Acts 20:22
Paul had received intimations "in every city" (ver. 23) that "bonds and afflictions" were in store for him; he looked forward with absolute certainty to personal suffering of some kind; but this assurance was so far from daunting or depressing him that his spirit rose on strong and eager wing to the full height of such apostolic opportunity (Matthew 5:10-12). The anticipated future, with its bonds and its sufferings and possibly death itself, raised the soul of the man, exalted him; and he stands before us in the noblest stature to which even he ever attained. Loftier words never came from human lips than these (vers. 22-24). His spiritual exaltation included -

I. CHEERFUL ANTICIPATION OF PERSONAL SUFFERING. "I go bound in the spirit," etc. He felt as one who already wore the bonds and was happy in the bondage. He was already "the prisoner of the Lord," and was proud thus to esteem himself. So far from casting about to see whether there was any open door of escape, he gladly went forth to meet the trials that were in front.

II. SUBLIME INDIFFERENCE TO BODILY ESTATE. "None of these things move me" (ver. 24). He was not affected by considerations which are everything to most men; they did not make him wince; he could be poor or rich, hungry or full, confined or at liberty, - it mattered not to him so long as he was following and serving Christ. And here is the explanation of his nobility; it sprang from

III. ABSORPTION IN THE SAVIOR'S WORK. "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish," etc. (ver. 24). "To testify the gospel of the grace of God " - this was the commanding, all-controlling, all-consuming passion of his soul. It impressed everything else into the service; it burnt up everything that stood in the way. It was the dominating force under which every other power ranged itself obediently,

IV. CONFIDING PRAYER. "I commend you to God," etc. (ver. 32). Leaving these converts and, as he surely believed (ver. 25), to see their face no more, he left them in the hands of God; he trustfully committed them to almighty love, to Divine wisdom, to the "faithful Creator" A blessed thing it is for the departing minister, for the dying parent, to leave his people or his family to the tender care of him who wilt make good the kindest and fullest of his promises.

V. EXALTED HOPE. "An inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (ver. 32). Paul continually looked forward to the time when he and his converts should meet in the heavenly kingdom; this helped to sustain him under persecution and disappointment. He turned from the shame which was put upon him by man to the glory which waited to be revealed, and his heart was more than satisfied. This should be the result of our contemplation of the future; it should lead to inward exaltation. It should lead to

(1) such devotedness to the work we are doing for our Master that we shall rise above the fear of man, and even welcome the losses we endure for Christ's sake;

(2) the devout committing of ourselves and of our charge to the love and faithfulness of him who is unfailingly gracious and true;

(3) a sustaining, animating hope, in whose blessed radiance all earthly experiences are lighted up. But in order to this there is presupposed in us what there was in Paul

(4) an entire surrender of ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. - C.







And now, behold I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem.
(New Year's sermon): — The text presents the future as something —

I. WE ARE BOUND TO FACE. Paul was under the pressure of no bodily compulsion, yet he had to go.

1. All men are under this necessity.(1) Many would like to stand still — like children who would have their holidays last forever.(2) Others would like to go back — to repair mistakes. Embrace lost opportunities, etc.(3) But this is now impossible. The law of progress is written on our lives.

2. But impotent as is the will to decide the direction of life it can in a measure shape that direction. The future is fixed by God: its character and issues are to be determined by ourselves.(1) We may let ourselves drift.(2) We may resolve to live for self.(3) We may subordinate our will to God's as Paul did. He was going to Jerusalem to serve God's Church and to bear testimony to God's gospel.

II. TO BE ENCOUNTERED WITH FORTITUDE.

1. Paul was not perplexed by the uncertainties of the future. He practised what he taught, "Be careful for nothing," etc.

2. He was not appalled by the certainties of the future. Prophetic intimations from city to city told him that bonds and imprisonments awaited him (chap. Acts 21). Analogous presentiments are not unknown now. But apart from these "old experiences doth attain to somewhat of prophetic strain." Past difficulties and sorrows, growing infirmities, and gray hairs here and there, are but shadows of coming events.

3. But Paul was neither perplexed by the one nor appalled by the other, because he knew he was being led by the will of God.(1) Guided by God's counsel, he knew that the way he was going was the right and best way.(2) Sustained by God's arm, he knew that God's grace would be sufficient.(3) And thus, to his great joy, he knew that the will of the Lord would be done. When he reviewed the circumstances it was without regret (Philippians 1:20).

III. TO BE WELCOMED WITH JOY (ver. 24).

1. Life is a course which is desirable to finish — not simply to close. Life may be prolonged and yet not be complete. There is nothing sadder than physical development unaccompanied by intellectual and moral growth. The racer may run long and yet break down, or his laggard steps may leave him in the rear: so we may run in vain. Long life is not so much to be wished for as a complete one.

2. In order to finish the course it is necessary to compass the ministry of life — to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

3. This double consummation will be crowned with joy.

(1)The sense of completeness will bring joy. So will —

(2)The benediction of a blest humanity.

(3)The approval of a satisfied conscience.

(4)The Master's "Well done."

4. To achieve this joy we must be willing to surrender what men usually most value. "I hold my life of no account."

(J. W. Burn.)

I. IN MEETING AND PASSING BY "THINGS THAT HINDER."

1. At Miletus the farewell to the elders. The purpose of a great love to be no hindrance in Christ's work. Separations incidental to service.

2. At Tyre certain disciples who told him "by the Spirit" that he should not go up to Jerusalem. Contradictory voices and perplexities. The ultimate decision is thrown on a man's own responsibility.

3. At Caesarea "Agabus took Paul's girdle," etc. A Divine prophecy of danger is to be of less force than a Divine inspiration of duty. The bondage of the Spirit in the cause of right mightier than the bonds of men.

4. Intense emotion to be no restraint in the activities of service — "What mean ye to weep and break mine heart?" Conscience is to be supreme over feeling. Paul a magnificent example to us in the journey of life. A man going straight on under the overmastering impulse of the right.

II. IN UNCERTAINTY OF THE FUTURE. "Not knowing," etc. The next step is in shadow. Tomorrow is behind the veil.

III. IN KNOWLEDGE OF THE FUTURE. These are not contradictory; we know not and yet we know. He who takes service with Christ may see in the light cast on life by His prophetic words, outlines of the narrow way. Like mountains rising through the mist, he can see from afar the heights he has to climb. "Bonds and afflictions abide with me." Whatever there is not, there will be a fellowship of suffering with the Master; and the closer the companionship, the more severe the suffering may be.

IV. UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF A CONTROLLING PRINCIPLE.

1. Following the spiritual lead the Christian is able to deal with unexpected events. New circumstances come with the new hours; they master the ordinary man, as the drift and the gale have their way with the rudderless ship. The man under spiritual subjection has sovereignty over the varying events of life, and uses them as helps to the right course.

2. In this experience faith must follow where reason can but dimly see. The Spirit of God is an all-sufficient guide to the spiritual man.

3. In this experience the Right will become clearer in the progressive Light. Nor will the right be determined by the removal of difficulties; "bonds and afflictions" may come, but in them and with them the inner peace.

4. The consistency of Paul's course. This is the outcome of the initial act (Acts 9:6).

5. The bondage of the Spirit the truest liberty. Contrast with this Divine power the forces under which men put themselves in subjection — the money power, the world power, the self power. These promise liberty. Service on the one side leads to lordship; on the other, imaginary freedom conducts to bonds and affliction unto death.

V. AS CHARACTERISED BY A GRAND STABILITY. "None of these things move me." It is the strong motive power that leads right on through waves and storms. Then the glorious end — "that I may finish my course with joy." Every man's course will finish, but will he finish it? Under subjection to death or triumphing over it?

(W. K. Lea.)

I. A BINDING SPIRIT. "I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem." Urged by the force of his convictions of obligation to Christ, not merely to renew old associations. The binding does not imply reluctance. To be bound by the spirit of duty is to be self-bound, is to be free. The necessities of souls, the claims of Christ, demand my presence in Jerusalem; just as Peter and John said, "We cannot but speak," etc., and himself, "Necessity is laid upon me." The Divine spirit of duty will listen to no excuses based upon inconveniences, or apparent inexpediences. It makes me feel I must be faithful, honest, spiritual; I must teach and do good.

II. A HEROIC SPIRIT. He was not afraid of —

1. Threatened persecutions. He looked at them with a fearless heart: "None of these things move me."

2. Death itself: "Neither count I my life dear." Life is a precious thing, yet duty is far more precious to a Christ-inspired soul. Like Christ, the truly good have ever been ready to sacrifice life for duty. This conduces in every way to our well-being. But the sacrifice of duty for the preservation of life conduces to our degradation and ruin.

III. AN ABIDING SPIRIT. "So that I might finish," etc. These words give us a view —

1. Of the life of man. Paul regarded life —(1) As a course. The allusion is to the Grecian race (2 Timothy 4:7: 1 Corinthians 9:24). It is in truth a race, measured, so long and no longer — withal very short.(2) As a course which would have an end — "finished."(3) As a course that should be finished with "joy" — not with terror, amazement and anguish, but "joy." It is Heaven's wish that we should all meet with a happy end.

2. Of the life of a minister. The life of a minister is that of —(1) A most responsible trustee. The gospel is committed to his charge.(2) A solemn witness "to testify the gospel."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

In the dungeons of ancient castles there was often a dark winding stair called the oubliette which terminated suddenly in a treacherous opening through which the unwary captive was precipitated into a deep abyss, and dashed in pieces on the rocks beneath. The future is, to some of us, in imagination such an oubliette. We tremble to take another step lest we should leap into sudden calamity, or into the jaws of death. But if we could only look at the matter aright, from the standpoint of faith, the tremors of apprehension would give place to the complacency of hope and trust. I have met somewhere with the anecdote of a father who, desiring to illustrate to his little daughter the nature of faith, concealed himself in a dark chamber in the basement of the house, and called upon the child to jump down into the darkness, assuring her that he would catch her in his arms. For a moment or two she hesitated, but the tones of the familiar and well-loved voice reassured her, and making one bold leap, she found herself the next instant clasped and caressed in her father's embrace. A kiss was all the harm she got by her venture. The heart of the darkness was her father's bosom. So will it be with us who have grace to trust God for the future. Let us advance, not tremblingly, but confidingly. That advance, if a leap in the dark, is not a leap into the dark. We shall find ourselves safe in a Father's arm, and feel a Father's heart beating next our own.

(J. Halsey.)

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