صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

66

ye no thought," as it is in Luke, "how, or what thing," that is, either as to the manner or matter of what " ye shall answer," or say in defence of yourselves; or what ye shall say," that is, what ye shall say in declaring the truth before your accusers and audience, be they what they may. And, to encourage them to this, he assures them that the Holy Spirit would suggest to them, at the time, whatever was proper to be said, and would direct and strengthen them to say it in the best manner. Now, all this is often exemplified very strikingly in the Acts of the Apostles, in which we read of several of the disciples being carried before different courts, where they trusted in God, and had this promise so fulfilled to them as to enable them to speak, and in every way to conduct themselves, in the most becoming and noble manner. Suffice it to refer to the following cases, for it would take a considerable time fully to quote them:-the case of Peter and John before the Sanhedrim, or chief counsel, in the 4th chapter-the case of Stephen before the same counsel, in the 6th and 7th chapters and the case of Paul before Gallio, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, in the 18th, 24th, 25th, and 26th chapters, and before Nero, 2 Tim. iv.

As to the application of these words to the succeeding ages of the Church :-it becomes all Christians, and especially Christian ministers, neither presumptuously to abuse them, nor unbelievingly to neglect the legitimate encouragement which they contain. It would, certainly, be a gross perversion of this passage, if any preachers were now to imagine that it would countenance them, in ordinary cases, in coming forward to preach without previous study. Now that miraculous inspiration has ceased, they have to seek their knowledge from the Word of God, and in the way of diligent, persevering, and prayerful application of mind; that they may bring forward abundance of suitable matter, in the best way of which, all their other duties being considered, they are capable. Whatever might be the rule in cases of emergency, even the inspired teachers themselves were required thus, to "stir up the gift of God that was in them:" and therefore, much more is such diligence necessary in those who have no such inspiration. It is no difficult matter, indeed, for a man who abounds in self-confidence and readiness of expression, to speak often and long, in a certain way, of the things of God, with little or no preparation: but it is a poor boast to boast of such a habit; it

is a poor compliment to the intelligence of his audience, to indulge it; there will be no need for him, or his admirers, to proclaim that his effusions are extemporary, for, that will be but too evident. In many cases, this is, doubtless, under the guise of zeal, the refuge of indolence; and it would be well for him, to consider whether he be not labouring under an error in imagining that there is any thing peculiarly spiritual, or praise-worthy, in offering to God that which costs him nothing. The words which were addressed to inspired Timothy, are surely at least as suitable in this view, to ordinary teachers: "Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." In a different sense, David "prepared with all his might" "for the house of his God.". "Because the preacher, too, was wise, he still taught the people knowledge, yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs." If due diligence be not used, to expect the help of the Spirit is not faith, but presumption.

At the same time, there is much direction and encouragement here to ministers, when they are in the way of duty. The spirit of this passage teaches them, not to fail to declare the will of God, when they are suddenly called on to do so in the course of providence. They are not to hang back, or to hesitate then, but are to discharge the duty in the best way they can, under God. On extraordinary occasions, they may expect, though not miraculous, yet extraordinary assistance. They may expect that their strength will be as their day; that their Master's grace will be sufficient for them, and that his strength will be made perfect in their weakness. Instances have occurred in which they have been unexpectedly called on, and have been enabled to go through the duty with much comfort and success. Proper ideas and expressions have flowed in upon them as fast as they could utter them, and have been rendered effectual to their hearers. Nor need they be afraid to speak, in any circumstances, however trying, or dangerous, into which their Lord brings them. This passage of the history of Moses is not without a permanent lesson: "Moses said

unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I, the Lord? Now, therefore, go. and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say." "* Making allowance, too, for the difference between an inspired prophet and common teachers, the words of Jeremiah† are very encouraging: "Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee, to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth; and the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth." Nor less instructive and encouraging is the case of Isaiah. When he had seen the glory of the Lord, and had heard the seraphim praising him, he said, "Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips:" he looked on himself as lost and helpless, unworthy either to join the seraphim in praising the Lord, or to proceed to declare his will to the people. "Then flew," continues Isaiah, "one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar. And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sins purged.' Having thus obtained the assurance of his pardon and acceptance, as well as divine assistance for his work, the heaviest burden was lifted off his mind; and then, when he heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for me?" he was ready to reply, "Here am I, send me.' How heavy the work of declaring salvation to others, and of confessing Christ before men, for those who have themselves never been, like Isaiah, both cast down and lifted up! The taking away of their iniquity, in the reality of pardon, and also the sense of pardon, are necessary to their speaking with confidence and comfort, either to God or for God. Happy they, who, having felt that they were undone, have obtained, from the true altar of atonement, the peace of God which passeth all understanding, to keep their heart and mind through Christ Jesus!

[ocr errors]

* Exod. iv. 10.

+Jer. i. 6.

Isa. vi.

When the Lord bestows on them the joys of his salvation, and upholds them with his free Spirit, this works wonders in enabling them to teach transgressors his ways, that sinners may be converted unto him, and in opening their lips, that their mouth may show forth his praise.

This passage also encourages ministers to expect and pray for the assistance of the Holy Ghost to teach them, in the act of studying the Scriptures, what they ought to say, and to guide them to the true understanding of them. It reminds them, too, that when they have done their best to prepare themselves, they need not, and should not, be filled with such anxiety as would distress them, or impede their work, but may, and should go forward to it, trusting to his influences to assist them, and to bless what they have to say. "Such trust have we through Christ towards God," says Paul; "not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."

But these two verses are also very instructive to all professing Christians. They teach them, for example, to look on what was spoken by the apostles and other inspired men, as spoken, not so much by them, as by God himself. The Holy Ghost taught them, and spake in them. "David, the son of Jesse, said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me." If "holy men of God," then, spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," you see in what light their words are to be regarded, and with what faith, and love, and obedience, they ought to be received by you.

66

Again, you are here called on, by just inference, to distinguish between inspired and uninspired teachers. You are not to expect, or desire, that your teachers should take it upon them to speak and act as if they had miraculous gifts of inspiration. You ought not to suppose that they can furnish solid and well-digested instruction without time and labour." Every scribe who is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man who is an householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” Besides, this subject reminds you that your teachers need

the aid of the Holy Spirit to enable them to speak aright and with success; and, therefore, it should lead you to remember them in your approaches to the throne of grace. “Brethren, pray for us, that the word of God may have free course and be glorified."

But, in reference more immediately to your own demeanour-though prudence and holy jealousy over yourselves are becoming, there is no cause why you should take anxious, perplexing, and distrustful thought, as to how you should speak and act. If you hold fast the doctrinal principles, and take due care to be well-informed as to the duties of the gospel, the Spirit of God will guide you in every emergency. Should you even be called before earthly rulers and courts for the gospel's sake, you would have no occasion to fear. "O Nebuchadnezzar,” said the three Hebrew youths, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Many confessors and martyrs have spoken and acted with equal magnanimity in later ages; and none have any reason to fear that, when the time of trial comes, they will be deserted by him in whom they

trust.

But, though nothing of this more fierce kind of temptation come upon you, you will be tried in your fidelity on many common occasions. You will have to witness the good confession before many witnesses, in your ordinary life and conversation. Desire to express yourselves always as you ought: but be not too thoughtful, be not over anxious. Beauty needs no adventitious ornament, and gold needs no gilding: so it is with the cause of Christ, with true religion; it needs none of the enticing words of man's wisdom; its glory cannot be increased—its value cannot be enhanced by man's invention. Maintain the truth just as it is—maintain it by word and action, plainly and boldly, and it will speak for itself. Do not thrust yourselves forward vainly, or out of your own place; but, when you are called by duty, when you are put forward by Christ, decline not the honour, be not diffident of him or of his cause. "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you,

« السابقةمتابعة »