ACTS 8:4, 5, 35.
IN every church where there is really the power of the Spirit of God, the Lord will cause it to, be spread abroad, more or less. He never means that a church should be like a nut shut up in a shell; nor like ointment enclosed in a box. The precious perfume of the gospel must be poured forth to sweeten the air. Just now we have little of that form of persecution which drives men from home. But godly people are scattered through the necessity of earning a livelihood. Sometimes; we regret that certain young men should, have to go to a distance; but should we regret it? We lament that certain families must migrate to the Colonies. Does not the Lord by this means sow the good seed widely? It is very pleasant to be comfortably settled under an edifying ministry, but the Lord has need of some of His servants in places where there is no light. In many ways the great Head of the Church scatters His servants abroad; but they ought of themselves to scatter voluntarily. Every Christian should say, “Where can I do the most good?” and if he can do more good anywhere beneath the sun than in the land of his birth, he is bound to go there, if he can. God will have us scattered; and if we will not go afield willingly, He may use providential necessity as the forcible means of our dispersion.
The Lord’s design is not the scattering in itself, but scattering for a purpose. He intended that, being scattered, the saints of Jerusalem should go everywhere preaching the Word.
I would call your attention to the translation in the Revised Version, where Philip is said to have proclaimed the Word. The word proclaim is not quite so subject to the modern sense which has spoiled the word “preach.” Preach has come to be a sort of official term for delivering a set discourse; whereas gospel preaching is talking, ,discoursing, and telling out the gospel in any way. ‘We are to make known the Word of the Lord.
Every converted man is to teach what he knows; all those who have drunk of the living water are to become fountains out of which shall flow rivers of living water. We shall never get back to the grand old times of conquest until we get back to the old method of “all at it. In proportion as we come, in any one church, to individual service — -nobody dreaming of doing his work by deputy, but each one serving’ God for himself — in that proportion, under the blessing of God, we shall come back to the old success.
There were no professional exceptions. Philip is mentioned as going down to Samaria to preach; but Philip was originally set apart to attend the distribution of alms of the church. It is good for every man to attend to his own special office; but where that office ceases to be needful, let him get to that work which is common and constant. The time had come when there was no need for the deacon to sit in the vestry, for the poor people were all scattered. What does the deacon do? .As the work to which he was appointed has come to an end, he keeps to the work for which every Christian is appointed, and he proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one of us, then, can be exempted from the work of spreading the gospel be. cause we are engaged in some other work. Good as it is;, though it may be very intimately connected with the kingdom of Christ, yet it does not exonerate us from the work of endeavoring to bring sinners to Christ in some way or other. Stephen, the deacon, began first to bear testimony; and when he died, Philip, the next on the roll, stepped into his place. One soldier falls, and another steps forward. All are to proclaim the ‘Word, and no one is exempted by another form of service. Oh, that the Lord’s people everywhere’, would note this!
There were no educational or literary exceptions. It is thought nowadays that a man must not try to proclaim the gospel, unless he has had a good education. To try and preach Christ, and yet to commit grammatical blunders, is looked upon as a grave offense. People are mighty offended at the idea of the gospel being properly preached by an uneducated man. This I believe to be a very injurious mistake. There is nothing whatsoever in the whole compass of Scripture to excuse any mouth from speaking for Jesus when the heart is really acquainted with His salvation. We are not all called to” preach,” in the new sense of the term, but we are all called to make Jesus known if we know Him. Has the gospel ever been spread to any extent by men of high literary power? Look through the whole line of history, and see if it is so. Have the men of splendid eloquence been remarkable for winning souls? I could quote names that stand first in the roll of oratory, which are low down in the roll of soul-winners. Those whom God has most honored have been men who, whatever their gifts, have consecrated them to God, and have earnestly declared the great truths of God’s Word. Men who have been terribly in earnest, and have faithfully described man’s ruin by sin, and God’s remedy of grace — men who have warned sinners to escape from the wrath to come by believing in the Lord Jesus — these have been useful. If they had great gifts, they were no detriment to them; if’ they had few talents, this did not disqualify them. It has pleased God to use the base things of this world, and things that are despised, for the accomplishment of His great purposes of love. Paul declared that he proclaimed the gospel, “not with wisdom of words.” He feared what might happen if he used wordly rhetoric, and therefore he refused the wisdom of words. We have need to do so now with emphasis.
Let us trust in the divine energy of the Holy Ghost, and speak the truth in reliance upon His might, whether we can speak fluently with Apollos, or are slow of speech, like Moses.
As there were no exceptions on account of educational defects, so were there no exclusions on account of sex. Men and women were to spread abroad the knowledge of Jesus. We read that, “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad” (and these must have been men and women)”went everywhere preaching the Word.” There are many ways in which women can fittingly proclaim the Word of the Lord, and in some of these they can proclaim it more efficiently than men, There are minds that will be attracted by the tender, plaintive, winning manner in which the sister in Christ expresses herself A Christian mother! What a minister is she to her family! A Christian woman in single life-in the family circle, or even in domestic service — what may she not accomplish, if her heart be warm with love to her Savior! We cannot say to the women, “Go home, there is nothing for you to do in the service of the Lord.” Far from it, we entreat Martha and Mary, Lydia and Dorcas, and all the elect sisterhood, young and old, rich and poor, to instruct others as God instructs them. Young men and maidens, old men and matrons, yes, and boys and girls who love the Lord, should speak well of Jesus, and make known His salvation from day to day.
Our Lord means to bring in the rest of His chosen through those who are already called; but if these start aside and are untrue to their calling, how is the work to be done? I know the work is of God alone; still He uses instruments. If you do not tell the gospel, you are leaving your fellow-men to perish.
The principal reason for their constant proclamation of Jesus was, that they were in a fine state of spiritual health. They went everywhere preaching the Word when scattered abroad, because they had told it out when at home. You will never make a missionary of the person who does no good at home. If you do not seek souls in your own street, you will not do so in Hindostan. If you are of no use in Whitechapel, you will be of no use on the Congo. He who will not serve the Lord in the Sunday-school at home, will not win children to Christ in China. Distance lends no real enchantment to Christian service. You who do nothing now, are not fit for the war, for you are in sad health. The Lord give you spiritual health and vigor, and then you will want no pressing, but you will cry at once, “Here am I; send me!”