As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.
I. HEALINGS ALONE. God has provided in nature sufficient and efficient healing agents for all man's diseases, lie has given to some among men healing skill, to be used in the service of others. No nobler ministry is entrusted to men than that of healing. A vast and almost overwhelming mass of human suffering calls for the healer's art. Though some forms of bodily disease are beyond human cure, few, if any, are out of the reach of relieving agencies. Apostolic healings materially differed from those of the ordinary doctor.
1. They were immediate.
2. They were without the use of medicinal agencies.
3. They were complete, without peril of any return of the disease.
4. They were wrought by spiritual power - and that not the apostles' own, only operating through them - reaching the very springs of vitality and giving new life. How such healings illustrate the Divine work in sin-sick souls may be fully shown.
II. HEALINGS WITH TEACHINGS. This was the special feature of the apostolic ministry. The end was not reached when a suffering man was cured; that was but the means to a further and higher end, even that soul-healing which comes by the reception of Christ the Savior, whom apostles taught. Illustrate how medical missions are made the agency for winning the attention of the heathen to the gospel message. Point out what are the particular points of spiritual teaching which gain effective illustration from bodily healings; e.g.:
1. The assertion of a necessary relation between sin and suffering. Suffering is no accident, no mere calamity; it is the divinely appointed fruitage and consequence of sin. It is designed to fix the character of sin, to give men conviction through feeling, vision, and sympathy, of the evil of sin. When more clearly understood, suffering is seen to be the corrective agency through which man may be delivered from sin.
2. The assertion of the Divine relation to suffering. God does not pass aside of the diseased or disabled; every day he is working gracious works in sick-rooms and hospitals. Of this his constant work Jesus gave full illustrations in his miracles, when he came to "show us the Father;" and of this apostles renewed the assurance when they healed, in Christ's Name, all the sick and suffering ones that were brought unto them.
3. The consequent assertion of the Divine relation to sin. God would not concern himself with the mere effects; we may be quite sure that he deals with the cause. The great Physician is concerned about our sin. lie would not that any of us should perish in our sins. And, therefore, when the apostles healed a sufferer they preached unto him Jesus, who is precisely this, "God saving men from their sins." - R.T.
Inasmuch that they brought forth the sick.., that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow them.
I. Shall we find that ray WITHIN? In the tenderness and fervency of our own affections? Many are the deeds of kindness prompted by instinctive feeling: but are not deeds of very different hue as often prompted by the same emotions? Are not "evil thoughts, adulteries," etc., things which "defile a man," the offspring also of the heart? And shall we think to derive our light from such a source? Shall we follow, in security, a guide so blind and treacherous? Nay, we are assured that "the heart," with all its flexibility of control, "is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." So far from directing our judgment, it must itself be brought perpetually to justice; instead of holding "a light unto our path," it ever needs "a lantern to its own."
II. Shall we look AROUND us for that ray? And shall we find it in the selfishness and ambition of the world, the blandishments of man's admiration? It has become a practice somewhat too prevalent to urge the contributions of the wealthy, without regard to rectitude of principle or motive, on the pretext that, so long as charitable institutions are upheld, no matter with what design of their supporters, the object of such application is substantially realised. But there is a case of the giver to be taken into consideration; and the effect on his mind is decidedly injurious. He is taught to repose a merit upon actions which, under existing circumstances, assume a character entirely the reverse of meritorious. He is taught to attach an undue value to wealth, as a vital source, and not an accidental garb, of beneficence: to allow to charity its plenary importance in the rank of virtues, but to limit the scope of charity to the bare performance of alms-giving. And lastly, he is taught to look to man, and not to God, for his reward. Why else are we reminded of the generosity of those who have thought to make their peace with heaven fur the defects of an unprofitable life by bequeathing their possessions to the poor, when the near approach of death withdraws the further prospect of gratifications which have constituted the chief endearment of their lives? The poor enjoy their pittance, it is true; but at whose and at what expense? to those who give, the probability of that mortifying reproof hereafter, "Who hath required this at thy hand?" To those who urged the gift, the sure and certain recompense of the ceremonious Pharisee, who preached sacrifice and not mercy, and put other burdens on the souls of men than the covenant of their Lord and Master.
III. If we find it neither within us, nor around us, it remains only that we lift our eyes ABOVE US, even to that "Sun of Righteousness," who rose, the offering for our redemption, and the example of our duty, with "healing in His wings." "From Him have we this commandment, that he who loveth God, should love his brother also." "The love of Christ constraineth us." It is only under the influence of this prevailing motive that our principles and habits can be warmed into a generous concern for the whole household of Christ; it is only under the brightness of His presence that the Christian's shadow can be reflected. The frame of mind required for such an exercise of benevolence is the repose inspired by a firm and humble trust in the providence of the Almighty, and the efficacy of His Son's atonement; a calm and holy peace, which leaves the mind at liberty to toil, for righteousness' sake, amid the sneers and censures of the ungodly, and, like the pattern of its daily practice, to "go about doing good." And what other influence can be named, capable of producing this blessedness of tone and spirit, but the constraint of the love of God? Will you say that inducements, at least of equal weight, are given us, in the dread of future punishment. But fear is, after all, but a flickering and inconstant meteor, totally incapable of reflecting that steady shadow we are now employed in contemplating. Think not I would deny the efficacy of an arrangement which converts even the fears and apprehensions of the sinner into occasions and instruments of good, and thus not seldom penetrates his soul through the only avenue unchoked by the brambles of worldly-windedness. I merely argue that the sensations of fear and terror are incompetent of themselves to generate that steadiness of principle and habit, that abandonment of selfish and carnal interests, that devotion of the heart and life to the will and purposes of the Creator, which manifests itself in a regard and concern for all the creatures of His hands. I say that an intermediate process must take place; that the inner man must be purified as well as roused; must first learn to love God, and then, and not till then, will love his brother also. There is not a star that twinkles in the firmament on high but has its appointed sphere of service and occupation: but from the sun alone we behold our fair proportions represented. There is not a motive, a feeling, in the constitution of a human being but may be made conducive, by God's blessing, towards the great end of his probation; but it is only beneath the love of God that the Christian's shadow lies unfolded.
(P. Hall, M. A.)i.e., exert unconscious influences. Some men are always, without seeming effort or thought, making other people happy. But there are others whose presence depresses and saddens us. This is so in the secular sphere; but our unconscious influence spreads into wider areas. God works out His grandest purposes by undemonstrative agents. The earthquake and lightning are as nothing compared with attraction and heat. And so with human influences.
1. Because our voluntary efforts are only occasional and interrupted, while our unconscious energy is everywhere operative and constant.
2. Our constant and silent energy is most expressive of our real character. Consider a few practical applications.
I. IT SHOULD IMPRESS US WITH A SENSE OF THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN LIFE.
II. WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR UNCONSCIOUS INFLUENCE. We may think to evade this on the ground that the evil we do is unintentional. But apply this to physical evil; to the case of Solomon's lunatic who said, "I am in sport"; or to the man who, exerting no positive influence, lets a blind man fall over a precipice. Just to do nothing is to do terrible evil; but in such a world no man can do nothing. Our whole mortal life is embodied force.
III. DEATH DOES NOT DESTROY THIS UNCONSCIOUS INFLUENCE. The Greeks used to term the disembodied spirit a shadow, an invisible presence, haunting the scenes of its former life, and though not in this sense yet, as abiding influences, the dead are still with us. On the one hand, Lord Byron, Bonaparte, Voltaire, etc., yet stalk the earth and gibber their influence; on the other, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Chalmers, still live. This truth is a warning to all workers of iniquity, but an encouragement to every true child of God.
(C. Wadsworth, D. D.)
I. THE POWER THERE MAY BE IN COMPARATIVE TRIFLES. As a metaphor few figures are more frequently used in the Scriptures than that of the "shadow." Sometimes it is suggestive of blessing, as "the shadow of a great rock in a weary land," or "the shadow of the Almighty"; sometimes the opposite, as "the shadow of death." A shadow! What is more insignificant? Intangible and unsubstantial, is it not the veriest trifle? Yet how solemnly impressive it is.
1. The most irresistible forces of the world in nature are those that we can neither see nor hear. The earthquake's tread makes us tremble, and so does the roar of the hurricane. How appalling the thunder and lightning; but how far inferior are they in either benign or blasting influence to the quieter, subtler force of electricity, gravitation, heat, or light.
2. In science and civilisation the quieter forces have counted most. The grandest discoveries have usually emerged from some by-way of accident. The most thrilling pages of history are but chronicles of events that have nearly all turned on the pivot of some trivial circumstance. Mohammedanism was the product of a spider's web woven behind the fleeing prophet and deceiving his pursuers. The battle of Waterloo was suspended upon the co-operation of Blucher, whose life escaped the enemy's sword by the simple circumstance of wearing the cap of a common soldier, and for the reason that the clasp of his own helmet had broken.
3. Just so it is in religion. Are we not astonished often to find that the little things we say and do tell more radically and widely than some of our most demonstrative actions? Then, too, the very constancy of those trifles tells. Repeated blows of a little hammer may be more effective than the single downfall of the ponderous sledge. The clock strikes at intervals, the ticking is momentary; we hear the one, we do not notice the other; yet the hour stroke comes not if the ticking fails.
II. AS NO SHADOW CAN BE CAST WITHOUT LIGHT, OUR TEXT ILLUSTRATES THE ESSENTIAL PLACE CHRIST HOLDS IN ALL TRUE RELIGION, IN THE WORLD AND IN THE SOUL. If the sun be clouded, or the atmosphere hazy, no distinct shadows can be east. The sun must shine out to make shadows. So the distinctness of shadows of grace indicate the strong or feeble shining of the "Sun of Righteousness."
1. Nationalities like Italy and Russia and South America tell us of "the cloudy and dark day." England and America, on the other hand, bourgeoned with beauty, tell of the sun shining warmly and clearly from a gospel sky.
2. As in the world, so in the soul. Saul of Tarsus, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter," stands in striking contrast with Paul, the singing pilgrim in the dungeon of Philippi, and the same man near martyrdom exclaiming, "I am now ready to be offered up," etc. Whence came the difference? Ah! Christ commenced shining upon him near that Damascene gate, and the light grew brighter and sweeter and clearer every day, so that he shouted, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Peter and James and John exclaimed on a glory-lit summit, "It is good to be here!" because "Jesus in the midst" was the centre of the glory. Shadows of noble action and happy feeling can come from those only who are wont to bask in the light of "One above the brightness of the sun."
III. EVERY ONE EXERTS AN INFLUENCE, QUIET BUT REAL, UNCONSCIOUS BUT A FACT. Every one casts a shadow. The ghost of Banquo no more persistently refuses to "down at the bidding" of Macbeth than the ghostly shadow of the person or thing on which the sun is falling refuses to disappear. A man may simply stand still in a thoroughfare, he will soon find all eyes upon him, and all excitement about him. Every act, word, look, attitude, is a moral dynamic upon those around us. They are forces with which we are building or destroying. A whisper has often been clothed with the attribute of thunder. Unconsciousness of it is no argument against the fact. Peter was not thinking of the shadow he threw; much less how eagerly the sick sought it. So lasting is the influence that it lingers behind when the living have passed away. "He being dead yet speaketh." "No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." How startling the warning to the worker of wickedness, while the good may take its lessons of perpetual encouragement. "The evil that men do," and the good, too, "lives after them." This is true of great lives; it is equally true of the humblest. The intoning of Niagara can be heard farther away, but the rippling of the rill is just as real and sweeter. Mont Blanc witnesses to Divine power, but not more effectually than the violet tells us of the Divine skill and goodness by its beauty and fragrance. The eagle may soar higher, but the little canary has a sweeter song. As I mark the trivial act of the poor widow dropping her two mites, unconscious that any eye was watching, and then remember what a sermon that lowly act has been preaching to the world from that day to this; then am I ready to express the deep conviction that a shadow of influence beyond conception clings to the most obscure person; and often the humblest act. How this fact shows the dignity and importance of human life, and with what tremendous responsibility it invests it!
IV. THE SOMBRE AND EMPTY CHARACTER OF SOME KINDS OF RELIGION; only a shadow. The shadow is dark and intangible; alas if our religion be "only that and nothing more"! Pity that any should get but a gloomy, and so a false, impression of religion from the representation we give them. It has been said that "every one lives for a funeral"; but can we not wait for the funeral till life is over? Must we see it every day? "We meet such people," says a writer, "every day, and they have always some new distress for us. Their sweetest smile is suggestive of the neuralgia, and their most cordial greeting depresses like an east wind. They go home at night like an undertaker to a funeral, and children cease singing, and wives refrain from smiles. They go abroad in the morning like a Scotch mist from the Highlands, to drizzle discontent in the street and market-place. They enter the house of God to render its songs of praise requiems, and its oil of joy ice water; and their religious light shines before men as heaven's sunshine through stained glass, and the priest at the shrine looks like a variegated ghost, and the reverend worshippers like brindled hobgoblins. A croaking raven is the device on their shields — a coffin with cross-bones the blazon on their banner." Surely such a religious spirit and demeanour argue a wrong idea altogether of God and of truth. Peevish, morose, severe, fault-finding and censorious Christians are guilty, though they may not mean it, of dishonouring their Lord arid defaming the Church by the cheat of a shadow. True religion is sweet as the light, joyous as childhood, and benevolent as love. So the Scriptures represent it, and true hearts have ever felt it.
V. THE REAL BENEVOLENCE AND CHEER THERE IS, OR OUGHT TO BE, IN GENUINE RELIGION. Peter's shadow was eagerly sought by the sick ones or their friends, not because it was a shadow, but because to them it was the symbol of healing and cheer. So on whatever threshold the shadow of a Christian falls, in whatever company he moves, his coming should start a smile of pleasure; a manifest benison should beam in his face. "Good-will to men" was the cradle song over the Saviour, and it should be perpetuated as an echo in the life of every child of God. Heaven, as represented to us, is all joy, and earth should resemble heaven as far as sin and suffering will allow, by the prevalence of an atmosphere of cheerfulness over it. There are those whose presence is like the ripple of water by the wayside, or the shadow of groves on a hot day like an oasis in a vast sandy desert, or the singing of the nightingale in the darkness.
(J. M. McNulty, D. D.)
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
"I do not like thee, Dr. Fell;
The reason why I cannot tell;
But — I do not like thee, Dr. Fell,"is the inner and instinctive verdict we pass on some men; probably, also, that some men pass on us. Their shadows hurt us: our shadows hurt them. Foremost of all shadows is the shadow of the home; where, four times in a century, God makes a new earth, and out of which he peoples a new heaven. I have sat bareheaded in the noblest Gothic cathedral on the earth. And for years I sat, in my youth, in a simple country church, joining in the old liturgies that, in one form or another, had been said or sung ever since the Saxon embraced the Christian faith. And once, I remember, I rose in the grey light, and stood alone by Niagara, while the sound of its mighty thunder rose up fresh and pure, unbroken as yet and undefiled by the clamour of those many changers who deserve a whip of not very small cords for profaning that place in which, of all places, the soul longs to be alone with her God. These were sacred places. But the holiest of all, the place whose shadow stretches over forty-five hundred miles of earth and sea, and forty years of time, and is still a shadow of healing, is a little place built of gray stone. There, bending over the picture in the great Bible, or listening to psalm or song or story, the child lived in the shadow of that home; and it became to him as the very gate of heaven, so dear and good, that no great cathedral, no grand scene in nature, no place for worship anywhere, can be what that grey-stone cottage was. I wonder whether we have any deep consciousness of the shadows we are weaving about our children in the home; whether we ever ask ourselves if, in the far future, when we are dead and gone, the shadow our home casts now will stretch over them for bane or blessing. It is possible we are full of anxiety to do our best, and to make our homes sacred to the children. We want them to come up right, to turn out good men and women, to be an honour and praise to the home out of which they sprang. But this is the pity and the danger, that while we may not come short in any real duty of father and mother, we may yet cast no healing and sacramental shadow over the child. I look back with wonder on that old time, and ask myself how it is that most of the things I suppose my father and mother built on especially to mould me to a right manhood are forgotten and lost out of my life. But the tender, unspoken love; the sacrifices made, and never thought of, it was so natural to make them; ten thousand little things, so simple as to attract no notice, and yet so sublime as I look back at them — they fill my heart still and always with tenderness when I remember them, and my eyes with tears. All these things, and all that belong to them, still come over me, and cast the shadow that forty years, many of them lived in a new world, cannot destroy. To make this question clear, if we can, let me open to you a glimpse of some shadows that are being cast in some homes every day, not over children alone, but over men and women also.
1. Here is a man who has been down town all day, in the full tide of care, that from morning till night floods the markets, offices, and streets of all our great cities. Tired, nervous, irritable, possibly a little disheartened, he starts for his home. If it is winter, when he enters there is a bit of bright fire, that makes a bad temper seem like a sin in the contrast; a noise of children that is not dissonant; and an evident care for his comfort, telling, plainer than any words, how constantly he has been in the mind of the house-mother, while breasting the stress and strife of the day; while a low, sweet voice, that excellent thing in woman, greets him with words that ripple over the fevered spirit like cool water. And the man who can nurse a bad temper after that deserves to smart for it. There is no place on the earth, into which a man can go with such perfect assurance that he will feel the shadow of healing, as into such a home as that. It is the very gate of heaven.
2. But I will open another door. Here is a home into which the man goes with the same burden on him. When he enters querulous questions meet him as to whether he has forgotten what he ought never to have been required to remember. Plaintive bewailings are made to him of the sad seventy-seventh disobedience of the children, or the radical depravity of the servants; and a whole platoon-fire of little things is shot at him, so sharp and ill-timed, that they touch the nerve like so many small needles. It is in such things as these that the shadows are cast, that hurt, but never heal: that drive thousands of men out of their homes into any place that will offer a prospect of comfort and peace, even for an hour.
3. But let me not be unfair. The evil shadow may just as certainly come from the man. Here is another man in the mood I have tried to touch. All day long he has fretted at the bit; but society has held him in. He goes home too, but it is to spume out his temper. The very sound of his foot casts a shadow that can hurt, but can never heal. If his wife is silent, he calls her sulky: if she speaks, he snaps her. If his children tome to him with innocent teasings he would give a year of his life some day to bring back again, they are pushed aside, or sent out of the room, or even — God forgive him — are smitten. He eats a moody dinner: takes a cigar; bitter, I hope, and serves him right; takes a book, too — not Charles Lamb or Charles Dickens, I warrant you — and, in one evening, that man has cast a shadow he may pray, some day, in a great agony, may be removed, and not be heard.
4. Then again, what shadows of healing fall, in their turn, from the children! No affliction that can ever come through children ever equals that which comes with their utter absence; while the heaviest affliction to most, the death of the little one, often casts a shadow of healing that could come in no other way. I went one day to see a poor German woman, whose children had all been down with scarlet fever. Four were getting well again; one was dead. And it was very touching to see how the shadow of that dead child had come over the mother, and sent its blessing of healing through all the springs of her life. "These are beautiful children," I said. — "Oh, yes! but I should have seen the one that died." While he was with her, he was like the rest. But now, when he was gone, he cast the shadow. The little shroud was turned into a white robe, that glistened and shone in the sun of Paradise, so that she was blinded; the broken prattle had filled out into an angel-song; the face shone as the face of an angel; and, all unknown to herself, God had laid her where the shadow of the little one up in heaven could touch her with its healing. And no shadow is so full of healing as that shadow of the child that is always a child in heaven. The most gentle and patient will sometimes feel a touch of irritation at the waywardness of the one that is with us; but no father or mother in this world ever did bring back any sense of such a feeling toward the one Chat is gone. The shadow of healing destroys it for ever.
(R. Collyer, D. D.)
I. Unconscious influence in A BAD SPHERE. Men may act unconsciously in the production of trouble, far more than they themselves suspect; for their unconscious influence works according to the quality of that which is in them. When men pursue voluntary courses, they often hide the reality, and put forth that which is not real but simulated. Thus, perhaps, one makes himself friendly to a person whom he does not like, for purposes of business. Sometimes men suppress anger because good-nature will carry their purposes better. So that a man's overt and open conduct may not be in the line of nature. But there is an influence derived from that which you actually are.
1. A proud man may carry himself intentionally in such a way that every one he meets is made to feel his inferiority. But a man may tarry himself in such a way that without the slightest intention he shall insult his fellow-men, and make a perpetual aggression upon them. Your pride does not always exert itself according to your will. It has a magnetism of its own. A man may carry in his hand, if he please, a mignonette, and he may carry it because it is sweet. He may also put fetid odours in his clothes. He may hide them, not wishing that others shall know that they are there. But they will make themselves known, whether he wants them to or not. So a man may carry himself in the strong qualities of his nature, wishing well; but if those qualities are harmful in their tendency he will produce mischief in spite of his good intentions.
2. A man's selfishness may act as good conductors of heat do. If you put your hand upon wood it seems relatively warm; and if you put it on iron it seems excessively cold. They are of the same temperature, as measured by the thermometer, only the iron, being a good conductor, has the power of drawing heat rapidly from your hand, while the wood, being a poor conductor, draws it but sparingly. So it is with men. Some men exhaust you, they suck you dry, and you know not what is the matter. A man may have a nature such that when you are in his presence you are perpetually conscious that your sympathy is drawn upon and exhausted. He is a good conductor. His effect upon you is to chill you. And he does not intend any harm. Unconscious selfishness always works in that way. A man may be consciously selfish and not half so offensive as a man whose selfishness is never positively aggressive, but who carries an inward nature that all the while and everywhere draws upon men, making the whole room and house uncomfortable.
3. So combativeness may take on forms which will detract from the happiness of every one. The more obvious forms, bad as they are, probably, if measured by the mischief which they work, would not be found to produce one-half the discomfort of society which arises from the latent forms — what we call ill-nature. It hovers in the air. It is in silence as much as in the short, sharp reply. So men oftentimes fill the circles in which they live with malign influences. They poison the air with suspicion, with envy, with jealousy. A look, a hint, a shrug, may convey the wretched insinuation; or the unconscious atmosphere of jealousy make itself felt.
4. I may mention, also. the unconscious wrong which sorrow commits upon those who are about it. Sorrow is not a thing to be controlled altogether; and yet we must exhort men to beware of the extremely selfish tendencies and qualities of sorrow. You have a right, as far as you can, to lean on sympathising friends, and so relieve your sorrow: and men should help the sorrowful; but, after all. one has no right to distribute his sorrow. This is true, too, in the matter of ill-health. Invalids are privileged persons; but they should not privilege themselves. Because one is sick he has no right to set aside all laws of love, and disinterestedness, and honour.
5. Men's good qualities even may act unfavourably upon other men. For example, a man may be perfectly upright, and yet carry his conscience in such a way that it is perpetually condemning men. There is a kind of arrogance of goodness. Deliver me from a person who never does wrong — and knows it; from one whose tongue never makes any mistakes — and keeps account of that fact. If there be anything that is provoking to a poor sinner — and most of us are poor sinners — it is one of these perfect people who move about without much temptation — a perpetual rebuke to us all the time — a kind of stinging censure to our infelicities and inferiorities.
II. Unconscious influence IN A GOOD SPHERE. If the predominant faculties are sweet and gracious, then you will carry with you a sweet and gracious atmosphere, so that while you are doing good on purpose, you will be doing more good without purpose. There be men whom we might almost wish to have walk up and down in the street, in order to shed abroad their disposition — unconscious to themselves. There is goodness that means to be good; and there is a great deal of goodness which is better, that comes out from the eye, from the lips, or from the pores — I had almost said from the skin — and that is not conscious of being good. And when one dwells in such a royal bounty of kindness and goodness in himself that his very shadow, falling on men, makes them happy, that unconscious kindness and goodness is wealth indeed. When the train is stopped, the engineer springs from the locomotive and oils the machinery at every point, so that the oil runs in at all the joints. We look at him and at the engine, and admire them. But we never say a word to the oil, or about it. And yet the engine, and what it does, are largely dependant upon the lubrication which the oil brings. Now there are lubricators among men who keep the machinery of society oiled, so as to prevent its joints from wearing, and its journals from heating.
1. Such a man is one who is thoroughly good-natured. Men are as much perceived that carry good-nature in society as spicewood is that carries sweet odours. There is no danger of there being too many men who are not easily irritated, who look on the bright side of things, and who tend to solace — men that you can cushion on, and not touch the hard angles of an exacting, conscientious spirit. It is a great comfort just to look at a man who is good-natured. I remember once riding on a cold night. I was so cold that I almost feared that I should freeze. After awhile I came across a blacksmith's shop. I saw a bright light on the forge. I wanted to get off and warm myself, but I was afraid that I should be so numb that I could not get on again. So I sat and looked at the fire a moment; and then I said: "Well, I feel better just for looking at you," and rode on. I have seen persons whose very presence, when the night was dark, and the way was difficult, and all things were freezing, filled you with comfort. There are thousands of times when men want to be thawed out. Men have power enough, but it is frozen; they need sympathy. And there are men who are supplying this element without knowing what they are doing. Many men are shot along the way of encouragement, and made to triumph, by some man who never dreams that he is doing anything for them. It is a good investment to have good-nature, and so much of it that you exhale it, as flowers do their odours; for you do not know who will take the comfort of it.
2. So, too, there is great inspiration in humour and in wit. Among the gifts which have been made to humanity, none in the lower sphere of virtues should call forth our thankfulness more than these. They civilise life. They carry with them a perpetual Blessing.
3. Still more are trust, devotion, humility. We think more of what Christ was, than of what He said or did. He always seems as one with a shining face. None go near Him without feeling the sanctity of His presence. None go near Him without feeling inspired toward good.
4. And so while we do and teach, our best work is that which we perform without knowing it. Silence under provocation is better than doctrine to many and many a man. Fortitude under trouble is a testimony to religion which is far better than a thousand proof-texts. In your boyhood, as you will very well remember, you used to write with invisible ink; and there was nothing for the recipient to do but to take the paper and hold it to the fire, and straightway out came the message. You are writing with invisible letters on thousands of children's hearts; on the hearts of passers-by; on the hearts of those whom you meet in every circle where you move.
(H. W. Beecher.)I. WE ALL EXERT SOME KIND OF INFLUENCE. The law of influence every atom has to obey. A bird can neither scatter its songful notes in the air, nor soar in the heavens, without setting in motion pulsations which vibrate through all space. So man is so closely united to his fellows by various ties that he cannot live unto himself. In our social gatherings we meet with some persons around whom there is a kind of atmosphere charged with enkindling and attractive elements; and we meet with others who have a something about them which is dampening and rapelling. As leaven influences the meal, so we in some way affect those with whom we come into contact. Now this influence is —
1. Voluntary. Our Lord declared that the apostles should heal all manner of diseases. In this chapter we have a fulfilment of this prediction. The apostles voluntarily touched the sick. and healed them. So, whenever we do anything with an aim, we exert voluntary and conscious influence.
2. Involuntary. The shadow which Peter cast upon the diseased restored them. Unintentionally and unconsciously a curative virtue went out from him. It is this influence which we all possess, an influence which flows from us, and floats about us insensibly(1) Like our shadow, this involuntary influence is noiseless in its working as the darkness of night, or as the moonbeams which transfigure the sea. But we do not imagine that its power is less because it operates so quietly. The shadow of Peter was heard not, yet it cured the suffering ones by the wayside. Time and sunshine are ever soundless, but are there any forces more omnipotent?(2) As our shadow is the similitude of our form, so our involuntary influence' is the type of our actual self. Good words and deeds do not always spring from a good disposition. Young, in his "Night Thoughts," writes scornfully of worldly glory, and yet no man sought for it more eagerly than he did. Voluntary influence does not always indicate what a man really is, but involuntary influence does. How many there are who try to pass for what they are not. But in spite of their mask we feel when in contact with them that they are playing a false part. Our involuntary influence is as much the outcome of our real nature as the scent is the outcome of the plant,s life. It is a something which we cannot imprison — a something that will out. Our unintended influence, then, is the key to the quality of our being.(3) Our involuntary influence, like our shadow, is ever with us. It is not a mere appendage — a robe of which we can divest ourselves. Voluntary influence is necessarily intermittent, but involuntary influence is incessant. It is co-extensive with our existence. As a pebble when flung into a lake causes ripples to extend over its surface, so as soon as we enter the world we influence it in some degree.
II. THE SECRET OF BENEFICIAL INFLUENCE. Christian character. A man may have but little of this world's goods, and may occupy a lowly sphere; but if he has the Christ-like disposition, his influence, as was the shadow of Peter, will be rife with benediction. On the other hand, a man may possess extensive knowledge, immense wealth, and may move in the highest circles; but unless he has the Christ-like spirit, his treasures and status may fill him with pride; he may use them as instruments in the service of the god of this world, and render his influence as deadly as a pestilence. Or, prompted by some selfish motives, he may devote them very largely to benevolent purposes; but, lacking the true spirit, he produces in our minds a feeling of his hollowness and insincerity. If such an one would really benefit his fellows his heart must be renewed. Spirituality of character alone will give weight and value to riches, learning and position, when used in the service of Christ. If our voluntary influence is to be good, our involuntary influence must be good, and if our involuntary influence is to be good we must be right at the core. We must be quickened ere we can quicken. We must be recipients of the Divine ere we can be its distributors. Lord Peter-borough said of Fenelon: "He is a delicious creature; I was forced to get away from him as fast as I could, else he would have made me pious." Thus our influence will be a wondrous force for good in proportion to the holiness of our life.
III. A FEW REASONS WHICH SHOULD URGE US TO EXERT A BENEFICIAL INFLUENCE.
1. Because of our responsibility. We are as responsible for the influence which our character pours out apart from our own will, as we are for the influence of the words we intentionally utter, and the deeds we intentionally perform. Surely, then, it should be our supreme effort to model our character according to the Divine plans. We should see to it that our foundation and materials are such as shall endure the fire-tests of the Judgment.
2. Because we owe so much to such influence. The good that men do is not interred with their bones. What would have been the character of our laws, literature, art, commerce, and morals, apart from the influence of those whose footfalls are no longer heard on earth! Do not sceptics and infidels owe their best privileges to the influence of those who were animated by the faith which they reject!
3. Because it will be a source of infinite joy. It will cause joy to well up in the heart now — a joy which springs from the sense of duty done, from a quiet conscience, from making others happy and noble. But who can depict the joy to which it will give rise in the future?
4. Because it is the will of Christ. "Let your light so shine," etc.
(E. H. Palmer.)1. He repels the wicked (ver. 13), and attracts the good.
2. He is the torment of unclean spirits (ver. 16), but gives rest to the weary and heavy-laden (ver. 18).
3. To the enemies of truth He is as the savour of death unto death — Ananias and Sapphira; the priests and elders — and to souls desiring salvation, a savour of life unto life — the sick, and those who were added to the Church.
PeopleAnanias, Gamaliel, Israelites, Judas, Peter, Sapphira, Solomon, Theudas
PlacesJerusalem, Solomon's Portico
TopicsAiling, Beds, Bring, Broad, Carried, Cots, Couches, Extent, Fall, Forth, Friends, Ill, Insomuch, Laid, Lay, Least, Mats, Mattresses, Order, Overshadow, Pallets, Passed, Passing, Peter, Peter's, Places, Shade, Shadow, Sick, Streets
Outline1. After that Ananias and Sapphira his wife,
3. at Peter's rebuke had fallen down dead;
12. and that the rest of the apostles had wrought many miracles;
14. to the increase of the faith;
17. the apostles are again imprisoned;
19. but delivered by an angel bidding them preach openly to all;
21. when, after their teaching accordingly in the temple,
29. and before the council,
33. they are in danger to be killed;
34. but through the advice of Gamaliel, they are kept alive, and are only beaten;
41. for which they glorify God, and cease no day from preaching.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesActs 5:15
LibraryDecember 28. "The Holy Ghost, whom God Hath Given to them that Obey Him" (Acts v. 32).
"The Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him" (Acts v. 32). We can only know and prove the fulness of the Spirit as we step out into the larger purposes and plans of Christ for the world. Perhaps the chief reason why the Holy Spirit has been so limited in His work in the hearts of Christians, is the shameful neglect of the unsaved and unevangelized world by the great majority of the professed followers of Christ. There are millions of professing Christians--and, perhaps, real Christians--in …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
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The First Sermon in the Tabernacle
Of the Recollection of God's Manifold Benefits
The Reader Reminded How Much He Needs the Assistance of the Spirit of God to Form Him to the Temper Described Above, and what Encouragement He
May one Lose the Blessing?
Whether Fraud Pertains to Craftiness?
Whether Whatever God Does Outside the Natural Order is Miraculous?
Whether Subjects are Bound to Obey their Superiors in all Things?
Whether Shamefacedness is About a Disgraceful Action?
Whether Anyone Should be Excommunicated for Inflicting Temporal Harm?
Whether Human Law Binds a Man in Conscience?
Whether the Devil is Directly the Cause of Man's Sinning?
Whether it is Praiseworthy to Enter Religion Without Taking Counsel of Many, and Previously Deliberating for a Long Time?
Whether the Precept of Fraternal Correction Demands that a Private Admonition Should Precede Denunciation?
The Wheat and the Tares
That the Christian Miracles are not Recited, or Appealed To, by Early Christian Writers Themselves So Fully or Frequently as Might have Been Expected.
The Birth of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit Bearing Witness to Jesus Christ.
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