But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
I. The world through its whole extent NEEDS SUCH A TESTIMONY. The facts which can be testified without the power of God's Spirit cannot speak the whole of the Father's mind concerning man.
II. WITNESSING FOR CHRIST THE MISSION OF ALL CHRISTIANS. Apostles only first because nearest to Jesus himself; chosen by him, not because above others in merits. Witnessing must be as universal in the character and life as the work of the Spirit. All speaks of the same Divine fountain from which all flows. The hope of the Church and of the world is in the waking up of the witnessing spirit. "Martyrs we should all be in heart, if not in suffering. Apostolic" in the best sense - "sent out.
III. OUR LIFE-WORK SHOULD BE THE OUTCOME OF DIVINE GRACE. Ye shall receive power." "The Holy Ghost shall come upon you;" then, being so endued from on high, "ye shall be my witnesses." Spiritual life the foundation of all other life. We should be able to know that the time is come for great work, for we should be conscious of the gifts of God. By no mere conventional forms let us be led away. "Power the great want of the Church - spiritual power; not wealth, or organization, or external attractions, but that which comes upon us from above. Are we working without it? Is our witnessing unto condemnation? - R.
But ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you.
is determined by its motive. Still power may be beneficent as well as baneful. Now, mark the power with which Christ promises to endow His disciples.
1. Not physical power. Not like that possessed by Samson when he carried upon his back the gates of Gaza, or with the jaw-bone of an ass slew the Philistines heaps upon heaps. It had nothing at all to do with bone, and muscle, and sinew. Men have sometimes forgotten this. They once thought that they could resist the spread of the gospel by physical means. The very efforts which men have employed to suppress the truth have been made the means of exalting it to supremacy. Just as the blast which rocks the giant oak makes it strike its roots deeper and wider in the earth; or, just as the tempest which beats down the tree carries its winged seeds over land and sea to distant continents, there to take root and become trees themselves, so persecution has this twofold tendency — it makes the persecuted cling closer than ever to the truth for which they are assailed, and prompts them to spread it more widely abroad than ever. On the other hand, brute force can no more help the gospel than hinder it. Persecution never made saints ver. If you want to infuse new life into a tree you do not smite it with an axe, but expose it to the genial breath of spring. The weapons of their warfare were not to be carnal.
2. Nor was it the power of logic. The disciples were to convert souls, and mere argument cannot do this. You have all seen sheet lightnings; they flash, they dazzle, but they do not kill. And arguments, after all, are only sheet lightnings, dazzling, enlightening, but seldom or never killing in the sense in which Paul says he was killed.
3. Nor was it the power of eloquence, though that is not to be despised. Oh, yes! there is a tremendous power in words. They breathe, they burn, they fly about the world charged with electric fire and force; but there is one thing they cannot do — they cannot regenerate a soul. You may electrify a corpse. By bringing it into contact with a battery you may make it imitate the living; but it is after all only the semblance, not the reality of life.
4. It was spiritual power — the power of the Holy Ghost. "We can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us." In other words, it was the power of a living union with a living God. Need I say that this promise of Christ is as much ours as it was the apostles'? It has been fulfilled, but not exhausted. There is an essential difference between the two. "A postage stamp once used can be used no longer; but it is not so with a bank note. The note may be old and torn, stained and soiled; it may have been cut in halves and pasted together again. It does not matter; whoever holds it can present it and demand its equivalent in sterling gold. So is it with a Divine promise. It may pass from lip to lip, and from age to age, and be fulfilled a thousand times; still you may present it and plead it before God in the assurance of success." The light of the sun may fail, the waters of the ocean may be dried up, but the riches of Christ's fulness are the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. And we need this promised power as much as the apostles did. Nothing else can supply its place. It is to the Church what steam is to the machinery. Suppose you are examining the propelling powers of the Majestic or the Teutonic — the two most magnificent specimens of naval architecture the world has ever seen. You look down into the engine-room on the polished levers, and cranks, and shafts, and the innumerable wheels made to revolve there; and you go home amazed at the inventive power which they represent. And yet in reality you have seen no power. There must be put into that machinery a power, a hidden power, and then, and not till then, will those wheels revolve majestically, and the vessel speed over the water lightly and swiftly as a bird with outspread wings. Who amongst us dare assert that the Church's successes are equal to her opportunities? Why, then, is it we are making so little impression on the world? Is it not because we are too much under its influence? The fabled giant Animus was invincible so long as he was in direct communication with his mother earth. Overthrown by the wrestler, the moment he touched the ground out of which he was born his strength revived. Hercules discovered the secret of his invigoration, and, lifting him from the earth, crushed him in the air. We are in the same danger from the world, and to escape it we must get nearer to the source of our spiritual strength. Away from Christ she is like an army without ammunition and cut off from its base of operations. Near to Him she will breathe the air, and walk in the light, and wield the might of heaven. She shall receive power — power to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. And does not the Church need more power to deal with the manifold evils and enemies by which she is surrounded? There is scepticism. We live in an age of doubt — doubt all the more dangerous because it is courteous rather than coarse. Well, then, another evil with which, as Churches, we have to contend is indifference to spiritual truth. Men are absorbed in material pursuits and enjoyments. It is sometimes argued that the Church is trying to do too much; that she is unequal to the work she is undertaking; that Christian service is already so overgrown that, like a man with a large frame and a feeble heart, we are staggering under the weight of the tasks we have undertaken; that the spiritual power of the Church is unequal to the vast and varied machinery it has to keep in motion. This is, doubtless, true when the resources which the Church possess in itself are alone considered; but add Christ to them, and then the disproportion is turned the other way. "All power" — power of every kind and without limit — is given unto Him, There cannot be too much work when there is so much Divine power to sustain it. When the tide is out the estuary seems far too wide for the tiny stream which crawls through the centre; but when the tide comes in the whole expanse is covered and the water rushes right up to the greensward. Brethren, do we desire this power? Then let us ask for it. Remember that it has its source outside the Church and human life altogether. "Ye shall receive power" — receive it as a gift; not generate it from within; not attain it by straining present powers or enlarging present capacity. Sometimes we forget this, and talk about getting up a revival. You might as well talk about getting up a thunder shower. Having this power, let us use it. The disciples received it that they might be "witnesses unto Christ." Divinely bestowed power always brings responsibility; it is always given for use. Keep any of God's gifts for your own selfish purposes, and they will speedily get the canker and the rot.
(J. Le Huray.)
I. THAT THERE IS A CONDITION OF ATTACHMENT TO CHRIST IN WHICH DUE FITNESS FOR THIS VOCATION DOES NOT EXIST. The apostles were in this condition. They had personal acquaintance with Christ, believed in Him, had knowledge of the facts, and had natural ability. Still these did not confer the testifying "power." So with many Christians now. They know, believe, desire, are eloquent, etc., but lack the mystic energy in the absence of which sermons fail to convert.
II. THAT DUE FITNESS FOR THE GREAT VOCATION COMES BY A DIVINE BESTOWAL. "After that the Holy Ghost is come." The bestowal came in a miraculous manner but in answer to prayer. Thereupon the apostles were constrained to de what the Lord had commanded. So nowadays. When God has given special ability, and adds an influence which constrains to its exercise, no wonder that striking results follow.
III. THAT THIS POWER SHOULD BE EXERCISED WHEN AND WHERE IT IS RECEIVED. They were to wait at Jerusalem until they received a Divine gift, and there employ it. Had they been permitted to seek their own pleasure they would have chosen another place. So we must begin where and when God blesses us, however disagreeable the effort may be.
IV. THE MANNER OF SPREADING THE GOSPEL. Here we have a plan of the acts of the apostles.
1. Jerusalem (Acts 3:1-6:7).
2. All Judaea (Acts 6:8-8:3).
3. Samaria, which had long been "White unto harvest" (Acts 8:4-40).
4. The uttermost part of the earth (9 to close).This view suggests the importance of evangelising cities. If Paris were made Christian how great would be the blessing to Europe; if London how easy the conversion of the world.
I. CHRISTIANS AS INDIVIDUALS. The science of mechanics is reducible to statics which concerns itself with forces in equilibrium, and dynamics which treats of forces in motion. One gives us physical condition; the other physical agency. The New Testament is an inspired treatise on spiritual mechanics, and expounds the doctrines of spiritual statics and dynamics, and exhibits to us Christianity as a splendid equilibrium of the soul, and as an energy that upsets equilibrium. The trouble with a great many of our Christians is that they never get beyond the statics. They stop with Christianity as an inward composure. They do not reach the point of seizing Christ s peace, and hurling it in all its holy equipoise into the midst of unholy men to their unutterable discomposure. They stop with reading the Four Gospels of condition without going on to read the fifth Gospel of "Acts." And if we have not the serenity of spirit which the apostles had, and the same passionate ambition to make Christ a reality in the minds and hearts of those about us, it is not because we are not their equals, but because we have not let Christ become as real to us. If they had stopped with being disciples, then we should have said that Christianity meant nothing but discipleship. But inasmuch as they went on from being absorbent disciples to radiant apostles, then Christianity means purpose as much as power; making others Christians as much as being Christians ourselves. These things when prayerfully considered will create a deep sense of individual responsibility. The anointing of the Holy Ghost sets each one of us in the line of the true apostolic succession; and, as after the ascension of Christ mankind lay in the hands of the original apostles for them to convert, so to-day the conversion of the world pertains to us as their spiritual successors. If each Christian were to make one convert each year, within eight years the whole population of the globe would be at the foot of the Cross!
II. CHRISTIANS IN THE ASSOCIATE RELATION OF A CHURCH. Individual Christianity means individual apostleship. What advantage does Christianity gain by being organised?
1. Negatively. A church does not exist, properly —(1) for the sake of its sanctuary ministrations. Supposing that after the ascension the apostles had made the Church to consist as a permanency, in praying and singing and preaching to each other once a week. But there are churches where spiritual laziness is induced by excess of sanctuary nourishment, and who do not bestir themselves sufficiently to prevent even the bread of life from working within them as a slow and subtle poison. There are churches that have had the gospel preached to them for fifty years, and yet have not begun to produce such a flame as was kindled within fifteen days after the Lord's ascension.(2) For the sake of sustaining its weaker members. Of course there is a great deal that it ought to do in that direction. Christ said to Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." But a large number of those who now apply for admission to the Church want, not to strengthen the brethren, but to have the brethren strengthen them. When an army is quartered in the enemy's country, the safest place is inside of the camp; but a regiment recruited for the purpose of having its members protect each other is a poor addendum to the fighting resources of the brigade. We learn heroism in the face of danger; children learn to swim by being thrown into the water; and the original Church never flinched after once it had taken up its position in the open field.(3) For the sake of its denomination. Denomination is harness worn by us for the purpose of dragging the chariot of the gospel. It may chafe some — all harness is liable to — but it is a necessity. Still the harness exists for the sake of the chariot, and not the chariot for the sake of the harness; and he serves his denomination best who serves the Church of Christ best.
2. Positively. By indicating what the Church does not exist for, we have already implied the object for which it does exist. A Church, as an efficiency of God for the conversion of men, is the interweaving of the individual strands of strength fused into a solid bolt of force and hurled at the adversaries of the Lord; and no desultory skirmishing of individual Christians will begin to take the place of the grand concentrated bombardment of a confederate Church. We regularly proceed upon that principle in the achievement of large secular results. We organise for purposes of government, warfare, improvement, revolution, and discovery. Why not for Christ?
(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)
S. S. Times.I. THE PREPARATION FOR POWER (vers. 1-3).
1. The training which they had received. They were with Jesus when He "began both to do and to teach."
2. The facts that made their faith in Him unwavering, courageous, conquering — "He also showed Himself alive after His passion by many proofs," etc. Faith in a risen Christ gave to their preaching a tremendous power.
3. Special instruction "speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God." Samples of this speaking may be found in Luke 24:25-28, 45-49.
II. THE BAPTISM OF POWER (vers. 4,5).
3. This was to be unlike the baptism of John. Water was the symbol — this the reality.
III. THE SOURCE OF POWER (vers. 6-8).
1. The false idea. "Lord, dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?" The old thought of a temporal kingdom still uppermost!
2. The true idea. "But ye shall receive power," not temporal such as they had coveted, but spiritual and supernatural. That power is worth coveting and waiting for.
IV. THE RESULT OF POWER (ver. 8). "Ye shall be My witnesses." There is no successful witnessing for Christ without this power. Christ's disciples are all-powerful with it.
V. ASCENDING TO POWER (vers. 9-11).
2. The return. "Shall so come," etc. No need, however, to stand idly gazing into heaven. Before He went, Christ gave "to each one his work" (Mark 13:34). Three watchwords He has given — watch, pray, work. The harvest is hastened by cultivation — not by counting the days from the time the seed was sown.
VI. PRAYING FOR POWER (vers. 12-14). The disciples had the promise of power, "not many days hence," but they did not wait in idleness for it to be fulfilled. The promise is ours to-day as much as then it was the disciples'. Praying, as they did, a Pentecost may come to us as certainly and as bounteously as it came to them.
(S. S. Times.)
I. WE FEEL THIS WANT OF POWER IN OUR OWN LIVES; we lack grip when we seize a great subject, or a sinning soul. This consciousness of weakness palsies action, compels compromise, cautions delay. Paul lived, yet no longer he but Christ in him. We live, but not Christ. When the heart is weak in its action, the members suffer, lack warmth and vigour; all we come in contact with, home, business, city, nation, feel our lack of power; children grow up uncontrolled, business leans to the side of dishonesty, government is corrupt. The type of Christianity of to-day is that of the disciples before Pentecost — "in the temple praising and blessing God," and intellectually busy about times and seasons. In the business world everything is quiet; men say manufacturing has been overdone; the mills have glutted the markets. So in the religious world, some tell us the market is overstocked with creeds and denominations; there is no call for religion. That is not true; the needs are as many and as real as ever. The Church is like a great mill by the river side — machinery, raw material, market all right, but the water-courses are dry — the power is wanting. On the other hand, it is the business of Christianity to make a market, not wait for one. The Shepherd sought the lost sheep. Salt and light are to be aggressive, making a market. Plant a post; you wouldn't suppose there is anything in the soil to furnish a market, a mass-meeting of posts would decide there is no call for us here. Take up the post and plant a tree; what a commotion there is below the surface; the rootlets push out in every direction and lay hold of the properties of the soil; above the soil buds broaden into leaves, the air is broken into currents and eddies, beasts of the field gather under the helpful shadows, birds are able to find building sites. The tree finds a market in earth and air and animals. A measure of meal finds no market; a handful of leaven makes one. We are not simply to be stirred up and mixed with the world, as lifeless and dry as others, but are to carry leavening power with us. An iron post placed in a public park does not disperse darkness. String the electric wire across it, fix the carbon points, now it is a fountain of light. "Ye are the light of the world." Light compels recognition, all hail, it, it meets need. The first sign of power in the tree is life in itself, in the posts of light on itself; the first proof of power in a disciple is power over himself. From this nerve-centre of self the power thrills along the family, and business and body politic. The word power, dunamis, carries the thought; from the word comes dynamics, the science of moving forces. Another word comes in here too — dynamite. A glance at the family of words will show us what is bound up in the promise. In a Wesleyan chapel a mighty revival was in progress. A visitor scandalised by the excitement rebuked the zealous Wesleyans, saying, "This is all wrong. When Solomon built his temple there was heard neither the sound of hammer, nor saw, nor chisel. "You make too much noise here." The preacher made reply, "Oh, but we ain't building, we are blasting." The preacher was right; he was using dynamite, destroying the kingdom of darkness. Oh for the promised dynamite of the Holy Spirit!
II. THIS POWER HAS ITS SOURCE OUTSIDE THE CHURCH AND HUMAN LIFE. "Ye shall receive power"; not generate it, nor attain to it by straining present powers, or enlarging present capacities. We cannot whip ourselves into a state of power, as though we were eggs, strike the fire from ourselves by any flint and steel arrangement, lift ourselves into it by force of will, educate ourselves into it by culture of heart or head.
III. THE CONDITIONS OF REALISING THE POWER. The great discovery of modern science is law. By the study of phenomena we learn the law, by obeying the law we control phenomena. Studying the appearance of the Spirit, the conditions of the appearance, we can learn the law of His appearing; conforming to the law thus learned we can receive the power. There are two instances of His appearing of special interest;
1. When Christ received the Holy Ghost. Christ stands unique in His power. His thoughts give life to every language embodying them; His teachings transform every character embracing them. All this is true of Him after the Spirit came upon Him, not before. John Baptist knew Him not until he saw the Spirit descending. Two simple facts give us the key: Obedience and prayer. When John rebuked Him, He replied, "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." "Jesus also being baptised and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended."
2. In the case of the disciples we read that Christ commanded, "Tarry ye in Jerusalem," and they obeyed; and "all continued in prayer and supplication." Then when Pentecost came they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Here we touch a law of nature as well as of spiritual power. He who obeys known law and communes with nature, masters her secrets. In the home the obedient, sympathetic child has power given it by the parents. In your stores the clerk who obeys and communes with you is the one to whom you give power. To the obedient and prayerful now as truly as then, will the Holy Ghost be given, and after that power will come.
IV. WHEN THE POWER COMES IT MUST USE US. Christ is driven into the desert, and the disciples are scattered, sown broadcast in the waiting world-field of thought and action. Simon Magus offered money for Peter's power. We cannot control this power; it must control us.
(O. P. Gifford.)
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(M. G. Pearse.)
(M. G. Pearse.)
I. ON ITS NEGATIVE SIDE. It is not —
1. Physical power. Current literature speaks of "muscular Christianity"; but that is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Subsequently, men thought they could assist the gospel by bringing it into alliance with political organisations. But no. Persecutions never made saints yet. The axe can never infuse new life into the tree. But the spring can.
2. Miraculous power. They were already endued with this. But this cannot save men. Men saw Jesus performing miracles, and still remained in their unbelief.
3. The power of eloquence. I have seen, under powerful sermons, stout-hearted sinners weep and pray, but when the electric current which flowed from the preacher subsided, they fell back to their former torpor. Many so-called revivals are but electric shocks disturbing the dead, but leaving them dead notwithstanding. Eloquence, like the wind, moves the sea from without, but that which saves must move it from its own depths. Eloquence works upon the soul; that which saves must work in the soul. One can compose a sermon in which the most critical hearer cannot detect a flaw: but he will-forget it in half an hour. It is so refined that it shoots right through the soul instead of entering into it and remaining there. Polish is commendable up to the point of showing instead of concealing the material underneath. I never like to see an article of furniture so highly polished that I cannot say of what timber it is made.
4. The power of logic. Conquer a man in argument, and, as a rule, you only confirm him in his error. I saw a picture entitled, "Conquered but not Subdued." The young lad was evidently conquered by his mother. There he stood, with his face half-turned towards the wall: but there was determination in the mouth, defiance in the eye, anger in the nostrils. Drive a sinner in argument to a corner, so that he cannot move, yet he can sink, and sink he will to his own hell. Sheet-lightnings dazzle, but never kill. And arguments after all are only sheet-lightnings.
5. The power of thought. The Bible does not claim superiority on account of its ideas, although it contains the sublimest. You may be the best Biblical scholar in the land, and be at last a castaway. The history of preaching abundantly proves this. Read the sermon by Peter on the day of Pentecost, and it will not astonish you with the profundity of its thoughts. The sermons on the Mount and on Mars' hill stand higher on the intellectual side; and yet they made but few converts. Look again from the pulpit to books. Take the" Analogy" by Butler; no book perhaps displays more intellectual power; yet who can point to it as the means of bringing him to Jesus? But read the "Dairyman's Daughter," or the "Anxious Inquirer," without a millionth part of its mental power; but there are thousands who trace their conversion to these books. I do not wish to cast discredit on any of these excellences. They are very valuable in their own places. If a man is possessed of them he can do nothing better than consecrate them on the altar of Christianity. But if man is to be saved, a new power must come to the field.
II. ON ITS POSITIVE SIDE. In the Gospel it is called "power from on high."
1. The great want of the world was a power to uplift it out of its state of degradation and sin. Previous to Pentecost the world was sinking lower and lower in the scale of morals. But since humanity has been gradually ascending. Physically we know that this earth is subject to the attraction of other planets. The same fact holds true spiritually. There is a power working mightily in the children of disobedience, and the source of it is in darker regions than our own. But another power has come to the field, a power from on high; the contest must be long and terrible; but the higher power is gradually winning, and will deliver the world from the grasp of evil. Here it is called "the power of the Holy Ghost." We often picture God as looking down pitifully upon us from His heaven. But we are also taught that the great God has descended upon men, and thrown into their hearts the infinite impulse of His own eternal nature. The disciples, as we see them in the Gospel, are cowards; in the Acts they are heroes. The Christian life is Divine. Christianity is not a remembrance of the supernatural in the past, but its perpetuation throughout all ages. Every true ministry is heavy with supernatural influences. We do not perform miracles, but if our ministry is not a continuation of the supernatural in the realm of matter, it is a continuation of it in the realm of mind; and of the two, the latter is the higher kind. Luke tells us that in his Gospel he narrated what Jesus began both to do and to teach; here he goes on to tell what Jesus continued to do and to teach through men; and Church history continues the tale. "The works that I do ye also shall do," etc.
2. What was the effect of this Divine baptism on the disciples?(1) It made them pre-eminently spiritual. Spirituality should be the distinctive badge of every Christian, and especially of the ambassadors of Christ. "A bishop must be blameless." All well and good if he is learned and eloquent, but he must be blameless.(2) It filled them with Divine enthusiasm, with "fire." The Bible speaks much about this fire. Jeremiah had a message, but having been insulted and incarcerated, he made up his mind not to open his mouth again. "I said I will not make mention of Him, or speak any more in His name." Well, how did he fare? "His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forebearing, and could not stay." It was hard to speak — it was harder to be silent. It is difficult enough to stand up here and preach; it would be more difficult to sit down there and be mute. The apostles evinced such fervour that many supposed they were under the power of strong drink. No, says Peter, it is the Holy Ghost working in us. "The love of Christ constraineth us," says St. Paul. Some dared to brand him as a fanatic. "Whether we be beside ourselves," said he, "it is to God, or whether we be sober it is for your cause." The secret of Baxter's power was his unbounded enthusiasm. His biographer says he would have set the world on fire while another was lighting a match. It is the fire of the Holy Ghost that will make men eloquent. A preacher in his study ought to gather his thoughts, to collect his materials; and ascending the pulpit, he ought to set them all ablaze with fire from off the altar. Having built the altar, dinged the trenches, slain the sacrifice, he should join Elijah and cry, "O God, send the fire, send the fire!"
3. What is the effect upon the congregation? Many are turned to God. On the consecration of the Temple of Solomon, the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; much less could the people stand to criticise the work of art, or to admire the amount and richness of the gold. In the same manner the power from on high hides everything but itself. Many a critic went to hear Whitefield with hostile intentions; but in less than five minutes they had totally forgotten their sinister art.
(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)I. THE BEING TO BE MANIFESTED.
1. The Holy Spirit is represented as having all the attributes of Deity, distinct from, yet united with, the Father and the Son. This is not sufficiently dwelt upon. In the apostolic age there were those who did not "so much as know whether there were any Holy Ghost." This is not your case, but it is needful to remind you lest you should withhold from Him His proper homage. That He is God is matter of explicit revelation — not in the Arian or Sabellian sense — not an illumination but an essence, not an influence but a Person. And to the blasphemers who deny His Divinity we hurl the thunderbolt, "Ananias, why hath Satan put it into thy heart to lie unto the Holy Ghost? Thou hast not lied," etc.
2. It is to the Spirit, thus Divine, that belongs the right of induction to the holy ministry; and however men may place their pretentions or trace their geneaology they are intruders without the call and unction of the Spirit.
3. As the Spirit is thus the originating source, so is His perpetuating grace the means of success in the ministry. This is everywhere asserted in the prophets. "Not by might," etc.
II. THE RESULT OF HIS MANIFESTATION. "Ye shall receive power."
1. The power of God is the attribute which is earliest to impress the mind. It is impossible to send the thought out into the universe without discovering its manifestations. It lurks in the minutest and is exhibited in the mightiest phenomena.
2. And as it is the earliest, so it is the attribute of which men are most keenly coveteous. The fable of Prometheus, who made the figure of a man, and then animated it with the fire which he had dared to steal from heaven, is only a thinly veiled record of man's fierce ambition to create. Man, the master-mind, would stand in the midst of the elements and say, "Ye are vassals: work for me." And if from the world of nature you pass up into the world of mind you find the same coveteousness from the child-dictator of the nursery to the monarch of a hundred isles. Now as the apostles were men of like passions with ourselves they were under the influence of this desire. There was an effort ""o reserve seats on either side of the Redeemer in His kingdom for the sons of Zebedee. And here was asked, "Lord, wilt Thou," etc. Now this love of power, as it is an instinct, is not criminal. The God who implanted it had wise purposes in view. The gospel does not annihilate a solitary passion, only it directs those which were vehicles of rebellion into instruments of blessing. The Saviour therefore here rebukes unhallowed curiosity, but answers prayer. "Ye shall receive power," that is what you want and ye shall have it. When Pentecost came they saw how infinitely superior to all royalties was the kingdom they were to establish. Without this power the most perfect organisation and the most exquisite appliances are valueless. But give us this and the stammerer shall be an Apollos, and the stripling with the sling and stone shall be as an angel of the Lord.
III. THE DESIGN OF THIS MANIFESTATION.
1. That the Church may testify to the world. Power Divinely given is to be used for Divine ends. God imprisons no force in aimless bondage. There is power in the lightning, but it is not to dazzle but to purify. There is power in the frantic breaker, and in the careering cloud; but they are all true and loyal servants in the vast palace in which the King of the universe has lodged His favourite creature man. And as in the physical so in the moral sphere. God's gifts are not given to be hoarded, despised, or abused. Every endowment of mind — the athletic reason, the lordly will, the creative fancy, the eloquent utterance, every communication of grace, and every attainment of privilege are all conferred upon as individually to minister as the rest of the universe ministers.
2. We are witnesses for Jesus. A crucified, risen, and exalted Christ will charm the heart of the nineteenth as it charmed the heart of the first century; and though scoffers deride it, cowards hesitate about it, and traitors betray it; it is the only testimony which the Holy Ghost will endorse with power.
(W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN HIS DESCENT ON THE APOSTLES AND THE CHURCH. He was given as a Spirit of —
1. Knowledge and understanding. Witness the change in the apostle's views of Christ's Messiahship and death before and after. So now truth like a transparent dial becomes illuminated. The eunuch was perplexed till Philip joined him. Compare one frequent expression, "I see."
2. Faith. A great difference between knowing and believing. A man may come and see, but go away without faith. Not so at Pentecost. Noah did not stand outside to admire the ark. He entered in and was safe.
3. Holiness and prayer. Holiness is separateness from the world to God. More than ever at Pentecost the disciples proved this. So now men are holy in proportion as they are endured with the Holy Spirit; and in proportion to their holiness will be their power in prayer.
4. Courage. The boldness of Peter was conspicuous. And now the Spirit works such conviction that the most timid become the most brave.
II. THE EXPERIENCES OF POWER ANSWERING TO THEIR CHARACTERISTICS. The power of —
1. Witness for the truth. A sense of their sincerity was inspired in the hearers. "We believe and therefore speak."
2. Steadfastness in Christian life notwithstanding human or Satanic opposition. They were proof against tempting bribes, seductive philosophy, fierce persecution.
3. Great example. Men could hate, but could not charge them with inconsistencies. On them was imprinted the likeness of their Master.
4. Untiring zeal.
(G. McMichael, B. A.)
I. SPIRITUAL ILLUMINATION. The Bible, written by holy men moved by the Holy Ghost, is our only standard of revealed truth; but even the Bible is not enough. The spirit of scepticism is abroad, and men hardly know what or what not to believe. Hence the feeble faith and the shallow conviction and extreme worldliness of the Church. But the missionary, as a teacher of a religion Divine in it origin, requires absolutely the power of clear vision and deep conviction. Doubt to him is paralysis, so it is to every teacher, or work becomes a fruitless, burdensome task. Nor can there be any development of a noble, manly Christian character without Divinely illumined, soul-transforming apprehension of truth. How, then, is the Church to protect herself against a noxious intellectual atmosphere, and obtain a clear vision of Divine things? There can be but one answer. The Spirit that guided holy men of old in recording Divine truths is the same Spirit that reveals to the reader their deep significance. The fully illuminated soul is beyond the reach of doubt, for the Spirit so shows the things of Christ that the inward eye beholds them with open vision.
II. HOLINESS. This is a mighty and indispensable power. The ideal Christian of the New Testament is a "saint," and so long as that ideal is not embodied in the lives of Christians, the progress of the gospel must be slow and unsatisfactory. The world must be convinced that Christianity is a practical reality, and not a mere system of belief before it will bow to its authority. Books on evidences are useful in their way. But few will read them or be convinced by them. The one argument that will command attention is the holy life, not of ancient, but of modern saints (Isaiah 62:1-3). How long are we to wait for this? There is no reason why we should wait at all. The Holy Spirit is the Author of all holiness.
III. SPIRITUAL UNITY. This also is indispensable to evangelisation — not uniformity, but such unity in variety that we see in the works of God. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." What does it matter to the Chinese whether I am an Independent and my brother is an Episcopalian, if we manifest the same Christ-like spirit? But this is only produced by the Holy Spirit. There is nothing more disastrous to missionary and every form of Christian work than the want of unity. Before Pentecost the apostles had their childish rivalries and jealousies; but the baptism of fire burned all that out of them.
IV. SPIRITUAL JOY. There are different kinds of joy.
1. Natural. It may be ethical, inspired by an approving conscience; or intellectual, springing from the consciousness of superior gifts and culture; or animal, flowing from a fulness of bodily health or animal spirits; or the joy of harvest, the result of success in worldly pursuits.
2. The unnatural, which consists in the exhilaration produced by stimulants.
3. The spiritual — the joy of conscious pardon, deliverance from sin, fulness of spiritual life, which flows from the Holy Ghost. Without this work is a burden. An unspiritual missionary must be a joyless missionary, and a joyless missionary is a pitiable object.
V. THE POWER OF DEALING WITH SOULS. Some men are richly endowed with this. They may or may not be profound thinkers or eloquent speakers, but when they speak their hearers feel a supernatural power grappling with them.
(D. L. Moody.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D)
And ye shall be witnesses unto Me
I. THE QUALIFICATION FOR THIS SERVICE.
1. Although the apostles were saved, they were not fit to work any deliverance in the earth by their own wisdom or strength. Their demand for fire might have consumed the adversaries, but it could not have converted them. Wanting the Spirit even they were inclined to persecute, and for the same reason their self-styled successors have persecuted in all subsequent times.
2. The Spirit is like the air. We could not live without air — the sun would not warm us but for it. The sun's heat sustains life; but the atmosphere communicates that heat. The earth, again, is dependent for its supply of water on the air, which obtains it from the ocean and pours it on the land. So the disciples in every age obtain grace from the Lord through the ministry of the Spirit.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS SERVICE.
1. Whom Christ saves from sin He employs in the world. The liberated captive is sent to fight against his former master. Christians have need of Christ and Christ has need of them. The simple fact that they are on earth not in heaven is proof that there is something for them to do here, and if they are not doing it they are either no Christians, or Christians that grieve Christ. A broken limb hurts more than a severed one, and Christ is hurt by those members of His who do not witness for Him.
2. This is an honourable but difficult function. In the case of a witness the real strain comes in cross-examination. You are set down in the market-place having lately worshipped in the house of prayer. Those whom you meet know this, so that there is no need for you to preach. The cross-examination takes place here. It is not now, what do you believe? but is your life consistent? The cross-examiner generally begins on some apparently indifferent theme, but the questions are so linked to the main subject that if, in answering them, anything escapes which clashes with the original evidence the good confession of the witness is thereby destroyed. Over-reaching, unfairness, unkindness to dependents, untruth, evil-speaking, expose the Christian profession to scorn.
III. THE SPHERE. "Beginning at Jerusalem."
1. The charity that will convert is one that begins at home, but does not end there. If it essay to reach the heathen by leaping over many ranks of unslain enemies in our own hearts, and of blasphemers in our own streets, it will never reach its mark, or reach it with a force already spent. The gospel is like a fire; it must be out; but like light and heat it cannot reach the distant circumference without passing through the intermediate space and kindling all that it touches on its way. Unless our love greatly disturb a godless neighbourhood at home, it will not set on fire a distant continent.
2. Besides, while a great mass of our home community remain unchristian, specimens of our population, cast up in foreign lands like drift-wood, will counteract missionary effort. A preacher with the pure gospel will not influence much the native mind if followed by a fellow-countryman with poisoned rum.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
(J. Culross.)I. ALL CHRISTIANS ARE APPOINTED TO BE CHRIST'S WITNESSES. These words were spoken to the Church, not merely to eleven members of it. You are all subpoenaed to appear, and must all be ready when you are wanted to depose.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE MADE CHRIST'S WITNESSES BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST. Any poor weakling might say, "I a witness! I cannot speak, I am a child!" or like the poor woman, "I could die for Christ, but I cannot speak for Him." He might say, "I shall be puzzled, contradict myself, not hold out all through the cruel cross-examination; besides, I am nobody, who will take notice what I say?" But our loving Master, to still this trepidation, has left to each witness, the promise of necessary power. But power is of various kinds, and this is not of the kind that you, perhaps, think necessary. There is physical power, the power of knowledge, and the power of wealth, and rank; these would, you think, help to make you influential witnesses. But its most influential witnesses have been totally without these. Instead, He gives the power of faith, love, prayer, courage, all powers in one, in the gift of the Holy Ghost. Let me but have the Holy Ghost helping me to realise the life of Christ in my life, and I am unconquerable, for who can resist God?
III. ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CHRIST'S WITNESSES TO TELL WHAT THEY PERSONALLY KNOW ABOUT HIM. Your mission is to speak "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." If you only tell what another man knows, and so merely circulate second-hand impressions, you may stand down, for these things are not evidence. Not as echoes, reflectors, copying machines, are you worth anything, but simply as yourselves. The first disciples had to give out from their own personal knowledge information of those facts respecting Christ on which all the saving value of the Cross depends, and the truth of their testimony has passed successfully through the test of the most subtle and searching cross-examination. No more evidence is wanted as to these facts; but we, the successors of these same witnesses, being under the same law, have, on the same principle, to tell all the truth that we personally know of "this same Jesus." The world says in a thousand ways to each one of us: "What has He done for you? Do you know Him?" Yes. "Is He real?" Yes. "Where does He live?" With me. "When did you speak to Him last?" Just now. "When did you meet Him first?" Many a long year ago. Oh! "I know whom I have believed," and He knows me. One of the later Puritans was one day catechising a row of young disciples. When they had answered the question on "Effectual Calling," he said, "Stop; can any one say this, using the personal pronoun all through?" Then with sobbing, broken breath, a man stood up and said: "Effectual calling is the work of God's own Spirit, whereby convincing me of my sin and misery, enlightening my mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing my will, He doth enable and persuade me to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to me in the gospel." Let but each Christian personally, and from his heart say the same, then "One will chase a thousand, and two will put ten thousand to flight," and one single congregation would have in it the life to shake London.
IV. WE ARE WITNESSES FOR THE PURPOSE OF REPEATING THE WORDS WHICH WE BELIEVE CHRIST HAS SPOKEN. The witness does not make the message any more than the telegraphic wire makes the telegram; all he has to do is to transmit it in its integrity.
V. WE ARE TO BE CHRIST'S WITNESSES, NOT ONLY BY WHAT WE SAY, BUT BY WHAT WE ARE. What are you? If you are only a ceremony, or an insipid imitation, or a manufactured article; if some man of the world with whom you do business can show some excuse for saying of you, "That a Christian! it needs no Christ to make a Christian like that, — I could make as good a Christian myself, any day!" then, whatever you are, you are of no use to a "Christian Evidence Society." A good farm is the best witness to a farmer; a good painting to an artist; a good book to the author; cures are the best witnesses to doctors; and Christ's cures, His miracles wrought in souls, are His most effective witnesses. It is but fair and reasonable to expect that His people should bear this kind of witness.
VI. CHRISTIANS ARE TO WITNESS BY VERBALLY PREACHING THE GOSPEL. Preach in the house, in the nursery, in the schoolroom: all who can. Preach as Brownlow North was said to preach, like one who had just escaped from a sacked and burning city, his ear still stung with the yell of the dying and the roar of the flame; his heart full of gratitude at the thought of his own wonderful escape.
(C. Stanford, D. D.)I. THE WORK OF THE CHURCH. "Ye shall be My witnesses." A witness is one who knows, and who is summoned to tell what he knows. The first preachers of the gospel had personal knowledge of all the facts to which they were called to bear witness. They had been with Christ from the beginning, and so could witness to His life, His death. His resurrection and ascension. That was their business, and, with certain modifications in form, it is ours to-day. All the truth that we personally know of "this same Jesus" we are under an obligation to tell.
1. What, then, is the manner of testimony that devolves upon us? In the first place, we are to witness by our lives. On this living witness Christ depends in a very serious and important way. Professing Christians are, in fact, the only Bible that the majority of unconverted people read. You see, then, how much depends upon the testimony of our lives. Let Christ Himself be seen in them — let them exhibit the magnetic power of the Cross — let them manifest His spirit, His love, His deep compassion for men in their misery, and His readiness to help and save them, and through them, without word or deed, prejudice will be melted down, hatred will be subdued, and men and women will be won to light and love.
2. Let me now call attention to another department of testimony which belongs to every one of us — the witness of personal experience. "You call yourself a Christian. What is Christ to you? Is He to you a real Saviour, Brother, Helper, and Comforter?" You need no eloquence, no genius, no intellectual grasp of the doctrinal side of Christian truth, to go to a brother and say, "I have found Christ to be the Bread of Life to my soul, will you not help yourself?" You need nothing, except honesty and experience. If you have these, go and bear witness. And then, still further, let me remind you that if, having the facts to attest, you can go, you ought to go. You are under an obligation to make known to others what Christ has done for your soul. You have received His grace that you may share it with others, and not that you may go by yourselves into a solitary heaven.
II. THE POWER WHICH THE WITNESSES NEED FOR THEIR WORK. They need such power as is received in splendid measure, when the heart is opened widely to receive the Holy Spirit, when His presence is prized and enjoyed, and duty's commands are joyfully fulfilled. The apostles needed this power. No doubt they were new creatures in Christ. They loved and served Him. But if you consider the mistakes that they made regarding Christ's kingdom, their prejudices, their fears, the shock which they had received, and the panic into which they had been thrown by Christ's death, you will admit that they were not fit, as they afterwards were, to found the Church. "Ye shall receive power," and power did they receive. For, mark that strong unwavering faith which lifted them out of the dark valley of speculation and doubt, and so laid hold of the truth to which they were testifying that it possessed their souls and controlled their lives. Mark that growing love to Christ which kindled the flame of holy devotion in their hearts, and made them forget themselves in their daily efforts to exalt and honour Him. Mark their enthusiasm for Him and His cause, their splendid courage, their loyalty to truth, and that singleness of purpose which governed all their thoughts and actions. The power which the first witnesses needed is just the power we need today. Is it possible to deny this? Many hard things are said against the Christianity of the present day, with which I have no sympathy, but I fear this much must be granted, that it is sadly lacking in power. Its vital truths are accepted by many who do not practise what they profess to believe. Men go over the points of their faith, and having assured themselves that they are sound, they never trouble themselves with the question, "What does it all come to in the matter of character?" They believe only in a kind of way, for men believe truly only what they practise. Is it not a sad fact that there is so much of that Christianity among us that does not shine with the beauty of holiness — that never attempts a great achievement, that has no emotions to express, and that allows men and women to live without caring a broken straw for the soul of anybody? If it is — and you know it it — do we not need a baptism of the Holy Spirit? Let Him enter our hearts as the Spirit of power, and then shall we not only bear witness for our exalted Lord, but be His witnesses. We shall be what every Christian is meant to be — the strongest argument for Christ that exists. By being what Christ was, and by doing what Christ did, we shall bear witness to the fact that He lives and reigns in the hearts of men and women whom He has redeemed by His blood.
(James Cameron, M. A.)I. OUR LORD HIMSELF IS THE GLORIOUS REALITY TO WHICH HIS SERVANTS ARE TO BEAR THEIR WITNESS. Witnesses unto Me! "Others might witness to My miracles, they were wrought in the face of day; others might repeat My discourses, 'spoken in the temple,' and you, in witnessing to Me, will witness to them likewise; but they are but the rays which proceed from Myself, and it is to this and to all that this implies, that I bid you witness." Contrast this with what we should expect from a great man. We should expect him to tell us that his endowments or achievements were the unmerited gift of heaven. If he should claim honour for himself, then our good opinion would be outraged, and we should proclaim him unworthy of His greatness. Our Lord defies this rule and the conscience of mankind justifies Him in defying it. He who could say, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" "I and the Father are one," could truly feel that it was impossible for Him to eclipse any higher greatness by drawing attention to Himself. His words and works were His own. As God, He was the author of the gifts which He received as Man. And therefore He thought it not robbery to draw the eyes of men away from the miracles and words to Himself, who gave their greatness to both.
II. How CAN WE BEAR WITNESS TO A PERSON? We can witness to that which we know, a miracle or sermon; but how can we know so impalpable a thing as a person? especially how can we witness to a superhuman person?
1. But let me ask, can we be witnesses to each other? Yes, for we can know each other. Not merely the form and colour of the body or features, but that which gives to features and to form their interest, the soul. We cannot, indeed, see the soul with the eye of the body. But with the eye of the mind we can see it, and form a very clear conception of it, which we call "character."(1) When a man speaks, we read in his language, in its very accent, the movement of an undying spirit, the strength or weakness of an understanding, the warmth of a heart, the vigour or feebleness of a will.(2) And as through language the soul speaks to the ear of man, so by action the soul addresses itself to the eye of man. When a man acts, specially under circumstances of responsibility or of difficulty, then his true passions, capacities, littlenesses, greatness, come to the surface.(3) Once more, the soul is too active and imperious a tenant not to leave its mark upon the texture of the body, which it has inhabited for a term of years. Every human face, not less by its reserves than by its disclosures, records the play of thought and passion within a subtle immaterial spirit. Fear, joy, pride, lust, rage, sadness, shame, love, patience, each by reiterated throbs leaves its mark upon the flesh, till at length the soul has moulded the ductile matter, so that it shall truly portray its tale of baseness or of beauty.
2. Now in Jesus Christ, God made use of this provision to enter into communion with His creatures. Reason may discover God's existence and attributes, and under favourable conditions may attain to a cold and partial appreciation of His glory. But to reason, unaided by Revelation outside the soul, and by grace within it, God must ever seem abstract and remote. Therefore, that He might embrace His fallen creatures with a revelation of His beauty, the Most High robed Himself in a human body and a human soul. The thoughtful Gentile might have learnt something concerning Him in the natural world; the devout Jew might have read more of His true character in the Mosaic law; but a living personal revelation of what He is was reserved for the faith of Christendom. There are strangers, alas! to our faith, who yet confess that in the Gospels they encounter a form of unapproached grace and power. In the last age infidel writers like Diderot and Rousseau challenged the sceptics of the time, in language which has since become classical, to match, if they could, the moral beauty of the gospel. For in the gospel we meet with one who in His pre-eminent humanity is perfectly one with us, yet also most mysteriously distinct. So rare and refined is His type of manhood, He escapes the peculiarities of either sex. He is tied to no one form of human existence, yet adapt that Himself to all. He is born in extreme poverty, yet He has no grudge against wealth: He is claimed as their representative, by Geeek and Roman, and African and Teuton, no less truly than by the children of His people. No class professional, or national prejudice has lelt its taint upon that ideal Form, so as to make it less than representative of pure humanity. Yet, so far is He from being a cold, passionless statue, divested of all interests, strictly human, that there is a warmth and vividness in His character which none who have truly love or wept can fail to understand and to embrace. He hates evil, and denounces it; but He is never betrayed into an unbalanced statement; Herod does not make Him a revolutionist, nor the Pharisees an Antinomian. His triumphs cannot disturb, and His humiliations do but enhance the serene, self-possession of His soul. Well might we surmise that such a character as this was more than human. We know ourselves too well to suppose that human nature would conceive the full idea, much less that it could create the reality. Even to the Roman officer the truth revealed itself. "Truly this was the Son of God." Nay, Jesus Himself used language which no intimacy between God and holy souls would warrant if it were not literally true. Either we must resign that vision of beauty which we meet in the character of Jesus as an untrustworthy phantom, since it is dashed with a pretension involving at once falsehood and blasphemy, or we must confess that Jesus is Divine. Jesus is God; and in His acts, words, and very physiognomy the Apostles came face to face with the Perfect Being of beings. He had taken our nature as an instrument through which to act upon us, but also as an interpreter who should translate His own matchless perfections into audible words and visible actions (1 John 1:1-3). An enthusiasm, of which the object is merely human, must pass away, since its object is necessarily transient and imperfect. As you sit with the ashes of Wellington beneath your feet, you little dream of the warmth with which Englishmen named their great general on the morrow of Waterloo. One only has succeeded in creating an impression, which is as fresh in the hearts and thoughts of His true disciples at this moment as it was eighteen centuries ago; and as we listen to His words, and watch His actions, and almost seem to gaze on His face, irradiated with superhuman beauty in the pages of the Gospels we feel that He, as none other, had a right to say to unborn generations, "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me."
III. IS THERE ANYTHING IN OUR CONDUCT, OR OUR WORDS, THAT REALLY BEARS WITNESS TO THE SAVIOUR? Or are we living, speaking, feeling, acting, thinking, much as we might have done if He had never brightened our existence. Or are we bearing Him what our conscience tells us is a partial witness; a witness of language but not of conduct; a witness which attests those features of His work and doctrine which we prefer, rather than all that we know or might know about Him? This witness is the debt which all Christians owe to Christ. No class, or sex, or disposition, or age, or race can claim exemption. We cannot delegate it to our clergy. It is not merely that we are bound to witness to Him. If we are living Christian lives, we cannot help doing so. Be Christians indeed, and you will forthwith witness for Jesus — you who are at the summits of society, and you who are at its base; you who teach, and you who learn; you who command, and you who obey. In the lower and feeble sense they who practise the natural virtues, witness to Him, who is the source of all goodness. And thus courage under difficulties, and temperance amid self-indulgent livers, and justice truly observed between man and man, are forms of witness. They bear this witness who are in power, and who, renouncing selfish purposes, aim at the good of others. They too bear it, who have wealth, and who spend it not in perishing baubles, but in relieving bodily or spiritual suffering. Rut they, especially, who know our Lord in His pardoning mercy will hardly be content with a silent witness. For the disease which He heals is universal, and the efficacy of His cure is undoubted. The redemptive love of Jesus, like the sun in the heavens, is the inheritance of all who will come to have a share in it, and, as with the heart that love is believed in unto righteousness, so with the mouth confession of it is made unto salvation.
(Canon Liddon.)I. OUR FUNCTION AS WITNESSES FOR CHRIST. In our courts of law a witness is pledged under oath to "speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," and in our capacity of witnesses a similar obligation rests upon us. Our duty is to bear witness to what we know, and to all that we know of the facts of the gospel, as contained in God's Word, and which we have verified by such means of verification as the nature of the case admits of — objective or subjective, as the case may be, external or internal evidence, which observation or experience supplies. With fancies, conjectures, speculations, or even matters of hearsay which we have not verified, we have as witnesses nothing to do. Our duty is to "speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." The effect of our testimony depends greatly on the certainty with which it is borne. We must speak with the accent of conviction if men are to be convinced and converted and saved.
II. THE SPHERE IN WHICH WE ARE TO PERFORM OUR FUNCTIONS: "both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." According to this it is manifest that whatever may be our testimony, there is no country, or province, or city, or locality in which it can possibly be borne, from which it can be intentionally withheld, or by arrangement, or compact, even temporarily suppressed. We may, of course, use discretion as to the localities in which it should first be borne. Being unable to enter every field at once, we may, as wise men, give our first and chief attention to that in which as a whole it is most required. But we cannot, in loyalty to our Lord, consent that men, in any locality, should either arbitrarily or to suit the convenience of parties be left in ignorance of it.
III. THE TESTIMONY WE HAVE TO BEAR. This consists of all that the Lord hath made known to us — the things we have seen and heard and verified. The most important part of our testimony is not that on which we differ from our fellow-Christians, but that which relates to the Divine feelings towards sinful men; and to that we ought to give the first and most prominent place. There is a fulness of meaning in the gospel which we have not unfolded yet — a note of music in it more capable of charming the ear than has ever yet been heard — a power to thrill the hearts of men such as has never yet been felt.
IV. THE ENDOWMENT WHICH FITS US FOR OUR WORK. "Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you." It is by the light the Divine Spirit supplies that we know what part of our testimony is most required. It is the firm conviction He imparts that gives authority and persuasiveness to our word. The whirlwind spreads devastation, the thunder shakes the sphere, the earthquake convulses and overthrows; but it is through the still small voice that the power of God enters the soul of the derelict prophet, and produces a mighty and beneficent revolution.
(W. Landels, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)Savonarola when he refused to absolve Lorenzo de Medici on his death-bed unless he set Florence free; so did John Hues when he called up the burning hue of shame upon the cheek of the perjured Sigismund; so did Luther when he faced kings and cardinals at Worms; so did Massillon when he made . wince before his warnings; so did Kerr when he rejected the command of Charles II. to receive Nell Gwynne at Winchester; so did the London clergy when they refused to read in their churches the treacherous edict of James II.; so did the Court chaplain when he openly rebuked Frederick William I. on his death-bed. No age can do without the Church's witness for righteousness; certainly not in ours, and the Church will fail of her duty in her witness for Christ if she do not rebuke the startling inadequacy of charity, the selfish accumulation of wealth, the ostentatious luxury of fashion, the heartless indifference of middle-class prosperity, the fulsome development Of puffery, the widespread of gambling, the adulterations of manufacturers, the scandal mongering of society, the intrigues of religious parties, the curse of drink. Oh, let the Church denounce these works of the world, the flesh, and the devil in no timid half utterance: let her not fight with graceful sham blows which only beat the air! are there no owners of rotting houses to be branded with the infamy they deserve? Are there no sweaters' dens to be purified, and the owners of them taught what a curse are ill-gotten riches? Are there no reeking hells of vice to be torn out of the greedy hands of rich oppressors? Salt is good; but if the salt hath lost its savour, etc.
(H. Pedley, M. A.)I. WITH ITS GLORY — Witnesses of the exalted King.
II. WITH ITS LOWLINESS — Witnesses nothing of and for ourselves.
III. WITH ITS SUFFERINGS — Witnesses of the Lord in a hostile world.
IV. WITH ITS PROMISES — Strength from above.
(J. P. Lunge, D. D.)
Both in JerusalemA difficult service was to be performed in Jerusalem that day. Had it been desired to find a man in London who would go down to Whitehall a few weeks after Charles was beheaded, and, addressing Cromwell's soldiers, endeavour to persuade them that he whom they had executed was not only a king and a good one, but a prophet of God, and that, therefore, they had been guilty of more than regicide — of sacrilege: although England had brave men then, it may be questioned whether any one could have been found to bear such a message to that audience. The service which had then to be performed in Jerusalem was similar to this.
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
(Bp. Huntington.)John 4:35), our Lord mentions as the middle station between Judaea and the land of the Gentiles; and the end of the earth was Rome, for there all nations were united in the capital of the world. We shall find that the order of the history perfectly corresponds with the order of testimony. Jerusalem (chaps. 1.-7.); Judaea (9-12.); Samaria (8.); the world (13 to end).
(R. Besser, D. D.)Securus judicat orbis terrarium. Is the world so silly, is all its best intellect so anile, is the genius of humanity so wretched a fool as to be duped by a mere fraud and illusion preached by wandering beggars, blindly to embrace with all its heart, to enshrine in its stateliest temples, to enrich with its most splendid offerings, to set forth in its most brilliant hues of imagination and intellect, a faith so intrinsically feeble that after nineteen centuries of beneficent victory it can only tumble down like a pack of cards at the touch of any smart declaimer who chooses to say it is a lie? Because it was a truth and no lie. We have been well reminded that the babes and striplings of the world prevailed over the serried army of emperors, aristocracies, statesmen, institutions. Is this solemn voice of the ages, is this cogent mass of human testimony to go for nothing? Is it nothing that Christianity has prevailed over the banded union of the powers of evil, and that even in spite of the corruptions which have gathered round it; in spite of the crimes, negligences, and ignorances of its own professing followers that it should still triumph and prevail. I say that if Christianity be a lie, then everything and all human life is a lie, and "the pillared firmament is rottenness, and the earth's base built on stubble."
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
Napoleon I.I shall soon be in my grave. Such is the fate of great men. So it was with the Caesars and Alexander. And I, too, am forgotten; and the Marengo conqueror and emperor is a college theme. My exploits are tasks given to pupils by their tutor, who sit in judgment over me. I die before my time; and my dead body, too, must return to the earth, and become food for worms. Behold the destiny now at hand of him who has been called the great Napoleon! What an abyss between my great misery and the eternal reign of Christ, who is proclaimed, loved, and adored, and whose kingdom is extending over all the earth!
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