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Descend, blest Spirit, in my heart,
Dispel the darkness of the mind;
0! may I walk with holy fear,
Descend, blest Spirit, from above,
LVII. ON THE CHARACTER OF THE BEREANS.
The character and conduct of the Berean Jews, as recorded in the 17th chapter of Acts, is structive.
As pride and prejudice shut out the light of truth, so humility and candour prepare the way for its admission.
These Bereans were more noble than those of Thessalonica. They were persons of a more ingenuous spirit. They did not resort to the base refuge of ridicule and persecution. They possessed a more elevated mind. Knowing the importance of the apostles' doctrine if true, they judged it, not only expedient, but due to the greatness of their message, to receive the Word. They admitted them into their Synagogue, and with all readiness of mind,
with a cheerful disposition of heart, listened to their preaching
Having thus permitted the light to shine upon them, they did not like the Thessalonians, immediately expel it, by driving the holy messengers of mercy out of their city ; but they proceeded to search the Scriptures. They brought the doctrine of the apostles to the test of God's holy word. This they did not superficially, but carefully ; “they searched the Scriptures.”
They dug deep into the sacred mine. This they did, not occasionally, but constantly : “they searched the Scriptures daily;" with unwearied assiduity, like those who were in earnest to discover the pure gold of divine truth. This they did, not critically, but sincerely; not to cavil with the apostles' doctrine by finding out objections against it; but to see whether those things were '80;" whether they were so revealed in the Scriptures, as the apostles declared them to be.
The effect of this ready reception of the word, of this daily searching of the Scriptures, was, that they believed. The Holy Spirit graciously guided their inquiring minds into all truth, so that they heartily embraced the word of salvation. man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.”
This blessing was not confined to a few. It is said, “ many of them believed ;" also, “ of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” What a bright example, and what an encouragement is here held out to us.
Many of the Jews of Thessalonica no doubt acted like these Bereans; for we read, in the 4th verse,
a great multitude believed.” And in that city the Apostle planted a church which shone exceedingly bright in faith and love.
The carnal mind in every place is enmity against
66 If any
God. Even in Berea the unbelieving Jews which came from Thessalonica stirred up the people, so that it was found needful to send
Paul. What a striking picture the word of God gives us of the human heart. We see man under all circumstances an enemy of God. Whether he live in ruder or more polished times, the heart, till renewed by grace, is the seat of sin. Whether he be enveloped in ignorance, or enlightened by science, he naturally hates the pure and holy light of evangelical truth.
The sensual shuns its purifying, the self-righteous its humbling, tendency. All, without exception, love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.
Yet, God hath never left himself without witness. In every age
he has had a seed to serve him, who are counted to the Lord for a generation. Neither hath he ever left his people without sufficient evidence, whereby to prove the truth of his own revealed will respecting them. Among the many facts which may be adduced to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible, the two following may perhaps deserve some notice.
First-as it respects the Old Testament.
It is well known that the Jews were never either a philosophical, or a literary people. There are no works amongst their ancient uninspired authors which can lay any claim to genius. Yet the books of their Prophets surpass all the celebrated writers of antiquity. What heathen poet, however laurelled by admiring ages, can exceed the sublimity of their conceptions, the grandeur of their descriptions, and the exquisite taste and beauty of their imagery, when describing the glorious majesty, and unsullied purity of the ONE, ONLY TRUE GOD;-the works of his hands—the ways of his providence--and the wonders of his love.
How skilfully do they dissect the human heart; and delineate to the very life the character of man in his lapsed and restored condition. How pure are the precepts-how precious the promises--how awful the threatenings--how solemn the warnings with which their writings abound.
When contrasted with the fables of the heathen poets ; with their deification of the worst passions of mankind; with the impure character which they give to their gods; though embellished by all the flowers of rhetoric, and sweetened by the enchanting flow of numbers : it must surely convince every unprejudiced mind, that such writings as the Jewish Prophets have left for the benefit to mankind, cannot be the product of unassisted fallen reason, but the gracious revelation of the DIVINE SPIRIT, under whose influence these holy men both spake and wrote.
Secondly—as it respects the New Testament.
The writers of the New Testament, with the exception of St. Luke and St. Paul, were men of no education ; and yet their writings are the only standard of truth, respecting the character and work of the Saviour of the world. These unlettered men elevated the standard of morals to the highest pitch; and revealed those heavenly principles which alone are able to restore man to the lost image of his Maker. So did not the most renowned and wisest philosophers of antiquity. The authors who immediately followed the said writers, called the primitive fathers, fell into many fancies, and even errors, on certain points, as if it had been permitted, in order to draw the line of distinction between divine inspiration, and the ordinary illumination of the human mind, more clear and defined.
But the two great evidences for the truth of Christianity, are Miracles and Prophecy.
At the time when the Lord Jesus declared him
self to be the Messiah, and proclaimed the glad tidings of salvation to a lost world, miracles were needful, in order to prove the truth of his mission, to manifest the divine approbation to his doctrines, and to fulfil the prophetic character of the Messiah, as recorded in the 35th chapter of Isaiah.
Miracles were also necessary after his ascension, to evidence the truth of those doctrines propagated every where by his apostles, which declared Jesus to be the Son of God, the true Messiah, the Saviour of the world. When these doctrines were thus fully attested, by the power of God accompanying the preaching of the cross, miracles ceased in the church as being no longer needed.
Yet a still more important evidence was reserved for future ages, no less declarative of the divine approbation to the Christian religion than miracles; and that evidence is prophecy. The gradual fulfilment of those prophecies which were foretold by Christ and his apostles, may be considered as a standing miracle; since it is utterly beyond the power of man to ensure the accomplishment of any predicted event independently of the will and pur
pose of God.
Any man may predict, but the accomplishment must prove the truth of the prediction.
Christ as God in our nature foretold what should come to pass through his own prescience. The prophets and apostles, as his servants, spake under the immediate influence of his Spirit dwelling in them. (1 Peter i. 10, 11.) Thus the prophecies which have been fulfilled, and which are now fulfilling, and which still remain to be fulfilled to the end of time, form a chain of evidence to the divine origin of Christianity, which Satan and his emissaries can never destroy.
These two external evidences of miracles and