The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Almighty God, we know not what we read in thy book except thou dost teach us its meaning by thy Spirit. We have heard the letter and its music is in our ears, but we would hear the inner meaning of every word spoken to the heart itself, then shall we, though on earth, be really in heaven. Thy word is the same there as it is here, only we do not read it well. We know not all its compass. We do not yield ourselves with thankful delight to the sway and inspiration of its infinite music. We are children of the world. We are travellers who have chosen the night for our pilgrimage. We are not children of the day, flowers of the noontide, lovers of glory cloudless and eternal. Thou can make us such in Jesus Christ, thy Song of Solomon, our Saviour, and by him alone. Deliver us from this delight in darkness, and make us by the indwelling Holy Ghost children of the morning, with eyes that delight to drink in the glory of noontide. We know not the meaning of our life. We would crowd immortality into mortality, and the miracle is beyond our little strength. We would satisfy the infinite with the finite, and thus do we live foolishly before God. Show us in Jesus Christ, thy Song of Solomon, that we were meant to lay hold of that which is unseen, and beyond, and immeasurable, and Divine. Thus may we, as followers of the Lord, have our conversation in heaven, and may we bear upon the whole life that we live proofs that our citizenship is on high. We are weary oftentimes because our life is frail. We break down in great unmanly tears because we cannot reach the things that are too high for us. We are fretted and chafed by vexations to which we should pay no heed were we really living in the sanctuary of thy peace. But the world is rough, and time is like a cold wind blowing through our days and carrying them away, and the very earth yields under our footstep and becomes a grave into which we fall. Such is the mystery of this breathing. Sometimes we would we were but beasts of the field, eating their grass, and dying at night. Thou hast stirred us with marvellous inspiration, and caused angels to touch us in the night season, and call us away into liberty and renewed service, and all heaven seems to be busy about us. Why this movement of the soul? Why this joyous trouble? Why this triumphant agony? Surely thou didst make us in thine own image and likeness, and we have lost our glory. Thou art saving us by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thou hast sent him as the Good Shepherd to bring us home again. May he find us every one, and take us home this day. Regard, we pray, all who are now bent before thee at the sacred alter, and receive from each heart its hymn of praise. Our houses are thine, and they are homes and sanctuaries, because thy blessing rests upon the roof. The children all are thine, and thou dost ask an account of them at every sunset. And the sick ones, who would come out if they could, who long to be here, are all thy patients, thou Physician of men. And the prodigals, whose empty chairs at the table trouble us, and whose unpressed pillows are witnesses against them, are surely thine also. Thou wilt not forget them. They make us pray. They compel us to be trustful and uplooking and piously expectant; but for them we might make life one foolish game, and the days a succession of empty jests, but they drag us down and then lift us up. Look upon thy servants who are in business, and who make too much of it, who do not get hold of it aright, and to whom it is a temptation, a snare, and a long mockery. Show them how to lay hold of it with their ten fingers, without one fibre of their hearts ever touching it. And the Lord rule the Nations. Himself be on the throne, and let all lower monarchs draw their breath from his sovereignty. Be with all thy servants today; the minister in the pulpit, the teacher in his class, breaking bread for the little ones, and teaching opening minds the truth of God and Christ; with the visitor to the sick, with the missionary to the outcast, and with all who in any wise shall endeavor to do good. And at night when we sing our closing hymn amid the gathering darkness, may we hear a voice, saying, "The Lord is a man of war, and the victory this day is in his hands." Amen.
1. Now about that time Herod the king [the son of Aristobulus and Bernice, grandson of Herod the Great] stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2. And he killed James [ Matthew 12:23] the brother of John with the sword.
3. And because he saw it pleased the Jews [the ruling policy of the Herodian house], he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread) [about the end of March or the beginning of April].
4. And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter [after the Passover] to bring him forth to the people.
5. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
6. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
7. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison [the chamber or dwelling]; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
8. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
9. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
10. When they were past the first and the second ward [shewing that Peter had been placed in the innermost dungeon], they came unto the iron [a touch of precision characteristic of Luke] gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street [the word implies narrowness]; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
11. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
"Now about that time"—we know that troubles never come alone. We know well what the "time" was which is referred to, for it came under our notice in our last study. A time of famine was prophesied. There was to be great dearth, and great suffering was to be occasioned by that dearth of food. Whilst the Church was put in charge of this prediction, and had already begun to contribute towards the relief of the brethren, "about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church." Famine might kill them slowly; he would find a quicker way! All ways of destruction are pleasant to the destroyer"s mind. Only let his opponents die, whether by famine or by sword, and he is satisfied. What is the Mystery above us which allows such things? How well it would have been when Herod "stretched forth his hand" to have kept it there so that he could never take it into his side again! Such would be our way many a time of dealing with antagonists and enemies. God takes in more field; his thought has a wider compass, and he needs more time for the exemplification of his purpose.
"He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword." This was not a Jewish method of killing people. If James had been tried by the regular Jewish Court, and had been found guilty, he would have been stoned to death. But what is crime of the higher sort if it cannot be inventive? What if a king cannot overleap a hedge and take a short cut to the consummation of his purpose! Beheading is quicker than stoning! Possibly the law may be dishonoured by the use of the sword, or by the adoption of eccentric and unusual methods, but the indignation of the wicked cannot wait. It needs no further condemnation. Its impatience is the seal of its iniquity. Justice eternal, impartial, divine, can wait. It never misses its aim! Though hand join in hand, the wicked cannot go unpunished. There is no counsel against the Almighty! Let the wicked man take what methods he may, in every method which he adopts you will find the seal of its infamy. Having performed this trick of cruelty, Herod saw that "it pleased the Jews," and he proceeded further. That is the natural history of wickedness! It is self-impelling. It gathers momentum as it goes. You cannot stop with one murder. You get into the trick of it; you acquire the bad skill, and your fingers become nimble in the use of cruel weapons. Murder does not look so ghastly when you have done it once. How many people have you murdered? You think of murder as blood-shedding; murder is heart-breaking; life-blighting; hope-destroying! How many people have you murdered? How many are you murdering today at home? "He proceeded further." The one glass needs another (it says) to keep it company. Crimes do not like solitude—they like companionship; and so one crime leads to another, and wickedness is self-multiplied. Remember the words, "He proceeded further!" You do not find God"s amazement in the completion of a thousand sins; you find his astonishment in the first sin. If you can do one sin, the whole life is lost. We are not thieves because of a thousand thefts; we are not liars because of a thousand lies, or murderers because of a thousand homicides; we find our criminality in the opening sin. Therefore, what I say unto one, I say unto all, "Watch!"
"Because he saw it pleased the Jews." There are those who like to see you play the fool and the criminal, and will hurrah you and acclaim you, and when the constable comes for you they will flee away! Why should you be killing other people to please the onlookers? What will they do for you in the critical hour? All the while Herod thought he was king, and yet "because he saw it pleased the Jews he proceeded further." King in name, slave in reality! What contradictions there are in social life, and in official terms! Sometimes the judge has been the prisoner. Sometimes the conqueror has been the loser. Sometimes, as in this instance, the king in name, branch of a blasted tree whose roots were warmed in hell, was slave. He lived upon the popular pleasure. Whatever pleased the people he was willing to do. Therein he tarnished his crown, and sold his kingdom, and lost his soul!
In the fifth verse there is a pitched battle. Read it:—"Peter therefore was kept in prison ": there is one side of the fight; after the colon—"but prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him." Now for the shock of arms! Who wins? It is the battle of history. It is a field on which the universe gazes with conflicting feeling. Prayer always wins. You can only be of a contrary opinion when you take in too little field. There is no action of any importance that is bounded by a single day. It is out of death that life comes. Even the darkness is thick sown with the seed of light. Such prayer as we read of in the fifth verse is irrepressible. The prayers you could keep down if you liked will never be answered. Any prayer that could have been stifled has not force enough to reach the heavens. How to treat irrepressible prayers! No answer has been given to that inquiry. The controversies have waged round such prayer as might not have been spoken—cold, lifeless, hopeless, pointless, prayerless prayer; a religious skeleton! I want to hear what men have to say about the prayers I cannot help praying—that will come out of the soul—and in daring fashion sound for themselves all the places of the universe till they knock against the Heart that opens like the door of home. If you are disputing about a prayer of words I would join you in condemning it, but that is not the subject; it is the prayer you breathe in sigh, or troubled cry, or shout of violence, when the dear life is being taken, when there is but one inch of blue in the sky, and that is fast closing; when the prodigal will not come in! Such praying does not admit of literal criticism. It cannot be written down, it cannot be argued out of the life; when the skilful disputant has completed his incoherent appeal, the heart untouched rushes in eager haste to seek or make a God!
The miracle is eternally true in all that is worth being true. Is it not foolish on our part and most self-impoverishing to be directing faithless inquiry towards incidental points and omitting the central and abiding quantity? All the miracles are true. They have counterparts in our own life, and therefore we have no doubt about their truth. The points to which critical scepticism is directed are really not parts of the miracle. They are but accessories, illustrations, helps, or points enkindled to make the story more graphic and memorable. I know of no miracle in all the Bible that I have not personally lived, therefore it is useless for any man who has not lived them to endeavour to persuade me that they are not true. I have been exactly in the condition described in this miracle, and so have you. Why dispute about the vessel instead of eating the bread which it holds? What have we in this miracle? First of all, we have last extremities. "The same night, when Herod would have brought him forth, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers." Have we not been in that very same darkness, my brethren? When we were to have been killed the next day! Not when we were to be injured, or impoverished, or torn to pieces seven years from date, but when the catastrophe was to occur as soon as the next day dawned? Have we not sometimes counted two or three things that were left, and said, "Beyond these we have nothing?" Have we not sometimes taken up the pieces of the one loaf and said, "This is all?" Have we not sometimes gone out of the house, leaving wife and children behind, with a great sob in the throat, feeling that if we did not succeed this day we must give it all up? So far then you have no difficulty about the miracle. In the next place we have appearances dead against us. Thus—two soldiers, two chains, and the keepers keeping the door before the prison! Why these were compliments to Peter! The devil cannot avoid paying us compliments all the time he is trying to destroy us. There is an involuntary homage to the very Deity he mocks! Why keep such a Prayer of Manasseh, in such a case, between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and the keepers keeping the door before the prison? Why all this arrangement about a man like Peter? Why all these temptations addressed to a man like one of us? Why these deadly attacks, why these continual repetitions, why these suggestions, and seductions, and lures, and charms, and bribes, and why this waiting through all the dreary night? It is a reluctant but significant tribute to the character whose destruction is contemplated. Have not appearances been dead against us? No letters, no friends, no answer to the last appeal, no more energy, no more hope, the last staff snapped in two. So far the miracle is true. In the third place we have unexpected deliverers. Have we no experience here? Is it not always the unexpected man who delivers and cheers us? "But a certain Samaritan came where he was," that is the whole history of human deliverance in on graphic sentence. Have you been unexpectedly delivered from accumulating and threatening embarrassment? Has not one of your own proverbists said, "Man"s extremity is God"s opportunity." Hath not one of your own poets said, "It is always darkest before the dawn?" and shall other men have their proverbs and their poems about unexpected deliverance, and the Christian be silent in the Church when such miracles are challenged? All our life properly read is a chain of unexpectedness. Deliverance shall arise from an unthought-of quarter! We cheer men, not because of a gracious sentiment only, but because of a time-long history, solid as the rocks on which your towns and towers are built. In the fourth place, we have spiritual transport. Peter said, "Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews." Have we no special hymns? Has laughter not rushed into our mouth suddenly like an unbidden but most welcome guest? Have we not sometimes taken down our harp from the willows and struck it to some new tone of joy and gladness and hope? Peter did not understand this miracle at first. He thought he saw a vision. He "wist not that it was true" in the mere sense of a fact, "which was done by the angel." "And when Peter was come to himself he said"—that is the point we must wait for. We are not "ourselves" just now. A thousand winds are breathing in our head and through our life—stormy winds, musical winds—and we cannot yet catch and determine the whole harmony. Our eyes are dazed by cross lights; the light is coming from every point, and we cannot see things in their right proportion, distance, and colour. We are not "ourselves" just now, I repeat. Do not let us imagine that we are now speaking final words or giving final judgments. For my own part, in this great universe I see men as trees walking. Innumerable visions float before my wondering eyes. The righteous are trodden down in the streets, the man of integrity has not where to lay his head; the bad man has a plentiful table, and his fields are so rich that his barns must be enlarged. The little child that has never said "mother," is torn from its mother"s arms; graves a foot long, and no more, are dug in the daisied earth. What is it? When we are COME TO OURSELVES we shall know and praise the Lord, whose angels have been our ministering servants!
Almighty God, is not our whole life a vision? We have not yet had time to consider the matter. We are still in the waking dream, and still we see men as trees walking. We cannot tell what we look upon, when we have had time to consider the matter we shall flee into the sanctuary, and tell the tale of thy wondrous providence. We bless thee for visions. These dreams make us greater, we should be poor without them, but with them we are exceeding rich. We have seen the future, our souls have lived it; how blue its skies, how green its gardens, how full of life its sunny air! Thou hast revealed these things unto us by thy Spirit, and we are glad of the Revelation, for it makes us strong when the immediate tumult would make us weak. Thy Christ shall have the heathen for his possession, the uttermost parts of the earth shall be his to reign over in all the sweet kingliness of his grace. He has redeemed the world, the signature of his blood is upon it, and he will claim his own; not one blade of grass shall be lost, not one hair of one head shall be forgotten in the great audit of thy kingdom. Thy Cross, oh living Christ, shall save the world, and the red drops of thy heart"s blood shall follow the most secret sin, and cleanse it for ever. The grave shall give up its dead. In the new earth there shall be no tomb, in the new heavens there shall gather no storm, in the new kingdom there shall be no farewell. This is the revelation made to man in Christ thy Song of Solomon, our Saviour, the Priest of the universe. It will surely live and shine upon the eyes of men when all their forecasts are forgotten. We love the Saviour with our hearts" undivided love, and because we love him, we love all beautiful things, and all things that may be redeemed. This great love fills us with many fragments of love, so that we bless the little, and the feeble, and the out of the way, with a force and grandeur of blessing otherwise impossible. We would live in Christ until we become as beautiful as himself; the last wrinkle taken away, the last spot of evil removed, the last vanity destroyed; and the whole work finished by the touch of his own hands. Help us to live in the inspiration of the hope that this shall yet be done. Lifting us up from the dust where we have been sitting too long, take away from us the rags of our vanity, and the whole clothing of our shame, and upon us do thou set the beautiful garments of holiness. Bless us all as meeting together in one place, for one purpose, and from thy blessing let there be no excluded heart. Give the preacher power to speak great words full of healing, melting with tenderness, inspired with more than they themselves can utter. Give his words background and horizon, and height and illumination from every point of life, and when they are uttered may men feel stirred, comforted, uplifted, crowned from above. Let the family be precious to thee. Do not break up the house. Yet thou art always threatening to dissolve the family. Thou hast taken away the head whose incoming was like the rising of the sun, and thou hast taken away the mother whose smile brought back all hope and rest. Out of the right hand thou hast taken the staff, and the left hand thou hast smitten with numbness, and thou hast put thorns in the pillow and made the night sevenfold in darkness, and yet wherein we have said, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth best in his sight." Thou hast been to us husband, and wife, and brother, and sister, and little child, all in all, and thou hast lifted us up to a point whence we could see those who are not lost but gone before. Thou wilt dry up the Jordan for us, and the wilderness shall be carpeted with green sward, and the rocks shall be beautiful as gardens lifted up in the sunlight. This is our hope in Christ, this is our song in the night-time, this is the well at which we drink, this is the rock in whose cooling shadow we sit down at noontide. Amen.
Peter"s Final Appearance
THERE is a word in the twelfth verse which is the keyword of a wise life. If people would not speak until they had carried out the meaning of that small word there would be much silence, and there would be much wisdom. The word is "considered." What is it to consider? It is to put things together. To modify one thing by another, to bring things into right relation, to set them back at the right distance, to view them in the right colour, to weigh, to measure, to add up, and thus to form a broad and solid conclusion. That is what you have never done in your life probably. We leap at things. We have no intermediate process of thinking and relating one thing to another; ours is not a task of chain-making, it is often a leap in the dark. Life will bear to be "considered" because life is full of mystery; it is always changing. The four seasons of the year sometimes all assemble together in one brief hour; we are chilled and sweltered in one transient moment; shew your religiousness not by the cleverness of an instantaneous conclusion but by the calm consideration of things which are not what they seem. If you "consider" life under the impression that it is a measurable quantity, that it can all be seen at once, that it is a superficies and not a cube, you will live the days of the foolish. Everything that happens in life belongs to everything else. He who "considers" the matter, loses the spirit of impatience and gathers into his soul the spirits of rest and hope and music. Wise consideration may escape the agony of transient enthusiasm but it enjoys the repose of continual peace. Your house is dark today, and in its darkness you may easily stumble. Know you not that the angel has been there and has touched your companion on the side, and said, "Come away"? Presently you will see the matter more clearly. Consider it. Put things together; rebuke the spirit of impetuosity and distrust, and say, "The Lord reigneth, and because he is Lord, nothing in his empire can be overlooked or lost."
A very human incident next occurs. When Peter "had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark." Why did he not run away? Why did not thoughts of Herod darken his mind? He knew that Herod was an evil branch of an evil tree, and that no Herod ever did one noble deed. Why did he not flee away? Peter was faithful now; he went back to church. In those days the church was in the house; a little church, but not therefore the less a church, true in its life and in its constitution. Peter went back to the old nest. Peter sought the old companionship. Peter knew where his native language, the language of regeneration was spoken, he knew where the vision could be related and in a measure understood. We never know how precious the Church is until we have been among the heathen awhile. Six months spent in Herod"s jail, and then how inviting the church, the little church in the village, the ill-built church up the dark passage, where the hymns are sung to broken tunes with broken voices! How sweet, how restful, how jubilant! We should enjoy our churches more if Herod had more to do with us. The best preparation for simple bread is long-continued hunger. Peter went to the prayer-meeting.
Yet a still more human incident now takes place. The people disbelieved the answer to their own prayer! When Rhoda said, "Peter stands at the gate," they said, who were praying, "thou art mad!" Truly we are in the succession of that Church! Who ever expects to have his prayers answered? Because we are so vague about the prayer, heaven may be equally vague about the reply. Who looks for answers, who keeps Rhoda on the watch saying, "Look out whilst we look up and tell us when thou dost see the answer coming?" A little more anxiety about the reply would give accent and fervour to our petitions and would move the all-pitying Father to more definite communications. I am less anxious that people should pray, than that they should look for answers to their prayers. Is it right to knock at the door and run away? To ring heaven"s bell and vanish in the darkness as if ashamed of the ringing peal? Let me, having opened my eyes after communing with heaven, look about me for the answer, and shew that I expect it. When your child got better after your prayer—you thought she might have got better without it. Did you not? When you prayed for deliverance from a certain perplexity and the deliverance came,—you thought that perhaps it would have come as a matter of course if you had waited longer. That is the atheism which grieves God! The blatant atheism that denies, He takes no heed of, but the atheism that comes after praying to Him and getting the answer, is sevenfold blasphemy! When the damsel affirmed that it was even Peter;—the people who had been praying said, "It is his angel, it cannot be himself." So we fritter away our religion into a barren sentiment! We will not let heaven speak plainly to us; the mystification is on our side not on God"s; He would oftentimes come straight to us and talk in plain mother tongue to our hearts; when He does we say, "It was a dream, it was a vision, it was an impression we cannot account for." In reply to frank words from heaven we return crooked words of unbelief. Let the language be equally plain on both sides, and our converse with heaven shall be broader and healthier. The people who believe in their own spirits easily believe in spirits outside them. If you do not believe that you yourself are a spirit you cannot believe that there are other spirits in the universe. A great conversion must be made in your own soul. You must know what you are before you can tell what GOD is. Let me familiarize my mind with the fact that I am a spirit and not a body, a soul and not a figure, an eagle and not a cage, then all things admit of an emotional and spiritual interpretation; but when I go down in the consciousness of my own spirituality, it is impossible for me to believe, in that degree, in the spirituality of others. But Peter continued knocking. He had just passed through all the experience of the damsel and of the Church, and experience makes us patient with other people. Peter said by his knocking, "I know what they are thinking—it is impossible that I should be here—I have just passed through that selfsame mental confusion, and thought it was not an angel, I thought it was a dream; and they are now suffering from the very confusion from which I have escaped, so I will knock on." "And when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished." Providence is a daily surprise, God is never commonplace. If we only knew it, every breath is a miracle, every out-putting of our limbs to walk, every uplifting of our hand or eye has behind it the secret which arched the heavens and moves the stars. Astonishment of the highest kind properly belongs to the religious realm. Let us see to it that amazement does not exaggerate itself into disbelief. Peter then made his speech, and the value of that speech consisted in the fact that it was made, after consideration. This is a sober-minded statement. The film had fallen from the eyes, the strange air had blown away from the brain, the man had come back again to himself, and knowing the value of words, the shape of things, and the meaning of tones, he separately and studiedly went over the whole tale and gave his charge to the Church saying—" go shew these things unto James and unto the brethren"—give them another gospel, add another leaf to their testament, stir up their faith, light to a brighter blaze the shining of their hope.
Now comes the sad line. "And he departed, and went into another place." Peter disappears from the story! "And he departed." His dear name, glorious name will never come up again. We shall hear of him incidentally in a controversy with Paul, but so far as this narrative is concerned he is gone. We cannot say "good-bye" to a man like Peter without remembering his nobleness. I know we first think of his sin, but who is there that has gone with him to the same depths of penitence and shed the same rivers of contrition? Peter has comforted many of us by his falling and rising again. He was always being called aside to be cross-examined and reproved. Christ said the hardest things to Peter he ever said to any of his followers. He called him once—"Satan." Once he said to Peter, "Thou art an offence unto me;" once he ordered Peter behind, saying, "Get thee behind me;" but afterwards they had long talks, sweet, sweet converse. Between them there passed the great act of forgiveness, and the great confession of heart-love deep down beyond all other feeling, and by-and-bye Peter will go to Jerusalem together with Paul, and about the same time they will die a martyr"s death. Think of his nobleness, of his enthusiasm, of his kindness, of his great-heartedness, and in the recollection of his splendid qualities forget, as Christ forgave, his momentary wickedness. I am sorry he has gone, the place was warm whilst he remained in it; there was a sense of freedom of speech in the church whilst Peter was to the fore. He was not a logician, but he had a great royal heart. The man we miss the most is not the logician, the scholar, the pedant, but the man with the womanly heart, great nest in which we might abide until we forgot our weariness and recovered our hope.
The soldiers knew nothing of the vision. Visions are near yet far away. One member of the family sees heaven opened, and the other calls his brother a fanatic. The light can go right past you without your ever seeing it;—you can sleep through a revelation! There are those who can listen to words that burn with heaven"s own fire, without knowing that any words uncommon have been spoken. Lord, give us the hearing ear and the understanding heart,—that quick hearing that hears a word long after it has been uttered, its echo, Revelation -echo, and far away soundings! Circumcise our ears that they may hear! Anoint our eyes with eye-salve that they may see!
Contrast the opening of the chapter with its ending. In the opening of the chapter "Herod the king stretched forth his hand to vex certain of the Church," in the end of the chapter he is eaten up of worms, literally, of lice, as was one of his forerunners. They were a bad stock, and the worms were ill-fated that had to live upon them! Look at the end of a man. At the opening of the chapter he said, "I have fleshed my sword, and now I will kill Peter also," and at the end of the same chapter he is eaten up of worms. He went down from Judea to Cæsarea, where the life was gayer, where the viands were better, where the wine was keener to the taste, and clothed, as Josephus tells us, in a robe of wrought silver which glittered and shone in the sun as he moved, he sat down to make his speech. And the base sycophants said, "it is the voice of a god, and not of a man." The people that would have eaten him up if he had been in the falling line instead of the ascending scale; the servile mob said, "it is the voice of a god," and Herod devoured the tribute and thought he deserved it, and immediately the angel of the Lord, who has been very active in this chapter, "smote him!" A tremendous and fatal blow! Look at the end of a man; do not hear the atheist and blasphemer today in fatness and prosperity, and abounding wealth: read the chapter through and the chapter will conclude as this concludes,—Herod eaten up of worms—"but the Word of God grew and multiplied." Herod dead, the gospel advancing! Herod eaten up of worms, but Christ gathering the uttermost parts of the earth into his heart and claiming the heathen for a possession! Always read the chapter through. Do not break off a man"s life in the middle and say, "see how vice prospers, see how virtue languishes!" I see Herod, I see him in Cæsarea, I see him arrayed in his dress of woven cloth of silver and I see his proud mien, but I will wait longer, this cannot be the end of it! Every star protests against this as the conclusion, the very shape of God"s creation says, That is not the full stop; things are round, the universe is a circle,—wait!—We do wait—and in our waiting we find two things; the king never coming home again, the king delivered to the meanest fate, and the word of God stretching out its mighty pinions and flying abroad with glad tidings of great joy proclaiming ANOTHER KING whose kingdom cannot fall!
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 12". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25