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importance to man. The picture which he draws of himself goes beyond even a parent's interest. No love could surpass it. "In season, and out of season," at the time assigned to man for labour, and even at the time assigned him for rest from his labours, Paul was still seeking opportunity to warn, to instruct, "to exhort and rebuke with all authority" and doctrine. And so sincere were his feelings, that they urged him even to tears: such tears as his Lord had shed over the impending ruin of Jerusalem :8 or as ran down the eyes of the Psalmist, when he saw the laws of God dishonoured.9
How does such earnestness reprove the indifference with which sin and unbelief are too commonly regarded.1 He who had the clearest revelation of their consequences, felt those consequences so deeply, that he could not be at ease unless warning every one night and day with tears. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed, lest at any time we let them slip. For how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"
B Luke xix. 41. 9 See Ps. cxix. 136.
i Heb. ii. 1—3.
THE CONCLUSION OF PAUL'S DISCOURSE. HE LEAVES MILETUS—A. D. 60.
Acts Xx. 32 — 38.
32. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
33. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
34. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
35. / have shewed you all things, how that so labouring, ye ought to support the weak; and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.1
The father taken prematurely from his family commits the guardianship of his children to his wisest and dearest friend. Other duties now sepa rated St. Paul from his christian family in this part of Asia; his children in the faith. But there is a guardianship under which he can confidently leave them. He commends them to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build them up as holy temples to the Lord. He says to build them up, because the foundation was already laid. We
1 One of our blessed Lord's remarks, not recorded by the Evangelist, but remembered by his disciples.
were before told how it was laid. It was laid in "repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ."2 Those whom he was addressing had been once "dead in trespasses and sins, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." From these they had now turned, "to serve the living and true God." This was repentance. They were expecting a heavenly inheritance, through him who had purchased it with his own blood; '' even Jesus, who had delivered them from the wrath to come." This was faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the elders who were now bearing Paul, and the churches over which they were overseers, had been placed upon this foundation.
A foundation is not laid without a purpose. It is useless unless something be raised upon it. And the foundation of repentance and faith is laid, that on it a holy life may be built up. The will of God was, their sanctification. They were called to holiness. They were called to disinterestedness, after the example which Paul himself had set them. They were called to brotherly-kindness and charity, and not to self-indulgence or covetousness. And this sanctification is produced by the Spirit acting on the heart through the word. The word of God's grace alone can build the Christian up as a spiritual temple, living to his service and glory. The word can do this, and nothing else. Surrounded as we are by temptation; contending as we do, not only against flesh and blood, but against spiritual enemies ever watchful to destroy: with so
3 See Ephes. ix. 1, 2.
many examples on every side of those who live only to this world and to themselves:—amid dangers like these, what but the word of God constantly studied as a rule, constantly referred to as a standard, can keep us from "drawing back unto perdition?"
It comforted the apostle, that he left this with them: that he could commend them to God and to the word of his grace, through which they might endure unto the end, and receive an inheritance among all them that are sanctified.
This, he says, the word is able to give. The Word of God is, as it were, the title-deed by which the Christian knows what he is heir to. Why does he dare to look towards heaven? Because The Word assures him, that there are those for whom God has prepared a kingdom. And how dares he hope, that he is among that number? The Word supplies him with the evidence of his title. The evidence of his title is, that he is sanctified: that " a new heart and a right spirit" have been wrought in him by the Spirit of God. The evidence of his title is not merely that he is baptized: though baptism is an essential mean of sanctification. The evidence is not that he eats and drinks at the Lord's table: though it is an essential part of sanctification "to show forth the Lord's death till he come." Still the mark of heirship is no outward rite. The inheritance is for them that are sanctified. And sanctification has its seat within, governing and directing the thoughts and words and works. Sanctification is no single act or quality, but it pervades
the whole heart, and influences the whole man; regulates his desires, rules his designs, inspires his secret affections, and guides his outward actions. To be "poor in spirit;" to be "pure in heart;" to be "meek;" to be "merciful;" to "hunger and thirst after righteousness ;"—this is to be sanctified: and blessed are they who are thus sanctified, for theirs is the inheritance—"theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Leaving upon their minds this last assurance, the apostle departs; but first sets the seal to his exhortation .
36. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
37. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him.
38. Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
Paul was dear to these persons beyond common and ordinary friendship, because the benefits they had received from him were more than ordinary benefits. And they knew not what his departure might cost them; how much of that spiritual blessing which they now enjoyed might be impaired, when they had no longer his instructions, his advice, his exhortations. Unwilling to lose a moment, they accompanied him to the ship. There they must part. The time will come on earth when dearest friends must be torn from one another. They look forward to a state where nothing shall separate them ;—nothing give occasion for the words which