Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord…
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.