And now I say to you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing:…
Gamaliel's feeling was this — "God is the supreme ruler, truth comes from Him, and He will take care of it. What is not true has in it the seeds of its own destruction, and will sooner or later come to nothing. Men are very poor judges of what is true or false. God is the judge, time the test."
1. This conviction is the foundation of all true tolerance, liberality of mind, and of charity and candour in judging. For want of it we are often falsely liberal, or foolishly bigoted.
2. I need hardly say how this principle and conviction bears upon our daily life, or point out how much calmness, wisdom, and peace it would, if recognised, pour upon the distractions which surround us. We live in the midst of new things. In our religious, social and political life new and startling opinions meet us. Like Gamaliel we see old faiths and old institutions in Church and State, and old habits, relations, and customs in society crumbling away or threatened.
(1) In religion, men have arisen who call upon us to go back to the beliefs and practices of bygone centuries. We may safely leave them in God's hands, who will make them work out His purposes, and establish whatever is in accordance with His will, and wither up what is false and foolish in their teaching.
(2) The same thing may be said with respect to another department of human thought in which great activity prevails. Men of inquiring mind will examine, speculate, and try to solve the riddle of human life. And what is called science in our day claims to have made very startling discoveries, which have shaken, and will enevitably destroy, many an old belief. And why not? God makes men of inquiring minds, and He gives them light to discover new facts and truths. The agitation of the so-called Christian world, its hostility to our men of science, and its senseless alarm at their discoveries, when viewed in the light of Gamaliel's calmness and candour, are simply a proof how little Christianity exists amongst us, and what low and miserable ideas we have of God and His truth.
(3) So again in those sad disputes between class and class which distract and disturb us. It must needs be that these things come in the course of this world's progress, and much sorrow, sin, and suffering will follow in their wake; and to the eye of the faithless, the future may, for a time, look dark. But how much comfort, too, the thought affords, that in this respect also God rules — is working out here, too, His purpose and plan — and how much calmness and wisdom is the example of Gamaliel capable of imparting, whilst it warns us to refrain from anything like the spirit of violence or hasty judgment, and to wait patiently to see how much of the counsel and work we deplore is of God and cannot be overthrown, and how much is merely of men and therefore destined to perish; and to rest assured that God has not forsaken us, or let the reins of government fall from His hands.
(4) When tried by misfortune or sorrow, when harassed by the tempers or injustice of others, when suffering in pain or sickness, amid the sundry and manifold cares and perplexities which entangle us all, what an untold gain it would be to us if we would refrain from a hasty or sinful judgment, and keep in our feelings, tongue, and temper from the conviction that God was overruling even in the midst of these seemingly evil things; that a truth and a purpose underlie them all, and would wait and watch how much in them there is which is from God, how much from our own perversity, and how much from that source of evil from which all comes that opposes and seeks to thwart His Divine intention, and abide in the faith that nothing but what is true and good for us will endure, while all that is false and foolish will soon be swept away.
3. And if it should seem that an example such as that of Gamaliel is too much insisted on, that the preacher who again and again enforces largeness of mind, charity in judging, patience and gentleness in thought and action, together with the rest of the Christian graces and tempers, shows himself unmindful of his special work, and of his duty to teach the way of salvation for the souls of men; then I would submit that, in enforcing these things, we are setting forth man's salvation; for the soul which lives in the feeling and conviction that God our Father is constantly present, and overrules all things; that He will take care of the truth and of us when we stand upon it; the soul that tries to catch the Spirit of Christ, and to let it penetrate thought, temper, and action; the soul that waits to see what God will establish and what He will overthrow, that soul lives in the light of the truth; and he who lives in the truth, lives in the love of God; and where God's truth and love are, there is salvation, strength, and peace.
(John Congreve, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
WEB: Now I tell you, withdraw from these men, and leave them alone. For if this counsel or this work is of men, it will be overthrown.