Acts 9:31

I. THAT A TIME OF TRANQUILLITY MAY BE AND SHOULD BE A PERIOD OF PROGRESS. "The Churches had rest .... and were edified, were multiplied." The time of rest is too often one of inglorious repose, of unworthy indulgence, or even fatal luxury and corruption. But when the molesting hand of persecution is taken away, it is possible for the Church to put forth all its strength - to enter on a path of unflagging activity, of holy enterprise, and of gratifying enlargement.

II. THAT THE CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE WITHOUT A SENTIMENT OF SACRED AWE. It should always be walking "in the fear of the Lord." Love, trust, joy in Christ, should be the element in which it lives; but it must never take leave of its deepest reverence and awe. It must walk "in fear,"

(1) realizing the near presence of its observant Lord, the Lord of righteousness and purity (Revelation 2:1);

(2) remembering that it is held by him responsible for the extension of his kingdom, for the conversion of the world (2 Corinthians 5:19); recollecting that, if it should lose its sanctity, there is no human power by which it can hope to be restored (Matthew 5:13).

III. THAT THE CHURCH REQUIRES TO BE CONTINUALLY SUSTAINED BY INFLUENCES WHICH ARE DISTINCTIVELY DIVINE. "Multiplied by the exhortation [comfort, ministry] of the Holy Spirit." No perfectness of machinery, no eloquence of human oratory, no promptings of emulation, no pressure of authority, no earth-born influences of any kind or number, will suffice to sustain a Church in living power. It must be multiplied by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It must secure the teaching which is animated by the Spirit of God; it must be listening to the doctrine which is communicated By the Spirit; it must have the indwelling of the Spirit in the minds and hearts of its members; it must be looking to the ever-living power of the Spirit to make all its agencies and operations effectual.

IV. THAT THE CHURCH OF CHRIST SHOULD BE ADVANCING AS A DIVINELY ERECTED STRUCTURE. The Church "was edified." built up; it rose as a structure rises - gradually and in due proportions. The Church of Christ should, in the increase which it makes, possess the characteristics of the best building - it should

(1) attain to a stately, should "multiply," grow in numbers and in the extent of ground it covers;

(2) become more beautiful in aspect;

(3) acquire increasing strength. - C.







Then had the Churches rest.
The right use of quiet times is a great secret of Christian living. Human life is made up of alternations of storm and calm, of trouble and rest. It is so with the life of an individual, a nation, or a Church. The earlier part of this chapter indicated a time of trouble. But now the chief persecutor has himself felt the force of truth. Then again the Emperor Caligula was making an impious attempt to place his own image in the Temple, and so the attention of the Jews was wholly occupied with plans for frustrating his design. They had no time to persecute. So the Churches had peace: how did they use it? Did it make them indolent, unfruitful, unfaithful, quarrelsome? Two things are said of them: they were —

I. EDIFIED.

1. The whole Church is one building, planned by one Architect, carried on by one Builder, designed for one end, to be the habitation of God. This thought is full of comfort. It shows us that however small the place of each one, yet each one has his place, and that, if it be not filled, there is a blank, be it ever so small. Is not that honour enough? Does it not say to each, See that thy place be not a blank, or worse?

2. The Church of each land, age, town, is a building. It may be but a fragment, a buttress, or a pinnacle of the universal Church; but you all know how any building would look if one buttress fell; and therefore you will not count it a small thing if some such position belongs to our community. This congregation of ours is a building. Is it then being built up? is it rising, in solidity, unity, beauty? is it giving signs, more and more, of its destination as a habitation of God?

3. Each human soul is a building. What a question is it, for each one, How is that building which is I myself, getting on? Are the foundations deeply and soundly laid in the faith of Christ? Is the superstructure rising day by day gradually, regularly, quietly, yet consciously, perceptibly, visibly? Am I growing in grace? more and more prevailing over sinful passions? better able to do the work which He has given me? Times of tranquillity ought to be times of edifying: alas I too often they are times of suspended energy.

II. MULTIPLIED. A time of peace ought to be a time of outward as well as inward progress. It was so of old. How is it now? Is there zeal in founding or reinforcing missionary institutions? Alas! you know that with much philanthropy there is little gospel zeal amongst us; that, where a thousand pounds can be gathered for a work of charity, it is hard to collect ten for a work of piety. And is the Church at all multiplying at home? Can we point, by tens, or fives, or units, to new persons brought to be worshippers by agencies now working amongst us? We are not left in the dark as to how this may be done. The Church multiplies, by its own progress, in two things: walking in —(1) The fear of the Lord, etc. Christ deserves not only our love but our fear. Does that seem strange? Is He not our "merciful and faithful High Priest," "the Propitiation for our sins." Yes! The words are written for our comfort, but not to make us careless about our sin. There is nothing which so solemnises the mind as the thought of an absolutely disinterested and unbounded love. It says of itself, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" To "trample under foot the Son of God," to "count the blood of the covenant, wherewith we are sanctified, an unholy thing," must indeed be of all crimes the blackest and the most fatal. And that is what men do every day for want of this very fear of which the text speaks. To walk in the fear of Christ is one-half of Christianity.(2) And then, so walking, there is room for "the comfort of the Holy Ghost." This is not a mere soothing influence within; it is a cheering power without also. The same word is rendered exhortation. God comforts by cheering on; by encouraging to action. We may try the reality of our comfort by this one test: Does it stir me up and spur me on to action? Does it say not, Rest from work, but, Rest in working?

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE DESCRIPTION HERE GIVEN.

1. The Churches "were edified." A Church may be edified by the addition of new members. The Church is a building, and those added to it are living stones; and by the addition of such stones the spiritual temple advances to completion. Such, however, cannot be the meaning of the word here; it means rather, "Growth in grace"; advancement in the principles and fruits of Divine love. The Churches were composed of individuals, and as the wealth of a country consists in the aggregate wealth of the individual inhabitants, and the national wealth increases in proportion as the wealth of individuals increases, so with the Church. If we desire the edification of our own Christian society or the Church of God generally, the first requisite is our seeking personal advancement in knowledge, faith, and holiness; and the second is our using all the appointed means for promoting the same among our brethren. Edification includes —(1) Growth in knowledge. All other growth arises from this. There is a kind of knowledge which hinders edification. "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth." Knowledge that engenders self-conceit tends to the destruction of love; and whatever opposes love is a foe to all genuine spirituality and improvement. Yet there can be no edification without growth in the spiritual discoveries of the mind. The Bible contains the inexhaustible resources of wisdom, and the study of it is indispensable to edification.(2) Increase in faith. This is the natural effect of growth in spiritual knowledge. The Word of God, like His other works, contains in it the marks of its Divine origin, and the more it is known the more its source will be perceived and felt.(3) And connected with growth in faith there is a corresponding growth in all the graces and virtues of the Christian character. All the ingredients in the composition of inward, vital godliness, arise from the influence of Divine grace upon the heart and life, and must be in proportion to the growth of faith.

2. They walked "in the fear of the Lord." This —(1) Imparted a becoming solemnity to all their social meetings for worship, and a corresponding dignity and propriety to all who were present.(2) Implies a sacred conscientious regard in all things to His authority.(3) Suggests that this was the superior dominant principle, and that the fear of man was suppressed and kept in control.

3. They walked "in the comfort of the Holy Ghost." Edification and practical godliness were associated with spiritual enjoyment. The comfort of the Holy Ghost is comfort of which the Spirit of God is the great Author. To walk in this comfort is to enjoy harmony within, and to display it externally to have the powers of the mind and the affections of the heart engaged in duty. This comfort, then, is not an indolent, inactive enjoyment. It is only to be found in active service, not in a life of ascetic seclusion, or in feelings of spiritual epicurism. There is an intimate connection between walking in the fear of the Lord and walking in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. All pretensions to the latter without the former are vain. There is no true legitimate comfort from the truths of God except to those that walk in the ways of God.

II. THE CONNECTION SUBSISTING BETWEEN THEM AND ESPECIALLY BETWEEN THE CHARACTER OF THE CHURCHES WITH THEIR MULTIPLICATION. An undue regard to members has often done incalculable mischief. Increase is desirable, but it must be increase of those whose hearts are right with God. With Him respectability consists not in numbers but in character. He had a few names in Sardis who had not defiled their garments. But, as a corrupt body, the Church of Sardis is admonished, and "there is joy before the angels of God." We rejoice more in an addition to than in the continued safety of the sheep. We delight in seeing all the jewels of the Saviour's crown continuing to shine with pure lustre; but our delight is still more elevated when a new jewel is added to it. It is in this respect that missions to the heathen are so supremely interesting. Notice, then, a connection between —

1. Rest and edification. In the Church as well as in the state, times of difficulty and trial often call forth latent powers, and produce remarkable men where they were least expected; but it too generally happens that to the members of a persecuted body such seasons are not times of steady thought, and deliberate and persevering study of Divine truth, and consequently of general improvement. A state of rest, on the contrary, affords opportunities for much study of the Divine oracles; for private and social meetings for conversation, and prayer, and mutual excitement. Let it be a serious question whether the rest which we enjoy is duly improved by us for the purposes of edification?

2. Rest and increase.(1) A state of rest affords opportunities and leisure to attend to the interests of others: for preaching and using without restraint all the means for the conversion of sinners.(2) Rest sets others free from the fear of attending at the proscribed places where the obnoxious doctrine is taught. Good cannot be done to the souls of men unless they are brought under the sound of the gospel.

3. The state of the Church as described — increase. Where these characteristics obtain —(1) The influence of the character of Churches upon the augmentation. In illustrating this we may observe — there is an augmentation of holy and active zeal for the glory of the Redeemer and for the salvation of souls, which God blesses with success.(2) There is combined with the effort to promote the truth the practical exemplification of its influence. When the truth is recommended, not merely in words, but by the exhibition of its power — then, under the blessing of God, it makes a successful appeal to the consciences of men, and finds its way with efficacy to the heart.(3) There must be a most spiritual, strengthening effect on those who minister in holy things, to preach the gospel. The sight of a listless, lukewarm, divided Church, will act like a heavy drag on the spirit of the pastor. But when the Church prospers, when the members become edified, and walk in the fear of the Lord, and when they are united, affectionate, zealous, steady, constant, prayerful — this is the very zest of a pastor's life.(4) The Church will be mighty in prayer. Prayer is a means of edification and a measure of its progressive amount. If believers are not growing in the spirit and exercise of prayer, they are not growing in grace. It is a common observation, and the principles of the Word of God lead us to believe it, namely, that revivals of religion have been preceded by more than an ordinary predominance of prayer among the people of God for the success of His cause in all lands.(5) There is secured an increase of the blessing of the Redeemer, and of supply of His grace. "Every branch in him that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." And this proceeds upon a general principle, elsewhere laid down by Him. "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given," etc.

(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

hes: —

I. THE GRAND CHARACTERISTICS BY WHICH CHRISTIAN CHURCHES OUGHT TO BE DISTINGUISHED. We observe here —

1. The Church is governed by the practical influence of religion. "The fear of the Lord" is the scriptural equivalent for the whole of practical religion, and involves devout reverence of the Divine attributes, and continued obedience to the Divine commandments. Churches are places where impenitence and unbelief should never come; where the depravity of the human heart should be expelled by the energy of redeeming grace; where every heart should be imbued with the love, and should be devoted to the service of God, and where every individual soul should be growing and meetening for the possession of holiness in heaven! True it is that, from time to time, there come among our communities those who have not the fear of the Lord, but "these are spots in our feasts of charity." They have no part and no lot in the matter.

2. Churches enjoying the consolations of religion. "The comfort of the Holy Ghost" signifies, of course, the comfort which the Holy Ghost, in His character of Comforter, is intended to bestow upon those who are truly walking in the fear of the Lord; and that comfort must be regarded as consisting in feeling that they are possessors of vital piety: of a personal sense of their interest in the work of redemption; taking away from them the spirit of fear, and implanting within them the Spirit of adoption, administering to them sufficient strength for all circumstances, and filling them with emotions of joy and gratitude. But the enjoyment of the consolations of religion must be regarded as arising from practical devotedness and eminence in piety. The inspired historian mentions one characteristic as a cause and the other as an effect. The Spirit administers comfort where the Spirit receives honour; and where the Spirit is grieved there the Spirit is restrained. His awakening influences precede, His consoling influences follow.

II. THE BLESSINGS WHICH CHRISTIAN CHURCHES, AS THUS DISTINGUISHED, MAY ANTICIPATE. These Churches were multiplied.

1. There are two principles connected with this multiplication of Christian Churches. It is intimately connected —(1) With the state of religion amongst those persons who belong to them. They were multiplied because they were walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. The connection between the holiness of Christians and the conversion of sinners is in Scripture most distinctly stated. "Let your light so shine before men," etc. (see also Philippians 2:14-16; 1 Peter 2:11, 12). If the unconverted world see you inconsistent they will be disgusted, but let them see you walk in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and then the very meanest of you will be himself a powerful minister of religion, will become "a living epistle of Christ, known and read of all men." Your communities will increase in reputation, and in augmenting numbers, and your spiritual privileges will be enjoyed by men, who but for your holiness would yet have remained in "the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity," but whom you shall have to present, finally, as your glory, as your joy, and as the crown of your rejoicing in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming.(2) With their exertions. Every believer is set apart, not only for holiness, but for exertion; and if Christians be idle, in whatever class of life they may be found, they are guilty of the most shameful breach of trust. The Church at Jerusalem was one mighty mass of activity (Acts 2:42, etc.). And when they were scattered abroad by persecution, every man was transformed into a preacher of the gospel (Acts 8:4). Now this is the legitimate consequence of walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost; but it is too much undervalued and forgotten. Are ministers expected to be arduous and incessant, while their Churches are to remain indolent and torpid, just to coolly receive their message, or else to criticise their defects, and to be discontented at their want of success? There wants to be sent another Pentecostal fire, which shall touch all ranks and classes, kindling in their bosom the flame of that zeal which shall never be quenched till death.

2. This multiplication is a most desirable and happy event. There appears to be, in the language of the historian, an element of pleasure, but there are nominal Christians in modern times to whom it produces no pleasure at all to hear of the multiplication of Churches. There are two reasons, however, why this event is so desirable and so happy. Its intimate connection —

(1)With the promotion of the glory of God.

(2)With the present and final blessedness of man.

(J. Parsons.)

Our text —

I. DESCRIBES THE CHURCHES OF THE HOLY LAND.

1. Their nature.(1) They were congregations, or assemblies, of good people. And they are described as being more than one in the same country.(2) They were not material edifices; although I do not object to, but prefer, that application of the word.(3) They were not promiscuous associations, constituted by chance, nominal profession, outward and involuntary rites; they were real Christians.(4) They were not national communities, for we read not of "a Church," but "Churches."

2. Their quiet. "Then had the Churches rest."(1) This denotes the commencement, not the continuance, of a state of peace. "Then" — after the persecution of chap. Acts 8:1-4. It was the calm after the storm, the joy coming in the morning, after the weeping that endured through the night, and therefore the more precious.(2) The causes of this return of quiet.(a) The conversion of Saul. "The grace of God was exceeding abundant towards him." His opposition was destroyed, not by his punishment as a foe, but by his transformation into a friend. Is there no encouragement to us in this? His conversion is set forth by himself as a "pattern" of the power and the mercy of the gospel. Then let Christians pray.(b) The solicitude and alarm of the Jews. At Alexandria the Jews suffered dreadfully from the Egyptians, and in Judea and elsewhere were in imminent peril of ruin. An attempt was made to bring the statue of Caligula unto the Holy of Holies, in consequence of some offence he had taken at the conduct of the Jews. Nothing could produce greater consternation. So they were too concerned about their own affairs to meddle with those of others. God can "restrain the wrath of man," as well as make it "praise Him." He can control the circumstances as well as change the character of our foes. "Saul returned from pursuing after David" when the "Philistines invaded the land."

3. Their experience and conduct.(1) "They were edified" — built up "as lively stones, a spiritual house."(a) When the storm ceased they set earnestly about the completing of their moral temple. Persecution is unfavourable to religious, as war is to secular, commerce. It dispirits, diverts attention, employs resources, and intercepts communication. Peace, however, permits the full and unfettered employment of the Church's gifts and graces for their appropriate and appointed purposes. The Churches before us were edified when they had rest. Their principles became broader in their base, and more perfect in their symmetry. Their faith increased in intelligence and earnestness. As a natural result of this, they cherished and expressed that filial reverence for God which is called for by His majesty and mercy; and they sought and submitted to all the intimations and the influences of the Spirit of Christ.(b) This was their course. They "walked" according to this rule. It was not an occasional, but a constant thing. It described them in their relations as men of the Church and as men of the world. And what was the result?

4. Their increase. "Were multiplied." They received large accessions from the world. There was more Christianity, and so there were more Christians. Saints were sanctified, and sinners became saints. These are the two elements of Church prosperity, the two ends of Church association. Christians are thus connected that they may promote each other's spirituality, and that, by the union of their graces and the combination of their energies, they may be as light to a dark, and salt to a corrupt world. And these two things are inseparably connected. The Church cannot grow in grace without diffusing grace.

II. SETS THEM BEFORE US FOR IMITATION. The text was written for our use. Consider —

1. The connection between the rest and the edification of these Churches. "They had rest, and were edified." They made spiritual advancement while they enjoyed civil repose. They did not spend the season of calm in luxury and sinfulness.(1) Often quiet deteriorates the Church. The favour of the world has been often far more injurious to her than its hatred and opposition. When the civil sword has been turned against the Church, she has often "lived more abundantly"; when that sword has been turned against the enemies of the Church, she has often as miserably died.(2) Our text, however, says that rest is not ruin, of necessity. And all Churches in their condition may have this character. It is quite a mistake to regard affliction as indispensable to spirituality. And yet how familiar is the language, "The Church is got into a bad state: it wants the fire of persecution to purge it from its dross." And if nothing but persecution would bring the Church into a good state, let it come, and the sooner the better. But Christians should not be dependent on the malice of their enemies for the welfare of their souls; nor can it be imagined that the wicked are the "salt" of the Church, without which it would speedily go into utter corruption.(3) On the contrary, the "rest" of the Churches is both a motive and a means of their prosperity. We should be stimulated by gratitude to a devout and diligent employment of the privileges so peacefully possessed. And then it affords the occasion for devotedness. The attention is not diverted by danger. There is the power of a regular and undistracted attendance on all the institutions of Christianity. The mind is left free from a dispiriting anxiety to study "the great things of God's law," and the machinery of means can play away without injury or interruption. See you not how all this applies to us? We have rest in a fuller measure than the Churches of Palestine. What is, what ought to be, the effect? Alas! they are not the same thing.

2. The connection between the edification of these Churches and their increase.(1) The piety of a people is necessary to the safe and profitable enjoyment of their increase. A Church not eminently holy may suffer from great multiplication. Enlargement will tend to vanity and self-sufficiency. Perhaps we may find in this the reason why some Churches remain so stationary. It would hurt them to be otherwise.(2) It is for the benefit of those who are added to a Church that it should be greatly good. Who can think without concern and pity of a multitude of souls being joined to a worldly Church?(3) The godliness of a Church is a prime means of its increase. God blesses an eminently spiritual Church. For there will be prayers with labours, not instead of them — the only prayers that God will hear. And those labours will possess a character of earnestness and uniformity. The spirit of self-denying love and zeal will pervade the entire body; "he that heareth will say, Come"; each individual, like his Master, will "seek" in order to "save." Nor is this all. The holy character of a Church in itself has no mean influence in "winning souls." The exhibition of holiness is calculated to arrest attention by its singularity, and to produce impression by its force. The religion of Christ has suffered more from the inconsistencies of its friends than the opposition of its foes; its professors have created more objections than they have answered; and the proof of its divinity may be drawn from its preservation in spite of its adherents. Had all Christians been like Jesus Christ, or anything like Him, the world would have become Christian. And the holiness of Christians is especially important in an so practical as our own. The question is being asked of everything, "For what good?" Christianity must stand the test — it has always claimed to be tried by it. It depends on Christians, however, what shall be the actual and immediate results of such a trial. For all these reasons, the sanctification of Churches is necessary to their proper spiritual extension. There is an extension which Christ does not approve, and which men do not profit by — an increase of dimensions which resembles that premature growth which issues in consumption, if not rather that extension of the body which takes place at death. But the legitimate enlargement of Churches must come of their internal prosperity. Would you, as Churches, be increased? You must be quickened. A revival of religion must commence with the religious.

(A. J. Morris.)

I. THEIR EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES. "Rest." The hurricane of persecution was now hushed, and under the genial influence of peace they grew. Peace in the nation is the time to build houses and develop resources. Peace in nature is the time for sowing and cultivation. Persecution, like storms, may deepen the roots of piety when it exists, but is unfavourable to the dissemination of seed and the growth of fragile plants.

1. This external condition Churches in England now have. We can sit under our own vine, etc. Once our Churches were very differently circumstanced — e.g., under Mary and the Stuarts.

2. This condition we are bound to improve. Great is our responsibility. All the waste land should be cultivated. Every spot brown with barrenness should be made emerald with life.

II. THEIR MUTUAL RELATION. There was —

1. Organic independence. These Churches are spoken of as distinct; they were doubtless distinct organisations, each having its own laws, managing its own affairs, and knowing no head but Christ.

2. Spiritual unity. They are all spoken of as belonging to one generic class, subject to one general condition, and pursuing the same order of life. And there is vital unity between all true Churches — the unity of spirit, aim, headship. They were "all members of one body." That which really unites Churches is not "unions," "conferences," etc., but Christ's spirit of truth, love, and goodness.

III. THEIR INTERNAL CONDITION.

1. Living in godly reverence.

2. Receiving sacred influences.

IV. THEIR LEADING SIGNS. Increase —

1. Of strength.

2. Of numbers. Strong Churches, like strong nations, will colonise.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. What is meant by WALKING IN THE FEAR OF GOD?

1. A habitual and profound veneration for His character and institutions.

2. A humble and unreserved submission to His authority. The influence of this fear will extend to all the powers and faculties of the soul. It will —

(1)Constrain the understanding to submit implicitly to the authority of God's revealed will.

(2)Influence the will, rendering it pliable and submissive, and conforming it to the will of God.

(3)Control and regulate the affections.

(4)Guide and govern the imagination.

3. A holy jealousy of ourselves, end a watchful care to avoid everything which may grieve, displease, or provoke Him to forsake us. Now, as Churches are composed of individuals, it follows that when all or nearly all the members of a Church live under the habitual influence of this principle, the Church will walk in the fear of God; and all the duties which are incumbent on it will be diligently and faithfully performed. These duties are —

(1)To provide the means of grace and of religious instruction for itself, its children, and those who are immediately connected with it:

(2)To faithfully maintain the discipline of Christ in His house.

(3)To assemble at proper seasons for social worship.

(4)To take care of the religious education of its children.

(5)To assist feeble and destitute sister Churches with pecuniary aid according to their ability.

II. What is meant by WALKING IN THE COMFORTS OF THE HOLY GHOST? Having —

1. Peace of conscience, or peace with God, arising from a persuasion wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit that we are pardoned and accepted in the Beloved.

2. A strong and well-grounded hope, arising at times to a full assurance, that we are adopted into God's family, and that consequently we have a title to all the privileges of His children.

3. Foretastes of the joys of heaven.

III. WHEN THE MEMBERS OF CHURCHES HABITUALLY WALK IN THIS MANNER, GREAT ADDITIONS WILL BE MADE TO THEM. This is probable when we consider —

1. That such a life and temper will naturally and most powerfully tend to convince all around them of the reality and happy effects of religion, to remove their prejudices against it, and to show them that its possession is highly desirable.

2. That this state of things is exceedingly pleasing to God, and naturally tends to draw down His blessing. Them that honour Him He will honour.

3. That, when Churches walk in this manner, it proves that God is pouring out His Spirit upon them, and that a revival of religion is already begun.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

I. WE ARE APT TO REGARD THESE TWO FORCES — FEAR AND CONSOLATION — AS CONTRADICTORY.

1. "The fear of the Lord" marks an abiding characteristic of the Christian life — i.e., the fear which dwelt in our Lord Himself must dwell in His disciples. Christ "was heard in that He feared." He was penetrated by a sense of religious awe and conscientiousness, and was delicately alive to the will of His Father; and thus He had power with God and prevailed. "The fear of the Lord," like the love or the glory of the Lord, is to be participated in by His disciples, and is altogether a noble thing. It is an anxious state of mind lest we should wound the love of God, violate the law of righteousness, or fail to reach the highest sanctification of character (1 Peter 1:16, 17).

2. "The comfort of the Holy Ghost" is also an indispensable element. As the name of "Comforter" as applied to the Spirit of God means also "Helper," "Advocate," so the idea of comfort implies that of efficient succour, and the idea of efficient succour that of comfort — the deep satisfaction imparted to the soul by the energy of the Spirit of God — "strong consolation," as we have it in Hebrews. The primitive Christians felt this, and walked in its power. Some praise ancient heathenism because, amid all its absurdities, it was a cheerful religion. Now, it must be acknowledged that Christianity is not a "cheerful religion" in the sense in which they were. Christ brought out the deeper meaning of life, and we have far deeper reasons for seriousness than men could possibly feel prior to the Advent. The superficial hilariousness of pagan worship was an impossibility to those who knew the Holy One of Israel, who had seen the awful beauty of Christ, and who were expecting the manifestation of that perfect universe into which nothing can enter that defileth. But, on the other hand, Christ has given us such reasons for bravery and hope in the moral life as men never knew before. Do we fear lest we fail to realise the wondrous love of God? "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost." Do we tremble lest we fail to recognise the mind of God? "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth." Do we shrink to contemplate the wide gulf which comes between us and the perfection of our Father in heaven? The Spirit assures us of sonship, and gives us the earnest of the promised inheritance, and urges us forward to share in God's everlasting glory and blessedness.

II. SO FAR FROM THESE TWO PHASES BEING, INCOMPATIBLE, THEY ARE COMPLEMENTARY. In nature apparently contradictory forces blend, and in blending produce the grandest results. Widely as oxygen and nitrogen differ, they are complementary gases, and combined make the sweet and vital atmosphere. Attraction and repulsion are also complementary forces whose combined action preserves the universe in harmonic movement. So the resultant of the double action of the heart is life and health. Thus is it in Christian experience.

1. Fear is not inconsistent with —(1) Peace. "Then had the Churches rest,...walking in the fear of the Lord."(2) Love. The disciple of love fell at his Master's feet as dead.(3) Hope. Peter, who has so much to say about the terrible day of the Lord, is full of hope.(4) The highest world and the fullest felicity. Those who stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of gold, sing, "Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy."

2. And so "comfort" is not inconsistent with any grace of the Spirit. Thoughtfulness and a full assurance; a constant eye to the imperative ideal which is so far above us, and to the glorious grace dwelling so richly in us; a vivid sense of our high and holy calling, and of the dangerous path of pilgrimage which leads up to it; the recollection of "the jealous God," and of the God "keeping mercy for thousands"; the anticipation of judgment and glory, are coordinate and cooperative moods in the working out of our salvation.

3. The danger lies in the omission of either.(1) How faulty the piety in which fear has no place! in which there is no trembling before the holiness of God, no overwhelming sense of the gravity of our position, no gazing with awe into the dread eternity how surely mine! The brighter the star, the more it trembles; and the purest saints, the bravest heroes of all times, have stood "in fear and in much trembling."(2) Not less faulty is the piety in which comfort has no place — legal, tormenting, morbid religiousness! Pale sorrow must consort with blooming joy; weakness must lean on strength; sweet comfort must soothe awesome fear. Only in the equilibrium of these opposite forces do we attain the fulness of life and the fulness of its blessing. Our grandest moments arise in the union of two opposing emotions (Genesis 28:16, 17; Matthew 28:8).

III. WHILST WE CULTIVATE BOTH SENTIMENTS, WE MUST MAINTAIN BOTH IN DUE PROPORTIONS. Most of us are under temptation to yield this or that undue preeminence, and the reason is found both in our constitution and our circumstances.

1. To exaggerate the sentiment of fear is the peril of some. An old writer tells us of a strange tribe which dwelt in caves because they were afraid of the sunshine; many devout people are afraid of the sunshine of the mind. Such are burdened with a sense of imperfection, condemnation, peril, and are slow to consider the gracious aspects of the Divine character, the inspiriting and mighty aid of the Comforter. Let those of a certain temperament watch against this danger. Let God lead you into green pastures. "Abound in hope," and you shall find yourself more than conqueror.

2. The peril of others lies in exaggerating the element of comfort. These chiefly ponder the element phases of religion, and remember that "like as a father pitieth his children," etc. They dwell more on the promises of Christ than on His requirements. Those need to be reminded of the sterner side of things. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," etc. All our austere thinking must be relieved by gracious hope, and our bounding joy chastened by the hallowed fear. "Rejoice with trembling."

IV. THE TEXT EXHIBITS FEAR AND COMFORT, NOT AS ALTERNATIVE, BUT AS CO-EXISTENT AND CONCURRENT MOODS OF THE SOUL. At one and the same time they walked "in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost."

1. The two streams ought to mingle in one full tide of feeling. "Happy is the man that feareth alway," and blessed is he also who rejoices evermore, and in everything gives thanks. In the geologic world, for distinct and protracted periods, different gases prevailed; now you have the Carboniferous epoch, and then some other element predominates: but in the perfected earth the various gases mingle in due proportions, and the life and beauty of the whole orb are secured and perpetuated. In the cruder and more imperfect stages of our religious history, periods of anxiety are succeeded by periods of jubilation; but in the higher and riper development of the soul there is more simultaneousness in our moods, and they happily mingle in one deep and rich experience. In the Psalms we frequently find the most rapid transitions of thought, the mingling of most diverse emotion — gladness suddenly becoming thoughtful, and again, sorrow smiling through her tears. And the same comprehensive experience finds expression in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 2 Corinthians 6:9, 10). So far from deprecating this, we must regard it as God's wonder-working order, and direct our self-culture accordingly. The artist ranges over the whole chromatic scale, and makes his picture so grand because the colours are so skilfully mixed; the musician rapidly passes from key to key, from stop to stop, and because he does so creates commanding music; thus in the believer's life it is the constant concurrent appeal to law and grace, to responsibility and privilege, to the God of righteousness and the God of love, to heaven near and heaven distant, that finally gives to the character that full and finished beauty of which all artistic perfection is but the coarse figure.

2. The concurrence of these two habits of feeling secures the highest welfare of the soul. It was whilst the first Churches walked in this fear and comfort that they were "edified" and "multiplied." The truest condition of Christian life is not found in the comparative absence of feeling. The text represents the soul as full of force and movement. A uniform experience is thought by some a satisfactory sign. The truth is far otherwise. How much grandeur would be lost to the world if the mountains were levelled; how much fruitfulness, and history, and poetry, and art! Somewhat thus is it with the soul. The true soul is full of great contending emotions, the upheavals and subsidences caused by the Spirit which worketh in us mightily; and in the exaltations and humiliations, the soaring hopes and lowly fears, the confidence which touches the heights and the apprehensions which reach the depths, lies the perfecting of the soul. The more life the more feeling, the more feeling the more life.

3. In an experience which contains the full measure and compass of feeling we secure the stability of the soul. The perfect lighthouse is a mighty column rising out of the rock, the very ideal of strength; yet it is a reed shaken with the wind, and because it bends it stands. It is thus with the highest and safest characters. There must be strength of mind, of principle, of faith, or it is impossible that we should bear the strain of life. And yet with all this there must be that sensitiveness which is ever the sign of sublimest strength. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."

(W. L. Watkinson.)

There is a filial fear. There is nothing more solicitous than love. A mother knows fear in connection with those children that she loves, but it is not degrading fear. The child, anxious to please, looks with waiting expectancy to see if its task has pleased father or mother. The child that is learning to write, or that is studying art, and, making sketches, brings them to the teacher or to the parent, comes with a kind of trembling apprehension lest they shall not be approved. That is honourable. That has the approval of affection itself, and it is ennobling. But the fear of anger, the fear of penalty, the fear of our own suffering and loss, is admirable only in very remote degrees, and occasionally, when other motives fail. And yet there is a filial fear, a love fear, which not only is permissible, but is honouring and uplifting.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Some men seem to think that the glory of the Church consists in being let alone. What they esteem above all other things is peace. A green mantling pool of what they call orthodoxy, with a minister croaking like a frog solitary — that is their conception of a Christian Church in a state of prosperity. But, according to the Bible, we are warriors. The battles we fight, however, are not battles of blood, but battles of love and mercy. We are sent to carry, not the sword and the spear, not rude violence, but conceptions of higher justice, nobler purity, wiser laws, and more beneficent customs. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. With these we contest, and we will contest, against rage and wrath and bitterness, knowing that He that called us and sent us is the God of battles, and will guide us and give us that victory which, if worth anything, is worth achieving in the severest conflict. For victories that are cheap, are cheap. Those only are worth having which come as the result of hard fighting.

(H. W. Beecher.)

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