Page images
PDF
EPUB

Father did not suffer his beloved Son to perish of hunger. By the hands of angels he provided for Him; and their ministering to Jesus should teach us that, if the world is over-run with bad angels, it is no less full of angels who delight to serve God, and minister to the “heirs of sal. vation.”

As regards the world, there is a diversity of opinion amongst men. Some praise it; others condemn it. We sympathize with both parties. It is a grand, rich, beautiful, and suitable world ; but it is not in earthly society, or things, to fill the human soul. The soul is too big for that; and, as compared with heaven, “ earth is a desert drear." Sin has converted the world into a wilderness; and it is a wilderness with a devil in it; he, "as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” There is no escaping him. Indirectly or directly he brings himself into contact with us, and tries to make us wicked and wretched like himself. No strange thing befel Jesus when He found Himself face to face with the tempter.

He crosses the path of us all, and we must either vanquish him, or submit to him. It lies with ourselves to decide which it shall be. The world we inhabit is a world of trial. It is more. It is a world of temptation. It is wrong to seek temptation. Jesus did not. There is no need to seek it. It finds us ; and we are obliged either to resist it or yield to it. We cannot shun it by leaving the solid land and taking to the sea, or rushing into the desert. Some places are fuller of temptation than others; but where is it not? It meets us in the quiet village and in the crowded city, with its bustle and din. It meets us at the fireside, and in the counting-house, or the workshop. Where did the conflict between Christ and the devil take place ? In the wilderness! To Satan all temptation may be traced, and he plants himself between every one of us and heaven. God does not approve of him tempting us; but as he suffers us to tempt each other, so he suffers the devil to tempt us. What, then, should we do relative to the devil? What did Jesus do He resisted him; and so may we, so should we.

We should carry about with us, as though it were a part of ourselves, the shield of faith_faith in the truths of the Bible, and, above all, the truth about the “Christ of God.” Wanting it, how can we quench the fiery darts that fly thick about us ? Drawing daily upon the strength of Christ, we should bravely fight the devil, and there are a thousand reasons why we should. He is not invincible.

God never permits any to be tempted beyond what they can bear. Satan cannot compel us to sin; and overcoming him lands us, so to speak, among the angels. It draws them down. Temptation on its under side is a most mysterious and difficult subject.

Clouds and darkness are round about it," and we should express ourselves regarding it with more than ordinary caution; but the true way to turn it into a source of blessing is to to resist it. There is a wide difference between resisting it and yielding to it. To encourage the devil is to drive the angels away; whereas, to put the devil to flight is to secure the ministering presence of the angels. Literal angels may not visit those who conquer him, as did Jesus; but real angels will. We cannot resist temptation without greatly increasing our happiness, and strengthening our virtue ; and on these, and the like grounds, must rest its justification. Abraham's faith was put to a severe test when he was commanded to slay or sacrifice his son Isaac, and what was the consequence? It was mightily invigorated. The winds of temptation, sweeping over “trees of righteousness," and, rudely shaking them, cause them to take firmer root. If we would have angels for our companions, we must pay the price demanded-oppose a stern front to the devil. Belfast.

G. CRON, B.A.

He (Christ) walked in Judea eighteen hundred years ago. His sphere melody, flowing in wild native tones, took captive the ravished souls of men, and, being of a truth sphere melody, still flows and sounds, though now with thousandfold accompaniments and rich symphonies, through all our hearts, and modulates and divinely leads them.

CARLYLE.

Apostles.

Able expositions of the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, describing the manners, customs, and localities described by the inspired writers; also interpreting their words, and harmonizing their formal discrepancies, are, happily, not wanting amongst us. But the eduction of its WIDEST truths and highest suggestions is still a felt desideratum. To some attempt at the work we devote these pages. We gratefully avail ourselves of all exegetical helps within our reach; but to occupy our limited space with any lengthened archæological, geographical, or philological remarks, would be to miss our aim; which is not to make bare the mechanical process of the study of Scripture, but to reveal its spiritual results.

SUBJECT : Paul's final Visit to Jerusalem ; or, the Apostle as

a Prisoner defending himself before the People. "And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made å great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you,” &c.-Acts xxi. 40, and xxii, 1–29. AUL appears

before us now in a new condition; he is a

33.) In this condition we shall find him now in every chapter to the close of his memorable life. He closes his connection with this city by two defences of himself-the one addressed to the people, and the other to the great council of the nation. We have now to notice HIS DEFENCE BEFORE THE PEOPLE. This subject will take us from the last verse of the 21st chapter to the 30th of the next. Indeed, the last verse of the 21st ought to have been put as the first of the 22nd chapter; the division is unfortunate, unjustifiable, and unwise.' The position from which the apostle delivered his defence before the people is noteworthy. He stood on the stairs." The stairs were the steps leading from the area of the temple into the castle of Antonia, and up which he had been forcibly borne by the soldiers. (Acts xxi. 2, 5.) His position was a commanding one, standing on an elevation commanding a view of the temple, with crowds assembled at

the base of the building, protected from their fury by the soldiers, having the “licence" of the chief captain" to speak, he addressed them with all the freedom of his noble and Christ-inspired nature. “And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people ; and when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying," &c. He “beckoned" with his hand to still the noise of the people, and he spoke in the Hebrew tongue, not because they would not have understood Greek, but because he wished to command their sympathies by demonstrating that he was an Israelite. With great rhetorical adroitness, he further conciliates the good-will of his audience by the courteous and even affectionate terms with which he addresses them as “men, brethren, and fathers.” So far he succeeds. “And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence, and he saith,” &c. The multitude which just before had raged like ocean in the storm, were reduced to a breathless stillness, with eager ear to listen to what the prisoner had to say. And now, taking the chapter to the 30th verse, we have three subjects forced on our attention-an autobiographic defence too genuine to be questioned—an audience too prejudiced for argument, and officers of law too weak to be generous or brave.

I. HERE WE HAVE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHIC DEFENCE TOO GENUINE TO BE QUESTIONED. In Paul's defence on this occasion, there is nothing like special pleading---no attempt to invalidate opposing evidence. As an honest man who felt that his life would bear scrutiny, he gives a brief sketch of himself, that is all. (1.) He avows himself a Jew by birth and education. (Verse 3.) (2.) He describes his persecuting zeal against the Christians. (Verses 4 and 5.) (3.) He details his extraordinary conversion. (Verses 6 to 11.) (4.) He shows that his reception into the Church was by Jewish agency. (Verses 12 to 16.) (5.) He proves that his mission to the Gentiles was forced upon him by Divine authority. (Verses

1

17, 21.) In analyzing this autobiographic sketch, there are (a), points stated which are to be found elsewhere. The account of his conversion here will be found in Acts ix. 3–19.* There are (6), points stated found elsewhere, but in à modified form. For example, it is said in Acts ix. that the men which journeyed with Paul heard a voice, and here (verse 10), that they heard not the voice. This is satisfactorily explained by supposing that the voice in the former place meant mere sound, and here articulate utterance. Such slight variation of testimony, an enlightened and impartial judgment will ever regard as confirming rather than weakening the general trustworthiness of the narrative. There are (c) points stated which are not found elsewhere such, for example, as the "trance" in the 17th verse. Neither our purpose or space will allow us to go more minutely into this autobiographic defence.t Concerning the whole, however, four things are very remarkable concerning it. (1.) In it, self is criminated. Paul has not a word to say in vindication of his conduct prior to his conversion. He virtually denounces himself. He even confesses guilt in connection with the martyrdom of Stephen. (2.) In it, Christ is honoured. His conversion is ascribed to Christ, who appeared to him on the road to Damascus ; also his commission to the Gentiles. (3.) In it, there is manifest honesty of soul. How open and frank is every utterance. (4.) In it, conversion appears as the ever memorable epoch. Twenty-five years, or more, had passed away since Paul's conversion, yet the incidents were so fresh in memory, that he details them with all the minuteness with which they were detailed at first, as found in the 9th chapter. Conversion is the most memorable epoch in the biography of souls.

II. HERE WE HAVE AN AUDIENCE TOO PREJUDICED FOR ARGUMENT. Notwithstanding this autobiographic defence, so

* See HOMILIST, vol. v., third series, p. 72.

+ The reader will find several of the verses homiletically treated in the present number.

« PreviousContinue »