And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
I. THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE EVANGELICAL PREACHING. (Vers. 17-21.)
1. The spirit and conduct of the preacher himself; for this is inseparable from the preaching (vers. 18-20). He had lived with his flock. His life had been devoted to their service. He had entered the sphere of their life as the loving sharer in their joys and sorrows. He had presented to them a pattern of humility. He had borne them on his heart. He had been like a sower going forth weeping, to bear the precious seed. The life of the true pastor is a life of many tears - tears of self-doubt and weakness; tears of compassion and sorrow over others, like those of Jeremiah over Jerusalem's fall, of Jesus over her deeper fall. Bat this sowing of tears prepares for a harvest of joy. Suggestive was the word of Monica, Augustine's mother, "The child of so many tears cannot be lost." Good is verbal preaching; better the preaching of the life; and, perhaps, most impressive of all, the preaching of suffering and self-sacrifice for the truth.
2. The matter of his preaching. Repentance: a universal necessity. It includes knowledge of sin; remorse; desire for salvation. Repentance has been described as a ladder of sorrow by which we descend into the depths of the heart. Faith: this, on the other hand, the celestial ladder, by which we rise to God and to eternity. It includes the knowledge of a Savior; joy in the reception of him; and firm confidence in his reconciling, sanctifying, and blessing grace.
3. The self-devotion of the preacher. (Vers. 22-35.) He should be cast in the heroic mould - that of the hero of the cross. The voice of the Almighty, "Upward and onward!" sounds in his ears evermore. He must be ready at any moment to say "Good-bye" to dearest friends, and uproot himself from fondest associations. Past battles have only trained his faith and courage for greater struggles. This heroic word -
"Theirs not to make reply; Theirs but to do or die" - was essentially the motto of the apostle. He must fulfill himself - cannot rest till he has striven to the end in the "noble contest," finished the race, attained the goal. In the heat of coming storm and darkness kindles the core of light; the Divine love has given all for him, and for it he will give all in return. Extremes meet in this suffering but triumphant man; bound by the irresistible command of his Lord, yet free in the joyous obedience of love.
II. EXHORTATION AND CONFIRMATION.
1. Exhortation to faithfulness. They are solemnly adjured to this by the recollection of his own faithfulness to them. He is clear from responsibility in their regard; for he has not shunned to declare to them "the whole counsel of God." His ministry has been, not merely general, but particular, individual - to each man's heart and conscience. He has discharged himself of his burden; they must bear their own. To whom much has been given, of them much will be required. The duty of the faithful shepherd comprises two things - the feeding and tendance of the sheep, and the defense of the flock against its foes. The great word is "Watch " - over self, the spirit, teaching, and conversation; over the flock, - its Divine constitution does not exempt it from human weakness; and against the wolves, who would glide in, under false clothing, to ravage and devour.
2. Solemn commendatory prayer. "I commend you to God" - the best conclusion of every sermon, of every period of Christian labor. Prayer is the expression of evangelical love; it throws the arms of care and affection around the flock when one's own time of personal labor is past. It is the expression of lowliness: after all we have done, the issue must be left to God. He alone can turn the feeble service into a means of power, he alone give the increase to human sowing and watering. It is the expression of faith: there need be no fear on the part of the under-shepherd in leaving the flock in the hands of the almighty Shepherd himself. "God and the Word of his grace:" in these lies endless power. God and truth: in times of persecution or of unsettled belief, these forces go on upbuilding, reclaiming, converting, finishing, and fitting souls for eternal glory. We need not be anxious about the "reconstruction of theology;" God is ever reconstructing the new out of the old; and fulfilling himself in many ways. Our constructions break; but in him is the unbroken continuity of life itself.
3. Farewell reminder. Of his own example, and of all the lessons condensed into it. He had not been a seeker of personal gain; not of "theirs, but of them" (2 Corinthians 12:14). A mirror for all pastors. Happy for them if they can practically prove their disinterestedness by supporting themselves independently of the "altar (1 Corinthians 9:13). But this may not always be desirable. At least they can show that they do not preach to live" so much as "live to preach." To give is more blessed than to receive. God is the eternal Giver, forth-pouring himself in natural and spiritual bounty evermore. And the nearer we come to him, the happier we are. The more we take from God, the more we have to give; and again, the more we give, the more we have. To impart is to obtain release from self, from self-seeking, from the burden of superfluity. It is to reap love and. thanks, provided always that in imparting anything we truly impart ourselves.
4. The parting scene. It is of mingled joy and sorrow. There is the bitterness of orphanage and desolation of John 16:16; but the brightness of the hoped-for reunion. Reproaches of conscience at missed opportunities, but yet the sense that "now is the accepted time and the day of salvation." The pain of disruption; but the consciousness of abiding in Christ, and of the final recovery of all we have loved and lost - in him. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.