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world, and multitudes had come from different countries to celebrate the feast. The promiscuous throng, who assembled upon the report, and had been accustomed to different languages, were therefore greatly astonished to hear of the wonderful works of God, every man in his own tongue. While some expressed their surprise at this, others ascribed it to the effects of wine, and showed their scorn and despite to the Spirit of grace, by reviling the apostles as drunkards. Thus they no sooner entered upon their public service, than they began to find the same treatment which their Lord had met with, and were, for his sake, the subjects of calumny and derision. This is a remarkable instance of the sagacity and temper which the men of the world discover in the judgement they form of a work of God; nor is it probable that our modern reasoners would have judged more favourably, if they could have been present at such a scene, where several persons were speaking loud at the same time, and each in a different language : since they account the operations of the same Spirit, madness and folly, even where they are not attended with such extraordinary circumstances.
This weak and perverse slander was immediately refuted by the apostle Peter, who addressed the people in a grave and solemn discourse: and having, in few words, explained the nature of the fact, and shown that it was an accomplishment of ancient prophecies, he proceeded to apply himself more closely to their consciences. He assured them, that what they saw and heard was wrought by the power of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had rejected before Pilate. He informed them of that honour and glory which he now possessed, and charged them as accomplices in the murder of a person whose character and dignity God had vindicated, by raising him from the dead. Though our Saviour had but few disciples during his personal ministry, he had doubtless left a deep impression of his words and works in the hearts of many. This discourse of Peter would naturally recall him to the remembrance of those who had seen him in the flesh, and lead them to reflect how earnestly and unjustly they had, at the instigation of their priests, compelled Pilate to put him to death. These reflections, the closeness of Peter's address; and the power of the Spirit of God, concurred to give them a deep conviction of their sin. They were pierced to the heart. They no longer wondered as curious spectators; but were solicitous for themselves, and cried out, “ Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter then proceeded to open the treasure of Gospelgrace, and to direct them to Jesus, whom they had crucified, for salvation. The effect of this day's preaching (for though only Peter is named, it is probable there were more than one preacher or one discourse) was signally happy. Three thousand souls were converted, and, professing their faith and repentance, were, by baptism, publicly joined to the church.
A farther addition was soon after made. Peter and John having recovered a man from incurable lameness, by faith in the name of Jesus, the report of the miracle brought a great concourse of people together a second time. Peter improved the occasion to preach to them at the temple gate, to the purport of his former discourse. He had an attentive auditory; and hiş word was made effectual to the conversion of many. But by this time the enemies of Jesus were greatly
alarmed at the progress of his doctrine ; and having notice of what had passed, the priests and Sadducees violently apprehended Peter, with John, and put them in prison. He had not finished his discourse, but he had said enough to be remembered ; and this interruption, with the boldness of his following defence, made his words more regarded. The next day they were brought before the high priest, rulers, and elders; and being asked concerning the late miracle, Peter, who once had trembled at the voice of a girl, was not afraid to use the utmost freedom and plainness with the council and heads of the Jewish nation. He confessed the name and cause of Jesus; reminded them of their wickedness, in causing him to be crucified, and, in direct answer to their question, assured them that the miracle was wrought in his name, and by his power. Though the council were highly offended with this language, and the more so, as they observed the persons who spoke were private and unlettered men; yet, being unable to deny the fact (for the man who had been lame stood before them), and unwilling to incur the odium of punishing an action they were ashamed to disapprove, they dissembled their rage, and, forbidding the apostles to speak any more to the people, they dismissed them: yet they did not depart until they had
Acts, iv. 16, 17. Many consultations have been held, and devices framed, to stop the progress of the Gospel, as if it was a daugerous infection ; but all such attempts are vain. They may as easily restrain the dawning of the day as suppress the spreading of the Gospel, when the Lord is pleased to raise up fit instruments to pro• mote it, and to vouchsafe a season of refreshment from his presence. Then its influence cannot be restrained, a spark becomes a flame, a little one a multitude, and opposition only makes the effects more visible and noticed.
protested against this inhibition, and declared their resolution to obey God rather than man.
The believers, though numerous, amounting to many thousands, lived in harmony and love, as children of one family. The greater part of them were poor; those, therefore, who had estates or money, willingly put their all- info a common stock, for the use of the whole, which was intrusted to the care of the apostles. This is recorded as an instance of the benevolent and disinterested spirit with which the Gospel inspired them; but is not enjoined as a precedent to be universally observed, since we have many proofs that the usual distinctions in civil life were retained in other churches planted by the apostles; and it soon gave occasion to discover, that in the best societies there may be found some unworthy intruders, and that very specious actions may be performed from base and dishonourable motives. Even under this richest dispensation of grace, there were some professors influenced by no higher motives than hypocrisy and vain glory. Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, attempted to impose on the apostles by a concerted lie, and would have had the praise of giving their whole substance, when their avarice would only permit them to spare a part. As a warning to all pretenders who seek to join or serve the church from sordid and selfish views, Peter, by the direction of the Holy Ghost, denounced a severe sentence against this unhappy pair, and they both fell dead at his feet. The cause and suddenness of their death was a vindication of the apostle's integrity and
¿ Acts, v.
. The apostolic censures were not like the papal anathemas, bruta fulmina, words without effect; they were accomplished in an instant. See Acts, xiii. 11.
authority, and a seasonable admonition to others, to deter
any from attempting to associate with the disciples who were not in heart devoted to the Lord.
The numbers of the believers still increased, and the report of the apostles' doctrine and miracles extended from Jerusalem to the adjacent parts. The priests and Sadducees, therefore, soon renewed their efforts to suppress them: they apprehended the apostles again, and put them in the common prison as malefactors ; but the Lord, to confirm the faith and courage of his people, and to show how easily he can protect those who serve him, delivered them the same night by his angel. In the morning, when their enemies were met, and commanded them to be brought to the tribunal, they were surprised to hear that the prison doors were found secure, and the prisoners all escaped. They were, bowever, soon informed that they were not gone far, but were preaching boldly to the people (as the angel had directed them) regardless of their adversaries' desigus against them. They were alarmed at this notice, and began to be apprehensive of the event'; yet, burried on by their enmity to Jesus and his Gospel, they once more sent their osticers to take them, which they attempted in the mildest manner possible; for, as the prosecution was groundless and malicious, they were not without fear lest the multitude should interpose; but they had to do with the followers of Jesus, who would countenance no tumult in their own favour, and were neither afraid nor ashamed to confess his name in the face of danger. The apostles, therefore, peaceably
Acts, v. 24. It is not only a fruitless, but a very uneasy undertaking, to fight against the truth and those who profess it. The boldest and wisest champions in this desperate cause are often brought to their wits end, and to foresce their own disappointment.