And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh…
There are two gifts or faculties which every one who would be a power among their fellows must do their utmost to cultivate. The first is the power of insight into the circumstances of their own time and place. The second is the power of foresight. After we have convinced ourselves of how and what things are, we shall then try to see what they may become; how and to what extent they may be changed for the better. To see the world as it is, is only to convince ourselves that it is very different from what it ought to be. To begin with ourselves. No true Christian can be contented with his present spiritual condition. Like St. Paul, the more we know of ourselves the more reason shall we have to confess that "we have not already attained, neither are already made perfect." And if the fact is true of ourselves, it is no less true of the men and things around us. We learn that the lives and circumstances of others stand in need of more or less improvement. Let us notice how the text brings these thoughts before us. The apostles had been very intimate with Jesus. The standard of life inculcated by Him was an extremely lofty one; to have had that standard constantly before them must have shown the disciples how terribly everything around them fell short of it. But merely to see this great gulf, this awful difference, might lead them to despair. How was the chasm to be bridged? How was the actual to be made the ideal? It will help us to answer this question if we remember that St. Peter uttered the words of the text on the very day on which God poured out upon the apostles the great gift of His Holy Spirit. They had now received the promised gift, a new energy, a new life, the spirit of truth, the spirit of love. The spirit of truth put everything in its true light. They saw how dark, how sad, how imperfect, how sin-stained was life and conduct. Bat the spirit of love came with the spirit of truth, and impelled them at once to try to rectify what needed alteration. Notice, the method they employed was the same as that of their Master — first to teach, and then to put their teaching into practice. And with what sort of reception were they met? With very much the same kind that has generally fallen to the lot of the reformer. Men listened to them, and then derided them. They were regarded as idle visionaries, as wild and foolish dreamers. St. Peter steps forward as the apologist of his brethren. The present was but witnessing the fulfilment of an ancient Jewish prophet's prediction. Drunk the apostles were not — mere dreamers, mere visionaries they were not. But they had dreamt a dream, and seen a vision. They saw things as they were, and as they might be. They saw that to the great. majority of their fellow countrymen religion was little better than a hollow mockery; something almost wholly external, and having little connection with their lives and conduct. This they saw, but they also saw a vision and dreamt a dream of a better day, Of a brighter, holier, and happier, future, of a more real religious tone, of a higher and nobler morality. They were not mere dreamers, mere visionaries — the dream and the vision were useful only as revelations of an ideal which they must endeavour to realise. To receive a vision of better things was only a call to turn the vision into a reality. The gift of insight issued in the call to repentance; the gift of foresight was the summons to work. It may have been the lot of some of us to have seen a vision made a reality; we may even have had the blessing and privilege to have been in some small degree instrumental in its realisation. We may have known one who was formerly intemperate, now living a sober life; one formerly impure, now feeling from experience the truth of the words, "Blessed" — that is, happy — "are the pure in heart"; one formerly dishonest, now getting his or her living by hard and honest labour, and able to look the world in the face. Yet if some little has been done, the unaccomplished is almost beyond measure. We must try to realise what humanity was meant to be, what Jesus would have it to be. The words of the old prophet can never be too often in our ears, "I will make a man more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir." To have realised that that awful threat was becoming verily the promise of a blessing, is in itself to have seen a vision. Man is indeed precious; each human soul, each human heart and character is infinitely precious in God's sight, for the Lord Jesus died to save it.
(W. E. Chadwick, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: