But when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have now come here,
(1) fanatical opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus;
(2) the ignorant fears of sordid and selfish minds. Yet the progress of the work must be maintained.
I. THE THOUGHTS OF MEN CONTRASTED WITH THE THOUGHTS OF GOD.
1. Of the religious fanatics and superstitious. The fears for truth leading to false alliances. Compromise of principle.
2. Of rulers. Government is apt to fear for itself, because it knows not its own true basis. Decrees of Caesar must sometimes be resisted.
3. Of the populace. Mistaken ideas of their own interests. Deceivableness under the influence of demagogues or those who pander to their lowest feelings. The blessing was rejected. Jesus was a better King for the people than Caesar.
II. THE MISSION OF THE GOSPEL IN THE WORLD.
1. To explain the Divine dealings with mankind, and reveal the purpose running through both the Jewish and Gentile histories.
2. To lift up the multitudes and deliver them from despotism and deception.
3. To proclaim a new world in place of the old, the coming of the kingdom, which is not the exaltation of an imperial throne, but the reign of God on the earth, in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. To stir up in the hearts of men a desire for the better things. The world within us must be turned upside down before the true peace is built up. - R.
These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.
I. IN THE WORLD AT LARGE. As regards —
1. Character. In the esteem of men, the kingdom of heaven is something like this. High there on the summit sits the great philosopher, the immensely intellectual man. Just below him there is a class — not quite so skilled, but still exceeding wise — who look down at those who stand at the base as the ignoble multitude who know nothing at all. A little lower down, we come to those who seldom will be taught, because they in their own opinion know all there is to be learned. Then after them come a still larger number, who are exceeding wise in worldly wisdom. Lower still are those who have just a respectable amount of knowledge; and then at the very basement are the fool and the babe. How wide the distinction between the simpleton who forms the base, and the wise man who stands resplendent at the apex of the pyramid! Now, see how Christ turns the world upside down. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children," etc. "God hath chosen the poor of this world," etc. If you wish to see the world turned upside down to perfection, turn to Matthew 5.(1) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Now, we like a man who has an ambitious spirit, and also a man who has a very fair opinion of himself. But Christ just turns that upside down. The men who have no strength of their own, but look for all to Christ; who seek not to lift their heads above their fellows; who, if they be great, have greatness thrust upon them, but never seek it the world says they are soft; but Christ puts those on the top whom the world puts at the bottom.(2) There is another lot who are always mourning. They do not let you see it often, but they mourn for their own sin, and then for the sin of the times. The world says they are a moping, melancholy set; but Christ turns the world upside down, and those whom you think to be sorrowful, are the very ones who are to rejoice. Yes, worldling, your joy is like the crackling of thorns under a pot. It blazeth a little, and maketh a great noise: it is soon done with. But "light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." You cannot see the light now, because it is sown. But when Christ comes to turn the world upside down, they shall be comforted.(3) Then there is another race called "the meek." I know a man who never feels happy unless he has a lawsuit. A slight affront he would not easily forget. Now the meek are of a very different disposition. They do not put themselves into a passion on a slight affront, for they know that all men are imperfect, and therefore think that perhaps their brother made a mistake. They are quite content to bear and forbear, and put up with a thousand injuries rather than inflict one, though people say, "Such a man as that will never get on; he will always be taken in; he has no strength of mind." Ay, but Christ turns it upside down, and He says, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Is not that provoking to you graspers, you high-spirited people? you do it in order that you may inherit the earth: see how Christ spites you, and treads your wisdom under feet. After all, the best way to get our rights is to let them alone. The safest way to defend your character is never to say a word about it. Our enemies cannot hurt us, unless we hurt ourselves.(4) Do you see that gentleman who attends church, reads his Bible, and has family prayers? It is true that he is hard upon his labourers, and exacting at times in his payments; but does justice to all men. This man is on very good terms with himself; and compliments himself on being a very excellent person. If you speak to him about his state before God, he says, that if he does not go to heaven nobody will; for he pays twenty shillings in the pound, and no one can find any fault with his character. Don't you envy him? Well, now, do you see Standing at the back of the church there a poor woman? She dares not speak in the presence of respectable persons; but we gather thus much from her: She has lately found out that she is full of sin, and she desires to know what she must do to be saved. The man stands at the top of the ladder, and this poor woman at the bottom. Now just see the gospel process — the world turned upside down. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."(5) "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." The merciful are not much respected in this world; the man who forgives too much, or who is too generous, is not considered to be wise. But Christ declares that he who has been merciful shall obtain mercy.(6) "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." The world says, "Blessed is the man who indulges in a gay life."(7) And now look at the ninth verse. You walk through London, and there, in another place, a duke, a mighty man of war. But Christ says, "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God." Here is the world turned upside down. The warrior with his garment stained in blood is put into the ignoble earth, to die and rot; but the peacemaker is lifted up, and God's crown of blessing is put round about his head.(8) We find a race who have always been hated, about whom He says, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The whole of these beatitudes are just in conflict with the world's opinion.
2. Maxims. "It was said by them of old time, eye for eye and tooth for tooth; but I say unto you, resist not evil." "Whosoever would sue thee at the law and take thy cloak, let him take thy coat also." "If any man smite thee on the one cheek, turn unto him the other also." "It has been said by them of old time, love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy"; but Jesus Christ said, "Let love be unto all men." We are told that it is good to a man to make himself rich, but Christ called a certain rich man "Thou fool!" You would have made an Alderman of him or a Lord Mayor.
3. Religious notions. The world's religion is — "Do, and thou shalt live"; Christ's religion is — "Believe and live." We will have it, that if a man be righteous, sober, upright, he shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but Christ says — This thou oughtest to have done; but still, not this can ever cleanse thee.
II. IN THE HEART. Man is a little world, and what God does in the outer world, He does in the inner. If any of you would be saved, your hearts must be turned upside down.
1. Your judgment. Cannot many of you say that which you now believe to be the truth of God is very far opposed to your former carnal notions?
2. Your hopes. They used to be all for this world. If you could but get rich, he great and honoured, you would be happy! Now your hopes are not on earth; for where your treasure is, there must your heart be also.
3. Your pleasures. You loved the tavern once; you hate it now. You hated God's house once; it is now your much-loved habitation. The song, the Sunday newspaper, the lewd novel — all these were sweet to your taste; but you have burned the books that once enchanted you, and now the Bible is read and delighted in. The Sabbath was once the dullest day of the week. There are some of you who once loved nothing better than the theatre. You seek now the gathering of the righteous.
4. Your house. Look over the mantelpiece. There is a vile daub of a picture there, and the subject is worse than the style of the thing. But when the man follows Jesus he takes that down, and gets a print of some good old subject representing something Biblical. There is a pack of cards and a cribbage board in the cupboard; he turns them out, and instead he puts there good literature. The children say, "Father is so altered." He used to come home drunk, and the children used to run upstairs; and now little John and little Sarah sit at the window and watch till he comes home, He used to teach them to sing "Begone, dull care," or something worse; now he tells them of "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild." A jolly set of companions he used to have come to see him on a Sunday afternoon; but that is all done with.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. IN THE FAMILY. Those things that are wrong will be overthrown by it, while justice and harmony will take their place. The husband will be head of the household only when he is fit to be. If the wife have more of all that is right, she shall have the supremacy. There is no human or Divine law that makes a woman subordinate to a man unworthy of her. As religion comes in at the front door, mirth and laughter will not go out at the back door. John will laugh just as loud; and George will jump higher than he ever did before. It will establish a family altar. Hannah will rear her Samuel for the temple; a Mary and Martha, and Lazarus will gather in fraternal and sisterly affection in a home in which Jesus dwells. The religion of Jesus will overthrow all jealousies, all janglings; and peace, and order, and holiness will take possession of the home.
II. IN COMMERCIAL. CIRCLES. Find fifty merchants, and you find fifty standards of what is right and wrong. You say to someone about a merchant, "Is he honest? Oh yes, but he grinds the faces of his clerks; or he exaggerates the value of his goods," etc. Ah! there is but one standard of the everlastingly right and wrong, and that is the Bible; and when that principle shall get its pry under our commercial houses, one half of them will go over. "What is the matter? Has there been a fall in gold?" "No." "Has there been a new tariff?" "No." "Has there been a failure in crops?" "No." "Has there been an unaccountable panic?" "No." The Lord has set up His throne of judgment in the exchange. What was 1837? What was 1857? What was 1869? A day of judgment. Do you think that God is going to wait until He has burned the world up before He rights these wrongs? The fraudulent man piles up his gains until his property has become a great pyramid; and as he stands looking at it he thinks it can never be destroyed; but the Lord pushes it all over. You build a house, and you put into it a rotten beam. The house is completed. Soon it begins to rock. You call in the mechanics and ask, "What is the matter?" Says the mechanic, "You put a rotten beam into that structure, and the whole thing has got to come down." Here is an estate that seems to be all right now. It has been building a great many years. But fifteen years ago there was a dishonest transaction, and that will keep on working ruin until down the estate will come in wreck and ruin about the possessor's ears. I have seen it again and again. The time will come when, through the revolutionary power of this gospel, a falsehood, instead of being called exaggeration, equivocation, or evasion, will be branded a lie! And stealings, that now sometimes go under the head of percentages, and commissions, and bonuses, will be put into the catalogue of state prison offences. Society will be turned upside down, until business dishonesties shall come to an end.
III. IN OUR CHURCHES. The non-committal, do-nothing policy will give way to a spirit of bravest conquest. Fiery in this day is salted down just so as to keep. The Church is chiefly anxious to take care of itself; and if we hear of want, and squalour, and heathenism outside, we say, "What a pity!" and we put our hands in our pockets, and we feel around for a two-cent piece, and with a great flourish we put it upon the plate, and are amazed that the world is not converted in six weeks. Suppose there were a great war; and there were three hundred thousand soldiers, but all except ten men were in their tents, or scouring their muskets, or cooking rations. You would say, "Of course, defeat must come in that case." Millions of the professed soldiers of Jesus Christ are cooking rations, or asleep in their tents, while only one man here and there goes out to do battle for the Lord. "But," says someone, "we are establishing a great many missions." Yes, and they are doing a magnificent work; but every mission chapel is a confession of the disease and weakness of the Church. It is saying to the rich, "If you can pay pew rents, come to the main audience room." It is saying to the poor, "Your coat is too bad, and your shoes are not good enough. You will have to go by the way of the mission chapel." The mission chapel has become the kitchen, where the Church does its sloppy work. There are hundreds of churches — gorgeously built and supported — that, even on bright days, are not half full; and yet they are building mission chapels, because the great masses of the people are kept out of the main audience room. Now I say that any place of worship which is appropriate for one class is appropriate for all classes. Let the rich and the poor meet together the Lord, the Maker of them all. Revolution! The pride, the exclusiveness, the financial boastings of the Church must come down! It may be that, before the Church learns its duty to the masses, God will scourge it and drive out the money changers. It may be that there is to be a great day of upsetting before that time shall come. In that future day of the reconstructed Church of Christ, the church building will be the most cheerful of all buildings. The pure atmosphere of heaven will sweep out the fetid atmosphere that has been kept in many of our churches boxed up from Sunday to Sunday. The day of which I speak will be a day of great revivals.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
I. By a short historical deduction to show THAT THE CHARACTER OF SEDITIOUS, TROUBLESOME, AND DISORDERLY, HATH BEEN CONSTANTLY GIVEN BY WICKED MEN TO THE SERVANTS OF GOD. It would not be difficult to point out something of this spirit prevailing in the world, from the life of almost every good man whose name stands upon record, however short and general the account be that is given of many of them in Scripture. I shall content myself with some leading instances, in very different ages, from the earliest to the latest times. The first I shall mention is 1 Kings 18:17. Another instance may be found in Jehoshaphat and Ahab's consultation before going out to battle (1 Kings 22:7, 8). Here, you see, Micaiah was the object of aversion because he denounced the judgment of God against the king's wickedness. See an instance of a general accusation of this kind against all the worshippers of the true God by Haman (Esther 3:8). The prophet Jeremiah met with the same treatment at different times. Neither prince, nor priests, nor prophets, were able to bear without resentment the threatenings which he denounced in the name of God (Jeremiah 26:8, 9, 11; Jeremiah 37:13; Jeremiah 38:4). The prophet Amos is another instance, precisely parallel to the last. Because of his fidelity to God he was invidiously represented as an enemy to the king (Amos 7:10). Our Lord fell under the same accusation. However plain and artless His carriage, He is called a deceiver of the people (John 7:12). His enemies endeavoured to embroil Him with the civil government by this insidious question, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?" And that which brought Him at last to the Cross was the same pretended crime (John 19:12). I shall close this view of the Scripture history with the passage of which my text is a part. The whole crime of the Apostle Paul and his companion was preaching the doctrine of the cross of Christ, his great and darling theme. Having produced these instances from Scripture, which is liable to no exception, I shall say but little on the subsequent periods of the Church. Whoever will take the pains to look into the history of the Church before the Reformation, cannot fail to observe, that when anyone, either among the clergy or laity, was bold enough to reprove the errors in doctrine, or the ambition, luxury, and worldly lives of his contemporaries, he was immediately branded as a factious and disorderly person, and often severely punished as an enemy to the peace of the Church.
II. We proceed now to inquire, WHAT IT IS IN TRUE RELIGION THAT GIVES OCCASION TO THIS CHARGE, AND MAKES THE WORLD PRONE TO BELIEVE IT.
1. The example of the servants of God is a continual and sensible reproach to the contrary conduct of the men of the world. As a deceived heart turns the wicked aside, so the continuance of self-deceit is necessary to his tasting those pleasures of sin in which his mistaken happiness is placed. To reproach his conduct, therefore, is to disturb his dream, and to wound his peace. And as pride, however finely disguised, has the dominion in every unrenewed heart, bow offensive must every species of reproof be to men of this character? Now, is not the example of every good man a severe though silent reproof to the wicked? And, as every worldly man's own conscience is thus made troublesome to him by the example of the children of God, so it tends to set sinners at variance with one another, and exposes the conduct of each to the censure of the rest. Sin, however universally practised, is yet generally shameful. Conscience though bribed, and comparatively blind in a man's own case, is often just and impartial, at least under far less bias in the case of others. It is in this way, and in this way alone, that the public honour and credit of religion is preserved amidst so great a majority who are enemies to it in their hearts. Must not, then, the example of a strict and conscientious person, set in the strongest light the faults of those who act a contrary part, so often as they happen to fall under observation together. Nay, does it not open the eyes of the world upon many lesser blemishes which would otherwise escape its notice?
2. Another reason why the servants of God are represented as troublesome is, because they will not, and dare not, comply with the sinful commandments of men. In matters merely civil, good men are the most regular citizens and the most obedient subjects. But, as they have a Master in heaven, no earthly power can constrain them to deny His name or desert His cause (chap. Acts 4:19). With what invincible constancy did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow before Nebuchadnezzar's golden image? The case of Daniel was perfectly similar, whom even the king's commandment could not restrain from prayer to God. There is a love of dominion natural to all men, which is under no control or restraint in those who are void of religion. This must naturally dispose them to carry on their schemes, and to insist on having them universally complied with. It frets and provokes them, therefore, to find any who will not be subservient to their pleasures. How few are able to bear this with patience, the history of the world in every age is one continued proof. Such refusals, also, do always reflect some dishonour upon the measures to which they stand in opposition. Whatever any person refuses to do, he, as far as in him lies, represents as wrong and sinful; and, in some respects, unworthy or unfit to be done. Thus it comes to be considered, not only as withdrawing his own allegiance, but as corrupting and seducing others.
3. One other reason why the servants of God are accused as troublesome is, because they are, in many instances, obliged to bear testimony against the sins of others, and openly to reprove them (Leviticus 19:17). Some sins are so flagrant in their nature, that even to witness them with silence would imply some participation of the guilt. In such cases it is the glory of the poorest and meanest servant of God to resent the dishonour that is done to His name, and reprove the most exalted sinner. But this duty, and the odium arising from it, falls most frequently to the share of the prophets and ministers of God, who have received a commission to speak in His name and to plead His cause. How offensive this to human pride! It must certainly either convince or provoke, reform or inflame. How many martyrs to truth have there been since the world began! But there cannot be a better example, or indeed a more lively and well-drawn picture of the effect of plain and just reproof, than in the case of Stephen when pleading his cause before the Jewish rulers (Acts 7:51, 52, 54). It is plainly for this reason that the apostles, in their prayers for assistance, do almost constantly ask that they may be endued with a proper degree of boldness and resolution (Acts 4:29; Ephesians 7:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:2). It is very natural for everyone, at this distance, to imagine that he could have been in no danger of making such an obstinate resistance to the truth, or persecuting, with such implacable enmity, those who espoused it. But all worldly men, in every age, have still the same abhorrence of the faithful servants of God; the same impatience of reproof when it touches themselves. I have taken notice above that in every period of the Church, the most faithful of the servants and ministers of God have, in fact, been counted troublesome by corrupt and worldly men. The same passages of history constantly show that this has arisen chiefly from their attempts to stem the tide of prevailing vice; from their boldness and faithfulness in reproving fashionable crimes. In the twelfth century, Arnulphus, a devout man and excellent preacher, speaks thus to the clergy: "I know that you seek my life, and will shortly kill me. But why? I speak the truth to you, I reprehend your pride and haughtiness, avarice and luxury; therefore I please you not."
III. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. You may learn from what has been said upon this subject the just and proper answer to an objection against the gospel, much insisted on by its enemies, viz., That it has introduced persecution for conscience' sake, with which the world was in a great measure unacquainted before. There are few subjects on which infidels enlarge with greater pleasure, than the cruel animosity that has prevailed, the savage and inhuman massacres that have been perpetrated on a religious account since the publication of the gospel, I think this objection is but seldom answered as it might be. It is usually observed that whatever may have been done by those professing the gospel, there is no countenance given in it to such a spirit and practice. But the objection is not wholly removed while infidels are allowed still to contend that persecution has been its constant attendant and inseparable effect. We ought, therefore, to wrest this argument out of their hands, and first to produce this fact as an accomplishment of our Saviour's prediction (Matthew 10:34-36). Having gone thus far, we have reason to contend that the disciples of Christ have always suffered, and never inflicted the injury, though they have often been obliged to bear the blame. The multitude of heathen religions, though not always, yet did generally agree together: and well they might, for they were all from the same author. None of them, however, could agree with the gospel, for this plain reason, that "no lie is of the truth." But from what quarter did the violence proceed? Did not the dreadful persecutions against the Christians, in the three first centuries, proceed from the heathens? Did the Christians commit any other crime against them, than pointing out the sin and danger of their idolatrous worship and immoral practices? Was not this alone sufficient to raise a cry against them, as turning the world upside down? And in all the subsequent persecutions among professing Christians, was it anything else than the proud, violent, and worldly spirit of those who made a gain of godliness, oppressing the few real believers of every denomination?
2. From what hath been said you may see the guilt and danger of those who falsely accuse the children of God. Nay, our present state as a Church and nation, seems to render such a warning peculiarly seasonable. We have long enjoyed outward peace. In every other country this has introduced a worldly spirit, ambition, luxury, and sloth. And is there no vestige of these characters among us now? Are there not some who cannot endure such strictness as is inconsistent with conformity to the gay and fashionable world? Do not all such incline to charge every profession of piety with hypocrisy? Do they not consider every faithful reprover as an enemy to their peace? Do they not hear with secret pleasure, and spread with apparent triumph, every report to the prejudice of such troublers of Israel? This, then, is the character, and as many of you as conscience charges with the guilt may see your danger. You may see whose cause you plead, and whose reward you shall share.
3. If this has been the constant lot of all the servants of God, to be accused as seditious and troublesome, let every cautious person beware of being misled by the persecuting cry.
4. Since the world is so prone to receive the accusation of faction against the children of God, let them be careful to give no real ground for it.(1) Let all our zeal for the glory of God be conducted, not only with steadiness but with meekness.(2) Let ministers take care to avoid officiously intermeddling in civil matters.
5. Since the charge of faction and sedition has been always brought against faithful ministers, let us learn to bear it with patience and never dissemble the truth, or depart in any measure from our duty in order to avoid it.
(J. Witherspoon, D. D.)
American National Preacher.We may regard the words in three points of view.
I. AS AN EXPRESSION OF THE DEEP-SEATED HOSTILITY OF THE HUMAN HEART AGAINST THE GOSPEL. The love of God — the service of God — the glory of God — the actual intercourse of the soul with God, are all in complete repugnance to the emotions and tastes of general society: therefore such a religion must be opposed and decried. But how shall this be done? It is too palpable a thing to say that we ought not to love God, or serve Him sincerely; but rather to be satisfied with a mere dead form of religion. Such language were too palpable an insult to the rights of Deity. To what delusion, then, must they have recourse in this perplexity? The difficulty has been met in this way. They affix a reproachful term to true religion, and then they proceed to decry it, under the shelter of that term. Thus they soothe their conscience under the sophistical delusion that it is error, rather than truth, which they oppose.
II. AS A VERIFICATION OF THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY. "The time will come," are the words of its great Author to His little band of brethren, "when he that killeth you will think that he doeth God service." "Ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake," is another of His predictions. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution."
III. AS THE UNWITTING TESTIMONY OF ENEMIES TO THE POWER AND DESIGN OF THE GOSPEL. They said that the apostles were revolutionists, disturbers of the peace, preachers of another king — "one Jesus." Politically, this was a gross falsehood: evangelically, it was, and still is, true. Sin has turned away the heart of man, his face, and feet, and hands, from God; and the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, by which the entire moral nature of man is to be changed and converted from darkness to light — from sin to holiness — from alienation to friendship — and from the vassalage of Satan unto liberty and life.
(American National Preacher.)I. THE GOSPEL CREATES A DISTURBANCE.
1. Internally — in men's hearts.
2. Externally — in their social relations.
II. THE OBJECT OF THIS DISTURBANCE.
1. Not the subversion, but the conversion of the world.
2. Not its destruction, but its salvation.
(W. W. Wythe.)I. THE BROADEST the world has ever seen.
1. By its breadth, it aims at the whole world.
2. By its depth, the territory of the spirit.
II. THE MOST LEGITIMATE.
1. By its aim, the salvation of the world.
2. By the means employed, the weapons of the Spirit.
Early Methodist Sermon.I. THE WORLD IS WRONG SIDE UP.
II. IT WANTS TURNING UPSIDE DOWN.
III. WE ARE THE MEN TO DO IT.
(Early Methodist Sermon.)
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