« PreviousContinue »
HOMILETIC GLANCE AT THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
How shall this false impression be removed? And they proposed the expedient that Paul should join the four men amongst them that were Nazarites. All this shows their strong desire for brotherly harmony and concord. Peace is the instinct and mission of love. He who does not strive to harmonise social discords, crush social feuds, and heal social divisions, has not the true love within him. Love is ever on the wing bearing the olive branch over the social tumults of the world.
From this we learn
Fifthly : The conciliatory spirit of Christianity. This is developed in the conduct of Paul on this occasion. He joins the Nazarites and observes their rites. “ Paul is among
the Nazarites," says Lange, "(1.) Not as a slave of human ordinances, but in the light of evangelical liberty which had power over all things that promote the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. vi. 12.) (2.) Not as a dissembler before the people, but in the ministry of brotherly love, which bears the infirmities of the weak. (Rom. xv. 1.) (3.) Not as a fugitive from the cross, but in the power of Apostolic obedience, which knows to deny itself from love to the Lord. (Luke ix. 23.)” Bold and invincible as was the Apostle, his spirit of conciliation was very remarkable. In 1 Cor. ix. 1, he sketches his own conciliatory line of conduct. “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” In his letters to the Romans he expresses the same spirit in language equally, if not more strong. “If meat maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth.” Fidelity to principle is not inconsistent with a studious endeavour to avoid giving offence to our fellow men.
(No. II.) SUBJECT: The Divine Sabbath.-Genesis ii. 1-3. MHE Divine Artificer with intelligence and delight com
pletes his work. In the calm majesty of his repose He contemplates it. What a scene must have spread before his eye! The created minds who could comprehend but a part, would be overwhelmed at the splendour, variety, and order. How perfect must it have shone forth before the Divine eye that saw all, comprehended all arrangements, and knew the relations of the universe! As none but He could paint such a picture, so He must have been alone in his delight. This was God's sabbath. We see in it
I. THE DIVINE COMPLETION OF HIS CREATIVE WORK. “The heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them." The Bible teaches us that creation ended with the sixth day's work. As it was itself a series of separate distinct acts, so in itself the series was complete. According to this cosmogony there were no further creations. Individuals may be born and die. According to the laws impressed upon the vegetable and the animal worlds there may be the development of the individual from the parent, but it will be after the parent's kind. Races and species may die, become extinct; but, if so, they go to a grave whence there is no resurrection. Whatever may be the truth underlying the words of the ancient record, it certainly is not development of species, either by natural or any other selection. Science and the teachings of God's book are not opposed, but the peculiar form of the present day's theory is not that of the sacred Scriptures.
This fact is in harmony with
First: The disclosures of science in its history of the earth's crust. The evidence, as yet, is beyond comparison in favour of no resurrection of an extinct species, nor post-Adamic creation of a new species.
Secondly : The history of the world as the record of moral and religious special acts on the part of God. Human his tory is not that of a physical world. Events since creation have ethical and spiritual significance. It is true that God has worked on matter, but it has been by natural law which was given it in the creation. If He has used the physical world other than by these ancient laws, such action, to which we give the term of miracle, has always been with a special view of man's moral nature. The theatre for the great drama of human life was completed in creation. Since that, God's action has been the working out of the successive
Thirdly: The brief references in the other sacred writings to the physical activity of the Creator.
He is not represented as creating, but as destroying, and purifying by firethis, moreover, to take place, in its completest form, at the close of the present dispensation of his moral government. (See Psa. 1. 3 ; Daniel vii. 9—11; Psa. cii. 25, 26; 2 Peter iii. 7, 10; Hebrews iv. 3; Malachi iv. 1 ; &c.)
We do not adduce these passages as positive proof. They are only corroborative of the general principle which we assert, that divine interference in the physical world (when not of the nature of miraculous attestation of authority claimed, or statement made by any of God's servants) apart from or not through natural laws set in operation at the Creation, is in the form of destruction and judgment, not creation. Even if these passages be said to be metaphorical, or highly poetic, at least it may be asserted, that none others either declaring or implying the contrary can be quoted. The idea of creative acts other than those contained in the Mosaic account is foreign to the spirit of the sacred Scriptures.
II. THE DIVINE CONTEMPLATION OF HIS CREATIVE WORK. At the close of his work all things pass before the eye of God. He had looked at them as He called them forth, and more than once had He pronounced them good. But now, “God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good.” Every thing was now complete. Perfect itself, and perfect in its adjustments. Day and night, times and seasons, were in harmony with the changes in vegetable and animal life. All was in subordination. “Heaven and earth were finished, and all the host of them.” The Bible speaks of God as the “God of Hosts”the chief of all the armies of sky and earth, with their leaders, captains, generals,-rank and file, and officers ; the universe a whole, ordered and governed. Besides this, everything was ready for the higher and the more glorious exercise of the Divine activity in Providence and Grace. All was absolutely prepared for the kingdom of probation, by which the last created of the world was to be tried, disciplined, and perfected.
We may learn here
First: Evil has no natural place in the universe. God saw all things “ very good.” Evil cannot then be eternal.
Secondly: Matter is not necessarily hostile to God. The Bible, in this picture of Divine contemplation, cuts away the ground from certain forms of false religion and philosophy. Divine life is not the destruction of matter, nor the rising out of the region of the sensuous; but so restoring the harmony, that God may again look upon the world, and say it is "very good.”
Thirdly: The present condition of things, 80 changed from that which God first looked upon, must be the result of some catastrophe.
III. THE DIVINE REST AFTER HIS CREATIVE WORK. The rest began when the work was done. The contemplation was a part of the Sabbatic blessedness. There are three things plainly taught in this Divine Sabbath.
First : It was a season of rest. It does not imply that there was weariness, but only a cessation from creative VOL. XX,
activity. Secondly: The rest was blessed by God. As He saw his work to be good, so He saw his rest to be good. Thirdly: There was an appointment of a similar blessed rest for his creatures. “ He sanctified the seventh day.”
It is not for us to discuss the relations of God to labour and repose. The fact may be beyond our comprehension. Indeed, it does not seem possible from the record clearly to ascertain what is meant by the “rest of God.” But it has lessons for us, clear and manifest. It is these that we wish most to remark.
First: There is a place and time for rest. A sabbath God is represented as finding blessed, and therefore setting a rest apart. This is that man might learn that he may, and ought to rest—body, mind, and spirit need a repose.
Secondly: The condition on which rest may be claimed is that men work. God rested when He had finished his creation. The hardest workers have the greatest right to their sabbath. It would, perhaps, be well if they were a little more jealous of this human right, given and sanctioned by the Divine example and benediction.
Thirdly: This rest should be a happy rest. Much of the modern idea of a sabbath is not that which God would say was blessed. The sabbath is not a season of gloom, repression, and wretchedness.
Fourthly: The rest under such sanction ought to be religious. We are not careful to urge the command of God; the simple narrative of God's sabbath is enough to make our rest such as will bring us nearer to Him. This seems to us to be stronger against a sabbath of frivolity and mere sensuous pleasure, than all the sanction of the Jewish law.*
Fifthly: The rest for man which God's sabbath implies is unlimited to any particular portion of the race. This is the history of the God of all men—not that of Jehovah of the Jews, nor even the Lord of the Christians. 3. * We now consider only the sabbath. A very different question is that of the Christian Lord's day,