Now there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered.
I. A great SIGN OF DIVINE POWER accompanying Paul's preaching. Had he not been approved of God, he could not have wrought such a miracle. It spoke:
1. To the world, testifying to the nearness of the kingdom of God; to the merciful and restoring grace of the gospel, which came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
2. To the Church; stamping Pauline teaching with authority; lifting up the courage and hope of disciples. The same Divine power ever with the Church always to the end.
II. A SOLEMN ASSOCIATION with a great and important occasion. Eutyehus could scarcely be without blame. The people would never forget that it was the Lord's Supper, and that those who partake in such a service should watch against human infirmities. The wonderful recovery of the lad seemed to shed a new light on the whole service. What glorious power was set forth in that little society! They were comforted for Eutychus and for themselves and for the whole Church. Jesus is life from the dead. - R.
Troas, where we abode seven days.I. THE "FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK" appears to have been the usual period of assembly, and no doubt was selected and consecrated by apostolical authority.
1. It was held —(1) In honour of the Saviour's resurrection — that event which proved His mission Divine, His mediation effectual, and His combat with death and hell victorious.(2) Being the day of the Lord's resurrection, it was noted as "the Lord's day," when His people meet for His worship and His truth is expounded, His name chanted, His Spirit poured down, His presence enjoyed, and His death showed forth.
2. The place of meeting in Troas would be an humble one, with no architectural decorations, the private dwelling of some large-hearted disciple, in whose upper chamber the sacred feast was observed.
3. It would appear that at first in Jerusalem, when the disciples kept free table, or "had all things common," every meal was a sacramental feast, or that it was connected with every meal, as it had been with the paschal banquet. Out of this old practice may have sprung its early division into a love feast and a sacrament.
4. The disciples must have rejoiced at their privilege, and eagerly embraced it. What could keep any of them back from enjoying Paul? Alas! that so many in modern times regard so little the first day of the week. And how many stay away for reasons which would never keep them from a scene of secular enjoyment, or ordinary business.
II. PAUL PREACHED.
1. It was the high office to which he had been set apart by Him whom he preached. Moses enacted statutes; Samuel judged; David sang; Elijah battled for God; Solomon embodied his experience in pithy and pointed sentences. The prophets foretold Messiah, but did not preach Him: But the apostle preached.
2. It was his usual mode of address. Wherever he found himself, no matter who composed his audience, he preached. You do not discover him admiring works of art, or mingling with the populace for the sake of amusement. No; he saw man as Christ saw him — a being, guilty and helpless, to whom salvation might be offered, and by whom it should be accepted — saw his soul in its value and destiny, and urged him to accept Christ and His Cross. What else could he do? Necessity was laid upon him. What other substitute for preaching can be devised? Ceremonial will not do; souls may perish amidst genuflections and music. Satire will not suffice. What effect had Juvenal and Martial on their age, or on the world? Paul's was a nobler world. It is no gospel to tell men what they are, without showing them what they might be. If preaching was the presentation of the good news, what else could the apostle do than preach?
3. What better could he do? He might have done many things — might have prelected on Jewish history, Greek philosophy, morality, his own travels, etc. But with such employment never could he have saved a soul, or gathered a Church.
S. S. Times.I. AN EARNEST PREACHER (ver. 7, Acts 9:20; Acts 17:2; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 9:16; Galatians 1:16).
II. AN INATTENTIVE LISTENER (ver. 9).
IV. A SACRED SERVICE (ver. 11).
1. One's place for preaching need not be a city church, nor his time of preaching eleven o'clock Sunday morning, yet he may speak very well for Christ. Paul preached earnestly in an upper room at midnight.
2. One doubtless needs a fair amount of sleep, but during the sermon is not the time to seek such refreshment. The house of God was never intended for a dormitory.
3. One's danger in sleeping through God's service now is none the less real because no such evident disaster at present attends it as overtook Eutychus.
4. One may preach or teach with all the eloquence of a Paul, and yet come who ought to heed will only nod and doze.
5. One can hope for no such re-awakening from spiritual death as came to this young man upon whom his own inattention had brought bodily death.
6. One does well to observe the sacrament of the Lord's Supper at the stated time, regardless of interruptions.
(S. S. Times.)
I. SANCTIONED BY CHRISTIANITY.
1. "The first day of the week." This is the first account we have of the observance of this day, and from that time to this it has been observed for religious purposes (1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).
2. The Lord's Supper, which has also been observed ever since, and so has —
3. The preaching of the gospel.
II. INTRUDING ON THE CLAIMS OF NATURE. "Paul continued his speech until midnight." Night is the time for rest, not for labour; but many reasons would perhaps justify Paul. The people were ignorant, he had much to communicate, and had to depart on the morrow. Still, a result occurred which marked such long services as an evil. Religious institutions intrude on the claims of nature —
1. When they are employed for the purposes of inordinate excitement. Some so-called revivals furnish many sad examples.
2. When they are protracted beyond a certain period. Long sermons are a sin against nature.
III. ASSOCIATED WITH SUPERNATURAL POWER (ver. 10). This was an undoubted miracle, performed in somewhat She same manner as that in 2 Kings 4:33-35, and may be regarded as emblematical of the Divine power of restoration associated with the preaching of the gospel.
1. Man is the organ of it. God could have raised Eutychus directly, but He worked through Paul; so in quickening dead sinners now, He employs the ministry of the Word.
2. Man is the subject of it. Eutychus was raised.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break breadI. A SUNDAY AT TROAS. What is Sunday? Not the Jewish Sabbath; not a day of gloom and bondage, of restrictions and penalties, of meritorious observance or sanctimonious austerity. It is the weekly, as Easter is the annual, festival of our Lord's resurrection. The very place of the fourth commandment, standing in the midst of moral rules, proves conclusively that there is a moral principle involved; that man needs a periodical rest, and that God requires of him the separation and the religious observance of such a periodical rest. Man's restlessness, selfishness, and irreligion, being what they are, how should man have invented it? Little does the working man know his own interest when he secularises the Sunday! Once destroy the sacredness of the day, and the liberty of the day will follow; and, depend upon it, irreligious employers will soon find reasons for engrossing it, till God's gift perishes through the ingratitude of those to whom He gave it. It may not be true that the day of the Sabbath was ever formally changed from the seventh to the first; but this I say, that the moral law prescribes a day of religious rest, and that Sunday is, for us, the day so prescribed, and living where we live, and when, Sunday is a necessity of existence, if we are ever to win or fight our way through this world to a better. And this I say, too, that, as it is a necessity, so it is also a duty. The fourth commandment enforces itself still: so long as it is a sin to swear, to kill, or to steal — so long the consecration of a portion of time to special religious purposes will be a duty, and its desecration a sin; and he who profanes the Sunday by business, dissipation or frivolity, will be guilty of sin against God, and of cruelty towards the best and highest interests of man.
II. THE EMPLOYMENTS OF THIS DAY. Sunday is our periodical rest, but it is not designed to be a day of mere inactivity. The body rests by repose, the soul by action. Therefore that day of rest which body and mind want for relief from labour, the soul wants rather for that occupation which is at once its business, its food, and its repose; intercourse with God; expatiation in the things of God; communion with the people of God. The congregation at Troas came together —
1. For worship. They did not forget that special promise which is attached to united prayer. We need to be brought back to the simplicity of common prayer. I often wonder whether we are praying in common. Two things go to this —(1) That each one pray, and(2) That each one pray as one among many; pray, that is, not his own selfish prayers, but his part in the prayers of the congregation.
2. To hear preaching. I know you will say, It would be easy to listen if St. Paul were the preacher; it is because the preacher has nothing interesting or new that we find his words wearisome and his sermons long. A sermon has become in these days synonymous with dullness, and every newspaper has its jest at it. Nevertheless, there are those who believe that preaching is still, as of old, an ordinance of God; that the gospel, familiar as its central truth is to us, still needs enforcement; that the earnest words of a faithful man have instruction in them and carry a blessing from on high after them. There are those who have found by experience that they are the better for preaching. The humble and earnest hearer does not go away ashamed; nor will he go away to scoff at that instrumentality by which the instructions of Christ are ministered afresh to the congregation.
3. "To break bread." In the first instance the reception of the Lord's Supper was a daily act of the congregation (chap. Acts 2.). Long did it continue the badge and the privilege of Christians to partake of that sacred bread and that Divine cup once in each week, on its first, its consecrated day. How shall we dare to touch on this subject in a modern congregation? How many suffer months and years to slip by without one participation in the ordinance. Worship is disregarded by many, and sermons by many more, but even worship, even preaching, is practically honoured far above Communion; the church may be half empty for worship, it is emptied again before Communion. These things ought not so to be.
(Dean Vaughan.)Revelation 14:6, 7). Of this apostle the Fathers have spoken in the highest terms, styling him "the trumpet of the gospel," "the roaring of the lion of the tribe of Judah," "the river of Christian eloquence," "the teacher of the universe," "to whom," says , "God had committed the whole dispensation of His mysteries." He had made an extensive circuit, allowing himself but few intervals of repose; he had visited many Churches, giving them much exhortation, and at length he arrived at Troas.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS MEETING. "The disciples came together." It was not a meeting of philosophers, of senators, of literary men. Such had been passed over by the inspired penman. It was a meeting of the disciples of Christ. They were assembled for a devotional purpose. If there be a society on which the eye of Heaven rests with complacency it is a society of this nature. Devout associations draw after them great advantages. What scene can be more delightful than that of a company of Christians engaged in acts of sacred worship? Happy will it be for us, if, in the day of persecution, of affliction, of disease, and of death, when we can no longer thus associate, we can say, "I never turned away from the ordinances of the Lord, never absented myself without just reason from His house; I never deemed religious instruction unnecessary, and never slighted the opportunity of obtaining it; 'Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth.'"
II. THE TIME OF THIS MEETING. They came together "upon the first day of the week." Thus they celebrated the institution of the Christian sabbath. It was on the first day of the week that Christ rose from the dead and accomplished the work of redemption. From that period the apostles and primitive Christians assembled on the first day instead of the seventh. The meetings of the apostles and first Christians, on this day, were sanctioned by the presence of their Master, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and in the annals of Christian experience, from their time to ours, this day will be found to have received particular notice and distinction. If the banished saint in the Isle of Patmos was favoured with a peculiar elevation of mind, and with extraordinary revelations on "the Lord's day," how many Christians in every succeeding age have, on the returns of the same day, been blessed with similar enjoyments! Christians should embrace all suitable opportunities of assembling together, but especially those presented on "the Lord's day."
III. THE PLACE OF THEIR MEETING. They came together in an "upper chamber." This reminds us of the persecuted state of the first Christians. Our forefathers were no strangers to this kind of affliction; they worshipped God in dens, and holes, and caverns of the earth. But happier times are afforded unto us: "We sit under our own vine, and under our own fig tree, none daring to make us afraid." May the commonness of our privileges never render us insensible of their value! The worship of God is everywhere conducted most agreeably to the Christian plan, when conducted with simplicity. Christianity requires no splendid edifices; it asks for nothing to charm the senses. It says, "God is a spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." Let us, therefore, neither despise a place because it is unadorned, nor imagine a place to be more acceptable to God because it exhibits elegance and splendour. Yet ought we not to forget the liberality of those who devote a portion of their worldly substance for the erection of commodious places for religious worship. It is the decree of our God that "all things be done decently and in order." We ought not to be solicitous about our own dwelling, and indifferent about a place for His service.
IV. THE DESIGN OF THIS MEETING. "They came together to break bread." This phrase refers to their celebration of the Lord's Supper — a service in which they appear to have been engaged the more frequently, as being doubtful whether they would be permitted to assemble for such a purpose much longer. They availed themselves of every opportunity to obey the last injunction of their Saviour — "Do this in remembrance of Me." That Christian who, believing in the perpetuity of this ordinance, habitually neglects it, refuses to do his part towards keeping up in the world the remembrance of Christ's death, and the expectation of His second coming. But it is not a simple remembrance of His death; it is the enjoyment of fellowship with Him, and communion with each other; that, as there is one Head, so we may be all as one body. To the disciples at Emmaus, Jesus was known in the breaking of bread; and how often has He manifested Himself to His disciples at the sacramental table, in a way most satisfactory and delightful!
(O. A. Jeary.)I. THIS WAS THE CLOSE OF A MINISTRY.
1. Is there anything more pathetic than the conclusion of a spiritual intercourse and fellowship? Paul is now leaving, and cannot leave. He began in the morning, and he was so filled with the spirit of grace that he never looked at the time. When was love ever patient with the clock? There is no long preaching so long as the thought continues. There are no long prayers so long as the heart has another desire to express. It is when we have said all that is in us, and then begin again that long preaching and prayer sets in. When was love ever quite done? When did love ever write a letter without a postscript? And love hearing is just the same as love preaching. Give me the attention of the heart. The mystery of the hearing ear is that it hears tones that do not utter themselves to inattentiveness. It magnifies the hint into a revelation. Give it one dawning ray of light, and out of that it will make a whole heaven of glory. The hearers were attentive; Paul was eloquent; the opportunity was closing; and the miracle was how to make the sun stand still until love put in another appeal. "What long days the old Churches had! They had but one joy, and that was in doing their work. When preaching becomes one of a hundred other engagements; when church going becomes the amusement of Sunday, then they will be compared with what was seen yesterday and what will probably be heard tomorrow.
2. How hard it is in many cases to say "Good-bye"! When a friend leaves, he never says "Good-bye" less than six times! He begins early, then says a little more, and then says, "Well, good-bye," and then begins again. Another object attracts his attention, a few moments more are spent, and then he says "he must go." Not he. He will see some other object, stoop to bless some hitherto unseen little child, and then say, "Now I must go." Not he. He waits at the gate, he shuts it twice, but it will not easily bolt, so he opens it again to see the reason why; then he waves "Good-bye," then takes a few steps and turns round and says "Good-bye." Why this delay? Do not ask; it is the mystery of love, the secret of heart tearing itself from heart. That, indeed, is the sweet secret of living; but for it death would be better.
II. THE PREACHING WAS INTERRUPTED (ver. 9). Eutychus was not in the congregation. He was in the room, and yet not in it, as is the case with many. When a man is not in the sweep and run of the great thought and the inspiring revelation, he is asleep. Well for some of us if we were now in a deep slumber! Somnolence due to physical weariness may be forgiven, "For God knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust." But there is a deadlier sleep. It makes the heart sad to see how men strip themselves of enthusiasm when they come into the church. Do not blame the child that lays upon its mother's lap and falls into a church sleep; but blame the soul that leaves the body in the church whilst itself goes out to turn six days' business into seven. But there is no successful truancy from the church. We leave stealthily, but we are followed as quickly as we go, and the record is completed, though we know it not.
III. THERE WERE MANY LIGHTS IN THE CHAMBER. Christianity has no dark seances; it is a mighty challenge to the attention of the universe. It only asks for silence that its speech may be heard the better. The magician wants arrangements made to suit him, but Christianity can preach anywhere. Paul preaches as eloquently in the upper chamber as he would preach on Mars' Hill. That is the test of reality always.
IV. PAUL STOPPED HIS SERVICE TO LOOK AFTER ONE INJURED MAN. In that particular he followed the example of Jesus Christ. Every life is of importance to God. Eutychus was not a great man; as his name implies, he was of the freedmen class. He belonged to the plebeian side of life, but to God there are no plebeians, except men who never pray, never love, never do works of mercy. But as for those who love Him and serve Him, though they have not bread to eat, and no pillows to lay their heads upon, they are of the very quality of heaven.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
And continued his speech until midnightI. AN INSTRUCTIVE EXAMPLE OF ZEAL FOR GOD'S WORD.
1. On the part of the apostle who is not weary of preaching.
2. On the part of the congregation who are not weary of hearing.
II. A WARNING EXAMPLE OF HUMAN WEAKNESS AND SLOTH.
1. The sleep of Eutychus.
2. His fall. "Watch and pray," etc.
III. A CONSOLATORY EXAMPLE OF DIVINE GRACE AND FAITHFULNESS.
I. BY AN EXTRAORDINARY OCCASION. Paul was at Troas at the last service of a protracted meeting, and gave a solemn farewell address, for he felt assured that they would see his face no more.
II. BY A GREAT FULNESS AND VARIETY OF THOUGHT. Paul's mind must have been full of the great doctrines he had so recently addressed to the Galatians and Romans. He would wish to impress upon them the need of justification by faith, and that justification is not an encouragement to sin, but offers the only entrance upon a life of holiness. He would warn them against the Judaisers, and insist that Gentile Christians must stand fast in their Christian liberty. He doubtless gave them exhortations, such as he had addressed to the Corinthians. They must beware of party spirit. They must conduct their worship decently and in order. They must not be jealous of brethren who possessed shining gifts. They must cling to the great and blessed hope of the resurrection, and so be assured that their labour was not in vain in the Lord.
III. BY THE PREACHER'S EXTRAORDINARY ZEAL. Paul felt himself to be debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians (Romans 1:14). He felt that there was a woe upon him if he did not preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16). And daily there pressed upon him an anxiety for all the Churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). Such a soul as his, so filled with love to Christ and men, at such a farewell service, would naturally multiply his appeals and warnings. When he paused, one or another of the brethren would have a song or a prayer, or all together would chant some psalm or hymn, and then the apostle would begin again. Conclusion: But however justified by exceptional circumstances, a very long sermon cannot expect to set aside the laws of human nature. We may be sure that Eutychus was not the only one who grew sleepy. It is manifest that the apostle did not consider his as an inexcusable fault. Differences in constitution, in states of bodily health, in the habit of fixed attention, etc., must always be borne in mind in passing judgment under such circumstances.
(J. A. Broadus, D. D.)
And there were many lights in the upper chamber.
S. S. Times.The common Oriental lamp was, and is, a shallow, oblong vessel of clay, containing oil, with handle at one end, and a lip for the wick to rest on, or a small aperture for it to pass through at the other. The illuminating power of these lamps is very small, and their power of defiling the atmosphere is great. Hence the need of many lamps; hence, also, perhaps, the heavy stupor which fell upon Eutychus. To this day one of the things which surprises a stranger on entering a Mohammedan mosque is the great number of suspended lamps which he sees. This is necessary from the small illuminating power of the lamps, and the great spaces which they have to illuminate.
(S. S. Times.)
S. S. Times.Not all Oriental houses have "upper rooms" for many of them are only one storey high. Where, however, the house is two or three stories high, the "upper room" is the large and airy chamber beneath the roof. In many cases this room projects three or four feet into the street, the projection being formed chiefly of wood, with large latticed windows on its three sides, through which a cooling breeze blows. This seems to have been the kind of room in which Paul's meeting was held. Eutychus was probably sitting in one of the windows in this projection when he fell asleep. Losing his balance here, his fall from the oriel would be unbroken until he reached the pavement.
(S. S. Times.)
(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)
And there sat in a window a certain young man named EutychusI. BY HIS DANGEROUS SLEEP. The heart may be overpowered by the sleep of a false security —
1. In the midst of the assembled congregation.
2. During the hearing of the Divine Word.
II. BY HIS TERRIBLE FALL — an admonitory representation of that from a height of imaginary faith to sin and perdition.
III. BY HIS MIRACULOUS DELIVERANCE. In the arms of a Paul who penetrates him with his power of life and warmth of love, even the deeply fallen and dead may by the grace of God again become living. But it remains a miracle of which even the Scripture does not relate many similar. Let us not run the risk. Be sober and vigilant.
(K. Gerok.)I. TO PREACHERS. Half the blame for the sleep and fall of Eutychus has attached to Paul, because he preached long. And the man who, by making too great a demand on the physical endurance of his congregation, preaches them to sleep, is a great sinner. For he defeats the very ends of his ministry. But it is much to be doubted whether this is very frequently the ease. For the longest services rarely exceed two hours, and consist for the most part of worship; and to say that three quarters of an hour of Christian teaching is too great a strain on constitutions which can endure a two hours' political speech or a three hours' dramatic entertainment, is manifest absurdity and hypocrisy. The real ground of complaint is not the quantity, but the quality of the discourse. The real tax is not on the strength, but on the patience of the audience. People tire of one man in ten minutes; another they could "listen to forever." The most popular preachers have not been short preachers; witness Chrysostom, Henry Smith, Whitefield, James Parsons, Punshon, Liddon, Spurgeon, Knox-Little, etc. And considering who Paul was, and what his message was, it is scarcely supposable that Eutychus was wearied with either him or it. Let the preacher make his sermons interesting and his congregation will be oblivious to considerations of time. Yet it is to be added that a wise man will respect the domestic arrangements, and the after religious engagements of his people in the Sunday school and elsewhere.
II. TO HEARERS. The other half of the blame is attached to Eutychus. Yet the narrative contains no hint that Paul thought him blameworthy. However, there are sleepy hearers who are to blame.
1. Those who bring a body and mind already exhausted to the house of God. People who have been up half Saturday night, or who have spent the Saturday afternoon in laborious dissipation, are to blame if they succumb to the spirit of slumber.
2. Those who are indifferent to the main object which should bring them to the house of God; who have no sense of the awfulness of God's presence, and their need of instruction in His Word. Such would go to sleep over business, but for their sense of its overwhelming importance. Let them but take the same interest in higher concerns and they will be wide awake enough.
III. TO CHURCH MANAGERS. These are most to blame and yet get the least. Paul must have been an interesting preacher and it is quite possible that Eutychus may have had a deep interest in Paul. His somnolence was most probably due to the conditions of the atmosphere. The many, badly smelling lamps, and the vast congregation must have vitiated the air, and Eutychus, higher up than the rest, was in the worst position for keeping his eyes open. Instead of blaming the preacher or the hearer let church managers look after the ventilation. Any theatre would be doomed if as badly constructed or attended to as many of our churches. Let the most interesting play be performed in the atmosphere breathed by many of our congregations, and it would be repeated to an empty theatre. The preacher himself is often lifeless, not from any lack of natural or Divine enthusiasm, but from lack of oxygen. Let, then, our church managers exercise the same common sense as our theatre managers. A congregation starved with cold in the morning and suffocated with heat in the evening will be a diminishing one, even if Paul himself occupied the pulpit. A little less expenditure on the aesthetic and a little more on the sanitary would awaken many a drowsy congregation, and fill many a deserted sanctuary.
(J. W. Burn.)
I. THE SLEEPER IS INSENSIBLE. Tick-tack, tick-tack goes the clock in the still muffled chamber of sleep; you hear it not. Eyes closed, limbs motionless, you are unconscious. So with the spiritual sleeper. The soul is unconscious and insensible. The mighty movements of God are unheard. Up and down the Bethel ladder do the angels go, but the rustle of the garments of glory never touches the ear; the great daily traffic from heaven to earth passing by your very door, and shaking every casement in the house, affects you not the slightest. Oh, the multitude of slumbering souls in the gospel Kirk of this gospel day! The pulpit is taken as a matter of course, with the tang and gust of a penance about it. Oh, the bitter waste of preaching Sabbath after Sabbath, year after year, the sweat and toil for nothing! Oh, what will arouse the masses of the sleeping in the Holy Sanctuary? Can nothing he done with them? Wake! awake! Some years ago a minister, sad at heart with this pulpit sadness, at the close of a heavy Sabbath day flung himself down, as Elijah did under the juniper tree, collapsed: "O Lord, let me die!" He fell asleep, and in his sleep he dreamed, and this was his dream: His own people, his own pulpit, himself the preacher. Never before had he felt so near to God, so conscious of the powers of Eternity. His heart overflowed in holy yearning, his lips had been touched by the live coal, and the words like flowing lava burned as they came. Unction, fire, melting, beseeching "even to tears," his that day. And in this minister's dream, how did the congregation appear? Never before had they been so listless and inattentive; heads swaying in somnolence from side to side; yawning to right of him, yawning to left of him, gaping from gallery to floor, and from floor to gallery; watches fumbled out on all sides to see when this weary plish-plash harangue would come to a close. This the only response to the pulpit, and as the vessel's thermometer suddenly sinks to zero before that polar iceberg swept along on the ocean way, so suddenly sink to despair did this poor preacher's heart before the arctic heartlessness of his flock. Just as he is closing one moving appeal to be reconciled unto God, and to come to Christ in that day of fleeting grace, the door of the church opens, and a stranger walks up the aisle, and seats himself right in front of the pulpit, and listens to it all. Every eye is turned upon him as he slowly rises. Hush! he addresses the heart-broken preacher! "Oh, sir, come you to hell with that offer of mercy, and you'll not have an unmoved congregation!" And the minister stops and looks at the stranger and he is the devil! That the dream, but this the fact. Ah! if I could go down to the black mouth of the, bottomless pit with this gospel of Christ, if I could take this offer of mercy, and make the gloomy caverns echo with this call to the Saviour, all hell would arise in. delirious joy; the very devil would leap from his throne, and come to be saved!
II. THE SLEEPER IS INACTIVE. There is no increase to the wealth of the world from a sleeper. The work is done by active hands fingering along the looms and the distaffs of production, by busy feet erranding the goes and comes of the market's fluctuations, by broad brows throbbing hot with the fling-off of swarming thought, the mental electricity that is to pulse through humanity and gird the very ends of the earth together. But the sleeper there lies his lazy length; nothing he takes, nothing he makes, an inert useless log of unconscious flesh. Some time ago, at Falkirk Station, I read this notice of the railway company: "Wanted to dispose of thirty thousand old sleepers!" No longer can they uphold the rattling rails of the country's rolling traffic, outlived their usefulness, their day done, sell them for firewood for what they will bring! As I read that, I thought, "Well, I know some congregations very like that railway company, surplus stocked with a lot of 'old sleepers' they'd better dispose of!" If you are unconverted, the whole of your keen activity, dear organising worker for the Church, is just the galvanised twitching of a ghastly corpse. It has no value at all in God's sight; nay, unconverted labour has been rated by the Master at the minus figure of His complete disallowing and disapproval. "The ploughing of the wicked," God says, "is sin." There is a certain kind of congregational activity very much in vogue, in which all vagaries of outward commotion and hop-step-and-leap exercises are gone through in the most genteelly pious fashion. But you may visit till your legs bend, you may sew till your Dorcas needle evaporate through ceaseless friction, you may spend and be spent, give and be given till you melt with fatigue, and all the time it is just for self; it is that "zeal of God's house that hath eaten up" the Christ. You are asleep in nature's sleep; and, worker, till you come to Jesus and give Him your heart all your labour is but beating the air. It is like the child's rocking horse, motion indeed, but no progress. You remember Luther's parable about this? A council is held in hell, the devil presides, and the fiends are competing for a prize for the best infernal service. "I," says one — "I saw a caravan of human beings crossing the desert. I called on the sirocco with its hot, foul breath, I whirled the sandy masses to the blotted-out heavens, and I buried them all, and their bones lie whitening on the surface flats." "Well done," says the devil, "but a greater work than this can be done." "I," speaks another competitor — "I beheld a gallant life-laden vessel skimming the surface of the glassy sea. I hissed afar for the roaring tempest; I piled the mountains of foaming surge on the deck, and the ship went down with a sullen plunge, and the ooze and the tangle of the deep are their unburying grave." "Well done," says the devil, "but a greater work than this can be done." "I," and this last demon voice has the grim chuckle of conscious triumph in it — "I witnessed a congregation in a gracious revival. Souls were flocking to Christ, and our kingdom of hell was suffering defeat. For spiritual fervour I substituted material good; I multiplied the funds and collections; I filled the pews to overflowing; I flung enchantment round the voice in the pulpit — outward prosperity I brought with a rush to everything, ease, and comfort, and success, and along with it I soothed them all to slumber; and now, minister and members they are all asleep!" "The prize is thine, for this is the greatest work!" shouts the Infernal Arbiter, and hell's rafters rang with approving applause!
III. THE SLEEPER IS IN DANGER. Here is a sleeper. The couch is enveloped in a mass of flimsy inflammable gauze curtains. A table stands ready to topple, and right on the edge of the table a naked candle is burning to its socket. Danger, is it not here? Ay, it is, and the red flames roaring out at yon windows will summon in desperate haste the rush and rattle of the fire engines in the dead of night. A matter of life or death it is; danger is here indeed. Unconverted soul, you are the sleeper. The curtains of a delusive dreamland have wrapped your couch in an inflammable cloud, and the candle of time, alit with eternity, is spluttering in its holding bracket before the final flare-up and the never-ending, conflagration of the awful "Too late! too late! — die! damned!" The sleeper is in danger because entirely defenceless. Yonder the whole armed camp has succumbed to slumber, the picket has fallen asleep at his post. Hist! a low, soft, rustling noise out there in the forest, the momentary gleam of the moonlight on a glistening tomahawk! Silently, like tigers crouching and crawling for their mesmerised prey, dark forms are wriggling and gliding through the bush to that camp of doom. Still they slumber within half a minute of their destruction. A war-whoop that brings the double echoes back from the far-off Rocky Mountains! Yells on yells rending the midnight lift! The work of blood has begun, and in a few minutes all the reeking scalps are dangling at the chuckling redskin's girdles! To a man that slumbering regiment has been annihilated. Sleep has done its fateful work. It always does. In sleep there is, too, the danger of all dangers, destruction incipient, death actually begun. It is a wild night on this Highland moor. Masses of powdery, feathery snow are whirled and hurled in continuous gusts from mountain tops to every nook of the glens. And that poor, faithful shepherd, with the icicles hanging at his shaggy beard, wearily wandering after his strayed sheep, is beginning to feel drowsy and dazed with that ceaseless beat of the icy avalanche from the frowning sky. It will be only for a moment or two and he will start up from his slumber refreshed for the search. Here is the very shelter, the bield side of a crag! Asleep! Ay, forever! "The Ice Maiden," as they say in Danish song, "has kissed him," and the press of that kiss on the cheek pledges to him the never awaking! Sleeper, sleep on, but the sleep slips into a frozen death! To sleep is to die, and he is asleep, and he is dead, and the other shepherds will tenderly lift him up in the clear calm of the fury-spent morning, a glazed corpse, a lump of lifeless ice! So, unconverted soul, sleeper in the Kirk of God, in this sleep of yours death has already begun. You have been kissed by the Ice Maiden of a lost eternity. You have given way to spiritual drowsiness, and you are already in the grip of the grave, and that cursed burial yours, of them who "have come and gone from the place of the holy." O gospel tampering, temporising soul, fear this and flee. If you refuse Christ now, will your dead heart be moved to accept Him at your any time nod, at your mere wish? I trow not. Recently in an extreme case of comatose sleep, of stupor "trance," when everything else failed, a famous doctor managed to awake the sleeper by focussing a beam of light into the upturned eyeball. Yours is this extreme case of trance, you Christ-rejector for years, your heart hardened with the crust of misused gospel privilege, you are dead. Yet here, blessed be God, is the famous Physician, the Lord. "Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)
Fell down from the third loft and was taken up dead
Biblical Museum.We have here the record of —
I. A SUDDEN DEATH.
1. How this affects the individual himself.
2. The consequences to survivors.
II. THE SUDDEN DEATH OF A MAN IN THE PRIME OF LIFE.
III. A SUDDEN DEATH UNDER PECULIARLY AWFUL CIRCUMSTANCES. He was asleep. Is your soul asleep in —
1. Carnal security?
3. Satan's arms.Conclusion: May the Holy Spirit —
1. Show you your danger.
2. Make you safe.
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