Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. A PICTURE OF THE HUMAN.
1. Human suffering.
(1) Trouble. Doubtless the first sentiment on escaping death by shipwreck is intense gladness and gratitude, But the next is the consciousness of loss. The man who lands on the island after battling with the waves first congratulates himself and (if he be a devout man) thanks God that his life is preserved; then he realizes what he has left behind him; and he soon becomes conscious of the exposure to which he is subjected - he allows himself to be troubled "because of the present rain, and because of the cold" (ver. 2). It is not shipwreck only, but many other kinds of wreck which plunge men "into the cold," into adversity, into bereavement of the good which they had enjoyed.
(2) Sickness (ver. 8).
2. Unspoiled human nature. Such is the dire effect of long-continued, sin upon the soul, that it often happens that nearly every vestige of the goodness with which our Creator first endowed us disappears. As God made us, it was natural that we should compassionate our fellows in misery, and that we should be grateful to them for their help. Only too often, however, man is found pitiless and thankless. The shipwrecked mariner is murdered as he strikes the shore; the benefactor reaps no blessing, no honor for his kindness. Not so, however, here. Here was
(1) pity, "the barbarous people showed no little kindness" (ver. 2). Here, also, was
(2) gratitude (ver. 10).
3. An ineradicable human conviction. Underlying the conclusion to which these natives of Malta came (ver. 4), was the conviction, common to our kind, that sin merits punishment and will be overtaken by it. This is a fundamental and ultimate principle; we need not try to account for it or to "get behind it." It is sufficient in itself; it is a conviction that comes from the Author of our spiritual nature, which will not be dislodged, which itself accounts for much that we think, say, and do - that sin deserves penalty, and sooner or later must bear it.
4. A human error, common to the unenlightened. A narrow mind and one unillumined by the teaching of God makes a great mistake in applying the truth just stated; it infers that any particular misfortune is referable to some special sin (ver. 4; see John 9:3; John 7:24). It also falls into error of a similar kind, though conducting to an opposite conclusion - it infers that a man who has an extraordinary escape is a special favorite of Heaven (ver. 6). Taught of God, we know that, while sin brings penalty, inward and circumstantial, and while righteousness brings Divine regard and honor, God often permits or sends suffering and sorrow in fatherly love for the promotion of the highest well-being (Hebrews 12:5-11). We have also here -
II. THE MANIFEST PRESENCE OF THE DIVINE. Christ was present:
1. In the person of his apostle. That teacher of truth who had been so influential a passenger on board ship (Acts 27.), and who makes himself so useful now (vers. 3, 8, 9), is there in his Master's Name, and on his Master's work.
2. In the exercise of benignant power:
(1) protection from harm (ver. 5, and Mark 16:18);
(2) exercise of healing power (vers. 8, 9, and Mark 16:18). We may learn three special lessons.
(a) That true dignity is never above usefulness, even of the humblest kind; a Paul may gather sticks in time of emergency without losing honor.
(b) That Christian generosity must not be behind native kindness.
(c) That bodily benefit is an admirable introduction to spiritual help. Who can doubt that Paul used the gratitude and honor which he reaped (ver. 10) to find a way for the truth of Christ to the minds and hearts of the Maltese? - C.
I. THE HOSPITALITY OF THE HEATHEN. The instinct of kindness is God-implanted in the human heart. Hospitality was not so much a virtue in heathendom as the refusal of it a crime. So much the more must any "shutting up of the bowels of compassion" against the needy brother or the stranger be an offence against the Son of man. The great charge which he, in his depiction of the scene of judgment, brings against the unfaithful is the neglect of the common offices of love.
II. THE CHRISTEN FINDS EVERYWHERE A HOME. For if he carries the love of God in his heart, no coast can be foreign land, no color or custom of men repel. It was a heathen who said, "I am a man, and nothing human is foreign to me." The Christian may translate the saying, "I am a follower of the Son of man, and nothing that is dear to him is strange to me,"
III. YET HE MEETS PERIL, MISCONSTRUCTION, AND ENMITY. HOW quickly do the open brows of hospitable kindness change into scowls and frowns as the viper fastens on Paul's hand! They reason he must be a murderer. Occurrences are full of effects without visible causes. The untrained mind makes out of coincidences chains of cause and effect which do not exist. The afflicted man is supposed to be a wicked man. In propagating Christianity we need to take the sword of the Spirit, which owes its bright temper to Divine intelligence. We must meet unreason with reason, and cast out superstitious darkness by the clear light of all accessible knowledge.
IV. THE CHRISTIAN IS DELIVERED THAT HE MAY DELIVER OTHERS. AS Paul casts off the serpent harmless, he is seen to be under the Divine protection. Here is a man who leads apparently a charmed life. The waves could not swallow him, nor the serpent sting him (cf. Psalm 91:11; Mark 16:18). The heathen mind revolts from one extreme of superstition to another. Now Paul must be a god! "The common mass know no measure; they raise a man to heaven or thrust him into hell" (Acts 14:12, 18). The Christian may rapidly pass from the extreme of depreciation or shame to that of honor, feeling equally that he deserves neither. Yet both in the one and the other the business of the Christian is not to defend himself from misunderstandings, but "through good report and evil report," as Paul said, to go on with his work and witness, leaving Providence to show the kind of work the hour and the place demand. Here Paul is entirely devoted to the healing activity of the body. There are times of silence; and the spectacle of the servant of Christ busy in doing good during his stay in the island may have wrought more on the memory of the people than many sermons would have done. - J.
I. THE INSUFFICIENCY OF NATURAL INSTINCTS.
1. Justice easily perverted, because misapplied.
2. The wonders of the material world both misunderstood and misemployed.
3. Reactions, both intellectual and moral, the curse of the world. Irrational depreciation and irrational homage side by side. The world's hero-worship a sad comment on its fickleness and blindness. Ant Dens ant diabolus. We want some true guiding principles which religion alone furnishes.
II. THE STRENGTH WHICH RESTS ON GOD.
1. Calm in danger, because confident of Divine approval and mission. The records of missionary heroism supply many such facts. As much as possible we should cherish the same spirit in common life. True presence of mind the growth of moral strength.
2. He that is full of the Spirit of God will shake off vipers into the fire. The viper of detraction and calumny. The viper of personal animosity. The viper of worldly solicitation. The viper of devouring anxieties and cares. If we are doing God's work, he will preserve us. And the world which at first has misunderstood and injured us will sweep round in its thoughts, and do us honor as God's servants. - R.
I. ITS KINDNESS.
1. The heart loves kindness - to receive it.
2. The heart loves kindness - to do it. Both of these are deep facts of the heart, and speak not obscurely him who made it.
3. The kindness that is in the heart is touched towards bodily want, cold, hunger, thirst, shelterless exposure; and this tells the tale of all the rest (Matthew 25:35-45).
4. The kindness of the heart contravenes in human life the bare action of the principle of natural selection; it tempers it with irresistibly modifying and irresistibly elevating moral influences; it determines and regulates in a way all its own "the survival of the fittest," and it is the thing on earth likest what is habitual in heaven!
5. The kindness of the human heart is found everywhere, and in every age of the world.
II. ITS SUPERSTITION.
1. The superstition that is so often betrayed by the human heart is an unerring sign of the sense of God and the instinct of the infinite present in it.
2. It means that sense unguided, that instinct baffled.
3. It evidences deep conviction of moral distinctions inside man, and of presiding moral judgments outside men, and authoritative over them, all unfed as these may be from truth's own springs, and unpointed to their infinitely worthy objects.
4. It is a constant rehearsal of judgment to come.
III. ITS SWIFTNESS TO TURN. Hence come
(1) the worse uses of such versatility and such swiftness, fickleness, and caprice, and waywardness, and love of mere variety; but
(2) the better uses, readiness to forgive, swiftness to run and even meet the returning prodigal;
(3) the thoroughness of contrition and conversion, that need but a moment - like those of Paul himself; and
(4) the power to recover, after sorest stricken griefs, and most fearful storms of sorrow or of passion.
IV. ITS ADDICTEDNESS TO EXTREMES. The people of Melita began with simplest, most unaffected kindness. They saw no instructing providence, but when the occasion came superstition filled their heart, and Paul is "no doubt a murderer, whom vengeance suffereth not to live, though he hath escaped the sea." This is their short and summary theology. But it is not altogether so stiff and unopen to conviction. They are changed to the opposite pole when they find, "after a great while," i.e. what seemed a great while for eyes fixed in one direction, but which was indeed a very little while, that vengeance does not make an end to the life of Paul. And from a pursued murderer, they exalt him to the skies of the gods! Happy if the history of every erring heart had as much of the kindness as was here, and no more of the error and the mischief and the disaster than were here. Kindness began the scene, and, when fear clouded it over awhile, the last "change of mind" was not from better to worse, but from worse to better. Yet still how mournfully plain it is that nature's light alone, leaves the barbarian! For so he must be called justly who exalts the child of God into a god himself. - B.
I. HUMANITY AS A NATURAL SENTIMENT. It is the common bond uniting together mankind in helpfulness, sympathy, and charity. A sentiment which we can see is based:
1. On the fact that God hath "made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the earth." This truth of fact is now scientifically accepted, and called the "solidarity of the human race;" but it is the earliest divinely revealed truth, declared in the parentage of the race.
2. On the ties of brotherhood which follow the division of the race into separate families. The bond which binds together the members of families, binds together also tribes and nations, which are but God's great family.
3. On the common image of God which men share, and which applies chiefly to moral disposition. The most characteristic feature of God is his care for others, and, apart from the mischief done by sin, this image of God man still bears. Charity is God's image on man; selfishness is the devil's image on man.
II. HUMANITY AS A NATIONAL CHARACTERISTIC. More strikingly marked in some nations than in others.
1. Usually found in those whose country is exposed to calamity, by reason of a wide seaboard, or an unhealthy condition, or exposure to enemies. Men are bound together when a common fate hangs over them all.
2. Also found in nations marked by the milder virtues, rather than those energetic, active ones which so often lead to war. Peace-loving nations build hospitals, asylums, etc., and care for the suffering members. War tends to make men indifferent to suffering. England in later times has striven to carry humanity into her war, limiting in every way possible the distress it entails. Humanity strives for the day when war shall be a sound that men may hear no more forever.
III. HUMANITY AS A RELIGIOUS ESSENTIAL. Christian people must be humane. They cannot be Christian and wholly fail of brotherly duties. Those who are bound to God in the dear bonds of redeemed sonship cannot fail to come nearer in sympathy to their brothers of the common humanity. Illustrate fully the Christian teaching on the culture of the spirit of humanity; the New Testament is full of counsels similar to this: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." - R.T.
I. RIGHT IS THEIR OPINION THAT WRONGDOING NEVER ESCAPES PUNISHMENT. Their idea was that Paul was a criminal, guilty of some great crime, and justice was pursuing him; if he had escaped the doom of shipwreck, he could not get away from the avenger, who now struck at him in the viper's bite. Explain the early notion of the blood avenger, and the classical ideas associated with the Furies. It is important that men should have a deep and unquestioning conviction that the guilty never escape; but it does not seem to be absolutely and constantly true so far as this life is concerned. Show the moral and social importance of the assurance that punishment must follow sin, and impress that God's revelation wholly confirms the testimony of natural religion.
II. THEY WERE WRONG IN THIS, THAT VENGEANCE IS A MERE THING. They thought of it as a force ever working, blindly indeed, but certainly. If baffled in one way, it set about gaining its end in another. When heathen ignorance is changed to Christian knowledge, we find:
1. That the thing which we had called vengeance is but one of the modes of the Divine working.
2. That mere calamities - the things that we call accidents - are not necessarily Divine vengeance (see our Lord's teaching, Luke 13:1-5).
3. That God's wrath on sin need not find its entire expression in this life, seeing that he has all the ages to work in. This our Lord figuratively expressed when he said, "Fear him who can cast body and soul into hell."
4. That God's avengings, being those of a holy Father, can never rest satisfied in the suffering of the sinful creature, but must go on to secure the creature's redemption from the sin which issues in the suffering. Blind vengeance can rest in the destruction of the criminal. Fatherly love can never rest save in the recovery of the prodigal child. And God alone can be trusted with the avenging work. "Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord." - R.T.
Luke 10:19), "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." And when about to pass away from them in a surprising and glorious manner, our Lord commanded them to "go and preach his gospel to every creature," assuring them that these signs should follow them in their labors, "They shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." These may, indeed, be regarded as figurative Eastern promises that were only intended to assure the disciples of a general Divine protection while they were engaged in Christian service; but it cannot be uninteresting to notice that these promises were precisely fulfilled in the experience of the apostles. St. Paul, as narrated in our text, "shook off the beast," the deadly viper, "and felt no harm." From the incident it is suggested to us to consider -
I. THAT CHRISTIAN LIFE IS COVERED AND HALLOWED BY DIVINE PROMISES. We learn to speak of the "exceeding great and precious promises." They are stored for us in all parts of God's Word. It may be shown that they are
(2) sufficient, since no conceivable Christian circumstance or need is unreached;
(3) varied, so as to suit all occasions;
(4) adapted, so as to gain gracious influence on all dispositions. Nothing is more pleasantly surprising in a Christian life than the freshness with which the promises appear in every new season of anxiety and trouble. They come to us as if they were words just spoken by the all-comforting Father. They are the "everlasting arms," which hold us safe. They are the wings that bear us up and on and home to God. They are all true and faithful, "Yea add amen in Christ Jesus."
II. THAT THESE PROMISES ARE BOTH GENERAL AND SPECIAL. They assure, in large and comprehensive terms, that grace shall be given according to need; but, at least in the case of the apostles, we find them precise and definite. Illustrate from the case of taking up deadly serpents. Christians may err in two ways - either by generalizing the promises too much, or by particularizing them too much, and over-forcing their adaptation to the individual. Still, if we had a fuller faith, we might recognize a more definite character in God's promises. Illustrate by such a promise or assurance as this, "The prayer of faith shall save the sick."
III. THE EXACT FULFILLMENT OF THE PRECISE PROMISES ASSURE THE CERTAIN FULFILLMENT OF ALL. This is the lesson which we have to learn from the fulfillment of Christ's definite promise in the case of his servant Paul. It may be taken as a test case, by the help of which we may know whether we may trust all the promises, even those which do not seem easy to grasp, and those which seem to promise too much for mortals and for sinners such as we are. He who is true to his word in the little thing which we can fully test will be true to the great words which assure to us both grace and glory. And, as we see the viper falling harmlessly off the apostle's arm, we say, "Verily, he is faithful that promised." - R.T.
I. LESSONS ON THE WORK OF THE CHRISTIAN MESSENGER.
1. Personal character a great power in the ministration of truth. "They said he was a god." We must make a way for ourselves to men's hearts.
2. Benevolent works an introduction for the gospel. "The rest came."
3. The chief men should be won - not merely the lower classes. The unconverted rulers and rich have sorrows in their homes. We may reach them through their family affections.
II. THE SPIRITUAL HEALING OF THE WORLD IS THE HOPE OF ITS FUTURE.
1. A retrospect of the beneficent influence of Christianity on the life of man.
2. A contrast between the method of the gospel and the pretentious but powerless schemes of socialists and political and scientific enthusiasts.
3. The works of Christ affect the mass through the individual. Multitudinism is delusion. But the mass of the Christian Church must be aggressive on the mass of the world. - R.
I. THE WATCHFULNESS OF THE MASTER OVER HIS SERVANTS TO BE WELL TRUSTED. God had guided Paul and his companions, after a fierce voyage at all events, to a safe haven at last. But here also they found,
(1) in common with all the company, for very humanity's sake, kindness, and "no common kindness" either; and
(2) they found also for themselves honored and distinguished entertainment. How often since has this been seen true! What kindness, what entertainment, has been heartily given to men as the servants of Christ, which nothing else personal to themselves would have either earned for them or entitled them to!
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO KINDNESS OF HEART AND OF ACT THAT CHRISTIANITY PROMOTES. Publius showed kindness, doubtless not imagining any reward for himself. But most surely he received abundant recompense of reward. The prospect of any such return undoubtedly is not to be waited for or reckoned upon, but the bountiful hand of Jesus, whose generosity will never be outdone, ought to be noted. Generous, indeed, are the acknowledgments of Christianity. It repays kindness of heart and kindness of act with an inner satisfaction and with a practical beneficence "heaped up and flowing over," yea, a thousandfold.
III. HOW SURELY, ESSENTIALLY, IT LIES IN CHRISTIAN WORK TO SPREAD. It might be uttered as a taunt against Christian action, or at all events against this illustration of it, that the benefits were those of miraculous help to the body. But the taunt would be most unjust, for if there be one thing plainly written on the historic pages of Christianity now these eighteen centuries, it is this, that wherever its works are found - not simply its profession - life and inquiry and devotion are found. Whenever souls are being saved, and wherever, there and then are found a life and spirit of inquiry and - the multitude athirst.
IV. HOW DEEPLY IT SEEMS TO LIE IN THE GENIUS OF CHRISTIANITY TO EVOKE GRATITUDE OF THE LARGEST AND STRONGEST AND MOST PRACTICAL. It is quite true that there is "all the world's" difference between the blessings that Christianity gives and the returns that it receives from those most deeply, truly, touched by it. Yet none the less is it true that, when these bring of their best, though that best may be far as earth below heaven, it is to be accepted as a true testimony of their gratitude, "well pleasing to God." For what Paul had done the islanders returned "many honors," and actually "laded him with such things as were necessary."
V. HOW GREAT A PRACTICAL ADVANTAGE IT IS TO ANY GROUP OR COMMUNITY OF PERSONS TO HAVE AMONG THEIR NUMBER ONE OR TWO OF THE REAL CHRISTIAN STAMP. Probably the special reference of ver. 10 is to Paul and his immediate collaborators, who had lodged with him at the house of Publius, and had come to be known as particularly belonging to him, as he taught or worked miracles among the people. Yet, at any rate, we are certainly not told of a single thing these said or did, till we are told how they came in for a share of all the bountiful, generous things given by the islanders, "Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, laded us with such things as were necessary." There were none ever in the company of Jesus but had the opportunity of taking infinite advantage from it. And there are none in the company of the thorough, honest uncompromising servant of Christ, but get some share of the advantage. - B.
protos (first) - a local designation, the accuracy of which is supported by inscriptions - offered to the centurion a genial hospitality, in which Paul and his friends were allowed to share. It happened that at that time the father of Publius was lying prostrated by feverish attacks complicated with dysentery. St. Luke was a physician, but his skill was less effectual than the agency of St. Paul, who went into the sick man's chamber, prayed by his bedside, laid his hands on him, and healed him. The rumor of the cure spread through the little island, and caused all the sick inhabitants to come for help and tendance. We may be sure that St. Paul, though we do not hear of his founding any Church, yet lost no opportunity of making known the gospel (Farrar). In this instance the order of St. Paul's words have to be changed. He had received their "carnal things," and he gladly returned to them his "spiritual things." We observe -
I. CHRISTIANS CAN RECEIVE FROM THE WORLD BODILY AND CIRCUMSTANTIAL BLESSINGS. These are all that the world has at its command; but these Christians need. They may be illustrated under the headings:
4. Practical aids.
So the barbarous people could light a fire and show kindness to St. Paul, and Publius could offer to him and his friends generous hospitalities. Especially dwell on the virtue of hospitality, noticing that it was a characteristic excellence of ancient times; it is a virtue carefully cultivated in the East, and more particularly among tribes, in the present day; and that, while it is retained, it is set under very narrow limitations in modern civilized nations, where class prejudices are strong.
II. CHRISTIANS CAN GIVE TO THE WORLD BOTH BODILY AND SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS, They have the common powers of brotherhood and helpfulness which belong to men as set in human relations; but they can also do for their fellows what no other class of men can do. They have a new life; that life finds its own peculiar and characteristic expression. It exerts both
(1) an unconscious and
(2) a conscious influence for good.
Illustrate that Christians can save a city, as ten righteous men would have saved Sodom. They may preserve from temporal calamity by their calmness in the hour of danger, through their faith in God; as may be seen in times of shipwreck. They may have actual power to heal, as the apostles had. They can certainly witness for the living God; commend the service of the Lord Jesus Christ; carry healing balm to sin-sick souls; comfort the weary and heavy-laden; and minister truth and sympathy and love where these are needed. They can be "preserving salt; uplifted light-bearers; and upon them may hang, in full clusters, the rich ripe fruits which the world so greatly needs for its refreshing and its spiritual health. Impress that what the Christian man can be he ought to be and should strive to he. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." - R.T.
I. BLESSINGS BY THE WAY. Christian fellowship is enjoyed. Unity and relationship in Jesus Christ make the unknown as known. The heart dissolves distance and strangeness. God has everywhere hidden children. The discovery of them is the discovery of a dear bond of brotherhood, and this fills the heart with joy (comp. Romans 1:12). The coming forth of the brethren from Rome to meet the party showed that his letter to them had not been without result. So he thanked God and took heart. This slight word seems to allude to a certain failing of heart and dejection, such as the greatest souls are liable to in critical moments. His life was passed in cloud and sunshine, and the record of both has been faithfully left behind. In both there is deep encouragement for us.
II. THE ARRIVAL AT ROME. It was an epoch:
1. For him. His life-goal is at last reached. He comes, a homeless stranger, yet escorted by loving friends; as an evildoer in bonds, yet with the grace of God in his heart; as a victim doomed to sacrifice, yet as a victorious conqueror, to plant the banner of the cross in the citadel of heathendom.
2. For heathendom it was a critical moment. It is the signal for the wane of its glory and pride. For the next three centuries it was to lead a struggling existence, until all that was good in it should be absorbed into the kingdom of God, and the rest be cast away with the refuse of time.
3. For Judaism. Paul turns for the last time to his people. Exclusiveness is decaying; the priest and the doctor and their followers, who refuse to come to terms with Christ, must fold their garments about them and pass into solitude amidst the life of civilization. Rome is to replace Jerusalem.
4. For Christianity. Sanguinary struggles await her in Rome, but in the end a glorious victory. - J.
I. THEIR PARTICULAR SIGNIFICANCE ON THIS OCCASION.
1. They included the heightening pleasure of a very agreeable surprise.
2. They speak the affection of a hearty invitation. Invitations are often as superficial and insincere and abased to ill purpose as many other good things. But the genius of them is good. They mean care and regard, respect and love, willinghood and an anticipation of what may be in brethren's hearts.
3. They are tinted with a certain sacred hue. Did not a "seven days'" pressing invitation mean to make sure of one "day of the Lord" together? Those who gave that invitation longed for the opportunity it would bring for themselves and others. They wanted what the memory of it would give them to lay up as though "precious store." Those who received that invitation would read respect to themselves in it, and what was better, the sign of religious life and love.
4. They were a most welcome contrast to the scenes and the dangers, the strife and the talk and the company of all the time since Paul and his companions set sail from Caesarea (Acts 27:1).
II. THEIR STANDING AND LASTING SIGNIFICANCE. They tell of the loving, longing, purposing communion of brethren. They stamp the genuineness and even superior sort of Christian brotherhood. The communion of Christian brethren is:
1. Distinctly honoring to the Master, even him who himself once said, "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren" (Matthew 23:8).
2. It is distinctly adapted to be useful at the time to those brethren themselves, for reminding them of the relation of all of them to One; and of their mutual relations; for comparing experiences, for imparting instruction, for joining in the quickening exercises of united worship, so stirring to deepest feelings of the heart, and so stimulating to faith and love.
3. It is, further, in one particular direction specially inspiring. While by nature it takes out the painfulness of many a strong present impression, it also supersedes these by the materials and the very scenery, which are sure to abide, full of the resources of comfort and encouragement for "the future distress." How much we live on memory! What a force holy memories have proved themselves! Those that have come out of the silence and the solitude of the closet have had their peculiar mission. Certainly not less powerful for good have those holy memories been which have seemed to come borne by "a cloud of witnesses," the former companions of our thoughts, our prayers, and our praises.
4. It is entitled to expect special influences from above, and the special presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4; Acts 2:1). Those who meeting together seek by all means within their reach and by prayer, light, and knowledge, love and grace, will be those most abundantly rewarded. Light will be reflected from face to face, and love will glow from heart to heart. It is not vainly added, "So we went toward Rome." The weeks, the days, the hours, were numbered of Christian converse for Paul - of Christian help and enjoyment, whether given or received. And the surprise the Master had graciously prepared is gratefully received. It assists Paul, body, mind, and soul, in his journey "toward Rome." - B.
I. THAT HUMAN KINDNESS IS A DIVINELY IMPLANTED DISPOSITION. As God created us "in his own image," we were made to feel and show kindness one to another; to rejoice in one another's success; to promote one another's prosperity; to sympathize with one another in sorrow; to be willing to deny ourselves, to run risks, to make sacrifices, to help others in their time of need.
II. THAT UNDER THE CURSE OF SIN IT MAY RE ERADICATED FROM THE SOUL; e.g. pirates, wreckers, thugs, etc.
III. THAT IT SHOULD BE DEVELOPED BY CONSTANT CULTURE. Kindness, like all other graces, needs regular cultivation, or it will decline or even perish. It needs:
1. The nurture which comes from the utterance of truth; the reception of right thoughts into the mind.
2. The strengthening which proceeds from daily illustration; that which is derived from the practice of slight and simple acts of considerateness and good will.
3. The confirmation of larger acts of self-sacrificing love; such acts as cause trouble, as involve difficulty, as entail risk, as necessitate expenditure.
IV. THAT IT HAS RENDERED HIGH SERVICE IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
1. To the great King himself; for shall we not say that much of the ministry of those women who waited on him so kindly, and something of the attendance granted by the men who tendered him their aid, was the offering of human kindness rather than of Divine service? Yet it was not on that account unacceptable or unserviceable.
2. To his apostles. Here is one instance in which human kindness greatly comforted and heartened a valued servant of Christ, and helped him on his useful and fruitful course.
3. To his servants in all succeeding centuries. Who shall tell how much the cause of Christ has been furthered by the opportune kindness shown by tender hearts and gentle hands to those who have been its representatives and champions?
V. THAT IT IS AN ADMIRABLE THING IN ITSELF: one that is highly esteemed of God (Hebrews 13:16; Ephesians 3:32); one that is beautiful in the sight of man, that adorns the doctrine, that is to the character what the bloom is to the plant; one that has a general and precious reflex influence on those that exercise and exhibit it.
VI. THAT IT IS A BLESSING FOR WHICH WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL TO GOD. Paul "thanked God" as well as "took courage." We have reason to thank God for human kindness as much as for any blessing we receive. For though this does not come as perceptibly from him as the sunshine and the rain, yet ultimately and actually it is as much his gift as they are. Only the loving God can originate love in the human heart and in the human life. "God is our Sun," from whom streams every ray of human kindness that falls on our path and cheers our soul. Let us, too, thank God for it, while we take courage from it. - C.
I. THE STUDY OF PROVIDENCE a help to the development of Christian character and life.
1. It promotes thankfulness.
2. It confirms faith.
3. It draws Christians nearer to one another, as they rejoice together.
4. It prepares for work and suffering. Paul needed all the courage he could take.
II. THE USE WE SHOULD MAKE OF OUR OPPORTUNITIES.
1. Not to rest and be thankful," but to press on for the prize. The prosperous times of the Church, as of the individual, often precede great trials. Paul is outside Rome, but he is not out of danger.
2. The opportunity of renewed intercourse with brethren and revived life in the Church, for higher testimony. Help each other to be strong. - R.
stress, laid upon his spiritual sympathies at times (2 Corinthians 11:28-30). We can well understand that any severity, any pain, felt from the claim set up by such sympathies lay not in the act of sympathizing, but in the consideration of the state of things, the sins, the errors, the inconsistencies in "all the Churches," or in the members of them that called for both "care," on the one hand, for the erring, and on the other sympathy with the aggrieved. The sympathy which he so ungrudgingly gave, however, at whatever expenditure, he had a wonderful heart to receive when proffered to himself. And it is among the signs of his large and susceptible heart that it was so, and that he made so much of it. Here we read of another help of this kind given him by the way. How gratefully and with what appreciation he received it! He felt it was a token of the Divine presence and the Divine goodness, and that as such it must be used and improved. Therefore first he "thanked God," and then "took courage" afresh. Let us notice the following implications of this verse: -
I. THE HIGHEST STYLE OF CHRISTIAN PURPOSE AND ENTERPRISE IS AIDED BY HUMAN SYMPATHY.
1. This is great testimony to the inartificial character of Christianity.
2. It is one of its great safeguards against superciliousness and other temptations to affect separateness from or superiority to ordinary humanity.
II. THE SIMPLEST STYLE OF SHOWING SYMPATHY AND KINDNESS STRIKES HOME ALL AS SURELY TO THE HEARTS OF THE GREATEST AS TO THOSE OF THE HUMBLER.
III. GRATITUDE IS ALWAYS DUE TO GOD, WHO, HOLDING ALL HEARTS IN HIS HAND, MOVES NOW THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO SHALL COME TO GIVE US SPECIAL HELP FOR SPECIAL NEED.
1. How often help coming at the exact crisis of need ought to count with all as great moral force as a physical miracle, for our persuasion, that a heavenly Friend is observantly and graciously watching our every step!
2. What an incentive to religious life the network of hope and fear, joy and sorrow, and all the play of light and shade, because such constitution of life finds the prized opportunities of Divine interposition, as no mere equable life, were it all light or all shade, could possibly find.
IV. THE FAITHFUL SERVANT OF CHRIST NEVER MORE FEELS HOW DUE THANKS ARE TO HIS MASTER THAN WHEN THAT MASTER APPEARS TO SHOW HIS OWN COMMANDING INTEREST IN HIS OWN WORK. How many the ways are in which Jesus does this!
1. By the occasional manifest blessing upon it that he gives.
2. By the Spirit he puts into the hearts of many to uphold the hands and arms of those who do the actual work.
3. By such more delicate methods as that now before us, when the help that the many bring to the one is seen, ay, and felt, to lie in the life and the love that the Divine work has wrought in their heart. They can bring nothing except, perhaps, that all to bring, themselves.
V. THAT THE REAL THING, COURAGE, WHICH DOES NOT BURN DOWN, AWAKENED THOUGH IT MAY BE BY HUMAN AID AND SYMPATHY, RESTS EVER STILL ON THE DIVINE. It was not in obedience to any hollow professionalism that Paul "thanked God." Nor did his courage lack the energy that came from sincere acknowledgment of dependence on God. This was surely betokened by his "thanking God." - B.
I. A FINAL PERSONAL TESTIMONY OF INNOCENCE. It is full of manly courage and simplicity. It was no subversive teaching or conduct that had brought him into his present position. No definite charge had ever been proved against him. Like the Master, it was as a fulfiller, not as a destroyer, that he had wrought. It was for the "hope of Israel "he had suffered. Great teachers are always fulfillers. But because they see that truth is not stagnant, but living, they are accused of innovation. When we accuse others of innovation, let us ask whether it be not that our own garb of thought has grown old. The whole New Testament story is one long protest against imposing fetters on the freedom of the living spirit and the course of truth.
II. A FINAL CONFESSION. Of Jesus as the Messiah. And a final argument with his countrymen. To point back to Moses and the prophets in evidence of this was to show that the doctrine of the cross and the resurrection was the fulfillment and consummation of the ancient faith of Israel. But this was no cold statement, no perfunctory statement. From morning till evening Paul labored with his countrymen's souls. Men are never weary of speaking of that of which their hearts are full. It is not the argumentative side of Christian truth on which every preacher or teacher can dwell. But whatever be the aspect of truth and life he conceives with force and which possesses his soul, let him speak and not be weary. The result will be the same as with Paul, and cannot be expected otherwise. Some will be persuaded, others will disbelieve. The clear expression of any positive truth will be echoed in assent and resisted in negation. Perhaps we can never be sure that we have spoken the truth until we have met opposition.
III. FINAL EFFUSION OF LOVE. He addresses them as brethren, and after telling them of the enmity and persecution he had experienced at the hands of their fathers in Palestine, he still knocks once more at the door of their hearts. The prophetic words of his close are full of a solemn pathos. The audience, disunited, falls to two sections. It is not that division begins with the preaching of the gospel, but the hidden disunion of the heart is brought to light. The sun does not produce difference, but only reveals difference, which could not be recognized in darkness. Hardness of heart is both a natural consequence of contempt of the truth, and a Divine judgment upon it. But the aurora of the future shines brightly against this dark background of Israel's rejection. No sin, no ingratitude of man, can dim the splendor of that eternal heaven of grace. If the Jews will not come to the great supper of God, the Gentiles shall fill his house. - J.
make gather round, the object of his coming there. Of the one the history says nothing, but it says all of the other. And no sooner are we told the bare fact that Paul had reached Rome, than these following facts find prominent mention. We are told -
I. THAT THE PRISONER IS NOT PUT INTO THE PRISON.
1. No one there wanted to put him in. He had found favor too certainly already.
2. There was no need to put him in. His word could be trusted, and "one soldier" was considered enough to save appearances.
3. Prisons and "jailors" and authorities had already had too much of haying him and others of the same sort in prison (Acts 5:19; Acts 12:8; Acts 16:26), in Judaea; and perhaps, for the present at all events, the Romans and even the Jews in Rome were wiser for their own interest.
II. THAT FOR THE ACCUSED THERE ARE FOUND NO ACCUSERS AT ALL.
III. THAT THE MAN WHO IS TO BE TRIED IS DRIVEN TO ENDEAVOR TO FIND ANOTHER SORT OF JURY, AND ONE OF THE MORE UNMERCIFUL KIND, FOR HIMSELF.
IV. THAT THE SAME MAN IS NOT ONLY SPEEDILY RELIEVED FROM ANY IMPUTATION OF FAULT, BUT IS COURTEOUSLY ASKED FOR HIS GOSPEL, BY THIS LARGE AND INFLUENTIAL JURY. "A great door and effectual" was now at once opened for the apostle. His Lord's promises and his own heart's deepest wishes begin to be fulfilled (Acts 23:11). With abounding zeal Paul uses his opportunity; he draws from all "the Scriptures;" he testifies "from morning till evening;" he interests his hearers, is the means of the conversion of some, and the awakener of much inquiry and "great reasonings" among others. Nor withholds the faithful and searching rebuke. It is again "the whole counsel of God" which he does not shun to declare. - B.
Here was the milliarium aureum, to which the roads of all the provinces converged. All around were the stately buildings, which were raised in the closing years of the republic and by the early emperors. In front was the Capitoline Hill, illustrious long before the invasion of the Cauls. Close on the left, covering that hill whose name is associated in every modern European language with the notion of imperial splendor, were the vast ranges of the palace - 'the house of Caesar' (Philippians 4:22). Here were the household troops quartered in a praetorium attached to the palace. And here Julius gave up his prisoner to Burrus, the praetorian prefect, whose official duty it was to keep in custody all accused persons who were to be tried before the emperor." There we see the great apostle still a prisoner, in bonds for Christ's sake. His bondage was of that kind technically known as a castodia libera, but the prisoner was fastened by a chain to a soldier who kept guard over him. For the apostle's references to his imprisonment, see Philippians 1:7, 13, 17; Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 6:20; Colossians 4:18, etc. The constant changing of the guard no doubt brought all the soldiers under his personal influence, and enabled him to witness for Christ in the palace and in other places.
I. ST. PAUL'S LIMITATIONS.
1. A prisoner.
2. A sufferer.
So all Christian workers still find themselves set under limitations of ability, of time, of means, of physical strength. And the question constantly recurs - Will we be mastered by our limitations, or will we master them in the power of a sanctified will? No man works for God on earth with an absolute and perfect freedom. The limitations are sent to give quality and character to our service. A man's credit lies, not so much in what he does, as in what he overcomes in order that he may do.
II. THE LIMIT OF ST. PAUL'S LIMITATIONS. They bore relation:
1. Only to body; to restraint of bodily action, and to pain of body.
2. Not to mind; since no gyves have ever been framed that can bind this.
3. Not to character; which no sort of earthly persecutions or calamities need affect.
4. Not to will; which can maintain its set purposes, even when it is rendered helpless to carry them out.
5. Not to life-work; which the earnest man will surely carry on somehow. The Christian mastery of bodily disabilities, infirmities, and limitations, may be illustrated from the Apostle Paul, from J. Bunyan the prisoner in Bedford jail, or from such sufferers from bodily infirmity as R. Baxter, R. Hall, H. Martyn, F. W. Robertson, etc. There are martyrs who did not die, whose service for Christ has been noble and heroic.
III. ST. PAUL'S TRUE LIBERTY UNDER SEEMING LIMITATIONS. Illustrate and impress that, with all his bonds and sufferings upon him, he could:
1. Still live Christ.
2. Still work for Christ.
3. Still write of Christ.
4. Still speak for Christ.
5. Still personally "meeten for the inheritance of the saints in the light." - R.T.
I. THE INTRODUCTION. Paul felt that his position was one which was open to misunderstanding on the part of his fellow-countrymen, and he resolved on a free and full explanation. In this we recognize
(1) his constant faithfulness; for it was in discharge of his duty to his Divine Master that he sought to conciliate those who were his enemies; also
(2) his habitual courtesy; for the whole strain of his address to the "chief of the Jews" was suave and courteous in a high degree (vers. 17-20). In their reply (vers. 21, 22) we recognize
(1) a formal impartiality combined with
(2) a real prepossession of mind decidedly against the cause of which he was the advocate.
II. THE CONFERENCE. (Vers. 23-28.) We have:
1. Christian earnestness confronting Jewish curiosity. Paul "expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them," etc., evidently with characteristic zeal. They listened, curious and wondering what he had to say. "We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest." Christian fervor on the one side, Jewish eagerness on the other.
2. Christian truth striving with Jewish prejudice. Paul marshaled his facts and his arguments, we cannot doubt, to the full height of his fervor and his practiced ability, maintaining his plea at great length (ver. 23). But he spoke to men whose minds were occupied with prejudice. The "sect was everywhere spoken against," they said to him. They probably used much stronger language in speaking to one another.
3. Christian truth prevailing over Jewish prejudice. But seldom do we read of men being "convinced against their will;" but we are glad to read here that "some believed," etc. (ver. 24).
4. But we have the old sad story of Jewish prejudice prevailing over Christian truth. "Some believed not."
5. Finally we have Christian indignation uttering itself freely (vers. 25-27). We turn to -
III. THE LESSORS WE GAIN FROM IT.
1. That it is right for us to invite and address the curious as well as the devout. We should summon to the sanctuary not only those who are wishful to worship God, but those also who are solicitous to learn what we have to say on any subject with which we deal.
2. That we should exert ourselves to present truth in all its phases and with all our force. As Paul made his appeal to the Law and to the prophets, and developed and illustrated his argument at full length, so we should present the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, in all its fullness and in all its force; not being satisfied until we have "declared the whole counsel of God."
3. That we may reasonably hope for some measure of success. We have to contend, not indeed with Jewish prejudice, but with human obduracy. Yet armed with Divine truth and aided by the Divine Spirit, we should look for success.
4. That we need not be surprised at partial failure. Where apostles were baffled we may be beaten.
5. That the hour of rebuke sometimes comes in the ministry of Christ.
6. That one sphere failing, another will open to the earnest worker (ver. 28). The salvation of God is sent to all men, and there are those who "will hear it," if there are many who will not. - C.
I. THE JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD by the manifestation of the truth.
1. The doctrine of Christ unwelcome.
2. The prejudices of party an obstacle to the spread of truth.
3. The victories of the gospel obtained by the grace of God.
II. THE DISCIPLINE OF DISCIPLESHIP.
2. Temporary. Reactions to be reckoned for. Hold on, and the world speaks as much for, as once against.
3. The life which survives the oppositions of pride and the misrepresentations of enmity is trained to a larger sphere. The sect spoken against became the orthodoxy of the future. The first enemies of Christianity were the Jews, but the opposition of unbelief was overruled to the greater victories of truth. So now the time of transition is severe discipline, but it will be followed by a time of splendid triumph when the messengers have been prepared for it. - R.
I. THE MATTER OF THE MESSAGE. "Concerning Jesus." (Compare the Epistles to the Romans and Hebrews.)
1. The righteousness of God set forth, instead of man's righteousness.
2. The priestly office of Christ abolishing ritualism, and opening the gates of the spiritual temple.
3. Jesus the promised King, the Lifter-up of the fallen people, the Desire of all nations, the Renovator of the world. Compare with such a setting forth of Jesus, the state of the Jews and Romans, in faith, worship, and hope, both in the individual and in society, both for time and for eternity.
II. THE METHOD ADOPTED by the messenger. Persuasion.
1. The written Word of God the basis. The Old and the New Testaments harmonized. Faith is an outcome of faith: "Ye believe in God, believe also in me."
2. Personal testimony. "I am a Christian; be such as I am." True persuasion is personal. We must aim at the heart, and not merely at the intellect; and the heart must direct the aim.
3. Those that would persuade must be prepared to use none but spiritual means. Neither sensational excitement, nor ritualistic seductions, nor corrupt appeals to lower natures, are permissible to the Christian advocate. Let truth win its victory. - R.
I. GOD'S SPIRIT WORKS BY MEANS OF HUMAN AGENCY.
1. The truth is presented to the heart, notwithstanding infirmities of method and manner.
2. The external ministration corresponds to the internal work of grace.
3. The essential point in all preaching is the presentation of an object of faith. Jesus.
II. THOSE WHO LISTEN TO THE WORD OF GOD ARE TRIED BY IT.
1. The broad distinction between acceptance and rejection of Christ. The heart which moves towards the Savior is changed.
2. No compromise in the final result, though hearts may deceive themselves. By faith we stand.
3. While there is the opportunity of hearing, there is hope of turning the unbelief into faith. God's people must never take it for granted that any are beyond reach. They hear not as they might hear.
4. The opportunity may be itself decisive. "Now is the accepted time." - R.
I. IT EXCITES THE STIR OF LIFE.
II. IT EXCITES A PECULIAR KIND OF STIR OF LIFE. It is not the life of mind alone. It is not like the interest that gathers quickly round the finest discoveries and investigatings of science. It has another unmistakable element, and one that refuses to be at all ignored, a certain moral element. Very quickly does it beg to be informed whether men "believe" or do "not believe." And it states that on this everything turns.
III. IT EXHIBITS INVARIABLY (?) AMID GREAT VARIETIES IN OTHER RESPECTS ONE UNIFORM PHENOMENON - SOME TAKE IT, OTHERS REFUSE IT. It is then that the Christian preacher, and the Christian man whoever he is, stands in the presence of the grandest, deepest, most inscrutable mystery beneath the sun - this, that the gospel of God's love in Christ presumably to be eagerly and intelligently seized by every man, sooner than the bread on which he feeds, is taken by some, is rejected by others. "Some believed... and some believed not!" - B.
God, which Paul preached in his own hired house for two years, was none other than the "kingdom of Christ," or the "kingdom of heaven" which Jesus announced, and conceiving which he said so much when he was on earth (see Matthew 6:33; Luke 22:29; John 18:36; Matthew 13:24-50, etc.). Christ came for the purpose of establishing, or rather re-establishing, the kingdom of God on earth, of reinstating the Divine Father on the throne of the human world. This was the end and aim of his mission; therefore "those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ" are the same things which concern "the kingdom of God" (text and also ver. 23). We look, then, at this kingdom -
I. ITS SPIRITUAL SOVEREIGNTY. He has told us with great distinctness that his kingdom is "not of this world." We gather from all that he said and did that it is none other and nothing lower than the spiritual and universal sovereignty which God, the Divine Father, which he himself, the Divine Savior, would exercise over mankind; the domain of righteousness and love over the willing minds, the rejoicing hearts, of a redeemed and regenerated world - a kingdom in which God is to be the one Sovereign, righteousness the only accepted law, love the pervading and prevailing spirit, joy the abounding and abiding issue.
II. THE CONDITIONS OF CITIZENSHIP. From a Divine point of view the condition is that of regeneration (John 3:3). From that point of view which is open to us, and from which our action is possible, the conditions are humility (Matthew 5:3; Luke 18:17), and faith in Jesus Christ himself, "By faith... in me" (Acts 26:18; John 6:29, 35, 40, 53, etc.).
III. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF ITS SUBJECTS.
1. Docility (Matthew 18:4).
2. Love (John 13:35).
3. Continued obedience to the will of Christ (John 8:31).
4. Faithfulness unto suffering (Luke 17:20).
IV. THE METHOD OF ITS WARFARE. Its warfare is wholly spiritual (John 8:36).
1. It assails spiritual evils. It does battle with sin in all its forms and in all its consequences.
2. It employs spiritual weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4); these are truth, love, faith, consistency, etc.
V. THE MANNER OF ITS COMING. Some earthly powers come with great ostentation, with sound of trumpet, with announcement of herald, with "pomp and circumstance;" but "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation." He "did not strive nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets," when he lived below. And now he comes in gospel privilege, in gracious invitation, in benignant influences, in Divine prompting; not as the storm comes, but as the dew; not in the great and strong wind that rends the mountains, but in the still small voice that touches the heart and makes all things new.
VI. ITS OPENNESS TO EVERY SEEKING SOUL, If there is one thing concerning the "kingdom of God, or one thing which "concerns the Lord Jesus Christ" which is a more true and faithful saying than another, which is more valuable and precious to the human world than another, it is this - that the gates of that blessed kingdom stand open night and day, are wide open to receive the most unworthy if they will pass through in sincere humility and simple faith; that the Lord Jesus Christ stands ever waiting to receive the heart which is looking for a Savior from sin; that he is not only prepared, but eager to welcome to his side and his service every human soul that is hungering after righteousness, that will accept his mercy, that will take his yoke; that unto all of these he will give, not only present and abiding rest, but future and everlasting joy. - C.
I. IT WAS A FULFILLMENT OF A PROMISE. (Acts 9:15.)
II. IT WAS A PROPHECY OF THE FUTURE. Long has the world been ruled from Rome; though often through corrupt forms, the Spirit of Christ has gone forth from her to heal and to civilize. Slowly the dominion of Rome must melt to give place to the idea which she has represented - the world-wide dominion of the kingdom of God.
III. IT WAS THE REALIZATION OF THE PREACHER'S IDEAL.
1. There is a welcome for all. Nothing inaccessible, forbidding, hard to approach, should be in the preacher's manner. No "stand aside, for I am holier than thou!" He must make men feel that he has no reserves, no keeping back of anything they ought to know, no half-truths; that they are welcome fully to all the best of head and heart. He must not deal with people as sinners beneath him, but as his fellows, as man with men.
2. There is boldness of utterance. Parrhesia, the last word but one of the book. Without this, the preacher is nerveless and ineffective. If he fears his audience, fears public opinion, fears himself, he is undone. The pulpit is the post for a brave man, not less than the sentinel's in wartime. "The hour is regal when he mounts on guard." Cowardice may be fatal to himself and others. Self-surrender to God, like that of Paul, is the secret of the freedom of the preacher.
3. Unfettered external liberty. These were, perhaps, the happiest years of his life. "Unhindered" (akolutos) - this is the last word of the book. How shall the preacher excuse himself, if in a free country, with every encouragement to free speech, he fails to utter himself and his message, and declare, so far as he understands it, the whole counsel of God? When shall men feel that the Jesus Christ is the Friend of all men, and that his Church is their home? When, for one thing, his ministers rise to the ideal of their high calling as it is illustrated in this final scene of the book - Paul the teacher and preacher at Rome. - J.
I. AN EXAMPLE OF INDIVIDUAL DEVOTEDNESS. The value of such a witness to the early Church.
1. All his strength derived from Christ.
2. All his life given to service.
3. The character of the man opened for him the way of his ministry. He longed to be at Rome, and at Rome he fulfilled his own ideal of the Christian messenger.
II. A WONDERFUL ILLUSTRATION OF OVERRULING PROVIDENCE. The prophecy fulfilled. The restraint of enemies. The provision of opportunities. The sustenance of physical and moral strength. The preparation of the man for his post. The intellectual training and world-wide experience all employed. A post is fitted for each, and each is fitted for his post.
III. A SIGNIFICANT FACT IN THE WORLD'S HISTORY. The most momentous facts not always those which appear most startling. The palace of the Caesars beside the hired house of the apostle. The world then would have despised the day of small things. A germ of new life in the old corruption. The gospel wins its triumphs by simple methods. The Acts of the Apostles are greater in the history of the world than the annals of Rome. The kingdom of God has come, is coming, shall come. May we say in heart and life, "Thy kingdom come"! - R.
the one history - show the performing in right earnest of the parting injunction of the ascending Lord of the Church. For Rome is the scene, that metropolis and type of the world. "All" the various inhabitants of it, not Jews only, are now both sought and found. To these "the gospel" is preached. And the crucified but now risen Lord is the one central theme. We have, therefore, in Paul, at this most touching, most amazing episode of his career, a living example, and "by the grace of God" a truly worthy example, of "the faithful fulfilling" of the work belonging to the minister of Christ. These are the leading marks of him, as here instanced.
I. HE HAS A VOICE AND HEART FOR ALL WHOM HE CAN REACH ACCORDING TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH HE MAY BE PLACED OF PROVIDENCE. Paul cannot now go out to the highways and byways. But "his own hired house" is one kept, as very few others are kept in any analogous circumstances, with open doors. And doors open impartially to "all" who would come.
II. HE DOES NOT FEEL THAT HE HAS ANY TRUTH TO MAKE, OR EVEN TO DISCOVER, BUT ONLY TO PROCLAIM.
1. His message is to his hand. He has discovered its sum and substance long ago. He keeps to this theme.
2. This is his forte. And he does not profess another. The mind of the Christian preacher is abundantly open to any, or, if possible, to all, "arts and sciences and philosophies;" but these are not his sterling coin. They are not the matters for the pronounced deliverances of his voice. He may be beholden to them in his education, and it is a shame if he is not. He may lay them under any amount of contribution for purposes of illustration. But they are not the subject-matter of his preaching and teaching.
III. HE PROCLAIMS WITH AN UNUSUAL CERTAINTY OF SOUND, EVEN WITH BOLDNESS. This is the more remarkable, because:
(1) What he has to say is not that for which there is at first any very large spread desire.
(2) It is what is sure to be rejected by many contemptuously, by other many indifferently, while it will stir strong opposition in the heart and in the action of not a few. But, on the other hand, the clear ring of his voice and the unstammering declaration of his thoughts result from:
(1) Strong personal convictions as to what he proclaims.
(2) Determined personal attachment to it.
(3) The spirit of loyal fidelity to it - that be it what it may, in the esteem of a thousand to one, yet he will lay it open before all as its due. It shall not suffer prejudice from suppression or from a timid partial disclosure of it.
(4) Honest and not merely boastful upliftedness above regard to the personal consequences to self. The genuine preacher of the truth of Christ is not, indeed, to hold his life in his own hand, but he is "rather" to hold this - and unmistakably - that God holds, that his Master Christ holds, that life in their hand respectively.
(5) An irresistible impulse to confront the people with his proclamation, and bring them by all means possible into such contact with it that they can no longer be ignorant of it, even if they flee from it and reject it.
IV. HE PUTS THIS HONOR ON HIS OWN WORK, ON HIS MASTER'S WORK, THAT BE CLEAVES TO IT, YEAR AFTER YEAR, WITH PERSEVERING DILIGENCE. The work of Christ does, beyond doubt, stand in this blessed contrast with all other work, even the most necessary and the most innocent: It rewards confidence. It merits devotion. Its manifest and felt value grows with age and experience and power to gaze beyond the limits of sense. And when the use of all other work dwindles to the truer dimensions that belong to it, this justly magnifies itself and shines with brighter luster. Paul must have often addressed himself and his own soul in the words in which he addresses Christians generally, in the most inspiring connection, "Wherefore be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as... your labor is not in vain in the Lord." - B.
Our historical record of the great apostle closes with a picture of him fully and earnestly engaged in the loved work of his life, even under the limitations of captivity, and there is peculiar significance in the terms which Luke uses. The apostle is said to have been engaged in "preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus, with all confidence. Illustration may be given of St. Paul's restless activity and consuming zeal in preaching Christ. He could say, Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!" He must have held and cherished the holiest convictions; he is the first and noblest instance of absorbing, inspiring enthusiasm for Christ. He was now a prisoner, but he would preach Christ with the guard beside him. He could not preach Christ in temple, church, or large room, so he would preach Christ in his own house. He could not gather the many, so he would preach Christ to the few who came to see him. Compare Adolphe Monod, who lay for months on a sick-bed, and could conduct no public services, so spoke of Christ from his bed every Sunday afternoon to the friends that gathered round him, as long as he was able. Two things are especially noted by Luke in these his closing words.
I. ST. PAUL PREACHED THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Under the figure of a Divine kingdom Messiah's times had been prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 2:44; 7:14, 27). John the Baptist stood forth as a prophet to proclaim, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Our Lord gave the same words to his apostles when he sent them forth upon their trial mission; it was the message which they were everywhere to deliver. The figure was not a new one. It was not a fresh thing for God to claim the rule of souls. The government of ancient Israel had been a theocracy, or direct rule of Jehovah. The new thing was for God to set up this government on earth in the person of his Son, the Son or man and Son of God. He came to help us more clearly and more fully to see that the kingdom of God is the rule of his loving, holy, and fatherly will; and that will may be made known in two ways.
1. By definite and express commands. In this way it had been made known to Israel.
2. By the immediate and living authority of Jesus Christ, who gives us God's will directly, putting it into close relation with all our circumstance and need. To be in the kingdom of God now is to be directly dependent, day by day, upon the guiding, teaching, leading, of the living Lord Jesus Christ.
II. ST. PAUL PREACHED THE THINGS CONCERNING JESUS CHRIST. Those things include:
1. Trying to make the history and teachings of the Lord Jesus known, so that men might have a solid foundation whereon to rest their eternal hopes.
2. Trying to make Christ himself known, because his will is the reflection and expression of himself.
3. Trying to make the fullness and freeness of Christ's grace known, so that men's confidence might be won to him.
4. Trying to make Christ's offices and relations known; because he is
(1) the Dispenser of pardon;
(2) he has the bestowment of the Spirit;
(3) he stands in the place of our High Priest; and
(4) he is to be our final Judge. The kingdom of God is come for all hearts that are fully consecrated to Christ. It will have come for the world when "every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue confess to him." God will reign when Jesus shall be acknowledged "King of kings, and Lord of lords." - R.T.