תמונות בעמוד

And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all 23 that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they 24 heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, “Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is : who by the mouth of thy servant David hast 25 said, “Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things ? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together 26 against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy 27 holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be 28 done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings : and grant unto thy 29 servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching 30 forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place 31 was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one 32 soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great 33 power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus : and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them 34 that lacked : for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down 35 at the apostles' feet : and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

EXPLANATION. After having been kept in confinement all night, Peter and John were brought the next day before the chief magistrates of the Jewish nation asembled in council, called the sanhedrim. There was a full attendance of the members; amongst whom was the person who had formerly filled the office of high priest, named Annas, (he had been removed from the office by the Romans, but was still called high priest by the Jews, Luke xiii. 2. John. xviii. 13,) and his son-in-law Caiaphas, who had been appointed high priest in his room ; also two eminent men named John and Alexander, and other councillors connected with the high priest's family. These seem to have been mentioned, in order to shew the power and influence of the judges, before whom these poor fishermen were brought.

Peter and John were desired to stand forward before the

council, and then they were asked by what means and under what influence they had made the crippled beggar able to walk. It seems as if the council imagined the miracle to have been wrought by some charm or magical incantation, in the name of some evil spirit perhaps.

Upon this Peter, full of the Holy Spirit's power, addressed the assembly with boldness. He said that, since he and John were brought before them for examination as culprits, not for any evil deed, but for a good deed done to a poor cripple, and since they sought to know what were the means made use of to give him the use of his limbs, he plainly proclaimed to them and to all the Jews, that it was by the power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth ;—the person whom they had delivered to Pontius Pilate, and procured the sentence in consequence of which he had been crucified,-he whom God had raised up again from amongst the dead—it was by this person that the cripple was made able to walk : and Peter at the same time, in proof of the fact, pointed to the man himself, who must have come into the court with the crowd, when the prisoners were brought in for examination.

Peter then referring to the expression in verse 22 of the 118th Psalm, (with which all who heard him were well acquainted), declared that Jesus was the person intended by the prophecy, as “the stone which the builders refused ;” and they were the builders who had set at nought Jesus, who now having risen from the grave had become that which is represented by the chief stone in the corner, or joining of two walls. He is the person on whom both the divisions of mankind, Jews and Gentiles, may rest for salvation. To no other can either look, by no other can any be saved ; and if the council asked by the influence of what name the miracle had been performed, they might know that there is but one name in all the world communicated from God to man, the power of which is absolutely necessary to save men; and that is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The members of the council were greatly astonished at the boldness of the apostles, together with the freedom and power of speaking manifested by Peter. They knew them to be persons who had never been instructed in the learning of the rabbies, and who were of the lower class ; and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus, during the 'tiine he had taught amongst the Jews. The man who had been healed stood before them, in testimony of the truth of the miracle; which therefore they could not gainsay. They ordered the apostles to be removed from the council-chamber, while they consulted together privately, as to what course should be pursued in the matter. In discussing it they said that a very remarkable miracle had been done by these men, which must be known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and it was of no use to deny the fact. Still, in order to prevent the knowledge of it spreading further amongst the Jews in the other parts of the country, they determined to lay them under strict orders not to speak to any one in the name of Jesus : when this had been decided, they desired Peter and John to be brought in again to the chamber, and gave them strict orders that they should in no way preach or teach in the name of Jesus.

In reply to this, Peter and John at once appealed to the sense of propriety which the councillors themselves must have. Could it be right before God to follow their directions, when they were contrary to the commands of God? They could not do otherwise than tell of the things which they themselves had both seen and heard. In spite of this honest refusal, the sanhedrim were obliged to dismiss the apostles : they could find no pretence for punishing them, which would have satisfied the people ; since the iniracle had produced a general feeling, that it was to be ascribed to the power of God himself. The man had been a cripple for upwards of forty years since his birth, which made it more evidently a miracle to the minds of all who heard of it. The sanhedrim however did not let the apostles go, without threatening them that, if they disobeyed the command they had received, they would certainly be punished.

As soon as they were released, they went to the Christian brethren and related what had happened, and all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. Upon hearing the account, the whole company expressed their feelings in prayer, one speaking (probably one of the apostles), and the rest joining, either repeating the words after him,

or following him with their minds and hearts. They called
upon God as the creator of all things; they appealed to
him as having of old caused David to prophecy, (in the
second Psalm, verses 1, 2), that the idolatrous gentiles
should be angry, and that the Jews should devise plans in
vain—that kings should oppose themselves, and ruling
powers should join together against the Lord and against
his Anointed one: they appealed to the giver of this pro-
phecy, under a lively feeling of its present fulfilment; for
certainly Herod the king, and Pontius Pilate the gentile
governor, with his soldiers and the Jews, had united in
standing up against God's holy child Jesus. In all this
however, though men had been practising their own
wickedness, they had been unconscious instruments of
bringing to pass the sacrifice, which God had before deter-
mined and arranged. Then the disciples prayed, that the
Lord would take account of the anger and threats with
which the same men had forbidden them to preach in the
name of Jesus; and that he would supply his servants with
strength proportioned to the occasion, in order that they
might be able boldly to proclaim the Gospel in obedience
to Christ's word, in spite of all endeavours to prevent them.
And they entreated God to encourage and sanction their
boldness, by plainly shewing his own power, and accom-
panying them in miracles of healing and others, through
the holy name of Jesus.
As soon as this

had been offered

up by the assembled christians, there was a sort of earthquake, so that the house in which they were was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit : it is not said that any of those outward tokens were given, which accompanied his first descent on the day of Pentecost; but the effect upon the persons present was, that they received an evident and immediate answer to their prayer. They had prayed that they might be strengthened to be bold in proclaiming the word of the Lord, and boldness in speaking that word was given to them at once.

At this happy time a real spiritual unity existed amongst the whole body of believers; they were all as though there were but one heart and one soul amongst them. The influence of individual interest was so overcome, that no one refused to let his property be employed for the benefit of the whole; and those who had been added to the christian body since the first three thousand willingly joined them in the sharing of all things in common, as had been at first agreed to. (Acts ii. 44.). The Apostles proclaimed the fact and doctrine of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power and eloquence; while much of the grace of God was given to all the believers. Though many of them were poor, yet none were in want; for those richer christians who had property in houses or land, sold their possessions, and left the disposal of the money entirely to the Apostles; who took care that it should be so laid out, that every person was supplied according to his necessities.

APPLICATION. 1. This is the first recorded instance of the opposition made to the preaching of the gospel, after the ascension of Christ; and we find that the promise, which he made to the apostles of support and direction by the Holy Spirit, was fulfilled according to their need. (Mark xiii. 11. Matt. x. 16—20.) We may see proof of this, in the contrast between the conduct of Peter and John on the evening of the apprehension of Jesus, with their conduct upon being brought before the Sanhedrim upon the present occasion. Before, they both forsook their Lord and fled, and Peter's alarm made him deny that he knew Jesus; now, they felt no overpowering alarm at their personal danger, but boldly confessed the name of Jesus as the Christ, in the face of his declared enemies. Such boldness is frequently required in the common intercourse of christians with the world, although we may not be taken before magistrates to prove it; the fear of man may be more strongly excited by the general opinion of our neighbours in opposition to our christian course, than by the circumstances of a legal trial, and in every case it must be the power of the Holy Spirit given to us, which alone can enable us to act with the same holy boldness that Peter and John displayed. It will be very easy to discover many occasions in common life, on which such christian boldness is called for, if we test our own conduct by the rule so plainly laid down by the Apostles before the Sanhedrim : we can all consider and decide for ourselves " whether it be right in the sight of

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