Acts 19:18
Many who had believed now came forward, confessing and disclosing their deeds.
Sermons
Apollos Completed by PaulJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusJ. Bennett, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusA. Barnes, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusDean Vaughan.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusR. A. Bertram.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusW. M. Taylor, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
Paul's Mission Divinely DirectedW. Arnot, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
The Best Method of Evangelising a CityD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
The Word and the WorldF. W. Robertson, M. A.Acts 19:1-23
Triumphs of the Gospel At EphesusR.A. Redford Acts 19:8-20
Work of Paul At EphesusE. Johnson Acts 19:8-20
Paul's Ministry At EphesusActs 19:8-22
Paul's Ministry At EphesusA. F. Schauffler.Acts 19:8-22
Paul's Preaching At EphesusProf. Eadie.Acts 19:8-22
A Bookseller's SacrificeActs 19:18-19
A Fortune Consigned to the FlamesT. De Witt Talmage.Acts 19:18-19
Bad BooksC. A. Heurtley, D. D.Acts 19:18-19
Books and PicturesT. De Witt Talmage, D. D.Acts 19:18-19
Christianity: Nominal and RealJ. W. Burn.Acts 19:18-19
ConversionF. Samuel.Acts 19:18-19
Instruments of Evil to be DestroyedA. Barnes, D. D., Dean Plumptre.Acts 19:18-19
Lasting Influence of Bad BooksG. S. Barrett.Acts 19:18-19
Sacrifice of Unlawful Means of GainW. M. Taylor, D. D.Acts 19:18-19
Signs of Religious SincerityR. Tuck Acts 19:18, 19
The Bonfire At EphesusD. Davies.Acts 19:18-19
The Burning At EphesusK. Gerok.Acts 19:18-19
The Curious ArtsW. Hay Aitken, M. A.Acts 19:18-19
The Evils of Improper BooksJ. Blackburn.Acts 19:18-19
The Guilt and Danger of Reading Bad BooksM. W. Dwight, D. D.Acts 19:18-19
The Influence of Pernicious BooksActs 19:18-19
The Preaching that is NeededW. E. Gladstone.Acts 19:18-19
The Right ConfessionK. Gerok.Acts 19:18-19
The Sorcerer's SacrificeT. R. Stevenson.Acts 19:18-19
Value of a SermonJ. W. Lance.Acts 19:18-19
Works Meet for RepentanceH. W. Beecher.Acts 19:18-19
Practical Evidence of Genuine RepentanceP.C. Barker Acts 19:18-20
The Sign of SincerityW. Clarkson Acts 19:18-20
We are reminded by the text -

I. THAT WHEN WE ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST WE YIELD OURSELVES TO HIM. To exercise a living faith in him is to take everything from him and to give everything to him; therefore to give ourselves to him and to his service. It is to recognize and respond to his supreme claims on heart and life.

II. THAT TO GIVE OURSELVES TO CHRIST MEANS TO ABANDON ALL THAT IS HATEFUL TO HIM. HOW can we love him and not hate and shun the things which are painful and offensive in his sight?

III. THAT TO ABANDON WHAT IS HATEFUL TO CHRIST IS TO PUT AWAY ALL THAT IS FALSE AND IMPURE. To live a life of imposture; to be systematically enriching ourselves at the expense of the credulity of others (as these Ephesians had been doing); to be acting falsehoods daily, or even frequently; to be introducing a large measure of vanity or folly into that which should be good and pure; - this is hateful to him who is the holy and the true One; this is unendurable by him in one who bears his name and professes to be like him and to follow him.

IV. THAT TO PUT ASIDE THAT WHICH IS PROFITABLE OR PLEASANT FOR CHRIST'S SAKE IS A SURE SIGN OF SINCERITY. The burning of these profitable "books" was the very best guarantee that could be given of the sincerity of the Ephesian converts. If we want to know how deep and true is a man's conviction, we do not ask what strong things he can say in its favor, or how eloquently he can descant upon it, or what fervor he shows on one or two occasions respecting it, but how much he is prepared to part with on its account. We ask what deep-rooted habits he will cut away, what cherished treasures he will put aside, what keen enjoyments he will forego, what money he will sacrifice, what prized but hurtful friendships he will surrender. This is the test of sincerity. A man that will do one or more of these things, "we know the proof of him.

V. THAT DELIBERATE SELF-SACRIFICE IS THE MOST APPRECIATED WITNESS WE CAN BEAR FOR CHRIST. So mightily grew the word of God," etc. (ver. 20). There is no way by which we can so powerfully affect the judgment and win the sympathy of men as by sacrificing for Christ's sake that which all men prize and strive for. When the world sees all who "profess and call themselves Christians" not only engaging in devotion, and endeavoring to make converts, but also denying themselves pleasures they would otherwise enjoy, spending on others the money they would else have spent on themselves, foregoing worldly advantages which they cannot conscientiously appropriate, then it will be convinced by arguments which now are without any cogency, and will be won by persuasions which now are urged in vain. - C.







And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
I.ITS ROOT: faith.

II.ITS MOTIVE: repentance.

III.ITS FRUIT: obedience.

(K. Gerok.)

"And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds," etc. (ver. 18, 19). This text proves the power of the gospel in the conversion of these "exorcists." The gospel is the greatest power on earth. The gospel alone acts on the heart to change it and renew the man after the image of God. And this is accomplished without any earthly weapon.

I. THE NATURE OF CONVERSION. It is not conviction. A man may be convinced and yet carry his "bosom sin" with him unto the end of life; but conversion implies an inward change, so that sin is cast away as our most bitter enemy. Conversion does not change the original faculties of the soul. Whether a man be of a sanguine nature, or cool and calculative, it does not change Otis, but sanctifies the whole man for the service of Christ. Balaam was convinced but not converted.

II. THE SIGNS OF TRUE CONVERSION. Anxious people often ask, "How can I know that I am converted?" Our Saviour answers this, "By their fruits ye shall know them."

1. By a spirit of prayerfulness. Christ said of Saul, after his conversion, "Behold he prayeth."

2. By joining in Christian fellowship. "Like seeks like," "similar natures meet." If a man is converted he will seek the fellowship of Christians.(3) By forsaking evil ways. These exorcists rejoiced to see the "books" which had been a snare and a curse to them destroyed by the flames. The things which were "gain" to them they "counted loss for Christ."(4) By delight in God's Word.

III. THE NECESSITY OF CONVERSION. It is necessary —

1. In order to be happy.

2. In order to be useful in Christ's vineyard.

3. In order to attain heaven at last.

(F. Samuel.)

I. THE NOMINAL CHRISTIAN —

1. Believes. These Ephesians, like many in the midst of heathendom today, were convinced of the errors of paganism and the truth of Christianity, but no more. And in the midst of Christendom multitudes are believers simply in the sense of accepting the facts and doctrines of the gospel as Divine.

2. Professes, or no one would know that he is a believer. Not indeed voluntarily, except that he does many things that real Christians do — goes to Church, and perhaps to the sacrament. If asked, he says without hesitation that he is a Christian.

3. But this faith and profession are merely superficial, and cover an unrenewed heart and an inconsistent life. The concealment is sometimes successful, and many a nominal Christian passes for a real one, as here apparently — for these Ephesians had to "show" their deeds. But the covering is very thin and may frequently be seen through by men, and always by God.

II. THE NOMINAL CHRISTIAN BECOMING REAL.

1. By a heart faith. The fact of their coming shows that their believing had become a far deeper and more influential act than intellectual assent. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness."

2. By confession of the fact of sin instead of the profession of the fiction of Christianity. "With the mouth confession is made of salvation," and the confessor thereby evinces his desire for the real thing instead of the sham.

3. By self-exposure of the real state of heart and life. They "shewed their deeds." This was —

(1)Voluntary.

(2)Before man as well as God; for the one had been deceived and the other mocked.

III. THE REAL CHRISTIAN —

1. Believes. But instead of merely assenting to the generally received doctrine, having refused a saving trust in Christ, he now lives by faith.

2. He confesses Christ instead of professing an adherence to the Christian religion.

3. He shows his deeds which are in conformity with his faith and confession.

(J. W. Burn.)

Many of them also which used curious arts
(Sermon to business men.) All religions have their mysteries, and the worship of Mammon is no exception to this rule. Perhaps it would require a hierophant of Mammon to set forth properly the mysteries of this most mysterious of arts, which are quite as curious as any of the arts of ancient necromancy, or any of the mysteries of the ancient Greeks or Romans. The effect of those mysteries must have been disastrous upon the ancient worship, for, for a man to know that he was living by chicanery and deceit was for him to lose his own self-respect. In every age of the world's history, society has had no worse foe than a habitual humbug'. It is not an uncommon thing to talk about the humbugs of religion. I am not sure that it might not properly be a more common thing for Christian men to speak about the humbugs of commerce.

I. WHAT SHALL WE SAY ABOUT THESE CURIOUS ARTS?

1. It is coming to be regarded as a natural thing that there should be an unnatural and untruthful inflation of the market at one time, and then an equally unnatural and untruthful depression at another time; and men who call themselves business men actually lay themselves out to produce such artificial conditions. In other words, this is nothing more or less than a fashionable and a gentleman-like way of picking pockets. There are many men who steal besides those that pick pockets in the street. When a man induces a false conviction with regard to the value of an article, or depreciates it with a view to his own emolument, what is he doing? He is lying; and is making a confession that he is not a business man, because he cannot trust himself to do business with his compeers in commercial life on honourable terms.

2. Another curious art is practised by those most obliging persons who sell goods under cost price. And then, when you look behind the scenes and enter the secret arcanum of this god Mammon, and ask how it is possible, you make the discovery that it is in order that Mr. Smith may undersell Mr. Jones, so that when Jones is got out of the way, Smith can run up his prices to whatever he pleases. And this clever trick is called business. Endeavour to present to yourselves the moral condition of a man who deliberately plots the commercial overthrow of an honester man than himself, in order that he may get the trade that would naturally flow into that man's hands. No man can worship a god without running the risk of becoming as bad as the god he worships. "They that make them are like unto them."

3. It seems to me a very curious thing that in the same place the same article should be sold at half-a-dozen different prices. "Will you buy some tea of me?" said a commercial traveller to an old friend who kept a small shop. "Oh," he said, "thank you, but I can't do it, sir; I buy all my tea at one place and at one price." "But," said the other, "I see here marked up in your window all sorts of different prices. Surely there must be different kinds of tea." "Not a bit, my dear sir. I buy all my tea in the lump, at one and eightpence a pound, and then I put my tickets on it, and some passes for four-shilling tea, some for three and sixpence, and some for three shillings, and everybody is satisfied." Ingenious trick, isn't it? Quite worthy of those ancient necromancers and their wonderful books of mystery.

II. I WONDER WHAT ALL THESE TRICKS LOOK LIKE IN THE EYES OF HIM BEFORE WHOM WE ARE ALL GOING TO STAND BY AND BY? No, I don't think I wonder at all. Ah! is He gazing down upon man whom He has made in His own image, in order that He may raise him to Himself, and sees man stooping to this degraded condition? How the heart of the great Father must bleed and must needs yearn over us as He sees this deteriorating process going still forward in men whose business, instead of being a blessing to them, is their bane.

III. OUR TEXT BRINGS BEFORE US A VERY REMARKABLE TRANSACTION. I wish I could see it emulated in modern commerce. Some of the Ephesians were pursuing their commercial career and making money out of it. There comes into the town of Ephesus a stranger. This stranger preaches a new God, who is going to be the Judge of quick and dead, and that He offers Himself as the Saviour of all who will have Him. This stranger proclaims a higher morality, and tells the people that they will be better without their sins. And as the result of it, these professional men who had been making very large sums of money out of their books, made a great bonfire of them. Men of business, choose between your curious arts and your souls.

IV. WHAT IS IT THAT ENABLES THESE MEN TO TAKE THIS DECISIVE MEASURE? "Many of them that believed." They had found something better than the chicaneries of deceit, and hence they were content to renounce the hidden things of darkness, because there is something better than the hidden things of darkness — the open things of light, In the conscious apprehension of the one, they were content to turn their backs upon the other.

(W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

Brought their books together and burned them
I. NO MAN WHO DESIRES TO TURN AWAY FROM AN EVIL COURSE IS WISE WHO DOES NOT ACT WITH INSTANTANEOUS AND DECISIVE ENERGY. A man who has been in a career of passionate wickedness ought of all men to understand that "deliberation" is unwholesome. There are some things which are helped by reflection; but what would you think of a man who, if his house was on fire, should sit down and say, "Well, let me consider it"? And there is no fire like that which breaks out in a man's corrupt nature.

II. WHEN MEN FORSAKE SIN, THEY OUGHT TO BREAK EVERY BRIDGE BEHIND THEM. After a man is once across the Red Sea, farewell Egypt forever. A man that has been overtaken by great sins ought to create an enmity between himself and those sins, so that there shall be no danger of their ever again coming together. Men who have committed themselves to goodness, should come out earnestly, publicly, and instantly, and "show their hand." There is no middle course that is safe — certainly none that is manly. What would you think of a gambler, who, having repented, should store away his instruments, saying, "I do not intend to touch these things again; but still, the time may come when I shall think differently; and I will keep them"? And yet a great many people keep their old sins warm, while they go to try on virtue, and see if they like it. Such a reformation as this is a sham.

III. WHERE MEN HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN VERY GUILTY AND GREAT SINS, THEY OWE SOMETHING MORE TO RELIGION THAN MERELY TO CHANGE FROM SIN TO VIRTUE.

1. There is often the necessity of reparation. A man may have wronged a fellow man by his tongue; and it is necessary, if he is going to be a Christian, that that shall be all repaired. A man may have a quarrel, that quarrel must come to an end. A man may be high and obstinate; he must come down and confess, "I was wrong, and I give up the transgression wholly." It may be that a man has been living on illgotten gains. No matter if it makes a beggar of him, he must make reparation, and give them up.

IV. REPENTANCE IN DIFFERENT MEN MUST BE A VERY DIFFERENT THING. Although it is, generally speaking, turning from sin to righteousness, yet this is a very different thing in different persons, as we see (Luke 3) and its effects from John's preaching. When men repent, the sign of repentance will be according to the way in which they have been sinning. For instance, if a returned pirate should present himself to me for admission to my Church, I should demand of him a very different confession of sin from that which I should demand from an ordinary moral man.

(H. W. Beecher.)

1. One of the wants of the cities of this country is a great bonfire of bad books and newspapers. The printing press is the mightiest agency on earth for good and for evil. I believe that the greatest scourge that has ever come upon this nation has been that of unclean journalism. The London plague was nothing to it. That counted its victims by thousands, but this modern pest has already shovelled its millions into the charnel house of the morally dead.

2. What books and newspapers shall we read? Shall our minds be the receptacle of everything that an author has a mind to write? Shall there be no distinction between the tree of life and the tree of death? Standing, as we do, chin deep in fictitious literature, the first question that many of the young people are asking me is, "Shall we read novels?" I reply, There are novels that are pure, good, Christian, elevating to the heart and ennobling to the life. But I believe that ninety-nine out of one hundred are destructive to the last degree. Stand aloof from all books —

I. THAT GIVE FALSE: PICTURES OF HUMAN LIFE. If you depended upon much of the literature of the day, you would get the idea that life, instead of being something earnest, practical, is a fitful and fantastic and extravagant thing. A man who gives himself up to the indiscriminate reading of novels will be nerveless, inane, and a nuisance. He will be fit neither for the store, nor the shop, nor the field. A woman who gives herself up to the indiscriminate reading of novels will be unfitted for the duties of wife, mother, sister, daughter.

II. WHICH, WHILE THEY HAVE SOME GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEM, HAVE ALSO AN ADMIXTURE OF EVIL. You have read books that had the two elements in them — the good and the bad. Which stuck to you? The bad! The heart of most people is like a sieve, which lets the small particles of gold fall through, but keeps the great cinders. Once in a while there is a mind like a loadstone, which, plunged amid steel and brass filings, gathers up the steel and repels the brass. But it is generally just the opposite. If you attempt to plunge through a hedge of burrs to get one blackberry, you will get more burrs than blackberries. You cannot afford to read a bad book, however good you are. Alas, if through curiosity, as many do, you pry into an evil book, your curiosity is as dangerous as that of the man who should take a torch into a gunpowdermill merely to see whether it would really blow up or not.

III. WHICH CORRUPT THE IMAGINATION AND INFLAME THE PASSIONS. Today, under the nostrils of your city, there is a fetid, reeking, unwashed literature, enough to poison all the fountains of public virtue.

IV. WHICH ARE APOLOGETIC OF CRIME. It is a sad thing that some of the best and most beautiful book bindery, and some of the finest rhetoric, has been brought to make sin attractive. Vice is a horrible thing. Do not paint it as looking from behind embroidered curtains, or through lattice of royal seraglio, but as writhing in the agonies of a city hospital. Cursed be the books that try to make impurity decent, and crime attractive, and hypocrisy noble! Cursed be the books that swarm with libertines and desperadoes, who make the brain of the young people whirl with villainy! Ye authors who write them, ye publishers who print them, ye booksellers who distribute them, though you may escape in this world, those whom you have destroyed will come around to torment you, and to pour hotter coals of fury upon your head, and rejoice eternally in the outcry of your pain and the howl of your damnation.

V. THE LASCIVIOUS PICTORIAL LITERATURE OF THE DAY IS MOST TREMENDOUS FOR RUIN. These death warrants of the soul are at every street corner. There may be enough poison in one bad picture to poison one soul, and that soul may poison ten, and ten fifty, and the fifty hundreds, and the hundreds thousands, until nothing but the measuring line of eternity can tell the height, and depth, and ghastliness, and horror of the great undoing. At a newsstand one can guess the character of a man by the kind of:pictorial he purchases. Whern the devil fails to get a man to read a bad book, he sometimes succeeds in getting him to look at a bad picture.

VI. CHERISH GOOD BOOKS AND NEWSPAPERS. Beware of the bad ones. One column may save your soul; one paragraph may ruin it. Benjamin Franklin said that the reading of "Cotton Mather's Essay on Doing Good" moulded his entire life. The assassin of Lord Russell declared that he was led into crime by reading one vicious romance.

(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

1. It was the burning up of books. There has been a good deal of that in history. People have been very fond of burning books, but they have been as a rule other people's books — not their own.

2. These people burnt their own books. Now, I suppose you have seen some books burned by the owner when they have been of no value. But that was not the reason why these people burnt their books.

3. They burnt costly books. Dean Alford, I think, tells us these must have been worth about £1,750, and Dean Howson says that they must have cost about £2,000.

4. They burnt them because they had found that they were all false. More than that — for I have no doubt they had found that out before now — they had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and become His disciples, and felt that they could not be both Christians and soothsayers. They must, as disciples of Christ, do away with their old evil habits, and burn their old books.

5. They burnt them openly — "in the sight of all." But why did they not burn them quietly, on their own hearths at home? Now, some of us would have done that, so that nobody might laugh at us, and especially that nobody we had deceived might get very angry, and say, "I have been paying you so much money for what turns out to be a mere sham." Observe that Luke tells that "some" did this. I have no doubt that there were others facing both ways, who tried to keep the books and at the same time to be Christians.

6. In conclusion, the people did all promptly and thoroughly. They did not hesitate, or stop short, until every book was burnt. They were in right earnest. Now, I have talked about all this in order just to bring a simple lesson home to you. No doubt you, too, have something to burn for the sake of Jesus Christ. Surely many of you profess to love Him. He exclaims to you, "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." But if you keep His commandments you have lots of little things to burn up. It may be some nasty little habit. Give up that lazy disposition, or the Lord Jesus will not own you. There are plenty of hypocrites in the world who pretend to be Christ's, and yet cling to their old sinful lives. Now I have no doubt you will say that Ephesus would be much poorer in books after this burning. No. Ephesus was far richer in books after this than ever it was before. Let us see. There was the Eplisle of Paul to the Ephesians; again there were the writings of John the Beloved. All these were given to Ephesus in return for the bad books which were burnt there. God always makes up for the losses we incur by seeking to please Him. And every act of this sort not only blesses us, but also others who see it.

(D. Davies.)

(Text and Proverbs 19:27): — The oldest library we know of in history bore on its front this inscription, "Food for the Mind." This is what books were designed to be; and it is only when they bear this character that they can be used with safety. Let us note: —

I. SOME CLASSES OF BOOKS WHICH ARE SOURCES OF CORRUPTION.

1. Those that wage open warfare against religion. Many of this class are written with ability, are specious, misleading, and almost sure to corrupt religious principles, and fill the heart with bitterness.

2. The licentious and impure. While not written with the same avowed design, they are more hurtful to society. Some of this class are the vehicles of grossest impurity; others, like the sheet let down before Peter, are full of all manner of beasts, but the unclean prevail. Genius is perverted from its high office. Fielding, Smeller, Sterne, Moore, Byron are proud names in the literary annals of the world; but instead of "food for the mind" they but minister poison to the heart.

3. Works of imagination and fiction. In this we include novels and plays. Not all of them, for some of this class are pure and good. But the mass of them fail to beget hatred of sin and love of virtue. They inflame evil passions, vitiate true tastes, corrupt sound morals, and create false, pernicious ideals and types of life.

II. HOW THESE SEVERAL CLASSES OF BOOKS WORK SUCH EVIL.

1. They waste much precious time.

2. They create a disrelish for serious reading. Good and pure and truthful books become insipid, dull, intolerable to the constant readers of such classes as we have condemned.

3. They inevitably undermine the principles of morality, individual and social, and thereby corrupt the fountain of virtue.

4. They war against the spiritual interest of the soul, and thereby destroy for eternity as well as for time.Conclusion: Our subject —

1. Furnishes a solemn rebuke to those who, for paltry gain, write, print and sell such works, which they know are adapted to waste the time, pervert the tastes, corrupt the morals and ruin the souls of men.

2. Solemnly urges upon parents and instructors of youth the duty of seeing that they are amply supplied with proper "food for the mind," and never indulge in such as tends to corrupt and destroy.

(M. W. Dwight, D. D.)

I. THE CLASSES OF BOOKS WHICH ARE PERNICIOUS. Those that —

1. Assail the truth of Christianity.

2. Oppose its holiness.

3. Destroy its temper.

II. THE DANGER WHICH ATTENDS THE INDISCIRIMINATE USE OF SUCH BOOKS arises from the fact that —

1. The human mind is naturally sceptical.

2. The human heart naturally licentious.

3. The human temper naturally trifling.

(J. Blackburn.)

Some years before the Revolution, a lady bookseller at Paris, attracted by the reputation of Father Beauvegard, went to Notre Dame to hear him. His discourse was particularly levelled against irreligious books, and the lady had cause enough to reproach herself on that scale, having been in the habit of selling many publications which were contrary to good manners and to religion. Interest had blinded her; but, penetrated by the sermon, she could no longer doubt that impious and licentious books are a dreadful source of poison to the heart; and she was compelled to acknowledge that those who print, or sell, or contribute to circulate them in any way whatever, are so many public poisoners, whom God will one day call to account for the evil they occasion. Impressed with these sentiments, she went to the preacher, and, with tears in her eyes, she said to him, "You have rendered me a great service by giving me to see how culpable I have been in selling many impious books, and I entreat you to finish the good work you have begun by taking the trouble to come to my warehouse to examine all the books which are in it, and to put aside all those which may be injurious to morals or religion. I had rather be deprived of a part of my property than consent to lose my soul." Accordingly Father Beauvegard paid her a visit next day, and when he had separated the good books from the bad, she cast the latter, one after another, into a great fire she had taken care to provide. The price of the works thus consumed amounted, it is said, to about six thousand livres. She made the sacrifice without regret, and from that time endeavoured to sell no books but what might tend to counteract the evil done by the others. How many persons will "go and do likewise"?

Is such a burning suitable for the present day? Yes; but only —

I. FOR THE PROPER BOOKS.

1. These are not works of exact science, noble poetry, or human law.

2. They are the pernicious fugitive pieces of a frivolous superficial knowledge, the seductive works of an impure light literature, and the arrogant decrees of an anti-Christian tyranny of the conscience.

II. WITH THE PROPER FIRE.

1. This is not the gloomy glow of a narrow puritanism, nor the sullen fire of a condemnatory fanaticism, nor the incendiary torch of a revolution.

2. This is the holy fire of a repentance which thinks especially of its sins and wants; of a love to the Lord, which joyfully sacrifices to Him whatever is most costly; and of a zeal for God's house which desires nothing else than that His Kingdom may come, as in churches, houses and hearts, so also in the state, arts and sciences.

(K. Gerok.)

Deeds, not words, are the proofs of a man's sincerity. We may say what we will, and make what profession we will; but it is our conduct that must stamp the true value both upon what we say and what we profess. In this passage we have an account of a conversion, which, from the circumstances attending it, we have good reason to believe was real. "And fear fell on them all; and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified." This was the effect generally. People stood in awe of a religion which was attested by such evident tokens of Divine power, and were disposed to believe that there was something in what was told them of Christianity and its Founder. Thus far, however, people: may go, and often do go, without experiencing any real saving change in themselves. They have a sort of respect for religion; they would not slight it; but there they stop: they do not suffer it to take hold of their hearts. So, no doubt, it was at Ephesus with numbers. But it was not so with all. Many there were, who, as far as we have the means of judging, were savingly converted by what they heard and saw. They "believed, and came, and confessed, and showed their deeds." See here the proofs which these men gave of the sincerity of their conversion.

I. It is said, "THEY BELIEVED" — they believed the gospel which St. Paul preached, and, believing this, they betook themselves to Jesus, that they might be saved by Him. But we cannot betake ourselves to Jesus except we first renounce and forsake those ways and practices which are contrary to Him. This, then, these Ephesians did. They came to the apostle, and confessed their sins, and showed their evil deeds. They did not attempt to excuse themselves, to put a better face upon their past life than it deserved. And this everyone must do who would turn to God in good earnest. Remember, then, that confession is one of the very first steps to be taken, if we would obtain forgiveness and enjoy the blessing of a conscience at peace with God and at peace with itself. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." Ordinarily we do best to begin with confession. And, no doubt, besides the greater and more heinous sins of our lives, which we have good need to acknowledge with shame, and as the Christian does come short hourly of that standard at which he aims, so it is his wisdom as; well as his duty to confess his shortcomings as minutely and particularly as he can. A man may confess in a general way that he is a sinner, and yet blind his eyes to this or that particular sin to which he is addicted, and so continue in it for all his confession. And this shows the importance of self-examination, as at other times, so especially before our set prayers. But, after all, even confession is not enough. It is, too, possible for a man to confess his sins and yet for all this to continue in his sins. In fact the confession may be used as a sort of cloak, by which a man persuades himself that he is penitent. These Ephesian converts not only confessed their sins, but they forsook them; nay, they not only forsook them, but they put away from them the occasions which led to them, and the instruments by which they practised them. And to show that it was no cheap sacrifice which they were making, the value of them, it was found, was no less than fifty thousand pieces of silver. Well, indeed, might the sacred writer add, after giving this account, "So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed." It was a very strong testimony indeed to the sincerity of these converts, and to the power with which the Word of God had laid hold of them. Their conduct was an open confession of the change which had taken place in their views and feelings. But, further, the burning of their books shows the resolution which the Ephesian converts had formed never to return to the use of those arts again to which the books ministered. They had no misgivings in their minds; as though, after all, they might possibly at some future time take a different view of their former course and of the religion they had adopted from what they now did. Their minds were made up. Nor was this all. As far as in them lay they cut off the possibility of a return. It is said of a great captain of former times, that on one occasion when he went with his army to make war upon an enemy's country, he set fire to his ships as soon as his army was landed, that both he and they might feel that nothing was left for them but to conquer. They were not even to think of flight or escape. So did these Ephesians by their "curious arts." And in this respect, too, every sincere and earnest convert will tread in their steps. As far as in him lies he will cut off from himself the possibility of a return to his former courses. The things which used to minister to his evil practices he will as much as possible put away from him. If he was given to drunkenness, he will keep out of the way of those places and those companions which used to lead him on to that sin. If bad books or other writings were a cause of stumbling to him, putting into his mind bad thoughts and bad desires, he will put these from him for the future. But someone might have whispered to these Ephesians, "Why burn the books, after all? They cost a great deal of money. Is it not a pity to destroy them? If you do not want them, others may be glad of them, and glad to buy them of you. And, if they take damage in consequence, that is their look-out, not yours. Besides, if they do not get your books, they will most likely get others." But these good men did not allow any such thought to weigh with them. The books were bad books; they would not leave the possibility of their doing further mischief. They had done mischief enough already. People might remind them of the money which they paid for them, and tell them that at any rate it would be enough to lay them by. But they will feel that the true course is to put it out of their power to do further mischief.

II. ARE WE FOLLOWING CHRIST WITH LIKE SINCERITY? Are we forsaking and casting away whatever in former times led us astray from God, or served as an instrument of sin? Have we allowed ourselves in anything which God's Word forbids? I know how men are apt to plead for some of these things; how they say, "We cannot, circumstanced as we are, give them up. We have been used to them all our lives. Our living and maintenance depend upon them. If we give them up, yet others will still carry them on. We must trust in God's mercy, and hope that He will make allowance for us." But, no: whoever reasons thus, and casts about for excuses to justify himself in continuing in a course of sin, does by that very fact show that his heart is not right with God. He is not following the Lord fully. God will not own him, let him speak as he will of his faith, and make what profession he will. As Christians we are to give up everything that is contrary to God's law. However dear it may be to us, yea, though it be as a right hand, it is to be cut off, or as a right eye, it is to be plucked out: God can and will make amends for it.

(C. A. Heurtley, D. D.)

One thing I have against the clergy, both of the country and in the towns. I think they are not severe enough on their congregations. They do not sufficiently lay upon the souls and consciences of their hearers their moral obligations, and probe their hearts and bring up their whole lives and action to the bar of conscience. The class of sermons which I think are most needed are of the class which offended Lord Melbourne long ago. Lord Melbourne was one day seen coming from church in the country in a mighty fume. Finding a friend, he exclaimed, "It is too bad. I have always been a supporter of the Church, and I have always upheld the clergy. But it is really too bad to have to listen to a sermon like that we have had this morning. Why, the preacher actually insisted upon applying religion to a man's private life!" But that is the kind of preaching which I like best, the kind of preaching men need most, but it is, also, the kind of which they get the least.

(W. E. Gladstone.)

The value of a sermon consists not half so much in apprehending the method of it, or remembering its form and letter, as in the moral impression it produces on the heart, and by which it takes effect in the life. Just as the effect of art is more than the method of art, so the effect of preaching is more than all its methods. I have heard of a minister who, having a congregation composed chiefly of shopkeepers, and having his doubts that some of these were not so accurate in the matter of weights and scales and measures as they should have been, preached a sermon from the text, "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight." The sermon was much admired by all, but a few days after, when some half-dozen of the congregation were discussing its merits, some of them clearly remembering its heads, divisions, and subdivisions, one of them said: "I don't remember much about the sermon now, but I know this, that after I had heard it I went straight home and burnt my bushel."

(J. W. Lance.)

When recently Captain Burton, the great traveller, died, he left a book in manuscript, which he expected would be his wife's fortune. He often told her so. He said, "This will make you independent and affluent after I am gone." He suddenly died, and it was expected that the wife would publish the book. One publisher told her he could himself make out of it 100,000 dollars. But it was a book which, though written with pure scientific design, she felt would do immeasurable damage to public morals. With the two large volumes, which had cost her husband the work of years, she sat down on the floor before the fire, and said to herself, "There is a fortune for me in this book, and, although my husband wrote it with the right motive, and scientific people might be helped by it, to the vast majority of people it would be harmful, and I know it would damage the world." Then she took apart the manuscript, sheet after sheet, and put it into the fire, until the last line was consumed. Bravo I She flung her livelihood, her home, her chief worldly resources under the best moral and religious interests of the world.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

The boy David Hume was a believer in the Scriptures until he ransacked the works of infidels to prepare for a debate in which he was to take part. It is said of Voltaire that when only five years of age he committed to memory an infidel poem, and was never able after that to undo its pernicious influence upon his mind. Thomas Chambers, an officer of the British Government, says that all the boys brought before the criminal courts can ascribe their downfall to impure reading.

I would rather be a murderer than write a bad book. A murderer murders a body once, but the writer of a bad book may murder souls as long as the book lasts. Not long ago an eminent public man said when he was young a companion put a bad book into his hands. He could not tell the harm it had done him. For years after he had reached manhood he had not got rid of the influence of that book. But impure books were not the only bad ones. There were sceptical books that had about them a deadly atmosphere. A man might read himself into scepticism. He would not vouch for the faith of any man who should read for twelve months the writings of Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, and the rest — one side only, never caring to read the arguments that had convinced men quite as able as they, of the truth of the Christian religion.

(G. S. Barrett.)

I. WHAT A CONVINCING ACT! The New Testament ever speaks of conversion as a vast change. "Born again," "turned from darkness to light," are the uncompromising terms employed. Now, what are the evidences that this has been wrought? Loving what was once hated, and hating what was once loved. Let us discriminate. To abhor and avoid certain transgressions is comparatively easy. Many "Compound for sins they are inclined to, by blaming sins they have no mind to." The mean man grows eloquent in denouncing extravagance. The good-natured man has small temptation to penuriousness. The man whose animal passions are constitutionally feeble is never in danger of sensuality. A far more searching criterion must be applied. Does the miser loosen his grasp upon his gold? Does the prayerless one abandon his neglect of the mercy seat? Does the victim of vanity become humble and self-abnegating? "What things were gain to me, those counted I loss for Christ." Paul's experience is that of every Christian.

II. WHAT A WISE ACT! By burning these books the magicians consulted their own welfare. Had they put them away, resolving to keep them only as mere literary curiosities, they might have been tempted at some future time to return to their old practices. When duty takes us into places and among persons that are spiritually perilous, we need not fear. God will protect us then. Jesus was "led up of the Spirit into the wilderness"; and left it, unconquered by the Prince of Darkness. But no Divine command or holy impulse moved Achan to the spot where the forbidden treasures lay, hence he was ensnared by them. If we go needlessly into scenes of temptation we must not be surprised if we become its victims. During one stage of his journey, Pilgrim sees a man confined in an iron cage. "I have tempted the devil," he cries, "and he has come to me." Quaintly, but impressively, does one say, "Those who would not fall into the river should beware how they approach too near to its banks. He that crushes the egg need not fear the flight of the bird. He who would not drink of the wine of wrath let him not touch the cup of pleasure. He who would not hear the passing bell of eternal death should not finger the rope of sin. A person who carries gunpowder about him can never stand too far from the fire. If we accompany sin one mile, it will compel us to go twain. The fable saith: 'That the butterfly inquired of the owl how she should do with the candle which had singed her wings. The owl counselled her not so much as to behold the smoke.' If you hold the stirrup, no wonder Satan gets into the saddle."

III. WHAT A BENEVOLENT ACT! They were worthy of all praise in burning the books, because, in the course of time, the books might have fallen into the hands of others, and instigated them to sorcery. The lesson is palpable. We should try to keep others from the evil into which we have once been led. Suppose a man obtains his livelihood by occupation which is clearly injurious to society. If converted, his duty is to abandon it.

IV. WHAT A BLESSED ACT! Yes, God blessed it. The magicians had a compensation. They burned books for Christ, and they received books from Him — Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, and the letter from the Saviour "to the angel of the Church at Ephesus." Thus is it always. None serve Christ without rich remuneration.

(T. R. Stevenson.)

Like other grocers, Samuel Budgett, the "Successful Merchant" had been in the habit of adulterating his pepper with some innocent preparation, which he kept in a little barrel labelled P.D. — pepper dust. But as he grew in Christian intelligence his conscience troubled him about the matter, until one night he rose from his bed, went to his store, took the little barrel, and knocked in the ends of it. Is there no P.D. about you? If there be do as Budgett did: Knock it an the head.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

If property, now applied to a wicked purpose, can be used for a good end — if a house once rented for an immoral employment can be occupied for a business that is moral — if a piece of machinery which has been employed for evil can be used in a lawful avocation — if a vessel used before for piracy or in the slave trade, can be employed in legitimate commerce — if a sword can be beaten into a ploughshare, or a spear into a pruning hook, then principle would not require that these should be destroyed; but if no such lawful use of property can be made, then the principles of Christianity do not allow that it should be transferred to other hands, but that it should be destroyed at once. Christian honesty demands the sacrifice; a Christian conscience would prompt it.

(A. Barnes, D. D.)

They counted the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. — The coin referred to was the Attic drachma, usually estimated at about 81/2d. of English money, and the total amount answers, accordingly, to £1,770 17s. 6d., as the equivalent in coin. In its purchasing power, as determined by the prevalent rate of wages (a denarius or drachma for a day's work), it was probably equivalent to a much larger sum. Such books fetched what might be culled "fancy" prices, according to their supposed rareness, or the secrets to which they professed to introduce. Often, it may be, a book was sold as absolutely unique.

(Dean Plumptre.)

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