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“Never forget to tell the young people frankly that they are to expect more light and larger developments of the truth which you give them. Oh, the souls which have been made skeptical by the mere clamoring of new truth to add itself to that which they have been taught to think finished and final!” – Rev. PHILLIPS BROOKS, Yale Lectures.
“Infidelity is the ultimate result of checking the desire for expanded knowledge." - EDWARDS A. PARK, D. D.
"In the Bible there is more that finds me than I have experienced in all other books put together; the words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit.” – COLERIDGE.
6. The soul once brought into inner and immediate contact with a divine power and life is never left to itself." - J. LEWIS DIMAN, D.D., Sermon No. VI.
ON THE RECEPTION OF NEW TRUTH.
“And Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him." — THE ACTS X. 34, 35.
IF we were to take this book of the Acts, and put it off at a little distance, so as to get its outline as a whole, and its trend, we would find that its main purpose is to unfold the broadening spirit and form of the church of God.
It is a history of transition. On its first page the Christ ascends, and is no more contained in Judea. As the heavens, into which He rises, overarch the whole world, so his gospel begins to spread its wings for its world-wide flight. Soon the Spirit - universal as the “casing air” – breathes upon the Apostles, and they begin to act under an inspiration as free and wide as the wind that typifies it. On every page some barrier gives way; with every line the horizon broadens; one province after another is brought within the circle of the expanding faith, till at last Corinth and Athens and Rome are found playing their parts in this divine, world-wide drama. There is in this book of the Acts, as in Homer, and in all great histories, a wonderful sense of motion. One feels as if sailing in a great ship, under a bounding breeze, out of a narrow harbor into the wide sea; every moment the shores withdraw, and the waters broaden, and the winds blow freer, till at last we get room to turn our prow whichever way we will. So in reading this history, it is no longer Judea, but the world; no longer Jerusalem, but Rome and Spain also ; no more one chosen people, but all nations. Everywhere the Spirit is seeking worshipers; the bud of divine promise has opened, and its perfume fills the world.
With this change of scene there is corresponding change of personal attitude ; conversions not only in character, but in opinion; it is a record not only of repenting and turning, but of broadening. For conversion does not necessarily enlarge a man; it may simply turn him in another direction. It is possible to come out of evil into good, and yet remain under intellectual conceptions that dwarf and restrain one. There is a broad world-wisdom that often runs along with a worldly life, that may be lost if the better life is held under narrow conceptions, so that while the change may be a gain morally it is a: loss intellectually; a process that has had illustration from the first until now, - in the proselytes whom St. Paul found it so hard to teach the distinction between the letter and the spirit, and in those of to-day who fail to distinguish between conduct and character, between dogma and life, between the form and the substance of the Faith. Valuable as this book of the Acts is as a record of events, and as the nexus between the Dispensations, it is more valuable as introducing the life of the Spirit, and as showing how the faith of ages develops into liberty and the full life and thought of humanity. Here we have the full revelation of God evoking the full life of man.
The incident before us is a happy illustration of this, – a minute and graphic history of the experience of a Roman centurion ; a history priceless in its assurance of possible sainthood outside of the church, yet showing its hard conditions : telling us how his devout aspirations carried him into the realm of vision, and drew him towards the faith that was more than his, and brought upon him an inspiration greater than any that came upon his blind yearnings after righteousness. Here also is a somewhat similar experience of Peter, matching and rounding that of Cornelius; for God is teaching them both, drawing them off into the realm of vision, where they can be more effectually moulded to the divine uses. Sleep is not vacant of spiritual impression. God giveth his beloved, not sleep, but“ in sleep.” Into that mystery of physical repose that unbars the doors of the mind and withdraws the sentry of the will, the Spirit may come as unto its own, and say what it could not when the man is hedged about with wakeful and watchful powers. Shakespeare puts the deepest moral experiences of evil men into their dreams; why not also into those of the good ? And so Peter introduces into the world a truth, often foreshadowed, and long in course of preparation, but not yet realized, that God is no respecter of persons, has no
partialities, hears the prayers of all men, and is pleased with their good deeds. This history, with these dovetailing incidents, is mainly a lesson in breadth and largeness of view. In closer phrase, it is a full expression of a gradually developing revelation of God. Cornelius is led out of his small world of simple devoutness, a world where the light and the darkness contended, and brought into the full light and harmonies of divine knowl. edge. And Peter is led out of his still clinging Judaism, with its imperfect conceptions of God, and distinctions of food exalted into religion, and is made to know that God, having created all men and all things, has no partialities; and that because God has none, he is to have none, — his first effectual lesson in the requirement he had before heard, to be perfect, as the Father in heaven is perfect.
Notice how God not only enlarges and broadens the views of these men, but does this in the direction of himself. Peter is taught to think as God thinks, to look on men as God looks on them. He is enlarged upward, heightened as well as broadened in his knowledge. For there is an enlargement of view that is mere breadth without height; it keeps along the level of the earth, grows wise over matter and force, pierces to the centre in its search, weighs and measures all it finds, creeps but never soars, deeming the heights above to be
empty. It is the direction knowledge is now tak: ing. The science and a great part of the litera
ture of the day and of what is called “culture,” and the vast crowd that claims for some reason to