CXXIII. The Death of Stephen.

ACTS vii. 60
“And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

THIS was the close of the last scene in a brief but great
career. Stephen, the first of Christian deacons, the first
of Christian martyrs, had heaved his last sigh. He fell
asleep. It was a solemn and triumphant moment, not for
himself alone, but for the future of the Church of God.
I. Stephen is remarkable as a Christian teacher of
original power. He consecrates beneath the eyes of the
apostles the gift of religious originality. There is an im-
portant distinction between originality and invention. In
the things of God invention is profane. Stephen preached
no new gospel, but he gave prominence to one element in
the common faith. He maintained that the Divine favour
and presence were no longer to be identified with the Jewish
temple and ritual, and in this consisted his originality.
II. Stephen was a man of great force of character, of
great practical capacity. As such he was chosen one of
the seven deacons of the early Church.
This force of character was not simply natural. His
strength was given him by the eternal Spirit “Full of the
Holy Ghost.”
III. Stephen was the first martyr. The idea of martyr-
dom as the highest form of moral courage, as the crowning
achievement of a noble life, is a creation of Christianity.
It grew out of the idea of the inviolate sanctity of truth,
based on the conviction that there was in possession a
truth which was worth costly sacrifice. Where Stephen is
greatest he is most easy of imitation. In one measure we
can all of us suffer for the Divine cause among men. The
eloquence of endurance is the most persuasive of the
Church’s gifts, and every servant of Christ may, by God’s
grace, share in it.
IV. Many persons think if they were something else
than they are they would do a great deal of good.
1. They say if they could command a long term of
years they could do much for the Divine cause. They are
young, and they have no time at their disposal. Reflect
that Stephen was a young Christian of only a few months
old, and probably in age a youth also.
2. They say if only they were in a higher and more
influential position, then they would work. Stephen was
only a deacon, with the sacred twelve above him, and yet
he does a great work. Shedding his blood joyfully for His
master, Stephen shows that faith in an incarnate and
crucified God should ever mean for Christians, “If He has
done so much for me, what can I do for Him.”
Henry Parry Liddon, D.C.L.

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