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190. The Second Time
And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren. Acts 7:13

THERE is a plain parallel between Joseph and Jesus, his brethren and ourselves.

Certain classes of real seekers do not at once find peace; they go to Jesus after a fashion, and return from him as they went.

Our fear is that they may grow indifferent or despairing.

Our hope is that they will go again, and before long discover the great secret, and find food for their souls.

To this end we would follow the track of Joseph's story, and use it as an allegory for the benefit of the seeker.

I. THERE IS A SOMETHING WHICH YOU DO NOT KNOW.

The sons of Israel did not know Joseph. Like them—

1. You have no idea of who and what Jesus is. Power and pity blend in him. He is far more than he seems.
2. You view him only as great, lordly, unapproachable; a great and stern governor and tax-master.
3. You do not know that he is your brother, one with you in nature, relationship, and love.
4. You cannot conceive how he loves; he yearns to make himself known; his heart is swollen big with compassion.
5. You cannot guess what he will do for you; all that he is and has shall be at your disposal.

Picture the Israelitish shepherds in the presence of the exalted Egyptian prince, as he stands veiled in mystery, girded with power, and surrounded with honor. Little could they imagine that this was Joseph their brother.

II. THERE IS A REASON WHY AT YOUR FIRST GOING YOU HAVE NOT LEARNED THIS.

Joseph was not made known to his brethren on their first journey; nor have you yet found out Jesus, so as to know his love.

1. You have not looked for him. The sons of Jacob went to Egypt for corn, not for a brother. You are looking for comfort, etc., not for the Savior.
2. You have not yet felt your sin against Jesus, and he would bring you to repentance, even as Joseph brought his brethren to confess their great wrong.
3. You have not yet gone with your whole force. As the brothers left Benjamin at home, so have you left some faculty or capacity dormant, or chill, in your seeking for grace.
4. You will have a larger blessing through the delay; and the Lord Jesus will in the most seasonable hour reveal himself, as Joseph did. Till then he refrains.

III. THERE IS GREAT HOPE IN YOUR GOING AGAIN TO HIM.

Joseph's brethren made a great discovery the second time; you are in similar circumstances to them. Go a second time; for—

1. You must go or perish. There was corn only in Egypt, and there is salvation only in Christ.
2. Others have gone and speeded. All nations went to Egypt, and none were refused. Has Jesus cast out one?
3. You have lingered too long already, even as did Israel's sons.
4. A welcome awaits you. Joseph longed to see his brethren, and Jesus longs to see you.

IV. THERE ARE FORECASTS OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU GO.

The story lends itself to prophecy. As the sons of Israel fared with Joseph, so shall you fare with Jesus.

1. You will tremble in his presence.
2. He will bid you draw near.
3. He will comfort you by revealing himself to you.
4. He will bless and enrich you and send you home rejoicing, to fetch all your family to him.
5. He will rule all the world for your sake, and you shall be with him, and be nourished by him.

Let us hasten to go to our Savior the second time.
Surely this is the season, for the Holy Ghost saith "to-day."

Line upon Line

You take it hard, that you are not answered, and that Christ's door is not opened at your first knock. David must knock often: "O my God, I cry by day, and thou hearest not, and in the night season I am not silent" (Ps. 22:2). The Lord's Church must also wait: "And when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer" (Lam. 3:8). Sweet Jesus, the heir of all, prayed with tears and strong cries, once, "O my Father;" again, "O my Father;" and the third time, "O my Father," ere he was heard. Wait on; die praying; faint not.

It is good to have the heart stored with sweet principles concerning Christ and his love, so as to rest in hope though the Lord heareth not at the first. He is Christ, and therefore he will answer a sinner's cry ere long. It is but Christ's outside that is unkind. — Samuel Rutherford

A man who had long been seeking religion in a half-hearted way, one day lost his pocket-book. He said to his wife: "I know it is in the barn; I had it after I went there, and before I left it was gone. I am going back to find it; and find it I will, if I have to move every straw." Such seeking soon secured the prize, and enabled his wife so clearly to illustrate the way to seek Jesus, that the man soon found him also, and rejoiced in a full salvation.

The last time I preached upon the matter of decision in religion was in old Farwell Hall. I had been for five nights preaching upon the life of Christ. I took him from the cradle, and followed him up to the judgment hall, and on that occasion I consider I made as great a blunder as ever I made in my life. If I could recall my act I would give this right hand. It was upon that memorable night in October, and the Court House bell was sounding an alarm of fire, but I paid no attention to it. We were accustomed to hear the fire bell often, and it didn't disturb us much when it sounded. I finished the sermon upon "What shall I do with Jesus?" And I said to the audience, "Now, I want you to take the question with you and think over it, and next Sunday I want you to come back and tell me what you are going to do with it." What a mistake! It seems now as if Satan was in my mind when I said this. Since then I have never dared to give an audience a week to think of their salvation. If they were lost they might rise up in judgment against me. "Now is the accepted time." We went down-stairs to the other meeting, and I remember when Mr. Sankey was singing, and how his voice rang when he came to that pleading verse—

To-day the Savior calls;
For refuge fly.
The storm of justice falls,
And death is nigh.

After our meeting, on the way home, seeing the glare of flames, I said to my companion, "This means ruin to Chicago." About one o'clock, Farwell Hall went, soon the church in which I had preached went down, and everything was scattered. I never saw that audience again. My friends, we don't know what may happen to-morrow; but there is one thing I do know, and that is, if you take the gift of God, even Christ Jesus, you are saved. What are you going to do with him to-night? Will you decide now? — D. L. Moody

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


191. Stephen and Saul
The witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. Acts 7:58

THE Holy Spirit records Stephen's martyrdom, but does not enter into details of his sufferings and death, as uninspired recorders would have been so apt to do.

The object of the Holy Ghost is not to indulge curiosity nor to harrow the feelings, but to instruct and move to imitation.

He tells us of the martyr's posture, "He kneeled down;" his prayer, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge;" and his composure, "he fell asleep."

Upon each of these points, volumes might be written.

Our attention is now called to the incident of Saul's being present.

This supplies us with—

I. A SUGGESTED CONTRAST. Stephen and Saul.

These were both highly earnest, fearless men.

Yet at this time they were wide as the poles asunder.

1. Stephen spiritual; giving in his address great prominence to the spiritual nature of religion, and the comparative insignificance of its externals. See verses 48-50.

  • Saul superstitious, worshipping form and ritual, full of reverence for the temple and the priests, and so forth.
2. Stephen, a humble believer in the Lord Jesus, saved by faith alone.

  • Saul, a self-righteous Pharisee, as proud as he could live.
3. Stephen, defending and vindicating the gospel of Jesus.

  • Saul, giving his countenance, his vote, his assistance in the persecution of the servant of the Lord Christ.
Enquire if a Saul is now present. Call him forth by name.
Have you been a consenting party to the persecution of good men?
Have you thus copied this young man Saul?
You do not object to making Christian men the theme of ridicule.
You smile when you hear such ridicule.
By your indecision in religion you aid and abet the adversary.
In these ways the witnesses lay down their clothes at your feet, and you are their accomplice.

Oh, that grace may yet convert you!

II. A SINGULAR INTRODUCTION TO TRUE RELIGION.

Many have been brought to God by means somewhat similar.
The young man, whose name was Saul, met with the religion of Jesus in the person of Stephen, and thus he saw it with the following surroundings—

1. The vision of a shining face.
2. The hearing of a noble discourse.
3. The sight of a triumphant death.

These did not convert Saul, but they made it harder for him to be unconverted, and were, no doubt, in after days thought of by him.

Let us so introduce religion to men, that the memory of its introduction may be worth their retaining.

III. A REMARKABLE INSTANCE OF THE LORD'S CARE FOR HIS CHURCH.

The apostolic succession was preserved in the church.

1. Stephens death was a terrible blow to the cause; but at that moment his successor was close at hand.
2. That successor was in the ranks of the enemy.
3. That successor was far greater than the martyr, Stephen, himself.

There is no fear for the church; her greatest champions, though as yet concealed among her enemies, will be called in due time.

The death of her best advocates may assist in the conversion of others.

IV. A GRACIOUS MEMORIAL OF REPENTED SIN.

Did not Paul give Luke this information concerning himself? and cause it to be recorded in the Acts of the Apostles?
It was well for Paul to remember his sin before conversion.
It will be well for us to remember ours.

1. To create and renew feelings of humility.
2. To inflame love and zeal.
3. To deepen our love to the doctrines of sovereign grace.
4. To make us hopeful and zealous for others.

Let dying Stephen be cheered by the hope of young Saul's salvation.
Let wicked young Saul repent of his wrong to Stephen.

Observanda

A Spanish painter, in a picture of Stephen conducted to the place of execution,has represented Saul as walking by the martyr's side with melancholy calmness. He consents to his death from a sincere, though mistaken, conviction of duty; and the expression of his countenance is strongly contrasted with the rage of the baffled Jewish doctors and the ferocity of the crowd who flock to the scene of bloodshed. Literally considered, such a representation is scarcely consistent either with Saul's conduct immediately afterwards, or with his own expressions concerning himself at the later periods of his life. But the picture, though historically incorrect, is poetically true. The painter has worked according to the true idea of his art in throwing upon the persecutor's countenance the shadow of his coming repentance. We cannot dissociate the martyrdom of Stephen from the conversion of Paul. The spectacle of so much constancy, so much faith, so much love, could not be lost. It is hardly too much to say. with Augustine, that "the church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen." — Conybeare and Howson

Here first comes in view an individual destined to be the most extraordinary character in the church of God. Had a prophet stood near on this occasion and said, 'Ah! Saul, you will by-and-by be stoned for the same profession, and die a martyr in the same cause;" he would have been filled with surprise and indignation, and have exclaimed, "What, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" — William Jay

As soon as Satan heard of the conversion of Saul, he ordered the devils into deep mourning. — John Ryland, Senior.

Among the leaders of the great revival of the eighteenth century were Captain Scott and Captain Toriel Joss, the former a captain of dragoons, the latter a sea-captain. Both became famous preachers. Whitefield said of them, "God, who sitteth upon the flood, can bring a shark from the ocean, and a lion from the forest, to show forth his praise."

The following lines by William Hone, author of the "Every-day Book," were written to describe his own experience—

The proudest heart that ever beat
Hath been subdued in me;
The wildest will that ever rose
To scorn thy cause, and aid thy foes,
Is quelled, my God, by thee.

Thy will, and not my will, be done;
My heart be ever thine;
Confessing thee, the mighty Word,
My Savior Christ, my God, my Lord,
Thy cross shall be my sign.

Might they not have been written by the young man, "whose name was Saul"?

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


192. To You
To you is the word of this salvation sent. Acts 13:26

PAUL and Barnabas first preached the gospel to the seed of Abraham.

These Jews contradicted and blasphemed, and therefore, in verse 46, the servants of the Lord boldly exclaimed, "We turn to the Gentiles." A blessed turning this for you and for me!

Herein is a warning to ourselves, lest we refuse the gospel, and find it taken from us, and sent to others.

At this moment, to our hearers we earnestly say, "To you is the word of this salvation sent"

Let us then consider—

I. WHAT IS THE WORD OF THIS SALVATION?

l. It is the testimony that Jesus is the promised Savior (verse 23).
2. The word which promises forgiveness to all who exhibit repentance of sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus (verses 38-39).
3. In a word, it is the proclamation of perfect salvation, through the risen Savior (verses 32-33).

It is comparable to a word for conciseness and simplicity.
It is a word, as being spoken by God, and as being his present utterance even at this moment.
It is a word; for it reveals Him who is truly "the Word."
It is a word of salvation; for it declares, describes, presents, and presses home salvation.
It is a word sent, for the Gospel dispensation is a mission of mercy from God, the Gospel is a message, Jesus is the Messiah, and the Holy Ghost himself is sent to work salvation among men.

II. IN WHAT MANNER IS THE GOSPEL SENT TO YOU?

l. In the general commission, which ordains that it be preached to every creature.
2. In the fact that the gospel is preached in our land, the Bible is in every house, and the word is proclaimed in our streets.
3. In the providence which has brought you this day to hear the word. Very specially may you be sent to the preacher, the preacher sent to you, and the special message be sent through the preacher to you.
4. In the peculiar adaptation of it to your case, character, and necessity. A medicine which suits your disease is evidently meant for you.
5. In the power which has attended it, while you have been hearing it, though you may have resisted that power.

It would be a sad thing if we had to single out even one, and say, "This word is not sent to you;" but we are under no such painful necessity.

III. IN WHAT POSITION DOES IT PLACE YOU?

In a position—

1. Of singular favor. Prophets and kings died without hearing what you hear (Matt. 13:16).
2. Of notable indebtedness to martyrs and men of God, in past ages, and in these days; for these have lived and died to bring you the gospel.
3. Of great hopefulness; for we trust you will accept it and live.
4. Of serious responsibility; for if you neglect it, how will you escape (Heb. 2:3)?

It puts it out of your power to remain unaffected by the gospel It must either save you, or increase your condemnation.

IV. IN WHAT MANNER WILL YOU TREAT THIS WORD?

1. Will you decidedly and honestly refuse it? This would be a terrible determination; but the very idea of so doing might startle you into a better mind.
2. Will you basely and foolishly delay your reply? This is a very dangerous course, and many perish in it.
3. Will you play the hypocrite, and pretend to receive it, while in your heart you reject it?
4. Will you act the part of the temporary convert?
5. Will you not rather accept the word of salvation with delight?

Suppose the gospel should be taken from you by your removal to a place where it is not preached, or by the death of the minister whom you so greatly esteem. It would be just. It may happen. It has happened to others Refuse the heavenly message no longer, lest your day of grace should end in an eternity of woe.

Personalities

A minister having to preach in the city jail, was accompanied by a young man of fine mind and cultivated manners, but who was not a Christian. As the minister looked at the audience, he preached to them Jesus with so much earnestness as deeply to impress his companion. On their return home, the young man said, "The men to whom you preached today must have been moved by the utterance of such truth. Such preaching cannot fail to influence." "My dear young friend," answered the minister, "were you influenced? Were you impelled by the words you heard today to choose God as your portion?" "You were not preaching to me, but to your convicts;" was quickly answered. "You mistake. I was preaching to you as much as to them. You need the same Savior as they. For all there is but one way of salvation. Just as much for you as for these poor prisoners was the message of this afternoon. Will you heed it?" The word so faithfully spoken was blessed of God.

Jesus said, "Preach the gospel to every creature." I can imagine Peter was asking him: "What, Lord! Shall we offer salvation to the men who crucified you?" And I can imagine Jesus answering him: "Yes, Peter, I want you to preach my gospel to everybody, beginning at Jerusalem. Proclaim salvation to the men who crucified me. Peter, I'd like you to find that man who put the crown of thorns on my head. Tell him, if he'll take salvation as a gift he shall have a crown of glory from me, and there shan't be a thorn in it. Look up that Roman soldier who thrust that spear into my side, to my very heart, and tell him that there's a nearer way to my heart than that. My heart is full of love for his soul. Proclaim salvation to him." — D. L. Moody

To whom is it that the God of salvation sent "the word of salvation"? He sent it to all sinners that hear it. It is a word that suits the case of sinners; and therefore is it sent to them. If it be inquired, for what purpose is it sent to sinners?. . . It is sent as a word of pardon to the condemned sinner. Hence may every condemned sinner take hold of it, saying, This word is sent to me. It is sent as a word of peace to the rebellious sinner. It is sent as a word of life to the dead. It is a word of liberty to the captives, of healing for the diseased, of cleansing to the polluted. It is a word of direction to the bewildered, and of refreshment to the weary. It is sent as a comforting word to the disconsolate; and as a drawing word and a strengthening word to the soul destitute of strength. It is sent, in short, as a word of salvation, and all sorts of salvation and redemption to the lost soul, saying, "Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost." — Condensed from Ralph Erskine

Charles Hadden Spurgeon

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