Acts 4:23
On their release, Peter and John returned to their own people and reported everything that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
Sermons
The Use of FreedomW. Clarkson Acts 4:23
A Reluctant ReleaseW. Hudson.Acts 4:18-31
Apostolic HeroismW. Hudson.Acts 4:18-31
BoldnessS. S. TimesActs 4:18-31
Christian CourageMonday Club SermonsActs 4:18-31
Christian CourageChristian AgeActs 4:18-31
Christian CourageW. E. Knox, D. D.Acts 4:18-31
Christian TestimonyActs 4:18-31
Constrained to Speak About JesusActs 4:18-31
Duty to God FirstR. Tuck, B. A.Acts 4:18-31
Duty to God the Supreme LawM. Luther.Acts 4:18-31
God Before ManActs 4:18-31
God to be Obeyed At All CostsM. Luther.Acts 4:18-31
Honest Christian SpeechS. Martin.Acts 4:18-31
Making Christ Known to OthersJ. S. Balmer.Acts 4:18-31
Moral HeroismH. O. Mackey.Acts 4:18-31
Not Man's, But God's Voice to be HeardR. Eden, M. A.Acts 4:18-31
Not to Cease Because DespisedH. W. Beecher.Acts 4:18-31
Obedience to GodActs 4:18-31
Obeying God Rather than MenSouthey's Life of Wesley.Acts 4:18-31
ProtestantismJ. A. Froude.Acts 4:18-31
Speaking God's WordD. L. Moody.Acts 4:18-31
Testimony not to be StifledW. Arnot, D. D.Acts 4:18-31
The Apostles' Confidence in GodD. J. Burrell, D. D.Acts 4:18-31
The Apostles' Confidence in GodJohn D. Pickles.Acts 4:18-31
The Connection Between Believing the Gospel and Making it KnownW. Lucy.Acts 4:18-31
The Gospel Cannot be ConcealedC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 4:18-31
The One Question in ConductBp. Huntington.Acts 4:18-31
Praise for Safety and Prayer for PowerR. Tuck Acts 4:23-31
The Grateful, Emboldened, and Prayerful Church, and the Spirit's WitnessP.C. Barker Acts 4:23-31
The Joy of Faith ConfirmedE. Johnson Acts 4:23-31
Being Let GoJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 4:23-37
Being Let GoJ. McNeill.Acts 4:23-37
Christian SocialismD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 4:23-37
CompanyW. M. Taylor, D. D.Acts 4:23-37
Every Creature After its KindW. Arnot, D. D.Acts 4:23-37
Every Man to His Own PlaceG. F. Humphreys.Acts 4:23-37
Features of the Apostolic ChurchR. Hall, M. A.Acts 4:23-37
Happy Only in Our Own CompanyJohn Currie.Acts 4:23-37
Men Will Go At Last. Where They are Fit to GoJ. L. Nye.Acts 4:23-37
Our Own CompanyA. Raleigh, D. D.Acts 4:23-37
Prayer and the Promises are Doubly Dear in ExtremitiesH. G. Salter.Acts 4:23-37
Primitive WorshipDean Vaughan.Acts 4:23-37
Resource in TroubleWayland Hoyt, D. D.Acts 4:23-37
The Apostles At LibertyJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 4:23-37
The Burnt Offering of a True Church PrayerK. Gerok.Acts 4:23-37
The Prayer of the Church At Jerusalem Under PersecutionThomas Jackson.Acts 4:23-37
The Prayer of the Primitive ChurchW. Arnot, D. D.Acts 4:23-37
The Resource of the Devout, EtcW. Clarkson Acts 4:23-37
Their Own CompanyHomiletic ReviewActs 4:23-37
Being let go, they went to their own company. We have here an apt illustration of -

I. AN ACT INCIDENTAL TO LIBERTY. "Being let go" - the hand of restraint being taken off them - "they went to their own company;" they followed the bent of their own inclination, and went to those with whom they were in sympathy. This is the constant accompaniment of human freedom. As soon as the parental hand is relaxed, as soon as the teacher's eye is off them, as soon as the restraints of home and the guardianship of elders are removed, the young take their own course, follow their own bent, choose their own company. We never know what men really are until we take away the bonds by which we hold them in check, and they go "whithersoever they will" - whither their own principles allow, and their own tastes direct them.

II. THE WISDOM OF THOSE WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHERS. It is of little use to hold the reins so tight that, as long as they are held by a firm hand, there can be no wandering. What is to be the event when the reins must be thrown up? What will be the course chosen when they whom we guard are "let go"? If we do nothing mere and better than carefully imprison within walls of correct behavior, we shall be bitterly disappointed with the result. It is our wisdom and our duty to provide for the hour when those for whom we are responsible will be "let go," and when they will assuredly go to their own company - will seek out those persons and those things with which they sympathize. We can only do this

(1) by implanting right principles, and

(2) cultivating pure tastes.

These, and these only, will lead the young, in the days when they act for themselves, to shun that which is wrong and to pursue that which is holy, wise, useful.

III. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF FREEDOM. Young people!

1. You will soon stand at the point where you will decide on your own course.

2. If, then, you are right at heart, you will walk in the path of life; choosing the company of the good, the ways of wisdom.

3. If, then, your heart is not right with God, you will be tempted to follow an evil bent. It will be a most perilous hour with you.

(1) To give way to the lower inclinations is to enter the road of ruin.

(2) If you love life and hate death, go not whither you would, but where conviction tells you you should. Hearken to the heavenly voice which says, "This is the way; walk ye in it." - C.







And being let go, they went to their own company.
We do not know what we or other people are until the restraint is taken off. We call ourselves free, but there is not an absolutely free man in the universe. We have the liberty of law. We have the freedom of a theocracy. "The Lord reigneth," and He would reign to no purpose if He did not restrain every creature, and restrain with singular meaning and graciousness the creature who bears His own image.

I. Good RESTRAINTS.

1. Socially, in the lowest level. He is an ungallant and wholly undesirable man who is not restrained by the presence of ladies. But for that you could not tell what language he would have used. He could not be in his true self, not because there are ten great fiery commandments staring him in the face, but because of an all-pervading feeling of refinement. But if such men be let' go, and join their bad set, you see their quality.

2. Or take the limits of hospitality. A man says, "I cannot avenge this insult now, because I am bound to show hospitality; but being let go, I shall feel entitled to say or do things which at present I cannot."

3. Or, still keeping within the scope of the question, the occasion makes the man. Say it is a solemn occasion, a funeral, people weeping because of the dead and gone. The modest man, at all events, halts, he is silent if not complaisant. He dare not say what he would at other times; but being let go away from the grave and the cypress shadow, you will see what he is really.

4. Look at, the subject religiously. Here we have the subtlest restraints. The tender memories, the old, old long ago, somehow, to kill that ancient time would be like strangling an angel. The old home feeling, the childish sounds, the old family usages, seem to keep us back with "Beware I you had better not do it! Stand still!" Who can estimate the value of a religious education? First prayers, first little verses learned and sung by bird-like lips — who can tell how these things will go with the child when he becomes a man, full of care and tempted to sin? The little things which now are matters of amusement, may stand one day up and say to the man, "You used to be a pure-lipped child, a loved and loving creature; a thousand prayers were offered for your salvation." When you murder yourself, you murder a whole generation of mentors and suppliants.

II. BAD RESTRAINT.

1. A man is shut up in bad society, in a corrupt atmosphere. He never hears a word that touches his best nature; he longs for the higher and purer spaces; for moral liberty; he is a better man than he can be under his circumstances. God will make a difference, because He will have compassion upon some. He knows exactly what restraints are upon us, and what we would be if we could break the chain and fly upward into the blue heaven.

2. Others are crippled for want of means. We regard them as destitute of good deeds and high feeling, and we speak about them with our erring judgment. God will discriminate. He knows what the poor soul will be. There is a way out at the other end! Great moral freedom, liberty for giving the soul spaces to fly in, and temples to sing in not made with hands. God knows what munificence you would show if you had the liberty.

3. Many a man is misunderstood for want of liberty. He is waiting. I have known often splendid talents wait a long time for a chance. I have known men misjudged, contemned, spring up into their true selves when let, go. Their time has come; then you hear the music of their voice, and you know the length of their arm, and they were waiting — great men all the while.Conclusion:

1. We each belong to a company, and until we have found our company, we are restless. We speak of being "a fish out of water," as fully expressing the condition of men who are not in their own company. Some of us are only half in our right society. We were born for the gutter and were destined for low companionship, and b.y. a singular force of gravitation we turn to that which is unworthy. Others, again, are the contrary. They are forced to do the things they hate. They say, "It is not our nature; it is not the place I was born into. These are not the surroundings God meant me to enjoy." So by this discontent of soul God calls us to our own company.

2. But we may be converted! The lowest nature may be converted! The lowest nature may be made into the highest. The man who began with low desires may come to enjoy the desire for prayer. Conversion is the state which we are called upon personally to realise and represent. Mere restraint is not conversion. We are restrained from starting up in the midst of the service and going out. We seem to rise to the great spirit of the occasion, while we are in reality buying and selling, transacting our business. So we cannot tell what we are until the restraints are taken off, when we shall be left to our own company, and being let go, will only go downward. There are grades in devildom, and there is still a lower and lower, until we reach the pit that never ends.

3. Are we under the right influence? We cannot test it by mere laws, by mechanical arrangements and impositions. Only love can keep us, and love will keep us. And though we shall always have the liberty of doing wrong, we shall have within us the love which makes the use of that liberty an impossibility. Now ][ am about to let you go. Will you go to your own company? But, remember, young man, wisely trained at home, you have no business with that bad set.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. WE ALL SUFFER A KIND OF IMPRISONMENT BY OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. There is —

1. The chain of work. We and our children must live. And in order to maintain this life, we voluntarily give away every day a part of our personal freedom. This necessity is on the whole a beneficent one, and it is perfectly consistent with personal freedom in the truest sense. But still there is imprisonment of some of the highest faculties. Faith, hope, love, joy, can all indeed have exercise in work, but not their most perfect exercise. What a prison a great city is, and how many are in it with "hard labour!" A fine morning dawns. You would like to wander away, to hear the gurgle of the country stream, to see the bloom on the trees, the bird on the wing, the clouds floating so restfully across the sky. But you are a prisoner. You can look through your bars towards the large and wealthy place but it is only a look. You must soon turn to your work.

2. The chain of habit. Not so much of a man's own habits as those of the society in which he lives — the conventionalities of life, in which every man is more or less bound. These are not at all insincerities, hypocrisies. They are generally a fair product of the state of society at the time. If our conventionalities were all away, some would be better, and some worse. So that all are in prison by them. There is a great resentment sometimes felt against those who break through; and such attempts generally end in submission. Take, for instance, our social gatherings. With all their freedom and geniality, there is considerable restriction imposed by the mere forms of society. One makes an endeavour to be natural and almost succeeds; but cannot quite. Another seeks to know his neighbour a little better, but the real man escapes him, and goes home to be known far more perfectly by his little children. Another endeavours to speak out his real sentiments; but the astonishment, pain, or disapprobation, make him almost regret that he has spoken — and certainly a little less likely to speak again.

3. The great strong chain of law. That is no doubt a grand safeguard of society. But while it protects it restrains. It protects partly by restraining. It makes some men more virtuous than they would be, and others a little less. A man could do some great good, and would, but the law forbids. He would only involve himself and ethers in difficulties and loss by making the attempt. Or he could do some evil. He has impure thoughts which might become actions; unjust longings which might become fraud, if the law were not there frowning defiance and suspending penalty.

II. IN THESE ENVIRONING CIRCUMSTANCES, THERE ARE, NOW AND AGAIN, CLEAR PROVIDENTIAL OPENINGS — by which the real man himself comes out, seen by others, or seen only by himself and God! A changing time is always a critical time.

1. When the young man leaves home to come up to the great city, how intense is the parental and the friendly solicitude! "He was safe here; but will he be safe yonder? Will he not slide or perhaps fall? Or will the change strengthen his will for goodness, and draw him more clearly into the ranks of Christ's faithful ones?" These are the searching solemn questions, but why do they arise? Because it is felt that even at home that youth was not fully known, because there are sleeping possibilities which other circumstances might draw out into actualities, and they are not quite sure how the scale might turn.

2. A change of residence in later life sometimes operates in the same way. There is then a complete break up in one class of associations. Living in the new neighbourhood seems to bring out a new man. It may be a better man, or it may be a worse. The gates of that social prison where before he was held in restriction, perhaps kept from ruin, have been opened, and he will show himself more as he is.

3. The continental journey is another opening of the wall. Persons then go to places the like of which they would never think of visiting at home, and altogether feel a freedom which they would in vain seek for with the ordinary circumstances of life around them. The freedom may be rightly used in putting aside the chains of opinion, prejudice, and custom; or it may be much abused. But it is freedom, and therefore develops some more of the reality of the persons than is usually seen in the walks of their home life.

4. Then again life as it goes on brings many opportunities for freer action and fuller display of the real inward man than ordinary circumstances permit. They are opportunities for good and for evil. To some they are "the gates of righteousness," into which they "enter and praise the Lord." To others they are but the door leading to an "inner prison," where their "feet are made fast in the stocks."

III. WHEN SO RELEASED WE GO TO OUR OWN COMPANY. Every night what multitudes hasten through the door of opportunity to their own company! The day keeps them in prison, the night brings release. Let us follow some, and see what company they keep!

1. Take that young man for whom so much anxiety was felt when he left home. Enter with him — there is no company there. There is the little table for refreshment which is soon over; then he takes down the books to the study of which he will devote these evening hours — and that is the company he keeps. He is smitten with the love of knowledge, and what is far better, with the love of Christ. He is sure that he will have to serve Him in some sphere, and is resolved by study and prayer to make himself ready.

2. Or let us observe this young woman who has been busy all day with her needle. Blessings on her industry! honour to her virtue! peace to her home! To-night she is going to her own company before she reaches that home. There is to be a meeting for prayer, a great blessing is expected, and she must be there to ask among the rest.

3. Take another, a man. He has had what is called a heavy day; but, oh, what a lightsome welcome now that he is home I Little hands are soon in his, and little tongues are telling the wonderful things that have happened during the day; and smiles fall from another face, and there is a comfortable mingling of thought, and love, and sympathy, and heart with heart. The day opened to him the theatre of duty, the night thus brings him to "his own company."

4. Another; where is he going? Westward, but not out of the city. On he passes along the busy streets under the gas-lights, until he comes to the flaring entrance of the place where his company will be. With perhaps just one twinge of conscience he passes in, and there among the gaudy and giddy throng he sits for hours listening to the music, or watching the display. And these he says are the happiest hours of his life. That man has reduced his soul to a pitiable condition when, having all this world to choose from, that soul "being let go," finds its own selectest company in a frivolous throng like that.

5. And others go to places still worse, which we cannot describe; where the fires of Tophet are already kindled, where the guests are in the depths of hell, and there find "their own company."

6. But enough! Where do we find ours? We shall say no more of places now, but speak only about persons. Who are the persons in whose presence and society our souls find their best company? What is their character? What is their aim in life? What will be their end? Suppose we had been imprisoned with the apostles, and with them set free, should we have gone with them to their own company? When we are set free, now and again in the course of our own life, do we long for and seek fellowship with faithful souls and pure hearts? There are but two companies in the universe. Even now there are but two, although in this world they are to us inseparably mingled. The division and separation is taking place by degrees. The gospel makes it. We ourselves make in those selective moments of our life to which we have referred. But it will be made infallibly and visibly at last by the Lord Himself, when the sheep shall be on His right hand, and the goats on His left.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Homiletic Review.
The crystallising power in nature. What we call the force of gravitation is a force most mysterious and constant. But the force of gravitation is simple compared with this many-sided ramifying force of crystallisation. The reason — ultimate particles of matter are seeking their own company; these ultimate particles of matter are possessed of attractive and repellent poles; and as these atomic poles attract or repel each other the shape of the crystal is determined. There is as well a certain crystallising power sovereign in society. Men and women have attractive and repellent poles. By means of this social crystallising power many and various social shapes are being formed — not always beautiful and noble, sometimes evil, ugly, disastrous. Concerning this crystallising fact and force in society, in the light of this narrative, consider —

1. Hindrance. See whole narrative as to how Peter and John were hindered from going to their own company. So, often, we are somehow hindered from seeking the company really most congenial to us. Work, social requirements, regard for reputation, lack of money, hinder. Apply to young men, etc.

2. Permission. "And being let go" — work ceases, social requirements allow, special danger to reputation passes, wages are paid. Men are free.

3. Like goes to like. Character asserts itself. These apostles went to the company of the pure because they were pure.

4. Lessons.

(1)It is a man's own company which nurtures what is predominant in him.

(2)A man's own company discloses him to others.

(3)A man's own company discloses him to himself.

(4)A man's own company is the test of the regenerate life. We know that we have passed from death unto life if we love the brethren.

(5)A man's own company settles his destiny.

(Homiletic Review.)

"Being let go, they went to their own company." That means for one thing that we do not know until straits come, what a man's heart and real disposition are. You have your children with you at home, and think that your children have a love for this, and a liking for that, and a strong desire for the other, but "let them go," and then you will see; as long as they are under parental restraints, you really do not know what they are. They must be tested by being let go. They go to their own resort, and to their own set. Oh, what painful things happen in family life when the children are old enough, and you must let them go, when home restraints are removed! Then you thought they loved whatsoever things were honourable and of good report, and they, perhaps, themselves thought it too. It is not so much hypocrisy as an illustration of the solemn truth that the heart is deceitful and full of evil things. Being let go, the real heart in them takes command, the real pilot takes the wheel and guides the vessel according to his liking. "Being let go they went to their own company." See, for example, the restraints of religion. I think I am a religious man, you think that you are religious people, but if in some way I could be let go from the ministry, and if you could be let go from the eyes that are upon you in this place, from the associations and routine that brings you here, where would you go? What is in the heart determines the life. To-night you are set free from business, and in a sense you are let go from the office, but are you, is your heart really let go? Are you going into the holy work before us to-night, or is it not the case that even while you are sitting here, that being let go, your heart is back to the stocks and shares, the buying and the selling, that even here your heart is seeking its true home, its true happiness.? It is not in this thing, is it? There are reasons why we come, why in a sense we like it, but let us be honest with ourselves. It is what we like that is the true man or the true woman. How does the heart go when we are let go? But if I have thus spoken of the dark side, bless God there is a brighter side, and I trust that we can even, when we meet here to.night, experience the happiness and brightness of the better side. When we come to the House of God, to the prayer-meeting, from all outward life, because we like to do it, we like to come, like bairnie with her mother, a wee bird to her nest, we fly home to God, to the Bible, to God and the Book of God, and the House of God, when we are let go. We delight when the cords are snapped, and when we can come into the House of God. Only during the day there is a kind of chafing restlessness within us. Oh that the evening would come that I might get to my own company I "Being let go they went to their own company." Just as at school, I suppose we looked as if we liked our school, we looked as if we were diligent, we had to be so outwardly, but when four o'clock came and the doors were open, did you ever see the schoolboys that departed reluctantly, as if they could hardly cross the threshold and go away from the blessed place? We nearly tumbled over each other rushing away. Being let go, out we went home. And yet we were not hypocrites. It is that our heart was in it, and we were restrained; we were tied up, held back, but being let go, the full momentum and swing of our disposition got out. Thank God, then, for the bright side, and I would say you are encouraged to make much of the bright side. If you know God, then thank God, for that is a fruitful plant that never grew up in the dry dreary sand of our worldly heart. And if I speak to any to whom this word is sad, you say, "Well, brother, I wish I was like it, I wish I could rush to the fellowship of God's people, as those apostles rushed to their own company, and as children rush home from school, and the tired business men flying home by bus and train to the sweetness and seclusion of their own homes in the suburbs. I wish I had that desire for the House of God." There is more gladness of heart here than if I were in the theatre or music-hall, or giddy dance or banquet, with its so-called "feast of reason and flow of soul." Here the best and deepest, the truest thoughts in you get out, and lay hold of the deep, true, living, satisfying God. "Being let go, they went to their own company." It is that, let me just urge, that we should cultivate still more, this company and fellowship. Do not let a little keep us back. How disappointed the apostles would have been if they went to their own company, and found a small meeting when such great interests were involved. My father said, when he was a lad going to school, they had to take their own fire with them, the coals were not then provided as they are now, and every lad carried his peat under his arm. That was his contribution of heat. Bring your peat under your arm, and like one that is let go, like an arrow from the string, come gladly and brightly, and I will try and come with mine, and "every little makes a mickle," and it is wonderful what a roaring, open fire we may have, even in this dull neighbourhood of Regent's Square, what light and warmth before God, and to His praise. Let us come as the apostles did, when being let go they went to their own company. I like to think of the text in its final application. There is a day coming when we shall be let go. The dark side and the bright side of my text will receive its final and truest illustration then, for every man goes to his own place. And when the stroke of death cuts all our cords, and we drop this muddy vesture of clay, and are, at last, let go, we will hardly need the judgment day and verdict of God. Some will rise as glorious ones, treading the way unto the throne of God, and some will go into outer darkness, for they always loved darkness rather than light, and they will get it. Being let go, God at last will say, "I will restrain you no more, I will argue with you no more, you would be free, be free. He that is filthy, let him be filthy still, he that is holy, let him be holy still. Be let go and find your own company." This is the Lord's election. This is the natural law that runs through the spiritual world, even He that worketh in all our fellowships and friendships, our likes and dislikes, our drawings and repentings. It is being let go that a man finds his level, and seeks and gets his own company. At the great day when some of us go past the judgment seat on our way home, and hear the word, "Come ye blessed," it will just be a re-echo of this, for you have been always coming ever since you were converted. It was the end and trend, a focus of all your way and work. Only when some of us hear the thundering curse, "Depart!" we shall understand then that we were, always cursed. "I never knew you," what a solemn word! How bright! How black! Thank God that grace can make it for you and me all bright. The Ethiopian can change his skin, the leopard can change his spots, the vilest can be changed, and changed by the abundant grace of Christ, received through simple faith in Christ. Another few minutes and you are let go, and you go to your own house, and a rebound will take place. The heart will slip round to its true base. Watch it, for God's sake, and your own. Being let go when the preacher's voice is still, the holy words are no longer spoken, the holy place with its associations no longer present here, God grant that it may be all bright.

(J. McNeill.)

?: —

I. EVERY MAN HAS HIS COMPANY.

II. SOMETIMES MEN ARE RESTRAINED FROM KEEPING THE COMPANY OF THEIR FRIENDS.

III. WHEN THESE RESTRICTIONS ARE WITHDRAWN, MEN RETURN TO THE COMPANY OF THEIR CHOICE. Life itself is a restraint, separating us from the companions we have chosen, but when it ceases, its restraining power will cease too, and we shall go to "our own company" in heaven or in hell.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

I. THE DISCIPLES WENT TO THEIR OWN COMPANY. They naturally desired the society of those who had sympathy with them.

II. EVERY PERSON BELONGS TO SOME COMPANY. There are two classes: saints and sinners. Affinities, proclivities, etc., are only subdivisions of these.

III. RESTRAINTS OF LIFE MAY PREVENT OUR OPENLY JOINING OUR COMPANY.

1. Our work.

2. Public opinion.

3. Policy.

4. Interest.

5. Lack of courage.

IV. WHEN THESE ARE REMOVED EACH PERSON WILL GO TO HIS OWN PLACE. What a change would follow if this world had no social, civil, or moral law laid upon it — every one a law to himself! The devil in man would make havoc in human history. This has been proved wherever restraints have been slackened.

V. THE TEST OF CHARACTER FOUND HERE.

1. What is our company?

2. Are we restrained by work, circumstance, or policy from joining it?

3. Is it a company God can approve of?

4. What is our influence on it, and its influence on us?

5. We shall go to our own place at last.

(G. F. Humphreys.)

The following incident was told in my hearing in one of the villages of Canada to illustrate the truth, which so many ignore at the present day, that there must be a change of heart if we are ever permitted to enjoy "the rest that remaineth for the ,people of God." "Some years ago there was to be a prize-fight at a certain place in England, and a party of men chartered a steamboat to take them to the place at the time appointed. Another steamer was engaged to take a party of Christians to different kind of fight — a fight against wrong-doing, that every soldier of Christ is called to engage in under the 'Captain of his salvation.' The place of the last-named conflict was a Methodist camp-ground. Just as the last bell rang on each steamer (both were chartered to leave at the same hour — half-past two p.m.) two men were seen running towards the steamers as they were moving out from the wharf, and both sprang into what each one thought to be his own company. But, oh! what a mistake! the Methodist saw that he was among prize-fighters, and the prize-fighter found that he was among Christians. Do you suppose those men were contented and happy in their different company? Is a fish happy out of water? 'No, not happy, but miserable,' you say. So each of those men were miserable because they were out of their element. The Methodist came to the captain, and said, 'Captain, I have got into the wrong steamer, and I am not going to stay here; it is like hell to be among these men who are cursing and swearing; take the steamer back and let me get out. I intended to go to a camp-meeting; yonder is the steamer I ought to be in.' But his trying to get himself righted after he saw he was wrong was fruitless. Well, what about the other man? 'Oh,' you say, 'he was all right and happy among those good Methodist people.' But you are mistaken, for he was in a worse dilemma than the Christian man. He went to the captain and asked him to take the steamer back, as he said he must go to the prize-fight. But the captain said, 'No: our orders are to keep on our course as long as there is nothing wrong with the steamer, and we must obey.' Then the man offered the captain money if he would turn back, but the captain was as determined to go on his voyage. By this time the Methodists thought they would ' show their faith by their works,' by talking to the prize-fighter about his soul; but the prize-fighter could not endure it, so he went to the captain again and begged of him to bring the steamer a little nearer to the shore and he would jump into the water and swim to land."

(John Currie.)

A mysterious, reciprocal attraction drew Peter and John together, although they were by no means alike. Perhaps their differences rendered them more suitable to each other; as a man's strength and a woman's gentleness bind two into one in married life. This noble pair were of the three chosen disciples, were companions at the sepulchre, and were together through all the stages of this incident. Now being free they go to their own. Like draws to like. When evil was to be done the rulers laid their heads together. "Birds of a feather flock together"; and if one bird has been for a time imprisoned, when the cage is opened it will fly straight and quick to the place where it left its mates. On this principle proceeds the pigeon telegraph. The instincts of animals are perfect in their kind. When a captive lamb is set at liberty it never halts until it has rejoined the flock. With equal exactness does the washed sow return to wallow with her fellows in the mire. Thus suddenly and surely did a worldling, who had for a time been arrested by the discourses of Jesus, leap back into his element of filthy lucre. As soon as there was a pause in the sermon he went to his own: "Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me." An example of the opposite tendency in a renewed heart is seen in the possessed man whom our Lord delivered at Gadara. Being let go of Satan he went to his own — to his own Saviour and fellow disciples. How often when professing Christians go abrOad, they leave their religion behind them. It was never more than an external thing, a bondage, and therefore when removed the irreligious soul goes to its irreligion. A young man has been accustomed to the order of a Christian household. As the lines of restraint were laid on him while an infant, he is not very conscious of them. But he leaves for the great metropolis. If his religion has been only a cord round his neck, like the bit and bridle which holds the horse, he is now free; he will go to his own and seek the company of the careless or the profane. Cords of this kind were fastened on Judas, but when at last he was let go what a leap he made into his own place! Demas was brought for a time under the mighty influence of Paul, which, however, gave way one day, and to the present world, his chosen portion, gravitated Demas, as a stone sinks when you let it go. But the new creature acts after its kind as well as the old; when the chains of bondage are broken the captive returns to his Father's house. A youth who has got a new heart becomes an apprentice in an engineering establishment where his lot is east among the profane. In the first hour they discover that a saint is among them, and do everything that devilish ingenuity can suggest to make him one of themselves. If his religion had been a conventional gilding it would have been rubbed off in the first week; but as it was all gold the more it was rubbed the brighter it grew. The first evening came, and each went to his own company — the apprentice, articled by an eternal covenant to the Saviour, went to the fields, the flowers, the birds, with which he had been wont to keep company at home; then to his food, which he enjoyed with the fresh relish of a labourer, and the fresher relish of a child of God constantly getting daily bread from a Father's hand; then to his Bible, his own Book; then to his own Saviour, in faith's confiding prayer. A whole legion of wicked men will not overcome this youth — maybe he will subdue some of them and lead them captive to Christ. Yet another lesson. The grave has a greedy appetite, and all go to it. A strange place for Christ's members to be in! But some day they must be let go, and then they will go to their own company. An atom of air may have been imprisoned in some strong vessel at the bottom of the sea for ages. At last the vessel gives way, and the atom of air, though long an exile, has not forgotten its home, and will not miss its way. It rises in a sheer straight line through the thick heavy waters, nor halts till with a joyful burst it reaches its own. Be of good cheer, disciples of Jesus. Ye are of more value than many atoms of air.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

It is related of the distinguished Rev. Dr. Bellamy that he had seasons of deep despondency, when he was confident he was going to hell. His brethren often laboured with him in vain. One day, after all reasoning had failed, one of the ministers said, "Well, brother, you know more about yourself than we do. To us you appear very well: but, after all, you may be a whited sepulchre — beautiful outside, but inwardly full of corruption. If so, you will go to hell. I should like, however, to know what you will do when you get there?" "Do?" cried the doctor, with great animation and emphasis; "what will I do? I will vindicate the law of God, and set up prayer-meetings." "All right!" said the brother; "but in that case the devil will not keep you there; he will soon turn you out as unfitted for his place and company." The doctor was happy. Men will go at last where they are fit to go; and those who spend their lives in the service of God would be poor company for the devil and his angels, while those who hate God and despise Christians here must have strange notions if they expect to be for ever happy with them hereafter. The disciples, "being let go, went to their own company." So all will go at last.

(J. L. Nye.)

By so simple a term is the infant Church designated — "a company." As soon as Jesus had ascended, we find that there was an assembly of His followers, who continued with one accord in prayer, resorting to an upper room (Acts 1:18, 14). This small assembly was speedily increased by fresh adherents. Our Saviour never formally organised His Church: He left it to the operation of the human mind assisted by Divine influence. Men find it necessary to associate together for all important interests, and would be sure to do so for religious purposes.

I. The NATURE of the Church.

1. It is a voluntary company" one to which men are not born, but to which they attach themselves by choice and from conviction. Such assemblies were at first formed in various places, and were each called a church. The term was not then used, as it has since been, to mark the whole body of Christians in any district; but always either for the whole Church or for some particular society. In the former sense, we read that "Christ is head over all things to the Church." In the latter we hear of the Churches of Achaia and Macedonia; of the Church which is at Corinth, or at Ephesus, or even in the dwelling of a single family.

2. It is a separated company; a holy society; its members are called to come out from among the people of the world.

3. It is a spiritual society, as opposed to a merely civil association. Nothing secular properly belongs to the Church. Just as we cannot, by artificial embellishments, add anything to the real beauty of nature; so all that man has aimed to add, in the way of pomp and circumstance to the Church of Christ instead of adorning, rather disfigures it.

4. Though human instruments are employed in this society, yet it is wholly of Divine institution. All its varied offices and administrations are of Divine origin: "He gave some apostles... for the edifying of the body of Christ."

5. It is an immortal company. The individual members die; but fresh generations of saints are continually rising up in succession. The sacred lamp may be removed from one place, but it is only that it may burn brighter in another.

II. The DESIGN with which the Church is formed.

1. For the benefit of every individual belonging to it. The Good Shepherd, while He feeds the whole of His flock, has a particular respect to the state and wants of every member. As in the first age all had all things in common, so real Christians will now be ready to share their joys and sorrows; to help the needy in temporal wants; and most of all to cherish a spiritual union and sympathy. Christian intercourse unites the hearts of the saints, "they that feared the Lord spake often together."

2. For the salvation of others.

III. The manner of its GOVERNMENT. As every society, to be well-ordered, requires rules; so there are rules of Church government. These indeed are very few and very simple: real Christians need very little law; the law is for the lawless and disobedient: but theirs is the law of love; love is fulfilment of the law.

(R. Hall, M. A.)

I. THE WHOLE CHURCH IS INTERESTED IN THE PROCEEDINGS OF ITS INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS. Peter and John gave their report to the whole company. It was a report of —

1. Gracious success. A man had been healed, and therein the name of Jesus had been glorified.

2. Opposition, suffering, threatening. This is the kind of report which the Church will render until the end of its beneficent course. The two sides should be looked at together — the one will stimulate, the other will give new aspects of sin, and call for increasing devotion.

II. THE RIGHT METHOD OF TREATING OPPOSITION TO THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.

1. See what the apostles might have done.(1) They might have fled before difficulty. "If we are exposed to all this we shall give up our work: we are not equal to it; it will be a losing battle, our enemies are so many and so strong."(2) They might have formed themselves into a secret society for their own edification and comfort. Contemplation would have taken the place of service.

2. What they did do. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord," and committed themselves to Him as unto a faithful Creator. A prayer offered under circumstances as peculiar will show the strength and purpose of the Church. It did show —(1) The profound religiousness of the Church. Instantly the disciples flee to the Holy One. There is no paltering with second causes; no drivelling talk about difficulty. Opposition brought the Church face to face with God.(2) The clear doctrinal intelligence of the Church. They fell back upon the great histories and prophecies upon which Christ's kingdom rests. Again and again it is seen how thoroughly the early Church knew the sacred writings. This is the strength of the spiritual life. "Let the Word of God dwell in you richly."(3) A supreme desire for the glory of Christ. The apostles were referred to as "servants." It was for "the Holy Child Jesus" that the suppliants were concerned.(4) Preparedness for further service (ver. 29).

III. THE SPIRITUAL AND SOCIAL RESULTS WHICH FOLLOW THE RIGHT ACCEPTANCE OF SERVICE AND SUFFERING.

1. A vast accession of spiritual grace. The disciples "were all filled with the Holy Ghost."

2. A vast accession of spiritual power. They "spake the Word of God with boldness."

3. The consummation of spiritual union. They were" of one heart and one soul."

4. The ideal of social beneficence. They claimed nothing as their own, but had all things common. In such a case opposition became the occasion of infinite good. There was no wordy controversy, but a renewed dedication to Christ. All opposition should be met in the same way.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

The narrative gives us such a view of this as throws the secular thing into contempt, and reveals the lamentable imperfection of modern spiritual fellowship. From it we learn that early Christian socialism was —

I. ATTRACTIVE. No sooner were the apostles free than they returned as if drawn by magnetic force to their chosen society. There were two things that rendered it attractive.

1. Responsive listening. There is a law of mind which urges a man to communicate what he deems of great importance. It is also a law to seek the most responsive listeners. To those who will give a cordial hearing we go, rather than to the hostile or indifferent. True Christian socialism involves this. There the speaking brother will find an audience all candour and love. This is not the case in the cavilling, captious, secular socialism, and alas! not always in the Church where there is too often the prejudice that deafens the ear and closes the heart.

2. Sympathetic cooperation. For this we instinctively crave, and without it the strongest are weak. Without the breeze of social sympathy the sails of our spirits would collapse in the voyage of duty. Peter and John knew that they had this, and so were strong in prison and before, the council, and when "let go" they instinctively found their way to their sympathetic brethren. Thus was Christian socialism attractive. Kindred souls flowed to it as rivers to the sea. What circle is so attractive as that which has —

(1)A common object of supreme affection.

(2)A common class of dominant thoughts.

(3)A common cause engrossing the chief activities of being. This is the ideal of Christian fellowship. Would that it were everywhere realised.

II. RELIGIOUS. This comes out in —

1. Ascription. Here We have a recognition of God's —(1) Authority. "Lord, Thou art God." The word is that from which "despot" is taken. Deeply did the company feel the absoluteness of the Divine control.(2) Creatorship. "Which hast made," etc.(3) Revelation. "By the mouth of Thy servant David."(4) Predestination. They regarded all the enemies of Christ as unconsciously working out the eternal plans of heaven.

2. Supplication. Note —(1) The substance of their prayer. They invoked

(a)Personal protection. Behold their threatenmgs, i.e., those of vers. 17 and 21. The meaning is, "Guard us and frustrate the evil designs of our enemies."

(b)The power of spiritual usefulness. "That with all boldness," etc. Protection is desired for service, not because they dreaded martyrdom.

(c)Miraculous interposition. "That signs and wonders," etc.:

(d)"Enable us to work miracles that we may be more successful in spreading the knowledge of Christ." This power Christ had promised; they had an authority, therefore, to seek it.(2) The success of their prayer (ver. 31). In answer there was —

(a)A miraculous sign, familiar to Old Testament saints (Exodus 19:18; Psalm 68:8).

(b)An impartation of Divine power — to preach the gospel.

III. AMALGAMATING (ver. 32). Note in regard to this amalgamating force that —

1. It was most hearty and practical (ver. 34). The thorough unity of soul expressed itself in the surrender of worldly goods. Aristotle defines friendship as "one soul residing in two bodies." It was so here. The rising tide of brotherly affection bore away from their hearts all love of gain.

2. It consisted with a diversity of position and service (vers. 35, 36). The apostles were both the spiritual and economical heads of the community. Material bodies may get so thoroughly fused as to lose all their individual peculiarities; but minds, however closely welded together by social love, will retain for ever their individuality of being, position, and mission. Social unity is not the uniformity of a regiment moving with one step and in the same garb, but rather like the variety of the landscape, each object clad in its own costume and bending to the breeze according to its own structure and style. It is not the sound of one monotonous note, but all the varying notes of being brought into sweetest harmony.

3. It was produced by the gracious favour of heaven. "Great grace was upon them all."

(1)The love of God was the parent of their liberality.

(2)This liberality brought the esteem of men.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

They lifted up their voice to God with one accord
I. God Almighty (ver. 24). It is good sometimes to think of the affluence of the Divine power. Take, e.g., the central object in the heavens which God has made: the sun — diameter, 112 times that of our own earth; surface, 12,611 times that of our earth; volume, 1,400,000 times that of our earth. Sun's light — 800,000 times greater than that of the full moon, 22,000 million times more than that of the most brilliant star. The sun — the source of light, heat, life. And yet, all the manifold action on this earth of ours is carried on by the two thousandth three hundred millionth part of the force radiation by the sun. For that is all the earth can grasp of the sun's rays given out in all directions. It is by this pitiable fraction of the sun's mighty power that all the earth's work is done. Now, God is a Sun — how limitless His power, etc.

II. As ALL-WISE GOD. David, thousand years before, sang, yet prophesied: "Why do the heathen rage," etc. (vers. 25-27). That is to say, that which was predicted is now taking place. Thou are not, O God, taken by surprise and disappointed. Disastrous as it seems to us, it is shining clear to Thee.

III. AN ALL-CONTROLLING GOD. "For to do whatsoever," etc. (ver. 28). Mystery here, but comfort. Here is the great helpful truth that God controls.

IV. This almighty, all-wise, all-controlling God, LAID HOLD OF BY PRAYER (ver. 24). No thought unto them that such a God could not answer.

V. This almighty, all-wise, all-controlling God, laid hold of by prayer, THAT IN THEM THE DIVINE WILL MAY BE ACCOMPLISHED. They do not ask to be released from persecution, but that in their present circumstances they may be enabled to accomplish their Christian duty (ver. 29). They ask for magnificent self-surrender. Thus they take sides with God. They are as One with the nature of things. Defeat is impossible, Theirs must he the deliverance of victory. Application. Do not let your trouble get between you and God. Let your trouble shut you up to God.

(Wayland Hoyt, D. D.)

When I first went to sea, as the winds arose and the waves became rough I found difficulty to keep my legs on the deck, for I tumbled and tossed about like a porpoise on the water. At last I caught hold of a rope that was rolling about, and then I could stand upright. So when troubles invade we lay hold of God's faithfulness to His promises, and, holding fast, we can securely stand.

(H. G. Salter.)

No doubt there was something in it of a special character. It was held at a moment of danger. There was that, therefore, in the circumstances from which God's mercy has spared us. Should we be here at all, were it otherwise? Those of us who even in quiet times, when it is respectable to be a Christian, cannot conquer indolence, forego inclination, brave a smile or a sneer, in behalf of Christ; what would they do if the voice of the world turned altogether against Christ? Certainly, then, our thanksgivings should arise to God for having permitted us to live in quiet times. And then we ought to set ourselves to make our worship as much like theirs as by God's grace we can.

I. THE MANNER OF THIS WORSHIP. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord." Not their heart only, but their voice.

1. Some have called this the first example of a creed, one of those joint utterances of a common faith which our Church has prescribed to us, e.g., in "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." "Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth," etc.

2. Others have seen in this the proof of the existence of a Liturgy. They have said that, in order to lift up their voice to God in these words, they must first have known them. We will not enter into these arguments: they at least want certainty.

3. It will be enough for us to observe, that, while one spoke, all followed; the well-known voice of St. John or St. Peter led, and they who heard found no difficulty in adding a humble voice, as well as a pure heart, to the words of supplication, accompanying the speaker to the throne of the heavenly grace, and saying the prayer after him. In this elementary point let us be earnest to resemble them. If the heart is engaged, the voice will not be withheld.

II. ITS NATURE. It was —

1. Reverent. How profound is the adoration of God as the alone Great and Good and Holy! How solemn is the sense of that rightful sovereignty over all things! The least that can be looked for in this House of Prayer is reverence; the feeling of the sinful approaching the Sinless, the creature the Creator.

2. Scriptural. "Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said." It is not essential to prayer that it be in Scripture words, but it is essential that it be founded on Scripture doctrine; that our petitions be addressed to God as He is, and not to God as we fancy Him. And we can only know God as He is by becoming acquainted with Him in His Word.

3. Believing. Unbelieving men would have seen only Herod, etc., banded together against God and against His Christ, and said, What are we against the world? But their eye was not thus bounded. Above all human agency for evil, they saw the hand of God working wholly for good. The murder of Jesus, what was it? In itself, a Satanic, a diabolical act; in its consequences, the working out of God's counsel; the redemption of a world.

4. Practical. We are too ready to let our prayers stop with themselves; to be satisfied if a ray of comfort, if a passing thought of peace is left behind them. We have our reward, even as we prescribed it. But these worshippers looked to conduct, to duty, to future trials of their faith and constancy, and asked for grace sufficient. To quicken this zeal, to strengthen this devotion, they pray that God's hand may still be outstretched to heal; that He will never leave them without witness, but will give them daily proof that His holy Servant Jesus is indeed strong to help, mighty to save. We ought in prayer to bethink ourselves of coming trial; and while we trust God implicitly with the unforeseen, to ask His help expressly for that which we can see before us. One word of definite request is worth volumes of vague general aspirations.(1) In itself; because it is real and means something; because it is the address of a living man to a living God on a topic which concerns life.(2) In its effects; because one thing actually granted is a proof of being heard; is God's own witness to His own grace; is a token for good, shown and proved, encouraging confidence in Him who is not only the Giver of single blessings, but the Fountain of all goodness, and the very source of life.

III. ITS EFFECTS. An immediate sign followed it. The place was shaken. These things are of the past. Men then looked for outward signs, and wanted them, while faith was young. In this age there is no outward sign which scepticism could not account for: signs would not convince the infidel, and the believing ask not for them. But has God, then, no sign for His people? Has worship no sign of its acceptance? Is there nothing now corresponding to the altar-flame which attested God's regard to man's offering? Yes, there is an inward peace following upon Divine communion: a glow of faith, and a comfort of love, and a joy of hope, by which "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God." He who seeks God with all his heart, on any occasion of worship, shall find Him, and know that he finds: he shall feel it good for him to be here, and he shall be sent on his way rejoicing. Filled with the Holy Ghost, by a conscious communication between his soul and God, he shall go forth, to bear a more manful and a more consistent testimony to the gospel. Conclusion:

1. Expect great things from worship. Worship will be, in great measure, what you make it in your use and expectation. If you look for much, you will also receive much: if you expect little, you will also reap little.

2. Carry your worshipping thoughts forth with you. Let them not be dissipated by idle words, by foolish levity, just outside or even within these walls. The great enemy will watch you after this service, that he may catch away the seed sown.

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. THE PRAYER.

1. It contains a distinct acknowledgment of God's almighty power. "Lord, Thou art God," etc. Our highest conceptions of the power of God are derived from the act of creation. Finite power can shape and fashion, but it can never create.(1) God created the heaven of heavens: the place where He has erected His throne, and where He is pleased especially to manifest Himself to the heavenly powers. There the humanity of Christ is seen. That world our Saviour has described as His "Father's house." If the Queen of Sheba fainted at the sight of the splendour of Solomon's court, what shall be thought of the temple of the great King? He created all the inhabitants of that world. Of these there are various orders. "Thrones, dominions," etc. Their numbers are great. All derive their existence from God, their immortality, their mighty intellect, their profound and comprehensive knowledge, their burning love, their rich and elevated enjoyments.(2) He made the visible heavens. The sun, moon, stars, and planets. Their magnitudes; the regularity and rapidity of their motions; the vast sweep of their orbits; all declare the greatness of His power.(3) He made the earth. Its plains and valleys, its deserts, its hills, its mineral substances, its refreshing springs, its daily and annual motion, with its changing seasons, the clouds which supply it with the fruitful rain, the winds which sweep over its surface, the atmosphere in which it moves, all attest the greatness of His power. He made all that the earth contains. The varieties of the vegetable kingdom; the fowls of the air, with the endless train of sentient creatures. Man, his outward frame, so "fearfully and wonderfully made," his mind, by whose sagacity the secrets of nature are penetrated, and the unruly elements and animals made subservient; and by which the knowledge of God is acquired, and a spiritual worship is presented. The lesson is that the mighty hand which fabricated all this is pledged to defend the Christian from evil. Hence this prayer. The storm of persecution was raging around. The danger is appalling; but God is near; and His people take refuge in His almightiness. What is the power of the rulers before the great Lord of earth and sky? "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe!" Here, then, is an example worthy of imitation. In every perplexity and danger, let us call upon God in prayer, and cover ourselves with His omnipotence. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear."

2. A distinct acknowledgment of God's governing wisdom (vers. 25-28; cf. Psalm 2.).(1) Because the men who put our Lord to death did that which God had "determined before to be done," some have concluded that they were compelled. But as to the perpetration of it, this opinion is dishonourable to God, and injurious to piety. We shall prove that it is not the doctrine of Holy Scripture.(a) It was God's purpose that His Son should die. This was the appointed method of human salvation. Man had sinned, and could not be justified without an atonement. That atonement was therefore determined in the counsels of the Divine Mind before time began; for He "verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world." The death of Christ, therefore, was in effect declared in the first promise: was prefigured by the sacrifices of the old dispensations, and was attested by the prophets. But now note that so far as the Jews were concerned, the crucifixion involved a criminal inattention to the predictions of their own Scriptures. They wilfully shut their eyes against the light of the clearest evidence, as to His real character, arising from His miracles and teaching. To suppose that God should solemnly forbid all this wickedness, and reveal His wrath against it, and yet impel any of His creatures to commit it, is a foul aspersion upon His truth and holiness, as well as upon His justice and love.(b) It has been rashly concluded, that if the authorities had believed in Jesus, and forborne to lay violent hands upon Him, the Divine plan of redemption must have failed; but such apprehensions arise from very imperfect views of the depth of God's counsels. His wisdom could have devised a thousand means of securing the death of His Son independently of all sinful agency. If He "does not need man's work," in order to the accomplishment of His plans, He certainly does not need man's wickedness for any such purpose. But on such a subject it is useless to speculate. The death of Christ has been accomplished, and with it the world's redemption.(e) Some persons have thought that the prophecies imposed upon the Jewish people a necessity to put Jesus to death; but of this there is no proof. Prophecy, in this case, was simply an expression of God's foreknowledge. Had the conduct of the Jewish and Roman authorities towards our Lord been friendly, the Divine Mind would have seen it to be such; and prophecy would have corresponded with it. Simple foreknowledge no more influences a fact than after-knowledge; and the actions of a moral agent are no more determined by a mere prediction than they are by history.(2) In all the circumstances attending the crucifixion we have a striking display of the wisdom of God. The Jews unquestionably intended —(a) To cover His name with indelible odium, but God has made it an occasion of the highest glory.(b) To subvert His spiritual kingdom. Vain men! The means which they adopted led Him to the possession of a dominion wide as the universe, and lasting as eternity.(c) By the frightful and tormenting death to which our Lord was subjected, to terrify and scatter His disciples. Here again we see the short-sightedness of man; the Cross was the means of binding the disciples of Christ to Him for ever.(3) Here, then, is another ground of confidence towards God. He who thus brought good out of evil is always the same. Men are often taken by surprise; but He sees the end from the beginning, and is therefore prepared for all events.

3. A direct application to God for His immediate interposition. They request that supernatural boldness may be given to the apostles in the exercise of their ministry. This is a very remarkable petition, and places in a striking light the singleness of heart of the first Christians. Ease, honour, liberty, friends, life itself, are all to be sacrificed, rather than the word of God should be bound. As one means of inspiring the apostles with the requisite "boldness," the Church pray that miracles may be continued and increased It is here assumed that miracles are the peculiar work of God: for had miraculous power been inherent the prayer would have been absurd. Miracles were indeed wrought by the instrumentality of the apostles, because they were intended to authenticate the system of truth which they were appointed to teach; but the miracles themselves were effects produced by the immediate exertion of God's power; and in every instance they depended upon His will.

4. The prayer is marked by the absence of all wrathful feeling. In preaching Christ the apostles violated no law; injured no man; they conferred the greatest possible good upon multitudes. While thus discharging their consciences, and benefiting mankind, they were censured, imprisoned, brow-beaten, and severely threatened. Yet the only allusion made to this cruel and unreasonable conduct is, "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings." How like their Lord who, when He "was reviled, He reviled not again"!; and "when He suffered unjustly," He forbore "to threaten." In the same spirit Stephen suffered There was a time when the disciples proposed to punish inhospitable people with fire from heaven. But now they were actuated by holier feelings. The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love.

5. The prayer presents a beautiful example of Christian unanimity. The assembled multitude "lifted up their voices with one accord." How different from the congregations of ungodly men, brought together for some worldly object, and actuated by selfishness, anger, or curiosity (Acts 19:32). Here is a complete unity of purpose and desire. Not a wandering eye, no listlessness, inattention, or formality; no silent lips; for here is no cold and unfeeling heart. The Holy Ghost has produced in them all an intense desire for the preservation and extension of the cause of Christ. Oh, when will our assemblies resemble this! When shall we cease to complain of late attendance upon our religious ordinances? of undevout worshippers?

II. THE ANSWER WHICH GOD GRACIOUSLY VOUCHSAFED.

1. They received a sensible token of the Divine presence. "The place was shaken." The entire fabric was moved by the power of God; but not a stone seems to have been displaced. The effect must have been somewhat similar to that produced on Jacob and Elijah (Genesis 28:16, 17; 1 Kings 19:12, 13). Only in this case there was no guilt to terrify; for their sin was purged; and the weakest among them was greater in Divine knowledge and heavenly enjoyment than the most distinguished prophet. To them, therefore, the presence of God was the cause of holy joy. Miracles are no longer necessary, and are therefore discontinued; but God is as really present in the assemblies of His people at this day as He was when they met in Jerusalem; and our whole spirit and behaviour in His house should correspond with this conviction.

2. They were favoured with a rich effusion of Divine influence. "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost." This being the case —(1) They were, of course, emptied of all that was opposed to His mind and nature; and whatever was defective in the piety of any of them was now supplied. Those that were weak in faith were now inspired with strong confidence. Each of them was entirely sanctified to God, and made perfect in every Christian grace. They were not only saved from all sin, but were filled with the fulness of God. They dwelt in God, by constant acts of faith and love; and He dwelt in them in all the fulness of His Spirit's power. It may be justly questioned whether the power of Christianity was ever more strikingly manifested than upon this occasion. Who were these people? The greater part of them were Jews upon whom the spotless purity of our Saviour's example, and even the resurrection of Lazarus, had failed to make any salutary impression. They had actually been "His betrayers and murderers." Yet they no sooner believe in Jesus, and are brought under the full power of the Holy Spirit, than they become examples to the Church in all ages till the end of time. Who, then, can despair of the conversion of any one? Why should we not in the present day witness displays of the power and grace of Christ equally striking? Even our missionaries never meet with people more deeply depraved.(2) They "spake the word of God" with renewed "boldness." They had a full assurance of the triumph of the Christian cause, whatever opposition they might encounter. Hence they preached Christ at every opportunity with dauntless ardour; for they felt that God was with them, conferring upon the world the richest blessings.(3) "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul." The "little flock" had now become a "multitude"; yet were they perfectly one in spirit. No angry controversies agitated them; for they had not learned to attempt the settlement of questions which no human sagacity can solve. The authority of the Son of God was sufficient to fix the assent of their understandings, as it was to sway their will, and command their obedience. There was in them such an identity of feeling, and tenderness of sympathy and affection, as the world had never previously seen. The more wealthy shared the blessings of Divine Providence with the poor; and the hearts of all were so set upon the heavenly treasure, that none of them called the earthly things which belonged to him his own. They lived not under a low degree of Divine influence; nor was that influence limited to a few individuals. "Great grace was upon them"; and it was upon them "all." Thus was the dying request of the Saviour answered (John 17:20-23).

3. The cause of Christianity was greatly extended. The Church prayed that God would "stretch forth His hand"; and now the historian goes on to state, that "by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people."Conclusion: The subject reminds us —

1. Of our obligations to the merciful providence of God, for our exemption from those harassing persecutions by which the Church was formerly oppressed.

2. In times of trouble to seek relief in prayer. Though we are exempted from legal persecution, we are liable to various other calamities, from which we have no means of escape.

3. Of the true secret of the Church's power. Weak as the Church is in itself, it is armed with God's truth. This is the weapon which no form of evil can effectually resist, when it is rightly applied. The Church is also favoured with the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is zeal. Let us return, then, to the first principles of our holy religion. Let us study Christianity as it is embodied in the books of the New Testament, and as it was exemplified by the Church under the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit.

(Thomas Jackson.)

Prayer is not the origin of a movement, but the result of one. You stand on the margin of a lake, and hear a mysterious sound coming from the dead wall of a grey ruined castle that stands on an island near the shore. The sound, however, was not generated in that ruin. The words of a living man, wafted over the still water, struck the old silent keep, and its wall gave back the echo. Prayer, man's cry to God, is the second of a series of vibrations, an echo awakened in ruined dumb humanity, by God's sweet promise coming down from heaven. We may discover the specific promise to which this prayer replies (Isaiah 40:26, 27). What a sublime position these suppliants occupy! They are admitted into the Divine counsel. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." They were able to mark in the Scriptures the precise spot they had reached in the scheme of providence, as a ship-master marks his latitude on his chart. In the quiet confidence of faith they realise that hostile combinations only accomplish the gracious purpose of God. In ver. 29 comes the most important of all their requests. Parliamentary petitions are sometimes of great length. There may be a narrative of facts, long and intricate; there may be the citation of precedents; there may be arguments and plans; but it is common to pass over all these when the document is presented, and to read only what is denominated "the prayer of the petition," i.e., the clause at the end which declares what the petitioners want. Ver. 29 contains the prayer of this petition. And what was it? Not vengeance, not immunity from danger, but grace to be faithful under persecution. This exhibits a beautiful distrust of self and confidence in God. Their only anxiety was lest natural shrinking from suffering should tempt them to conceal the pungent parts of their testimony. Our circumstances are diverse from theirs; yet the pressure which tempts to timid unfaithfulness is only removed from one side to another. "The fear of man bringeth a snare," but snares are not all of one shape or material. A force that is diffused and soft may have a greater pressure than one that is sharp and hard, as the atmosphere over a man's body lies heavier on him than any other burden he ever bore. To threaten a witness for Christ with the prison or the scaffold is one way of turning him from his faithfulness, to set before him the favour of a polished but worldly circle is another. If two ships are lost at sea by the false pointing of their compasses it will make no difference as to the loss of property or life that the compass of one ship was prevented from pointing truly by a nail that fastened it to the deck, and that the compass of the other was secretly drawn aside by a mass of iron concealed in the hold. Thus an ancient preacher who held back the truth for fear of the dungeon, and a modern minister who softens and disguises the truth, because a gay, worldly, and critical congregation listen, must stand side by side.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

I. The ALTAR on which it must be placed: the fellowship of believers.

II. The FIRE in which it should burn: the glow of brotherly love.

III. The WIND which must blow on it: the storm of persecution.

IV. The WOOD with which it should be fed: the Divine promises taken from the ever-green forest of Scripture. W. The GOD to whom it ascends: the Almighty Creator and Lord of heaven and earth.

VI. The AMEN which falls to its lot; renewal and strengthening of the Holy Ghost.

(K. Gerok.)

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