Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran on him with one accord,…
I. STEPHEN'S FAITH. He did not say, "All these things are against me"; if Christ had designed to own my work, He would not thus have cut it short; if this be the manner in which Christ's cause prospers below, how can I believe that He Himself lives and reigns above? Never was his faith so strong, or his vision so unclouded. While his enemies are rushing upon him he is rapt above earth and earthly things, and privileged to behold his beloved Master Himself standing at the right hand of God.
II. His HOPE. In the midst of the uproar of angry voices, and of the flight of stupefying, crushing stones, he is calling upon his Master, not as a mere expression of pain or disquietude or weakness; or as the ignorant ejaculations sometimes heard from a sinner's deathbed, when for the first time the grasp of a mightier power is felt, which must be propitiated by abject invocation: not thus, but in the tone of one who "knows whom he has believed."
III. His CHARITY. As the mangled frame begins to totter to its dissolution, the dying martyr kneels. That posture with which we allow any little excuse to interfere, which many of us never practise even in God's house, which few of us would practise in a season of pain or sickness, he deemed the fittest attitude even for a dying man: he would honour God with his body as well as with the spirit: and then he cries aloud, in the hearing of his enemies still thirsting for his blood, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!" He prays not, as some have done, that the murderers may find out their sin one day in punishment — not even that his blood may produce a speedy and an abundant harvest, but that that cruel deed may never be weighed in God's balances against its perpetrators. Thus he prayed, and in one case at least we know that his prayer was heard and answered.
IV. His COMPOSURE. He was laid to rest. He was lulled to slumber. The word itself is enough to take the sting from death. The ease of St. Stephen himself may assure us that no circumstances of death can prevent its being this to a Christian. It matters not whether the cause of death be disease or accident, the weapon of war or the stroke of the executioner. It matters not whether the scene of death be the house or the roadside, the field of battle or the desolate prison-house. There are three conditions of such a death. It must be —
1. A rest from labour. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord," etc.
(1) An idle, desultory, self-indulgent life has earned no rest. Night may come to such a life, but not the sweet sleep of the healthily wearied labourer.
(2) Again, a rest from what labour? Not from common worldly occupations, such as have their reward (if anywhere) here, and have nothing stored up for them in the world unseen. He who would rest in Christ must first have wrought in Christ. It is Christ's labourer, not the world's, who, when he dies, falls asleep.
2. A rest with Christ. "I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better." "While we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord."
3. A rest unto rising. A sleep not to be again broken is death, not sleep. A sleep only to be broken by terrific Suffering is no sleep: it is a frightful dream, a horrible nightmare. Such is the death of the wicked.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,