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rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Thirdly. In every other passage of scripture where our Saviour is spoken of, he is represented as sitting at the right hand of God. Sitting is a posture of rest, of dignity, and of dominion; but here he appeared standing-a posture of attention. The sight of Stephen touched his heart. He could no longer keep his seat-he rose to animate, sustain, receive, crown his suffering servant.
This vision he immediately makes known. This shows the animating impression it produced upon his mind. And it may also be considered as a testimony borne to the cause for which he was going to die. "You condemn me for saying that he whom you crucified lives and reigns above. But I see him. There he is. Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.'"
Their fury now can no longer be restrained. "Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him." Yet in this infamous transaction, they pay some regard to the forms of justice. They do this, pretendedly, in execution of a law enacted by Moses against blasphemers. In this law, the "hands of the witnesses" were to be first upon the offender to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. This circumstance explains what is here added-"the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul."
Here first comes in view an individual destined to be the most extraordinary character in the Church of God. Had a prophet stood near on this occasion and said, "Ah! Saul, you will by-and-by be stoned for the same profession, and die a martyr in the same cause;" he would have been filled with surprise and indignation, and have exclaimed, "What! is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" O how wonderful are the ways of Divine Providence!-God had his eye upon him at this hour: he had watched over him through life; he had separated him from his mother's womb; and all this with a view to call him by his grace, and reveal his Son in him. He was a chosen vessel unto him, to bear his name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. For a time Saul seemed beyond the possibility of a reclaim. Even those who had experienced the efficacy of divine grace themselves, seemed unanimously to have despaired of him. When they heard of his conversion, they were astonished even to incredulity; and when he assayed to join himself to them, they were afraid of him. Let us despair of none. He has a mighty arm; strong is his hand, and high is his right hand. "I obtained mercy," says this monument of divine grace, "that in
me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."
But oh! with what pain, even after a lapse of years, does he acknowledge the guilt he contracted by his connivance and assistance at this murder. "And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him!""
Stoning was a painful, a dreadful death. Who can think of it without shudderingThe flesh bruised, the bones broken, the skull fractured perhaps in several places, before the soul escapes! But how died he, morally? This is the question. Archbishop Usher said, he hoped to die with the language of the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" and his wish was indulged. The devotional Mrs. Rowe was found dead on her knees. And "blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing." Stephen died "calling upon God." And the two petitions he offered are recorded. The first regards himself. "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Some people are afraid to honour the Son as they honour the Father. But we are commanded to do this. And we have here an instance of it; a prayer addressed to our Saviour, and by a man who was in circumstances to render his example unexceptionable; full of the Holy Ghost, and dying too.-What does this prayer teach us!
It teaches us that there is a separate state between death and the resurrection. Had Stephen believed that the soul would either die or sleep with the body, would he have uttered such language as this; "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit?"
It teaches us that Stephen considered our Saviour as the Lord of glory, and as possess ing supreme power and authority in the other world. "I know," as if he had said, “whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day."
It shows us that Stephen was principally concerned for the security and welfare of his soul. He thought little of the body. The reverse of this is commonly the case. The body engrosses all the attention. There are many who even seem to die as regardless of their souls as if they had none. They only think and talk of the physician and lawyer; of their disorder and their temporal concerns. One is sometimes surprised to hear with what composure persons who cannot possibly possess a good hope through grace speak of their dissolution; and arrange the circumstances of their funeral. You would conclude they had no souls to be disposed of or provided for. Not a word escapes them concerning these! But the soul is the man. This is the immaterial, the immortal part.
actuates the Master and his disciples. The difference only lies here: he received the Spirit without measure, while we possess it in a limited degree. In him the exercise of it met with no counteracting depravity; but in us it is resisted by adverse powers: and hence a perpetual warfare; "the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh and these are contrary the one to the other: so that we cannot do the things that we would." But, if we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his. The same principles that resided in him must be found in us; and as far as they prevail, they will produce the same effect.
Having said this, he fell asleep." Sleep has nothing formidable in it. A weary man, after a day of toil, feels no reluctance to lie down in his bed. The disease of the babe awakens all the anxiety of the mother, and she cries, "Let me not see the death of the child;" but it is otherwise when she views him asleep. She knows that it is in her power to awake him at pleasure; and to embrace him refreshed and improved. And this is the soft representation given of the believer's death in the Scriptures; and it is so essentially just, that we here find a death of violence and anguish expressed by it. When David had served his generation, he "fell asleep"-but he died in a palace, in a fine bed, and surrounded with every indulgence. Stephen dies under a shower of stones; but he, even he fell asleep!
I see his body left on the ground, mangled with blows, and covered with gore. But let it not be despised. That body is the workmanship of God: it is the purchase of the Redeemer; it is the temple of the Holy Ghost; it shall be renewed, and fashioned like the Saviour's own glorious body.—Accordingly we find that "devout men carried Stephen-to his burial," says our translation; but this is not in the original: they carried him from the place of execution to his house, and from his house to his grave; "and made great lamentation over him."
Honour is to be valued according to the quarter whence it comes. Who would like to be deemed the favourite of Satan! And why should we wish to be admired and caressed by the world-the very world that
The second petition regards his enemies; and seems to have been offered up with peculiar solemnity and earnestness: for he now “kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Behold here a proof of the grandeur of soul real" crucified the Lord of glory," when he was religion inspires: "It is the glory of a man to on earth; and would willingly do it again! pass by a transgression." Behold an exam- You do not wish to stand high in the estimaple of obedience to a command, which infi- tion of vagrants, traitors, idiots, and madmen dels have ridiculed, and which thousands look upon to be impracticable: "I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Behold an instance of conformity to the temper of a dying Saviour, who prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The same spirit
"What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Oh! says the Christian, I feel comparatively indifferent as to the destiny of my body. Let wild beasts devour it; let the flames consume it, let the winds scatter itif I may but conclude that my soul shall be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus!
And, be it remembered, this is his concern in life as well as in death. From the hour of his conviction, the chief inquiry with him has been, not what shall I eat, or what shall I drink, or wherewithal shall I be clothed? -But," what must I do to be saved?" How are my sins to be pardoned? How to be subdued?Is this your concern?-If he does not receive your departing spirits at death, they will be seized by the powers of darkness, and become the prey of devils. But if you receive him in life, he will receive you at death; receive you to glory; receive you to himself, that where he is there you may be also.
Oh! that when we come to die we may feel the sentiments of Stephen, and be able say, "Lord Jesus,
"Since the dear hour that brought me to thy foot,
Thou art all my salvation and all my desire. In every difficulty thou hast been my guide; in every danger my refuge; in every distress my consolation. My happiest moments have been passed in communion with thee. I cannot look back upon a well-spent life. Every view I take of myself is humbling. But I review with thankfulness the instances of thy goodness. By thy grace I am what I am. And now I come to thee; and this soul of mine, which thou hast redeemed with thy blood, and won by thy love, I surrender.
"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
and what, as to religious concerns, are numbers better-and yet how many things you often conceal, or sacrifice, or pursue, to gain their favour! But "devout men;" "the saints that are in the earth"-these are "the excellent, in whom is all my delight." To belong to them; to hear them coming around me and saying, "My brother;" for them to rejoice when I rejoice, and to weep
when I weep; to be loved and esteemed by them in life, in death;-this is delightful; it is, to use the words of a beautiful writer, like walking in an eastern spice grove." And such were the men who testified their regard to Stephen; and bedewed his sepulchre with their tears. In no other way could they mourn for him. They knew that death was his gain; but it was their loss. And the removal of such a man is a loss; a loss to the world, and a loss to the Church: the loss of a protector, an intercessor, a benefactor, an example. As they retire, we feel the earth poorer; and if all of them were withdrawn, who would wish to live here another day! Our world would be a cage of unclean birds, a den of dragons, an emblem of hell. Oh! how the death of such a friend "cools our brainless ardours!" How it detaches us from
Though he does not crown his servants on this side Jordan, he owns them: and he will be sure to stand by those that stand by him. The world may frown upon them, but he will smile. They may be reproached and "persecuted for righteousness' sake," but he is near that justifieth them;" and "he that toucheth them, toucheth the apple of his eye." They tive trials; but "he will be with them in may expect a succession of personal and relatrouble," and deliver them and honour them. They must die; but they need not shudder at the approaching event. He will be "the strength of their heart, and their portion for ever," when every worldly resource fails. As "the earthly house of this tabernacle dis
Do we pass through the world so as to draw forth the blessings while they live, and the tears of many when we die! Are tyrannical masters, are selfish neighbours, are hard-hearted and close-fisted professors of re-solves, they will have a building of God, a ligion thus lamented!" When the wicked house not made with hands, eternal in the perish," says Solomon, "there is shouting." heavens." Though invisible to the eye of This is dreadful.-For a man to think that there is no individual upon earth that wishes within the vail; yea, by faith "they see the sense, they know that he is pleading for them his continuance; that if he were removed, heavens opened, and the Son of man standno one being would sigh; and could he en- ing at the right hand of God." And while deavour to come back, he would find the door looking down upon them, though inaudible of life bolted against him-why there is something in this more chilling than death, and more voice saying, "Be thou faithful unto death, to the ear of sense, by faith they hear his cruel than the grave. And yet how many and I will give thee a crown of life!" are there, who, if they were carried to their burial to-morrow, would excite no lamentation over them-unless indeed a lamentation that they had not died sooner. One perhaps would be ready to say-"O that the wretch had died before: by his wanton speculations
WITH THE WORLD.
he had ruined the substance that was to rear A CHRISTIAN IS NOT A FAVOURITE my babes." Another-" O that the wretch had died before he had seduced my daughter, the glory of my family." A third-"O that the wretch had died before, by his infidel principles he had poisoned the mind of my darling son."
Let us hasten to conclude by inquiringWhether an inflexible adherence to the cause of God be not wisdom; and whether wisdom be not justified of all her children How amply was Stephen indemnified by the glory he immediately enjoyed in heaven-by the usefulness which his example has produced on earth-by the testimony of Divine approbation-by the satisfaction of his own mind!
Who could help feeling interested in such
"These low grounds where sorrows grow,
a character! Who would not rather have been in the condition of the martyr than of the persecutor! Surely his enemies were compelled to venerate him, and inwardly to pray, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"
We may be losers, says Mr. Henry, in the service of God, but we cannot be losers by it. And says our Saviour, "There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”
How it induces us to say, with Thomas, "Let us go away, that we may die with
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ
We find nothing like this in the methods employed by the enemy of our souls. He deceives in order to destroy. He keeps his followers in ignorance. He allures them on by flatteries and lies. He conceals from them the dreadfulness of the end, and the hardships of the way: he cries, "Peace, peace; when there is no peace."
But the Gospel hides nothing. It shows us the difficulties as well as the enjoyments of religion; the sacrifices it requires, as well as
the rewards it insures. Now this is perfectly just; and it is every way profitable. It serves to discriminate between the false, the timid, the worldly-minded; and those who are in earnest; those who know that they must advance or perish, and who will not flinch whatever they may feel. It also prevents surprise and confusion when the evil day comes; and keeps us from being discouraged because of the way. Yea, it even tends to confirm and establish our faith and hope, by showing us in ourselves the truth of God's word, and the experience of his people.
Upon this principle is founded the declaration of the Apostle, in which, having mentioned the sufferings he had himself endured, he adds, "To suffer is not peculiar to me: let my son Timothy, and believers universally reckon upon the same treatment: the cup is common to all, though some are called to drink a larger draught of it: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." In these words let us consider two things.
I. THE LIFE THEY DESCRIBE. II. THE CONDITION THEY ANNOUNCE.
1. THE LIFE THEY DESCRIBE. It may be taken with two distinctions.
First. It is not merely a moral life, but a godly one. The religion of many people consists only in certain regards to their fellowcreatures; and if they "do justly," and "love mercy," they are not concerned to "walk humbly with their God." We by no means depreciate morality. The Gospel demands it; and makes provision for it. A man cannot be religious without being moral; but he may be moral without being religious. It is well to be a good master, a good neighbour, a good subject-but how are you disposed towards God? Are you honest? Are you liberal? It is well. But I have another question to ask. Are you "renewed in the spirit of your minds?" Are you holy? Are you godly?—Nothing but that disposition towards God, which is implied in godliness, can give principle to our actions; induce us to avoid every sin however secret; engage us to make conscience of every duty however private; and carry us through every discouragement that lies in the way everlasting. Virtue without godliness may gain us a fair character among men, and variously subserve our temporal advantage; but whatever it may do for us as to this world, it will not be sufficient with regard to another.
Secondly. It is not merely a godly life, but a Christian one. We are not only to live godly, but to live godly "in Christ Jesus." This is a very interesting addition, and it will be necessary to examine it.-What is it to live godly "in Christ Jesus?" It is in all our religious concerns-To be governed by the revelation of Jesus Christ-To be conformed to the example of Jesus Christ-To be actua
ted by the grace of Jesus Christ-And to depend on the mediation of Jesus Christ.
We cannot live godly in Christ Jesus, unless we are influenced by "the revelation" of Jesus Christ. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him:" and he hath declared him in such a manner as he was never known before. He has displayed him not only as making the world, but as "reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Hence we are to go to him, not as innocent creatures, but as guilty; feeling our need of redemption, and exercising faith on him "who suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God."-He has displayed him more affectionately; as "the God of all grace," as "the Father of mercies;" as love itself. Hence we are to regard him as children, not slaves; "receiving not the spirit of bondage again to fear; but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba Father." Shall I say he has revealed him after a more spiritual manner; as looking at the heart, and not attaching himself to particular places and forms? He has: and at the same time taught us the use we are to make of it. "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
We cannot live godly in Christ Jesus, unless we are conformed to the example of Jesus Christ. His godliness was not only real, but perfect. His soul was full of God; all his actions, words, and purposes referred entirely to him. He trusted in God, and never desponded under the darkest dispensations: "Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." He loved him supremely: nor was this love cooled by the dreadful sufferings he was appointed to endure. Instead of avoiding his tremendous passion, he went forth to meet it, and said, "That the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence." His devotedness to his honour was invariable: "I seek not mine own glory, but the glory of him that sent me. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." His attachment to his worship was so great, that he could say, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." How often do we read of his devotion ! He prayed in the wilderness. He prayed in the garden. He rose up a great while before day, and went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. He went up into a mountain, and
continued all night in prayer to God. It is
humble him as much as his week-days. He even looks off from his holy things, to find a better foundation to rely upon; a better righteousness to appear in before God. And where is this to be found? He has boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of Him who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification, and ever lives to make intercession for us. He is the un-great High Priest over the house of God; he represents and introduces us; and "we are accepted in the Beloved."
We cannot live godly in Christ Jesus, less we are actuated by the grace of Jesus Christ. It is a truth taught us in the Scripture, and of which we need to be constantly reminded, that "from him is our fruit found." Though we bear it, he enables us to yield it. "We live; yet not we, but Christ liveth in us: and the life that we live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God." Does the branch flourish independently of the tree, or by means of the sap derived by union from it? "As the branch," says the Saviour, "cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me: for without me ye can do nothing."
The engagements to which we are called in the Scripture, seem fitter for angels than for frail and depraved men. How are they to be accomplished-how are these enemies to be conquered-how are these trials to be borne-how are these duties to be performed? How are we to live "with our conversation in heaven;" to walk by faith, and not by sight;" to "forgive those that trespass against us until seventy times seven?" Who would not shrink back, and lie down in despair, but for the voice that cries, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness?" The charge of enthusiasm has been frequently advanced against this doctrine-but would it not be easy and just to retort the charge? What enthusiasm is like that which expects such mighty effects without an adequate cause? Upon our principle, a Christian has a resource equal to all the claims of his high calling; and may without presumption say, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me."
II. Let us attend to THE CONDITION these words announce, as the consequence of the life they describe. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus "shall suffer persecu tion."
This doctrine is frequently observable in the Scripture. Our Lord preached it to his immediate disciples when he said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation." It is strongly implied in the declaration, "If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." It is recognised even in the promise, "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the Gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eter. nal life." Paul held the same sentiment; and, therefore, as he visited the churches, he not only exhorted them to continue in the faith, but reminded them that "they must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God." Suffering in the Christian life he always takes for granted: "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Events perfectly answered to these intimations. In the Acts of the Apostles we see what Christians endured from Jews and Gentiles, priests and people; and history spreads before us examples of the same truth in every successive period.
But how is this! It seems wonderful, it not incredible, that persons whose lives are harmless, and holy, and passed in endeavours to do good, should experience treatment like this. But the wonder ceases if we observe
That ever since the Fall there has been an irreconcilable enmity between the "seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent;" that
We cannot live godly in Christ Jesus, unless we depend on the mediation of Jesus Christ. There are many who find it an easy thing to hope in God: they confidently presume on the acceptance of their perform-"man being alienated from the life of God," ances; and seem even to challenge a reward. loves nothing that reminds him of God, or that But it is otherwise with a Christian. He resembles him; that the tempers and actions sees, he feels the poverty and unworthiness of the righteous necessarily reprove and upof his duties. He confesses that when he has braid the wicked; that their endeavours to save, done all, he is an unprofitable servant; and disturb them in their sins; that the Gospel coninstead of being recompensed for the excel-demns the worldly as well as the vicious, and lences of his obedience, he wonders that he the formal, as well as the negligent; that as is not rejected for its defects. His sabbaths there is nothing in Christianity that flatters sin,