Изображения страниц

obstacles that opposed their ministry. Their Lord had commanded them to preach the gospel to every creature; and they must have often felt the apparent impracticability of fulfilling this injunction, from their incapacity to hold any communication with those nations which were strangers to their own language. But the tongues of fire, fit emblems of the effect to be produced by their descending, dispelled all doubt, and gifted the first preachers of the truth with a passport into every land.

When this subject arrests our attention, and it cannot fail to do so whenever it is brought before us, every serious and pious heart will mourn over the melancholy perversion which has been made in our days of a dispensation so loly. Some

I am willing to hope, deceived rather than deceivers, who imagine that the mantle of the apostles has descended upon them, and that the senseless jargon which they pour forth at their frantic assemblies, is an emanation from the throne of grace, a miraculous visitation, though for what purpose designed it would indeed be difficult to tell. But whilst we pity the deluded enthusiasts who perform at these strange exbibitions, we cannot but deeply deplore the injury done to the cause of the gospel by such absurdities. They furnish the scoffer with an extra jest; they provide the sceptic with fresh weapons ; they whet the arrows of his calumny to a sharper point. I will trespass, however, no longer upon your time, by making further allusions to these unhappy errors. They do not prevail, I believe, to any great extent, and let us trust that, as they will be found to yield no fruit, so, like the barren fig-tree, they may wither and die.

there are,

This day calls rather for other topics of exhortation, other sources of religious improve. ment. You have seen that our Saviour, when he announced the future descent of the Holy Ghost, spoke of him as the Comforter. You have also learned that the first manifestation of his presence was to give strength and support to the apostles, by removing one of the greatest difficulties they had to encounter. This, however, was but the beginning of his gracious assistance. The rushing wind, indeed, might not be heard, the tongues of fire might not be seen again, but the presence of the divine visitant, of wbose first coming they were the heralds, was never withdrawn. In all their wanderings, in all their woes, he was present with them as a barning and a shining light. He hoveredaround the head of the earliest martyr of the faith; he consoled and cheered his spirit, wben earth had nothing but wounds, and misery, and insult to offer him. By one bright vision of immortal splendour, he dashed aside the bitterness of death, and gave the expiring saint a glimpse of heaven, ere he had sbaken off his tabernacle of earth. You must have read, I trust you have often read, the impressive and interesting account which St. Luke has given of this last hour of the martyr's triumph. To-day, when we are considering the Holy Spirit as the Comforter of the Christian's soul, it is doubly precious to hear how he once consoled the

agonies of a Christian's suffering. Stephen had made a triumphant defence-bad silenced the cavillings of his adversaries—had stang them to the heart by his reasoning, although he could not turn that heart from its obduracy. In the expressive language of the apostle, " they gnashed upon him with their teeth.” And now, my brethren, attend, I beseech you, to the conduct of the seemingly friendless captive. Did he supplicate for mercy

from his murderers ? Did he tremble even at their ferocity, or shrink from the fate which awaited him? We read not that a tear was shed, that a limb shook, or an eye quivered. And who was his comforter in this hour of his deepest agony? Ask ye who, my brethren ? Listen to the sacred historian's words of fire, and if ye can have a doubt, it will be fully removed. “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked


steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”

Gloriously and graciously in this case were

the Saviour's prophetic words fulfilled : “I will not leave you comfortless." Mercifully indeed, mercifully almost beyond hope, did the promised Comforter visit his servant in his affliction. And if we follow the survivors of this first champion of our holy faith, through the varied scenes of their eventfal pilgrimage, we shall find in all the same cheerful and unflinching zeal, the same constant and unfading support, which blessed his latest hours, and curtained his bed of death with the glorious vision of God's eternal rest. That Holy Spirit was ever present with them, to give them courage in the hour of danger, and a cheerful mind even in the midst of persecution. Let us follow St. Peter to his prison chamber, and advert briefly to the circumstances which attended his incarceration. He had beheld one of those beloved companions, who had toiled with him through so many dangers; who had been admitted with him into the utmost confidence of their affectionate Master; who had been, equally with himself, a witness of the scenes of the Redeemer's greatest earthly glory, and perhaps of his greatest earthly suffering; he had seen this friend and more than brother, cut off by the ruthless order of a ferocious tyrant, and compelled by his unprincipled mandate to drink that cup of which he had before declared his willingness to partake.*

[ocr errors][merged small]

Herod, we are told, finding that the death of James gratified the relentless temper of the Jews,

proceeded further to take Peter also. And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him ; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” Of the motive of this seizure there can be no doubt. The crown of martyrdom, which had so lately been bound around the brows of James would, but for God's interposition, have soon encircled those of Peter also.

The feast of the Passover drew to a close; the day was at hand on which the imprisoned and seemingly forsaken disciple, was destined to be brought forth as a public spectacle, to feast the malice and vengeance of his countrymen by a painful death. Here must surely be a lesson to the Christian sufferer. The days of persecution we trust are ended; but it must cheer and enliven the soul of the faithful believer now, to see how the spirit of holiness can give strength and support even in the extremity of peril and distress. For our consolation and instruction, the gloom of that fearful dungeon is dispelled by a beam of God's own light, and we are enabled to penetrate the secrets of that dismal prison bouse. Let us enter for one moment, and contemplate in imagination the scene which is passing there. You

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »