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BY REV. WILLIAM ARNOT Then said the high priest, Are these things so ? And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; etc. ACTS VII.
  STEPHEN S TESTIMONY.BY REV. WILLIAM ARNOT Then said the high priest, Are these things so ? And he said, Men,brethren, and fathers, hearken; etc. ACTS VII. MARK the perfect man, and behold the upright. That object is worthy of regard anywhere; but here itis placed in a position peculiarly fitted to display itsgrandeur. Everything about the faith of Christians isinteresting; but the trial of their faith especially is foundunto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ (i Pet. i. 7). The flame may live throughout the day, if the supply of oil be constant ; but it is bynight that the flame is seen. So, though a disciple sfaith may survive through a period of prosperity, as asecret bond between him and his Saviour, it is not observed by other men until the night of adversity settlesdown. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; but choose the time for marking him. Thebeauty of his course is generally best seen towards itsclose: The end of that man is peace. The sufferingswhich enemies have inflicted become the darknesswhich reveals his light.Stephen stands before the Sanhedrim, not to betried, but to be condemned. When he distributedalms to the poor widows, I suppose his face waspleasant to look upon as that of a loving, benevolent man; but when he stands before his murderers,in the immediate prospect of martyrdom, it is like theface of an angel. The sun is more beautiful at his settingthan at his meridian; and if dark clouds cluster on thehorizon round him, they serve to receive and reflecthis light, and so to increase the loveliness of the departing moment.  The specific charge preferred against Stephen is,that he spoke blasphemous words against the Templeand the Law. The presiding judge, conducting himself in the first instance with at least external propriety,intimates to the accused that he is put on his trial, andinvites him to plead: Then said the high priest, Arethese things so ? Not wanting in courtesy, the accused begins with a general salutation of respect.A question of much interest has been raised regarding the sources whence Luke, the historian, obtaineda report of this address. Besides the Church in Jerusalem, Avhere a record of all the circumstances may havebeen kept, the narrator had a competent reporter athand in the person of the apostle Paul. Saul of Tarsuswas -present at this trial: and every word of the martyr s defence was graven on his capacious memory, asStephen s Testimony. 141with a pen of iron and the point of a diamond. Afterhe became a preacher of the faith, which at that timehe persecuted, he would still recall the same facts,though invested with a new meaning. Doubtless thebeloved physician took the opportunity of the enforcedleisure of a long sea voyage to learn authentically fromPaul s lips all the particulars of this extraordinaryhistory,It is in the spirit of a devout believer that Stephentraces the course of Hebrew history. He touches tenderly, and with devout reverence, all the great eventsin God s dealing with Israel. His speech, in this aspect,must have gone far to refute the accusations that werebrought against him. This is not a reviler of the Temple and the Law. This is not a renegade Jew whoabjures the authority of Moses. It was not by his his  torical discourse that Stephen offended his judges; itwas rather by his unsparing application of the Wordto their consciences. His elegant apologetic essaywould have pleased his judges, as the story of theewe lamb pleased the guilty king; it was his concluding onslaught, Thou art the man, that enraged thepersecutors, and sealed the doom of the intrepidwitness.Whether he had reached the point whence he couldmost effectually launch his premeditated bolt, or whetherhe was interrupted by some commotion in the audience,we cannot with certainty determine; but at the 5istverse the discourse takes a sudden turn. From an abstract disquisition on the Divine plan, as shown in theOld Testament history, he changes in a moment to abold, personal denunciation of his judges: Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye doalways resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, sodo ye. This sudden charge must have produced agreat excitement in the court. Hitherto, there is goodreason to believe they had listened with rapt attention.The sketch of their own history, given by the accused,must have been grateful to their ears. Perhaps theymay have begun to think, This man doeth nothingworthy of death or of bonds. He had honored Abraham and Moses and David. He had spoken reverentlyof God, and acknowledged Israel as the chosen people.142 The Church in the House.As far as he had yet gone, they would have found ithard to convict him of blasphemy. Stephen, I suppose,had a well-defined plan in his mind. He desired towin their attention, and soften their hearts. When atlast he saw the gates open and the watchmen off theirguard, he made a sudden rush, in the hope of takingthe city by assault, and leading its defenders captive-  captive to Christ.The preacher s plan was in the first instance successful. The word in Stephen s lips proved quick andpowerful. The sword ran into their joints and marrow.The immediate object is gained: there is conviction.The judges are cut to the heart. This is one stepof progress, but it is not the end. For those who seek to win souls, as well as for those who try to make a fortune, there is many a slip between the cup and thelip. Conviction goes before conversion; but conversion does not always follow conviction. When sucha home-thrust takes effect on the conscience, a greatanger is generated. That anger burns like fire, and itmust have some object to consume. It will either burninward to consume your own sins, or outward to persecute the preacher who exposed them. In such a casethere must be a victim. You will wreak your vengeance either on your sins or on your reprovers. Sucha word as Stephen preached to his judges will be asavor of life or a savor of death. It makes the hearerbetter or worse.In this case the anger which the word generatedwent the wrong way; instead of going inward to crucify their own lusts, it went outward to take the life of the faithful reprover: They gnashed on him withtheir teeth. As the fury of the persecutors increased, so did theecstasy of the martyr. The blast of their wrath againsthim, like the wind against a kite, carried him highertoward heaven: But he, being full of the Holy Ghost,looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the gloryof God, and Jesus. These two sights lie close together.Stephen, I suppose, saw them blended into one, andcould not separate them. If the glory of God shouldappear without Jesus, the Spirit would fail before him,and the souls that he has made. In the Apocalyptic
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