SCRIPTURE commended. No fact grows more patent than the world's need of all that the Scriptures assure us of Jesus. There is no light from heaven if it does not shine in Him, no bread from heaven if He does not supply it.
IV. In the issue of this converse we see THE POWER OF SCRIPTURE manifested. "He went on his way rejoicing." The fulness, variety, and harmony of Scripture; the compassion, wisdom, steadfastness of God through all the preparatory measures which led up to the advent of Jesus; the power, grace, and life brought by Him; rest of mind in this truth, and of heart in this mercy; the new creation into which the receiver of Jesus passes and rises — these were some of the glorious elements of this man's joy; and meditation, prayer, experience, would but deepen that joy, as he passed further and further away from the "old things," and further and further into the "new things" prepared and ensured for ever to them that love Him.
(G. B. Johnson.)St. Bernard, preaching one day very scholastically, the learned thanked him, but not the godly; but another day he preached plainly, and the good people came blessing God for him, and gave him many thanks, which some scholars wondered at. "Ah," said he, "yesterday I preached Bernard, but to-day I preached Christ." 'Tis not learning, but teaching; not; the wisdom of words, but the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit that is welcome to saints.
(R. Venning.)Esquire, walked across the park together.
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