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SERMON IX.

THE VISION OF STEPHEN.

By the Rev, ROBERT BRODIE, A. M., GLASGOW.

Acts vii. 55, 56.

“ But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into

heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God; and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God !”

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IF, in Scripture, it had been nowhere expressly affirmed, that “as our days were, so should our strength be,” and it that God would proportion his aid to the exigencies of his people, we should have been entitled to infer this from the sea inspired record of his providential dealings. In cases where is fortitude and fidelity in the endurance of trials are especially the required, and where, from the effect of the example, particular inte importance attaches to the exercise of these virtues, the suffererekin is prepared for the conflict by the Divine support which he vida receives. On the eve of the decease which the Saviour should accomplish at Jerusalem," and of the sufferings which he described as “the hour and power of darkness," on a mountain to which he had retired with three of his disciples, an occurrence took place which was well calculated to prehis mind for meeting the events before him.

• The fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him

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two men, who were Moses and Elias. There came a bright cloud and overshadowed them; and there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear him." The decease of Stephen is not, either in respect of its nature or importance, to be compared with that of our Lord. It resembled it, however, in being inflicted by the hand of violence. It was the first instance in which “ the testimony of Jesus Christ” was sealed with blood: and it was preceded by no common tokens of the special countenance of heaven. The honour which was, on this occasion, conferred on the disciple

, was, in one respect, superior even to that given to his Divine Master. It was not Moses and Elias—it was Christ himself who appeared to the sufferer.

The passage of Scripture which I have read, and in which this remarkable incident in Stephen's history is described, will form no unfit subject for our meditations, met, as we now are, to commemorate our Redeemer's death. May that Spirit who descended, in the plenitude of his supernatural agency, on the person of the martyr, and without whose spiritual influences our assembling at this time will not be for the better, raise our souls from the Sacramental sign to the thing signified, and from the beggarly elements of the earthly sanctuary to the unseen realities of the heavenly! And do thou, ascended Redeemer ! who, from thy throne of glory, didst behold the conflict of thy martyred servantwho in him didst fight

, and in him didst conquer—do thou stant to the speaker rightly to apprehend, and worthily to unfold the glory which descended and settled on his closing

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1. Let us consider the supernatural endowments which Stephen on this occasion possessed—“ He was full of the

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Holy Ghost."

The reference, in these words, is not to the ordinary, but

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to the extraordinary operations of the Spirit

. This is the

uniform meaning of the phraseology here used throughout the book of the Acts. To deduce from this phraseology, therefore, by direct inference, the doctrine of spiritual influence, is not only to weaken, in the minds of the reflecting, the conviction of this well-established, important, and consolatory article of our faith, but to overlook the specific instruction communicated in those places where the language occurs*. It tends in some degree to withdraw our attention from the evidence which it appears to have been one design of the book of the Acts to furnish of the fulfilment of the oft-repeated promise which our Lord, during his public ministry, made to bis Apostles, to furnish them with adequate qualifications for the office for which he had selected them. From this promise they wero particularly led to expect that, in great emergencies, an extraordinary measure of supernatural assistance would be vouchsafed. when they deliver you up, take no thought how, or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak." The aid thus promised had, before Stephen's election to the deaconship, been not only required, but imparted. When, after the cure of the lame man in the temple, and the excitation which the miracle produced, Peter and John were arraigned, and put on their defence before the Sanhedrim-an assembly which embodied all that was venerable and imposing of what remained of the grandeur of the

“ But

* In a pastoral address which the late Mr. Venn, an eminent minister of the Church of England, dictated from his death-bed, he affirmed, " that he had never, in any one instance that he knew of, given an interpretation to any part of the Word of God which he was not convinced, after mature deliberation, to be just and right.” Any temporary misconception of a man's theological sentiments, whether on the part of the lay or clerical members of the church, which might be occasioned by a strict adherence to this principle, should be cheerfully submitted to, in the view of the aid which it would give to the establishment of sound principles of Biblical interpretation.

more splendid periods of Jewish history—they were placed in a situation which required, even in those familiarised to public formal debate, no ordinary degree of self-possession. In far less trying circumstances, the humane spirit of British legislation allows the prisoner the right of pleading by proxy: -a privilege of which practised pleaders have been known to avail themselves. To the art of public disputation neither of the Apostles had the least pretension. They even wanted, if we may judge from their conduct on the night of their Master's apprehension, that constitutional fortitude which would have enabled them to employ the natural eloquence which, in the absence of professional training, is sometimes possessed. They had, however, a better fortitude than what was merely constitutional, and higher qualities than the gifts of nature. Their Master gave them “a mouth and wisdom.”

The supernatural aid which had been vouchsafed to these Apostles, and wbich had excited the astonishment of their judges, had been already enjoyed by Stephen. It was this which had enabled him so successfully to grapple with the arguments of the disputants of “the Synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia,” and which imparted to his reasonings an energy and wisdom which they could not resist. But, if necessary formerly, it was still more necessary now that he was called to follow his Master from the baptism in water to the baptism in blood. The necessity did not arise only, or principally, from the consequences of the part which be acted as regarded himself personally. The influence of his example would be extensive, reaching far beyond the immediate witnesses. To the whole

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martyrs he marshalled the way to glory. It was to him, next to the Redeemer, that they were to look for their pattern. The aid given was proportioned to the emergency.

With a martyr's work, he had a martyr's grace. It is not said, as in some other cases, that “ the Holy Ghost was upon him,"

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but that he was “ full of the Holy Ghost.” He received the divine influences in the same manner in which the servant of Elisha had, when, in answer to the prayer of the prophet, God opened his eyes, and “ he saw, and behold the mountain was full of horses, and chariots of fire round about Elisha ;” and, in the manner in which Isaiah had received these influences, when, “ in the year in which Uzziah died, he saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” In the latter instance, there is a striking resemblance to the circumstances recorded in the text. It was the same person who, in both cases, was seen, and in both cases he was seen, as all enlightened by the Spirit of God will see him—“ in glory.To Isaiah he appeared in the glory which he “ had with the Father before the world was:" to Stephen be appeared in the glory with which, as the reward of his obedience, bis Father “ glorified bim.”

II. Let us consider the deportment which he exbibited. “ He looked up steadfastly into heaven.”

Demonstrations of feeling so little capable of being misunderstood as those given by the enemies of Stephen, when they “gnashed on him with their teeth,” might, especially on such an occasion, and proceeding from those who stood to him in the relation of judges, have shaken the firmness, and altered the purpose of an ordinary mind. But they produced no change in Stepher. He made no attempt to disarm their resentment, by qualifying or softening the language he bad employed. His dependence pointed to a different quarter.

The outward expressions of his feelings were as unequivocally declared as those of bis enemies. “ Full of the Holy Ghost, he looked up steadfastly to heaven.” The action told more powerfully than words could have done what was the object of his trust. There have been some, who, in similar circumstances, where they

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