And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.…
Instead of giving His moral command as a mere abstract announcement addressed only to the ear, which would then be in danger of being forgotten, He linked His words with objects which appealed to the eye, and were fitted to call up, when the eye rested upon them, the moral ideas connected with them. Though driven out of Eden, God has pursued the same plan in educating and disciplining man out of the consequences of the fall, as He pursued in Eden to keep him from falling. He connected his whole moral history as closely as before with the objects around him. Everything with which he deals preaches to him. The thorns and thistles coming up in his cultivated fields remind him of the curse; and the difficulties and disabilities which he finds in earning his daily bread are proofs and punishments to him of his sin. As truly as God made the tree of life to be a sacrament, as it were, in the midst of Eden, to keep alive in Adam's heart perpetually the conditions of life; as truly as Jesus associated the moral lesson to Peter with the crowing of the cock, so truly does God still make nature one of the great powers by which dead consciences and sluggish memories are awakened. Our moral experiences and actions are thus as closely linked with the trees and flowers as they were in Paradise. In our progress through life we are continually impressing our own moral history upon the objects around us; and these objects possess the power of recalling it, and setting it before us in all its vividness, even after the lapse of many years. Our feelings and actions pass from ourselves and become a part of the constitution of nature, become subtle powers pervading the scenes in which we felt and performed them. They endow the inanimate earth itself with a kind of consciousness, a kind of moral testimony which may afterwards witness for or against us. We cannot live in any place, or go through any scene, without leaving traces of ourselves behind in it; without mixing up our own experiences with its features, taking its inanimate things into our confidence, unbosoming ourselves to them, colouring them with our own nature, and placing ourselves completely in their power. They keep a silent record of what we are and do in the associations connected with our thoughts and actions; and that record they unfold for us to read when at any time we come into contact with them. And hence the significance of God's own words, "He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people." There is a moral purpose, as I have said, in all this. It is not for the mere vivifying of our feelings of pleasure or pain that the objects of nature are endowed with this strange power of association. God meant it to perform a most important part in our moral training. He meant it to remind us of sins which we should otherwise have forgotten, and to awaken our consciences that would otherwise have slumbered. By associating our sinful thoughts and actions with outward objects, He designed that they should be brought and kept before us in all their reality in order to produce the proper impression upon us, instead of allowing them to sink into the vague, ghostly abstractions which past sins are apt to become in the mind. And not seldom has this silent power of witness-bearing, which lurks in the scenes and objects of nature, been felt by guilty men, bringing them to a sense of their guilt.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.