And they stoned Stephen, calling on God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.…
(Text and Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:1. 46.)
1. David said in his lifetime, "Into Thy hand I commit my spirit." In the hour of torture and dissolution Christ and His servant used almost the same expression. It is not, then, necessarily a dying speech. It is as appropriate to youth as to old age, to the brightness of life as to the shadow of death.
2. The greatest concern of man should be about his spirit. His clothes wear out; his house crumbles away; his body must return to dust: it is in his spirit alone that man finds the supreme possibilities of his being. Care for the spirit involves every other care. Regard the words as supplying —
I. THE TRUE WATCHWORD FOR LIFE. Life needs a watchword. Our energies, purposes, hopes, should be gathered round some living and controlling centre. We stray far from the right line when we take ourselves into our own keeping. When we commit our spirit into the hand of God, three results accrue.
1. We approach the duties of life through a series of the most elevating considerations.
(1) We are not our own.
(2) We are parts of a great system.
(3) We are servants, not masters.
(4) The things round about us are beneath our serious notice, except for momentary convenience or instruction.
2. We accept the trials of life with the most hopeful patience. They are —
(2) Under control.
3. We recognise the mercies of life with joyful gratitude. The name of God is on the smallest of them (Psalm 31:7, 8, 19). To the atheist the morning is but a lamp to be turned to convenience; to the Christian it is the shining of the face of God. All things are ours if the spirit be Christ's. What is your life's watchword? Have you one? What is it? Self-enrichment? Pleasure? The one true watchword is, "Into Thy hands I commit my spirit," my ease, my controversies, disappointments, whole discipline and destiny.
II. THE TRUE WATCHWORD FOR DEATH. If a living man requires a watchword, how much more the man who is dying! How strange is the country to which he is moving; how dark the path along which he is travelling; how short a way can his friends accompany him! All this, so well understood by us all, makes death very solemn. This watchword, spoken by Jesus and Stephen, shows —
1. Their belief in a state of being at present invisible. Was Christ likely to be deceived? Read His life; study the character of His thinking; acquaint yourselves with the usual tone of His teaching; and then say whether He was likely to die with a lie in His mouth. And Stephen — what had he to gain if no world lay beyond the horizon of the present and invisible? Jesus and Stephen, then, must at least be credited with speak, ing their deepest personal convictions. It is something to us to show who have believed this doctrine.
2. Their assurance of the limitations of human malice. The spirit was quite free. Evil ones cannot touch the Divine side of human nature.Conclusion:
1. When the spirit is fit for the presence of God, there is no fear of death.
2. All who die in the faith are present with the Lord.
3. Jesus Himself knows what it is to pass through the valley of the shadow of death.
4. The prayer for entrance among the blest may come too late.We have no authority for the encouragement of a death-bed repentance. It is but poor prayer that is forced from a coward's lips.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.