And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch that is called Solomon's…
A great congregation, in the mood of wonder and prepared to listen, is before him. He who had once denied his Master in a moment of weakness, is now enabled with great power to give testimony of him.
I. A DISCLAIMER OF INDEPENDENT POWER OR MERIT IN THE APOSTLES. The note of a genuine mission. The false prophet and the magician neglect nothing that will enhance their supposed supernatural character. The apostles insist that they are but men, have no power of themselves, are the agents merely of a higher will. So, too, peculiar piety on their part is disclaimed. They did not aim at the reputation of saints; they refused to encourage the natural delusion that they must be better than other men. This was not the way to popularity, but the simple course of honest witnesses for God.
II. THE RECENT EVENT TRACED TO ITS SOURCE.
1. God is the faithful God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of their fathers; these were dear and time-honored appellations. With these is now connected that of Father of Jesus. Thus the recent is united with the most ancient past. One unfailing bond of Divine constancy and love knits the ages into unity, and makes history the unfolding of an increasing purpose.
2. His love is illustrated by the contrast with human hate. They had repudiated the Holy and Just One, and had begged the life of a murderer in his stead. Blindly they had hurried the "Author of life" to an ignominious doom. But who can contend against God, his power, nay, rather, his love? The purpose of life is victorious over human passion, and God will not suffer men to work out their suicidal intents to the full. The Resurrection, be it insisted, then, is the crowning proof of indefeasible constancy and will to save men in their own despite.
3. The energy to heal ever flows from the risen Christ. Faith is the condition of being blessed. It is the movement of the whole soul towards the Divine Benefactor. It is the junction of the human with the Divine will, and is the one principle of salvation.
III. DEDUCTIONS FROM THE PAST. History, and every portion of it, contains a Divine logic. Every study of it is idle which does not end with the question - What is the meaning for the present? What resolve is to be taken? What duty now to be discharged? The paths of experience converge towards one goal.
1. The crucifixion of Jesus had been an act of ignorance. They "knew not what they did;" neither people nor rulers. It was a mitigation of the crime, and divinely recognized. The acts of wrath are blind, and just judgment distinguishes between the evidences of passion and the evidences of ingrained perversity in man's acts.
2. It was at the same time a fulfillment of prophecy. God permits evil means to work out holy ends. The happiest revolutions have often sprung from momentary ignition of wrath and resentment. The feeble human heart expends its little explosive force, and silently makes an opening for the march of a higher purpose. It was necessary that Christ should suffer. Every pleasure is the reaction from-a pain; every birth proceeds from travail; there is no deliverance without spiritual struggle. The most spiritual, the most living personality, must agonize and suffer most. This is the law. In the suffering of the "Leader of life" it finds its highest expression. Thus did Divine will confront human freedom, and the futility of resistance is shown. The very efforts of blind passion to defeat that will serve only to elicit its meaning. Like blows upon a vibrating substance, human sins draw deeper music from the heart of God.
IV. PRACTICAL DIRECTIONS. "Change your mind and turn." If we cannot influence the fixed course of things, it is wisdom to be influenced by it. If the Divine purpose is not to be bent aside for us, we must bend before it. We cannot change the course of fate, but we can change the course of our thoughts and actions. To persist in discovered error is like fighting against the stars in their courses. Sin, is only unforgivable when it is persisted in as sin. The constant promise of the gospel is that sin shall no longer be reckoned to a man, i.e. viewed as a fact of his life, when it has been corrected by the will. Our deeper thought teaches us that there is no time for God. Our "now" and its self-determination is the question. One solemn moment of decision converts the error of the way into the direction of truth and right.
V. PROMISES OF FUTURE GOOD.
1. They are of indefinable grandeur and attraction. We cannot fully analyze the contents of any Divine promise. Its riches exceed definition and thought. At the same time, every promise has leading hints to guide faith and expectation. Here "times of refreshing" and the "sending of Jesus" form such hints.
2. They point to a goal of history. "The times of the restitution of all things." The golden age of paganism was in the remote past; that of Israel and of the gospel lies in the distant future. It rests, like all our good, upon nothing less sure than Divine will, and is the subject of prophetic oracles. To define is to limit and to narrow and to impoverish our noblest ideals. Let us be content, as Peter teaches elsewhere, to accept prophecy as a "light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn."
3. They are designed to guide conduct, not to explain the future fully. The prediction in the Law cited by Peter received many changing interpretations in the long course of its existence. The actual highest fulfillment was not recognized when it came. God ever fulfils himself unexpectedly. Meanwhile the delay of fulfillment keeps thought and hope awake.
4. The growth and increasing emphasis of prophecy. The sound dies not, but gathers in volume as it goes, filling the earth. Do we heed its sound now? Is there no voice of God for us in the instruction and warnings of the greatest spirits of our time? Every teacher who bids us strive and aspire towards the ideal, the kingdom of God in the spirit, is a prophet, and is charged with a measure of oracular power for his generation.
VI. THE INHERITANCE OF THE PRESENT. We too are "sons of the prophets." God has spoken to us. Behind us lies the past, with its wonderful lore, its yet unsatisfied yearnings. We too are included in the Divine covenant of blessing. The process of events set in motion by the eternal Cause continues itself in us. The seed of his loving thoughts becomes fertile anew in the spirits of each succeeding generation, and appears in new blossom and fruit. Till "all countries of the earth" shall thus be sown and impregnated with the thoughts of God, the process shall continue. Away, then, with a dead theology which seeks for inspiration only in the fulfilled, not also in the fulfilling and the to be fulfilled. Let us believe in God, not merely because we know that he stirred in men's souls in days of yore, but because we feel him stirring in our own souls now.
VII. ORDER IN THE DIVINE PURPOSE. Israel first, next through Israel the nations are to be blessed. Spiritual force, like other force, must be concentrated that it may be diffused. Other nations have had light, but Israel the intensest. It is the moral consciousness which makes humanity; and in the turning from sin, men are in the way of all good, of growing good; the negation of evil is the affirmation of the principle of the spirit. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering.