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" It is so difficult to know God's will.” Exactly; and this brings me to another consideration.
You will notice that Philip has two distinct intimations given to him at this time of the Lord's good pleasure. The first is a very unmistakeable one, and the second is one which I venture to say he would scarcely have detected if he had not been living and walking under the influence of the Holy Spirit. When Philip had to be called away from the scene of his usefulness in Samaria, where he was so popular, and sent to a place which was a desert, the leading needed to be remarkably clear so that there should be no doubt about God's will, and therefore we read : “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go towards the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.” He was not left in any condition of uncertainty. The angelic messenger stood before him and gave him a direct message from God. Philip would have had to doubt his own senses before he could have doubted the message which God had just delivered. Sometimes it is so with us, we have not the least doubt or question as to what we should do.
Jonah had not the least question as to the command that he should arise and go to Nineveh ; and he showed that he had not by flying from the presence of God.
O, my brethren, how many of us are like him. We know as clearly as possible what the line of our duty and privilege is, and yet we fly away from God's presence. We begin to mystify what is unmistakeable, until we get into a state of utter moral bewilderment, and then we say we don't know what to do. Whom have we to thank for it ? Just our own stupid obstinacy. The darkness has been self-caused.
There are other occasions, however, on which the leading is not so clear. It is the inward voice that speaks ; it is the still small voice, and in order to hear it, there must be silence in the heart. As long as the tumultuous sounds of earth are to be heard there, you can't detect the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. You and I require to have our senses educated to detect it. When they are so educated it becomes easy to discern our direct course in the midst of the intricacies of life, and without this education it is impossible to discern it clearly.
My dear friend, you may go to your minister and spread your case before him, and say—I don't know exactly how to
act. Can't you direct me? And he may say—You had better take this or that line of conduct. But it may be all wrong, although he may have given you the best advice in his power.
What God wanted was that you should be guided by the unction of the Holy One, and you can only be guided by that unction as you yield yourself up to the power of the Holy Ghost. God does not want us to suspend the operation of that intelligence which He has imparted to us. But again and again it is the case that our human reason will fail us while our intuition will be perfectly correct.
Further, I want you to notice how much nobler and better this life is which is directed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit-how much better it is than any life of routine. I find there are some Christians always laying down rules for themselves in certain particulars. I have known them make it a rule that they would never come into the presence of an unconverted person, but they would speak to him about his soul. I wish there were more who erred on this side. But I don't think we are called upon to make any such vows. We are called upon to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Only let there be downright integrity of heart and earnestness of purposeonly put yourself in God's hand and watch yourself narrowly, if you really are willing to be a fool in the eyes of the world, and to be trampled upon as our blessed Lord was. Give yourself up to God. “Here am I, send me !" Let a man cast himself thus on the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and I am bold to say that the man who speaks thus will speak with effect. But if you speak as a matter of duty, and have laid down a certain law for yourself, I venture to think that you will do it in such a formal way that people will feel, when you have done, very much relieved,—and they will see you are very much relieved too,—and how much good it will do them!
Here is another man who is living under the power of the Spirit, for I am not speaking of Christians who go and fall asleep on sofas, and say they can't do any work for God because they have not opportunity; I am speaking of Christians who believe in the Holy Ghost, who believe in the presence of the Holy Ghost in their hearts, and that He will guide their conduct. He is brought into contact with some who is unconverted, and he speaks naturally and with ease. There is nothing artificial about a real Christian, at any rate there ought not to be. At the same time there is a
burden on that Christian man's heart. What is it? Not “ that I may do my duty, and say something to that unconverted man; but this man is dear to my Father, and he is dear to me, and I must try to win him.” And then the Christian begins to wait on God for direction—“Lord, here am I: put a word into my mouth.” By-and-by the conversation turns naturally in the right direction, or perhaps God leads him to take a very bold step, as Philip did in this
There are no stereotyped rules of conduct laid down in the Word of God. This man is waiting upon God, and by-and-by the opportunity occurs. Look how his eyes are fixed; how they speak to the heart of his friend! What energy, what zeal, what love, what a strange power is in his manner! It is evident he is not discharging himself of a duty. He is trying to save a sinking soul from hell. It is just the difference between a parade and a battle. In the one case it is a show for the satisfaction of the parties concerned, and in the other it is a downright, honest effort to save a perishing soul from the power of his great enemy.
This man Philip lived in the power of the Holy Ghost, and the result was that the Holy Ghost could speak to him. I can enter into his feelings as he went along that desert way. I dare say he was thinking about Samaria and of the bright and happy scenes he had witnessed there. And what a parting there had been; and I dare say there would be some who would
think there must be some mistake about his going away ? No. On Philip went. At last he sees a splendid cortège drawing near, and a nobleman sitting surrounded by pomp and state. “Surely this can't be my work.” Philip was only a humble man in a low position of life. He had nothing to commend him to so stately a dignitary as the Ethiopian eunuch. No; the child of God, living in the power of the Holy Ghost, never talks in that way. "What wilt thou have me to do ?” By-and-by it is all made plain ; God speaks; the man hears; his educated sensibility catches the voice of the Holy Spirit. "Philip, go near and join thyself to this chariot.
And now observe, no sooner is the word spoken than “Philip ran thither to him.” That is not what some of us do. When God gives us a call we begin to creep thither. How many creeping, limping Christians there are. They
have got something to do for God's glory, and they begin to creep about it. “I have a natural indisposition to occupy a post of publicity or to excite anything like general observation.”. My friend, what has thy natural character got to do with it? Is it by your natural character or by your supernatural character that you are going to glorify God? By which is it that you are going to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life? When the fabric of your spiritual history has been fully reared, will it not be “ grace and grace unto it" from begining to end? Let me give you a word of advice—especially you, dear children of God, who have lately turned to Him. Whenever God intimates His will, run, and you will find the cross will grow very light where there are willing feet. It is heavy to the man who crawls, but light to the man who runs. Philip ran, and when he is beside the chariot he hears the nobleman reading something. isn't it wonderful ? It is the very thing Philip would have liked him to be reading. And as soon as he hears him he draws a little nearer, and he asked a most impertinent question “Understandest thou what thou readest ?”
Here was a man in a humble position in life going up to a stately equipage and addressing himself to a lordly person, and asking him this very bold and audacious question“Understandest thou what thou readest ?” My dear friends, there is a time to be bold, there is a time to be outspoken, as well as a time to be gentle and tender; and if we will only put ourselves into the hands of the Holy Spirit, God will show us not only what to say but how to say it. We have got a little lesson here from Philip. Are we going to carry it out in our practice? If we could get Christians to resemble Philip, we should see a different state of things. Instead of talking about our depraved and Godless thousands, we should be able to hold jubilee meetings over hundreds of thousands of our fellow-men converted to God.
We hear the question discussed at church congresses—How to reach the masses ? Let the Holy Spirit reach the hearts of God's children, wake them up from their sleep, and cause them to hear the Holy Ghost speaking to them, andjwhen the Holy Ghost has reached their hearts they will soon reach the masses.
But now let us for the present turn away from Philip and fix our eyes on the Ethiopian eunuch.
There are a great many things about him that strike us.
First of all look at the
He is a poor, benighted man. His circumstances had been most unfavourable. He had never had half the privileges you and I have had. But he was an honest searcher after truth. Deep down in his heart there was a conscious yearning for something he had not yet obtained. He had had the religion of his country, with all its idolatrous rites and pageantry; but that would not satisfy him without God. There was a hunger within his soul, a want which he was honest enough to recognise, and having recognised it, to act as though he recognised it. In his eagerness to discover the truth he turns his back on his own nationality, although by doing so he might incur the odium of some and the contempt of others, although he might run some risk of losing the high appointments he held. He feels within himself--I can no longer satisfy myself with the miserable superstitions that exist in my own lands; I want something my heart can really rest upon. He has heard the story of Jehovah's greatness, and although it was humbling to his national pride and prejudices, he makes up his mind that if this discovery is to be made he will make it.
O, for an honest heart! O, for a determination to get God's truth at any price! What multitudes there are to be found in our own land whose determination seems just to lie in the other direction. It seems as if they had made up their mind to buy error at any price. They give it all sorts of capricious names, and then they go and buy it. If you examine their views you will find that they are so many blinds invented for the express purpose of keeping their conscience quiet, and enabling them to live on in the darkness, when the true light is shining. In the Bible we have what the eunuch knew nothing of. We have got the mystery and the way to heaven made clear, so that a child may understand it. In the Bible we have got a voice that calls us to our Father's home, a voice that speaks to our heart with all the eloquence and yet with all the simplicity of perfect, spiritual wisdom. The eunuch had nothing of the kind; but he adhered faithfully to the light which he had, and, in spite of the darkness, pursued that light, however faint. Some of us, dear friends, are turning God's own
light into darkness, and how great is that darkness! Now I want to ask you a question. Have you come to this church to-day to hear the preacher, or have you come here to listen to God's