Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. A GREAT AND SAD CONTRAST. They brought daily to the Beautiful gate of the temple a lame beggar, who asked alms of all that entered (vers. 2, 3). What a striking contrast is here! - the large, strong, handsome gate, wrought by the most skilful workmen, intended to add beauty and attractiveness to the magnificent temple, an object of keen, universal admiration; and, laid down at the foot of it, a poor, ill-clad, deformed, helpless beggar, fain to find a miserable existence by asking the pity of all that passed through. Such contrasts has sin introduced into this world. If we look on this whole fabric of nature as a temple in which God manifests his presence, and on our earth, with all its loveliness and grandeur, as one of its beautiful gates, then we see, in strongest and saddest contrast with it, stricken, helpless, deformed human nature - man brought down to the very ground, unable to sustain himself, the pitiful object of compassion: we behold the fair workmanship of God with all its exquisite beauty, and we see sinning, erring, suffering, fallen man by its side.
II. A PICTURE OF SIN IN ITS STRENGTH. What more forcible illustration of this can he found than in a man lame from his birth (ver. 2)? One born to the heritage of mankind, viz. that of voluntary, happy activity; of walking, running, moving, whithersoever he would, with free power of motion, in all acts of duty, pleasure, affection; - this man doomed to utter helplessness, his deformity or disease becoming more rigid and incurable as the months and years pass by! What a picture, this, of our human spirit, created to enjoy the heritage of a holy intelligence, viz. that of free and happy activity in all the ways of righteousness, piety, usefulness; of moving joyously along all the paths in which God invites his children to walk; yet, from the very beginning, being utterly unable to walk in the way of his commandments, to run in the paths of wisdom and of peace, incapable of doing that for which it was called into being, and becoming more rigidly and hopelessly fixed in its spiritual incapacity year by year.
III. THE INTERVENTION OF THE GOSPEL OF GOD.
1. It demands attention. "Peter. . . with John, said, Look on us" (ver. 4). The gospel of Christ has a right to make this same appeal to all men. No seeking, struggling soul has a right to be regardless of its offers. The beneficent and mighty works of Jesus Christ; the profound spiritual truths he uttered; the beautiful and exalted life he lived; the strange and wondrous death he died; the message of love he left behind him; the adaptation, proved by eighteen centuries of human history, of his system to the deepest wants of human nature; - all these conspire to give to the gospel of God the right to demand attention - to say, "Look on me;" see whether there is not in me the help and healing which you need.
2. It disclaims certain offices. "Silver and gold have I none," etc. (ver. 6). The gospel does not offer to do everything for man which it may be desirable should, in some way, be done. It does not propose
(1) to effect renovation by revolutionary social changes, or
(2) to bring about immediate improvement in the outward conditions of a man's life, or
(3) to guarantee bodily health or immunity from temporal trouble and domestic loss. It tends to ameliorate the condition of mankind in every way, and ultimately it does so; but its first promise, and that by which it is to be tested and judged, is not of this order.
3. It offers one essential service. "In the Name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk" (ver. 6). It says to the stricken, wounded soul, "Wilt thou be made whole?" To the soul burdened with a sense of sin, it offers pardoning love and spiritual peace; to the heart oppressed with care and fear, it offers a Divine refuge in which to hide; to the soul struggling with temptation, an almighty Friend; to the weary traveler, a home of rest and joy. Whatever is the one imperative thing, that the gospel of Christ presents; but its offer is inward, spiritual, heavenly.
IV. THE BLESSED ISSUE. (Vers. 7-10.) This was:
1. Healing to him that had been helpless.
2. Gratitude showing itself in praise.
3. Interested attention on the part of those outside: "They were filled with wonder and amazement;" they were in a state most favorable for the reception of the truth. When we make an appeal to Christ, we are not to be satisfied until we have found spiritual recovery; until our souls are filled with the spirit of thanksgiving; until our restoration has told upon our neighbors as well as on ourselves. - C.
I. THE ANTECEDENTS OF THE CURE. Peter and John were going up in company to the temple at the evening hour of prayer. Here we see:
1. The fellowship of different orders of minds in Christ. None more diverse in character and temperament than the impulsive Peter and the contemplative John.
2. Prayer one of the bonds of this fellowship, as expressed in the beautiful hymn, "How blest the tie that binds!"
3. An example of the profit of set times and seasons for worship. (See on the three times of daily prayer - the third, sixth, and ninth hours - Daniel 6:10 and Psalm 55:18.) And the good also of a fixed place of prayer. The temple, the synagogue, the Church, or the meeting-house; each has its hallowed and happy associations. How greatly devotion is helped by the imagination, and the imagination how dependent upon association, must be obvious to all.
4. The path of true devotion is often found to be the path that leads to useful service to others.
II. THE SUFFERER. Lame from his birth, deprived of that power of independent activity in which so much of the enjoyment of life consists, he is the type of a deeply pitiable class. To have health is so great a blessing, because it carries with it that of command over one's powers, and therefore freedom and independence. He was helplessly dependent - borne by others. Such sufferings remind us of the presence of moral evil, which can neither be explained nor explained away. But there are compensations. The lame man had friends. Seldom does such misery fail to stir up pity and enlist help. Outward evils are ever balanced in the Divine wisdom by inward good. We never know the kindness of man to man till sickness and sorrow reveal it. They carried him to one of the splendid gateways of the temple, that he might be in the way of the charitable droppings of alms from those that went in. The religious duty of almsgiving was preached up by the rabbis incessantly and in the strongest way - even to excess, as we may see from Lightfoot and other authors. One noted saying was that God suffered the poor to exist that rich men might earn heaven. Our theological and our practical views of the subject have changed. But at least we have a good example here: we should exert ourselves to place the sufferer within reach of help. The great problem of true charity is to bring the supply and the need into practice. If the intention be loving and good, something better often comes of it than is hoped for, as in this case. The sufferer, intent upon the minor boon, receives the higher blessing. So does a living Divine purpose shape our actions to nobler ends than we designed.
III. THE CURE. There is human means with Divine agency.
1. The human means. The apostles fix their eyes earnestly upon the sufferer. Thus his attention is aroused; his thoughts are collected; he is brought into a concentration of thought and feeling. It is not to the wandering mind that God reveals either his thought or his power. The eyes must be lifted up to the quarter whence help comes. He who is conscious of bearing God's message to the souls of men may cry, "Look on me; listen to me!" Faith is not passive; it is an energy, expressed by looking, listening, coming, doing. Thus only can the electric chain be completed; the healer and the healed be brought into vital contact. Directions must be complied with as the first condition of physical healing and of spiritual salvation. The best gift we have for our fellow-men is the gift of the head and heart. This is lasting; others perish in the using. We cannot lose the memory nor the blessing of good words. If we have no money to give in alms, we may make our fellow-man rich from our heart. Intelligence and sympathy are what all men want, and none are thankless for. We reap ingratitude where we have not really shown our heart. The best spiritual gifts recognize the worth of the recipient. Let us treat men as our equals - beings possessed of will. There are possibilities before them; let us reckon upon them and believe in them, thus inspiring them in their weakness with such healthy belief.
2. The Divine power in the human means. We cannot command our fellow-men except in the name of some authority which both he and we are subject to. He who can rest his appeals upon the firm words, "By order," or "In the name of the queen," or the like, has a might over wavering wills. Really to govern means first to have obeyed. The "Name" here signified a vast reality. "Jesus Christ of Nazareth!" It is the symbol of all power in heaven and earth; supreme, unrivalled, purely loving and beneficent. As ministers of Christ, we are servants of the Almighty, channels of charity, agents of a kingdom that must prevail. This power will be felt both by words and deeds. The tones of Peter's voice thrilled; his bidding awoke the slumbering power of volition; finally his hand, joined with that of the sufferer, completed the union of the Divine agency to save with the sufferer's will to be saved. The weak feet and joints became firm; the whilom prostrate one leaped up and stood; from this proceeded to walk; finally went with the healers into the temple, exultingly to render praise to God. The thankful heart is the best sacrifice we can offer to God. Without it, the best crown of the blessing he designs to confer is not attained. If men see our state changed, but not our heart, God is defrauded of his glory and his due in us. The joy of the comforted heart is the best proof of the love of the Comforter. He means our freedom and our joy; what if we disappoint his thought, so that it flowers not and bears no fruit?
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CURE.
1. Popular observation. They identified the man. They compared his present and past condition. Comparison is the foundation of our knowledge of truth.
2. Popular reasoning. They argued that the change could proceed only from one cause, and that Divine. The quality of changes points to the quality of the cause. Extend this reasoning, and the best, as the most popular, argument for Christianity is this: the changes produced by it in man's condition prove it to be of origin Divine.
3. Popular amazement and ecstasy. Such are the words of the historian. Wonder is the reflection of the unusual and the unexpected in the mind. And this passes into ecstasy or transport when through the sensuous the supersensual, when through the natural the supernatural, appears. If all the course of life were common and familiar, God would be forgotten. Were wonders incessantly repeated they would become no longer wonders, and their power were lost. God shows his hand now and again that the spell of custom may be broken; hides it that we may reflect on what we have seen. Mingled fear and joy ever attend Divine revelations; fear in the thought of our utter dependence, joy in the thought that in that very dependence lies our hope and our deliverance. - J.
John 14:16). Consider the miracle itself.
I. ITS CHARACTER.
1. Purely benevolent. Performed on a beggar, helpless, miserable, altogether unconnected with the new society, unable to reward his benefactors.
2. Conspicuously real. At a public spot - the temple; at the ninth hour, when worshippers would throng to the place; on one well known to the whole city; daily laid as a public object of pity; helped by no one before, but now helped through Christ; born lame, therefore not labouring under merely temporary infirmity; not even asked for by the sufferer, but offered freely by the apostles, as by a sudden impulse of the Spirit.
II. ITS EFFECTS.
1. Upon the man himself. It raised him up physically and spiritually at the same moment. God often thus speaks to the soul through the body, both by afflictions and by visitations of mercy. It turned his wail of misery into songs of joy. Take the description of the work upon the man as typical of the course of gracious work, the bestowment of a new life and strength, first putting us on our feet with sudden leap of heartfelt gladness, of faith; then "beginning, to walk," feeling the new limbs like a child; then walking forward into the temple; then walking and leaping and praising God," the conscious participation in blessings making us the ministers of joy to others, filling the temple with praise.
2. Upon the apostles and through them on the Church and on the world. The important place of the miracle as evidence of the Divine mission of the messengers. They themselves could scarcely have known what they could do until, by impulse of the Spirit, they put forth the energy. The believers who were sharers with apostles of the gifts of the Spirit would henceforth expect great things. Jerusalem must have been startled into attention and incipient faith. "The people saw him," etc. (vers. 9, 10). Although miracles regarded alone would never convert the world, yet in connection with the Word of God they powerfully arouse the minds of men. "Wonder and amazement" are God's agents in awakening the soul and preparing the ground for the seed of eternal life. Another great effect of the miracle was corrective and didactic. No one could doubt that the apostles were no self-seekers, no fanatics, no ambitious founders of a new sect but simply heralds of the gospel. What they did was "in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth." They began their work upon the poor, they appealed to the impotent and the helpless, they proclaimed their own poverty, and yet invited men to riches such as the world knew not. They showed themselves the sympathizing brothers of all mankind, ready to give such as they had to give, without money and without price, a pattern of simplicity and spirituality. - R.
Acts 4. The continued happy and hearty co-operation of the two is meantime worthy of notice, and tells its own tale; and if a conjecture is to be hazarded at all, none but the most natural need be repaired to - that John was feeling the quiet and reverent way to a service which he loved with his whole heart, and willingly yielded the precedence to another, Peter, whom he saw, ever since the issue of the race of the sacred sepulcher, if not before, to be a born pioneer. The really central fact of this portion of Scripture is another sermon from Peter, with its occasion so significant and its results so gladdening. Let us notice -
I. ITS VERY FORCIBLE TEXT - A MIRACLE. The days of discoursing on the description of what had been were not yet come. Peter founds his discourse on something to which he literally pointed his hearers, saying, "Ye see and know" it. Nor has Peter now the hard task of exciting attention and interest. These are abundantly excited. Deeds have gone before words, certain practice has gone before doctrine. The subject is invested with life and reality all round, and Peter undoubtedly has the grand advantage of speaking to ears that want to listen, because mind and heart are inquiring. Yes, Peter discourses upon the text of a miracle. And it is one
(1) which is verified within the actual knowledge of those whom he addresses;
(2) which is of an undeniably beneficent kind;
(3) which is wrought, not on inanimate or unconscious nature, but upon nature both animate and conscious, and yet in addition possessed of reason;
(4) which, claims some connection evidently with human eye, voice, and hand, namely, those of Peter (vers. 4-7);
(5) which nevertheless appears to draw for its duper potency upon the inspiration of a Name invoked by that very Peter;
(6) which results not merely in some surprising and most welcomed physical effect, but in certain spiritual manifestations as well (vers. 8, 9);
(7) which derived some additional interest and significance from the very place where it was wrought - at a gate of the temple;
(8) which found its occasion from a prayer for help, but meantime gave help out of all proportion to that which had been asked. Four general observations respecting the miracle as a whole should be made.
1. This miracle is the first recorded as wrought by the apostles in the new Church.
2. It most distinctly professes to be wrought "in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth."
3. It created a widespread interest, and awakened prompt and close scrutiny.
4. It is characterized by certain among the whole number of those who considered and investigated it as "a notable miracle," and one which they "could not deny," though with the very best wishes to deny it.
II. THE AUDIENCE TO WHOM THE SERMON WAS PREACHED.
1. It is a large and evidently altogether miscellaneous assembly.
2. It is an assembly who immediately look as though they attributed the miracle to "power" or to "holiness," or both.
3. It is an assembly who, in their wonder, excitement, and probably, also, genuine gratitude, are ready to attribute that "power" and "holiness" to two fellow-men.
4. It is an assembly guarded and corrected upon this matter without an unnecessary moment's delay.
III. THE SERMON ITSELF. No picture ever brought out more faithfully or forcibly some figure in the landscape, no portrait some feature of countenance, than does this once spoken, now written, sermon bring out forcibly and faithfully certain truths. Note:
1. The grand subject of it. "Jesus Christ" (vers. 13, 18, 20). And
(1) the transcendent relationship belonging to Jesus is with unqualified emphasis now asserted. He is the "Son of the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob." He is the "Son of the God of our fathers." Before the death of Jesus, Peter had boldly borne most unequivocal testimony to his own faith in the "Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:17; John 6:69), and, it may be supposed, to that of his fellow-disciples at the same time. And Peter had been in that act blessed with the great reward of hearing his Lord's own estimate of the special grace bestowed upon him. "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Be this so, it is equally certain that this "generation of the Son Jesus" had not only not been publicly preached to the people, but had in a sense been suppressed. Far otherwise now. Jesus has suffered, risen, ascended. And his right and dignity in this most cardinal respect is to be proclaimed.
(2) The names to which Jesus has entitled himself by character, by sufferings, and by achievements are boldly spoken. He is "the Holy One and the Just... the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead;" and he is "that Prophet."
(3) His treatment at the hands of men, and even of those who were at the moment the hearers of Peter, with all the aggravations of it, is enlarged upon. It is not only the fearless fidelity of Peter that is worthy of note here. Beyond and below this, the method itself is to be noted, which consists in going to the very root of the disease, probing it to the core. Thus Peter, looking at thee guilty in the face, says, "Whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye refused the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and ye killed the Prince of life." And yet it is "his Name... that hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know... and given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." There is in all this no slurring over of the guilt, of the aggravations of it, or of the fact that those who were there and then listeners were the abettors of it or accessories to it.
(4) His very contrary treatment at the hands of his Father, God, is brought into prominence. "God... hath glorified his Son Jesus,... God hath raised him from the dead... and to you first hath sent him to bless you." This all, involved the vital point. The Jew who could have brought himself to believe that God was thus "well pleased" in Jesus, would have been the first to condemn himself; and with swift force is this, therefore, brought down upon him, in that incontestably he ought to have believed and seen long ago. The Jew is answerable for his guilt and folly, let them be mixed in whatever proportions. Let his "ignorance" bear what proportion it may to the sum total of his fault, his ignorance was his own look out, was not necessary, was inexcusable, and the smart of the consequences of it he must now become acquainted with and must wince beneath it. Peter sees the door opened for him, and he enters in. He has his hearers now. The link that often seemed missing to them, who had no eyes to see aught except a negation, is found, and Peter is determined that eyes shall no longer pretend being shut to it. With such crushing effect betimes do circumstances prove providences, and the sudden glorious crisis at the Beautiful gate that evening at nine o'clock crowds with conviction and humiliation and shame many a conscience, many a heart. Things are rapidly reversing now. This is the hour of Jesus. Peter now puts on his head one crown of glory - the crown of thorns in the past!
(5) Lastly, the inherent force of Jesus is asserted. His is a Name - there can, there shall be no denial of it, no mistake about it - above every name. With a certain power of repetition, which is not "vain repetition," does Peter state it: "And his Name through [by-the- method of] faith in his Name yea, the faith which is through him," is what hath given this man "this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." In which grand and emphatic statement these two gospel axioms may be found,
(a) that Christ is the one Object on which faith may try her virtue - "My faith would lay her hand on that dear head of thine:" and,
(b) that Christ is the one Object whose virtue - "for virtue went out of him" - it is worth faith's while to try. There is unsurpassed virtue in Christ, and the access to that virtue, the method of drawing upon it, is by faith. So there is unsurpassed virtue in faith also. Christ, and Christ alone, meets, and meets abundantly, the want of man, of any and every man. Faith, and faith alone, brings Christ and man so together that the one imparts and the other receives all that can be needed, asked, desired. This must be called the kernel of the apostle's sermon now. And it is the kernel of Christianity. This is the essence and distinctiveness of Christianity. And beyond a doubt this it is that constitutes its unwelcomeness to a proud world's heart, its inexpressible welcomeness to an humble, stricken heart, that only asks one thing - if now at last its unfathomed depth and unceasing craving may be worthily, sufficiently filled.
2. The appeals that follow upon it. Peter is, indeed, all the while earnestly appealing to the people; but this appeal is no mere declamation, either vague or impassioned. It is grounded, firmly grounded, upon other appeals.
(1) The first appeal is to events quite recent - to a history within the actual knowledge of all the nation, but most of all of the city of Jerusalem. The "holy" character of Jesus, his "just" conduct, his betrayal and repudiation by "his own," his suffering, resurrection, and glorification, at least in so far as the Ascension was concerned.
(2) The second appeal is to their own "oracles," and the prized stores of their own treasured prophecies. Peter well knew the just purchase he gained in confronting his audience with quotations from their prophets (vers. 18, 21, 22, 24, 25).
(3) The third appeal is one made to their own conscience. This consisted not only in the plain and uncompromising manner in which Peter brought to their remembrance their most recent offences against their own conscience, partly under the cover of ignorance in their crucifying of Christ, but beside this in his direct naming of them as sinners. He exhorts them not as "the ninety and nine" "which needed no repentance," but emphatically as those who needed to "repent," needed to "be converted," needed "the blotting out of their sins," needed the "sending of that very Jesus Christ" who had been "preached unto" them, though hitherto in vain; needed the warning of that terrible prophecy, that said, "The soul that heareth not shall be destroyed from among the people;" needed to be reminded that they were the" children of the prophets and of" a most venerable "covenant;" and needed to be reminded, withal, of the last highest touch added to their privilege and their responsibility, in that to them "first God had sent his risen Son," to offer them first the fullness of that richest "blessing," which consisted in the "being turned away each from his iniquities" - glorious diversion indeed! There is not a sentence but was a message to the conscience. Not a sentence but what must have "pricked the heart." And not a sentence but what would have been a winged barbed arrow, except for the mercy that each time took the aim, and which mercy was as "purposed" as the arrow's aim was deliberate. Such a marshalling of allegation against hearts and consciences, and the living men to whom they belonged, rarely had been, rarely has been. But when it has, true it is that it is in part material that it has occurred - in the matter of men's treatment of Christ and of their own souls. Withal Peter did not distrust the influence of
(4) the appeal to hope. Through all the faithfulness of plain speaking and the severity of naked truth, kindliness seems to betray itself, and to wish to make its deeper existence felt. The prompt disclaiming of any special and superior power or holiness in himself and brother apostle was a happy beginning on the part of Peter, and tended to put to sleep envy and the spirit of a comparison that would all have added to the smart of the reproof for conscious wrong-doing. Again, Peter does himself (ver. 17) mitigate in some degree their sin, by the suggestion of their "ignorance" and of that of their "rulers;" and in the same breath addresses them as "brethren." His allusion to the fulfilling of prophecy amid all the stern facts of the "suffering" of Christ had also the germ of hopefulness in it. The "blotting out of their sins," and the whisper of "the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord;" the inspiring quotation of the "Prophet to be raised up from among their brethren, like unto" Moses; and the fixing of the fact that it was on these very existing days that the whole ranks of "prophets from Samuel" downwards had concentred prophetic attention; and, last of all, the rehearsing of the old promise to Abraham, clenched by the assertion of its being now in course and act of fulfilling; - surely all this was ground thickly sown with the seeds of hope. So absent was the tone of disparagement and depreciation, when the lips of Peter spoke most stinging truth! Great is the recuperative energy of souls, when there is any room for hope left. But depreciation is a cruel foe to hope, if it take effect; and if it do not take effect, it is sure to make more irreconcilably active the spirit of self-defense and of opposition. Nor can we doubt, nor would we wish to doubt, that the sermon of Peter showed one grand fulfillment of the promise, that it "should be given in that same hour what they should speak" to those who were called by the Spirit to speak for Jesus.
IV. THE FIRST EFFECTS OF THE SERMON. The first effects were a plain augury of what occurred very often in later times. These first effects are not all discomfiture. Nor are they results that count half and half, with no clear balance either of gain or of loss. To count nothing on what may succeed them, the first results show the preachers Peter and John bound, the Word they preached not bound.
1. The apostles, who preached, are imprisoned - for what length of time the sentence discreetly left unsaid. The apostles were laid hands on by ecclesiastics, committed by self-interest to endeavor to maintain the status quo in the Church and the world - by one official and by a few self-styled theologians, driest of the dry and most erring of the erring (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24, 27).
2. The doctrine they had been preaching was not imprisoned. "Many who had heard it "believed." Fresh wings were given to it to fly abroad. Either the additional, or more probably the total, number of believers was now "five thousand" And the imprisonment of Peter and John is certain to have had these two consequences upon them, viz. that fresh thought would be stirred up in every one of them, and fresh utterance of the mouth of every one of them be provoked. Thus it is very far from being a case of all loss. The "Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth 'wrought great things this day, and truth made great advance. - B.
value, but also peril, of customs of public prayer may be pointed out. "We read in Scripture of three specified hours of prayer, in accordance with which the psalmist speaks of his own custom (Psalm 55:17). In like manner Daniel prayed 'three times a day' (Daniel 6:10). The hour of morning prayer was the third hour; and Peter went up to the house-top to pray (Acts 10:9) about the sixth hour, which was noon; and the evening prayer was this to which Peter and John were going up." We fix attention on the fact that, though the apostles had the new personal "life in Christ," they found public religious service and duties still demanded their attention. Soul-life, spiritual life, still needs for its culture "public prayer" and "united worship."
I. THE TWO SIDES OF THE DEVOTIONAL LIFE. The private and the public. Both are necessary. Each helps the other. Since men are not isolated individuals, their personal and private devotions cannot satisfy all their needs and claims. And since the individual can never be lost in the crowd, public devotions can never adequately express the precise personal needs. Our Lord taught us the duty and value of private prayer (Matthew 6:6).
II. THE RELATION OF PUBLIC PRAYER TO PERSONAL CULTURE, AND TO THE DUTY OF WITNESSING FOR GOD. Take first to "personal culture." In private devotion there is danger of morbid introspection; public prayer fills our thought with Clod rather than man. When alone the self-sphere may become too prominent; when we join with others we are helped to forget self in common sympathies, desires, and prayers. At home communion and petition are prominent in our prayers; in the assembly of God's people the prominent thing is intercession. Besides this, in public worship we are influenced by holy sentiment, and swayed by high emotions, and realize the joy of the Divine life. These things bear most directly on healthy soul-culture. Further, it is our bounden duty to make solemn public declaration of our belief in God, and submission to his authority and rule. Such a declaration we make in the act of going to and joining in public prayer and worship. Our "houses of prayer," and our "hours of prayer," and our "millions of worshippers," still attest England's belief in God; and every one should feel jealous lest the fullness and clearness of that testimony should be in the least degree impaired. Deal with modern neglect of worship, and the custom of half. day worshipping.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD HABITS IN RELATION TO PUBLIC PRAYER. Herein we have the example of our Lord, of his apostles, and of the saints through all the ages. It would be difficult to find the case of one eminently holy man or woman, in all the Christian history, who held lightly or neglected the public worship and ordinances of the Church. Such habits should be formed and welt watched over in early life. Those united together as friends, as husbands and wives, should help each other to maintain the habits. For they bear good influence on family life, on social life, and on national life. The constant association with Divine things has a gracious and hallowing influence, and renews every earnest purpose to live the godly life. The formation and maintenance of such good habits is, further, a sign of self-mastery in the spirit of loyalty and obedience to God. And such self-mastery is the very beginning and necessary foundation of all high morality and virtue. It guarantees that effort will be made to enthrone God and duty over bodily passion, and over all life-associations.
IV. THE PERILS OF FORMALITY IN PUBLIC DEVOTIONS. We may come to share in worship "to be seen of men." We may put the sensual (or sensuous) above the spiritual. We may find our hearts satisfied with the ceremonial. We may pride ourselves upon our regularity. Our very familiarity with worship-forms may lead to repetition without thought or feeling. The Judaism of the time of our Lord presents a painful instance of how sadly the life may go out of a national religion, leaving only the formal observance of ever-multiplying rites and ceremonies. And the Mohammedan, dropping prostrate at the sound of the muezzin, and incoherently muttering words of prayer, warns us of the insidious and fatal peril of formalism in public religion. In conclusion, explain and impress the close and direct relation that exists between private devotion and public devotion. The life we can put into public worship must be the life which has been touched, quickened, and cultured by God into strength, in our prayer-chamber at home. We cannot, with any surety, get life at public worship; but we can always bring it with us to the worship. The law works broadly, and it may be thus briefly stated: The nourished and kept soul has life for worship. Then "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is," and see to it that you carry to the sanctuary of God hearts beating high with love and reverence and trust. - R.T.
introduction may be obtained. Such introduction should treat of the suffering poor in the East, showing how necessarily dependent they were upon promiscuous charity. With their condition may be contrasted the care for the poor in all Christian lands, and the provision of hospitals and institutions for their relief. Some account may also be given of Herod's temple, and the position of the gate called Beautiful. Josephus says the other gates were overlaid with gold and silver, but this one, which was probably the gate on the east, which led from the court of the women, was "made of Corinthian bronze, and much surpassed in worth those enriched with silver and gold." It may further be shown how this miracle, wrought by the agency of St. Peter, resembles the gracious miracles of healing wrought by our Lord himself. The picture of this poor and hopelessly suffering man suggests the following topics for meditation:-
I. THE DISPENSATIONS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE BRING BODILY DISABILITIES FOR SOME MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN FAMILY. This, as a fact, may be variously illustrated, and it may be shown, from our Lord's teachings, that neither bodily infirmities and disabilities, nor earthly calamities, are necessarily direct results of personal sin or fault. They are oftentimes hereditary consequences of ancestral sin. They are often products of circumstances and conditions of life, over which the sufferer had no control. They may be regarded as the great sin-burden lying OH the race, and borne more evidently by some members for the sake of all. So long as the race is sinful, it must have the character of its sinfulness marked and impressed by manifest, painful, unsightly, revolting, and apparently hopeless forms of "suffering" all around it. The "suffering" as well as the "poor" we have always with us.
II. SUCH DISABILITIES SET SOME MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN FAMILY UPON THE BROTHERHOOD AND CHARITY OF OTHERS. For, if we look upon them aright, we regard them as bearing the common burden, and so bearing our burden. We might have been among the blind, or dumb, or lame, or idiotic, or paralyzed; and it is never enough that we thank God for our freedom from special disabilities; our thankfulness only finds its natural and proper expression in caring for, helping, and relieving the disabled and distressed. Sufferers, wherever they are found, should touch our hearts with tender emotions. We should have such an open, sensitive heart as can take them all in. It is well if we show special interest in some particular class of sufferers - the orphan, incurable, lame, sick children, deaf and dumb, etc. To take a higher ground, our Lord is the great Sufferer, and so the head of all sufferers. Therefore, for his sake, and as showing our tender sympathy and love for him, we should take his suffering brethren into our love and care. "Doing it to the least of the brethren is doing it to him." "He that loveth God [his Father] should love his brother also."
III. A NATURAL EXPECTATION LEADS MEN TO LOOK FOR SUCH CHARITY TOWARD THE DISABLED FROM THE RELIGIOUS. It is a fact that systematic efforts for the welfare of the naturally disabled are only found in lands where Christian thought and feeling prevail. It may be illustrated and enforced:
1. That this connection between religion and brotherly charity is natural It is the fitting impulse of "human kindness" that leads us to care for others, but it is the special impulse of that new feeling that comes with personal and saving relations with Christ.
2. That this connection is right. Urged as such by Divine command and Divine example, as well as by the example of all noble and holy men.
3. This connection has been, in Christian lands, fairly well met. Show into how varied spheres Christian benevolence and charity may now run. Ask earnestly, and with direct applications - Is it true, individually for us, that our piety has cultured into holy vigor our charity? If not, it is of little worth to us or to others. - R.T.
I. A great example of PERSONAL, WEALTH. "Such as I have." What was it? The Holy Ghost filling all the nature. Consider the two men, Peter and John. What wealth of knowledge, insight, power over the souls of others! Even in external aspects, the results upon the life of the world traceable to these two names, immeasurable; yet they were both fishermen of Galilee. What they had had been given them by God. The endowment which enabled them to heal one whom the world could not lift up. Surely an infinitely greater gift to be able to work such works than any of those distinctions of literary genius or artistic skill which the world so extravagantly rewards. Such wealth is ours as believers, in greater or less degree - a wealth which no man can take from us, which grows by prayer and effort, which cannot die with us; "their works do follow them." The Church should seek this wealth of the Spirit, not, as the false Church has done, the wealth that perishes, lest the money should perish with it.
II. An impressive illustration of GOD'S METHOD OF LIFTING UP THE WOUND from its ruin. Show that both Church and State have failed. The temple may have beautiful gates, but be full of hideous idolatry and shame. The State may abound in silver and gold, and yet present to the eye such lamentable pictures of helplessness, revealing its own impotence, as the poor mendicant, daily passed by at the most public place and the most sacred place of the city. The present aspect of both the professedly religions world and the social condition of our great populations demand a confession of man's inability to produce a really happy society. Here there is:
1. The Name of Jesus Christ proclaimed as the new power that is wanted, as a redemption of the world from sin, setting spiritual life at the root of all other life, healing the miseries of men with compassion and wonderful works, promising the entire renovation both of body and soul in another world.
2. The true Church holds the lever in its hand by which the world shall be lifted up. We want the two apostles, the Petrine spirit of faith, the Johannine spirit of love. We must speak clearly and without reserve, in the Name of Christ, not in the name of ecclesiastical power and ritualistic display, to the poorest, and without greed of filthy lucre; and we must prepare to put forth such energy and gifts as we have, all alike, and in the spirit of fellowship; then we shall fill the world with praise, and the lame man shall leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing (see Isaiah 35., as a prediction of the Church's power over the world). The message is individual to the rich and to the poor, "Rise up and walk." No life is true life which is not blessed of God. - R.
Name forth even more prominently than the Authorized Version. It reads, "And by [or, 'on the ground of'] faith in his Name hath his Name made this man strong." This represents the actual order of the Greek words. The incident is so graphically described by Luke, that a suggestive picture of the scene may be given as introduction. The point of difference between this and our Lord's miracles which needs attention is this: Our Lord required signs of faith before he wrought his miracles St. Peter did not wait for such signs in this object of the healing power. Two reasons may help to explain the difference. St. Peter had to show the faith which he and the other apostles had in Christ. Signs of their faith were just then the important thing, rather than signs of the man's faith. As our Lord acted directly, and not as an agent, he could give entire attention to the recipiency, or receptivity, of the objects of his power. And we may also say that the miracle was wrought rather for the people's sakes than for the man's. It was a call to them to give heed to the apostles' witness; and therefore St. Peter was, properly, more concerned about the influence of the miracle on the people than even about the moral condition of the lame man. St. Peter acted on a sudden impulse of the Holy Ghost which dwelt in him, and it was fitting that he and the rest of the disciples should keep themselves open to the Spirit's leadings, ready to follow and obey the inward inspirations and monitions. Compare Paul's response to Divine direction, in Acts 16:6-10. We need, in these days, to recover our lost faith in the presence and lead of God the Holy Ghost, and to win the attitude of watching for his gracious guidance. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. St. Peter's explanation of the miracle is that it was wrought in the "power of Christ's Name." This we endeavor to understand.
I. CHRIST'S NAME GATHERS UP HIS RIGHTS AND ATTRIBUTES. A name should be the expression of what a thing is, or what a man is. Nowadays names of persons are conventional and without significance; they are fixed by accident or by sentiment. In olden times they held meanings, and were appropriate to individuals; so a name was an explanation or revelation. In sympathy with this it is said that the redeemed are to have a "new name" on their foreheads. It will gather up into an expression their privilege and their joy as the fully redeemed. F. W. Robertson, in his sermon on 'Jacob wrestling' (First Series, p. 41), says, "In the Hebrew history are discernible three periods distinctly marked, in which names and words bore very different characters. In the first of these periods names meant truths, and words were the symbols of realities. The characteristics of the names given then were simplicity and sincerity. The second period begins about the time of the departure from Egypt, and it is characterized by unabated simplicity, with the addition of sublimer thought and feeling more intensely religious. The third period was at its zenith in the time of Christ - words had lost their meaning, and shared the hollow, unreal state of all things. Jacob lived in the first age, when men are sincere and truthful and earnest, and names exhibit character. To tell Jacob the Name of God was to reveal to him what God is and who." "The use of Name as the equivalent of power is very Jewish. It grew out of such passages as Psalm 106:8, 'He saved them for his Name's sake.' In the literature of the Jews great power was attributed to the Name of God, even when only inscribed, e.g. as it was said in tradition to have been on the rod of Moses." The Name of "Jesus of Nazareth" stands, therefore, for his Messiahship, his mission, his infinite worthiness, his accepted work, and his present power. Or, we may say, it stands for him, and sets him forth as the present Redeemer, "able to heal and to save unto the uttermost."
II. CHRIST'S NAME INVOLVES HIS SPIRITUAL PRESENCE. This would be a familiar association to the Jew. God was in the bush, but Moses only had his Name. God delivered Israel from Egypt, but Israel knew him present with them only in his Name. They worshipped a God whom they never saw, and only could "exalt by his great Name, Jah. And so Jesus Christ was gone out of the sphere of the senses. Really, however, present still, spiritually present, and working gracious and mighty works through faith in his Name. This is all we have of Christ - his Name. And yet for us too it is the grasping of the spiritual reality of his presence.
III. CHRIST'S NAME CAN HEAL THE SICK. Because he is present in the Name. The Name did not work as a formula of incantation; it required, on the part both of the worker and receiver, faith in that which the Name represented - the manifestation of the Father through the Son." The most striking illustration of the apostle's faith in Christ's Name, i.e. Christ's actual presence and power to heal, is found in the recovery of Aeneas (Acts 9:34). St. Peter spoke as if he saw Christ there, saying, "AEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole."
IV. CHRIST'S NAME CAN HEAL THE SIN-SICK SOUL. For all outward and material healings are but illustrations of what Christ is now doing in moral spheres, in our hearts and lives, if we will, by faith, open to him. And what is called faith is simply this: soul-opening to the living Saviour, who, in his Divine power and grace, can come in, and heal, and cleanse, and save. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," etc. Appeal as to whether there has yet been this openness to Christ. Impress that, in all healing and saving work, man may be the agent, but the power lies in the Name, which gathers up for us a present living Savior. - R.T.
(1) The consciousness of power, and
(2) the responsibility of conscious power.
I. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF POWER. "Such as I have give I thee." St. Peter felt that he had something. He knew that he could benefit and bless the sufferer, if not in the precise way which the man anticipated. The common power of "silver and gold" St. Peter had not; the far better power, to heal, St. Peter had. What we so greatly need is to awake to the consciousness of the power that we have in Christ Jesus; to believe in the abundant and varied powers with which the Church of Christ and the individual Christian are endowed. We should expect to see signs of power in each other, as fellow-Christians. God never renews any man by his Spirit without also endowing him with a gift, or talent, in trust. Powers differ in different men. Each man has his own. Wealth is a power - a dreadful power, if it has not been first laid on the altar of Christ, and then taken up and used as his; a glorious power if, on starting life, the soul has made a great covenant with Christ, and solemnly vowed that whatever may be gained shall be consecrated to him. Intellect is a power. Every man who knows a little more than his neighbor has a power. He can teach, he can enlighten, he can lead. But a man may have little money and little mind, and yet have the trust of that far higher thing - spiritual power. He may be able to lay hold of, and use for the blessing of others, the "great power of God." That "spiritual power" lies dormant too often in us. We need something to work in us as in St. Peter, and waken the consciousness of our trust; something stirring in us mighty impulses, shaking us out of our apathy and selfishness, compelling us to say, "A witness for Christ has to be made, and I must help to make it; a work for Christ has to be done, and I must help to do it; the world has to be won for Christ, and I must set to work to win the little piece of the world in which God has been pleased to put me.
II. THE RESPONSIBILTY OF CONSCIOUS POWER. All God's gifts to us are for our giving away to others. All God's strength is for use. If he makes an arm strong, it is for work. If he makes a voice strong, it is that it may plead with others for him. If he makes a heart strong, it is that it may inspire others to nobler things. There is no Divine blessing that is intended to rest with us. All blessings that flow to us are to flow through us, gain force from us, and flow on in refreshings beyond us. If you are compelled to recognize the fact that you could - you could give, you could teach, you could sympathize, you could cheer - then upon you rests a solemn responsibility. What you can do for Christ and for his brethren, you are bound, by all holy persuasions and considerations, to do. Such as you have, by gracious trusts from God, that you must be ever ready to give and spend and use for the service and the blessing of others. - R.T.
I. THE HUMAN ELEMENT,
1. Excitement. The man who had been lame, in the excitement of joy and gratitude, "held Peter and John" (ver. 11), and "all the people ran together... greatly wondering" (ver. 11). In the region of the Divine is calmness, serenity, peace; in that of the human is agitation, disturbance, excitement.
2. Instrumentality. (Ver. 12.) We do not effect anything of ourselves; we are co-workers with God. We depend on his Divine assistance, on the co-operation of forces that are acting around and within us, in virtue of his energizing power, for the accomplishment of our humblest undertakings. How much more emphatically is this the case in the sphere of sacred usefulness, in the communication of spiritual life! There should be, there must be, as in the case of Peter and John, fitness for the work and obedience to the word and will of Christ; but after all it is not "our own power or holiness" that "makes any man to walk" in the ways of God.
3. Guilt, qualified by ignorance. Peter charges his hearers with positive and terrible crime (vers. 13-15); he does, indeed, make the abatement which is due to ignorance (ver. 17): they did not "kill the Prince of life," knowing that it was he whom they were crucifying. But they remained in guilty ignorance of his origin, his character, and his mission; and their ignorance, if it palliated, did not excuse their crime. We also often "know not what we do" when we wrong the innocent, when we sin against ourselves, when we rob God of the glory due to his Name. Our ignorance is not left out of the account by the Holy and the Just One; nevertheless he adjudges us to be verily guilty, and he condemns us.
4. Penitence. (Ver. 19.) We are to be changed in our mind, and be converted or turned from our evil ways to those which are right, pure, godly.
5. Faith. (Ver. 16.) Peter says that "faith in the Name" of Jesus Christ had given the lame man that "perfect soundness" which they all beheld. He does not say, or is not reported as saying, that these "men of Israel" must believe in him whom they had guiltily slain, but that was either implied or expressed in his address to them. "Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," is the testimony borne by apostles "both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks" (Acts 20:21).
II. THE DIVINE ELEMENT.
1. Overruling wisdom. (Ver. 18.) What God had shown beforehand needed to be done, he had, in the ordering of his holy providence, caused to take place. Through all these things which happened at Jerusalem, in which the hand of man had so large a share, there ran a thread of Divine agency; so that purposes of heavenly love and wisdom were after all fulfilled. He still "makes the wrath of man to praise him."
2. Glorifying the Just and Holy One. (Vers. 13, 15.) God is bringing many sons unto glory, as well as the "Captain of our salvation." He will ensure the ultimate acquittal and honoring of those who are reviled and wronged. "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness."
3. Restoration. (Vers. 12, 19-21.) It was the Divine hand, and no human magic, which healed this lame beggar (ver. 12) It is the hand of God which gives such blessed recuperative power to our bodily system, and which raises the sick man from the bed of suffering, weakness, acute disease, to newness of physical life. It is God who grants to the condemned but penitent spirit restoration to his loving favor ("that your sins may be blotted out"), and it is he who will one day grant to a renovated world "times of refreshing," the reappearance of Jesus Christ in his heavenly power and glory (vers. 20, 21). There is a sense in which
(1) there is much that is marvelous in the working and outworking of God; it is so far beyond our finite understanding. But there is also a sense in which
(2) there is nothing surprising in any acts of restoration or renovation we witness. It is only what we should ask for and expect of him. "Why marvel we" at that? - C.
I. A DISCLAIMER OF INDEPENDENT POWER OR MERIT IN THE APOSTLES. The note of a genuine mission. The false prophet and the magician neglect nothing that will enhance their supposed supernatural character. The apostles insist that they are but men, have no power of themselves, are the agents merely of a higher will. So, too, peculiar piety on their part is disclaimed. They did not aim at the reputation of saints; they refused to encourage the natural delusion that they must be better than other men. This was not the way to popularity, but the simple course of honest witnesses for God.
II. THE RECENT EVENT TRACED TO ITS SOURCE.
1. God is the faithful God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of their fathers; these were dear and time-honored appellations. With these is now connected that of Father of Jesus. Thus the recent is united with the most ancient past. One unfailing bond of Divine constancy and love knits the ages into unity, and makes history the unfolding of an increasing purpose.
2. His love is illustrated by the contrast with human hate. They had repudiated the Holy and Just One, and had begged the life of a murderer in his stead. Blindly they had hurried the "Author of life" to an ignominious doom. But who can contend against God, his power, nay, rather, his love? The purpose of life is victorious over human passion, and God will not suffer men to work out their suicidal intents to the full. The Resurrection, be it insisted, then, is the crowning proof of indefeasible constancy and will to save men in their own despite.
3. The energy to heal ever flows from the risen Christ. Faith is the condition of being blessed. It is the movement of the whole soul towards the Divine Benefactor. It is the junction of the human with the Divine will, and is the one principle of salvation.
III. DEDUCTIONS FROM THE PAST. History, and every portion of it, contains a Divine logic. Every study of it is idle which does not end with the question - What is the meaning for the present? What resolve is to be taken? What duty now to be discharged? The paths of experience converge towards one goal.
1. The crucifixion of Jesus had been an act of ignorance. They "knew not what they did;" neither people nor rulers. It was a mitigation of the crime, and divinely recognized. The acts of wrath are blind, and just judgment distinguishes between the evidences of passion and the evidences of ingrained perversity in man's acts.
2. It was at the same time a fulfillment of prophecy. God permits evil means to work out holy ends. The happiest revolutions have often sprung from momentary ignition of wrath and resentment. The feeble human heart expends its little explosive force, and silently makes an opening for the march of a higher purpose. It was necessary that Christ should suffer. Every pleasure is the reaction from-a pain; every birth proceeds from travail; there is no deliverance without spiritual struggle. The most spiritual, the most living personality, must agonize and suffer most. This is the law. In the suffering of the "Leader of life" it finds its highest expression. Thus did Divine will confront human freedom, and the futility of resistance is shown. The very efforts of blind passion to defeat that will serve only to elicit its meaning. Like blows upon a vibrating substance, human sins draw deeper music from the heart of God.
IV. PRACTICAL DIRECTIONS. "Change your mind and turn." If we cannot influence the fixed course of things, it is wisdom to be influenced by it. If the Divine purpose is not to be bent aside for us, we must bend before it. We cannot change the course of fate, but we can change the course of our thoughts and actions. To persist in discovered error is like fighting against the stars in their courses. Sin, is only unforgivable when it is persisted in as sin. The constant promise of the gospel is that sin shall no longer be reckoned to a man, i.e. viewed as a fact of his life, when it has been corrected by the will. Our deeper thought teaches us that there is no time for God. Our "now" and its self-determination is the question. One solemn moment of decision converts the error of the way into the direction of truth and right.
V. PROMISES OF FUTURE GOOD.
1. They are of indefinable grandeur and attraction. We cannot fully analyze the contents of any Divine promise. Its riches exceed definition and thought. At the same time, every promise has leading hints to guide faith and expectation. Here "times of refreshing" and the "sending of Jesus" form such hints.
2. They point to a goal of history. "The times of the restitution of all things." The golden age of paganism was in the remote past; that of Israel and of the gospel lies in the distant future. It rests, like all our good, upon nothing less sure than Divine will, and is the subject of prophetic oracles. To define is to limit and to narrow and to impoverish our noblest ideals. Let us be content, as Peter teaches elsewhere, to accept prophecy as a "light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn."
3. They are designed to guide conduct, not to explain the future fully. The prediction in the Law cited by Peter received many changing interpretations in the long course of its existence. The actual highest fulfillment was not recognized when it came. God ever fulfils himself unexpectedly. Meanwhile the delay of fulfillment keeps thought and hope awake.
4. The growth and increasing emphasis of prophecy. The sound dies not, but gathers in volume as it goes, filling the earth. Do we heed its sound now? Is there no voice of God for us in the instruction and warnings of the greatest spirits of our time? Every teacher who bids us strive and aspire towards the ideal, the kingdom of God in the spirit, is a prophet, and is charged with a measure of oracular power for his generation.
VI. THE INHERITANCE OF THE PRESENT. We too are "sons of the prophets." God has spoken to us. Behind us lies the past, with its wonderful lore, its yet unsatisfied yearnings. We too are included in the Divine covenant of blessing. The process of events set in motion by the eternal Cause continues itself in us. The seed of his loving thoughts becomes fertile anew in the spirits of each succeeding generation, and appears in new blossom and fruit. Till "all countries of the earth" shall thus be sown and impregnated with the thoughts of God, the process shall continue. Away, then, with a dead theology which seeks for inspiration only in the fulfilled, not also in the fulfilling and the to be fulfilled. Let us believe in God, not merely because we know that he stirred in men's souls in days of yore, but because we feel him stirring in our own souls now.
VII. ORDER IN THE DIVINE PURPOSE. Israel first, next through Israel the nations are to be blessed. Spiritual force, like other force, must be concentrated that it may be diffused. Other nations have had light, but Israel the intensest. It is the moral consciousness which makes humanity; and in the turning from sin, men are in the way of all good, of growing good; the negation of evil is the affirmation of the principle of the spirit. - J.
I. The AUDIENCE.
1. Different from that previously gathered, which was made up of devout men chiefly, who were interested in the strange phenomenon of the tongues. This was a mingled multitude, partly of temple worshippers, partly of passers-by, including, therefore, many who were present, at the Crucifixion, who had shouted "Crucify him!"
2. Their state of mind. Greatly wondering, ready to be taught, gazing inquiringly at the apostles, almost worshipping them. Strange that they should be so affected after having beheld the miracles of the Lord. Probably already deeply touched and filled with remorseful feelings by the Crucifixion, beginning to believe in the Resurrection, and so filled with alarm lest they had incurred the righteous wrath of God. Peter "saw it," that is, the signs of an awakened mind and softened heart. He "answered," perhaps cries of astonishment and inquiry.
II. THE SUBJECT OF DISCOURSE. Not the miracle as a miracle, but the Messiahship of Jesus, as proved by it, and its practical bearing on those present.
1. The facts of the gospel are set face to face with the words of Scripture. The agency of man is shown to be entirely under the control of an overruling Providence, "the determinate counsel of God." Thus the greatness and graciousness of the faith is at once clearly revealed. The miracle falls into its place as a sign of the Divine working. It is the Name of Christ to which all is to be ascribed. As the multitude were unconscious agents in fulfilling the prophecies, so the apostles are simply ministers proclaiming the gospel, inciting their brethren to believe.
2. The nearness of the kingdom of God is made the ground of an earnest call to repentance and faith. The tremendous responsibility of such a time is declared. If God has been working, how can he pass by the willful disobedience and neglect of those to whom such a message is sent?
3. The day of grace is heralded. While the guilt of a Savior's crucifixion is boldly pronounced, the gate of life is flung wide open. Peter uses his key well. Times of refreshing and gladness will come if impenitence does not hinder them. Jesus has been sent to bless you, not to curse you; to offer up the blood you shed on your behalf, not to call it down upon your heads, as you did in your blind passion. It was an appeal from fear to faith. Behold the power, but understand that the power is not death, but life. Believe and live. A truly gospel message.
III. AN EXAMPLE OF APOSTOLIC EARNESTNESS.
1. Thoroughly pervaded by the spirit of faith. Look, not on us, nor on the healed man, but on Christ. The power and the holiness (or "godliness," Revised Version), is not ours, but God's. We are mere earthen vessels. The excellency of the power is God's. The firm persuasion which gave boldness to the preacher was not mere natural eloquence, or physical strength, or temporary elevation in the eyes of the multitude; but a scriptural faith, which rested on the fulfilled promises of God, which saw the facts in the light of eternal truth, which grasped the hope of the future - "the restoration of all things."
2. Directness of appeal. They were not afraid of their faces. They spoke to their consciences. The guilt of the crucifiers is charged home upon them. We succeed best with men when they feel our hand grappling their conscience; if only they believe in our sincerity and faithfulness. Yet the apostles could not know how such a charge would be taken. Wonder might be changed in a fickle multitude into self-justification and rage against the prophet who said, "Ye are the men." Compare in this respect the New Testament prophets with those of the Old Testament.
3. Sympathy and love to souls. Nothing like inhuman pressing the charge or denunciation. They are "brethren" still. They did it "in ignorance." They can yet be blessed and saved. There is "perfect soundness" for them if they will have it.
4. Inspired wisdom and heavenly skill. They were "taught of God" how to speak. The startling message comes first, "Ye are guilty;" then the Scripture exposition leading on to the loving appeal at the conclusion. Our last note should always be love. Yet the golden thread of gospel faithfulness must run through all. A model of preaching. Make the beginning, middle, and end, Christ. But let it be Christ the Savior from sin; not Christ the mere Teacher, or Example, or Mystery of God; but the Messenger of peace to dying souls. The sermon, doubtless, is given only in rough sketch, for it probably occupied some time, as the miracle was wrought about three o'clock in the afternoon, and the sermon was interrupted in the evening. There was time for a discourse of more than an hour, so that we may suppose the facts and arguments considerably amplified in the delivery. It would seem that some two thousand were converted between the day of Pentecost and the close of Peter's sermon in Solomon's porch. It is, therefore, likely that a large proportion of that number owed their conversion to this sermon; and they were many of them of the populace. Their identification with the Church would, therefore, give great weight to the message, which would be remembered and repeated in substance through the city, and hence handed down to the writer of the Acts. We cannot do better than study such models of simplicity and earnestness, if we would be blessed with similar success among the people. - R.
witnesses (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8). In these their early sermons or addresses, we may find the points which they considered were specially entrusted to them to declare. They would be sure to give first the basis or foundation facts on which the Christian system rested, and then gradually unfold the various doctrines which were embodied in those facts. Their central, foundation fact was their Lord's resurrection. It even seems that, at first, the Resurrection stood out more prominently before the apostles' minds than the sacrifical death. The precise proportions and relations of the Christian truths became matters of later adjustment; and, indeed, we are still trying to get them complete and satisfactory. Very many of the modern doctrinal controversies and sectarian disputes are occasioned by a failing sense of the proportions and relations in the whole of truth; some things are exaggerated and some underestimated; men fight hard for pieces of truth, as if they were the whole. The true work, worthy to engage all our thought and heart, is the fair estimate of all the various pieces, and the skilful setting of each in its fitting place. In the early preaching of the apostles may also be noticed how they seem to stand aside, so that Christ, their Lord and Master, only may be seen and honored. In this following the example of that Master, for he seemed ever to be stepping aside in order that men may fully see the Father. And in this also showing to us what is the essential spirit of all Christian preaching. The preacher's self must never be prominent; we may only set forth "Christ Jesus the Lord." The scene in "Solomon's porch," or portico, may be described. It was on the eastern side of the temple, and "consisted of a double row of Corinthian columns, about thirty-seven feet high. It was, like the porticoes of all Greek cities, a favorite place of resort, especially as facing the morning sun in winter" (John 10:23). In this same portico Jesus himself had taught. The prominent points concerning the Lord Jesus presented by St. Peter are -
I. JEHOVAH SENT AND ACKNOWLEDGED HIM. (Ver. 13.) The word Son would be better Servant, and then the passage (Isaiah 42:1), "Behold my Servant, whom I uphold," is at once brought to mind. In addressing the Jews, it was necessary to show that no claim was made for Jesus Christ as a new and independent God; the teaching of his divinity was consistent with both the teaching of the Divine Unity, which was the Jews' great truth, and the teaching of the Divine Trinity, which is the great Christian truth. To the Jew a new God must be a false God, for Jehovah is one. Messengers of Jehovah they could receive. Manifestations of Jehovah they could accept. The conception of the "Son of God" was not to them an impossible one. And therefore our Lord so earnestly pressed that the Father God had sent him; and the apostles urge that Jehovah's seal of acceptance rested on him and on his work. This truth is needed still. We cannot rest in the salvation wrought by Christ unless we can fully see that it is God's salvation (see John 3:16).
II. MEN DENIED HIS MISSION, AND CRUCIFIED HIM. (Ver. 13.) St. Peter gives the fact-Jesus was "delivered up;" and the aggravation of the fact - the clamors of malice actually overcame the natural sense of justice in the Roman governor. In reminding the people of this, St. Peter declares the Moral character of their act; and charges home upon the people the guilt of the judicial murder of no less a person than the national Messiah. For the actual denial of Christ, see John 19:15; and for the purpose of Pilate to release Christ, John 19:4. The fact of the denial is made the basis of the appeal for repentance. The fact of the crucifixion is urged as the guarantee of his actual death. Such enemies as they were would never leave their work imperfect.
III. HE WAS FREE FROM CRIME, AND JUST BEFORE MEN AND GOD. (Ver. 14.) The personal innocence of Jesus aggravates the iniquity of those who secured his death; but it also bears directly upon the work of redemption that he wrought. Had he to bear the true burden of penalty for his own sins, he could not be the efficient Burden-bearer for others. Had he spot, stain, or blemish, he could not be the acceptable sacrifice for humanity, which must he the "Lamb without blemish." Show how much is made, in the Epistles, of the personal innocence and perfect virtue of the Savior. "Holy, harmless, undefiled," etc.
IV. HE WAS THE PRINCE AND AUTHOR OF SALVATION AND LIFE. (Ver. 15.) For the term "Prince of life," see Acts 5:31; Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:2. It means, "He who is the source whence life and salvation flow." The chief thought in St. Peter's mind is that of the Resurrection. He who conquered death is "Prince of life," and has power to give life. St. John also says, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." Our Lord himself said," I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" "I am come that they might have life;" "I give unto them eternal life." The worthy apprehension of what Christ is, and can do, makes the Jewish denial and crucifixion of him seem a most hateful crime; and our long neglect of him our unspeakable shame (Hebrews 2:3, 4).
V. HIS MESSIAHSHIP, HIS MISSION, AND HIS POWER TO SAVE, ARE, ONCE FOR ALL, AND SUFFICIENTLY, DECLARED IN HIS RESURRECTION. (Ver. 15.) If that resurrection be a fact - and to it all the apostles and disciples give witness, and on the literal truth of it St. Paul is even willing to stake the Christian system - then there are important inferences to be drawn from the fact, and especially this one: Jesus is the Christ. Therefore to him every knee should bow, and to him every sin-burdened heart should seek. So it is seen that the apostles were true preachers, model preachers; they set Jesus forth, and bid all eyes look to him. - R.T.
I. THE NAME OF CHRIST THE SOURCE OF THE POWER.
1. His personal merit as Redeemer. He himself worked miracles; not as a mere instrument in the hands of God, but as Divine. When he left the world, he appointed his apostles to be his representatives, giving them all power in heaven and earth in his Name. He ascended to the right hand of God as an accepted Savior, and from thence sends down the gifts.
2. His royalty as Head of the Divine kingdom. The sufferings of the world belong to its state of ruin, though not caused by the sin of the individual. The kingdom of Christ is set up in the midst of the fallen race to bring about "the restitution of all things." The heavens are opened. The light comes down into the darkness.
3. His Name as an object of faith. The spiritual draws up the lower world into itself. To believe is to lay hold of the hand which exalts us. As Peter laid hold of the lame man by the right hand and raised him up, so the representatives of Christ lay hold of a dying world; and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but rise with him into a new life.
II. THE POWER OF FAITH PUT FORTH.
1. From the Church upon the world. By listening to the world's cries, and directing the souls of men to the true Help. By taking the sufferers by the hand and calling down upon them the blessing of God. By proclaiming everywhere the gospel of "perfect soundness," in lieu of the world's false gospels of imperfect remedies, and as a free gift of God to man.
2. From the individual soul upon the life. The apostles represent faith; the lame man, the ruined state of our nature. The living principle implanted by grace works an entire healing of the whole of humanity. Show that all the evils which belong to our life are in some way traceable to the want of faith; that is, of harmony with God. Vital, practical religion lifts up one part of the nature after another. The Christian is the highest style of man. The gospel of the Resurrection preaches a renovation which begins on this side of the grave. The power of the risen Christ works through the whole man; at last gives him perfect soundness. The blessed effect of the Name of Jesus in our heart, in our circumstances, in our family, in our prospects of the future. We cannot receive the special gifts poured out on the early Church, which, in the form they then had, were intended to serve a temporary purpose, but we can receive that "most excellent gift of faith." The Church should not rest satisfied while there is little manifestation of the power of faith in the works accomplished. Why are we content to go to and fro to the temple, and see the wretchedness of fellow-creatures, without attempting to remove it? Why is any enterprise reckoned impossible? No limits to the successes of the Church when she is filled with faith. We want to lead the world "leaping and praising God" into the temple of his truth. We shall do it, not by argument, not by ritual, not by excitement, but by the putting forth of the power of the Holy Ghost. - R.
through ignorance, but he does not allow that this is a sufficient excuse. Ignorance has many degrees, and may arise from many causes. It may be willful. It may be a consequence of cherished prejudices, and then it is guilty ignorance. "The Jewish multitude were ignorant from want of teaching, their rulers from mental perverseness in looking only on one part of the prophecies concerning the Messiah." For the treatment of the relation of "ignorance" to "guilt," compare St. Paul's teachings in Acts 17:30; 1 Timothy 6:13. The point which St. Peter dwells on in these verses is, that in the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, men appeared to act on their own will and to carry out their own plans; but the deeper fact was that they accomplished the Divine purposes and fulfilled the divinely given prophecies. Scripture writers do not discuss the harmony between Divine sovereignty and man's free-will; but they show us man acting freely, and then draw aside the veil, and show us God's purpose accomplished by that very action that seemed to be so free. And the explanation is this - that all God's plans are formed upon perfect consideration of all that will occur; and this includes the Divine knowledge of how men will act, in their free will, in particular circumstances. To him who knows man altogether, the precise way in which every man will act, under every set of possible circumstances, must be fully anticipated. On this we may further dwell, and gain some apprehension of the Divine order.
I. MAN IS FREE TO ACT ON VARIOUS MOTIVES. He does act by motive. He may be moved by differing motives. He will act upon that which seems to be strongest. The strength of a motive greatly depends on the disposition and character which it urges. There appear to be a vast multitude of motives. Probably they could be greatly reduced by classification. The complexity and difficulty of knowing how a man will act in given circumstances does not arise from our inability to estimate his motives, but from our inability to judge how particular motives will influence him. We can tell by what considerations the Sadducees, Pharisees, and priests were moved to secure the death of Jesus. It is this acting of men on motive that gives moral character to their acts, and so brings on them the possibility of guilt.
II. ALL HUMAN MOTIVES, CIRCUMSTANCES, AND CHARACTERS ARE KNOWN TO GOD. The circle of motives that can possibly appeal to man's moral nature God completely spans. The precise circumstances under which motives urge in any given case, he fully knows and accurately weighs. The force which, under every set of circumstances, every motive will gain on every particular character and disposition, he perfectly estimates. And, though it is an almost impossible conception, we must conceive of God as looking down the long "stream of time," leaving his creatures free to act in all situations, and yet knowing beforehand the decision of every free will in every conceivable case. This is the marvel of the Divine foreknowledge.
III. ALL DIVINE PLANS ARE FORMED UPON THIS PERFECT ESTIMATE. Especially apply to the redemptive plan. In view of what would happen, and what men would do, the plan of redemption in the slain Lamb was formed before the foundation of the world. Man worked out his own prejudice and passion in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, and God worked out his plan of saving the race by the sacrifice of his only begotten Son. That we might know of this overruling, the prophecies of Messiah were given. So we see how man's guilt remains in his freedom to act on motive; and yet God's purposes remain unchanged by all men's willfulness, since the willfulness wan all foreknown and estimated. - R.T.
I. THE NATURE OF TRUE CONVERSION.
1. Spiritual change. Not a mere ritualistic sensation, or educational development of the character, but being "born again." Repentance, change of mind, on the ground of facts acknowledged and promises received. The announcement of the gift of God prepared the way for the call to repentance. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, therefore repent; pass through the gate into life.
2. Man's co-operation with God. "Repent and turn again" (Revised Version), "that your sins may be blotted out," etc. No amount of feeling is conversion; no enlightenment of the mind, or even devoutness of spirit, supersedes the change of life. The sins are blotted out by the blood of Christ as guilt, their burden is removed from the conscience, the heart, and the life, when repentance and faith introduce the sinner into the state of grace. What the apostle appealed for was a real coming out of the old state into the new. We must not be satisfied with mere religiousness, instead of decided confession of Christ before men. Direct the Word to the individual: "Repent ye. The participation of privilege as children of Abraham, as members of the favored nation, no release from the obligation to repent. The Church itself needs revival and change.
1. The great fact. Conversion is a reality, already seen. The Spirit of God is already poured out. The beginning of the new life is before our eyes. Others are changed, why not ye? Distinguish between the right and wrong use of such a fact. No necessity to wait for great revivals. Danger of expecting excitement to do God's work for us. The actual existence of a living, working Church of Christ in our neighborhood is the great call to us.
2. The offered blessedness - the blotting out of sins. Sense of pardon the spring of the new life. The function of thankfulness in practical Christianity. The impossibility of progress without a sense of liberty. Hence the defective Christianity of our Churches. No sense of victory over sin.
3. The promised future. Seasons of refreshing." Return of Jesus Christ. Restitution of all things. The key-note of revelation. The golden horizon of the world. Power of hope in awakening energy. "Pilgrim's progress" is towards "the celestial city." Turn your face from the city of Destruction to the city of God. The call to repentance should never be a mere denunciatory cry against sin, a mere pointing to the overhanging Mount Sinai, which gendereth bondage; but as the loving invitation to rejoice in the "presence of the Lord," from which the blessing is ready to come forth. Address men not as far off, but as nigh - within the temple courts, under the outspread wings. - R.
2 Peter 3:9-13). "Respecting the sense of the term 'restitution of all things,' no doubt can arise if we keep steadily in view the relation of the Redeemer to this sinful world: Christ is the Restorer of the fallen creation, and therefore the word 'restitution' derives from his redeeming power its peculiar meaning, viz that of bringing back to an originally pure condition." The Revised Version materially improves the reading of these verses: "Repent,... that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." "These times or seasons of refreshing, and those 'times of restitution or (restoration) of all things which God hath spoken,' both seem to refer to the same great hope of the Church, and are connected with the second sending forth of Jesus Christ from heaven to earth." Peter had clearer ideas of the Messianic kingdom, but he was still trammeled by the national and temporal figures under which it had been prophesied. His purpose evidently is to urge the audience to an immediate acceptance of Christ, as the way to bring on the establishment of the long-promised and glorious Messianic time. And the point of impression for us is this - Man's penitence, obedience, and faith prepare the way for the coming of Christ's kingdom, and the fulfillment of all the Divine promises. "The faster Israel turned to Jesus, the sooner would Jesus return to Israel." By this consideration we are still urged to preach the gospel, and persuade men to repent, at home and abroad.
I. THE TIMES OF REFRESHING THAT ARE ALWAYS CLOSE AT HAND. God is ever "waiting to be gracious," as it were watching for opportunities of giving men his rich spiritual blessing. Revivals are always close by, when men's hearts are made humble and open and seeking. Does an individual soul set itself upon humiliation and prayer? the "times of refreshing" are at hand for it. Does a Church unite in confession and supplication? the "times of refreshing" will come in response to its cry. And this assurance should act as a moral persuasion, and urge men to seek for higher and better things. "We are not straitened in God." He would bless us more abundantly if we were more truly ready for the blessing. "He is able to make all grace abound," etc. Taking "times of refreshing" as seasons to be realized now by the soul and by the Church, we may obtain illustrations from the Old Testament history, especially instances occurring in the later years of the national decline, such as the reformations under Hezekiah and Josiah. Or from the New Testament, especially dealing with Pentecost. Or from the Christian ages, noticing that such "times" take a variety of form and character. Sometimes they are prominently intellectual, as illustrated in the revival under Luther and the Port Royalists; sometimes they are prominently practical, as illustrated in the revival under St. Bernard; sometimes they are prominently emotional, as illustrated in the revival under Whitefield, and in the Scotch and Irish revivals of recent times. Such "times of refreshing" are necessary to the proper culture of our spiritual life. Under present conditions, the maintenance of good is so difficult. Oftentimes even holy purpose flags, and we become weary in well-doing. So in all departments of life we need revival times. Such are our summer restings, our sabbaths, birthdays, etc. If we will but set ourselves in proper attitudes of humility and seeking, we shall find God's "refreshing times" ever at hand. Apply especially to the calling of men to repentance and faith. Show what power on them we gain when, with St. Peter, we can say," The grace is ready, waiting for you if you will turn. Forgiveness is ready. The door of the new kingdom is open ready. Eternal life is ready. God waits but your uplook to come in, and save, even you. Repent, that the good times may come for you.
II. THE TIMES OF RESTORATION THAT ARE COMING BY-AND-BY. We should get some fitting ideas of the great plan for the recovery of the fallen race of man. Unquestionably the world is a fallen, disordered, ruined world. But God has gracious purposes concerning the restitution," or setting right, "of all things." And our Lord's death for human redemption began the restoration of all things. Our Lord's present spiritual work in the "heavenlies" - the moral and spiritual spheres - is the presidency of the restoring work. Then we must conceive of some glorious coming day of restitution, when the Divine plan and purpose shall be fully accomplished. We can only gain very imperfect and unworthy ideas of what that day will be; but we may gain deep impressions of our own relation to its on-coming, and of our own duty to hasten the glorious time, by seeing to it that the work of restoring grace is fully wrought in our hearts, lives, and spheres, and that the gospel of the living Savior is so widely preached that "every knee may be brought to bow to him." There is a true sense in which we may hasten the day when the Redeemer "shall see of the travail of his soul, shall be satisfied," and shall "deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father." We may give ourselves to Christ, and make one more sinner won. We may speak of Christ to others, persuade them to repent and believe, and so help to multiply the number of the saved, who shall be acknowledged in that great day. - R.T.
I. THAT HE WAS LIKE UNTO THE GREATEST OF ALL WHO PRECEDED HIM, BUT WAS GREATER THAN HE. (Ver. 22.) A greater Legislator than Moses, for his laws should last as long as time itself; a better Man, for he was absolutely without sin; a worthier Leader, conducting out of a harder bondage into a truer freedom, unto a land of greater promise.
II. THAT HIS RELATION TO MANKIND IS SUCH THAT THE REFLECTION OF HIM IS THE RUIN OF OURSELVES. (Ver. 23.) To be ignorant of some human teachers is to lose a valuable heritage, a precious treasure, excellent and elevating enjoyment; but to refuse his friendship, to reject his service, is to cut ourselves off from the source of eternal truth, is to abandon ourselves to the course which ends in spiritual death.
III. THAT HE IS THE ONE GREAT HERO OF SACRED SCRIPTURE. (For. 24.) "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Rightly read, "all the prophets" testified of him, and pointed on to those days in which he lived, suffered, died, and rose again.
IV. THAT HE BLESSES WHOM HE SERVES WITH THE SUPREME BLESSING. (Ver. 26.) What would we give to those whom we would fain serve? Health, fortune, power, fame, human love? Jesus Christ blesses by "turning away every one from his iniquities." What a transcendent blessing is this! Consider:
1. How much it involves; viz. the removal of the penalty and the power of sin from each individual soul.
2. How much it implies; viz. the restoration of each soul to God (for to fear him, to love him, and to strive to please him, is the only way to escape from a state of sin), and entrance upon eternal life (for the sphere of sin is the region of death, and to be delivered from the former is to enter the kingdom of life, the life which is spiritual and eternal).
3. By what means it is effected; viz.
(1) by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26), and
V. THAT, COMING TO REDEEM THE RACE, HE OFFERS HIS SALVATION FIRST TO THOSE WHO HAD REJECTED HIM. (Vers. 25, 26.) They to whom Peter spoke were "the children of the prophets;" but they had "denied the Holy One and the Just," and "killed the Prince of life." Yet to those who had so shamefully abused their privileges the apostle said, "To you first," etc. Jesus came to "call sinners to repentance," to restore those who had fallen the furthest, to cleanse the most leprous, to raise the spiritually dead, to win those most utterly estranged and most bitterly opposed to himself. So great a Conqueror is he. - C.
Deuteronomy 18:15) should be carefully noticed. 'The higher Messianic references of the Old Testament usually underlie an immediate relation to historical events or individuals. "As the words stand, taken with their context, they seem to point to the appearance of a succession of true prophets, as contrasted with the diviners of Deuteronomy 18:14; and, even with St. Peter's interpretation before us, we may well admit those prophets as primary and partial fulfillments of them." It seems that the Jews were fond of comparing the promised Messiah with their great prophet and lawgiver, Moses. Of this one specimen may be given from the rabbinical writings. "Rabbi Berakhiah says, 'As was the former redeemer, so shall the latter redeemer be.' While of the former redeemer it is said (Exodus 4:20), 'And Moses took his wife and his sons and set them upon an ass;' so of the latter, for it says (Zechariah 9:9), 'He is lowly and riding upon an ass.' And while the former redeemer brought down manna, as it says (Exodus 16:4), 'Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you;' so the latter redeemer will bring down manna, for it says (Psalm 72:16), 'There shall be abundance of corn in the land.' And as the former redeemer caused the well to spring up (see Numbers 21:17); so the latter redeemer shall also cause the waters to spring up, for it says (Joel 3:18), 'A fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.'" Moses dwells upon the fact that the coming Messiah should be like him. This comparison may be opened in the following particulars : -
I. MESSIAH WAS TO BE "OF THE BRETHREN." Our Lord was born of Jewish race. And he was, as a fellow-man, able to understand and to sympathize with those whom he led. He was a "man of like passions;" "in all points tempted as we are; able to succor them that are tempted." The importance of the actual humanity of our Lord in the theological systems of St. Paul and St. John should be fully unfolded. And the additional interest of his being a Jew may be pointed out. The history of the Jews shows that they have a singular power of adapting themselves to all climes, languages, nations, and societies; and that which is true of them is true of our Lord's gospel, as bearing, so markedly, the Jewish stamp. It can adapt to all the conditions of mankind, and be preached to every creature.
II. MESSIAH WAS TO BE A REDEEMER. Like Moses in this, he was to bring a people out of bondage, deliver them in a glorious and Divine manner, and lead them until their full redemption was complete in the possession of Canaan. This comparison may be made more minute. And it may be urged that, as the Redeemer, our Lord asks the same surrender to him, in trust, that Moses asked.
III. MESSIAH WAS TO BE A LAWGIVER. This was the great work of Moses. He took the entire person, life, and relations of the people into his regulations, settling rules for their moral, social, national, and ecclesiastical conditions. And so we come "under Law to Christ," who covers with his "new commandments" the whale of our lives and associations. "One is our Master, even Christ."
IV. MESSIAH WAS TO BE A TEACHER. This is the permanent idea of the term "prophet" - one who comes between God and the people, as instructing them in the Divine will. Both Moses and the Lord Jesus taught the people concerning God, sin, duty, salvation, character, etc.
V. MESSIAH WAS TO BE A JUDGE. This Moses was presiding at the chief national tribunal. And God has "committed all judgment to the Son." He "shall judge the quick and dead." "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." Impress from Hebrews 10:28, 29, "He that despised Moses' Law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much Sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God?" - R.T.
I. A WORD OF REMINDING IN DUE SEASON. The office of reminding may seem but an humble one. But how true the friend sometimes who undertakes it - who waits not for some grand occasion of instructing, of informing you of what you did not know, or of charming you with the latest discoveries of science or applications of art, but who simply brings afresh to your thought what you had long known! Conscience is such a friend when we will listen to it. It does not teach what is new, but does remind and remonstrate. God's Holy Ghost is such a Friend when you will listen to him. He both reveals the new and brings to remembrance the old, specially those dear old words, of priceless value, of Jesus. The written and spoken Word of God is such a friend. How many of its messages are but the pronounced repetitions of your own reason, experience! They are your own judgment and observation, now ushered in with all the added impressiveness that comes from the "endorsement" of the Divine page and pen. And now Peter tells his hearers no new thing. They had long ago known it, and had built much upon it. They built, though too ignorantly, large part of their hopes of salvation upon their being the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their trust was in the covenant God made with Abraham. Their great charter was "Moses and the prophets." But had it not often come to this, that they eagerly remembered their boasted rights but kept a poor memory for their duties? They would enforce their claims, ignore the correlative demands upon themselves, long more than due! "We have Abraham to our father," was their ever-ready cry; yet they had "killed the prophets," and "stoned them that were sent to them," and had "crucified the Prince of life." "Of him," says Peter, "all the prophets spoke," from Moses the greatest, and Samuel the second greatest. And surely you won't forget that "you are the children of those prophets," and won't consent to act unworthily of that relationship! Was not this a word of reminding in due season? And was it not put very kindly by Peter to his congregation? Perhaps all the same tone of thought, all the same suggestion for memories, awake enough at the point of rights and claims, but that fade at the point of duty and responsibility, characterizes to a very large degree the present day. Men do not forget they are Englishmen; they do not forget to boast their freedom. Are they touched in one of these or the like respects, they resent it as though the apple of their eye was touched. But they forget they are the children of those who got these things for them "through much tribulation;" who fought, suffered, died, for their privileges. They forget they are the children of Reformers and Protestants, who "resisted even unto blood," and for conscience' sake were burned at the stake; that they are children of those who loved, spake, and did the truth, cost what it might. It was a very effective point which Peter made when, viewing it as a kindly reminder, he said, "Ye are the children of the prophets."
II. A WORD CONCEIVED IN THE VEIN OF REBUKE. While it is not at all necessary to construe the text as the language of stern rebuke, yet it may imply some rebuke. And this deserves rebuke, when men are so willing to touch human life at all its points of contact with pleasure, self-interest, honor, privilege, but are so very shy of it at its points of contact with duty, effort, sacrifice. With the many, the strongest bent, deepest inclination of their life is still but what they can get and have, what they can say or think to the advantage of themselves. The choice is a mournfully sorry one, when it is considered to what it comes. For its one-sidedness it earns rebuke. For its cowardice it earns rebuke. For its certain unprofitableness it earns rebuke. And not least does it earn rebuke because of its higher opportunities forfeited, and nobler passions and principles wasted and alienated. The harvest is too surely reaped, of disappointment, vanity, and vexation of spirit, or self-stricken darkness itself. But let some one begin life from the diametrically opposite standpoint. Let him accept the theory that life is for duty, that it is responsible for the vaster advantages with which it began than those with which it was begun by preceding generations, that it calls for work more strenuous, and sacrifice more willing, and self-surrender more entire by very virtue of the honor and advantage it has drawn from its own forefathers; and that life is shaped for high ends. It will not fail of real fruitfulness; it will not expire, a sorrow and a shame. The gentle suggestive rebuke couched in the text touches the essential difference between two such lives. You are not the children of possession, and of ease, and of the "rest and be thankful" school; you are the descendants of a nobler strenuous, solemn race. They had large brains, they had bone and muscle about them, sinew and nerve were firm and firmly tied, and their heart was capacious. Ay, to other sort men ofttimes prefer to trace their lineage; but to this sort, the kindly rebuke of Peter, of the Word and Spirit of God, of his providence, and of our own conscience, should oftener turn us and our ambition.
III. A WORD EQUIVALENT TO A STIRRING SUMMONS FOR A PEOPLE OF EXTRAORDINARY DIGNITY AND PRIVILEGE. It will be granted that the Jews were such a people. Yet, with all their honor and splendor, their unique religious privileges, and their preeminent political prestige, it must be allowed that they show but a faint type of ourselves. They rose to a pinnacle of national greatness, and great was their fall; but it was no mystery. The beginning of it was plain, the course of it was plain. It was often pointed out by priest, prophet, preacher, and by that man of the people themselves, who "was an Israelite indeed." Yet they wrought their own downfall, and cruelly undermined their own proud position, because they lost ear, heart, and pride for that which was their glory, and to its announcement greatly preferred to sound their own trumpet. But were there ever heirs like ourselves? Was there ever an heritage like ours? Of what prophets are we the children, when we think of the accumulations of knowledge, of conviction, of attestations of God's existence, providence, government, revelation, which the stream of time has been bearing down, richest freights to our shores? In such sense we are children of no obscure parentage, "citizens of no mean city, owning to a history of unsurpassed significance. Ages and centuries of the past bend their surprised gaze upon us; they compass us about with clouds of witnesses. And when the gentle reminding is passed, and the suggested rebuke seems to fail, one thing only remains - impassioned appeal, a summons that must wake all but those who are securely dead. Live we, then, worthily of our antecedents, mindful of our responsibilities as heirs of such a past. Let us flee from unfaithfulness, and. scorn the seductions of ease and luxury. Let us purge ourselves from vanity, per verseness, and serf. Let us pray for a divinely opened eye, mind, heart. And show by God's grace that we have not forgotten, but on the contrary do make it our business to remember, whose "children we are." - B.
I. THE INFINITE FOUNDATION ON WHICH THE GOSPEL RESTS. God raised up his Son (Servant); God sent him.
1. The twofold aspect of the Divine character thus presented to us. Love desiring to bless; righteousness requiring the putting away of iniquities. All is from the Father.
2. The person and the work of Christ revealed in their intimate union. "Raised up," comprehending the whole conception of the mediatorial exaltation of Jesus Christ. Difference between his history and that of any mere human agent raised up for action, the necessity for all that we find in the Scripture record. God knows it, though we may not see it.
3. The Scripture is not given to be worked up by men's devices into mere food for human pride; it is a practical Book, the foundation laid, to be built upon. Christ was sent to bless us, and we can find the blessing only as we seek it practically.
II. THE UNIVERSAL MESSAGE TO THE WORLD.
1. The moral state of all men shows the necessity for such a proclamation. "Your iniquities. The history of the gospel reminds us that the most religiously instructed were far from being the most godly. The superstitions and oppositions of the world multiply its iniquities, Man cannot turn himself to God.
2. The whole gospel must be preached, or its true success cannot be realized. The mutilated Christianity of our time is proving itself impotent. We must lead the hearts of men to a person; we must teach them dependence on a power; we must call them to newness of life, a life already made manifest through Christ, both in his history and in the history of his people. Then:
3. The blessing should be put first and foremost. Blessing which the world has been waiting for from the beginning, which it has been prepared for by the dispensations, which it received in germ in Abraham and his seed, but which is for all the families of the earth. Hence it was to the Jew first," as the consecrated messenger; but as the patriarchs were taken to the larger sphere of Egypt that they might come forth from it prepared to be God's messengers, so Christianity must be taken from its Judaistic standpoint, and put into the central position of the world's life, that it may draw to itself Greece and Rome, the East and the West, the whole nature and existence of humanity. So now the progress of man is from the emancipation of the individual, through that of the nation, to the cosmopolitan blessedness of mankind as a race. The mission of Christ is to each and to all. - R.
them the gospel was first to be preached. Their former Divine revelation was a gracious preparation of them for the reception of the new revelation. But the new blessing would not come to them merely as a nation; it would come to each individual, and to the whole only through the individual, and depend upon the openness and acceptance of faith. Apostles were to "begin at Jerusalem." The points made prominent by this simple appeal are,
(1) God is the Savior
(2) he saves by his Son Jesus;
(3) the essence of that salvation is the turning of men away from their iniquities.
I. GOD IS THE SAVIOR. The apostles always kept to the idea that Christ is the Medium of the salvation, and God the source. Sometimes the exigencies of theological systems have led to the practical neglect of this important distinction. God saves men. God's love is the fountain of redemption. God's wisdom fashions the redemptive plan. God's Son executes the redemptive purpose. God is in all, and God must be glorified in all. No apostle puts this more plainly than St. Peter. Compare his very forcible language in 1 Peter 1:21, "Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
II. GOD SAVES BY his SON JESUS CHRIST. Whom he sent to the earth, and whom he raised from the dead. This is God's way of salvation. It is the only way. By both considerations we are urged to accept it.
III. THE ESSENCE OF THAT SALVATION IS THE TURNING OF MEN AWAY FROM THEIR INIQUITIES. The special iniquity dealt with here is the rejection and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus; but that is ever regarded as displaying and proving, in a very impressive manner, the fallen and ruined condition of men. It was such a display of malice, prejudice, and hard-hearted willfulness, as revealed the utter badness and corruption of humanity. Show that the root-cause of evil in man is stir-love, self-seeking, and self-will. In these things lie our iniquity. From them we can only be turned by the love of another, the seeking of the good of another, and the enthronement of the wilt of another. Therefore Jesus Christ is set forth, we are bidden to look at him, know him, set our love on him, and enthrone him. He can work a mighty saving work in every heart and every life that is turned towards him and opened to him. And penitence and faith can open our heart-doors. The way and the means to secure " Divine forgiveness," "blotting out of sins", and "times of refreshing, are that repentance and turning again" to which the apostle has been exhorting the people. This is urged first upon the Jews, but it is the condition of salvation for Jew and Gentile alike. - R.T.