Good Tidings of Great Joy
Acts VIII. 5 to end.
"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy."
BOUT whom was last Lesson? What was he? Name another
famous deacon? This chapter almost entirely about
Philip. When Stephen was struck down Philip took his
great trouble came on the Church after Stephen's
death? Persecutors led by whom?
§ 1. Baptizing into the Kingdom
Now, tell me the whole
story of Philip and Simon Magus? (Question briskly on
difference in Philip's which made the people believe?
(a) Very simple—no ranting or incantations or magical
rites. (b) Unselfish, not for gaining money or
"giving out that himself was some great one." (c) The
whole teaching that accompanied his miracles appealed
to the best instincts of the people. He preached Christ
§ 2. Confirmation
Now see Collect in Confirmation
Service. The bishop says: "We make our humble
supplications unto Thee for these Thy servants, upon
whom, after the example of Thy holy Apostles, we have
now laid our hands." Where do we find this "example"?
The Church has kept up the custom: the
bishop is still a centre of unity—no clergyman can be
no child confirmed without him. This central authority
helps to prevent divisions. Is Confirmation in our day
only a mere form? Certainly not. We believe that
through the power of God in the Church the grace of the
Holy Ghost is conferred in Confirmation by the
imposition of the bishop's hands. Therefore we speak of
a child going not merely "to confirm" his promises
and vows, but to be confirmed, i.e., strengthened, by
the power of the Holy Ghost for the struggles of the
Christian life. Confirmation is to us the completing of
Holy Baptism. Therefore look forward solemnly and
hopefully to it
(In senior classes it may be pointed out that St. Peter
§ 3. The Joy of Religion
Eastern picture. A hot road, white in the blinding sunlight—lonely—silent—deserted. Now a cloud of dust, a trampling of camels and horses, and a splendid chariot with its guards and outriders dashing along, and in it a black negro man, gorgeously dressed, earnestly reading a parchment roll. Who and what was he? Where had he been? What for? Therefore a Jew either by conversion or by descent.
Black Jews found long afterwards. (There is now in Cambridge a strange old red goatskin roll of part of Hebrew Bible that has been found in the synagogue of the Black Jews of Malabar in 1806.) See the puzzled look of the black reader. What is he reading? Whom does it refer to? What puzzles him? Probably had heard in Jerusalem of Stephen's death and excitement about Christ. Just in a fit state for learning about Christ. And just then suddenly, "by chance" as it seems to him, his carriage overtakes a solitary man, who startles him with a strange question. What? Tell me their conversation.
What a great deal depended on that "chance" meeting, both for
the eunuch and probably for his nation. Probably first
message of the Gospel to Africa. Was it really chance?
Something else to be learned. Here is an untaught man
puzzling over the Scriptures—like Luther when he found
monastery at Erfurt—not content to throw them aside
when difficult to understand. He was very eager to know
about God. Not many people very eager. A great many care
a little about religion —enough to make them go to
church, and keep from grave evil. But the man that
really wins the happiness and blessing of religion is
the man who is true to the little light he has, who
says, "If there be a God, I am determined to find Him—if
His blessing be possible to win, I am determined to win
it." Of such was this eunuch. God always helps such.
So he went on his way rejoicing, and we see him no
more. But we in thought follow him with interest to his
own land. Tradition
says he converted Queen Candace and many of her
people —perhaps he prepared the way for the later period
when the nation became
Christian, and the prophecy was fulfilled—"Ethiopia
shall stretch," etc. (Psalms lxviii. 31). But all we know
with certainty is that he went on rejoicing.
So does every boy and girl and man and woman who is
really living for our Lord. That would be the cure for
gloom and fret everywhere.