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ber, weight, and duration, and consider them as means appointed by him for the perfecting of his work within us. Then we shall not stand up to avenge ourselves, or give way to an undue depression of mind; but shall commit ourselves to God in silent resignation, and wait for our recompense in the eternal world.]
DXCIV. THE MAGNANIMITY OF THE APOSTLES.
Acts v. 41, 42. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
IN the annals of the world we find many examples of magnanimity, which excite our admiration, and shame the lowness of our attainments. But it may well be doubted whether any single instance which we read of in profane history, will stand the test of close examination. Pride and ostentation were almost invariably the fountain from which the most specious actions of heathens flowed: and in proportion as the principle was bad, the action itself also must have been depraved. But in the passage before us, we behold a greatness of mind which was truly admirable, and in every point of view worthy of our imitation. In discoursing upon the conduct of the apostles as it is here set forth, we shall I. Illustrate their magnanimity
The whole of their spirit and conduct on this occasion was in the highest degree worthy of their high calling
1. They gloried in all their sufferings for Christ's sake [Poor and illiterate men are apt to be disconcerted if called into the presence of their superiors, especially if those superiors have the power and inclination to oppress them under the forms of law. But these poor fishermen, when summoned before the supreme council, pleaded their own cause with undaunted firmness, testifying against their very judges, that they had crucified the Lord, and exhorting them to believe in him as their exalted Prince and Saviour.
After having been unjustly imprisoned, and miraculously delivered from their confinement, they were again summoned before their oppressors, and again, though without either in
vective or complaint, they vindicated their conduct in an unanswerable manner: and, notwithstanding they were beaten, and menaced with severer treatment, and might therefore have felt indignation rise in their bosoms, they lost sight of all the injuries which they themselves had sustained, and gloried in their sufferings as an honour conferred upon them, an honour of which they deemed themselves utterly unworthy.]
2. They persisted unalterably and indefatigably in the path of duty
[Though they gloried at present in their sufferings, it might have been expected that they would be very cautious of exposing themselves to the increased resentment of their persecutors. But they well knew that Jesus Christ was the only Saviour of the world, and that all must eternally perish who did not believe in him They therefore lost no time, but instantly resumed their labours both in public and in private. They declared the death of Christ to have been an atonement for sin; they testified of his resurrection and ascension to carry on his work in heaven; and they proclaimed a full, a free, an everlasting salvation to all that would believe in his name. This was the obnoxious doctrine which they were forbidden to preach: but they proceeded on this one principle, that they were bound to "obey God rather than men:" and they were determined to suffer the last extremities rather than swerve from the path of duty, or relax their exertions for the instruction and salvation of immortal souls.
But it was not their perseverance that we admire, so much as the spirit and temper with which they conducted themselves throughout the whole of their trials: they shewed a firmness that was invincible; but without petulance, without anger, without ostentation, without complaint. They acted, not from self-will, but from zeal for their Lord, and love to their fellow-creatures: and their glorying was, not from a proud conceit of being martyrs to their cause, but from a persuasion that to suffer any thing for Christ was the greatest honour that could possibly be conferred on mortal men; since it gave them an opportunity of manifesting their love to Christ, and rendered them comformable to his blessed image.]
Such being the example which they have set us, we would
II. Recommend it to your imitation
We are required to "be followers of them who through faith and patience now inherit the promises.” Therefore, that we may indeed be such
1. Let us get that love to Christ, which was the governing principle in their hearts
[Without a supreme love to Christ, it is in vain to hope that we shall attain to any eminence in the divine life, or indeed to any real experience of it. We shall never be willing to endure much for him, much less be able to glory in sufferings and shame for his sake, if our hearts do not burn with love towards him from a sense of what he has done and suffered for us. This therefore is the first thing we are concerned to seek after: let us get the knowledge of Christ as our crucified, risen, and exalted Redeemer, and, under the constraining influence of his love, devote ourselves entirely to his service.
2. Let us be stedfast in our obedience to the will of Christ
[We shall find many things both from within and from without that will endanger our fidelity to Christ. But nothing must be suffered to divert us from the path of duty. We owe allegiance indeed to our governors in all things lawful; but if their commands be opposite to those of God, there can be no doubt whom we are to regard in preference, and to whose authority we must yield obedience. We must therefore arm ourselves equally against the allurements of inward temptation, and the terrors of outward persecution; and have it as an established principle in our hearts, that nothing is, on any account, to interfere with our duty to God.]
3. Let us account it an honour to suffer for our Lord
[Sooner or later we must have a cross to bear, if we will be followers of Christ. We may be screened for a time; but "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution." Nor should any be ashamed of the cross; but rather, as Moses and all the saints of old, accounted the reproach of Christ to be their honour, and loss for Christ their gain, so should we rejoice and leap for joy, if we be counted worthy to endure any thing for our blessed Lord. To suffer for him is represented as a special favour conferred on us by God for Christ's sake; a favour equal, if not superior, to the gift of salvation itself. In this light then let us view the cross; and we shall take it up with cheerfulness, and bear it with unshaken constancy.]
4. Let us take heed to our spirit when we are under persecution
Heb. xi. 26. and x. 34.
Matt. v. 1912. 1 Pet. iv. 12-16.
• Phil. i. 29.
[It is no easy matter to unite firmness and constancy with meekness and love. We are in danger on the one hand of yielding to intimidation, or on the other hand, of indulging an angry, complaining, ostentatious, or vindictive spirit. It may be well therefore frequently to set before us the examples of our blessed Lord and his apostles, that we may follow their steps, who returned nothing but blessing for curses, and fervent prayers for despiteful persecutions. The whole of our duty is contained in one short but comprehensive sentence (may God inscribe it on all our hearts!) "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."]
d 1 Pet. ii. 20-23. 1 Cor. iv. 12, 13.
• Rom. xii. 21.
DXCV. OUR DUTY TOWARDS THE LORD JESUS
Luke xix. 40. I tell you, that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
THE exercise of the affections is not only proved, but applauded, when earthly things are the objects of our pursuit: but, when the soul is attracted by heavenly objects, the velier emotions of the mind are deemed enthusiasm; and even gratitude itself must restrain its voice, lest it incur the censure of the world. But, whatever construction may be put upon our conduct, or whatever difficulties we may be called to endure in the discharge of our duty, we should study to approve ourselves to God, and to render unto him the honour due unto his name. At the time of our Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem "the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice, and to praise God for all the mighty works that they had seen."a But, acceptable as this tribute of praise was to God, it excited only envy and indignation in the breasts of the malignant Pharisees. They considered this display of their gratitude as a just ground for displeasure; and therefore desired our Lord to silence them; "Master," said they, "rebuke thy
a Ver. 37.
disciples." Our blessed Lord, however, instead of rebuking, vindicated his disciples; and declared, that if, from any motive whatever, they should be induced to withhold their grateful acknowledgments, they would do so to their eternal shame: "I tell you," &c. In discoursing on these words, we shall
I. Shew what obligations we lie under to magnify and adore the Lord
The disciples at that time had abundant reason to praise his name
[They had seen the miracles he had wrought, and especially that of raising Lazarus from the grave after he had been dead four days: perhaps many of them had themselves experienced his power to heal. From what they had seen and heard, they were assured that he was the Messiah se long promised to the world: and they regarded his advent as the most wonderful expression of God's favour toward their whole nation. Could they then keep silence? Were they to be blamed for testifying their love to this august personage, now that they saw him in the very act of fulfilling one of the most remarkable of all the prophecies? When they were thus highly privileged to witness, what "many prophets and kings had in vain wished to see and hear," would they not have been guilty of the basest ingratitude, if they had held their peace? If Abraham leaped for joy at a distant prospect of that period, should not they much rather?]
But our obligations to praise him are far greater than theirs
[We have a far clearer knowledge of the dignity of his person. They viewed him indeed as "a great Prophet;" and on some occasions they seemed to have thought him more than human: but, on the whole, they considered him as a mere man, though indeed the greatest of men. But we know him to be "God manifest in the flesh," even. "God over all, blessed for ever." And shall we behold in him such adorable. majesty and condescension, and yet withhold from him our tribute of praise?
We also are far better acquainted with the ends of his mission. The disciples supposed that he was sent to instruct them more fully in the knowledge of God's will, to deliver them from the Roman yoke, and to make them a prosperous and happy people. But we know that he came to deliver us
b John xii. 17, 18.
d Compare Zech. ix. 9 with John xii. 13--15.
1 Tim. iii. 16. Rom. ix. 5. Hcb. i. 3. Col. ii. 9.
© Ver. 38.
• John viii 56.