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what an awful thought, When the king shall return! Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him." Behold, he cometh with the twofold object of being "glorified in his saints and admired in them that believe ;" and of
taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." O, you that are enemies of Christ, if any such there be that hear me, "enemies in your minds by wicked works," enemies by open rejection of his offers of love and mercy, enemies by the persecution of his people, or the reviling and scoffing at his truth, remember, the hour cometh, when he shall say, "These mine enemies bring hither and slay them before me." "His hand shall find out all his enemies, his right hand shall find out them that hate him."9 As Joshua brought forth the kings and slew them, so will the Lord bring forth out of the caves and caverns, and from every hiding place whither they shall have fled to shelter them from the wrath of the Lamb, all his enemies, and manifest his righteous judgment in the eternal overthrow of those who would not be saved by him.
I cannot close this subject with this fearful representation, without repeating the gospel call of mercy. My dear brethren, are there any of you who have resisted or rejected the Saviour? The gracious Lord is not willing that you should perish in your
7 Rev. i. 7.
8 2 Thess. i. 9, 10.
9 Ps. xxi. 8.
obstinacy, but that you should come to repentance. Nay, for this purpose was he raised to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance as well as forgiveness of sins. This is now a part of his kingly office, and for this at this moment is "all power committed to Him in heaven and in earth;" and for this does he now send forth his servants inviting all men every where to repent, and commanding them to preach the gospel to every creature. There is an invitation to you, which it is my privilege as his servant to proclaim. As his unworthy messenger, I magnify mine office (not myself.) I beseech you, in his name, to be reconciled, to lay down the arms of your rebellion. And I pray that the Holy Spirit may accompany the invitation, and cause its acceptance by you, and that you may come in as servants, receive the Lord's trust, keep it by the Holy Ghost, improve it faithfully, and be recompensed plentifully. If the Lord has delayed his coming, it is that his enemies should be won over to submit to him; that his careless servants should see their danger before it be too late, and redeem their time; and that all should have the opportunity of bringing forth more largely those fruits of "righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Wherefore, beloved, seek for grace to improve your present opportunities, and "seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."4
1 Acts v. 31.
3 Phil. i. 11.
2 Matt. xxviii. 18. 4 2 Pet. iii. 14.
ACTS vii. 55, 56.
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; AND SAID, BEHOLD I SEE THE HEAVENS OPENED, AND THE SON OF MAN STANDING ON THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD.
In a preceding discourse I dwelt upon the notice and the command which our Lord, after his resurrection, and just before his final departure, delivered to the apostles, namely, that they should be witnesses to him. In this chapter we have an account of the several ways in which they were called upon to bear their testimony, first, by the declaration of the "truth as it is in Jesus ;" and, secondly, in the suffering consequent on its declaration. We read of Stephen, in the preceding chapter, that he was one of the "seven men of honest report, and full of the Holy Ghost," who were selected to relieve the apostles from the necessity of attending to some of the secular affairs of the church; and of him we find it reported specially that he was "full of faith and of power, and 1 Ephes. iv. 21.
did great wonders and miracles among the people ;"2 and that the opponents of the truth of God with whom he contended "were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake." This led them to suborn false witnesses against him, through whom they might be enabled to prefer some charge which should render him odious to the Jewish people; and it is in answer to such a charge that we find him addressing his opponents in this present chapter. His defence contains a brief summary of the Jewish history from the time of Abraham. His great object in this was, to point out to them the opposition that Moses had received from their fathers, and to show that it had been more or less their custom to oppose and gainsay the prophets of God. And he applies this as an illustration of the evil spirit by which they had been influenced in their treatment of our Lord. He addresses them with singular boldness: "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it." This pointed application of the truth to themselves was more than they could bear. "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their
2 Acts vi. 8.
3 Acts vii. 51.
teeth."4 What an awful picture is this of the effect which the application of divine truth sometimes has upon the human heart! We say sometimes, for such is not its effect universally. There were some, for example, who, at the preaching of Peter, when declaring the same truth that "God had made that same Jesus whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ," were "pricked in their heart," and said, in anguish of mind, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" The gospel indeed is either "the savour of life unto life, or the savour of death unto death ;"6 it either comes "in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, casting down imaginations and every high thought that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," or it comes stirring up the pride of the human heart, and setting it in open rebellion against God. How much then does it become each of you, my dear brethren, to ask yourselves in which of these aspects it has presented itself to you: and would you really know this, examine yourselves how you feel affected towards those that declare it. I ask not what are your feelings towards the faithful ministers of Christ's word, (although I would not have you overlook this point,) but I ask rather how you regard those of your own station and circumstances in life, who bear a clear and open testimony to Jesus, and those more particularly whose example is most likely to
4 Acts vii. 54.
5 Acts ii. 36, 37.
6 2 Cor. ii. 16.
8 2 Cor. x. 5.