Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.…
All of us here assembled profess ourselves members of this Christian community; we profess ourselves churchmen, as members of the Church of Christ; for every sincere and honest member of the Church of England values his Church for this reason, that it is a portion of the Church of Christ. The churchmanship which I am now inculcating is the churchmanship of our text, and the duties therein described are the duties which I earnestly press upon you, and which I now proceed to illustrate. "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
1. This description of the first Christians implies that the good churchman is stedfastly attached to the communion of his Church, cultivates a warm and constant affection for her, and uses all proper means for extending its influence, and carrying its beneficial influence to all who are ignorant of, or careless about, those invaluable blessings she contains within her sacred repository. This profession, entered into at baptism, and ratified at confirmation, leads the true member of Christ's Church courageously to assert and to maintain the doctrines of the Cross of Christ in all their genuine simplicity, and that not only when it can be done without incurring opposition, but also when their maintenance may be scorned by the world and assailed by the sceptic; the good Churchman knows from Scripture that these truths are the doctrines of the apostles. From these doctrines he has derived peace and consolation; and from them, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he feels implanted within him a principle, a life-giving principle, of holiness, which suggests the motives and dictates the acts of his daily conduct. These doctrines, when heartily embraced, are doctrines for the healing of the world of its sins and evils. The good Churchman remains immovable; he loves his Church for the truth's sake; if any of her sons act unworthily of her, if any abuse, any deformity for a time creep round her sacred battlements, the abuse, the deformity is lamented, and, if possible, removed; but the Church herself is his delight; he loves her for the blessings she conveys.
2. From our text, it is to be observed that the Christian who desires to act his part well in his duty and obligations to his Church, will stedfastly attend on its services and observe its institutions. The first three thousand Churchmen, than whom so good a sample has never since been met with, "continued stedfastly, as in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, so also in breaking of bread and in prayers." Indeed, the services of the Church form the main bond of fellowship with her. Most inconsistent is it for men, like the Jews of old, to exclaim, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we," when the temple is scarcely ever frequented, and they themselves never seen within its sacred enclosure! Calling themselves members of Christ's Church, but altogether neglecting its services, except as necessity calls upon them to join in them, and consequently as ignorant of their intent and meaning, as unmoved by any spiritual affection towards them or sacred pleasure from them, as though they were repeated in a language they understood not; boasting of their external fellowship by baptism, as though baptism were the sum-total of Church membership. The remark of Bishop Beveridge upon the character and behaviour of these first Christians is well worthy of universal attention: "They did not think it sufficient to be baptized into Christ, but they still continued in Him, doing all such things as He hath appointed, whereby to receive grace and power from Him to walk as becometh His disciples; and so must we also, if we desire to be saved by Him. It is our great happiness to have been by baptism admitted into the Church and school of Christ, and so made His disciples and scholars; but unless we continue to do what we promised at our baptism, our condemnation will be the greater, in that we do not only break the laws of God, but likewise the promise we made to Him when we were baptized." Of this state of things the consistent Churchman is fully aware, and by the grace of God he acts accordingly; hence his regular attendance on Divine ordinances is marked by internal devotion and external propriety. He is enabled to say of the temple and worship of the Lord, "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
(J. C. Abdy, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.