As they traveled along the road and came to some water, the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?"
made confession of it by the rite of baptism. So now, when he had accepted a new faith, his first impulse was the desire to seal it by a renewal of the rite, and the site of the water reminded him of the possibility of making his confession of Christ there and then. Though ver. 37 is not found in the Revised Version, and may be only an editor's explanation that has crept into the text, we may be quite sure that Philip would not baptize the eunuch in response to his impulsive request without some such test as this - a test which would bring out whether his faith was whole-hearted and sincere. He must know if his belief was belief with all the heart. On this test, which needs to be still put to would-be confessors, we may dwell.
I. BELIEF OF THE HEART IS THE BELIEF OF SINCERE CONVICTION. A man becomes intellectually convinced that Jesus Christ is the Savior. That conviction may come by very different agencies adapted to individuals. Mere ideas never urge to faith, convictions do.
II. BELIEF OF THE HEART IS THE BELIEF OF DEEP FEELING. The intellectual grasp of truth is not enough. The sense of sin and the gratitude for salvation urge the outgoing of trustful affections towards the Savior.
III. BELIEF OF THE HEART FINDS EXPRESSION IN PRACTICAL RESOLVE. First all entire decision for Christ; then a full and unreserved consecration to him; then a turning round of our whole life to his obedience, and a daily devotion of our powers and talents to his service. But this belief with the heart is no mere fitting association of the first act of confession; it needs to be daily maintained, growing knowledge of Christ giving fuller apprehensions of him, and our hearts lovingly responding to all we can learn and know. Heart-belief alone can ensure the active, noble, and self-denying Christian life. - R.T.
The eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
I. THAT TO AN OBEDIENT AND CHEERFUL HEARER THE WORD OF GOD IS NEVER PREACHED WITHOUT SUCCESS. This one discourse prevailed through God's mercy to the enlightening of the eunuch's mind; it wrought also upon his affections in such a measure that nothing was more desired of him than to show himself a Christian, and to have some pledge of the favour of God. The Word never is unprofitable where it meets with such an auditor. Learn, then, the true cause why there is no such profiting of the Word preached as there should be and was in purer times. Then one sermon won many; now, many sermons scarce prevail with one. Surely the cause is men want that ready, cheerful disposition, which the good people in those times had; then they sued to be taught, as the eunuch here, those at Pentecost, the Antiochians, and the jailer.
II. THAT WHERE THE HEART IS TRULY TOUCHED, AND THE SOUL INDEED TURNED UNTO GOD, THERE IS A DESIRE TO BE PARTAKER OF THE SACRAMENTS. The apostles urged the use of the sacrament upon the people yielding to the doctrine as a trial of them. If they had refused it, their hypocrisy had been soon discovered; if they embraced it, it was an evidence that their hearts were seasoned as was meet. Thus John Baptist bound his hearers to the sacrament (Matthew 3.), and Peter, "Amend your lives and be baptized"; and after that order did the rest proceed. There be just causes of desiring the sacrament in him that is enlightened.
1. He knows the use of the sacraments to be God's ordinance, and therefore, in obedience to His will, he will make conscience thereof.
2. He conceives them to be "seals of the righteousness which is by faith," assurances of society with Christ; for which cause they must needs be sweet unto his soul.
3. He apprehends them to be badges of his profession, and of his service unto Christ, and therefore he cannot but desire them.
4. He believeth them to be bands of the communion of saints, and in that respect he must needs affect them. In these days there is not that respect to the sacraments that there should be. Baptism we have received in our childhood, but what man of many laboureth to make the right use of it? And as for the Lord's Supper, generally it is made no more reckoning of than some three-half-penny ordinary, save only at some season of the year. Certainly this is an argument of scantness of grace amongst men. There cannot but be a stomach to the sacrament, where there is felt sweetness in the Word.
III. THAT IN WHOM THERE IS ANY TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY, IN HIM THERE IS ALSO A DESIRE TO MAKE IT KNOWN TO THE WORLD THAT HE IS A CHRISTIAN. It was an evidence of great resolution in this convert to return into his own country as one of that sect which was everywhere spoken against. This is the nature of true conversion, albeit, it may stir but weakly at the first, and seem almost not to dare to show itself, yet, when it is come to a fuller growth, then there will be a desire to show the colours of the Lord Jesus. So Nicodemus, when he was but a beginner, came to Jesus by night. Yet in time he joined with Joseph in the interring of our Saviour. This deserves to be commended to the care of all that fear God, that howsoever the vain applause of men be not to be hunted after, and it be hypocritical and pharisaical to practise the duties of godliness to be seen, yet it is necessary to make it appear what we are, and that we be not ashamed of it. Will some say, This is a needless exhortation, for we have done as much for the showing of ourselves to be Christians as this eunuch did? I answer, that albeit baptism might be a witness unto this man's Christianity, among a people not esteeming it, yet some further thing is necessary to the end our sincerity may appear. There be some things as hateful among the men of this generation as the name of a Christian could be among the Ethiopians, as, namely, for a man to make conscience of his ways to show himself fearful to offend God, to follow after holiness.
IV. THAT HE THAT ADMINISTERETH THE SACRAMENT OUGHT TO BE CAREFUL TO INSTRUCT THE PEOPLE IN THINGS NECESSARY TO THE COMFORTABLE PARTAKING OF IT. Every one that is entrusted with the dispensing of the sacrament is bound to acquaint the people carefully upon what conditions only they may receive it to their comfort. The doctrine appertaining to the right use of the sacrament is part of the counsel of God, and therefore not to be secreted by him that desireth to be pure from the people's blood.
V. THAT SINCE THE COMING OF CHRIST THERE IS NO PRECEDENCE OF ONE PLACE ABOVE ANOTHER FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF HOLY THINGS. Here is baptism administered by the wayside, and that in an ordinary river the sacrament had been no whit better to the eunuch if he had received it in some hallowed place, or in some consecrated vessel. Formerly the worship of God was limited to a certain place, but Christ being manifested, who was the Body of all former shadows, the distinction of places is abolished, and neither is God's worship tied to Jerusalem, nor to Gerizim. Therefore Christ's forerunner exercised his ministry openly in the wilderness, and baptized in the river Jordan; and our Saviour preached in mountains, by the seaside, and out of boats, anywhere where the audience was. So the apostles after, preached in houses, in fields, and baptized in any river which came next to hand. "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in My name," etc.; there is no exception of place, so that in other things the due form be observed. Conclusion: This may put us all in mind what use to make of our baptism.
1. So often as we think upon our baptism, it ought to be a spur to holiness. A servant to a great man, when he looketh upon his livery, cannot for shame be an enemy to him of whom he had received it; the sight of it is rather a common caller upon him to be faithful to him into whose service he is entered. So baptism is the cognizance of a Christian, and by it we have taken on us to wear the colours of our Captain; the very thought thereof should restrain us from doing the business of Satan, and work us by all means to the willing obeying of the Lord, to the studying, learning, and practising of His will. How excellent were it, if in doing of anything, which we rush upon without any scruple, we would say to ourselves, Is this according to promise, is this agreeing to the vow of baptism?
2. To those that thus make use of baptism as a motive to obedience, it is a storehouse of much comfort. When men's titles to land be in question, they fall to perusing their sealed evidences; and so a Christian must often look to the will and deed of his heavenly Father sealed up in baptism, and by it he shall have comfort.
I. RITES. Our Lord, providing for the need which His believing followers would have of some way of declaring their discipleship in visible form, named two ordinances. The commonest acts of daily life — the daily bath and the daily meal. The bath, by which one coming to Him signified his putting away, from that time forth, of the sinful, defiling service of the world, and his new, clean life of consecration to the:Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and the supper, in which he remembers his Master and Friend, declares his dependence and allegiance, and shows his Lord's death until He comes.
II. EXPERIENCES. Needless, it should seem, to declare that the experience of other disciples was meant to be a help and encouragement to each one of us in one way into the heavenly kingdom. Looked at in any large and reasonable way, the lesson from the vast diversity in the spiritual history of true and holy Christians is a lesson of unbounded encouragement. He who is the Way, and the Door to the way, does not care by what path we come up to Him, if only we do come.
III. DOCTRINES. God's truth is very plain; very easy; and oh, how helpful! What confidence it gives you toward Him! As He declares to us the great fact of the reconciliation of the world to Himself in Christ, how it wins us to trust in His plain, faithful promise, and to rest in the perfect peace of Him whose mind is stayed on God!
(L. W. Bacon.)— Some one sent to know whether it was permissible to use warm water in baptism? The doctor replied, "Tell the blockhead, that water, warm or cold, is water."
(Luther's Table Talk.)
The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more
1. The subject went on his way rejoicing, and in order to connect his joy with the Spirit we have but to remember that the first-fruits of the Spirit are "love, joy, peace."
2. The missionary was "caught away" by the Spirit — the same word as that of Paul, "caught up into the third heaven," only there the region was invisible and heavenly, and the apostle knew not whether he was in or out of the body; here the transportation is merely to another spot of earth, and was clearly "in the body." The same word is used of those who are alive at Christ's coming, who shall be "caught up together" with the dead in Christ "in the clouds." Hero the transport will be of the glorified body, not to another spot of earth, but into the air. The more complete parallel, however, is the case of Ezekiel, of whom we read on several occasions that "the Spirit took him up," etc. And that the prophets underwent this kind of transport frequently may be gathered from the apprehensive words of Obadiah to Elijah (Kings 18:12), and from the petition respecting Elijah (2 Kings 2:16).
3. There is something striking in this instantaneous confirmation of baptism which reminds us of the descent of the Spirit on our Lord at His own, and we may parallel with it the old legend that at St. s baptism, he and , the administrator of it, were so filled with the Spirit that they burst forth alternately into the " Te Deum." Note —
I. THE BODILY TRANSPORT OF THE EVANGELIST.
1. This was miraculous, but we may learn from it —(1) That there may be an operation of the Spirit on the body of man. "I pray God that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless." "He that raised up Christ shall also quicken your mortal body." We commonly regard the body as an encumbrance, and look to our disenthralment from it by death. But St. Paul, who felt painfully enough the infirmities of his body — "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" — yet cautions us against supposing that he wished to lay down his body at death, "not for that we would be unclothed," etc. Nor while he felt the burden of the flesh did he ignore the possibility of the body's consecration, and the noble uses it may serve (Romans 12:1). Let us, then, conform our view to Paul's. Let us consecrate our eyes to God by mortifying their lusts, and by studying His words and works; our ears by turning them from flatteries and sinful enticements, and by opening them to His Word; our hands, by labouring in our vocation, and by giving alms; our feet, by making them carry us on errands of mercy, etc.(2) That the minister's ambition should be to lead men to Christ and leave them there. The Baptist pointed his disciples away from himself to the Lamb of God, and, without a single pang of envy, saw them following the Lamb, and thus fulfilled his own joy. So with Paul, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." But while the minister may not personally obtrude himself, it is quite possible to thrust his office into undue prominence. Christ did not send us to preach His ministry, but Himself.
2. Philip was found visiting the district afterwards traversed by Peter, thus again preparing the way for apostles. He had had a most interesting and refreshing conversation with the eunuch, and it must have occurred to him that thus it might please God to open a door for the evangelisation of Ethiopia. But now he was snatched away and planted down in a town full of heathen associations. The lesson is, that spiritual refreshment must be succeeded by work. The Christian must not expect to spend his life in delicious feeling.
II. THE MENTAL TRANSPORT OF THE CONVERT. The evangelist was carried away in one direction, the Ethiopian in another; which may be the force of "for" (A.V. "and"), or "for" may mean the convert's ecstasy was so great that he did not notice Philip's departure. This seems strange, and hardly the conduct due to so great a benefactor. But we must remember that the ordinary ministerial tie could scarcely exist between these two strangers who had only known each other for an hour. And then, again, a glorious field had been opened to the eunuch in the new light thrown upon the Scriptures. But like all such strong emotions, the joy would presently subside, when Philip s absence would be noted; and this, with his advent, so miraculous, would confirm the convert's faith, as assuring him of a personal interposition of God. This joy, however, is the great evidence of having received Christ. It was so with the Samaritans (ver. 8), and with the jailer. Have we this evidence? Do not let us deceive ourselves. In the sunshine of life it is possible to mistake happiness for joy. But happiness arises from circumstances, joy from an internal spring in God.
He went on his way rejoicingI. IN WHAT IT CONSISTS. I have read of a man who, though possessing all the good things of this life, declared that he had never known one happy day. And here is one who "went on his way rejoicing." What makes the difference? The one knew and loved his Saviour and Friend, the other had not so learned Christ. Of all secrets the best is the secret of a happy life. Some people imagine that it consists in having plenty of money, but money cannot cure a sick man or sweeten a bad temper; some that it lies in having good health, but a healthy man is not happy if he is discontented; others that it lies in great positions, but we know that many of the greatest statesmen and rulers have been haunted by fears and anxieties; others again that it may be found in scenes of continual amusement, but they are mistaken. There was once a famous comic actor whose appearance always created laughter. Once he went to consult a doctor who did not know him, and told him of his low spirits and bad health. The doctor advised him to go and see the famous clown, and his patient answered, "Alas! I am that unhappy man." No, the secret of a happy life is to be found only in God. David, St. Paul, Mary, and others found it so.
II. WHY IS IT THAT WE HAVE SO MANY GLOOMY CHRISTIANS? It is because they have not learned to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Friend. They believe in Him as some one else's Saviour perhaps, but have not realised Him as their own. This is not because they have too much religion, as the scoffers say, but because they have not enough. Be sure of this, that if your religion does not make you go on your way rejoicing, you have not learned it aright. But why are we who come to church not equally happy? The same seed is sown in all our hearts, but our hearts are not all the same. I have got a stony plot in my garden, and however much good seed I sow there, it won't grow. So it is with some of our hearts — they are not prepared, and the good seed falls as on a stone. Our first care, in learning the secret of happiness, should be to pray to God, the heavenly Husbandman, to prepare our hearts that we may receive the Word, and find the joy of that good part which no man taketh away from us. Sometimes people tell us that their food does them no good — they eat and drink, yet they waste away. Why? Because there is something wrong with their digestion. The food is good enough, but the mischief is in themselves. If religion does people no good, the fault is not in the religion, there is something wrong inside them, they cannot digest their spiritual food. They have lost a healthy taste for what is good; some sin is spoiling their taste for religion; they are like children whose appetite is clogged with unwholesome sweetmeats, so that they cannot enjoy honest food. You know that if you sow good seed in your field or garden, but suffer the thorns and thistles to grow, the good seed will have no chance. So it is with our lives — the good seed of God's Word cannot grow if we allow the thorns to choke it. And how abundant those thorns are! There is the thorn of pride. A young girl or lad is reproved for doing wrong. Instead of expressing sorrow, the one who is in fault stiffens their neck. Religion cannot benefit such an one. Then there is the thorn of bad temper. Some people hear the message of Divine love, and go home and straightway fly into a passion, and so the good is lost.
III. HOW TO LEAD THE REJOICING LIFE.
1. Let us be sure that we are on the right way; if our way be not a rejoicing way, it is not the right way; we must quit it, and start again. Have you ever seen a child which has lost its way, wandering along crying? Well, when you have put that child into the right road, all is changed. We who are not happy in our religion are the children who have lost their way. "Hold Thou up my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
2. If we are once on the right way we cannot help rejoicing, because we have so much to be thankful for. The man who takes all the good things which God sends him, and never feels thankful, cannot expect to be happy. I have read of a man who was once telling his religious experiences at a public meeting; he dwelt upon his trial, his troubles, and the hardness of the roar on which he had to travel. Presently another man spoke, and said, "I see our friend is living in Grumbling Street. I lived there myself once upon a time, and nothing prospered with me. I never had good health, the air was bad, the house was bad, the sun never seemed to shine there, and no. birds ever sang in that street. I changed my residence. I moved into Thanksgiving Street, and now I have good health. The days are bright, the sun shines, the air is pure, and the birds sing oftener than anywhere else. I advise our friend to change his quarters, there is plenty of room in Thanksgiving Street." One great secret of happiness is to be thankful — "in everything give thanks." A woman who was too poor to cover her little boy with extra bedclothes to shelter him from the snow, which drifted through the broken wall, used to shelter him with boards. One night the little fellow asked, "Mother, what do the poor folks do who have no boards to cover their children with these cold nights?" That little child was thankful, even for a bit of board! But to be thankful we must be contented; that is another great secret of happiness. The poorest Christian has all that he needs, "as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." He has God for his Father, Jesus Christ for his Saviour, the Holy Spirit for his Guide, and heaven for his home.
3. You must love your brethren, and strive to help them along the road. If you would be happy yourselves, try to make others so, "learn the luxury of doing good." There is a beautiful story of a woman who had met with many trials and sorrows, yet was always cheerful, as though she were always in the sunshine. When she was dying, a stream of golden sunlight streamed across her bed, and a butterfly lighted on her breast. As she breathed her last the beautiful insect flew upward into the sunshine. So passes away a Christian soul into the light of perfect day, and goes on its way rejoicing.
(H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)
Homilist.I. DIVINITY BRINGING MEN TOGETHER.
II. DIVINITY SEPARATING MEN FROM ONE ANOTHER. They had to part, but who parted them? "The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip that the eunuch saw him no more." Two thoughts are suggested.
1. Their attachment; was already strong. Christ brings souls together, and centralises them in Himself.
2. The separation was only bodily. Souls thus united cannot be separated — no distance, no time, no force can do it. Indeed, bodily separation often deepens and intensifies soul attachments.
III. DIVINITY UNITING AND SEPARATING MEN FOR THE HIGHEST ENDS.
1. The eunuch departs with a new joy. "He went on his way rejoicing."
2. Philip departs to prosecute his evangelic mission. "But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing through he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea." Thus the Divine Spirit that united and separated these men did it not only to bless them, but through them to bless undoubtedly countless throngs. Thus Divinity ever works for beneficent ends.
(Homilist.)I. THE CAUSES OF THIS ETHIOPIAN'S JOY.
1. He had heard the best of all news.
2. He had seen the most glorious of all sights (Isaiah 35:1, 2, 5, 6). He saw the glory of the wisdom of God, of the power of God, of the holiness of God, of the justice of God, of the faithfulness of God, of the grace and mercy of God, manifested in the salvation of men; therefore "he went on his way rejoicing."
3. He had found the richest of all treasures. He could say, with an air of spiritual pleasure, as the two disciples did (John 1:41) I have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote; I have found riches Of goodness, riches of grace, riches of glory, unsearchable riches, a kingdom that cannot be moved, a crown of life, a crown of righteousness, and a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
4. He had attained to the greatest of all honours. He was made a servant of the King of heaven; and some suppose that from this time henceforth he became a preacher of the gospel of His kingdom. Nay, "not only a servant, but a son; a son of God, by faith in Jesus Christ. If a son, then an heir; an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ."
5. He had got his title-deeds to heaven and eternal glory ratified and sealed.
6. He was blessed with all spiritual blessings, and had obtained the most glorious prospects for time and for eternity.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS JOY.
1. The Holy Spirit is the author of this joy. It is planted in the heart by the power of the Spirit, it is drawn forth into exercise by His Divine agency.
2. The knowledge of our interest in Christ and God as our reconciled God in Him is the source and spring of this joy.
3. All the tribulations to which the people of the Lord are subjected in this present state cannot extinguish this joy.
4. The Word and ordinances of God are the means of communicating joy to the souls of the people of the Lord, and they are the means of feeding this joy.
5. The Christian himself, when in the highest raptures of spiritual pleasures, cannot fully describe the excellence of this joy.
6. This joy is perfected at death, and prolonged to all the endless ages of eternity.
1. Learn that pure and undefiled religion is not a melancholy thing.
2. That the Lord knoweth them that are His.
3. From this subject at large see the danger of returning home from the ordinances of God without your proper errand.
4. From this subject learn that men may wait long on God in the ordinances of His grace before they meet with Jesus. The man who gets a saving sight of Christ, though not till the last day of the feast, though not till the time of the preaching of the last sermon, the presenting of the last prayer, the singing of the last praise, the pronouncing of the blessing — nay, though not till he be on the road to his habitation, he will nevertheless go on his way rejoicing.
5. Is there a broken-hearted believer, under painful apprehension, that though he has been seeking Jesus, he has not found Him, and now saying, in the bitterness of his soul, I must go on my way sorrowing? Godly sorrow is not only consistent, but is inseparably connected with this joy in the Lord (Isaiah 29:19).
I. ARISE AND GO FORWARD. Many who mistake the nature of this ordinance are very anxious and busy for a few days in making a sort of formal preparation for it. Then their countenances are demure, and their conversation is precise, and their attendance upon the most protracted services of devotion indefatigable; and this they call religion, and trust in its merit to absolve them from all the dishonest, worldly, uncharitable, and ungodly practices of which they are guilty in the other periods of their time. But I trust that ye have not so learned Christ. Let your present attainments, instead of satisfying you, only incite your zeal and ambition to rise still higher in the excellencies of the Divine life. Do not flatter yourselves with the prospect of uninterrupted ease and unclouded enjoyment; but consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself when at any time ye are weary or faint in your minds, and study to know Him in the power of His resurrection, and in the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death. Exercise yourselves daily in mortifying the deeds of the body; in crucifying the flesh, with its affections and lusts; and in opposing your inclinations as often as they oppose your duty. Thus labouring to be examples of patience, meekness, contentment, and to come behind in no good thing to which you are called; go on in the strength of the Lord.
II. REJOICE AS YOU GO ON.
1. If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, then rejoice that ye have passed from death to life, and that there is now no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus.
2. Rejoice that you are advanced to the dearest and most intimate relation to all the persons of the ever-blessed Godhead. By your new birth ye are become the sons of God, members of Christ, and temples for the Holy Ghost.
3. Rejoice that God has made with you an everlasting covenant, well ordered in all things and sure.
4. Rejoice that the life which is begun in you is an immortal principle that can never be extinguished.
5. Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Even amidst our most sublime delights we are conscious of a certain blank in our feelings which reminds us that this is not our rest; but in the presence of God there is fulness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures for evermore.
1. They tell us, we are not now in days of persecution, and that when God tries His saints, He stands by His saints with peculiar consolations. No doubt He does so; but the Word of God that is written, not for that day, but for all days, sets before us this truth — that gladness of heart is the very element of our dispensation.
2. Neither do they dispose of this matter who account for it by the sovereignty of God — alleging that God has so appointed it, and that therefore we must be contented without it. What God's secret purposes are we know not; but what His Word is, we know — "Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice." Note, then —
I. HOW THE SCRIPTURE DESCRIBES THE JOY THAT IS HERE SPOKEN OF. It is especially marked out as a "fruit of the Spirit." If you turn to Philippians
1. it is described as the fruit of faith. "Your furtherance and joy of faith." In Hebrews 3. rejoicing is said to be the fruit of hope. "The rejoicing of the hope" — that rejoicing that hope giveth. It is needful to lay some stress upon this description because some imagine of joy as if it were always some ecstatic state of mind. It is rather the highest exhibition of peace. High peace and low joy come so near to one another that it would be difficult to draw the line of distinction. But joy may still stop short of that which is ecstatic. A man may be "joyful in the Lord," peacefully and quietly. And numbers imagine, too, that one who "rejoices in the Lord" is one who always rejoices in Him; as if there were no ebb and flow. But if this is a holy joy, it must be affected by sin; and you may be assured that that man's joy that is not affected by sin never came from God. It is the joy of a sailor that has faith for his cable and hope for his anchor, but he is in the midst of the stormy ocean, and continually does he stand exposed to all the changes of the storm, tempest, and the treacherous calm. It is the joy of a traveller through a wilderness, which he finds to be a wilderness, for it would show a want of sensibility (and a want of holy sense too) not to feel it so; but a man may have the keenest sense of the desolation of the wilderness, and yet realise this joy in his soul. It is the joy of a penitent; one who knows what is the element of a broken heart and contrite spirit; for where faith is repentance is, and they that have "joy in believing" know it to be the joy of a penitent spirit. It is the joy of a returning prodigal, and they who know the most of what this holy joy is can understand the most of what that state of mind is — "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." There are many things said concerning this joy which I cannot touch on. I would only say, "the stranger intermeddles not with it"; it is a joy that is "unspeakable, and full of glory." It is a union of opposites. The more a man rejoices after this sort, the lower he walks before God; the lower he walks before God, the more he ascends in holy desires after Him.
II. THE INDUCEMENTS WHICH ARE GIVEN US TO GO ON OUR WAY REJOICING.
1. God's command. I do not object to its being called a high privilege; but the highest point of all is God's command, "Rejoice in the Lord alway." Do not trifle with this Word of God. It may be one of the holiest precepts if the Holy Ghost should lay this upon your soul. And if it leads us into a serious inquiry wherefore it is not so, it shall be one of the most sanctifying inquiries both as it regards the causes that lead to it and the effects that follow from it.
3. The privileges of a believer. Does he look at God in the greatness of His perfections? All His perfections are the favour of God, the light of God's countenance, the strength of God's arm, the love of God's heart, the hearing of God's ear, and the omniscience of God's mind (to say nothing of His justice, His holiness, His faithfulness), all surround His child day by day, night by night, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Do we look at the covenant? All that I can want is there; the pardon of my sin, the acceptance of my person, the sanctification of my soul, the help to strengthen me in my hours of need.
III. SOME OF THOSE HINDRANCES THAT PREVENT THE CHILD OF GOD FROM "GOING ON HIS WAY REJOICING." I do not speak now of those who have no right to joy. Ah! there are some whose joy I should be glad to see turned into heaviness. And there are numbers of God's children that cannot rejoice. They are living at an uncertainty with regard to their "election to God." But with regard to those who do know something of what joy is, let me give you a word of caution that you lose it not. Beware of —
1. Unbelief. It is the great hindrance (Psalm 77.). It led Asaph to write hard things, not only against himself, but against God.
2. Low views of Christ; In proportion as Christ sinks, everything sinks in you.
3. A hasty spirit in dark dispensations (Psalm 116.).
4. Worldly entanglements.
5. An uneven walk. Indulged sin, indulged neglect, the tampering with sin upon the conscience will quite prevent the joy of a man's soul.
6. All selfishness in religion.
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)I. THE SOURCE. "He went on his way rejoicing," because of —
1. The great discovery he had now made. He had found a Redeemer — Him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write.(1) As a man awakened to a sense of spiritual danger, he must have felt the need of a Saviour prior to this.(2) As a proselyte to the Jewish faith, he must have been expecting the "consolation of Israel"; all the faithful longed for the "coming one " at this time. And nosy he discovers the deliverer in Jesus of Nazareth.
2. The great, change which he had now experienced. His mind was enlightened and his heart was changed. No thoughtful man could have reflected on what had now taken place within him without feeling grateful and happy. The joy of the bondman is great when delivered from the slavery of earth; but the joy of the emancipated is greater. We read of an ancient race who had been slaves for many years, and who were at last released; and when the great blessing of liberty was tasted by them they cried for several hours, "Liberty! liberty! liberty!" Some years ago we redeemed 800,000 of West Indian slaves, and we are told that when the night of their emancipation arrived the excitement among the poor slaves became most painful, and when the midnight hour came the shouts of gratitude and joy were utterly beyond description. The deliverance of the slave of sin is a greater source of joy still.
3. The clearer views he must have had of God's nature, and the character of His dispensations. He was a worshipper of the living God before, but his views must have been very contracted in regard to the object and nature of worship. He confined his ideas of worship to one .place far distant from his own home. He must have thought, too, that it was by becoming a proselyte to Judaism only he could be saved, "salvation being of the Jews." But now his mind was expanded by Divine truth, and he has broader views of the Father of Spirits, and of the spirituality of his religion. The wilds of Gaza were now converted into a house of God, and the very gate of heaven.
4. The prospects of usefulness; the hope of doing good in his own country. Every good man is happy at this. Having tasted that the "Lord is gracious," he is ever anxious to tell others of "what God has done to his soul." When a true-hearted man has any good news to publish, he feels a burden resting on his soul and finds relief only when he accomplishes his mission. This is especially the feeling of a true Christian. Religion is expansive in its very nature. "She seeketh not her own."
5. The glorious scenes opening before him in eternity. His views of futurity must have been unsatisfactory before he became a hearer of Philip. The heathen had but faint notions of a future life, and even among the Jews the idea of immortality was not clearly understood. Many of the saints of the Old Testament were "all their life subject to bondage through fear of death." But now "life and immortality were brought to light through the gospel," and the Ethiopian was filled with the "hope of the glory of God."
II. THE LESSONS. We find here —
1. A noble example of regular attendance on the means of grace, and the study of the Holy Scriptures.
2. That true happiness is connected only with true piety. Happiness is not found in wealth, honour, or worldly pleasure. This distinguished man possessed all these before his conversion; but till now he was not happy. Nor does true happiness consist in mere outward forms of worship, or mere profession of religion. The eunuch was a convert to the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion; yet never before this do we find him "going on his way rejoicing" from the great feasts. His soul was not satisfied with shadows. Now he finds the reality, and he finds "joy and peace in believing." The path of duty is the path of safety, it is also the path of pleasure.
3. That the grand theme of the gospel ministry in all ages is Jesus and His Cross.
(H. P. Bowen.)happens, or comes to one by a hap; i.e., by an outward befalling, or favourable condition. Some good is conceived, out of the soul, which comes to it as a happy visitation, stirring in the receiver a pleasant excitement. It is what money yields or will buy — dress, equipage, fashion, luxuries of the table; or it is settlement in life — independence, love, applause, admiration, honour, glory, or the more conventional and public benefits of rank, political standing, victory, power. All these stir a delight in the soul which is not of the soul, or its qualities, but from without. Hence they are looked upon as happening to the soul, and in that sense create happiness. But joy differs from this as being of the soul itself, originating in its quality. And this appears in the original form of the word, which instead of suggesting a hap, literally denotes a leap or spring. The Latin has exult, which literally means a leaping forth. The radical idea, then, of joy is this — that the soul is in such order and beautiful harmony, has such springs of life opened in its own blessed virtues, that it pours forth a sovereignty from within. The motion is outward not toward, as we conceive it to be in happiness. It is not the bliss of condition, but of character. The soul has a light in its own luminous centre, where God is, which gilds the darkest nights of external adversity — a music charming all the stormy discords of outward injury and pain into beats of rhythm and melodies of peace.
(H. Bushnell, D. D.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
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