When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying…
The passage I have chosen as the subject of our present inquiry informs us of the impressions produced on the minds of the Jewish converts at Jerusalem by St. Peter's relation of the circumstances and success of his first mission to the Gentiles. The passage implies the previous operation of prejudice; it records the confutation of that prejudice; and it illustrates the argument in support of missions which arises from their success.
I. The passage implies THE PREVIOUS OPERATION OF PREJUDICE — a prejudice against missions to the Gentiles. "They held their peace." Then they had before opposed them. Was there anything in the character and genius of the gospel that could warrant the indulgence of this prejudice? No. How can we account for their prejudices against missions? They can be ascribed to their strong nationality, their religious distinction, and their material views of the Messiah's reign. The old Jewish spirit was specially exclusive.
II. The passage records the CONFUTATION OF THEIR PREJUDICES. "When they heard these things, they held their peace." Their prejudices were refuted and their objections silenced by the facts which the apostle reported.
III. The passage illustrates THE ARGUMENT FOR THE SUPPORT OF MISSIONS ARISING FROM THEIR SUCCESS. Success, abstractedly considered, is not the invariable criterion of a Divine religion, or the unequivocal proof of truth. The success of the false prophet of Mecca and of the Jesuits in China, on account of the way in which that success was won, proves nothing as to the value of their mission. But the success of the gospel does. It is a success against the passions, prejudices, and habits of mankind, won by moral means, and moral means alone.
(1) The success explains and vindicates the object of missions.
(2) The success supports and confirms our expectations.
(3) The success demands increased exertions.
(J. Fletcher, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.