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things not seen as yet.” They live in the flesh, to the flesh, and for the flesh; are immersed in materialism, and are as utterly indifferent to the unseen things that are marching towards them as the contemporaries of Noah were to the deluge. Death, retribution, God, eternity, these are words to which they close their ears; these are realities that exert no influence on their lives. How foolish their conduct, how perilous their position! They are like men sporting on the flowery brow of a volcanic hill that will soon rive asunder and engulph them in its fires. (2.) There are those who are sentimentally interested in the things “not seen as yet.” With thousands it is to be feared who call themselves Christians, those invisible realities are but subjects that merely ripple the surface of their nature-subjects for passing thought and occasional speech. They do not stir the depths of their soul, they take no hold upon the life, they exert no dominant force. (3.) There are those who are practically influenced in the “things not seen as yet.” They feel themselves under the power of the world to come. They look away from the things that are “seen and temporal” upon those things that are “unseen and eternal.” Though in the world, they are not of the world. Like Noah, they have received ideas from heaven, and they consecrate their existence to the working of them out. Brother, to which of these classes dost thou belong? Art thou careless? Then with the awful responsibility of man resting on thee thou art living the life of a brute. Or belongest thou to the second? A sentimental interest in those things availeth thee nothing; it only enhances thy responsibility and darkens thy future. Or to the third ? If thou art relying on the Word of God and working out his will, thou art prepared for all the "things not seen as yet.” Thou hast not, like Noah, to prepare an ark. An Ark has been prepared for thee, thy family, and the world. Enter it, and it shall shelter thee from storms “not seen as yet,” bear thee triumphantly over the fiery floods of universal retribution, and land thee on the sunny hills of everlasting rest.
1 Homiletic Glance at the Acts of the
Able expositions of the Acts of THE APOSTLES, describing the manners, enstons, and localities described by the inspired writers; also interpreting their words, and harmonizing their formal discrepancies, are, happily, not wanting amongst us. Bat the eduction of their widest truths and highest suggestions is still a felt desideratun. 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 a lengthened archæological, geographical, or philological remarks, would be to mias our aim; which is not to make bare the mechanical process of the study of Seripture, but to reveal its spiritual results.
SUBJECT : Paul at Malta-Good in Heathendom. “And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous peoplo shewed us no little kind. ness : for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a riper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, So doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly; but, after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who receira us, and lodged us three days courteously.”—Acts xxviii. 1–7. TE have followed Paul in his journey to Rome through
the terrific voyage “up and down Adria" until the vessel' was dashed to pieces on the shores of Melita. He, with the two hundred, threescore and fifteen souls, who had shared with him the terrors and sufferings of that voyage, have "escaped all safe to land.” We are told that when “they were escaped, they knew that the island was called Melita." That this island is our modern Malta, is a point on which most of our acknowledged expositors are agreed. The
HOMILETIC GLANCE AT THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
place known as “the bay of St. Paul” on the north-east coast of Malta, which tradition assigns as the scene of shipwreck, presents all the features mentioned in this narrative. It is described as a “rocky shore, with creeks or inlets, a place of two seas both in the sense of a narrow channel, and of a projecting point. It is a tenacious anchorage—beds of mud contiguous to banks of sand and clay. It has soundings exactly answering to those recorded, and in the same relative position, and in precisely such a coast as to shape, height, breakers, and currents, as would account for a shipwreck taking place just here.” The people who inhabited this island at that time are here called “ barbarous” people, so named in order to distinguish them from Greeks and Romans, who regarded all nations as barbarians who did not speak their language. “Its population was of Phænicean origin, speaking a language which, as regards social intercourse, had the same relation to Latin and Greek which modern Maltese has to English and Latin.” The character of the islanders is very strikingly revealed in the verses before us, and that character shows us the good that there is in the human heart where there is neither civilization nor Christianity. It is common to regard all men outside of Christendom as utterly destitute of every element of goodness. Their kingdom of darkness is unrelieved by a single ray of goodness. They are the incarnations and instruments of evil, and evil only. This is untrue to fact, and a libel on human nature. Observe in these barbarians several good things.
I. A SYMPATHY WITH HUMAN SUFFERING. “ And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness, for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.” And then in the seventh verse we are told, “ that the chief man in the island, whose name was Publius, received and lodged us three days courteously.” The appearance of these shipwrecked men, destitute of food and raiment, shivering in the cold and the rain, stirred their hearts with commiseration, and they showed theni no little kindness. They kindled a fire to warm their shivering frames, and no doubt prepared food to allay their hunger, and to recruit their exhausted natures. This social love dwells in men of every colour, and every clime. It pulsates in all hearts. How can this be maintained, it may be said, in the presence of the fact that cannibalism and human sacrifices, and bloody wars, and nameless cruelties, prevail amongst many barbaric and heathen tribes My reply is (1), that these cruelties are perversions of this very social sympathy. (2.) That the very existence of tribes implies it; men could not exist at all in unity without this social and kindly affection. (3.) That cruelties in the forms of oppression, murders, and wars, exist even in Christendom, where this goodness is patent to all. That this kindly sympathy does, as a rule, exist in all hearts, however deeply sunk in ignorance and depravity, is proved
First : By modern travellers. Livingstone found it in those dark regions of South Africa which had never been visited by a European until he appeared. Everywhere he found hearts that could be touched with sympathy by the sight of suffering. It is proved also
Secondly: By the Bible. The Bible is a revelation of love, and unless men have the element of love in them, they would be as incapable of understanding its meaning or feeling its power as the ravenous beast that prowls in the forest. What meaning, for example, would there be to a man who had no love in him in the tale of the Prodigal Son, in the story of Jesus and the family at Bethany, and in the other sketches of love that make up the Gospel history! Of what service, moreover, would it be to give a history of Christ's sufferings, to depict Him in agony on the Cross, if humanity had no heart to be touched with sympathy at the sight of suffering? In fact, if the Bible is a book to be understood and felt by man the world over, man everywhere must have in him the element of love. You may as well bring the magnet to clay as take the Gospel to men who have no love in them. Observe in these barbarians
II. A SENSE OF RETRIBUTIVE PROVIDENCE. "And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.” Here is a fine subject for a picture. Artistic genius may get for itself immortal fame by transferring this scene with rigorous faithfulness to
The great apostle gathering sticks and kindling a fire, a viper which lay at first torpid in the cold faggots springing into venomous activity and striking at the hand of Paul as the fire began to kindle. The barbaric Maltese looking on with horror and disappointment, feeling for the moment that the man towards whom they had shown “no little kindwas a murderer whom 6
vengeance suffereth not to live.” That viper seemed to them for the moment, Nemesis, the goddess of vindictive justice, avenging the cause of the innocent and inflicting punishment upon the guilty. This sense of the connection between crime and punishment is so universal that it must be regarded as instinctive. It is a feeling that underlies all religions and runs through all societies, barbaric as well as civilized. This sense led these people to associate murder with crime, and crime with suffering; so far they were correct, they were true in their theology. It is true that they made mistakes concerning retribution, but their mistakes have ever been too prevalent, even in circles professedly Christian. Their mistakes were-
First: That punishment for crime cume in a material form. The sting of the viper they thought the punishment. It was a mere natural occurrence, this spring of the venomous reptile to Paul's hand. They thought it punishment. Men have ever thought punishment comes thus. The fall of the tower of Siloam was a natural occurrence, but some of the people of that day thought that it was a judgment upon those whom it destroyed. A crowded theatre is on fire, ts tenants are destroyed in the conflagration ; men say it is