Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran on him with one accord,…
Stephen had been preaching a rousing sermon, and the people could not stand it. They resolved to do as men sometimes would like to do in this day, if they dared, with some plain preacher of righteousness — kill him. I want to show you to-day five pictures. Stephen —
I. GAZING INTO HEAVEN. Before you climb a ladder you want to know to what point the ladder reaches. And it was right that Stephen, within a few moments of heaven, should be gazing into it. We would all do well to be found in the same posture. There is enough in heaven to keep us gazing. The whole universe is God's palace, but heaven is the gallery in which the chief glories are gathered. We have a great many friends there. As a man gets older, the number of his celestial acquaintances very rapidly multiplies. We have not had one glimpse of them since the night we kissed them good-bye and they went away; but still we stand gazing at heaven.
II. LOOKING UPON CHRIST. How Christ looked in this world, how He looks in heaven, we cannot say. Painters have tried to imagine His features, and put them upon canvas; but we will have to wait until with our own eyes we see Him. And yet there is a way of seeing Him now, and unless you see Christ on earth, you will never see Him in heaven. Look! There He is. Behold the Lamb of God. Can you not see Him? Then pray to God to take the scales off your eyes. His voice comes down to you, saying, "Look unto Me, all ye ends of the earth, and be ye saved." Proclamation of universal emancipation for all slaves, of universal amnesty for all rebels. Behold Him, little children, for if you live to threescore years and ten, you will see none so fair. Behold Him, ye aged ones, for He only can shine through the dimness of your failing eyesight. Behold Him, earth. Behold Him, heaven. What a moment when all the nations of the saved shall see Him!
III. STONED. The world has always wanted to get rid of good men. Their very life is an assault upon wickedness. Out with Stephen through the gates of the city. Down with him over the precipices. Let every man come and drop a stone upon his head. But these men did not so much kill Stephen as they killed themselves. While these murderers are transfixed by the scorn of all good men, Stephen lives in the admiration of all Christendom. Show me any one who is doing all his duty to State or Church, and I will show you scores of men who utterly abhor him. If a steamer makes rapid progress through the waves, the water will boil and foam all round it. You may assault a good man, but you cannot kill him. On the day of his death, Stephen spoke before a few people of the Sanhedrin; this Sabbath morning he addresses all Christendom!
IV. PRAYING. His first thought was not how the stones hurt his head, nor what would become of his body. His first thought was about his spirit. "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." There is within you a soul. What direction will it take? What guide will escort it? What gate will open to receive it? Oh, this mysterious spirit i It has two wings, but it is in a cage now, but let the door of this cage open the least, and that soul is off. The lightnings are not swift enough to take up with it. And have you no anxiety about it? Thank God for the intimation of my text, that when we die Jesus takes us. In that hour it may be we shall be too feeble to say a long prayer, not even the "Lord's Prayer," for it has seven petitions. Perhaps we ms.y be too feeble to say the infant prayer our mothers taught us, but this prayer of Stephen is so short, concise, earnest, comprehensive, we surely will be able to say that.
V. ASLEEP. What a place to sleep in! Stephen had lived a very laborious life. But that is all over now. I have seen the sea driven with the hurricane until the tangled foam caught in the rigging, and wave rising above wave seemed as if about to storm the heavens, and then I have seen the tempest drop, and the waves crouch, and everything become smooth and burnished as though a camping place for the glories of heaven. So I have seen a man, whose life has been tossed and driven, coming down at last to an infinite calm, in which there was the hush of heaven's lullaby.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,