« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
Jesus Christ." We
Christ's own foretell was a great privilege ; but to have peace. 2. The conscquences of sin. These deep insight into the moral and spiritual conconstitute a long dark train. They are these : ditions of society, and to speak the strong disappointment, beginning early and lasting straight word, fitted to cleanse and to restore, long ; a weight of responsibility for the tem- whether that word was painful or pleasant, poral and spiritual well-being of kindred and that was higher and nobler far. Ezekiel neighbours-a heavy burden upon human having pronounced God's judgment on the shoulders ; sickness, including weakness, pain, "Shepherds," i.e., on the constituted authoriincapacity, dependence ; toil, the severe and ties of the land, proceeds to the severe con. often continued overtaxing of our powers,
demination of a number of “the cattle,” i.e., hodily or mental ; uncertainty respecting the of the people themselves. Ho gives a graphic future, which means anxiety and care ; un. picture of the society of his time. He likens kindness, barshness, oppression, or persecu
it to a flock of sheep seeking nourishment on tion ; death, that of others, bringing bereave. the green pastures, beside the still waters of ment with all its loss and loneliness, or our Israel ; but instead of each one taking its own death, apprehended and feared at a dis- turn and making room for its fellow, the tance, or looking us in the face. These things strong ones are eating and drinking, and, are around us; we may meet with one or more while doing this, befouling the grass and the of them at any time. They are, in some water of which others are to partake ; and, measure, upon us. They are telling upon becoming aggressively injurious, they push us, ageing us, afflicting us.
Is there any
violently away those who are weaker than escape, any deliverance from them! There is themselves, “scattering them abroad,” to the guilty and cowardly escape too often pine and perish for anything they care. It sought by rich and poor, even by the young presents to us the scene, far too often enacted as well as by the old, of self-inflicted death. in human life, of å selfish scramble-a There is the deliverance which God will grant scramble for position, for money, for power, us when He removes us from the burdens of for enjoyment. Each man is struggling for time. But is there none now? There is that himself, in entire disregard of the claims of which the Lord of peace grants to His own- other people, in cruel inditference to the wants peace in the midst of trouble. He gives peace of the weaker, with a fierce determination to “at all times, in all ways." He comes to us bo himself well fed, whoever may lack the as (1) the Divine Lord, controlling all our life, necessaries of life. We find this in business, and making the most adverse circumstances in professions as well as in trade and com“work together for our good ”; as (2) the merce, in art, in politics, in pleasure, and, it Divine Friend, with us always, night and day, must be admitted, sometimes in the sacred of whose perfect sympathy we are always sure, sphere of religion. Of this selfish scramble to whom we can unburden our hearts, who in- we may remarkvites us to cast all our care upon Him, and I. Its
1. Selfwho will take us and ours into His strong and clevation is right and good. To make the loving charge ; (3) as the Divine Spirit, dwell- most of our powers and opportunities ; to culing within us, by His direct, immediate, tivate our faculties so that they do not rust in gracious power upon us, renewing, inspiriting, disuse but shine in service; to rise by honest, sustaining us, giving us “the garment of patient industry, and to walk along the high praise for the spirit of heaviness."
level of honourable w
usefulness—this is admir
2. Emulation is allowable and helpful. TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER
The boy who has no ambition to reach the top
of his class, the manufacturer or tradesman TRINITY
who does not care to make or to sell the best SELFISH SCRAMBLE AND CHRISTIAN possible goods, is not likely to accomplish SERVICE.
niuch. Emulation does not supply the highest Behold I judge between cattle and cattle, of all motives, but it is a divinely implanted &c.- EZEK. xxxiv. 17-22.
instinct, and it is good after its measure and Nothing could be nobler than the fidelity of in its degree. But a selfish scramble, in which the Hebrew prophets. Their predictive we only care to secure our own comfort or powers were less honourable to them than enlargement, and do not care at all who is their pastoral functions. To foresee and to stranded or lost, in which we present such a
picture in life as that given to us in the text of cattle in the field, is ugly and evil. When we, with our imperfect sight, look long upon it, we see that which pains us, we see that which falls far below the level of our nature, that which is unbrotherly, which is, indeed, inhuman ; we feel that it is selfish in a sense and a degree that is guilty and condemnable. And if it seems thus to us, how much more guilty must it appear to Him who is Love it. self, who lives to love and bless-how hateful and offensive must it be in His pure sight ! II. Its INDU RATING
The struggling cattle in the field are no worse for their heedlessness, or even for their violence. They suffer no spiritual harm ; they do not rise and fall, in a moral sense. But we do. We are always moving up towards the Divine, or moving down towards the animal. And he who is living the life of selfish scramble through the months and years of his existence here is losing all the finer and nobler elements of his nature, is becoming indurated in spirit, is sinking to that base condition in which his own wants and tastes are everything to him and all else is nothing.
III. THE CONTRAST OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. We look at the life of our Lord, and we find Him positively declining to use His power to turn the stone into bread, though He must have sorely needed food (Matt. iv. 4). We find Him refusing to accept the opportunity of self-aggrandisement at the expense of the sacrificial mission on which He came (Matt. iv. 9). We find Him at all times accepting
the position of poverty and privation, that He might be a perfect “Son of Man," entering by personal experience into the needs and sufferings of His people. We find Him con. tinually stooping from His high ground of perfect Divine wisdom to impart and to explain the truth of God to undiscerning disciples. We find Him compelling all things to give place in order that He might give food to the hungry, and healing to the sick, and hope to the abandoned, and rest to the weary.
We cannot conceive of any greater contrast to the life of selfish scramble than that life of holy service which He lived before the eyes of men.
What is the use we are making of our pouers ? Not, let us hope, to climb to the highest post of honour, or get the largest slice of comfort, let who will go short ; not to hustle the weak out of our way that we may rise or may possess. That would be unworthy of us who were born to bear the image of our Father, and who have sat at the feet and fol. lowed the life of Jesus Christ. Let us use those powers which we have from God, that we may follow where Christ is leading, that we may do good and communicato, that we may help others to partake of the bread and water of life, that we may enable them to walk in peace and joy along the path they tread, that we may guide the erring into ways. of wisdom, that we may raise the fallen, that we may be a light and a strength to all whom we can reach and bless. WILLIAM CLARKSON,
SUNDAY IN SCHOOL.
THE INTERNATIONAL LESSON.
SAUL OF TARSUS CONVERTED,
Acts ix. 1-20. This event, which happened on the Damascus road about the year 37 A.D., was truly one of the most momentous of history.
The meaning of this remarkable occurrence reaches out a long way. Indeed, since the New Testament is the final revelation for the Christian Church on earth, the power of Saul's conversion must be felt to the end of time.
I. Its meaning first, of course, concerned himself.
1. He was convinced of the truth of Christianity. By Christianity we mean the doctrine that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. By what sort of an argument was Saul convinced of the truth of Christianity? The reasons for his becoming a Christian were both external and interual. The miracle was double, and whatever any one of any school of thought might require as a sufficient ground for such a tremendous change as was brought about in Saul is actually supplied in his case. became a Christian really and rationally.
2. By this change Saul was led into an experienced it. An attempt has also been entirely new kind of life, not only in his made to explain Saul's conversion on psychoheart, but in his work. Christianity was not logical lines. Because at once (ver. 5) he only his creed, it was his business. Saul was addresses Christ as Lord (Kyrie, which in this to abolish Judaism as a half-way step to place is nothing more than the ordinary word Christianity ; he was to preach salvation to of salutation to a superior), and because Christ the Gentiles as Gentiles. To this change, (ver. 5) says it is hard for him to kick against planned by God to be brought about through the pricks (which means only that opposition Saul, our conversion is due. This work was to Christ is useless), it has been thought that to be done through a life of unusual obedi. Saul's conscience had been troubling him and ence to Christ. Its type is presented to us at making him wonder if perhaps Jesus were not the very opening of Saul's Christian career in the Christ, and so preparing him to be conthe question, “Lord, what wilt Thou have verted on a slight occasion. But the record me to do?”
gives not a hint of any such psychological 3. And how was all this brought about? preparation. Out of deliberate and bitter Wholly of the grace of God. Saul did not antagonism Saul was converted to Christ. convert himself, did not designate his work The conditions were as unfavourable to his to himself, did not characterize it with suffer- conversion as they could be made. No stronger ing, did not furnish his own spiritual equip- evidence for the miraculous, supernatural ment for it. All was from God.
character of Christianity could be offered. If II. Saul's conversion had a great influence Saul did not see Christ, then the strongest on the Christians of his day.
convictions of the clearest minds cannot be 1. It showed them that God's care was over respected, and no thinking whatever is ever them.
worth anything. 2. It showed that God's power was behind 3. Saul's conversion has an especial relation His care.
It is not enough to watch unless to Christian mission. one is able to help. God knew and God was There are some special notes worth making able. If He could make a man like Saul of in addition to these, in connection with the Tarsus over into a follower of Jesus He could conversion of Saul. do anything; for this was the impossible, (1) All men need conversion. Saul was a ordinarily speaking.
good, moral, even godly man before he became 3. Saul's conversion showed the early Chris- a Christian. tians that God would use means for their (2) No one is too hard subject for a blessing and the furtherance of His work such possible future Christian. as they had not expected.
(3) The outline of the soul's progress in III. To Christian truth always Saul's con- conversion is the same for all. version has especial value.
(4) Grace is the only means of our salvation. 1. In the line of Christian doctrine it has All is from God. force. Saul's experience was not in a dream (5) There is a work for every one who is or in a vision. It was in broad day-light, under made Christ's. We are elected to work. normal conditions. Thus he beheld Christ in (6) Our work is accomplished through glory. Christ then is alive, He is glorified, suffering. What we gain we pay for. Let us and His glory is not spiritual alone, but of not grudge the cost. (D, J. Burrell, D.D.) such a kind that it can be apprehended by other ways than by thought upon His char
DORCAS RAISED TO LIFE. acter. He can be present wherever He chooses
Acts ix. 32-43, in His glorified body, and can reveal Himself when He likes. The doctrine of the existence “Then had the Church rest throughout all and work of the Holy Spirit is touched upon Judæa.” Mere quietude, however, is not the in the story of Saul's conversion.
law of progress ; something was needed to 2. Saul's conversion has immense value in overcome the timidity of the Church at the department of apologetics—the defence of Joppa, and to awaken the attention of the Christianity. There is a problem here which money-making people of that seaport town. mere naturalism has never been able to solve. God had His own way of encouraging the Saul presumably was able to know either a faithful and arousing the careless. Dorcas stroke of lightning or a sunstroke if he had was the instrument by which He accomplished these ends. The faith of this woman bition of miraculous power in the cities of was of the highest type ; her belief was more Lydda, Joppa, and Cæsarea. than a theological assent to the truth ; her The inferences drawn from the healing of faith worked by love and purified the heart. Eneas and the raising of Dorcas, so far as the “ This woman was full of good works and topic in hand is concerned, may now be stated : almsdeeds which she did.”
1. Holiness is not a bar to disease, although Notwithstanding the faith of Dorcas, “ It
a Christian life tends to health and longevity.
2. Remedies are to be used under the advice came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died." There are several considerations
of skilled physicians. that press upon us in view of these facts. 3. God usually permits diseases to run Sickness is not necessarily an indication of
through the varied stages of their natural sin on the part of the individual attacked
history. by disease ; neither is illness to be attributed
4. There are times, however, when it is for to a lack of faith. It is God's purpose to let
the glory of God's kingdom that the Head of the physical forces of the universe take, in
the Church should arrest disease by the direct most instances, the natural courses He has
action of His own Spirit. made ; He has good reasons why diseases
5. When it is the purpose of Christ to should be allowed, in the majority of cases,
“bear our sicknesses,” He illuminates the to develop through the various stages of
minds of certain faithful disciples, impressing their natural history.
Sometimes we can
them with the belief that a petition offered see the good that comes to us from illness ;
for healing will be granted. not unfrequently it brings forth the fruit of
6. Faith exercised upon the gift of especial
illumination will be honoured. a new purpose. There are times, however, when for His glory God interferes with the
7. No person has been raised from the dead natural order of things, and brings to pass
since Apostolic times ; therefore no illuminasupernatural results.
tion has been given for this purpose ; supposed
illuminations have been hallucinations. As the Church-members turned their faces
8. The highest type of faith expresses itsheavenward, God put it into their hearts to
needs according to the best knowledge at the send for Peter, a dozen iniles away at Lydda.
time, and trustfully leaves the outcome to Perhaps Peter had not the slightest idea what
Him who has said, “Your Father knoweth he would be called upon to do, but he started
what things ye have need of before ye ask out. By the time he had reached the city he
Him."-(J. M. Durrell.) had received Divine illumination as to the course that ought to be pursued. Entering
PETER'S VISION. into the house, “Peter put them all forth," that his mind might not be distracted from
Acts x. 1-20. any suggestion that the Spirit might make
Tuis passage gives us a great subject—the to him, and he “kneeled down and prayed.”
revelation to man of the great truth of human Others equally deserving a resurrection had
brotherhood ; God's time of revelation ; God's died and were buried without a word of prayer method of revelation ; God's purpose in the for their resurrection. Stephen,
a man full
revelation. of faith and of the Holy Ghost,” was not
I. God's time for revealing this truth had called back from the spirit-world. It was for the glory of God that the first martyr
The Jew was still a Jew, intensely bigoted, was taken by “devout men from the bloody
uncompromising, exclusive. Even the dis. stones that had been hurled at and upon him
ciples had not begun to grasp the truth that and carried “to his burial.” It was for the
God was the Father, and they the brothers, of good of the kingdom of God that Peter was
But now the time had come to inspired to ask for the return of Dorcas to
fully make known the great doctrine that her work, and Christ heard the petition He
Christ died for all mankind and that all were had Himself put into His servant's heart.
equally precious in God's sight. The results. There was joy in the house- The time was auspicious, as God's time hold of Dorcas ; the night of weeping had always is. God's revelations passed, and the morning of joy had come. hastened and never retarded. Moreover, this The results abundantly justificd the exhi. vision occurred in all probability just subse
quent to Paul's conversion, perhaps within a choose. Narrow, bigoted, disobedient, irrev. few days of that event. The command to erent, impure, or cowardly men cannot be used preach the Gospel to the Gentiles came to the by God for any such purposes. Through such great Apostle to the Gentiles at the same time men He never blesses the world. that the truth that the Gospel was for the III. It is also interesting to note how these Gentiles came to the great Apostle to the men were prepared by God for the message Jews. Thus always do God's purposes match they were to receive and then give to the and link together. When the ages are pre
world. pared for it, the truth is revealed. There is Cornelius was prepared for the visit of Peter no more convincing incidental proof of the by the vision at the ninth hour of the day, Divine rulership of the universe than the and Peter, even while the men whom Cornelius timeliness of God's progressive revelation. had sent were rapidly approaching the tanner's
II. This lesson also teaches us in a most house, was being prepared to receive them by vivid way God's method of revealing a great
the vision of the sheet full of all manner of truth.
beasts. The vision prepared the way for the He does not proclaim it from the heavens, messengers, and the messengers interpreted but whispers it to one man, or, as in the case
the vision. of Peter, impresses it upon his mind in a day How suggestive is this to many a Christian ? vision; and that man passes the revelation to Have you not in some hour of communion another, and that one to another, and so on
with God had a message given you until the world has received the message
felt ought to be carried to some one else! which God had sent. But it is not every one
Then learn from this lesson that God has to whom God can reveal Himself, or whom He been preparing some to receive the can make a messenger to carry a new truth to message, and that if you keep open-hearted to the world. In the vision of the sheet let the promptings of the Spirit you will surely down from heaven God revealed a larger truth find the one for whose sake it was given to than Peter had before known, and yet he you. seems to have accepted it with very little cavil. IV. There is another matter that will He was a man of open mind and of a teachable engage our attention in this lesson, and that spirit. He was a man with whom God's word is the purpose of the Divine revelation. weighed far more than traditional prejudices. This revelation was given for the sake of Moreover, we learn from this lesson that he the whole world, that all races of mankind was an obedient man.
might be elevated, that all nations might be But the revelation must not only be made brought together in closer fellowship, that to Peter ; in order that it might prove effec- every man might look at every other man as tive it must be given by Peter to the world. a child of a common Father, and so a brother. Cornelius was a representative of the whole -(F. E. Clark.) world waiting to receive the new revelation. It was quite as important to find some one to
PETER AT CÆSAREA. receive as it was to find some one who could
ACTS X. 30-48. give the message, and Cornelius was the one This lesson is full of most practical and chosen. By studying his life we can learn helpful teachings. Among them we may why he was chosen. In these few verses we noticehave his character revealed : honest, generous, 1. Circumstances do not make men. There devout, obedient, fearless ; such was the man is a great deal of unexpected goodness in the to whom God confided the revelation which world. Some of the noblest characters have was to revolutionize the world. It is also been developed amid unfavourable surroundwell worth noting that both these men were ings, with no godly example to copy, no friend engaged in prayer when the vision came.
to counsel, no monitor to warn. Josiah in such hearts the Spirit easily finds its way. Jerusalem, Daniel in Babylon, and Joseph in
This is always God's way of accomplishing Egypt are examples of exceptionally good His purpose. He chooses means, and these men amid exceptionally bad surroundings. mcans are intelligent human beings-men who So we would hardly have looked for a devont are fitted to carry a new truth to the world. man among the officers of the Roman army. Such men have the glad privilege of being all this shows that piety can flourish under God's messengers.
Only such men can God most unfavourable circumstances.