But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.…
"Go into all the world," was our Lord's command to His disciples, "and preach the gospel to every creature." They might have said in objection, that some parts of the world were philosophical and refined; that other parts were uncivilised and rude. Their Master held those objections to be nothing worth. Hence we find them in Jerusalem, for one place; we find them by and by in Ephesus and Athens; and here in what may fairly be called a rural and outlandish place. There, exactly as in other places, they just did what that text declares. "There they preached the gospel." Where? Anywhere.
I. Because IN EVERY PLACE THE GOSPEL IS WANTED. Man may be regarded as addicted to religion. Man has never been found without having as to his intellect the power, and as to his heart the solicitude to use that power, of trusting to some objects which are superior to himself. Hence it is, that we have all manner of religions very generally. The Hottentot has his religion, and the Esquimaux has his. But now, how comes man to be thus affected everywhere? I believe that it is by a necessity of his nature. Men want to have strength found them for their weakness, and light for their darkness, and wisdom for their ignorance, and pardon for their sin. You may find Atheism trying to get that instinct out of man's nature; but you will find humanity revolting from it; and, if it has not got the true religion, it will somehow or other try to content itself with a false. Why is it that men will put up with heavy self-denial and sacrifice of the very best, and sometimes to an unknown God? Here lies the mystery of it all — "they have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." They want to have their relations with their Maker rectified into the position whence sin took them. And unto that position the gospel offers to bring them. Whether a man be a peasant or a prince, whether he be a Pagan or a nominal Christian, the man stands in need of that gospel; let that be preached to him, and he accept it, and the aspirations of his humanity are all met; his troubled heart is tranquillised, and his guilt forgiven. "There they preached the gospel": in the antipodes; here, in some mission room, aye, and by the side of some sick and dying bed, in a London attic, "there they preach the gospel": why? Because nothing but the "glad tidings of great joy" would avail for the misery and spiritual want that are discovered there.
II. Because IN EVERY PLACE UNDER HEAVEN THE GOSPEL MAY BE PROCLAIMED. Different forms of religion to a large extent have arisen out of the circumstances of the particular place, or have got associated almost exclusively with the peculiarities of some time, or apostle. There is, e.g., Hindooism, that needs such a place as Hindostan with its great rivers. The religion of the Caffre is well adapted to all the region of Caffraria. Mahomedanism tells all its votaries that they are not to touch food from sunrise to sunset. Now, how could that be attended to in those lands where the sun never sets and rises for weeks together? A disciple of Vishnu or Brahma could not proclaim his religion here so as to carry into operation all its requirements. It was not made for man, it will not do for man. But this heaven-born gospel of ours, the land does not exist to which you could not take it; the man cannot be found by whom its sacred precepts and doctrines might not be received and followed out. Spiritual ill its nature, and simple in its ritual, it can go anywhere. "There they preached the gospel." There among the luxurious groves of the Asiatic; there among the consolidated snows of Lapland.
III. FOR EVERYWHERE THE GOSPEL IS ADAPTED TO ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MANKIND, BE THEY WHAT THEY MAY.
1. There are peculiarities touching age and with all those peculiarities there come corresponding necessities. The young man looks forward to his life; everything appears to him bright and auspicious: he is brimful and overrunning with human life. Now the gospel puts before him another medium, and in God's light tells him to see light; tells him to understand that there are difficulties and adversities and vicissitudes, but bids him trust, and not be dismayed, for all that. There is the man of business, and there the gospel stands, not telling him to exchange commercial life for conventional, but to buy, sell, and get gain as seeing God who is invisible. Then there is the mother in the midst of her family, the old man, etc. "There they preached the gospel." To be sure they did; whatever may be the variety of our necessities, the gospel has a word, and has provision for them all.
2. There are the differences of constitutional temperament. Some men are lively, others taciturn; and there are gradations between these two extremes. "There they preached the gospel," because it was not a thing for a great occasion, or for the salvation of the soul only, but in this present evil world to be as a portion in due season. Is impulse required, or restraint, or equanimity? The gospel provides it all. I have seen it take a selfish man and make him generous; take a timid man and make him brave; take a man proud and austere, and make him congenial and kindly.
3. There are peculiarities in intellectual power, and in corresponding intellectual attainment. Now, take the man that is not very intellectual, and the man that is profoundly intellectual; they both want the glad tidings; to both of them are the tidings preached. There was "The Dairyman's Daughter," and there was Sir Isaac Newton. When the one was weary with his intellectual work, and the other with her unintellectual work, where did they go? They sat down by the same Book, read about the same Saviour, and both of them set their seal to it that God is true.
4. There are peculiarities as to guilt and criminality. All men are not alike bad; there is the minimum and there is the maximum of human guilt. The gospel is adapted to the drunkard, to the profane, to the voluptuous, to the outcast of every kind; not that he may go on living in sin that grace may abound; but suited to him, to "bring him up out of the horrible pit and the miry clay."
IV. Because ANYWHERE THE BLESSINGS OF THE GOSPEL MAY BE PROFFERED UNIVERSALLY, AND TO INDIVIDUAL PERSONS. We must not call uncommon what God has called common; we must not restrict what God has left unlimited.
(W. Brock, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.