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Reader, to what deep searching of heart may this well lead us, and how well may it bring each and all of us to a close scriptural inquiry as to the nature of our profession. The twofold, but so distinctly opposite, spirit manifested by those who heard Peter and Stephen, may well furnish us with both means as well as motive for testing our profession, and, by the Spirit, probing our own hearts.
And now, dear readers, strive, if you can, to bring this touching scene before the eye of your mind. Stephen has been standing before the council and his accusers, and, in the calmest, clearest, and most dignified way, delivering his testimony for God and truth. The effect, as we have seen, was that of the most deadly resistance; and, notwithstanding all that had so recently occurred in Jerusalem, where there had been so much to ratify and confirm the centurion's words, as he contemplated a dying Christ, “ Truly this man was the Son of God," yet the same is without avail upon these the persecutors of Stephen. In vain had been the rent vail of the temple; in vain the opened graves and the appearance in Jerusalem of many of their previous occupants; in vain the rolling away of the stone and the vacant sepulchre; in vain the appearance of Jesus again and again during the forty days' interval between His resurrection and ascension ; in vain all the wondrous scenes connected with the Pentecost, when so many were amazed and were in doubt, saying one to another, “What meaneth this ?" Oh, yes, all events, all circumstances, all providences, propitious or otherwise, must in themselves fail, without the express anointing and Divine power of God the Holy Ghost.
Here Stephen stands; his audience “ cut to the heart, and gnashing upon him with their teeth.” “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” What a scene, and what a sight! What a scene below! What a sight above! How great the contrast! Below-a very hell! Above-heaven ! Here-murderers! There--the glory of God and the glorified murdered, but now risen and triumphant One! “Full of the Holy Ghost !” and by that fulness, and in consequence of that power, not only able to stand calm and unmoved and perfectly at ease in the very midst of his murderers, amid all their hellish spleen and devilish antagonism, but at the same time emboldened and encouraged to “ look up stedfastly into heaven.” “Stedfastly”-undiverted, unabashed, out fear or misgiving. Mark the attitude, dear reader—" looking up;” not looking round, not looking at, not conferring with. He had, so to speak, done with man. All he had now to do with was God! Except the merest glance, he had gazed upon his fellow-man for the last time. His attention was now wholly absorbed with the glorified God-Man, Christ Jesus! It was a stedfast looking, a deliberate looking, a joyful looking. Naught could divert it. No, not all the threats nor determination of his enemies. Oh, reader, what
upon the number or the power of your enemies. Be it yours and ours to look off from them-up, up, up to JESUS! He“looked up stedfastly into heaven.” Hence it was opened, or he could not have looked into it. We read, beloved, of another “ stedfast looking ;" but, ah ! there was an important distinction with respect to it. We read that the disciples “ looked stedfastly toward heaven.” But Stephen looked into it. The former were rewarded and recompensed for their looking, for presently, as the fruit of their perseverance in looking, we read, that “two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven ?" Still, privileged as was their gazing, it fell short in its blessedness of that of Stephen. And why? It was not a case of equal need—not one of the same extremity-not one of like danger. It was the imminent peril of his position that moved the Holy Ghost to empower and encourage Stephen to “ look up stedfastly into heaven," and, as a blessed result, to see “the glory of God," or as far as it was possible for a departing spirit to behold Him, “ the God of glory.”
Reader, what a field of thought does this open for our contemplation; for, assuredly, what was vouchsafed to the persecuted and about-to-bemartyred Stephen is likewise vouchsafed to all the saints of God in the times of their necessity, especially in the valley of the shadow of death and in connexion with the article of dissolution. As the enemies of Stephen were now as with one arm and one voice conspired against him, so do the powers of darkness conspire at the last great climax against the souls of the Lord's dear people. The great object of Satan is to fill them with dismay-to crowd in upon their poor affrighted minds terror upon terrorto take advantage of their weakness and the failing of heart and of flesh, by suggesting that that very failure is a proof of God's having deserted them. Gloom and apprehension follow as a consequence; and this can alone be dispersed by the voice and the felt presence of the Lord ! The Holy Ghost afresh puts forth His almighty power; and His fear-assuaging words, and renewed assurance of His almighty presence and sustaining power, revive and renew the soul in strength and hope and expectation.
Stephen beheld “Jesus standing on the right hand of God." Mark His position. As if in intense solicitude, watching the circumstances in which His servant was placed ; standing in an attitude ready to help, and as ready to receive and welcome him the moment his mission was ended. What glorious circumstances, dear reader, in which to be placed—those of Stephen! And how many thousands of the Lord's beloved ones have, in common with Stephen, thus at the last beheld by precious faith the person of their risen and victorious Head waiting, as their glorious Forerunner, to receive and welcome them to the mansions He has prepared for them.
The Lord grant that it may be your mercy, dear reader, and ours likewise, when we shall have done and suffered His will in this vale of tears, to have at last, like Stephen, a precious faith's view of a risen and exalted Christ. And let the time and the nature of our departure be when or what it may, the Lord, of His great mercy, grant that we may be able, with the first martyr, to exclaim, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;" and, then with him, sweetly and calmly “fall asleep.”
Lord God Almighty, of Thy precious mercy, grace, and compassion, grant it, for Christ's sake. Amen and amen. St. Luke's Bedminster, August 8th, 1868.
BIBLE LESSONS. " Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye
should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain : that whatsoever
ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you."-JOHN xv. 16. The first special truth taught us in this verse is the eternal choice of God the Son of those whom God the Father gave unto Him, as the unity of Godhead between the Father and the Son is so clearly shown in the 23rd and 24th verses. Christ also says He has ordained them. Here His purpose again brought out. But He has ordained them to bring forth fruit. Now, I cannot help thinking that some of the fruits a child of God bears are never seen fruits of the heart-a reciprocity of feeling, as it were, between God and his soul-a drawing out of the soul in love to God, and sweet communion with Him. I hardly mean prayer; perhaps it might better be described as longing desires, as with David_My soul followeth hard after Thee"—though it results in the outpouring of the child's heart to his Father in prayer, but is certainly the Holy Spirit's influence on the heart, and enables the child to say, “My Father.' I think it is something of the kind St. Paul means in Phil. i. 11, “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." But the fruit is not only to remain ; it is also to be brought into exercise. This is very beautifully set forth in Col. i. 3, which speaks of that fruit flowing out in" faith in Christ Jesus,” love to the saints, prayer for them, " love in the Spirit,” “walking worthy of the Lord," " being fruitful in every good work,” patience, longsuffering, with joyfulness. St. Mark says the fruit not only sprang up, but increased (iv. 8). It should both increase in us and in the outward manifestations of it, as Christ says that your fruit should remain-that is, abide or continue. “Be not weary in well-doing." But there is another lesson taught us in this verse, namely, how we should approach the Father, hoping for an answer to our prayers, “That whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you.” It is to be feared we do not sufficiently attend to this, but are too apt to come in our own name, forgetting that we can receive no blessing but in, through, and by Christ. " Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” How necessary that we should always bear in mind the offices of the ever-blessed Three-the Holy Spirit dictating, the Son presenting, and the Father hearing and bestowing all needful things ! Wondrous plan! And it is the Holy Spirit's work to reveal it. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth : for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear [of the mind of the Father) that shall He speak.' “ He shall glorify me : for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." We also learn the extensive bounty of our Heavenly Father.
" Whatsoever" is a large
word, comprehending all our desires; but then we must ask in faith and submission to God's will. "If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us." This is especially the case as regards spiritual blessings; in these His heart and hand are unbounded, far exceeding our desires; but in temporal matters we frequently " ask and receive not, because we ask amiss.” Temporal blessings should always have the prefix, " If it be Thy will." It is His will to grant spiritual things to an unlimited extent, and the more we have the more we shall crave.
In one sense we shall be “ satisfied with the goodness of the Lord,” yet in another we shall only be truly satisfied when we awake up in His likeness, and dwell in His presence for evermore.
THE SECOND ADVENT. “ Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is
taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go
into heaven.”-Acts i. 11. HAIL, glorious hour! so long fore. Pre-eminence in sin and crime told;
Our guilty world has reached. All hail, Thou risen Lord!
The earth, whene'er Thy judgments Thy living saints, like those of old,
come, Still trust Thy faithful word; Seems ready for her fiery doom. And wonder why from day to day, Thy chariot wheels so long delay. The virgins' lamps are burning dim,
And hearts are growing cold; How many suns have risen and set God's faithless priests are leaving Him,
Since this sure pledge was given, And serving gods of gold. To those who from Olivet
Proud men reject the God of grace, Bebeld Thee enter heaven
The Beast of Rome usurps his place. That Thou thyself, once crucified, Wouldst come again to claim Thy The blood of all Thy martyred saints bride.
Still cries aloud to Thee;
Thy longing Church desires and faints The day is surely drawing nigh,
Her risen Head to see :
The battle fought, the victory won.
Amen, dear Lord, speed on the day, And Dagon's might the world en
And, till we see Thy face, thralls.
Through all the dreary desert way,
Uphold us by Thy grace. As in that dark primeval time, Our weary spirits long for home; When faithful Noah preached, Oh, come, Lord Jesus, quickly come. Scarborough.
W. S. R.
" Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your laro, I said, Ye are gods 9" fc.
JOHN X. 34. This passage is taken from Psalm lxxxii. 6, which also refers to Exod. xxii. 28, in which we find the term " "gods” means judges or rulers. Christ appears to be applying the same term to the rulers among the Jews, and manifests His surprise that they who considered themselves gods, should say of Him, who had infinitely so much more right to the title : “ Thou blasphemest," because He said, “I am the Son of God.” After all the works He had shewed them they were still hardened in their belief.
EVENING THOUGHTS AFTER DAILY CARE. AFTER the busy cares of the day the worldling seeks his pleasuro in the gaieties and vanities of life; but the lover of Jesus finds his happiness in returning to the word of God, and seeking his joy in those means which draw him into fellowship with his Best-beloved. With such feelings we have sought the shade of an outspreading tree, and, with pen, ink, paper, the Bible, and GOSPEL MAGAZINE around us, we are hoping that the Spirit of God will so direct our evening thoughts after another day's care, as that they may be mutually profitable to our souls.
And the first thought that suggests itself is, “How absorbing are the things of time, and how little do we seem to grow in grace!". Our movements appear retrograde rather than progressive; and, if we look back to some ten or twenty or more years, why, we enjoyed then and experienced then far more of divine things than we do now. Nor are we alone in such a state of experience, for the eye catches the following expressions in the July number of the GOSPEL MAGAZINE under the heading of “Remembrances and Retracings:"_“ The state of soul into which I am brought perfectly astounds me. Were it not for some portions of the word of God that now and then seem to be brought home with some little power, and just fitting into my case, it appears to me, I should actually sink into despair. I am so hard, so callous, so utterly void of feeling. There is for the most part no dew upon fleece or floor. I feel like one twice dead and plucked up by the roots.' I constantly cry out, “I [am] a beast before Thee.' Oh, how I thank God it was left upon record that the psalmist so expressed himself, for it gives me to feel that at least one has felt as I do.” Nay, dear writer, but let me tell you of another who feels just what you do; and never could language better express his own state of soul. And, while wondering who it is that thus feels as we do, judge of our surprise when, on glancing to the end of the article in question, we find the well-known initials of our beloved Editor. Shall we be understood when we say we have become comforted by his very expressions of barrenness--that is to say, we feel, “Well, if we are sighing for the means of grace and other spiritual privileges, and lamenting that the business of life so absorbs the attention, as to bring one into great leanness of soul, here is a man of God, whose whole life is devoted to His service, and yet, in the midst of preaching, praying, intercourse with the brethren, is mourning over his coldness and unfruitfulness." Well, it amounts to this : the children of God pass through very similar experience. Let their lot in life be cast where it may-whether in the ministry or out of it—they have often to mourn over wretched coldness of heart, and are all found inquiring
“If I love why am I thus ?
Why this dull and eless frame?
Who have never heard His name." Nevertheless, beloved, although we have to lament our barrenness, can we not say we are