The Impotence and Benefit of Persecution
Acts 4:3-4
And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold to the next day: for it was now eventide.

1. Peter had boasted, "I am ready to go with Thee to prison." He was not ready then, and hence the folly of his boast. He was ready now, and so did not boast, but doubtless reflected on his Master's words, "Thou shalt follow Me afterwards."

2. The time-honoured method of the opponents of truth was here practised, "No case; abuse defendant's attorney." You can't refute the preacher; lock him up. The only answer that pagan Rome had for Christians was prison and death; the only answer that papal Rome has is the same.

3. But the policy does not answer. The preachers as cheerfully accept the prison as the pulpit when their Master bids them, and may take as theirs the crest — an ox with the plough on one side and the altar on the other, with the legend, "Ready for either." Ready for work or for sacrifice, Nor does the policy answer in another sense. You may silence the teacher, but you cannot silence the truth. In the case before us "many believed."

I. IN SPITE OF the apostles' imprisonment. God's work goes on whether His agents are bound or free, living or dead. It is independent of its best and worthiest supporters. Peter and John are in prison, but the fact that many believed shows that even the chief among the apostles are not indispensable. How foolish, then, the unbelieving anxiety expressed in the question about this or that distinguished minister, "Who can take his place?" Plenty, if God wills; if not the Holy Ghost will take his place.

1. The preacher is imprisoned or dead, but the Word which does the work is not. Fragments of the Bible left behind by the missionaries in Madagascar did more for Christianity than their vocal teaching.

2. The preacher is imprisoned or dead, but his teaching and example are not. They remain in the memory to influence the life. The stone sinks in the water, but the ripples on the lake extend till they reach either shore.

II. BECAUSE OF the apostles' imprisonment. Their endurance of persecution for the truth was a guarantee of their sincerity, and an exhibition of the power of the gospel on themselves. It is an easy thing to preach when Christianity is popular, but when unpopular, and when men notwithstanding are prepared to endure bonds or death rather than be silent about it — this shows that they believe in and enjoy the mighty power they preach. So in the milder forms of affliction. How many powerful sermons are silently preached from sick beds!

(J. W. Burn.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.

WEB: They laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was now evening.

The First Prisoners for Christ
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