Acts 21:16
The slight obscurity attaching to the rendering of this verse diminishes in nothing its interest and instructiveness. Whether the verse purports to say that the disciples of Caesarea journeying with Paul and his companions brought them to Mnason as their host, when they arrived at Jerusalem; or that, picking up Mnason himself at Caesarea, who afterwards became the host of Paul at Jerusalem, they rendered him also the help of their escort thither, - does not alter its special significance. This lies in the fact that Mnason's name, as soon as mentioned, is dispatched with two remarks, never again to be referred to in the sacred history; and yet those two remarks are felt to be worth more than two volumes. Wherein, then, we may ask, does their special significance hide?

I. THEY ARE TIDINGS OF A MAN WHO HAS RECEIVED CHRISTIAN LIGHT, AND HAS BEEN FAITHFUL TO IT "EVEN TO OLD AGE?"

II. THEY ARE TIDINGS OF A MAN WHO RECEIVED CHRISTIAN LIGHT AT THE RIGHT TIME TO RECEIVE IT - SO SOON AS IT CAME, AND WHEN HE WAS YOUNG.

III. THEY THEREFORE FIX THE DESCRIPTION OF A MAN WHO MUST IN CONSEQUENCE HAVE NOW STORES OF THE BEST KIND OF EXPERIENCE AND STRENGTH.

IV. THEY PROCLAIM A MAN WHOSE CHARACTER HAS A CERTAIN AND AN INDISPUTABLE VALUE, AS A SPEAKING TESTIMONY TO CHRIST HIMSELF AND HIS TRUTH.

V. THEY MAKE A CERTAIN PROMISE BOTH FOR THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD - THE PROMISE OF A MAN WHOSE COMPANY, FRIENDSHIP, HOSPITALITY, AND VERY COUNTENANCE GIVEN TO A FELLOW-CREATURE WILL BE A HUNDREDFOLD PROFITABLE. - B.







Mnason of Cyprus, am old disciple.
teaches us —

I. HOW THAT WITH INCREASING YEARS SHOULD COME AN INCREASING DELIGHT IN LEARNING OF CHRIST. Mnason was a disciple still, although there is a tradition that he was one of the seventy, and there was much for him yet to learn, which was probably his motive for meeting Paul. His name is suggestive in this light — diligent seeker, exhorter, or one who remembers. Those who begin early to runt often slacken their pace as the journey lengthens. Time is the test of true piety, and Mnason's stood this test. Some live only on a past experience; years ago they were justified by faith, and yet they have not passed far on from the entrance to Christianity. But Mnason appears to have been known as a disciple rich in experience and knowledge, and still progressing.

II. HOW THAT WITH ADDED YEARS SHOULD COME INCREASING DESIRE TO BE HELPFUL TO OTHERS. Readily Mnason seems to have placed his house at Paul's disposal and to have undertaken a long journey to meet him. Nor was it without risk, as subsequent events prove. Many are ready to help only when it colts nothing but words or a small coin. And then the aged are not always of a helpful spirit. Their sympathies are with the past, and their antipathies with the present, and so their influence is depressing. Old age often brings moroseness, but the spirit of this old man must have not only cheered St. Paul and doubtless others, but have been a joy to himself in advancing years (Psalm 92:14).

III. THAT A GOOD OLD AGE IS SUGGESTIVE OF IMMORTALITY. Surely there is something beyond, some further use for, the matured knowledge and experience, and the high attainments of Mnason and such as he. Those who come to the grave as shocks of corn fully ripe will be re-sown to give a larger, richer harvest in eternity. Conclusion:

1. In some aged men the results seem unworthy of the length of life. Days have come and gone like the tides that ebb and flow, and there is no more change in them than in the water-worn rock.

2. Some aged men are not "old disciples," but old sinners. Yet thank God even then old men by penitence and faith may become disciples.

(F. Hastings.)

There is not a nobler sight in the world than an aged and experienced Christian who, having been sifted in the sieve of temptation, stands forth as the confirmer of the assaulted, testifying from his own trials the reality of religion, and meeting by his warnings and directions and consolations the cases of all who may be tempted to doubt it.

(R. Cecil, M. A.)

1. Confirms and illustrates the promise which God has made of long life to those who fear His name.

2. Crowns those who possess it with especial honour.

3. Commends religion to others.

4. Furnishes a beautiful illustration of the maturity and ripeness of Christian character.

(L. H. Reid.)

There is something that stimulates the imagination in these mere shadows of men. What a strange fate to be made immortal by a line in this book. The figure is drawn with a couple of hasty strokes, but even this dim form has a word to say to us. His name and birthplace show that he was a foreign Jew speaking Greek — a Hellenist like Paul. He comes from Cyprus, where he may have been a friend of Barnabas.

1. He was an old disciple — "a disciple from the beginning," i.e., one of the original and now rapidly diminishing group who, thirty years or more ago, had seen Christ and been drawn to Him. And the way in which he is mentioned suggests that there was a certain honour conceded by the second generation of Christians to the first.

2. He must have been advanced in life. He had emigrated to Jerusalem, and there must have had the means and heart to exercise a liberal hospitality. He does Hot seem to have known Paul, for the most probable rendering is "brought us to Mnason," implying that this was the first introduction. But the old man had full sympathy with the apostle, and his adhesion would carry no small might.

I. HOLD FAST TO YOUR EARLY FAITH AND TO THE CHRIST WHOM YOU HAVE KNOWN.

1. Many a year had passed and how much had come and gone — Calvary, Olivet, Pentecost — and he had changed from buoyant youth to sober old age. His feelings and outlook were different; his old friends had mostly gone, but one thing remained and that was Christ, the one God-laid foundation, on whom whosoever buildeth need never change with changing time.

2. There is no happier experience than that of the old man who has around him the old loves, confidences, joys. But who can secure that blessed unity if he depend on the love and help of even the dearest. There is but one way of making all our days one, and that is by taking the abiding Christ for ours and abiding in Him.

3. Holding fast by early convictions does not mean stiffening in them. There is plenty of room for advancement in Christ. "Grow in grace," etc.

II. THE WELCOME THAT WE SHOULD BE READY TO GIVE TO NEW THOUGHTS AND WAYS.

1. It would have been very natural for this "original disciple" to have said, "I do not like your new-fangled ways. Is it not likely that we should understand the gospel without this new man coming to set us right? I am too old to go in with these changes." All the more honourable is it that he should have been ready to shelter the great champion of the Gentiles. It was not every old disciple that would have done as much.

2. Does not this flexibility of mind when united with constancy in the old creed make an admirable combination? It is hard to blend them, but the fluttering leaves and bending branches need a firm stem and deep roots.

III. THE BEAUTY THAT MAY DWELL IN AN OBSCURE LIFE. There is nothing to be said about this old man but that he was a disciple; and is not that enough? The world may remember very little about us a year after we are gone; but what does that matter if our names are written in the Book of Life with this epitaph — a disciple? What could he do? Not go into the regions beyond, like Paul; not guide the Church, like James, etc.; but he could receive a prophet in the name of a prophet, and so receive a prophet's reward. The old law in Israel holds good, "As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that abideth by the stuff." Conclusion: So this old disciple's hospitality is made immortal, and the record of it reminds us that the smallest service done for Jesus is treasured by Him. "God is not unrighteous to forget your labour of love."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. THE CHARACTER OF MNASON.

1. In examining the account here given of Mnason, we behold, in the first place, a person of long-standing in the Church. The epithet attached to him leads us to suppose that he was one of our Lord's first followers and disciples. How many things had occurred to try his attachment to the gospel! Yet, in spite of all, he kept the faith. But there was another trial of his steadfastness which he had nobly sustained. Cyprus was a place noted for the dissolute manners of its inhabitants. There unblushing wantonness was exhibited by all classes; and the young were taught to regard sensual pleasure as the chief happiness of man. In embracing the gospel he had professed his resolution to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts; and irksome to nature as the mortifications and the rigid temperance of the first Christians must have appeared, amidst the remembrance of the scenes of his early days, he persisted in the strictest sobriety, as well as in taking up his cross daily, and in following Christ.

2. In Mnason we see one who had been long a student of the gospel revelation, and who was still devoted to the study of it. He had been led to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and that sacrifice he had never regretted. In old age the faculties decline, and the study of other subjects is felt irksome; but the great salvation can brighten the failing eye and raise the sinking heart. Mnason still waited at wisdom's gates — still lifted up his voice to God for understanding — still had his delight in the law of the Lord, and meditated in it day and night.

3. In Mnason we see one who has been long distinguished by the graces of the Christian character, and who still exercises them. Attachment to all Christian ordinances, self-denial, humility, and charity.

4. In Mnason we behold an old man still actuated by public spirit, and still eager to show kindness and hospitality. What a beautiful sight is it to mark the courtesies of the aged, and to find persons at that period mild, frank, and obliging, whom we dreaded to see cold, peevish, and austere; to behold the head flowing in compassion, not frozen in selfishness; the smile of cheerfulness on a faded countenance, and the offices of hospitality felt as a pleasure amidst their many infirmities!

II. THOSE OBJECTS OF PECULIAR INTEREST WHICH ARE TO BE SEEN IN AN OLD DISCIPLE.

1. We see in him a striking proof of God's gracious care. "Hitherto hath the Lord helped." The frail bark which has accomplished a long and perilous voyage, and which is stored with the most valuable commodities of the different ports at which it has touched, which has weathered many a storm, and which is now drawing near its harbour, we mark with deep interest. Such is the old disciple. And we trust that when the days are short and gloomy, and the noise of the breakers heard from afar indicates that the ship is approaching a coast where lauding is difficult through the swell of the ocean, or the rockiness of the bottom, the Pilot who hath guided her so far will not abandon her now, but will secure to her an abundant entrance into Emmanuel's haven.

2. We see in an old disciple a satisfying proof of the reality and the power of religion. How completely are the old disgusted with other pursuits, even those in which they once engaged with the greatest eagerness, and to which they were allured by the gayest promises. Such they now pronounce to be vanity and vexation of spirit. But how different is the ease with the old disciple! The objects which first excited his attention appear as estimable to him as ever, and so far from regretting any sacrifice he has made for their sake, he would make it still if he was called to it. What once filled him with rapture, when his fancy was bright and his affections were glowing, is still his solace; he hath not discovered the least insecurity in the basis on which he builds, the least uncertainty in the promises on which God hath caused him to hope, or the least oppression in the yoke which the Lord required him to take. While few worldlings have been able to recommend it to the young to devote themselves as they did to earthly things, the old disciple can say to them, "Oh taste and see that God is good!"

3. We see in the old disciple precious stores of experience. How instructive is his review of the course of Providence! Who can hear him talk of the families which were flourishing in the days of his youth, but whose estates and palaces are now the property of others, without feeling how foolish it is to trust in uncertain riches? Who can hear him tell how God enlarged him when he was in distress, showed him the way in which he should go, in answer to his earnest prayers for relief and for guidance, without feeling the value and acknowledging the power of prayer?

4. In the old disciple we behold a most striking contrast to the character and state of the aged transgressor. The one is like the long stagnant pool, in whose dark waters venomous creatures have been multiplying, and whose rank weeds and noxious exhaltations make it the object of disgust and terror. The other is like the stream purifying in its course, and rushing to the sea with a current clear, yet majestic.

5. In the old disciple we behold an object to whom many important offices are due from us. To such a man we owe high veneration. If we are to rise up before the old man, peculiar deference is certainly due to the old disciple. The hoary head is a crown of glory if it is found in the way of righteousness. The infirmities of age have a claim on our pity, whatever be the character of the individual in whom we trace them; but they have peculiar claims on our kindness when they are seen in those who have served their generation according to the will of God, and when they may have been hastened or aggravated by the exertions they have made in the cause of piety and humanity. In them you will meet with the grateful feeling which is so encouraging in any kind ministrations, and the sagacity and the patience which will make them yield more extensive and substantial relief. Solicit their counsels. The difficulties which now distress you once harassed them — the opposition from which you are ready to shrink they braved — the disappointment under which your hearts are sinking tried their fortitude, and they found it salutary in its elevating their hearts to God, and they are thus qualified for directing you in the season of perplexity, and for reanimating your failing courage.

6. We see in the old disciple much solemn instruction as to death and heaven. The old disciple we see standing on the verge of the grave. Useful as his course hath been it must terminate; but, instead of murmuring at this, let us bless God that it has been prolonged to such an extent.

(H. Belfrage, D. D.)

There is many an old philosopher, like Franklin, whose last hours are so serene, and sweet, and beautiful, as to almost make one wish to exchange youth for old age. Man should stand in the horizon of life as sometimes in summer we see the sun stand as if it had forgotten to move, lying so in vapour that it is shorn of its excessive brightness — large, round, red-looking as if it waited to cast back one more love glance on the earth. So I have seen the aged linger, so round, and rich, and bright, and beautiful, as to make youth seem poor in treasure when compared with old age. It is a great thing so to have lived that the best part of life shall be its evening. October, the ripest month of the year, and the richest in colours, is a type of what old age should be.

(H. W. Beecher.)

When men grow virtuous in their old age, they are merely making a sacrifice to God of the devil's leavings.

(Dean Swift.)

"Eighty and six years," was 's answer when required to deny the truth, "have I served my Saviour, and He hath never done me any harm; and shall I deny Him now?"

As ripe fruit is sweeter than green fruit, so is age sweeter than youth, provided the youth were grafted into Christ. As harvest time is a brighter time than seed time, so is age brighter than youth; that is, if youth were a seed time for good. As the completion of a work is more glorious than the beginning, so is age more glorious than youth; that is, if the foundation of the work of God were laid in youth. As sailing into port is a happier thing than the voyage, so is age happier than youth; that is, when the voyage from youth is made with Christ at the helm.

(J. Pulsford, D. D.)

Wilberforce remarked, "I can scarcely understand why my life is spared so long, except it be to show that a man can be as happy without a fortune as with one." And soon after, when his only surviving daughter died, he writes, "I have often heard that sailors on a voyage will drink, 'Friends astern!' till they were half way over; then, 'Friends ahead!' With me it has been 'Friends ahead!' this long time."

There is not a more repulsive spectacle than an old man who will not forsake the world, which has already forsaken him.

(J. Tholuck.)

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