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"Blessed are they that hear the joyful sound. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance."5
. We are not surprised when it is added, that the churches were multiplied. Men would be struck by what they saw. They saw large companies of persons living in a manner which the conscience of man, even of fallen man, approves: "abhorring that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good: kindly affectioned one towards another with brotherly love : in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord: rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer."6 Seeing this "good conversation," they would inquire into the source from whence it proceeded, the motives by which it was sustained. And then they would be led to him, in whom "it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell,"7 as in a treasury from which men might seek it: who "when he had ascended up on high, received gifts for men, even for his enemies, that the Lord God might dwell amongst them."8
Let all Christians so live, as to be thus witnesses in the cause of the Lord "who bought them." So others may be brought to the same faith, being won by the heavenly conversation which they behold,9 directed by the fear of the Lord, and cheered by the comfort of the Holy Ghost.
5 Ps. lxxxix. 15. e Rom. xii. 9, &c.
7 Col. i. 19. B Ps. lxviii. 18. Eph. iv. 8.
9 1 Pet. iii. 1.
JENEAS IS HEALED BY PETER, AND DORCAS RESTORED TO LIFE. CHARACTER OF DORCAS. —a. D. 39.
Acts ix. 32—43.
32. And it came to pass, as Peter passed through all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.'
33. And there he found a certain man named JEneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.
34. And Peter said unto him, JEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
35. And all that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.
In performing this miracle, the apostle uses words which exactly describe the purpose and the power of the Lord, whose messenger he was. Peter said unto him, JEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole. Christ came to those who were as much oppressed by sin, as iEneas by disease. As the prophet expresses it, "the whole head is sick, the whole heart faint." Out of this hopeless state he
1 A town on the coast, about forty miles from Jerusalem, and ten from Joppa.
came to raise them: to recover them of their infirmity. The promise is clear; and says, "I give unto them eternal life; and no man shall pluck them out of my hand." "My grace is sufficient for them." "Sin shall have no more, dominion over them." And as the promise is clear, so is the corresponding duty. "Arise; arise immediately; set your affections on things above; and let others see your good works," if peradventure they too may turn unto the Lord, unto him who hath given such grace to men.
36. Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
37. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
38. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
39. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
40. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body, said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
41. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.
42. And it was known throughout all Joppa ,• and many believed in the Lord.
43. And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa, with one Simon a tanner.
It is a pleasing account which is here given of Dorcas: of the good works and alms-deeds which she did, and of the mutual affection which subsisted between her, and those to whom she had been kind.
We see at once that a change had been wrought upon her heart. The way in which she employed herself, is not the ordinary mode of living. It is not that mode of living, to which the disposition naturally inclines us. The natural mode of living is that of self-indulgence, self-advancement. Men employ their wealth, their time, their thoughts, on themselves, and not on others; on some self-gratification or personal object, and not on increasing the comforts of those who need them. The wants, the privations, the sorrows of those around us may be as much forgotten and left out of view, as if they were not heirs of the same nature, creatures of the same God.
Here a different character is described. Dorcas had employed herself in improving the condition of those who had fewer comforts than she enjoyed; and now that she was taken away, the widows and destitute persons stood by weeping, and lamenting the loss which they had sustained.
The reason of Dorcas's conduct is explained, when we are told, that she was a disciple. She had received into her heart those truths, which led her, not having other duties, to employ herself in benefiting her neighbours. She was a disciple of Christ, who had loved her and given himself for her. Her first thought would be, how she could frame her life in a manner pleasing to him, to whom she owed even her own soul. And in many ways he has told us how he is pleased. He is pleased when those who have this world's good, are '"ready to distribute, and glad to communicate" it to others. He is pleased when his people "do good unto all men, especially to such as are of the household of faith:" when they clothe the naked, feed the hungry, relieve the stranger, comfort the sick, visit the prisoner. He considers these things as done unto himself. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Such was the Saviour's will, and she must comply with it. Even if command had been silent, she would still, as Christ's disciple, be actuated by feelings which would lead to the same conduct. Her fellow-creatures had acquired a new value in her eyes. They were no longer seen merely as persons born into the same world with herself, who might be convenient to her, and promote her comfort, or increase the general wealth of the community. They were those for whom, as for herself, "Christ died." This gave her an interest in them: an interest in their temporal and in their spiritual welfare: and she would assist both, as God might give her power and opportunity. We find it mentioned universally as the result of faith