Acts 20:27


St. Paul is stating a fact which

(1) was to the honor of the Ephesian elders, for they must have been receptive and willing hearers if the apostle found that he might even teach them the mysteries of the gospel; and which

(2) was to the honor of St. Paul as a teacher, who was so skilful in dividing the Word of truth that he could make the very mysteries plain. Compare his language in Ephesians 3:4, where he speaks of their 'being' "able to understand his knowledge, in the mystery of Christ." It is right to declare the whole counsel of God; but it is wise only to declare it to those who are prepared to receive it. Compare St. Peter's counsel and reference to St. Paul in 2 Peter 3:15, 16. The "whole counsel of God" may be regarded as including -

I. THE COMPLETE CIRCLE OF REVEALED TRUTH. This embraces

(1) the Divine revelations made in different ages;

(2) in different forms;

(3) to different individuals.

While the complete circle may be regarded as contained in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, we may not absolutely limit Divine revelation to the written Word. The Spirit of God has full and free access to the minds and hearts of men, and can reveal his will directly to them if it shall please him so to do. To this circle there is a center, but the repetition of this cannot be the Divine idea of "preaching the gospel." Every truth within the circle must be held by, and filled with the spirit of, the central truth. Everything within the circle is the gospel. Ministers may not, and they need not, shun to declare to men the very "mysteries" of revelation, since by the consideration of such the higher culture of the soul is gained. Infants take the milk of first principles; strong men need to feed upon strong meat of difficult and advanced truth.

II. THE TRUTH IN ITS ANTAGONISTIC PHASES. This side of the truth may not be left untouched by any teacher, but its treatment calls for much care and wisdom. There are times when we are required to show how truth opposes error; but usually it is far better to preach the positive truth, and let it by its own force gradually root out and destroy error. Three points may here be illustrated.

1. Christ's truth seemed opposed to Judaism. It was not really opposed to the system as given by God to Moses. It was the natural and necessary outgrowth and completion of it. It was opposed to the corrupt Judaism of the rabbis - a formal and ceremonial system out of which all spiritual life had gone.

2. Christ's truth was opposed to paganism, both in its theories, principles, and practices.

3. Christ's truth is made to appear opposed to science, but only by the undue assumptions and prejudiced bias of some who really misrepresent science.

4. Christ's truth is always opposed to worldly maxims, because it demands the whole soul for God, while the world wants the whole soul for self.

III. THE TRUTH IN ITS PRACTICAL PHASES. Illustrate from the Epistles how directly it bears:

1. On individual habits; teaching us how to possess the vessels of our bodies in sanctification and honor.

2. On family relations; culturing good fatherhood and motherhood, and requiring honorable obedience from children, and service from dependents.

3. On social fellowships; binding man to man in a gracious brotherhood of common helpfulness.

IV. THE TRUTH WITH THE PERSONAL STAMP ON IT. When uttered with the force of a man's own experience, persuasion, and conviction, the truth gains a new power; but we must also recognize that it comes under limitations by getting apprehension and expression only through limited minds - limited by capacity and limited by education. Individuality is on one side power, but on the other side weakness. Conclude by fully unfolding what now may be thought of as included in the "whole counsel of God," especially pointing out that, while the field of revelation is the same that St Paul had, the field of speculation has marvelously grown and enlarged. But still, what men have to preach to their fellow-men is not their speculation, but God's revelation. - R.T.







And now...ye...shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day that I am pure from the blood of all men.
I. AS DEEPLY FELT. Paul always felt it, but never more so than now, in addressing his audience for the last time. Every Sunday there are ministers who preach their last sermons, but they do not know it. If they knew it, how overwhelmed they would be with the sense of their responsibility. They would feel — It is the last time, therefore —

1. We must correct any wrong impressions that we may have made.

2. We must bring forward every vital truth that may have been too much overlooked.

3. We must use every argument in our power to effect the conversion of souls. It must be now or never. Ought we not ever to preach as dying men to dying men?

II. AS TERRIBLY SOLEMN (ver 26). Two facts will throw light on this wonderful utterance.

1. That preaching may involve the contraction of enormous guilt, either on the part of the preacher, the hearer, or both. The preacher who makes an unfaithful representation of the gospel contracts guilt in every discourse; and the hearer who rejects the overtures of mercy increases his condemnation. "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel," etc.

2. That the preacher who rightly discharges his mission dears himself of any participation in the guilt that may have been contracted. "I am pure" (clear), says Paul, "from the blood of all." Why (ver. 27)? He kept nothing back that was profitable. In ministering the truth he did not study what was popular, but what was essential to their salvation. If there was blood, therefore, anywhere, it was not on him. He was clean.

III. AS CONSCIOUSLY DISCHARGED. The apostle had the sublime consciousness that he had faithfully discharged his duty amongst them. He looks them in the eye, and he appeals to them. "Wherefore I take you to record" — I summon you as witnesses this day — an expression very strong in the original, meaning this very day.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND HERE BY THE COUNSEL OF GOD AND WHEN MAY IT BE SAID THAT A MINISTER OF CHRIST DECLARES ALL THAT COUNSEL.

1. Matters of doctrine, which must be known, believed, and laid to heart. These are the foundation and source of all religion and morality, and are, therefore, first necessary to be declared. They comprehend the truths which concern the existence, perfections, creation, providence, and government of God; what man was and what he has become through sin; the person and offices of the Redeemer; the nature of the Holy Spirit and His saving operations; the future judgment, the resurrection, the blessedness of heaven.

2. Matters of grace and privilege. There are divers things which it is not sufficient to know in theory, but we must know them in experience: our sinfulness, repentance, faith and its fruits; adoption (Galatians 4:4), regeneration; a lively hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:3); direction and help in all trials (Romans 8:14; Proverbs 3:16; Isaiah 41:10); all the graces of God's Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23); communion with the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16; John 14:22; 1 John 1:3; Revelation 3:20); and hereby an earnest of heaven.

3. Matters of duty and practice to be performed and done. This branch of "the counsel of God" includes the whole of piety and virtue, our duty to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. The decisions of the great day will turn on these evidences being produced or not (Romans 2:6-16). How sadly defective is their preaching who insist on doctrinal, or experimental, while they neglect practical religion!

II. HOW DOES IT APPEAR THAT IT IS OF IMPORTANCE TO DECLARE THIS COUNSEL AT ALL. The counsel of God —

1. Is the chief subject of all the revelations made to the ancient patriarchs and prophets, and communicated by them to mankind (1 Peter 1:10-12).

2. The sole subject of the ministry of the apostles and evangelists (1 Peter 1:12). And to testify these things they were to sacrifice all things (Acts 20:22-24).

3. Engrosses the thoughts and engages the ministry of angels (1 Peter 1:12; Hebrews 1:14).

4. Was the object for which the Son of God became incarnate (Philippians 2:6-9), lived, suffered, died, rose, ascended.

4. God hath borne witness to the importance of these things (Hebrews 2:4), from the beginning under every dispensation: in Egypt, Canaan, Babylon, from Sinai, and Sion.

5. For the sake of these things, the Church, nay, the world, was built, and is supported. And whatever individual, or family, or town, or country, rejects, or even neglects these things, shall be destroyed, here or hereafter (Acts 3:23; Hebrews 12:25; Hebrews 2:1-3; Hebrews 10:26-31; Isaiah 55:12).

III. WHAT IS THE DUTY OF THOSE TO WHOM THIS COUNSEL OF GOD IS DECLARED.

1. They must "take heed unto themselves" that they neither reject nor neglect what is thus delivered to them, but — that they consider, understand, and believe these matters of doctrine — that they experience and enjoy these matters of grace and privilege — that they comply with, and perform, these matters of duty and practice.

2. They must be awake to a sense of the danger, lest their minds should be diverted from this "counsel of God," by the temptations of the devil, the allurements of the world, the lusts of the flesh, the deceitfulness of sin, or by the "wolves that shall enter in among them" (ver. 29), or the "men" that shall arise "speaking perverse things" (ver. 30), and against this they must "watch."

3. They must always "remember" (ver. 31) the vast importance of these things, as manifested by what patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers, saints, and martyrs, and especially what Jesus Christ Himself has done and suffered on account of them; all of whom made these things the great business of their lives.

4. They must be sensible of their own weakness, and must apply "to God," by whose guidance, protection, and blessing, they can alone be preserved, and "to the word of His grace," in the diligent and faithful use of which Divine grace is increased, and "built up" in true religion, and finally receive "an inheritance among them that are sanctified" (ver. 32).

(J. Benson.)

Here is one of those passages in the New Testament which make a forcible appeal to the conscience of every man who has undertaken or is undertaking to serve God in Holy Orders. The words are such as escape men at the turning points of life, at entering upon or taking leave of great responsibilities — compressed, fervid utterances of the deepest thought and of the strongest currents of feeling — of thought and feeling which for the moment will not, be pent up and restrained within the barriers of ordinary habit, or of studied reserve. St. Paul says that he had declared the whole mind — that is, the whole revealed mind — of God. Observe, of God. His language excludes that conception of religious truth which makes it merely the product of the truest, purest, deepest thoughts of the highest and largest minds among the sons of men. The whole counsel of God! It was God's Word, not man's; it was neither the result of a thoughtful speculation, nor yet an approximate guess, nor yet a cunningly devised fable. Being God's Word, it was as a whole worthy of the best thought and love that His creature could give it. When St. Paul asserts that he has not "shunned" to declare it, the word must remind us that there are many motives and hindrances calculated to keep a man back from doing that which must be done, if he fears his God, if he cares for his own soul, if he has any true love for the souls of those to whom of his own free will he undertakes to minister.

1. Now one cause of failure in this primary duty would seem to lie in a lack of religious knowledge. It is much more easy to be deficient in essential knowledge of religious truth than we are apt to assume. May we not lapse into a habit of thinking and speaking of the doctrines of the gospel as if they were like soldiers in a regiment, so many units, each adding something no doubt to the collective bulk and area of doctrine, while yet in no way essential to its organic completeness, and therefore each capable of being withdrawn, without inflicting any more serious injury upon the entire truth than that of diminished size? Do we not hear persons talk of the articles of the Creed in this way, as if each article was a perfectly separate and new truth, as if each was, I might almost say, a new and gratuitous infliction upon the reluctant intellect of man, as if each was round and perfect in itself, and had no relations whatever to any truth beyond it? They fail to perceive the connection, the interdependence, the organic unity of all truth that rests on the authority of God. Their view is too superficial to enable them to do justice to that marvellous adjustment of truth to truth, of faculty to object, of result to cause, which is a direct and obvious perception to souls who gaze prayerfully and steadily at the complete revelation of Christ. The faith is, if I may say so with reverence, so marvellously compacted, so instinct with a pervading life, as to resemble a natural organism, I had almost said a living creature. No one truth can be misrepresented, strained, dislocated, much less withdrawn, without a certain, and frequently an ascertainable injury resulting to other truths which are supposed to be still unquestioned and intact. For there are nerves and arteries which link the very extremities of revealed doctrine to its brain and heart; and the wound which a strain or an amputation may inflict, must in its effects extend far beyond the particular doctrine which is the immediate seat and scene of the injury.

2. A second hindrance is lack of courage. To represent God as He is — as just no less than merciful, as punishing sin no less certainly than rewarding faith and holiness — this, to be done well and honestly, requires courage. Of old they understood this well, who went forth uplifting the Cross, while yet baring their breasts to death. They knew that the patient to whom they were carrying the medicine that would cure him would often refuse the draught, and would punish the physician who dared to offer it. But they loved man, and they loved and feared their God too sincerely and too well, to infuse new ingredients, or to withdraw any of the bitter but needful elements of cure. They accepted civil and social prescription; they endured moral and physical agony; they embraced, one after another, with cheerful hearts, the very warrants and instruments of their death, because they had counted the cost, and had measured too well the greatness of their task, and the glories of their anticipated eternity, to shrink sensitively back at the first symptoms of opposition, or of difficulty. St. Paul might have foreseen the conduct of Demetrius, and the tumult in the amphitheatre; but this was no serious reason for considering the worship of Diana as a sort of modified or imperfect revelation, or as anything short of a hateful lie. He did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God.

3. The want of spirituality of heart and soul is a third cause of defective representation of doctrine. To speak for God to the souls of men, a man must himself, in his inmost soul, have consciously stood face to face with that truth of which he speaks. He must speak of God as one who has known at once His dread awfulness and His tender love; of sin, as that which he feels to be the one master evil, and with which as such he has struggled in good truth within his secret self; of Christ, His Person, His propitiatory and atoning death, His life-giving sacraments, as of the Person and acts of a dear Friend, loved with the heart's warmest and best affection, which yet adored with the deepest homage and by the chiefest powers of his prostrate spirit; of eternity as of that for which he is himself making daily solemn preparation; of prayer and the care of conscience and the culture of purity and truth within, as of things of which he knows something by trial and exercise, perhaps even something more by failure. Himself a redeemed sinner speaking to sinners who need or who have found their Redeemer, he will speak in earnest.

4. Once more; here, as in the whole field of ministerial labour, let a man work and pray for the grace of an unselfish spirit. How often are not we, the representatives of Christ, constrained to rebuke ourselves, humble ourselves, condemn ourselves, by the words which we speak from the chair of truth! Or take another illustration of the need of an unselfish spirit. It is possible, nay, probable, that we may have what are called favourite doctrines, sections or sides of truth through which God has in a special sense spoken to us, moved us, sanctified us (as we trust), saved us. Of these, no doubt, we can speak with more power, because with more intimate perception of their bearing on the secret springs of life and death. But we also speak of such points with less of moral and intellectual effort than of others; and this greater facility is likely to be the real cause of our giving them an undue prominence in our cycle of teaching, while we endeavour to whisper to our consciences, and to persuade our friends that these points are the essentials of the gospel, and that all the rest is comparatively unnecessary. Thus men teach the Atonement, and ignore the sacraments; or they teach the need of faith, and ignore the need of love and holiness; or they teach the beauty of our Lord's character, and forget His propitiatory and sacrificial death; or conversely, they insist upon the outward duties of religion, and do scant justice to the spiritual and internal forces of the soul. We must teach all that God has revealed, because He has revealed it, leaving it to Him to touch one soul by this, and another soul by that portion of His revelation. Nothing, however, but a spirit of genuine self-sacrifice, nothing but a true love of the souls of men, can enable a man so to forego his own predilections, so to throw himself into the state of mind, and points of view, and peculiar difficulties, and narrower or broader horizons of his hearers, as to lose himself, and the little history of his own spirit, in the mighty work of proclaiming in its perfectness the truth of God. We know how the great apostle combined this perfect consideration for others, with an unflinching, chivalrous loyalty to the claims of truth (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).

(Cannon Liddon.)

I. "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD." A subject so vast and yet so simple! One which "angels desire to look into." Yet the gospel can be uttered in a single breath, and one short sentence which a child might speak would express the Divine counsel.

II. "NOT SHUNNED TO DECLARE." How declared?

1. By the unreserved, full, faithful exposition of it in the public preaching of God's Word. No trimming — no suppression of any portion of it.

2. By seeking personal contact, and speaking to individual men and women "from house to house."

3. By setting it forth with the pen. What multitudes Paul has reached in this way! So did Luther and Calvin.

4. By showing it forth in the life. I have good faith in this method; sometimes it is the sole one at our command.

III. "PURE FROM THE BLOOD OF ALL MEN." The apostle had in mind, perhaps, that thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel, and those words so terrible which seem almost to chill the very marrow as we read them, or hear them read: "So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shall hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me...if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand."

(F. Goodall, B. A.)

Preacher's Analyst.
We gather —

I. THAT THE GOSPEL CONTAINS MATTERS UNCONGENIAL TO THE HUMAN MIND. The whole counsel of God is —

1. Humiliating. It proclaims sin and the fall, natural depravity.

2. Self-abnegating. It teaches that man can do nothing of himself.

3. Fear-inspiring. It tells us that, although God is love, He is above all things just. All these things the sinful man hates. They reveal him in an unpleasant condition and an undesirable state, and hold him up in the eyes of himself and of the world as lost, ruined, and worthless.

II. THAT THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL ARE NOT TO REFRAIN FROM PROCLAIMING THESE DISAGREEABLE TRUTHS. Many would do so —

1. From fear of wounding their hearers' susceptibilities. It is not pleasant to cause pain.

2. From fear of depicting the Almighty as harsh and unkind. But God is very well able to maintain His own character.

3. From cowardice. They are either afraid or else do not desire to make themselves enemies of others. But, notwithstanding, the duty lies plain. The preacher is not a man pleaser. He has stern solemn duties to perform. And if these duties are not performed faithfully, the eternal life or death of souls will rest upon him — a burden greater than he can bear.

(Preacher's Analyst.)

I. THE SUBJECT OF HIS ATTENTION — "the counsel of God." Counsel now signifies advice, but when the Bible was translated it more commonly signified scheme, purpose. "His counsels of old are faithfulness and truth": "My counsel shall stand, I will do all My pleasure": "He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Here it is to be taken in the latter sense. To bring sin into the world was an easy thing, to take it away was a work to which only God was equal. We have imperfect views of sin, and also of the holiness of God; and therefore we are not sufficiently struck with the difficulties in the way of our salvation: but God knows them perfectly, and His scheme for removing them and restoring us to Himself is contained in the gospel. This is what the apostle means by "the counsel of God": and this the apostle declared, not human science, though he was a man of genius, not politics; he left human governments where he found them; not the petty interests of mortality; he looked "not at the things which were seen," etc.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH HE ANNOUNCED IT. It is clearly implied —

1. That there is in this subject a fulness of affluence and richness. Though it be a whole, yet it has a thousand parts.

2. That this subject may be abridged, contracted, and partially concealed. And this may be the case where it is not expressly denied, where it is not entirely rejected, and where the parts admitted and noticed are not mangled.

3. That it requires firmness and moral heroism to withstand and resist the temptations to this curtailment and separation. Sometimes there are temptations arising —(1) From the preachers themselves. They should be clean, for they are the vessels of the Lord. But supposing they are not, what then does their arguing prove? Their example will paralyse all their endeavours.(2) From the hearers. They often inspire the preacher with fear of giving offence; and the "fear of man bringeth a snare." The man may shun to declare all the counsel of God —(a) On the side of doctrine, from fear of a charge of antinomianism. This charge has always been brought against the doctrine of justification by faith.(b) On the side of experience, afraid of the charge of enthusiasm.(c) On the side of practice, afraid of the charge of legality.

4. Two things are essential to declare all the counsel of God.(1) A consciousness of inability to do justice to the whole of the counsel of God. After all we have done we must exclaim, "O the depth of the riches," etc. And what a proof is this of the Divinity of the Bible itself! What other book could bear, from age to age, to have thousands of persons of ability and learning to be always discussing it, and yet always finding something fresh, and nothing entirely exhausted!(2) Enlarging more on some topics than on others. Everything equally true is not equally important: there are essential truths, and there are circumstantial truths. The railing is ornamental and useful, and therefore not to be dispensed with: still this is not to be compared with the foundation and the keystone; these are essential to the edifice. The omission or the concealment of certain doctrines always leads to spiritual death. On the other hand, where the leading truths of the gospel are preached, God gives testimony to the word of His grace, sinners are saved, and believers built up in their most holy faith.

III. THE APOSTLE'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF THIS. "As to cloth," said Lord Bacon, "' a small pattern may enable us to judge fairly and safely of the whole piece: but the Bible is like a fine arras or tapestry, which though a remnant may assure us of the colours and the richness of the stuff, yet the hangings never appear to their true advantage but when displayed in their full dimensions, and seen together." Let every minister remember this. Conclusion: Here is —

1. The rule to guide and justify ministers. Considering the mixture there is always in every congregation, it is probable that the preacher who declares all the counsel of God will give some offence. But must he on this account decline it? Is be to do anything by partiality? "If I seek to please men," says the apostle, "I should not be the servant of Christ." "It is a poor sermon," says George Whitefield , "that gives no offence — that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher." It was a noble eulogium that Louis XIV passed on one of his preachers, Massillon: "I don't know how it is: when I hear my other chaplains I admire them; but when I hear Massillon I always go away dissatisfied with myself."

2. The duty of hearers. For if we are not to shun to declare all the counsel of God, you are bound to hear and to welcome all. However mysterious to your reason, however mortifying to your pride, however it may reprove you, you are not to deem the minister your enemy because he tells you the truth.

(W. Jay.)

Let us consider —

I. THE FIDELITY OF A MINISTER, AS CONSISTING IN A FULL AND COMPLETE DECLARATION OF THE COUNSEL OF GOD.

1. Without any exceptions.

2. In their full and just proportion.

3. In their proper order and connection.

4. In their proper season. The season may vary, and the propriety and necessity of insisting upon some truths, may arise from —

(1)The state of religion among a people.

(2)The aspect of Providence towards them.

5. Honestly and boldly, without respect of persons.

II. THE DIFFICULTIES WHICH MAY LIE IN A MINISTER'S WAY, AND TEMPT HIM TO SHUN ANY PART OF HIS WORK.

1. Sloth or worldliness, in ministers themselves.

2. The prejudices of their people.

3. The opposition of their enemies, which may tempt them —

(1)To conceal or pervert the truth to avoid contempt and derision.

(2)To sinful and cowardly silence for their own quiet.

(3)To sink out of their weak-mindedness under opposition.

(4)To give way to imprudence and passion.

(J. Witherspoon.)

1. Trace the gospel to its original source and fountain head.

2. Preach the gospel in its full latitude and extent.

3. Preach the gospel in all its full and final effects.

4. Never lose sight of the gospel.

5. Dwell largely upon some particular doctrines which others silently pass over, or but rarely mention in their public instructions.

6. Are much more apt than others to irritate and displease men in their preaching.

7. Are weighty and powerful preachers.

8. Make the gospel appear as it really is, one great, comprehensive, and perfectly connected scheme, and so —(1) Preach much more consistently.(2) Distinguish themselves from false teachers, who corrupt the gospel, and destroy the souls of men.(3) Convey the largest portion of knowledge to their hearers.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

When I go down to the village where I used to preach, and as I look upon the houses, I am apt to question myself — Was I as earnest with the people as I used to be? I can say I hope I never flinched from telling them all the truth, though sometimes it had to be very rudely and roughly spoken; but yet God knoweth I do sometimes smite myself to think I did not weep over them mere, and did not entreat them more to be won to Christ. And you, too, that sit in these pews so often, many of you are joyful converts to Christ, but numbers of you are still unsaved. What if any of you should be able to say at the last, "We trusted our minister; we hung upon his lips; we were never absent; we loved the Sabbath day, but oh, he did not tell us of our sin; he did not plead with us to be saved; he left us to ourselves; he was cold when his heart should have been hot; he was a man without tears, and had a heart without sympathy for us!" Oh! sirs, God grant ye may never be able to say that of me. God save you, for my soul longeth for you. He is my witness how earnestly I long for you all in the bowels of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! Come unto Him! Come unto Him! Let not your blood cry out against me! Oh, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and trust Him; trust Him now, that you may be saved, and that at last I may be able to say, "Here am I and the children whom Thou hast given me; Thou hast kept them through Thy power, and they are preserved even to the end; unto Thee be glory forever and ever!"

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Rev. John Howe, having preached before Cromwell, so pleased the Protector that he was appointed his domestic chaplain. To some of Cromwell's peculiar notions Mr. Howe could not assent, and in one instance had the boldness to preach against them in his presence, believing that they might lead to practical ill consequences. The friends of the preacher were alarmed, and predicted that he would find it difficult to regain the Protector's favour. "I have," said Mr. Howe, "discharged my conscience, and the event must be left to God."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Pope requests a Dominican bishop to repair to Florence and answer the abbot's ( Savonarola's) sermons. "Holy Father, I will obey; but I must be supplied with arms." "What arms?" "This monk," replied the bishop, "says we ought not to keep concubines, commit simony, or be guilty of licentiousness. If in this he speaks truly, what shall I reply?" "What shalt we do?" said the Pope. "Reward him, give him a red hat, make a Cardinal and a friend of him at once." Savonarola kindly receives the papal messenger, and for three days listens to his arguments, but is unconvinced. The tempting bribe is then offered. "Come to my sermon tomorrow morning, and you shall hear my answer." How great was the emissary's surprise at hearing more daring denunciations than ever from Savonarola, who exclaimed, "No other red hat will I have than that of martyrdom, coloured with my own blood."

(Newman Hall, D. D.)

A farmer who is too tender-hearted to tear up and harrow the land will never see a harvest. Here is the failing of certain divines, they are afraid of hurting anyone's feelings, and so they keep clear of all the truths which are likely to excite fear or grief. They have not a sharp ploughshare on their premises, and are never likely to have a stack in their rickyard. They angle without hooks for fear of hurting the fish, and fire without bullets out of respect to the feelings of the birds. This kind of love is real cruelty to men's souls. It is much the same as if a surgeon should permit a patient to die because he would not pain him with the lancet, or by the necessary removal of a limb. It is a terrible tenderness which leaves men to sink into hell rather than distress their minds. It is a diabolical love which denies the eternal danger which assuredly exists and argues the soul into presumption, because it thinks it a pity to excite terror, and so much more pleasant to prophesy smooth things. Is this the spirit of Christ? Did He conceal the sinner's peril? Did He cast doubts upon the unquenchable fire and the undying worm? Did He lull souls into slumber by dulcet notes of flattery? Nay, but with honest love and anxious concern He warned men of the wrath to come, and bade them repent or perish.

Christ did not commit to the care of His Church any one class of truths and duties, or any number of classes of doctrines and obligations, but all of them. Christians are, therefore, to teach all the doctrines, and inculcate all the duties found in the Scriptures. There is no sectarianism in inspiration. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth, and of the entire body of truth "as it is in Jesus." Sectarianism divides the doctrine of the Spirit into its various hues, and sects and parties are formed by good men attaching themselves to one class of colours, whereas "the true light" is made up of all colours. We would never live in an atmosphere of rainbows; it might appear more beautiful than clear daylight, but it would not be so useful for the world. In a lens, no one class of rays gathered into a focus will burn an object; this is done only by a concentration of all the rays. It was by exhibiting the whole counsel of God that Paul produced in his converts the kindlings of repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. If the Churches think it proper to put forth the vivid hues of beauty and splendour, in their respective creeds and theological systems, let them also exhibit them with all the blendings and softenings, the harmony and the symmetry of the bow in the cloud, the sign of peace and goodwill to the whole earth.

(T. W. Jenkyn.)

Faith is a Divine faculty which grasps that which is revealed, on the authority of God, without criticising the substance of such revelation. To take one part of the revelation of God, and turn out another, is, in fact, to reject it all, because you are rejecting just what you dislike or misunderstand, and retaining just what you choose; and to accept God's revelation rightly, is to bow, in disciplined obedience, on all points to God's authority; in fact, to exercise faith, "as a soldier." "The whole counsel of God," — to accept it in its entirety, however difficult, mysterious, or opposed to our natural wishes — that is the exercise of the dominant faculty of faith.

(Knox Little.)

Carlyle in narrating an instance of the preservation of etiquette at the court of Louis XVI, while the mob were demanding entrance into his private apartments, and the empire was going to pieces, compares it to the house cricket still chirping amid the pealing of the trump of doom. When trivial subjects are descanted upon from the pulpit, while souls are perishing for lack of knowledge, the same comparison may be used; as for instance, when a congregation is collected, and the preacher talks about the drying up of the Euphrates, or ventilates his pet theory for reconciling Moses and geology. Why cannot these things be kept for other assemblies? What can the man be at? Nero fiddling over burning Rome is nothing to it! Even the women knitting in front of the guillotine were not more coolly cruel. We tolerate the cricket for his incongruous chirp; but go to, thou silly trifler at the sacred desk, we cannot frame excuse for thee, or have patience with thee.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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