And they stoned Stephen, calling on God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Stephen is not a prodigy. He is aa example; he is a Christian; he is a believer, nothing more; nothing more than all of us would become and be this day if we were followers of his faith.
I. HE DIED IN CHARITY.
II. HE DIED AS A TRUE MARTYR, CONDEMNING THE WORLD, REARING THE CROSS OF CHRIST. His defence is no apology, as if he were pleading for life, or deprecating either death or their displeasure. Thus in Christ's spirit did he go forth, faking up his cross, and confronting all that was not of God in the world and in the Church.
III. HE DIED CONTENDING AS A TRUE MARTYR FOR THE COMMON, OR CATHOLIC, FAITH. His was no sectarian stand, or fight. What was the Christianity for which he pleaded, and for Which he was ready to sacrifice his life against their dead form of godliness, and conventional faith, and mere Judaism? It was a Christianity that revealed the way of access to this living God, and admission to this communion in Jesus Christ; a Christianity that revealed that new and better covenant in which these unspeakable gifts of grace were now published as man's birthright, in the faith of which he became alive unto God, the faith of which was eternal life.
IV. HE DIED, AS HE HAD LIVED, BY FAITH. That opened his eyes to "see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." That made his face to the spectators in the council "as the face of an angel." The Holy Ghost wrought in him visibly. God thus sealed His martyr's ministry by a token which even his murderers could not deny, and said, as audibly as by a voice from heaven, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Stephen-like, men in general, Christians and others, die as they live.
1. There are, it is evident, few deathbeds like Stephen's. Those who are familiar with the history of the Church in ancient times could cite many a parallel to Stephen among the glorious company of its martyrs and confessors. Nor are modern biographies without instances corresponding or similar. But what are these, or the greater number still of unrecorded triumphs over death and suffering, to the multitudes that are different, to the myriads that furnish a contrast rather than a counterpart? To how few is death without a sting, a conquered enemy!
2. There are, perhaps, as few lives like Stephen's as there are deathbeds like his. What is the value of a deathbed testimony, even of triumph like Stephen's, if what has gone before has either ill corresponded, or has contradicted? Look at family life, and social life, and Church communion among us, as compared with the fellowship of Stephen's day (Acts 2:46, 47). We shall then cease to wonder that there are few deathbeds like Stephen's. Stephen's was but the appropriate close of a consistent life.
3. The spirit, the faith of the Church certainly now is not Stephen's, nor like those of the Church of Stephen's day. How many fail to claim the fulness of the Holy Ghost, to walk worthily of their vocation by living in the faith of this vocation?
4. Hence the Church's weakness — want of faith like Stephen's; want of the Holy Ghost. Not a withholding on God's part of grace, or of the Spirit, but a want of response, or reciprocal action on ours. We are not straitened in Him, but in ourselves.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.