" So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." ACTS xix. 20. CHRISTIANITY was new in those days. The dew of its youth was on it; the experience of its disciples accord ingly was fresh and tender. If their knowledge was less extensive than ours, their life was perhaps more vigor ous, and their love more warm. The faith of those ancient believers excelled in directness and simplicity; when it had less of human attainment, it had more of Divine power. It is better to have a faith which you cannot explain, than to be able to explain a faith which you do not enjoy. Here is a philosopher who understands thor oughly the circulation of the blood, but whose blood, through lack of vital vigor in the heart, is almost standing stagnant in his veins; and there is a little child, whose blood bounds through his body like a mountain stream at every pulse, but who does not know that the blood is circulating in his veins. The philos opher would fain change places with the child. Give me at all hazards the spiritual life, and let me add a scientific theology if I can. It is better to believe in Christ to the saving of the soul, although you could not demonstrate the nature and origin of saving faith, than to possess the power of analyzing faith so as to resolve it into its elements, while you do not yourself believe to the saving of your soul. Faith in those days seems to have been simple, and direct, and strong, like life in childhood. Such was the experience of the Ethiopian treasurer. He thirsted for the redemption of Christ, as dry land thirsts for rain from heaven; on his thirsting soul the water of life was

poured from the Scriptures through Philip s ministry; the thirsty traveller drank the living water, and went on his way rejoicing. The instrument which these primitive preachers

364 The CJ lurch in the House. wielded was "the Word of God." They had no con fidence in the enticing words of man s wisdom. In simple faith they set forth Him who is the Word of life, and looked to the spirit for the quickening power. This method was successful. Great results immedi ately appeared. The terms employed to express these results are worthy of special attention. The Word "grew and prevailed." The work of these missionaries, like that of the husbandman, has two dimensions breadth and depth. One measurement indicates the superficial ex tent of the field, and another the perpendicular depth fo the furrow. The gospel, through the preaching of those ministers, reached a great multitude, and it penetrated the joints and marrow of each. The Word is said to "grow" when it spreads widely in the world, and to "prevail" when it makes all things new in the heart and life of a believer. The Word of the Lord greiv. The mustard-seed dropped into the ground, became a spreading tree. In the hands of Paul and his associates, it soon over shadowed the philosophy of Greece, and the arms of Rome. For a long period during the Middle Ages the Word of the Lord did not in this sense grow. A very gen eral corruption overlaid and choked the Word in Europe, and the power of Mahomet quenched its light

in vast regions of the East. After the Reformation, the Word, brought up from its grave again, lived and grew afresh. In our own day, it displays all the energy of its youth. Its way has been better prepared in re cent times, and accordingly it has reached many regions which the feet of the apostles never trod. The Lord reigneth. He has remembered Zion, and is healing her breaches. He is building up the walls of his own Jerusalem; children are playing again on her longdesolate streets. A good time has come, and a bet ter time is coming. Those who have lived during the earlier half of the present century have seen great things, and those who live out the latter half will see greater. The word of the Lord prevailed. It put forth a power which penetrated every obstacle, and bore its

TJie two Dimensions, BrcadtJi and Depth. 365 message home. A thing which is in its own nature beneficent may be widely diffused, and yet fail to con fer a benefit for lack of power to penetrate. Sunlight in summer floods the polar regions in continuous day, and yet no grass grows green no harvest field grows yellow under its beautiful beams. The light groivs there into an immense diffusion, but does not prevail to melt the ice and fructify the soil. Times have passed over our own beloved country in which the gospel was like the light of a polar summer -shining everywhere, but melting nowhere. And the same phenomenon may be observed at present in some districts of Europe that are distinguished as Protestant. Men may be proud of Christianity, and yet ashamed of Christ. Our lot has fallen in more pleasant places; we have obtained a better heritage. God has in mercy granted to his Church a little reviving. Besides the growth of the Word in its diffusion over the land and among the

nations, there has been a prevailing of the Word in the conviction and the conversion of sinners. May the kingdom come not in word only, but also in power. We have precious seed, and there are many sowers; it remains that we give heed to the ancient prophet s specific exhortation: " Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." "So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed." The form of the expression directs us to the preced ing verses for an enumeration of the effects actually produced at that time by the preaching of the Word. I. " Fear fell on them all." Both in the nature of the case, and in the experience of the Church, this result is first in order. The sense of need is an essential pre paration for the reception of the remedy. The im mediate means of producing fear are various. The earthquake that shook the prison first alarmed the jailer; the crowing of the cock was the spark that fell on Peter s heart and set it on fire. At one time it may be some external danger, and at another a still, small inner voice; but in all cases of conversion at first or reviving afterwards, a fear springs in the conscience, and constrains the convicted to flee for refuge to the hope set before him. That fear is blessed, which, like the approach of the wolf, compels the wandering sheep

366 The Church in the House. to return to the fold. When heads that heretofore were held high in pride begin to droop on sobbing breasts; when groanings which cannot be articulately uttered begin to rend the frame, as the thaw of spring rends the ice which spanned the river; when the pentup agony of the inner man gathers itself up at last into the cry, What must I do to be saved ? the fear is blessed, not for its own sake as a result, but for what

it promises as a symptom. 2. "The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified." This is a sure mark of a genuine and thorough spiritual pro gress. It is dangerous when a religious movement brings men s names into great prominence. It is true that those who preach with much success must endure a large measure of publicity. The city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. But neither the successful preacher nor his friends for him should court this distinction. Human hearts are in their own nature all too liable to spontaneous combustion; no wise man will do any thing to fan the flame either in his own or his neigh bor s breast. The preacher who on this occasion pro claimed the gospel with success, has taught us by his own example to handle roughly this tendency to idol atrous adulation. " I am of Paul," said one large, very evangelical section of Christians in a certain Church; but this minister was not pleased to see his own name placarded in too large letters on the walls. I think I see him breaking forth like a tempest upon those too zealous admirers. Extending his frame, and raising his arm, and knitting his brow, the fire flashing from his eyes as he spoke, he hurled at the obsequious par tisans the piercing challenge, "Was Paul crucified for you ? " Convicts and converts should enter their closets and shut the doors, and forgetting the preachers of the W^ord, occupy themselves with the Christ whom they preached. When the stars grow bright, it is a proof that the sun is down; while the sun is shining, the stars, though still in their places, cannot be seen. Let Jesus be magnified and all instruments will be lost in his light. 3. " Many that believed came, and showed their deeds," etc. I assume that this confession of sin to

The two Dimensions, Brcadtli and Depth. 367 men was the external accompaniment of confession in secret to the Lord. Confession of sin to one another is a suitable body; but if be not animated by the living soul of confession to God, it is nothing but a carcass. They who believed, confessed. They did not con fess until they believed. You do not throw away one portion until you begin to get hold of a better. The prodigal, I suppose, kept his rags closely round his person as long as they constituted his only covering; it is when he gets the fair robe from his father s hand that he casts the filthy garments passionately away. You will never show your own deeds and count them vile either before God or man, until you begin to see the way of pardon. When Christ forgives a soul, he gets that soul s se crets; when he gets a soul s secrets, he forgives that soul s sins. 4. "They who used curious arts, brought their books and burned them." The converts on this occasion were of the baser sort. The apostle had disturbed a nest of fortune-tellers and sorcerers that were burrowing under the shadow of Diana s temple, and preying on the dis sipated multitudes of Ephesus. Where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. To the poor the gospel is preached. The Master received sinners; his servants followed his steps. The most damaged specimens of humanity will serve the Lord s purpose when they have been renewed into his own likeness. Manufacturers of paper do not reject the raw material because it is torn and filthy. These sorcerers who plied their disreputable trade in the precincts of a heathen temple, will be beautiful when they are new creatures in Christ.

How quickly the tree, when it is made good, brings forth its pleasant fruit ! They gave up their trade and their stock in trade as soon as in the light of life they saw it to be sinful. Their right arm they resolutely cut off as soon as they perceive that it injures them selves and dishonors the Lord. Would that all the Pharisees of the modern Church should, in this respect, follow the footsteps of these publicans and sinners as they entered the kingdom of heaven. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS 2. ALL WRITINGS

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