So if God gave them the same gift as He gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder the work of God?"
I. STORING MEMORIES. Illustrate what anxious work this is to the parent, the school teacher, and the professor. Due effort is made to ensure
(1) adequate stores;
(2) well-arranged stores;
(3) clearly apprehended stores;
(4) moral stores.
Two things are found necessary to the holding of things in memory -
(1) they must be clearly apprehended;
(2) they must be sufficiently repeated.
It is found that we hold things in measures of safety dependent on the amount of attention which we have given to them. Apply these principles to the storing of our memories with religious facts and principles; dwelling on the importance of requiring the young to learn the Scriptures, of demanding from our Christian teachers clearness of statement and efficient repetition; showing that, as in St. Peter's case, a man only has the right truth or principle at command, on occasions of need, if these have previously been lodged in the memory. The skill with which our Lord, in his time of temptation, fetched the right weapons from the Scripture armory with which to defeat and silence his foe, reveals to us the fact that his memory had been well stored with Scripture during his childhood and youth. The duty of seeing that our own mind is well furnished, and that the minds of those directly under our influence are well furnished, with Scripture facts and truths and principles, should be earnestly pressed. We can do no better service to the young than to fill up their thoughts and hearts with "thoughts of Christ and things Divine."
II. KEEPING MEMORY-STORES. There is one great law which applies to the efficient retention of any kind of knowledge we may have. It is that we keep adding more stores of the same kind. We virtually lose out of memory facts relating to botany or astronomy unless we keep on adding to them new botanical or astronomical facts. And the same law applies to religious things - they will fade down and seem to die out of memory unless we constantly add to them. We retain by increasing. Show how this should be a powerful motive urging us to keep up our daily soul-culture, our reading of the Word, our meditations in the Divine truth, our attendance on the means of grace. We cannot keep what we have unless we set ourselves in the way to get more.
III. USING MEMORY-STORES. Just this St. Peter does in connection with our text. Something occurred which suggested a sentence his Lord had once employed. He hardly knew that he had put it among his memory-stores, but he had been attentive to every word that fell from his Master's lips, and they came up before him at the moment when he could use them wisely. We often think that there must be much more in our memories than can ever be of service to us, and we even think that it is useless to teach the young so much of Scripture and of Catechism and of hymns. But no man can foretell what situations unfolding life may make for him, or what moral demands it will present. Take any life, and it will be found full of surprises, and it is a very great thing to ensure that we are reasonably prepared for all possible situations. St. Peter could not have imagined himself in the house of Cornelius and set upon using that particular sentence. So we shall find, as life progresses, that
(1) occasions come for the use of our memory-stores;
(2) circumstances help to recall them; and
(3) God's Spirit brings them up before us, and aids us in finding their proper application and use.
The well-furnished godly memory is no accident. It is a part of the Christian culture, and therefore, for ourselves and for those on whom we are called to exert our influence, we come under solemn and weighty responsibilities. An interesting illustration of the use of a godly memory in time of pressure and need is found in Ezra 8:21-23, where Ezra's remembrance of God's promises to and gracious ways with his people in the olden time, gave him strength for an arduous and perilous undertaking. - R.T.
Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
I. EVERY MAN'S FIRST AND CHIEF CONCERN OUGHT TO BE ABOUT THE SALVATION OF HIS SOUL.
1. Every man is a sinner, and without salvation he must perish. You may be too proud to acknowledge this, or too much occupied to give it attention, or too indifferent to ponder it, or ready to deny it in the sense which we contend. Well, "you make God a liar, and His truth is not in you," for "God has included all under sin." Perhaps you will point me to that abandoned woman, or to that bloody blasphemer, or to that iron-hearted jailer, and bid me go preach this doctrine to such as these. Ah, the question is not whether you have sinned like this or that man, but whether you have sinned at all, for so it is written, "Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Oh, you will say, I never did anybody any harm, I have been a kind parent, an upright tradesman, my reputation without a blemish; but that is not the question; the question is, hast thou "loved the Lord thy God with all thy heart"? etc. I see you shudder and shrink back! I hear you cry, "But God is merciful" — so He is, but then, if you appeal to His mercy, you give up the point, you confess yourselves sinners, for if you be not sinners you may appeal with confidence to His justice.
2. Every man's first and chief concern ought to be about the salvation of his soul, because, being a sinner, he is placed by his sin in circumstances of the most imminent peril. The wretch that trembles on the brink of a tremendous precipice, over whose head a sword is suspended by a hair, upon whom the volcano is ready to burst or the earth to yawn, is in safety compared to that sinner who has transgressed the law of God, and is exposed by his transgression to His righteous indignation and wrath. Oh, then, what will you do to be saved? Will you present an atoning sacrifice for your sins? Where will you obtain it? Have you wealth to purchase it? The ransom of ten thousand monarchs would do little, rivers of oil and oceans of blood are not sufficient. Do you propose to work out a righteousness whereby you can be justified in the sight of God? How can you do it? Can an imperfect creature work out a perfect righteousness? and even if you could for the time that is to come, how would it avail for the atonement of the sin that was past? Listen, it is our business to tell you the response to this cry from heaven.
II. THE GOSPEL IS THE ONLY SOURCE FROM WHICH SATISFACTORY INFORMATION IS OBTAINED ON THIS MOST MOMENTOUS OF ALL SUBJECTS. Take this question, "What must I do to be saved," to the system of modern infidelity or of ancient philosophy. What answer do you get? The sneer of derision, or the sullen silence of despair — they cannot tell. Take it to this Book, and the answer is instant, decisive, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." What does the violated law of God demand? Perfect obedience. Behold it in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Does justice demand an infinite atonement? Behold it in "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
1. In the gospel there are words whereby we may be saved, and the salvation they announce is precisely adapted to the sinner's case. You are guilty, but there is forgiveness for you, and you are condemned, but there is a righteousness that justifies you freely; you are a rebel and an outcast, but there is an Advocate that pleads for you; you are polluted, but there is "a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."
2. These are words whereby you may be saved individually. Let us hear your personal history. I hear one say, "I am a child of pious parents, and I have sinned against early instruction and impressions!" Well, but thou mayest be saved! I hear another, "I trampled under foot a father's admonitions, and despised a sainted mother's tears, and brought down their grey hairs with sorrow to the grave!" Well, but you may be saved! I hear another say, "Ah, but I mingled with infidels and apostates, I mocked the Bible, at God, I blasphemed Christ!" Ah, but you may be saved!
3. But while these are words whereby you may be saved, rejecting these, you must perish. "He that believeth not shall be damned." "How shall you escape if you neglect so great salvation?"
(T. Raffles, D. D.)1. Cornelius was no common publican or sinner, but possessed all the qualifications of a saint, if a saint can grow in the sell of this earth, without a seed from heaven. If any man could be just with God apart from Christ, surely this is the man. Yet the Word of God treats him as a sinner, and tells him what he must do to be saved. There is no escape from the force of this case. It effectually shuts out all hope of merit. The difficulty of attaining a conviction of sin is greater where sins are less gross. Hence publicans and harlots go into the kingdom more readily than Pharisees.
2. By what means shall Cornelius be saved? By words. Strange when the loss is so deep and real that words, articulated air, should bring deliverance. It was natural for Naaman to toss his head in contempt at the proposal of a bath in Jordan as a cure for disease, and there is a class of scholars in our day who sneer at the proposal to cure sin by words. They have no confidence in doctrines that enter the mind from without; they would rather trust to principles that spring up within. Beware of wandering into the mist here. Words become life or death when God employs them to proclaim His will. God said, "Let there be light, and there was light." "Lazarus, come forth," and he came. Even in the ordinary experience of life men are saved or lost by words. An ocean steamer is rushing through the water — two words, "Breakers ahead!" from the watchman, "Starboard hard!" from the master, words that passed away as breath on a breeze, saved five hundred human beings from a watery grave. Humanity is like that ship, and God sends words whereby we may be saved.
3. Truth, like spirit, is invisible till embodied, and words are the body of truth. They may be spoken, or printed, or wired, it matters not what form they assume, they are the body in which truth dwells. Satan embodies himself in words whereby man may be destroyed, the Holy Spirit in words whereby we may be saved. Take heed how ye hear; the missing of a word may be the loss of a soul.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
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