And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.…
There are marked differences in the dispositions of men. At first sight the differences may seem to be so many and so great, that it is hopeless to attempt any classification of them. And yet, in the relations in which dispositions stand to revealed truth and the mysterious, there is a simple division, and a repetition of characteristic attitudes in each age. Observe the peculiar phenomena here, which tested the dispositions of the crowding multitudes. Uneducated, countrified Galilaeans were speaking to the comprehension of men who came from various parts of the earth and used several distinct languages. We do not know whether the disciples themselves understood the new words which they were empowered to utter, but it is certain that what the hearers heard was no jargon or incoherent speech; it was the story of Christ crucified and risen, given in the languages with which they were familiar. Manifestly here was a mystery, something surprising, needing explanation, something to exercise thought about; something which men of different dispositions would regard in different ways; something which would bring into expression the marked peculiarities of each class. Compare the way in which St. Paul's preaching at Athens tested the dispositions of his hearers (Acts 17:32). "Some mocked, and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter... certain men clave unto him, and believed." In our passage the attitudes taken towards the mystery were, at first two, and afterwards three.
I. SOME WERE IN DOUBT, AND WOULD INQUIRE FURTHER. (Ver. 12.) They were struck with surprise, confused, perplexed. They did not know what to make of these remarkable incidents; but they were not disposed to put them away from consideration, as necessarily delusions or impostures, because beyond a ready explanation. Their attitude was a right and a hopeful one. Denial of the "supernatural" is a sign of mental weakness or prejudiced obstinacy. Doubt about the "supernatural" is rational, and leads to inquiry, consideration, and due weighing of argument and proof. There is "honest doubt," and merely "willful doubt." The first disposition finds expression in sincere and earnest inquiry for the solution and satisfaction and removal of the doubt. The second disposition rejects inquiry, and keeps the doubting, priding itself upon its ability to doubt. No proofs can satisfy this class of doubters. Both these are still found in our Christian society; and the times tend to multiply that hopeless class that prides itself on doubting. Our Lord gave us the best remedy for the doubting disposition when he said, "If any man will do My will, he shall know of the doctrine."
II. SOME MOCKED, AND WOULD SUGGEST EVIL EXPLANATIONS. (Ver. 13.) Such dispositions even our Lord had to deal with. Some who saw his miracles declared that he wrought them "by the power of the devil;" showing in this their exceeding folly, for our Lord's works were all good and kind and helpful, and not in any sense mischievous or hurtful, as the work of devils is. So here, we find some who would not think, would not doubt, but at once rejected the mystery, and showed their folly in their insulting suggestion, "These men are full of new wine." This kind of disposition is a hopeless one. Such men have no susceptibility, No argument or proof can reach them. To this class belong the deniers and mockers of the "supernatural" in our day. The infidel class of all ages and of this has been very largely made up of those who were determined not to believe. The hard heart is too often the one great hindrance to belief.
III. SOME AMONG THE INQUIRERS WOULD RECEIVE THE TRUTH WHICH WAS DECLARED AND ATTESTED IN THE STRANGE PHENOMENA. Peter's words were a stern rebuke of the "mockers," with whom he would not deign to argue; he would utter no more than the words that should declare their folly. He preached to the doubting and inquiring. He may not have satisfied them all that day. Many may have needed to think quietly about it all, and seek further for themselves; but then, even that very day, in response to his word, three thousand accepted the Pentecostal wonders as the Spirit's witness to Jesus as the "Messiah," and "risen to become the present, living Savior. Peter gives the example of bringing the doubting and inquiring to God's Holy Word: To the Law and to the testimony." And still there can be no better way of guiding the seeking soul. The mysterious, the supernatural, is a stumbling-block in these days of the enthronement of human science, more serious than it has been in any previous age. The dispositions of men towards it remain the same; but the company of the scorners, who put the subject away as unworthy of consideration, is larger than ever. Yet there are still multitudes of susceptible and open-hearted doubters; and, with our Bibles in our hands, and our personal convictions and experiences giving tone to our words, we may hopefully plead with them to recognize God in nature, and God beyond nature; God's working within human explanation, and God's working beyond human explanation: a sphere "unseen and spiritual," that is altogether more real and permanent than the sphere "seen and temporal." Urge, in conclusion, that the things of the soul, religion, and God must of necessity lie in this "beyond," "within," "spiritual," "supersensuous," sphere. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.