Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go south to the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza."
I. THAT THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER IS TO PLACE HIMSELF CONTINUALLY UNDER DIVINE DIRECTION. Philip had some advantages which we do not now enjoy. "The angel of the Lord spake unto him" audibly (ver. 26), and gave him definite instructions whither he should go: "Arise, and go toward the south," etc. "The Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself," etc. (ver. 29). When his work was finished here," the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip" (ver. 39). But though we have, not now these outward, unmistakable manifestations, we have "the mind of Christ we may consult and know his will, if
(1) we intelligently and devoutly study his Word,
(2) unselfishly regard the leadings of his providence,
(3) earnestly ask for the promptings of his Divine Spirit. We are earnestly to desire to go only where we are sent of God, to address ourselves to these whom he would have us influence, and to stay no longer than he has work for us to do there.
II. THAT CHRIST HAS SUBJECTS TO SECURE FOR HIS KINGDOM OTHER THAN THOSE WE SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED. Which of the apostles would have imagined that the next convert to Christianity at this time would be "a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority," etc. (ver. 26)? Yet such was the mind of Christ. We are too apt to think we can tell whence the disciples will be drawn, by whom the table will be furnished with guests. But our Master has surprises for us here as elsewhere. We must not, in thought, limit the range of his redeeming love or converting power. It may not be the poor in need of some enrichment, but the rich in need of some higher wealth; not the lowly wanting some honor, but the honorable craving some truer dignity; it may not be the children of privilege familiar with the truth, but the sons of ignorance or superstition, or even the children of infidelity far from the wisdom of God ; - it may be these and not those whom the Lord of love and power means to call and win and bless.
III. THAT GOD HAS MUCH ENLIGHTENMENT TO IMPART THROUGH HUMAN AGENCY. Here is human ignorance and misapprehension (ver. 30): a sense of utter helplessness without guidance from some friendly hand (ver. 31); invitation to him that knows and will explain (ver. 31). Without the enlightenment which some men have it in their power to impart, everything is dark, meaningless, obscure, perplexing, - facts in nature laws of God, utterances of the Divine Word. Then comes the illuminating flash, and the mists roll away, the objects are clear in the sunlight, the path is plain. How wise to seek, how excellent to render, the light which, by God's kind blessing, one human mind may shed on the highest of themes into the most troubled souls!
IV. THAT THE SACRIFICIAL SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST ARE THE GRAND THEME OF THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER. (Vers. 32-35.) What passage in all the Hebrew Scriptures could Philip have preferred to this as a text for his teaching? This supreme fact in the history of our race is the theme on which to dwell, in which to find a deepening interest, from which to draw motive and inspiration, with which to fascinate the people, to which to be continually returning.
V. THAT THE CONVINCED DISCIPLE SHOULD FORTHWITH AVOW HIS CONVICTION IN THE APPOINTED WAYS. (Vers. 36-38.)
VI. THAT THE FULL RECEPTION OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH WILL BE FOLLOWED BY DEEP AND ABIDING JOY. (Ver. 39.) "He went on his way rejoicing."
VII. THAT THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER MAKES SUCCESS AN INSPIRATION TO FURTHER HOLY ACTIVITY. (Ver. 40.) - C.
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go.
(H. C. Trumbull, D. D)
TowardDeuteronomy 2:23; 1 Kings 4:24; Jeremiah 25:20 — as Azzah) goes even as far back as that of Damascus, in the early records of Israel. It was the southernmost or border-city of the early Cananites (Genesis 10:19), and was occupied first by the Avim, and then by the Caphtorim (Deuteronomy 2:23). Joshua was unable to conquer it (Joshua 10:41; Joshua 11:22). The tribe of Judah held it for a short time (Judges 1:18), but it soon fell into the hands of the Philistines (Judges 3:3; Judges 13:1), and though attacked by Samson, was held by them during the times of Samuel, Saul, and David (1 Samuel 6:17; 1 Samuel 14:52; 2 Samuel 21:15). Solomon (1 Kings 4:24), and later on Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8) attacked it. It resisted Alexander the Great during a siege of five months, and was an important military position, the very key of the country, during the struggles between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae, and in the wars of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 11:61). Its name, it may be noted, meant the "strong."
(Dean Plumptre.)1. When Philip is introduced to us, we find him engaged in promising work, and there was much still to do. Philip might justly have supposed that he would be allowed to remain in such a rich and suitable field until he had exhausted all its possibilities. And yet he was Divinely summoned to abandon it and go away to the desert. This place was at the extreme south, farthest removed from all the scenes and associations of Philip's life, and if he had reasoned he would naturally have wondered much why he should be sent to such an out-of-the-way place. What good could he do there? And yet he immediately obeyed the Divine command. And as he did so the will of God was made known to him. He found there a more fruitful field of usefulness than even Samaria. Scientific men have shown us the wonderful arrangements by which insects and flowers are brought together in order to carry out the ends of the vegetable world. The blossom is furnished with a honey-cell, is painted with brilliant hues, enriched with fragrance, and shaped in a particular way, in order to attract and guide insects, by whose agency the plant may be fertilised and enabled to produce seed. More wouderful still are the providential arrangements by which God brings together the soul and the Saviour.
2. Some may say that it was not worth while to take Philip away from the great task of converting multitudes for the purpose of saving a single stranger. Bat such persons have not so learned of Christ, who said, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" and who told the parable of the lost sheep. But it was not the salvation of a single soul only that was involved. The Ethiopian eunuch was a great dignitary, next in rank to the Queen of Ethiopia; and the influence which the conversion of such a man might be expected to exercise would, in the nature of things, be immense and far-reaching, and tradition ascribes to him the conversion to his new faith of Candace and of many of her subjects, and he may have prepared the way for the wonderful work which took place among the Ethiopians at a later period, when the whole nation became Christian, and the ancient prophecies of Scripture, that Ethiopia would yet lift her hands to God, were fulfilled. The superiority in religious faith and in all the arts of life which the Abyssinians enjoy over all the benighted children of the sun may be attributed in the first instance to the work of the Ethiopian eunuch. We have a similar instance of the wise methods of Providence in Paul being obliged to abandon his large and important field of labour in Asia, and to go over into Europe, which seemed to him, in comparison, a desert place.
3. The scene of the eunuch's conversion was admirably adapted for the purpose. When Jesus was about to cure the deaf and dumb man, He took him aside from the multitude; and when He was about to open the eyes of the man born blind, He took him by the hand and led him out of the town. Jesus isolated the men that, apart from the interruptions of the crowd, they might be made more receptive of deep and lasting impressions. And so was it with the Ethiopian eunuch. He had taken part in all the solemn services of the grandest of Jewish festivals. A proselyte of rank and influence like him, moreover, would receive much attention. But the atmosphere of the Holy City was unfavourable to the quiet meditation which clears the inner eye, develops the spiritual life, and opens the heart to receive the truth of God. And so what he could not obtain in the crowded city he found in the lonely desert. A spirit of inquiry had been stirred up within him; and here nothing would distract his thoughts. When Philip joined himself to him his mind was made plastic and his heart sensitive to spiritual impressions. Shut out from the world, alone with God and the works of His hands, reduced to their primitive simplicity, both the eunuch and the evangelist felt how dreadful was this desert-place. It was none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven. There the ladder was set up by which the benighted African climbed to the light and the joy of heaven. He found there not only water by which he was baptized as a Christian, but in his own soul a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
4. This incident is a type of what often happens in the experience of God's people. Our Lord Himself on one occasion left the busy, crowded cities where He was carrying on a most beneficent ministry, for the lonely desert, in order that there He might cure the solitary demoniac, who, in his turn, was the means of a wonderful spiritual awakening among the people of Decapolis. Peter was sent from the large maritime city of Joppa, where he could preach to persons from all parts of the world, in order to instruct a single Gentile family in the small town of Caesarea. And so God bids His servants still leave the ninety and nine and go after the one lost sheep. We fancy that we need to get together large meetings in order to produce a deep and widespread impression. But crowds have not always been helpful in the matter of progress. Not unfrequently, by their distractions, they have placed hindrances in the way. A man has in a crowd no calmness of mind to think, but is swayed exclusively by the feelings of the moment. Our Lord's own best work, so to speak, was not done in crowds; and the sayings of His that sink deepest into our hearts were uttered when conversing with a solitary woman beside well or near a tomb. The fickle crowds fell away from Him in His hour of need; but the solitary souls whom He called to Him one by one from the sea-shore and the receipt of custom, and the desolated home, clung faithfully to Him to the last.
5. But we may give a wider application to the lesson. Whatever outward circumstance or inward motive induces us to leave the crowd and go down unto "Gaza, which is desert," for rest and meditation, we may be sure that it is the prompting of the angel of the Lord. We need to obey the Divine injunction more frequently, for our religious life is too social; it depends too much upon the excitement of meetings and associations, and is too often incapable of standing alone. It is urgently required, therefore, that not only in the enjoyment of the means of grace, but much more in their absence, we should work out our own salvation. We need more of the blessed solitude of prayer. It was at the back side of the mountain on which he fed his flock that the vision of the burning bush appeared to Moses. In the front he saw no door opened in heaven. And so, too, if we are to behold something of the sight which Moses beheld, and to be changed in some measure as he was changed, we must often retire to the background of the mountain on which we live and labour. If we refuse to go voluntarily unto "Gaza, which is desert," God will providentially compel us. He will make a desert around us, so that under its bitter juniper-tree we may learn the true lessons of life. The gain to individuals themselves and to society by the training of enforced loneliness cannot be overestimated; and wanting in the best and highest qualities is that man or woman to whom Christ does not say, at one period or other of life, "Come ye yourselves apart into a desert-place and rest awhile."
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)1. The pious obedience with which he follows the impulse of the Spirit.
2. The apostolic courage with which he lays hold of a soul strange to him.
3. The evangelical wisdom with which he fans the spark into a flame.
4. The priestly unction with which he seals, at the proper moment, the saved soul to the Lord.
5. The Christian humility with which, after the work of salvation is completed, he steps behind the Lord.
(K. Gerok.)I. GOD'S PROVIDENTIAL DIRECTION IN INDIVIDUAL LIFE. "And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip." This meeting of Philip, and the Ethiopian was not the result of mere accident or chance. A species of pre-established harmony existed between these two souls before they were conscious of each other's existence in this world. An angel messenger gives the directions by which they were to be brought together. Frequently we speak of accidents determining a man's destiny, forgetting that in the vocabulary of God there is no. such word as chance. It seemed a mere chance that Moses was discovered by Pharaoh's daughter. "But Eternal choice that chance did guide." A dusty pilgrim overtaken on the desert road by the chamberlain of a Pagan queen, that is all the world's wise ones see in this incident of our lesson; but in this chance meeting there is the hidden fire of a Divine purpose. Behind all life's varying scenes — its, joys, its sorrows, its social positions and its political ambitions, its individual cares, its national crises — there is the guiding hand of God. What comfort to shortsighted, burden-bearing pilgrims, to think that God's angels are ministering spirits. marshalled under King Jesus to guard and defend us against the assaults of our great adversary, the devil, who is continually striving for our destruction.
II. THE WILLING AND OBEDIENT SERVANT. Notice the nature of the directions given by the angel, and what was involved in obedience thereto. Verse 26 gives us the text of the angel's commission to Philip. In a sense Philip is to proceed under sealed orders. The directions are simple in terms as far as they go. Go to a certain road. Yet in a sense they are vague and indefinite. Sixty miles of desert highway, with the haughty, wicked city of Gaza at the southern terminus, was a command seriously requiring some more definite statements as to what duty was to be met, and where the field of future work was to be found. The angel had revealed to Philip just enough to indicate some of the difficulties in the way. To ordinary human nature such directions would make room for two or three questions of a very practical character just here. Natural, indeed, would have been the questions, Why limit the sphere of my ministry by taking this unfrequented way? Here I am in the populous city, multitudes are being stirred with the gospel message, converts. coming every day. Because of this there is great joy in the city. Why, then, must I be side-tracked? why leave the city appointment to take the country charge?' That was the voice of expediency, and we will always find crouching somewhere in the near neighbourhood of that voice the cowardly tempter. And thus the tempter speaks: A long desert journey on foot, a lone pilgrim, prowling wild beasts, night coming on, and no shelter! Philip, there is danger ahead, "lions are in the way." Besides, if you reach Gaza, and it is revealed to you that there is your new field of work, consider what difficulties and dangers await you. Gaza is hardened in crime, bitter in its rebellion against God. It is one of the most ancient cities of the world. Joshua could not subdue it. It was assigned to Judah, but even that warlike tribe could not retain its possession. Yet to have yielded to his fears, to have doubted the Divine wisdom, would have been to have lost the opportunity of meeting the man for whose conversion Philip was the Divinely appointed instrument: "Only the willing and obedient shall eat of the good of the land." We have heard inspiring sermons on that word "Come" of the gospel, and truly it is a blessed word, inviting weary hearts to the sweet asylum of rest found in Jesus Christ. But, as believers in the Cross of Christ, have we realised the blessed privilege of that other great word of the gospel, that small yet mighty word "Go"? "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in." "Go, work to-day in My vineyard." It was the inspiration of that great word that moved Philip to obedience. We dare not leave this thought of loving obedience to the commands of God without emphasising another fact in this connection, namely, that in proportion as we obey present revelations of God's will, future and fuller revelations will appear. Philip had plainly revealed to him the direction he was to take, "Arise, and go toward the south, unto the way that... is desert." This command was sufficient for prompt action at that hour. Philip had capital enough at that moment to go right to work for God in the new field. When the hour of opportunity came for other work than walking a desert highway, verse 29 informs us that another revelation was given. Philip is on the journey, he is overtaken by the chariot of the Ethiopian; "Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot." This higher revelation was given to Philip through obedience to the former revelation. God always furnishes revelations of duty in instalments according to the necessities of the hour and the measure of our faith. The way at first may seem dark. The commands of God may seem foolish to the demands of expediency. Human reason may stagger and fall and refuse to go farther. But to the eye of faith the "inventory of the universe is in heaven." He will reveal place and method when the hour of opportunity strikes.
III. A BIBLE-READING TRAVELLER. How seldom do we see the Word of God in the hands of travellers to-day! If you want to be conspicuous and regarded as a little "cranky," take your Bible and read it on the railroad train. This Bible-reading traveller offered Philip a better chance to preach the gospel to him than the average hearer furnishes the preachers of to-day. He was prepared for the message. It is a significant statement in the lesson that Philip "opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus." The eunuch had come from a period of profound meditation on the Word of God to hear the gospel sermon. Many times have we heard the casual remarks dropped from the lips of the careless hearer as he retired from church: "The preacher did not strike me to-day." "He did not reach my need." "I don't think he prepared that sermon with his usual care." Dear friend, what about your preparation as a hearer by an hour's thought on the Word of God, or a few moments' earnest meditation on the interests of your soul before you heard that sermon? You come from the wild clamour of the Stock Exchange; you come from the cankering cares of the business week, and expect the man in the pulpit to banish all this influence in the short hour of service, and feed you with the "bread of life," without one moment's preparation by earnest prayer or devout reading. Again, this Bible-reading traveller had some difficulties in the way of his receiving the truth as it is in Jesus. He had his doubts, as we all have. But he did not make an idol of his doubts and set it up as an object of worship. Almost in the same breath whereby the Ethiopian expressed his doubt he uttered the words of his confession of faith, "I believe that Jesus Christ" is the Son of God, and that moment the recording angel wrote his name in the Book of Life.
IV. THE REJOICING CHRISTIAN. Our Bible story ends well. The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. Philip had been the instrument of converting the eunuch to Christ, not to the preacher. The soul that truly finds Christ does not backslide when the evangelist goes away, or when the minister changes his appointment. He is in possession of the Divine Comforter as Companion. The man has entered a life of trust whose elements are joy and peace in the Holy Ghost.
(E. M. Taylor.)I. THE EARNEST WORKER.
1. He is in full fellowship with the Spirit, quick to receive Divine influences, and living in the atmosphere of Divine companionship (vers. 26-29).
2. He is obedient and self-denying, prompt to go wherever sent, ready to exchange a large field for a small one, Samaria for the desert (vers. 26, 27).
3. He is aggressive, eager to get at his work, running to meet the one with whom he is to labour, and at once beginning the conversation without waiting for an invitation (ver. 30).
4. He is skilful. He speaks kindly and cheerfully to the Ethiopian. "Philip's only recorded words contain a pleasantry" (ver. 30).
5. He is scriptural, taking the Word of God as his text, and showing how every page points to Christ (vers. 30-35).
6. He is practical, leading to personal faith in Christ and to union with the Church (vers. 35-37).
7. He is broad in his views, recognising the privilege of Gentile as well as Jew to be saved and baptized (vers. 37, 38).
II. THE SINCERE SEEKER It is hard to say whether the worker or the seeker in this lesson shines in the brighter light.
1. He is a noble seeker, a man of high rank and many public cares, yet a humble follower of God (ver. 27). Christian politicians are not so numerous as they should be (ver. 27).
2. He is a diligent seeker, living twelve hundred miles away, yet journeying to the temple and reading the Scriptures on the road (vers. 28, 29).
3. He is a teachable seeker, eager to learn the truth, willing to be instructed by a layman far below him in social position, and ready to embrace any opportunity to learn the way of salvation (vers. 30-34).
4. He is a believing seeker, exerting personal faith in Christ, and receiving Him as his Saviour (ver. 37).
5. He is a confessing seeker, not ashamed to profess Christ in the presence of his company (ver. 38).
6. He is a rejoicing seeker, going on his way happy in his new experience.
I. THE PRACTICAL CARE OF GOD FOR THE INDIVIDUAL SOULS OF MEN.
1. The object of all this whole transaction was one single conversion. Not only will God have all men to be saved, but He will have each man separately to be saved — showing the universality and the minuteness of His love and care.
2. Through such single agencies God's chief and most abiding work is ever wrought in our world. Each soul that is really brought thus to God becomes in its turn a little centre of light and life. We must never count any time wasted that is spent upon one human being. And let no man count his own soul's culture a thing of trifling moment. He, too, may be the evangelist, if not of a nation, yet of a family or of some one precious soul.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ALWAYS READY FOR DUTY.
1. Philip had to take a long journey in quest of one convert, and without knowing that he was to make one convert. Oh, what excuses should we have made! How should we have urged the disproportion between the means and the end; She distance, the difficulty, the improbability, the waste of strength and time; till we should have persuaded ourselves that we never were called to it.
2. God does not now speak to us by an angel, yet there is often something within which says, There is such or such a person whom you might benefit. And these inward promptings are easily resisted; but they are the tests of our Christianity. They say to us, Here is something which you might do for your Saviour. Perhaps it may fail; but there is a chance also of its succeeding. If you feel your debt to Him as you ought you will go and do it. If a man always find an excuse for putting it aside and is glad when something makes it impossible, he has upon him the mark of the unprofitable servant, who was satisfied to dig in the earth and hide his Lord's money.
3. On the other hand, how frequently is an effort of this kind consciously rewarded! You have roused yourself to leave your warm fireside; you have walked through rain or snow to the poor man's cottage, and you regarded it all as a penance; how often have you found that the visit was singularly seasonable; and it was your happiness to be an evident instrument in God's hand for the refreshment or restoration of a soul.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ALWAYS IN PURSUIT OF GOOD.
1. The Ethiopian was studying God's Word: eager to hail a new teacher. To him that hath shall be given. This man had an Old Testament. Many of us would have said — for we say it now — I can make nothing of it; it only puzzles me; but the Ethiopian, like Simeon, like Nathanael, like older saints still, desired to look into the mysteries of the ancient Scriptures. And therefore they saw what to others was mere confusion. There is a growth in knowledge proportionate to a growth in grace.
2. Many of us err grievously in this respect. We have no patience in the things of God. We take it for granted that in God's truth a thing must either be self-evident or unimportant. In this one, this greatest science of all, we consider study superfluous.
IV. THE IMPORTANCE, BOTH FOR STRENGTH AND FOR COMFORT, OF HOLDING A SIMPLE GOSPEL. Many of us pass through life without one single experience of the effect of the gospel upon this stranger. We are so mistaught, or else so slow to learn; we are so afraid of presumption, and so fond of adding something to the work and word of God, that we never reach anything that can call itself the glad tidings of Jesus, or send us forth on our way rejoicing. What Philip preached, what the Ethiopian received, was something which needed but one conversation for its statement, and but one hour for its reception. Out of this gospel flows all peace and all strength.
(Dean Vaughan.)I. ARISE, AND GO! And if the Church at Samaria was as unblieving as the Churches often are to-day, they said, "What a mistake!" To take Philip away just as he is getting to know us so well. And to Philip it must have seemed harsh. In the very midst of his successful work, there came Peter and John to take it out of his hands, and he is sent away to the desert — above all places! And so many towns and villages were pressing him to come and tell them of Jesus. Really, it seems a waste to send a man like that to such a place. That is certainly not what Philip would have chosen. So, then, the appointment of the worker needs be in wiser hands than his own. It is not what the Church would have chosen for him. So the worker must look to a higher authority than the Church. No; there is but one way of safety for us. We don't know what we need for our own discipline or usefulness. This sphere may be attractive; but who can tell what condition of affairs will come about there? what particular gifts will be needed? what temptation the worker may find there? The Lord knows it all. And the only safety is to let Him have His own way with us. But our very practical age smiles at this religious weakness. "That sounds all very well, my dear sir, and was, no doubt, the right sort of thing in an age of miracles. But, depend upon it, nowadays — The Lord helps those that help themselves." But the teaching of the Book of God is, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."
II. AND HE AROSE AND WENT. There see the secret of the man's power. There are no "buts," no "Nay, Lord," no loitering, no turning aside, like Jonah. God would not have used him in Samaria if there had not been this putting down of self that made him ready at a moment's notice to be off to the desert. I watched an old man trout-fishing, pulling them out one after another briskly. "You manage it cleverly, old friend," I said. "I have passed a good many who are doing nothing." The old man lifted himself up, and stuck his rod in the ground. "Well, you see, sir, there be three rules for trout-fishing; and 'tis no good trying if you don't mind them. The first is, Keep yourself out of sight. And the second is, Keep yourself further out of sight. And the third is, Keep yourself further out of sight still. Then you'll do it." "Good for catching men, too," I thought, as I went on my way. There was the secret of Philip's usefulness. He kept himself out of sight. He dared not go picking and choosing for himself. The Master said, "Go the way that is desert." That settled it. To Saul there comes the word of the Lord, Go, smite the Amalekites, and all that is theirs. But Saul spared of the best to sacrifice unto the Lord their God in Gilgal. A very thoughtful and pious arrangement, surely. No. Forth came Samuel with that dreadful inquiry and menace. Obedience is the secret of service. If we could go into the storehouse of our great Lord, whence His mighty men have fetched their gifts, what should we choose? Here are splendid gifts of intellect, eloquence With which to thrill men, deep knowledge of the human heart, courage that will not give in, faith that never wavers, hope never dimmed, and charity carrying her kind heart in every look and tone and manner. No, there is something higher and better than all these. "I am crucified with Christ."
III. THE DESERT BECOMES A FRUITFUL FIELD. Philip sets out. He reaches the dreary desert. What a place for this earnest worker I It is all right. The Lord has sent him here. Now afar off the dust rises, and a prince comes this way in his chariot. And here are some things which we shall do well to imitate.
1. Catching sight of the traveller, Philip did not rush off at once "to talk to him about his soul." Not they that be zealous merely to win souls shall shine as the stars, but they that be wise. Philip waits for orders; he does not stir until he gets them: "Go near, and join thyself to this chariot." Of course, idle folks will use this doctrine as an excuse. But never mind; they would do nothing if they had not the excuse, so there is nothing lost. The Master will net waste His special orders upon them that are not ready to obey. Only let a man live waiting for the Lord's word, and near enough to hear Him, and that man shall not lack a plain direction. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." Uzzah dies because unbidden he stretches out his hand to steady the ark of God. How often thoughtless hands are reached out in the service of the Church, meaning well but really harmful, because not bidden of the Lord.
2. When the Lord bids him go, he does not hang back because it is a rich man in a carriage. He had been a plain man working amongst simple people. And as he caught sight of the trappings of this Ethiopian prince he might well have thought twice before he moved towards him. The intelligent foreigner watching our ways of working might come to the conclusion that rich people have no souls; or else that they are sure of getting to heaven. Tracts, City missionaries, out.door services, etc., are all for the poor. And yet the rich are just as far from the kingdom of heaven, and have more difficulty in getting there. To Philip it was nothing who this man was, or what: the Lord had sent him; that was enough.
3. And Philip ran — the arrow is loosed from the string. And well he might run. The opportunity would soon be lost. The chariot was speeding on its way, and a dignified loiterer would have missed it. "The King's business requireth haste." And that the King has sent him is enough; he need not wait until he can get an introduction, or is fit to be presented. So the simple evangelist bursts upon the nobleman and asks, "Under-standest thou what thou readest?" It was all right. How could it possibly be otherwise? God had sent him; and He always makes things fit in perfectly when we do but perfectly obey.
IV. WHEN GOD SENDS US ON HIS ERRANDS HE MAKES A WAY FOR US. Philip found the nobleman in the middle of a passage that gave the opportunity of preaching Jesus. Perplexed and wondering, he was at the very point where Philip could step in to help him. "And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him." Think, if we had been sent on this errand how we should have come along nervous and afraid as to what our reception would be. And when it all opened up so, how we should wonder at it! Yet is it really so very wonderful that our great Father, who sets the stars their courses, and orders the coming of the seasons, should be able to time our affairs so as to make them fit? If the regulator of our going were not so often pointing to "fast" or to "slow," instead of keeping God's time exactly, we should wonder when things fell out otherwise. But turn aside for a moment to see a sight worth looking at. Philip has gone into the lonely desert at the Lord's bidding — and he finds a "chariot" to ride in, and a prince, "of great authority," for his travelling companion. He never had so much honour paid him in Jerusalem, or even in Samaria. And is it not always so? The moment we set foot in the wilderness we are the Lord's guests, and He ever keeps His table right royally furnished. He has brought Israel into the wilderness — but it was a blessed change! No more the muddy water of the Nile, but the sparkling brook; no more the rank vegetables, but manna, fresh every morning. Elijah has got away into the wilderness, and the ravens brought him bread and flesh morning and evening. The thousands that followed Jesus into "a desert place, did all eat, and were filled." John goes forth to the desert isle of Patmos, found his glorified Master, and the visions of the eternal city, and the fulness of joy at the Lord's right hand. The Master Himself goes into the wilderness, but, "behold, angels came and ministered unto Him." It is true still. That country toward the south hath a goodly aspect — it faceth heavenward. When the Lord bids us go the way to Gaza, it is no more desert; it is the garden of the Lord. As they rode on together, Philip preached Jesus to the nobleman. And he believed and was baptized, and "went on his way rejoicing" — went, most likely, to open a whole country to Christianity. So Philip never did a better day's work than when he went forth at the Lord's bidding unto the way — which is desert.
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
Homilist.The conversion of the eunuch suggests a comparison of his case with that of present-day hearers of the gospel.
I. COMPARE THE PRIVILEGES ENJOYED. What had he?
1. The Scriptures. But only the Old Testament. We have more, the New as well as Old.
2. He had a preacher, but, so far as we know, only one, and only heard one sermon. We have the constant ministration of the Word, line upon fine and precept upon precept.
3. He had the Holy Spirit, awakening and influencing his mind and heart. We have more, for He has striven often in our hearts.
II. COMPARE THE RESPONSIBILITY SUSTAINED. Ours greater by as much as our privileges are greater. To whom much is given of him much shall be required.
III. COMPARE CONDUCT WHICH RESULTED.
1. He prized and read his Bible. To-day sadly neglected, even by those who profess to value it.
2. He was possessed of a sincere desire to know the way of life. How few to-day seem to concern themselves about the great question of salvation.
3. He paid earnest attention to the preacher's words. How many careless, thoughtless hearers to-day, all eyes and ears for the sights and sounds of earth, but blind and deaf to all that pertains to heaven.
4. He applied to himself the truths he heard. Philip "preached unto him Jesus." Many to-day hear for other people, or hear as though what they heard in no way concerned them. Surely, here the contrast is in favour of the eunuch.
IV. COMPARE EXPERIENCE WHICH RESULTED. He went on his way rejoicing. Have we found any joy in the gospel? Some have, but many have not. Are we not bound to confess that with fewer privileges his conduct is such as to put to shame the indifferent and unbelieving hearers of the gospel to-day?
I. A TYPICAL EVANGELIST.
1. Notice that the Lord directs His servants in the path of duty. "An angel of the Lord spake unto Philip." But why an angel? Why this extraordinary method of guidance in this particular case? Why this unusual honour placed upon Philip? Dr. Goulburn suggests that this external message of the angel directing Philip where to go was here vouchsafed as God's answer to the thoughts and doubts which were then springing up in His servant's mind. For though Philip was doing a great work, yet he had received an unpleasant check which must have caused him some .annoyance. Simon Magus' wickedness had come to light, and it had met with an apostle's censure. In the simplicity of his heart Philip had admitted this bad man into the fold of Christ, and it might easily have occurred to him that he ought to be more cautious, that his evangelistic zeal was too great. Then, had he been right in preaching to these Samaritans at all, and admitting to baptism a race hitherto held accursed? He had dared to brave the opinion of many good men, and one result had been that such a bad character as Simon Magus had crept into the Church. The Lord, who watches over His people and sees all their difficulties, comes therefore to his rescue, and, by one of His ministering spirits, conveys a message which assures His fainting servant of His approval and of His guidance. "An angel spake." How often this is so! God's servants are filled with a glorious discontent with the rate of progress they are making, and enter upon new and bold enterprises for Him; they try experiments in His service, they do and dare roach, and for a time perhaps see nothing but disaster and failure and opposition where it might be least expected. Then, when their hearts are cast down and perplexed, He sends His angel with a message of encouragement. Was it not so with Elijah? "As he lay and slept under the juniper tree, behold an angel touched him." "An angel." Was there a visible representation? We cannot tell. The text gives no hint as to the character of the messenger. Philip went on his journey under Divine direction — this is the great thing for us to remember — and that direction is within our reach; though the form may vary the fact remains. He is in full fellowship with the Spirit, quick to receive heavenly influences, and living in the atmosphere of Divine companionship. Such a man as this does not often miss his way. And when the way is made clear he proceeds with great confidence.
2. Notice His prompt obedience. "He arose and went." "He went," not knowing the purpose for which he was sent. He went forth with sealed orders. "He walked by faith, not by sight." "He was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." Yet what a work he was doing in this great town of Samaria! What a wide door for usefulness! It was a great trial to his faith. It required a mighty effort of will to fall in with this Divine plan. That he knew it to be Divine did not make it more easy to flesh and blood. Duty is Divine, and we all know it; but knowledge of its Divineness does not remove our difficulties in the performance of it. Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe tells us that the first and last word uttered in the meeting-houses where she worshipped as a child was "submission." And in this department of our Christian lives, that of service, this is the first and last word. Philip had learnt that all true spiritual power lies in submission to the Divine will. "If I do this, what will So-and-so say? And shall I not be putting myself in a disagreeable position?" When God meets with such an one who just says, "Lord, just glorify Thyself in me," He can use him, and does use him.
3. He is aggressive and eager for work. "Behold a man of Ethiopia." "And Philip ran to him." Ethiopia was an influential kingdom south of Egypt, corresponding to what we know as Nubia and Abyssinia. And this traveller was making his way home after worshipping at Jerusalem. There were two great roads open to him leading to Gaza, and he had chosen the desert one, passing through districts inhabited then, as now, by only wandering Arabs. "And Philip ran thither to him." There is no waiting, no hesitation, the work is there and it must be done. When God gives us a call, how many of us creep and limp instead of running to obey it.
4. Philip falls in with the Divine order in this respect, that much of our work lies in the personal dealing with individuals. "Behold, a man of Ethiopia." In our aggressive zeal we are all liable to overlook the individual. Hitherto Philip's labours had been among masses of people, but now, by Divine command, he is withdrawn from this large sphere of usefulness, and sent to deal with a single man, attended, probably, only by two or three retainers. It has been observed that this is the first instance on record of a private ministration of the gospel. The lesson is to be continually kept in mind. Even the apostles, who had a commission to "go and teach all nations," and in virtue of that commission might have challenged the whole universe of immortal souls as their audience, did not think themselves exempt from the labours of private administration. Are we not all, as Christian workers, no matter what position we take in the campaign, too desirous of crowds and too little occupied with the units of which they are composed? Dr. Stalker, in his latest work to preachers, says: "Gentlemen, I believe that almost any preacher on reviewing a ministry of any considerable duration would confess that his great mistake had been the neglect of individuals. If I may be permitted a personal reference. When not long ago I had the opportunity, as I was passing from one charge to another, of reviewing a ministry of twelve years, the chief impression made on me, as I looked back, was that this was the point at which I had failed; and I said to myself that henceforth I would write "Individuals" on my heart as the watchword of my ministry." Philip was now wisely engaged in individual work.
5. Philip, under Divine direction, went outside and beyond the ordinary methods. "And the Spirit said, 'Go near and join thyself to this chariot.'" "And Philip ran to him." What spiritual freedom characterises the whole incident — its scene not the temple, not a Christian congregation, but the wilderness; its time not a Sabbath but a workday, when men may harness horses to chariots and go a journey; the minister not an apostle, but one who had been designated to a more or less secular ministration. I heard a preacher say the other day: "We shut up our religion in churches; we limit it to days; we restrict it to services. And by shutting it in, we shut it out, and we shut others out too." How true this is!
II. A STRIKING CONVERSION. Let us briefly turn our attention specially to the Ethiopian and his striking conversion.
1. He is "a man of great authority" seeking after truth. He was Chamberlain of the Queen, and held the post of First Lord of her Treasury. The Samaritans among whom Philip had just been labouring, and where he had great success, were a simple people, and the converts, as far as we can judge, were chiefly of the lower class, not persons of station and influence. But here is a man seeking light of large wealth and high position and of some education — the first minister at a Queen's Court. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God," hardly because their possession entices the heart to trust in them for a contentment and a satisfaction which they never can bestow. But the man be[ore us is also a courtier and a politician. To judge from what we often hear of the political world, we might, for some countries at any rate, invent a new text, "How hardly shall they that are politicians enter into the kingdom of God."
2. He is an earnest seeker after truth. Philip "heard him reading." He was reading aloud after the manner of Eastern nations. It is more easy for some minds to learn by the ear than by the eye. Its attention may have been called to this portion of Holy Scripture during his visit to the temple, or he may have met the apostles. At any rate, he was making a diligent use of the means of grace. He used the light he had, and eagerly sought for more. What a contrast this man in high position presents to many in the upper ranks of society of to-day! "Agnostics" many label themselves, and when they have spoken this word they appear to think that they have done everything that can be rightly expected of a human being.
3. He is a perplexed seeker after the truth. "Understandest thou... ?" "How can I except some man should guide me?" The passage in Isaiah was a difficult one, as taught by Jewish instructors, to understand. It seemed almost impossible to put together the idea of Christ as a sufferer, as despised and slain, and the promise that He should be a glorious King, triumphing over the world. Only the facts could solve the problem. I would say to you, Do not be distressed if you meet with obscurities and are bewildered by religious mystery. Again and again every thoughtful man meets with "things hard to be understood." Difficulties we shall always have which our finite minds cannot solve.
4. He is a teachable seeker of the truth. "And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him." He made no idol of his perplexities. He welcomed help directly it was within his reach.
5. The truth being announced to him, he accepts it, confesses it, and rejoices over it. "And he baptized him." "He went on his way rejoicing."
(A. Wood, B.A.)
And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority, under Candace. —1. The visit of the eunuch could not have been at a more opportune moment. Jerusalem was still thrilling with the tremendous sacrifice that had just been consummated. During his stay the apostles had stirred all Jerusalem with their doctrine, and Stephen had died for the faith. Never was a soul thirsting for peace and truth so near to their source; and yet this Ethiopian passes whole days in Jerusalem without hearing the name of Christi How was this? Follow his steps and you will understand. He betook himself to the temple, for he came to worship, and of course met there priests and Pharisees, whose most strenuous desire was to conceal Christ and to silence His followers. Fools! They know not that at a little distance are assembled in an upper chamber some of those despised Galileans who hold the destinies of the world in their hands, and the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. Poor Ethiopian! why do you not know the way to that upper chamber? Blind leaders have misled him. One would say he is the plaything of an inexplicable fatality. But no! God is watching over this soul that seeks Him.
2. On leaving Jerusalem he takes with him the Holy Scriptures. That which Pharisees have so sedulously hidden from him, Isaiah will set before him. Fifteen centuries later, a German monk stirred, as was this Ethiopian, by profound aspirations, after having vainly sought peace in lacerations and penances, went to another holy city in order to adore the God of his fathers. Day after day he wandered through it, halting at every place of pilgrimage, meekly believing their legends. Rome was then governed by Julius II., the warrior pontiff; it was at the time when Machiavelli said that atheism went on increasing in measure as one neared Rome. Everywhere reigned the scandalous traffic in holy things. Luther went back terrified. "Rome," said he, "is built upon a hell." What was it which saved him? The Scriptures, which he found again in his monastery at Wittenberg. And so it has been with many since.
3. Queen Candace's steward then went on his way reading the Scriptures. He read without understanding them, yet he persevered. Where, amongst us, are they who are willing to study the Scriptures in the spirit of this heathen? People often say, "We have sought truth, have read our gospel, but no light has come to us; our hearts have remained cold." True! Study the gospel as a mere critic, and it will remain an object of study to you and nothing more. God does not reveal Himself to mere intellectual inquirers; those whom He promises to satisfy are they who, like the Ethiopian, are hungering and thirsting for righteousness and truth.
4. Philip was on the road taken by the stranger. Here we have one of those coincidences called fortuitous, but which, from our text, we see to be an intervention of God. There is no such thing as chance.
5. What strikes us in the first words of the Ethiopian is his good faith. He avows his ignorance. Is it such a difficult thing to avow ignorance? One would hardly think it, for nothing is more common than to hear, "I do not know," in matters of religion. But there are two ways of saying those words. In the mouth of many they mean, "What does it matter to me? I do not want to know." And why not? Because, to know God is to know His claims upon us. To know ourselves — O my brethren! who does not shrink from this painful knowledge? But that day when, anxious .for truth, with heart dismayed before those dark mysteries of sorrow, sin, and death, you cry, "I do not know," it will be in a very different spirit; those words will then be a prayer rising up to God. When a man, animated by the spirit of humility, says, "I do not know," he is already very near the truth.
6. A singular abuse has been made of the next words. "How can I understand except some man should guide me? You see," it has been said, "it is evident that by themselves the Scriptures are unintelligible. It is therefore necessary that an authority established of God have the sole mission to explain them." Let us examine this; without doubt the Scriptures contain many mysteries. But a revelation without mystery were unheard of. In borrowing the language of men, Divine truth cannot find in it expressions capable of presenting it with sufficient lucidity. How can beings trammelled by time and space, e.g., and with no other means of reasoning save by recourse to these two mediums — comprehend a Being for whom time and space are not? But without taking such high ground, there are in Scripture difficulties of date, place, origin, grammar, translation, history, and science. Needless to say that here piety cannot take the place of learning; and that nothing would be more absurd than to see ignorance usurping doctoral authority. This reservation made, there is, however, one thing which has ever struck men of good faith, and that is the marvellous lucidity of the gospel upon everything that touches essential questions — those of grace, pardon, and salvation. I take it, therefore, that it is a positive act of treason to prohibit the free circulation of the Bible among the people, under pretext of its obscurities and the possible errors that may ensue from wrong interpretation. Look at those nations which have been nourished upon the generous milk of Holy Scripture. Is it not a certain fact that they are the only ones that are making steady progress towards light and liberty? This said, let us see what is the true idea contained in my text. "How can I understand," cries the Ethiopian, "except some man should guide me?" Herein I see the confirmation of the Divine law which created the Church. We are not made to stand alone. "No man liveth to himself." From our first steps we have been led by others; and the Church's work in forming of our ideas and most personal convictions is immense. Like the Ethiopian, not one of us would have understood the greater part of those truths to which we are most attached if he had not had some guide to say to him, as did Philip to Nathanael, "Come and see." The Church is the witness to, not the lord of, truth.
7. Here, then, we have Philip sitting beside the Ethiopian, explaining the Scriptures to him. His task was easy; for, by one of those coincidences in which there is an intervention of God, the eunuch's eyes had lighted upon a passage of Isaiah which had deeply moved him. Hearken to the mysterious words uttered by the prophet so many ages before Christ, and say if they do not impress you by their startling, pregnant nature (Isaiah 53.). Gather together all the features of this mysterious picture, and you will understand tim exclamation of the Ethiopian's (ver. 34). Endeavour to explain this prophecy by the sole inspiration of nature. Suppose an Israelite, dreaming of the future greatness of his nation, had essayed to describe the hero who was to bring it about; is it not evident that he must have depicted him as a triumphant avenger? By what strange reversal of ideas is it that a totally different ideal is here presented to us? Weigh well the value of the expressions here employed; judge if one can conscientiously see in them merely the description of an Israelite who immolates himself in order to save his nation; see if this be not a spiritual work which is here predicted; if, above all, it be not sin which is here to be expiated.
8. We can understand the light cast upon this obscure text by Philip's burning words, and his words, penetrating to the innermost depths of the man, stirs his soul and begins the work of conversion. One of those dramas takes place unknown of the world, but which the angels of God look upon. Looking only on the surface, who would ever have suspected its importance? The smallest public event, the most insignificant battle would have attracted far more attention. But the gospel, which does not even make mention of the successive Caesars who governed Rome, concentrates upon the destinies of a few people unknown to the world in whose hearts God has established His kingdom. There are hours that are as years; such are those moments when some great decision is being made.
9. The Ethiopian is now wholly gained for Christ, and he cries, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" What hinders you, rash man, are all your future earthly prospects. Are you aware to what you are exposing yourself in becoming a follower of this new faith? Are you not taking for conviction what is but a passing sentiment? Do you know anything of this Philip? Can you, upon the faith of his words, take a step the consequences of which will affect your whole after-life? See the path you are to follow, already watered with the blood of martyrs. No matter; he will be baptized. Like a soldier who binds himself by a solemn oath, if need be, to die for his colours, so he desires, by this open act, to irrevocably bind himself to the service of Jesus Christ. He receives baptism, and goes on his way rejoicing. Conversions of such nature are now so rare that they are nowise believed in. People believe in a gradual change of heart; they are unwilling to give credence to the sudden manifestations of mercy which attest in too signal a manner the intervention of God. This mistrust is in part due to the spirit of the age, which is more given to calculation than to enthusiasm or to heroism.
(E. Bersier, D. D.)
I. AN INQUIRER.
1. He was in a bewildered state of mind. I do not rebuke the bewilderment of honest inquiry. In the realm of spiritual revelation things are not superficial, easy of arrangement, and trifling in issue. Do not be distressed because you are puzzled by religious mystery. The most advanced minds have had to pass through that experience. But the path of the just shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Do not make idols of your perplexities. You know that there is a subtle temptation to talk about your doubts as those of a man whose mind is not to be put off with solutions that have satisfied inferior intellects. Be honest in your bewilderment.
2. He was teachable. He said, "I wonder what this means; would that God would send some director to lead me into the light:" Teachableness is one of the first characteristics of honesty. If you are self-trustful and dogmatic you are not a scholar in the school of Christ, and deprive yourself of all the gifts of Providence. Yet how few are teachable! So many of us go to the Bible and find proofs of what we already believe, but the true believer goes unprejudiced, humble, honestly desirous of knowing what is true.
3. He was obedient. A revelation cannot afford to be argumentative. Any gospel that comes with hesitancy or reserve vitiates its own credentials, and steps down from the pedestal of commanding authority. The eunuch, having heard Philip, obeyed. "Here is water, what hindereth me to be baptized?" He would have the whole thing completed at once. So many persons are afraid that they are not fit, prepared. They have heard the gospel a quarter of a century or more, but still they are wondering about themselves. Such people are trifling. What hindereth him? No man should hinder you from coming to Christ. I fear sometimes that the Church makes fences, over which men have to climb, but in the gospel I find only one word for all honest, teachable men — welcome. Hindrances are man's inventions. As to the form of baptism, please yourself. I believe in life-baptism. The spirit of baptism is greater than any form.
II. A HEARER. He was —
1. Prepared; he was already seriously perusing the mysterious volume. He had not to be called from afar. Where are those who now come to church from the Bible itself? What is the work of Philip nowadays? It is to persuade, to plead, to break through iron-bound attention and fix it upon spiritual realities. Philip has now to deal with men who are reading the journals, the fiction, the exciting discussions of the passing time, and from any one of these engagements to the Scriptures of God there may lie unnumbered miles! A prepared pulpit fights against infinite odds when it has to deal with an unprepared pew.
2. Responsive. He answered Philip. His head, heart, will, all listened. Who can now listen? To hear is a Divine accomplishment. Who hears well? To have a responsive hearer is to make a good preacher. the pew makes the pulpit. It is possible to waste supreme thought and utterance upon an indifferent hearer. But let the hearer answer, and how noble the exchange of thought, how grand the issues! Do not suppose that a man is not answering because he is not speaking. There is a responsive attitude, an answering silence, a look, which is better than thunders of applause!
III. A CONVERT. As such he was —
1. Enlightened. He had passed from the prophetic to the evangelic. "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Then Philip must have been preaching this doctrine. You know the sermon by the hearer. Say ye, "It was a beautiful sermon"? Show the solidity, the Scripturalness, and the power of the discourse by living it!
2. Deeply convinced. There are hereditary, nominal, halting, merely-assenting, and non-inquiring Christians. "And they because they have not much deepness of earth soon wither away." There are also convinced Christians — men who have fought battles in darkness, who have undergone all the happy pain of seeking for truth, and, proving it, have embraced it at the altar as if they had wedded the bride of their souls. These will make martyrs if need be. These are the pillars of the Church.
3. Exultant. "He went on his way rejoicing." You have not seen Christ if you are not filled with joy. See the eunuch, oblivious even of Philip's presence. He saw Divine things, new heavens, a new earth, bluer skies, greener lands, than he had ever seen before, and in that transfiguration he saw Jesus only. Philip, miraculously sent, was miraculously withdrawn, but there sat in the chariot now "one like unto the Son of Man." And so preacher after preacher says, as he sees the radiant vision coming — "He must increase, but I must decrease."
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. A MODEL MINISTER.
1. He was under Divine guidance (ver. 29). The success of the gospel ministry will be always in proportion to our nearness to God, and the influence of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. Learning, eloquence, and organisation are useful handmaids of the truth, but, like the wire of a telegraph, they are only a medium over which the Divine fluid may pass.
2. He was personal in his appeal (ver. 30). We speak too much about doctrines, doubts, and evidences, and too little to individual consciousness.
3. He was orthodox in his doctrine (ver. 35). Christ is the centre and circumference of the gospel ministry.
II. A GENUINE TRUTH-SEEKER. Men study for display, for discovery, to baffle an antagonist. The eunuch was in real mental distress whilst searching for the truth.
1. He was devout and earnest. He respected the outward rites of the old religion, and travelled scores of miles to be present at the passover. There he procured for himself a manuscript of the "Evangelical Prophet," and perused it eagerly on his way home. It is a great thing for us to be on the path of duty. A parallel case may be found in the history of Luther discovering the Latin Bible at Erfurt. The earnest and devout inquirer never seeks in vain, as is proved in the history of Nicodemus, Cornelius, and Lydia.
2. He was frank and honest. He confessed his ignorance (ver. 31). Seldom will human nature acknowledge its defects. Self-love prompts man to hide his faults from his dearest friends, yea, from Omniscience. That which is quite plain to us was to him an inscrutable enigma, because there was such discrepancy between public expectation and the description of the Prophet. The Jews expected a Prince, and the eunuch could not reconcile His humiliation with royal pomp and victory.
3. He possessed an unprejudiced mind. Men too often study the Word of God with pre-formed creeds — hence they warp the truth to support falsehood. The crew of a ship in distress are not over-scrupulous respecting the medium by which they are rescued — a raft, plank, rope, anything is welcomed that can bring them safe to land. Even so the man who traverses the boisterous sea of scepticism, if afraid of being engulfed in the yawning waves, he lays hold of the most insignificant medium, so as to reach the shore of truth safe.
4. Once convinced he did not procrastinate (ver. 36). Thus he received one of the outward signs of discipleship. Thousands are satisfied that Jesus is the only Saviour of the world, still they procrastinate. These are like a somnambulist walking upon the verge of a precipice; or, like a man sleeping upon the rails, that shall soon be swept over by the ponderous wheels of the express train.
III. A TRUE CONVERSION. His conviction was instantaneous and enlightened.
1. He possessed faith. "I believe." Faith is indispensable to salvation. The faith of the eunuch was in the right object — "Jesus Christ" — not in circumcision, nor in the Virgin Mary, nor in priestcraft, but in the God-man. The Jews stung by the fiery serpents could not be healed without looking upon the brazen serpent; even so, without looking up to a crucified Redeemer with the eye of faith, the wounds and bruises of sin cannot be healed.
2. He possessed a peaceful mind (ver. 39). Well might he rejoice, for he was now delivered from guilt and condemnation; he had peace with God and joy in the Holy Ghost.
(W. A. Griffiths.)I. THOSE WHO WATCH FOR PROVIDENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES WILL FIND THAT PROVIDENCE IS WATCHING FOR THEM. There was a chance of saving a fellow-man down in the desert; God offered it to this Christian preacher (Acts 8:26). If a man's heart is alert, and his temper willing, some sort of an "angel" will be discovered looking for him for a good work.
II. NO SELF-SACRIFICE IS TO BE CONSIDERED TOO GREAT WHEN A SOUL IS TO RE SAVED. Here we find Philip starting out cheerfully to go sixty or seventy miles for a foreign convert (ver. 27).
III. God's kingdom of providence is subordinate to God's kingdom of grace. Philip could not have known where he was going, except in a general way. Two persons might pass each other a hundred times in the trackless journey, and never know it. It was like starting out on the ocean to meet a ship, when nobody could tell the exact line of sailing. But Divine foreknowledge understood where the eunuch would be, and Divine sovereignty ordered that Philip should meet the traveller out in the sands, for the Divine purpose was to save that soul.
IV. GOOD MEN ARE TO BE FOUND SOMETIMES IN THE UNLIKELIEST PLACES. It is a great surprise to us to discover in this officer of an Egyptian queen a proselyte to the ancient religion. So we are told that Christ, even in "Caesar's household," had saints (Philippians 4:22). And we have a record of one Christian in Herod's family (Luke 8:3).
V. IT IS WORTH WHILE TO PUT FORTH A CREDITABLE MEASURE OF EFFORT TO ATTEND CHURCH. In the kingdom of God, "not many noble are called" (1 Corinthians 1:26-29), and whenever one out of those high ranks is visited by Divine grace, it is best to look up the man's record somewhat. It offers a most suggestive comment on the laggardness of some Christian people, when we find this African stranger putting forth such supreme endeavours in order to render his spiritual obedience unto God as best he knew how.
VI. ONE MAY GO THROUGH A MOST EXTRAORDINARY SEASON OF THE LOFTIEST RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGE AND YET REMAIN UNENLIGHTENED. When we recall the unusual history which had been transpiring, we cannot help thinking how much had happened calculated to arrest both the mind and the heart of such a foreigner in Jerusalem. But even silent sorrow under the shadows of Calvary will not save a soul from death, just by itself. It is possible for one to pass through a whole revival of religion serious and sympathetic, and still remain unregenerate.
VII. RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS ARE SIMPLY INESTIMABLE. The eunuch journeyed across the known world in fatiguing travel in order to find peace in the worship of the true God. He is going home, his soul not at rest. Still, though disappointed, he clings to his purpose; he shouts aloud, like the little schoolboys in Ethiopian schools, the verses of that pathetic old chapter in Isaiah, till Philip hears him and conies to his help (ver. 29, 30). There is nothing like that impressive moment in which an aroused soul begins to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" If, in that crisis, those gracious feelings are stifled, or suffered to pass away, they may never arise again.
VIII. HOW UNRIGHTEOUS ARE THE MODERN SNEERS ABOUT CREEDS AND COMMENTARIES! We wonder what the eunuch could have done without that good deacon coming up.
IX. IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO BE BOLD, BUT ALSO TO BE POLITE, IN OFFERING TRUTH TO INQUIRERS. Philip was unabashed, but you will look in vain for any discourtesy in his action. When "the Spirit" says, "Go near," it is safe to approach any one in the name of Christ (ver. 29). The Lord will never set a timid Christian at the task of speaking to a nabob or a politician like this, without going beforehand and, as it were, clearing the way of access.
X. SO WE SEE WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH AN AUDIENCE OF ONLY ONE. Dean Swift is said to have made a joke of it: "Dearly beloved Roger [his clerk], the Scripture moveth us." Lyman Beecher is said to have preached his sermon right along, and his one hearer was converted. Jesus Christ gave almost all His supreme revelations to audiences of one, like Nicodemus, and the woman at the well.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
I. We may gather a thought as to CHRIST'S SOVEREIGNTY IN CHOOSING HIS INSTRUMENTS. Did you ever notice that events exactly contradicted the notion of the Church, and of the apostles, in the selection of Philip and his six brethren? The apostles said, "It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables. Pick out seven relieving-officers — men who shall do the secular work of the Church." So said man. And what did facts say? That out of these twelve, who were to give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word, we never hear that by far the larger proportion of them were honoured to do anything worth mentioning for the spread of the gospel. But, on the other hand, of the men that were supposed to be fitted for secular work, two at all events had more to do in the expansion of the Church, and in the development of the universal aspects of Christ's gospel, than the whole of the original group of apostles. So Christ picks His instruments. Christ chooses His instruments where He will; and it is not the apostle's business, nor the business of an ecclesiastic of any sort, to settle his own work or anybody else's. The Commander-in-Chief keeps the choosing of the men for special service in His own hand. Christ says, "Go and join thyself to that chariot," and speak there the speech that I shall bid thee. Brethren, do you listen for that voice calling you to your tasks, and never mind what men may be saying.
II. The next lesson that I would take from this story is the spontaneous speech of a believing heart. There came a persecution that scattered the Church. Men tried to fling down the lamp, and all they did was to spill the oil, and it ran flaming wherever it went. And so we read that, not by appointment, nor of set purpose, nor in consequence of any official sanction, nor in consequence of any supernatural and distinct commandment from heaven, but just because it was the natural thing to do, and they could not help it, they went everywhere, these scattered men of Cyprus and Cyrene, preaching the Word. And when this Philip, whom the officials had relegated to the secular work of distributing charity, found himself in Samaria, he did the like. So it always will be; we can all talk about what we are interested in. The full heart cannot be condemned to silence. Do you carry with you the impulse for utterance of Christ's name wherever you go? And is it so sweet in your hearts that you cannot but let its sweetness have expression by your lips?
III. Another lesson that seems to me strikingly illustrated by the story with which we are concerned, is THE GUIDANCE OF A DIVINE HAND IN COMMON LIFE, AND WHEN THERE ARE NO VISIBLE NOR SUPERNATURAL SIGNS. Philip goes down to Samaria because he must, and speaks because he cannot help it, He is next bidden to take a long journey, from the centre of the land, away down to the southern desert; and at a certain point there the Spirit says to him, "Go! join thyself to this chariot." And when his work with the Ethiopian statesman is done, then he is swept away by the power of the Spirit of God, as Ezekiel had been long before by the banks of the river Chebor, and is set down, no doubt all bewildered and breathless, at Azotus — the ancient Ashdod — the Philistine city, down on the low-lying coast. Was Philip less under Christ's guidance when miracle ceased and he was left to ordinary powers? Did it seem to him as if his task in preaching the gospel in these villages through which he passed on his way to Caesarea was less distinctly obedience to the Divine command than when he heard the utterance of the Spirit, "Go down to the road which leads to Gaza, which is desert"? By no means. To this man, as to every faithful soul, the guidance that came through his own judgment and common sense, through the instincts and impulses of his sanctified nature, by the circumstances which he devoutly believed to be God's providence, was as truly direct Divine guidance as if all the angels of heaven had blown the commandment with their trumpets into his waiting and stunned ears. And so you and I have to go upon our paths without angel voices, or chariots of storm, and to be contented with Divine commandments less audible or perceptible to our senses than this man had at one point in his career. There is no gulf for the devout heart between what is called miraculous and what is called ordinary and common. Equally in both did God manifest His will to His servants, and equally in both is His presence capable of realisation. We do not need to envy Philip's brilliant beginning. Let us see that we imitate his quiet close of life.
IV. The last lesson that I would draw is this. — THE NOBILITY OF PERSISTENCE IN UNNOTICED WORK. What a contrast to the triumphs in Samaria, and the other great expansion of the field for the gospel effected by the God-commanded preaching to the eunuch, is presented by the succeeding twenty years of altogether unrecorded but faithful toil! Persistence in such unnoticed work is made all the more difficult, and to any but a very true man would have been all but impossible, by reason of the contrast which such work offered to the glories of the earlier days. Philip, who began so conspicuously, and so suddenly ceased to be the special instrument in the hands of the Spirit, kept plod, plod, plodding on with no bitterness of heart. For twenty years he had no share in the development of Gentile Christianity, of which he had sowed the first seed, but had to do much less conspicuous work. He toiled away there in Caesarea patient, persevering, and contented, because he loved the work. He seemed to be passed over by his Lord in His choice of instruments. It was he who was selected to be the first man that should preach to the heathen. But did you ever notice that, although he was probably in Caesarea at the time, Cornelius was not bid to apply to Philip, who was at his elbow, but to send to Joppa for the Apostle Peter? Philip might have sulked, and said, "Why was I not chosen to do this work? I will speak no more in this Name." It did not fall to his lot to be the apostle to the Gentiles. One who came after him was preferred before him, and the Hellenist Saul was set to the task which might have seemed naturally to belong to the Hellenist Philip. He cordially welcomed Paul to his house in Caesarea twenty years afterwards, and rejoiced that one sows and another reaps; and so the division of labour is the multiplication of gladness. A beautiful superiority to all the low thoughts that are apt to mar our persistency in unobtrusive and unrecognised work is set before us in this story. Boys in the street will refuse to join in games, saying, "I shall not play unless I am captain, or have the big drum." And there are not wanting Christian men who lay down like conditions. "Play well thy part," wherever it is. Never mind the honour.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I. PHILIP MEETING THE EUNUCH.
1. An "angel of the Lord spake unto Philip." Whether there was a visible representation or not we cannot tell — very likely there was. But certain it is that he spake. The partition between men and angels is very thin — they can hear us talk, we can almost hear them. The two spheres of rational existence adjoin and seem sometimes to overlap each other. Angels, in the first century of our era, busily interested themselves in the affairs of the Church. Have they been withdrawn? No. "Are they not all ministering sprats," etc. We believe that evil spirits insinuate wicked thoughts. Why, then, deny the same power to good spirits? We sit leisurely in the house, when suddenly a thought shoots through the mind that we must "go towards the south" — visit a certain street. It is not impulse, nor feeling, for both bid us remain where we are; but we have no rest — the thought continually recurs. At last we go; and lo! we discover that our presence and assistance were sorely needed. Alas! we are not equally obedient with Philip.
2. The angel said, "Go toward the south," etc. One cannot help wondering at the angel's knowledge; but Palestine is not the only country with whose geography angels are acquainted.
3. That the message would prove a trial to Philip's faith is unquestionable. It required that he should deny his most cherished predilections. Succeeding so remarkably in a city of Samaria, no doubt he was much tempted to prolong his stay. He might, with a great show of reason, raise formidable objections, but did not. The unbeliever always raises objections, but the believer always puts them down. "He arose and went."
4. As soon as he arrived in the unpromising neighbourhood, he saw a chariot occupied by a "man of Ethiopia" — probably the region now known as Nubia and Abyssinia. The eunuch, therefore, was one of the sable descendants of Ham. Human reason is much embarrassed that God should order His servant to forsake the populous city to preach to a foreign traveller in a desolate path. But God pays as much heed to the one as to the many. His government is special, attending to the minutest wants of individuals, as well as general, attending to the collective wants of the multitude. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner," etc. The "man of Ethiopia" was also an "eunuch." Eunuchs were numerous in the East, but were forbidden in Israel. Divine religion never encourages the mutilation of the body. False religions do. Their only method of overcoming sin is to disable the body to commit it. But true religion inculcates subjugation. Wherefore the Ethiopian eunuch could only be an outsider — devout, pious may be, but still an outsider. He was employed under Candace, and was set over all her treasures, i.e., her Minister of Finance, the most important office of all under a despotism. But the Grand Vizier of Ethiopia discovered to the bitterness of his soul that earthly possessions, however vast, cannot satisfy the profound yearning of our humanity. That is why "he went to Jerusalem to worship."
5. The best spirits of the nations turned at this period with loathing from heathen religions and superstitions. Some betook themselves to atheism; others to witchcraft. But the better disposed passed over to Judaism. They found in it what the other systems of religion failed to give — pure morality and strict monotheism. So the eunuch travelled to Jerusalem "to worship God."
II. PHILIP PREACHING TO THE EUNUCH.
1. The eunuch was now returning, and humbly studied the Word of God on his way from the temple of God. We often erase all good impression received in the house of God by frivolous dissipating talk on our way home. But the eunuch, "sitting in his chariot, read Esaias the prophet." People nowadays, going on a tedious journey, take with them frivolous and exciting books with a view to "kill" the time. Better I should imagine did they learn a lesson from the religious African and read the Bible not to "kill" the time but to improve it.
2. He was "reading aloud," as was customary among Orientals. But the word also signifies to read to another. He was endeavouring to benefit his charioteer as well as himself. A truly generous man! The section of Scripture he was reading was singularly appropriate. It was the very section which treats of the close relation eunuchs were to sustain to the Church of God under the New Dispensation. Not by chance was he reading this portion of Holy Writ. No; he was studying it rather than any other that he might come to some definite conclusion respecting:his own chances of ultimate salvation.
3. The chariot was driving leisurely along when Philip, wearied and dust-stained, arrived in sight. The paths of the two men were now to intersect. At the beginning an angel spake; now that he has obeyed and his work is at hand, the "Spirit of God said unto him." As a reward for cheerful and implicit obedience, the presence of the angel of God is superseded by the presence of the Spirit of God. The angel was adequate to bid "Philip arise and go"; but not to bring about the conversion of the traveller. Angels minister unto the heirs of salvation but cannot sanctify them. "The Spirit said unto Philip." He did not speak, converse in audible tones, as the angel did, but expressed Himself distinctly in the inward voice of the soul. Angels can never speak in the soul, at best they can only speak to it. We cannot help wondering at the marvellous combination of distinct agencies: the Word, the Servant, the Angel and the Spirit of God all work together to effect the salvation of one soul!
4. Philip then "ran" and said unto the eunuch, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" "The eunuch answered," dec. (ver. 31). If he did not understand, he had the first qualification to do so, he knew he did not understand, and was candid enough to avow it. Many now are like him in their ignorance of the Scriptures, but very unlike him in their unconsciousness of that ignorance. They occupy exalted positions in science and literature, but they claim to understand theology likewise better than its professed students. Talk of the dogmatism of theology! Why, it has never been half so dogmatic as so-called philosophy. But the eunuch, humble as a little child, expressed his willingness to learn of the footsore pedestrian. Then he read over the passage again, and said, "Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself or of some other man?" Forgetting his social superiority in his intense eagerness to solve the great problems of religion, he beseeches Philip to explain the prophetic riddle. The prophet speaks of the "Servant of the Lord." But who is this Servant? "himself or some other man?" A right honest and thoughtful question — one still hotly debated between the rationalistic and the evangelistic schools. But of Philip's answer there can be no doubt — he pointed him in plain unambiguous language to that "Other Man." "Philip opened his mouth," and delivered himself of his momentous message. Some people when they open their-mouths shut the Scriptures. They darken counsel with words without knowledge. But Philip "opened his mouth," and thereby opened the Scriptures. "He began at the same Scripture," but he did not finish there. That Scripture is the climax of the Old Dispensation, which never reached a higher strain. But the climax of the Old is the starting-point of the New. Where Esaias left off, there Philip began. The only way to expound the Bible is to preach Jesus. Omit Him, and it is a dark riddle which no human ingenuity can unravel. He is the key to unlock the prophecies.
5. In a city of Samaria, Philip "preached Christ"; but to the eunuch "he preached Jesus." The Samaritans expected the Christ; and were full of theories respecting Him. Among them, therefore, Philip had to dwell principally on the Christhood of the Saviour. But the eunuch was not hampered with any preconceived notions. What he supremely desired was a personal Saviour. To him, therefore, Philip preached Jesus. But Philip was not content with a mere exposition of the prophecy. He pressed the Saviour on his acceptance. There is reason to fear that much of modern preaching is not personaI enough. You pick up a volume of sermons "preached before the University of Oxford." Before, forsooth! Let the beams of the sun fall broadly on your hand, and you hardly notice it; concentrate them on one spot and they burn. And the gospel light shines fully and broadly on our congregations, but how few the conversions! We diffuse the light instead of focussing it.
III. PHILIP BAPTIZING THE EUNUCH.
1. Modern Churches require candidates to submit to a tedious process of probation. Prudence now counsels delay, but the eunuch was baptized immediately.
2. But he was baptized on making a confession of his faith. Whether ver. 27 is genuine or not, the truth it contains will still remain intact. Only on a candid confession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God can a man be legitimately received into the Christian Church. Correct views on other doctrines are of great importance to a robust, vigorous, spiritual life; but they do not necessarily endanger our ultimate salvation. But a correct belief respecting the Person of the Saviour is an element absolutely essential to salvation — without it no man can be saved.
3. The eunuch, being baptized, "went on his way rejoicing." Prior to his interview with Philip he was restless and unhappy. He carried a sorrow he could not explain. His profound grief found vent in the tearful strains of Isaiah lift. But Philip's teaching dissipated the gloom. The strings of the burden snapped in sight of the Cross, and the eunuch was delivered from that which he feared. Many foolishly imagine that religion is a melancholy thing. A sad mistake!
(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)
I. OF REMARKABLE MEN. Each stood out amongst his contemporaries — the one distinguished by his political position, the other by his advocacy of a new faith. In appearance and worldly position they greatly differed, for Philip was poor and without status, whereas the eunuch was affluent and high in his. country's esteem. Philip was a footsore traveller, the eunuch wended his way home provided with all that the civilisation of the age could supply to make the journey pleasant.
II. BROUGHT ABOUT BY EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. The direction of Philip to Gaza by an angel of the Lord.
2. The occupation of the eunuch — reading Isaiah; if to relieve the tedium of the journey, how much better than our practice of devouring the trash sold at railway bookstalls! Or was it for the purpose of intellectual culture? Or to see if the character claims of the recently crucified Jesus corresponded with those of prophecy? It matters not. It was Bible reading that brought him in contact with Philip.
3. The Spirit's impulse that prompted Philip to join the chariot. There was something more than. human in this boldness.
III. TURNED TO RARE SPIRITUAL ACCOUNT. Coming together, what did they do? Converse on politics? No, on the Scripture.
1. The eunuch was enlighted by Philip — for which work two things are necessary.(1) On the part of the one a disposition to receive knowledge (ver. 31).(2) On the part of the other, a power to impart it. This Philip had.
2. The eunuch was baptized by Philip.
IV. TERMINATING BLESSEDLY.
1. For Philip. He was transferred to another sphere of usefulness.
2. For the eunuch. He went on his way rejoicing.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. HE SENT TO HIM A HELPER. Notice the instrumentalities employed — angelic and human — teaching us the value that in heaven is placed upon a single soul. There is here, too, a suggestion of the way that angels are made ministering spirits. The angel "spake" unto Philip, but he could not be the guide into the way of life. It needed a redeemed soul to speak of a Redeemer. The world is to be won to Christ, not by the testimony of angels, but by the witness of saved men.
II. HE SENT TO HIM A SUCCESSFUL HELPER. Philip has a good record as a Christian worker. He was the sort of instrument that the Holy Spirit could use. Though in the midst of a great work, he gives it up without even a query to go down to a desert. His faith accounts both for his obedience and his success. It takes great faith to give up a work for one that seemingly is small. But teaching one man in a desert may be of more importance than teaching a thousand in a city.
III. HE DIRECTED THE HELPER IN HIS WORK. Philip not only was sent down, but was told what to do. The juncture was admirably timed. The Holy Spirit never inspires to unseasonable labours.
IV. HE SENT THE HELPER TO ONE WHO NEEDED HELP. The Ethiopian was a man of station, and had made some progress in the right way. But that which brought him help was the cry of his soul for truth. That cry had been heard in heaven even before he had consciously called, and the answer was at hand!
V. HE SENT A HELPER OF TACT. The fact that one is sent by the Spirit should not cause him to be careless of methods, but should make him call to his aid all the skill and ability of which he is the master.
VI. HE SENT A HELPER CONVERSANT WITH THE SCRIPTURES. Philip could fit the prophecy to the facts. And not merely that, he showed his familiarity with other prophecies. "Beginning from this scripture," Philip preached Jesus. If one desires to be a power for Christ, he should become familiarly acquainted with the Word that bears witness to Him.
VII. HE SENT JUST THE HELP THAT WAS NEEDED. Having heard the Word explained, the Ethiopian joyfully accepted the truth, and desired immediately to have that rite performed that would seal him to Christ as a believer.
VIII. HE CAUGHT AWAY THE HELPER WHEN HE WAS NO LONGER NEEDED. Naturally, both instructor and scholar would have liked to have kept company together indefinitely. But the purpose of Philip's sending had been accomplished. There was work for the evangelist to do elsewhere, and work, it is to be presumed, for the Ethiopian to do at home.
(M. C. Hazard.)I. THE PLACE WHERE HE FOUND IT. A solitary road through a waste.
II. THE CHEST WHEREIN IT WAS HID. The Scripture with its dark saying and seals.
III. THE KEY WHICH HE OBTAINED. By the sermon eagerly received.
IV. THE JEWEL WHICH SPARKLED TO HIM. Christ who died for our sins and rose for our justification.
V. THE BIGHT OF POSSESSION which was acknowledged to him in baptism.
VI. THE JOY WITH WHICH HE CARRIED THE TREASURE HOME.
I. A COURTIER WHO READS THE HOLY SCRIPTURE, which is sufficiently surprising.
II. A COURTIER WHO OWNS HIS IGNORANCE, which is more surprising still.
III. A COURTIER WHO ASKS HIS INFERIOR TO INSTRUCT HIM, which should cause a redoubling of the surprise.
IV. A COURTIER WHO IS CONVERTED, which brings the surprise to a climax.
(A. Coquerel.)I. GOD, by His angel and Spirit.
II. MAN. Philip, by his meeting and discourse.
III. SCRIPTURE. The prophecy of Isaiah.
IV. NATURE. The water by the way.
Monday Club Sermons.The Book of Acts contains a gallery of missionary portraits. One is inspired by studying them, but none leave an impression more distinct and abiding than Philip's. He appears suddenly; the sketches given of his labours are very short; he quickly disappears. Like Elijah, when he is seen he moves with the Spirit, and is moved by the Spirit. He awakens joy wherever he goes; and his four daughters inherit his spirit and become prophetesses. Consider —
I. CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER'S WORK.
1. His implicit obedience to the Spirit. The angel said, "Arise and go." He arose and went. Divine guidance to particular service is often accompanied by special evidence of its source. It is always in perfect accord with the Scriptures; there are providential circumstances pointing towards it; and often the call is emphasised by the counsel of God's most devoted servants, though no unseen angel now brings His command.
2. His eagerness to impart the gospel. He see a distinguished foreigner on the road. Many a teacher would have said, "He is no scholar for me." Only a heart full of love to men could have made him quick to obey the Spirit's direction. Whatever openings we see, we must press into. No one lives where souls are still unsaved, where God does not open a way for him to carry the gospel. Take the first step, and God will point out the next.
3. His usable knowledge of the Scriptures. Strangers interested in the Scriptures meet on common ground. A Frenchman thrown into the company of a German, tried many ways to communicate with him; but neither could speak the language of the other. At last he took from his pocket a little Testament, and pointed to John 3:16. The German could not read the language, but the Word was the message dear to his heart. They each looked at the verse, then into each other's eyes, then clasped hands across the book. Philip had made no immediate preparation, but he had prepared himself for such emergencies, both by experience and study. He could begin right there and preach Jesus.
II. SOME OF HIS REWARDS.
1. He finds a heart prepared to receive the truth. One who is filled with the love of Jesus finds intense delight in kindling that love in others. Philip expected immediate results. It was not his purpose to sow the seed and be content to leave it. He led the eunuch on from willingness to learn to eagerness to be a recognised disciple of Jesus. Such a reward is Divine. We never forget the triumphs of such moments.
2. He found new evidence of being a co-worker with God. What a reward is the evidence that God makes the efforts of His faithful servant effective!
3. Philip secured a witness for the gospel. That which he was so eager to make known would now be proclaimed by another also.
4. Philip filled a life with joy. The eunuch, like Zaccheus, like the Philippian jailor, like countless thousands more, rejoiced because he had found Christ as his Saviour. Wherever Philip goes, he leaves a trail of joy behind him. Samaria rejoices in his presence: so did also the desert.
(Monday Club Sermons.)I. THE VOICE IN ONE'S HEART, which longs after God.
II. THE INTIMATION OF SCRIPTURE, which points to Christ.
III. THE GUIDANCE OF THE MINISTRY, which explains both the presentiments of the heart and the counsels of Scripture.
IV. THE EFFICACY OF THE SACRAMENT, which seals to us the Divine grace, and nourishes and strengthens within us the Divine life.
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