Page images

beautiful elm-tree into my courtyard. I have been at makes him hold fast there against God, even when many work for some hours trying to dig it up, but as yet I other sins that opposed bim to God's law are cut away. have not succeeded. It is rather old for transplanting, As it is vain to cut away the side roots of a tree you but if one does it early in the year, and leaves sufficient wish to transplant, if the tap-root remains, so is it of no of the roots, a tree will grow again quite well after it is avail towards a man's salvation that he should give up transplanted, even if it were older that this one is.” this or that evil habit, and give himself to this or that

I went forward to examine the tree. A deep trench virtue, if he has not got a new heart. was made round it, and its side roots were all cut at a As the one chief root, if not cut away, is sufficient to proper distance from the stem. I thought a good push maintain a tree upright in its position, and to enable it would certainly bring it over, and gave it one. But not to strike out again those side roots that had been cut a twig or leaf moved. I was astonished, and asked my away, so one unslain lust or evil passion is quite enough friend,

for the enemy of souls to maintain his rule by in the “How comes it that the tree stands so firm, when heart. And in such a case the other evil inclinations nearly all its roots are cut, and it has thus so slight a which were repressed for a time soon shoot forth again, hold on the ground ?”

and regain their former strength. “The tap-root,” he replied, “is still remaining ; so Holy Scripture is full of warning examples, that long as that is not cut the tree stands firm.”

establish the truth of what we have said. What was I now heard the expression for the first time in my the cause that Balaam, he who had “heard the words life, and asked,

of God, who saw the vision of the Almighty,” repeatedly “The tap-root ? what do you mean by that ?allowed himself to be tempted to try if he could not get

“Almost every tree,” said the farmer, “has a tap- the will of God changed ? How came it that the rich root, which goes as directly down into the earth as the young man who inquired so earnestly after the way of stem grows straight heaven ward. So long as that root life, and whom Jesus loved, yet“ went away sorrowful"? remains untouched the tree stands and grows. Were I Whence was it that Judas, who was numbered among now to fill in the trench I have dug, and leave the tree the twelve, and went about preaching, and working alone, it would feel the cutting off of its side roots but miracles in the name of his Master, at last betrayed that little ; they would soon strike out again, and the tree Master ? In all these cases greed and love of gain was would flourish as before."

the master sin, which was not slain, and at last showed We parted; I went on my way to my house, pondering itself as the “root of all evil.” over what I had heard. The tree was successfully In other cases it is sensuality which wounds and transplanted; and now yonder elm stands beautiful and destroys the soul; "yea, many strong men have been conspicuous in its destined place. Years have elapsed slain by her” (Prov. vii. 26). So was it with Samson : since this conversation, but I have never forgotten it. he was free from many dangerous influences ; he knew Many truths of Holy Writ, and many experiences of life not fear; and excess and drunkenness, which have made that I have myself gone through, or observed in others, so many strong ones weak, were far from him. But as are made clear by it.

Delilah “pressed him daily with her words, and urged As every tree that is to be ornamental or useful must him so that his soul was vexed unto death, he told her be transplanted to its proper place in garden, field, or all his heart” (Judges xvi. 16). And even so it was orchard, so must each man be transplanted who is to with Solomon, he who, as a young man, prayed to God bring forth fruit to God's glory. We all spring up by for a wise and understanding heart, and was filled with nature in a wild and barren state ; and the seeds and wisdom from above. Ile, too, when old," loved many briers of this sinful life, with its worldly affairs and strange women, and they turned away his heart so that engrossments, press on us, and hem us in, with their he served strange gods." luxuriant and noxious growth, shutting out the beams A not less dangerous foe of the soul's salvation is love of the sun of God's grace; and we pine away in the of honour and reputation. Many of the rulers among dark delusions that shut us in. Not till Christ himself the Jews believed on Jesus, but would not openly contransplants us into his garden can we be “trees of fess him. Why not? “They loved the praise of men righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be more than the praise of God” (John xii. 43). glorified.” As an old tree will not bear transplanting, As in the Bible, so in our daily experience we meet so it is but seldom that we see an old sinner torn from plenty of instances where one unslain sin destroys all the his evil habits and ways, and brought into the garden of beginnings of good in the man. How constantly it Christ. The younger a tree is the more easily it strikes happens that a man hears the word of God gladly, root in new soil. So also the earlier a soul is rooted in the declares his belief of the truth, wins the love of God's principles of grace, reconciliation, and holiness, so much people, yea, has the name and appearance of a converted the more hope is there that he will take fast root therein. man; and yet, at last, appears evidently as a servant of

As almost every tree has its tap-root, so each man sin, and therefore unconverted! And why? Because, has his darling sin, that one which holds him the fastest while the side roots of the tree of sin had been cut in the ground and kingdom of destruction ; yea, that | through, the tap-root was not.

It is true that unbelief lies at the foundation of all ence of vital godliness was unknown. She waited on other sins, and is the strength of them all. But unbelief several young girls. Before they went to rest at night puts itself forth constantly in connection with some par- she frequently proposed that they should read aloud a ticular ruling sin, in which it develops chief strength. portion of Scripture. The proposal was by no means to Therefore is it so highly necessary that we should recog- their taste; but as the maid won the love of all the nize this. Reader! thou too hast thy darling sin. What family by her pleasant ways and constant good temper, is it? What is the thing in which you chiefly rejoice the young ladies at last were inclined to gratify her, and and set your happiness ? What do you think of first granted her request. It seemed, however, as if they and most when you are alone? When a heavy-laden remained quite careless. After a time the maid ship is in danger of sinking, and must be lightened, the sickened and died. mariners cast that overboard the last which is most She was mightily strengthened by her faith in the prized. What sin is it that you are the most unwilling gospel during the whole of her illness, and closed her to part with? When you think “I would fain be a eyes in the sure hope of eternal life. The strong conChristian,” what babit, or inclination, or passion stands solation which thus brightened her death-bed, reminded most in your way, and is the hardest for you to lay aside ? her young mistresses after her departure of some of the Think and pray over these questions before God, and truths which she had sought to bring before them by the you will soon discover your besetting sin--the tap-root Bible readings. They began to see somewhat of their of sin in you; and then, dear reader, cut it up, spare it vast importance, and gradually the greater part of the not, or you are lost !

fanıily was won to the gospel, and showed it by their

Christian walk. V.—THE FAITHFULNESS OF A BELIEVING MAID- What fulness of joy is prepared for the faithful maid SERVANT REWARDED.

when, in the resurrection of the just, she will again meet A CHRISTIAN servant-girl was, in the providence of God, those to whom in her lifetime she was made such a bronght into a family among whose members the influ- í blessing!

The Church in the house.



[ocr errors]


according to circumstances. When he came to Antioch

he saw the grace of God there. He had the second BARNABAS AND SAUL AT ANTIOCH.

sight, for he had the new birth, and the spiritual perActs xi. 24–30.

ception was a faculty of the new man. He rejoiced in ĪT Jerusalem progress was checked. The the progress that the converts had made, and exhorted

blood of the martyr Stephen was indeed them to follow on to know the Lord. The result of his the seed of the Church; but the seed was preaching was a great number of new conversions.

scattered abroad, and the harvest sprang The expression employed here to indicate the dein other lands. The apostles seem to have considered cisive change is striking and suggestive—“Much people themselves bound as yet by the Lord's command to re- was added unto the Lord.” It occurred before, v. 14. main at Jerusalem, but they remained there in compa- It represents an intimate vital union between the rative seclusion. There was no great enlargement like Saviour and the saved, like the union between the vine that which they had enjoyed after Pentecost. The ruling and the branches. classes, in alliance with the mob, had succeeded in driving One fact worthy of special notice emerges here :-the away or silencing most of the disciples ; Christ, rejected ministry of Barnabas on this occasion was a ministry by his own, had now. turned to the Gentiles. So the specifically intended for the edification of believers, and French rulers, by the massacre of St. Bartholomew, cast yet, in point of fact, it was eminently effective for the a shower of precious seed on other lands, and brought conversion of those who were without. The preacher desolation for many generations on their own.

addressed himself to the converted, and exhorted them While the apostles were waiting in comparative in- to cleave to the Lord; and, as a direct result, many activity at Jerusalem, tidings strange and stirring strangers were brought nigh. The word, aimed at the reached them from a distance. At Antioch, the East- living for increase of grace, strikes the spiritually dead, ern capital of the Empire, a great number of the Gen- and awakens them to newness of life. tiles believed and turned to the Lord. Immediately Those who rightly divide the Word of truth, alternate the assembled brethren despatched Barnabas as their between these two departments of effort. The word is commissioner to examine the state of affairs, and act addressed now to those who are within, and now to those


who are without. Yet in the ministry of the Sovereign The historian notes, in passing, that the disciples Spirit, sometimes the word meant for edification is were called Christians first at Antioch. Then and there effectual for conversion ; and sometimes the word meant the disciples began to be known by the name of the for converting sinners is used for the growth of grace in Lord that bought them. Looking to the result, this believers.

circumstance is memorable. We are not distinctly in“ Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul." formed by whom this designation was first applied. We When the work of the Lord was at its height in An- may gather, however, with a considerable measure of tioch, the worker went away from the city. He went certainty, that the term was employed by the Gentile away, although a great door and effectual was opened to Greeks to indicate the disciples of the Nazarene. The bim-went away because a great door and effectual was name is not assumed in this book by the Christians opened. He saw the door so wide and hopeful, that he themselves; and the unbelieving Jews would not endetermined to call in a colleague-a colleague on whom ploy it, for in their lips it would seem to concede that his eye had for some time been set, and of whom he ex- Jesus was indeed the Messiah. It is more likely, therepected great things. Taking advantage of the proximity fore, that the Gentiles, hearing that name continually of Tarsus, he went to that city to summon the lately from the lips of believers, employed it to designate the converted Saul to his aid. His own net cast into the sect. sea at Antioch was so full, that he found it necessary to The name is sweet, when it is true. But, alas! it beckon to his partner in another ship for help to draw has often been made contemptible in the world through it to land. So, when a miner in the gold-fields has the impure lives of those who bear it. To be called by fallen upon a piece so large that he is unable single- his name is nothing, unless we be renewed into his likehanded to remove it, he leaves it where it lies-leaves the precious lump buried in the ground-leaves it, The other name, most commonly applied in Scripture though his heart is in it, because his heart is in it-and to designate our Redeemer, has experienced a similar goes away in search of a friend who may help him to diversity of use in the history of the Church.

“ How bear the treasure home.

sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear!” I hope the two will not quarrel over the spoil when And yet a Jesuit has become a synonym for all that is they come, for there is enough to make the fortune of false and cunning and corrupt throughout the civilized both. Now there is an opportunity afforded to these world. What's in a name? Nothing, even though it winners of souls to make great gain. Not about this be the highest of all names, unless the new nature be work and this treasure did Saul and Barnabas fall out. formed in him who bears it. They agreed to share the labour and the reward : it was At this time certain prophets from Jerusalem warned about another and a smaller thing that they afterwards the disciples at Antioch of a famine that should afflict quarrelled in a moment of unwatchfulness.

the Empire at an early date. It came in the reign of It has been an instinct of true disciples from the be- Claudius : it was severely felt in many provinces, but ginning hitherto, to concentrate all their available forces most of all in Judæa. on a spot where success has already begun. The spe- This announcement is introduced into the narrative cific call for additional labourers is not strongest on be- not for its own sake, but on account of the fruit which half of places and populations that merely show great immediately resulted in the form of contributions made need; it is strongest on behalf of places and populations out of their abundance by the believing Gentiles in Anthat are at once needy and promising. The call for help tioch, to sustain the believing Jews at Jerusalem in is ever more commanding when you are able to say, not the day of their distress. These gifts have the peculiar only that there are many out of Christ, but also that fragrance of first-fruits. A very great harvest of charity not a few are coming in.

for the sake of the common Head has since been reaped ; This is a beautiful feature in the character of Bar- and the latest reapings have been richest. Never and nonabas. Besides working faithfully himself, he has the where have the fruits of divine love, in the form of help skill to enlist others in the work. He doubtless prayed to the needy, grown so great as in the wake of great to the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers ; but wars lately waged on the far-separated continents of to his prayers he added pains : he went out and did America and Europe. As the prospect of famine in what he asked the Lord to do.

Judæa drew out the love of Christians at Antioch, and Of all the disciples of that day, Barnabas was best exhibited in the love of brethren a glory to the Lord, so acquainted with the talents and character of Saul. He the great wars of recent times have generated a selfhad already (ch. ix.) introduced the convert to the sacrificing helpfulness that has, both for its quantity apostles at Jerusalem, and now he introduces him to his and its quality, become the wonder of the world. great work among the Gentiles. At Antioch a mighty The power of Christ's love was made peculiarly manitwo-leaved gate was opened to the Gentiles for the first fest in the case of these contributions from Antioch, time, and it was appropriate that the apostle of the inasmuch as the contributors were mainly Gentiles, and Gentiles should there begin to exercise and to magnify the recipients Jews. What hath the Lord wrought? The his office.

sun has gone back on the dial. Surely the partitionwall has at length been broken down, and Gentiles and own motion, but to please the Jews. Hence the rejecJews flow softly into one.

tion of Messiah lies articulately on the Jewish people Here too, in the first springs of that stream which and their priests. To please them, Pilate delivered ever since has flowed to bless the world, we learn one of Jesus to be crucified ; to please them, Herod Agrippa the rules divinely prescribed for the management of killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. charities : Among the disciples (1) every man gave ; Hitherto the lives of the faithful apostles had been and (2) every man gave as the result of a deliberate preserved. Like Daniel in the lions' den, they had been determination, a spontaneous act of his own will; and kept from the power of their enemies. The Lord reign(3) every man gave according to his ability. There was eth; and for a time he threw a shield round the chiefs a measure to determine the quantity of the gifts; and of the infant Church. While the flax is only smoking, that measure was the degree of prosperity that God had he will not permit a blast to blow on it, lest the feeble given to each. But this measure was not mechanically life should be quenched; but when the fire has gained applied by any external authority: it was determined some head, he allows the blast to come, that it may be in every case within the court of conscience, and by the fanned into a greater fiame. contributor's own judgment.

Keeping Judas out of view, this is the first breach in The love of Christ, in giving himself the just for the the apostolic circle. They had in some measure learned unjust, supplied the power which impelled the early to walk by faith, and even the fall of an apostle will not Christians into a life of benevolence; but while in this crush them now. In the case of James, the Lord shows matter they gladly placed themselves under law to God, that he will not always interfere to protect his servants they refused to become the servants of men.

from their enemies; and in the case of Peter, he shows that he will interfere sometimes, lest the spirit should fail before him, and the souls that he has made. He

will not suffer his people to be tempted above that they HEROD VEXES THE CHURCH.

are able to bear.

The first martyrdom in the apostolic college marks Acts xii.

for us a law of the kingdom. It illustrates the meaning In the beginning of chapter xi. we learned that suffer- of Messiah's word, “ My kingdom is not of this world !" ings separated those who were united; and so the truth Not an inch of this world's surface will Christ maintain was spread: in the end we learned that sufferings united for hiinself by the sword. The kingdonis of this world those who were separated ; and so, by contributing food will one day be all his ; but they will be subdued by the to the Jewish Christians, the Gentile Christians bridged sword of the Spirit. It was Antichrist that gathered with love the dividing gulf, and permitted the body of mercenaries from many lands to sustain the Roman Christ to flow into one.

bishop's throne, and crush the liberty of the Roman When the converted Greeks at Antioch learned by people. prophecy that the brethren in Judæa would soon be in Observing that no divine power was put forth either straits, they forthwith began to make contributions. to protect James or avenge his death, this weak and Evidently they were cheerful givers. They would not unjust king ventured a step further in the same course. murmur when the subscription list came round. They Finding that one murder procured him favour with the counted it blessed to give, and were ready. Before the Jewish people, he determined to perpetrate another. calamity came, it was provided for.

Peter was designated as the next victim. He was The scene changes. From Antioch we are conducted arrested and imprisoned. The plan of the persecutor back to Jerusalem again. After intimating that the was to gratify the people by a public trial and public



ceeds to show that it was shut among the Jews. In | But the remainder of the King's wrath it pleased God

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

deed, it was the shutting of the door at Jerusalem that in this instance to restrain. To this raging sea the opened it at Antioch. When one channel was closed, word of its Maker came, “Hitherto shalt thou come, the pent-up waters escaped by another. It was the but no further." persecution at home that drove the preachers abroad. “Peter therefore was kept in prison ; but prayer was

But now another stage of the process is exhibited. made,” &c. This is a remarkable antithesis. Man proCloser and closer was the door shut at Jerusalem; wider poses, but God disposes ; and the prayer of faith reaches and wider it opened toward the Greeks. By his apostles, the Disposer's hand. James was suddenly seized and as well as in his own personal ministry, Christ came unto taken off ; but in Peter's case there was time for the his own, and his own received him not.

whole Church to unite in their prayer for his preservation. The king who appears here is Herod Agrippa, grand-God in providence opened a door of opportunity through son of Herod Antipater who slew the infants of Beth- Herod's desire to keep all quiet till after the Passover : lehem, and son of Herod Antipas who beheaded the the Church eagerly entered that door. They "inquired” Baptist. He was mild in his natural temper, but fond by a concert of prayer; and God in heaven was “iuof popularity. He persecuted the Christians not of his quired of” by them to do it for them.


Four times four soldiers were employed to guard the "He gives a gentle blow, and so releases

The spirit from its clay; prisoner. The night was divided into four watches ;

From sin's temptations, and from life's distresses, and four watched at one time-two chained to the

He bids it come away. prisoner, and two on guard at the prison door.

"It rises up, and from its darksome mansion On the morrow Herod meant to bring the victim out,

It takes its silent flight, for he will politically or hypocritically comply with the

And feels its freedom in the large expansion

Of heavenly air and light. rule that no trial should take place on the feast-day. As soon as the service of God shall be over, we shall "Behind, it hears Time's iron gates close faintly,

It is now far from them; gratify the mob with the shedding of innocent blood !

For it has reached the city of the saintly, On the morrow! It seems a thin veil of one night's

The New Jerusalem."-J. D. BURNS. darkness that hangs between these wild beasts and their prey, that hangs between these suppliant disciples in John Mark's house and their great bereavement. The prayer-meeting is prolonged into the night—is prolonged

ANTIOCH OCCUPIED FOR CHRIST. to the morning. A mighty pressure is then brought to

Acts xii. 2–25; xiii. 1. bear on the door of the kingdom-on the heart of the King. This is the violence that takes the kingdom by The account of Herod's death, introduced into the force. The pressure increases as the night wears on, narrative, accords in all main points with the statements and at last prevails. The Lord within the veil loved to of Josephus. He had removed his residence from Jerufeel that strain. He delights to answer such a cry. salem to Cæsarea, that he might be on the sea-coast,

Peter, meanwhile, was sleeping. That sleep was the and in closer communication with Rome. On the occatriumph of faith. Peter's sleep in the prison that night sion of a grand assembly, connected with an embassy was as much glory to God as his wakefulness would have from the commercial communities of Tyre and Sidon, he been, although he had sung psalms till the rafters rang entered the theatre in his robes of state. His royal again. Peter slept in Gethsemane, with the two brothers, robes, studded with precious stones, glittered in the sun on the night of the Master's supreme agony. Then he as he moved, and the obsequious multitude shouted, slept through weakness of the flesh ; now and here he ascribing divine honours to their idol, according to the sleeps through the strength of his faith. There he slept custom of Roman mobs. The judgment of God fell upon through weariness, although his Lord was enduring the frail mortal, and he died soon after of a most loathagony; here he sleeps in confidence, because his Lord some disease. was exalted to the throne of heaven, mindful and mighty So died the persecutor ; “but the word of God grew to protect his own.

and multiplied.” This precious note is inserted in the Argyle's sleep, an incident in Scottish history, com- history for comfort to the Church in time of trouble. memorated by art in the Legislative Hall of Westminster, Fear not, little flock; greater is he that is for you, than shines out as a bright particular star among the honoured all that are against you. The word, a living power, had deeds of our ancestors in a heroic age. The deep, placid free course through the nations when the feeble monarch sleep of the innocent Scottish noble on the morning of who attempted to quench it lay in his grave. Thus his martyrdom was a better testimony to his valour than Pharaoh and his army sank in the sea, while Israel, any that could have been borne on the battle-field. emancipated, praised the Lord and resumed their march.

Here is a precious lesson for disciples in this latter If the princes and peoples of the earth should comend of the world. How sweet it is to lie down every bine in an effort to destroy all the grain that exists—to night, reconciled to God in Christ, and at peace, ready, stamp out the staff of life—they would not succeed. if the Lord should so will, to awake in the eternal The seed has life in itself. Some of it, as the destroyers world! This privilege need not be the rare attainment bore it to their bonfires, would be spilt upon the ground, of a few ; for it is offered as free as the air to all. and be lost to view. The lost would live and spring. • Whosoever will, let him come.” “ Come unto me all From its resurrection a manifold return would be obye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you tained ; and the fields would be sown and ripen-seedrest."

time and harvest would follow each other, after the “The apostle sleeps ; a light shines in the prison,

foolish exterminators had returned to the dust. In like An angel touched his side :

manner the efforts of persecutors have proved abortive; Arise, he said ; and quickly he hath risen, His fettered arms untied.

they have not been able to extinguish the word of life.

God has secured that there shall be seed to the sower “The watchman saw no light at midnight gleaming.–

and bread to the eater, both in the temporal and spiritThey heard no sound of feet: The gates fly open, and the saint, still dreaming,

ual spheres, even unto the end of the world. Stands free upon the street.

“The word grew :” the expression is general; but in "So, when the Christian's eyelid droops and closes point of fact the widespread result was made up of In Nature's parting strife,

many individual conversions, as a river is composed of A friendly angel stands, where he reposes, To wake him up to life.

many drops all obeying the same law. In ten thousand

« PreviousContinue »