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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.

THIS Book was undoubtedly written by the Evangelist LUKE, whom 1 Paul styles the beloved Physician, being addressed to Theophilus, to whom he had dedicated his GOSPEL, of which this may be considered as the second part. This may account for his name not being prefixed. The former part contains the history of Christ : this of the Apostles, after his ascension. We have nere an account of the origin and growth of the church in Judea, and of the propagation and success of the Gospel in the Gentile nations. Here we have a particular narrative of the journeys and voyages of the apostle Paul, whom the writer accompanied in several of them, and who speaks of him as his fellow-labourer. The book is generally supposed to have been written about the year 63 (at which time the history ends ) and most probably at Rome, when he was with Paul in his own hired house. Of its genuineness there is the most ample testimony from the most ancient records.

SECTION 1.

St. Luke connects this history with his gospel, by a more particular account

of the ascension of Christ. Ch. i. 1-12.

1 THE former treatise I composed, O Theophilus, concerning

1 all things, which Jesus began both to do, and to teach*; 2 even to the day in which he was taken up to heaven, after he had,

by the Holy Spirit, given charge to the apostles, whom he had 3 chosen. To whom also he presented himself alive after his suf

ferings, with many evident testimonials ; being seen by them for

forty days, and speaking to them of the things concerning the 4 kingdom of God. And having assembled them together, he

charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the

promise of the Father, which / said he) you have heard from me. $ For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized 6 with the Holy Spirit within these few days. They therefore,

being come together, asked him, saying, Lord, wilt thou, at this

time, break the Roman yoke, and restore the kingdom to Israel ? 7. But he said to them, It is not for you to know those times, or

seasons, for the fulfilment of many prophecies concerning my king, 8 dom, which the Father hath reserved in his own power. But you

shall receive power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and shall

be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Sa9 maria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth. And having

said these things ; while they beheld, he was lifted up, and a 10 cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were

. * That is, all things from the beginning of his ministry. VOL. I.

Xx

stedfasily looking up to heaven, as he went on, behold two angels 11 in the form of men, in white raiment, stood near them; who also

said, Ye mea of Galilee, why do ye stand gazing up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken op from you into heaven, shall so come

in the same manner, as you have bebeld him going into heaven. 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet,

which is a sbbath-day's journey* from Jerusalem.

REFLECTIONS. If we have ever seriously considered the contents of this excellent history on which we are now entering, we must surely see abundant reason to adore that gracious Providence which hath transmitted it to as, to confirm our faith, and animate our hope in the gospel. The account of our Lord's ascension, with which it begins, relates to a fact of so great importance, that we may well bear the repetition of what we have read concerning it in the former history.

We see the apostles still dreaming of a temporal kingdom to be restored to Israel: So hard is it for the best of men to be entirely crucified to the world, even by the cross of Christ ! Our Lord does not set himself at large, to combat that error ; nor is it necessary that we should be eagerly solicitous on the like occasions, where mistakes do not affect men's characters, or their eternal state. Prudently does he direct them to wave the indulgence of their curiosity. Let us learn to moclerate ours, and refer times and seasons to him who hath reserved them in his own power. Let a sense of the perfect wisdom and goodness of the divine Being silence and compose us, amidst all the darkness which veils our prospects of futurity.

With the apostles let us look up after an ascending Saviour, and send our wishes and our souls to heaven; where he now is, and where he must remain, till that important day in which he shall descend to the final judgment. Behold, he then cometh in the clouds, and every eye shall see him ! May we view him to our joy, and not to our terror! and lift up our heads with a serenity and cheerfulness, becoming those who see the approach of their complete redemption ! In the mean time, may his cause and service be ever dear to us! and while he is attending to our concerns in the world above, may we, with grateful and joyful alacrity, pursue that which he graciously condescends to own, as his interest here upon earth.

SECTION II..

Matthias chosen to succeed Judas. Ch. i. 13, &c.

N OW the apostles when they were entered into the city, went

IV up into an upper rooin, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Mat

thew," James the son of Alpheus, and Simon the zealot, and Judas 14 the brother of James. These all unanimously persevered in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of

* That is, 2000 cubits, or about a mile. Sce Josh. iii. 4.

15 Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter, rising up

in the midst of the disciples, spake as follows (now the number 16 of persons together was about an hundred and twenty): Men and

brethren, it was necessary this scripture should be fulfilled, which

the holy Spirit spake before, by the mouth of David, with regard. 17 to Judas, who became the guide of those that seized Jesus : for

he was once numbered with us apostles, and had obtained part of 18 this ministry. This man therefore purchased a field* with the

reward of iniquity, and, having hanged himself, falling down on

his face he burst asunder in the middle, and all his bowels were 19 poured out : (and it was known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem,

so that that field is to this day called in their language, Aceldama, 2@ that is the field of blood.) For it is written in the book of Psalms

(lxix. 25.) “ Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man inhabit 21 it :" and (cix. 8.) “ Let another take his office.” It is necessary

therefore, that of the men who have conversed with us, during all

the time in which the Lord Jesus was going in and coming out 22 among us, beginning from the baptism of John, even to the day

in which he was taken up from us into heaven, one of these should

be chosen to the apostolic office, to be made a witness with us of his 23 resurrection. And they set up two men, Joseph called Barsabas 24 (who was surnamed Justus) and Matthias. And they prayed,

saying, Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all, shew which 25 of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this

ministry and apostleship, irom which Judas is fallen by his trans26 gression, that he might go to his own place. And they gave out

their lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

REFLECTIONS. It was wisely and well determined by the apostles, to spend this interval of time in devotion and in christian converse ; for never have we more reason to expect the communication of the Holy Spirit of God to us, than when we are sharing our time between the one and the other, so far as Providence affords us leisure from our secular affairs. With their devotions they properly joined a care for the future edification of the church, and therefore chose another apostle, to complete the number which our Lord had appointed. It is dreadful to think how the vacancy happened, and by what a horrible transgression it was, that one of this sacred society fell from his office. The hand of God's righteous vengeance was heavy upon him, and brought him in a few hours to public infamy and irrecoverable destruction. So that his example, dreadful as it is, shews us at once that no dignity of office can secure men from sin, and that when they break through the solemn bonds of a remarkably high and eminent profession, they must expect a punishment proportionably signal.

Riches profit not in the day of wrath, The time is swiftly approaching, when ill-gotten gain will prove a burthen and a terror, and the

* An action is sometimes said to be done by a person who was the occasion of doing it. Gen. xlii. 38, &c.

wages of unrighteousness will appear as the price of an Aceldama, a field of blood ; even in that dreadful day when impenitent sinners go 10 their own place ; to those abodes of misery which are so properly prepared for them, and so justly assigned to them; assigned especially to those whose business (like that of Judas) it was, to preach repentance unto others, to shw them their transgression, and to warn them of their danger, and who were more especially obliged to have enforced their admonitions and their precepts, by the peculiar lustre of their own examples.-But the badness of the man, who in some instances may be advanced to bear the most sacred office, is not to be interpreted to the disgrace of that office itself. The apostles were careful to keep up the honour of theirs, by seeking out a more proper person, who might do his part towards taking away the reproach which Judas had brought upon it, and might approve himself a worthy witness of the resurrection of Jesus, on the knowledge of which depended the salvation of millions. After all, they refer the matter to the determination of Providence, to which they make a very instructive appeal. Let us always remember the universal and intimate inspection of the divine Being. Thou, Lord, knowest the hearts of all ! All their treachery, and all their integrity, is manifest in thy sight : And, in persons of equal sincerity, thou discernest what renders one more fit than another, for this or that situation and service. Let it be our desire to follow Providence ourselves ; and let us pray, that God will set over all his churches pastors afier his own heart, who may feed -them with knowledge and understanding. The lot is cast into the lap ; but (casual as the determination may seem) the whole disposal thereof is from the Lord. Let us own his hand in the determination of every circumstance which befalls us, and especially in those by which any solemn and important trust may be committed to us : And may the consideration of it be an additional engagement upon us, to discharge it with becoming diligence and entire fidelity !

SECTION III.

The descent of the Spirit upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, with . part of Peter's speech on that occasion. Ch. ii. 1—21. 1 AND when the day of Pentecost was completely arrived, it

being then the first day of the wrek, they were all with unan2 imous affection in the same place*. And on a sudden there was

a sound from heaven, as of a rushing violent wind; and it filled 3 all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to

them divided tongues, as it were of fire ; and it + rested upon 4 each of them. . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and

began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them a 5 power of expressing themselves. Now there were sojourning in

Jerusalem a number of pious men, that were Jews from every na

* The apostles and the 120 disciples.

+ That is, this appearance of fire; one bright flame in the shape of a tongue, fixing upon the head of each, emblematic of the miraculous gift.

6 tion under heaven: And when this report came abroad, the mul.

titude gathered together and were confounded; for every one 7 heard them speaking in his own dialect. And they were all as

tonished, and wondered, saying one to another, Behold, are not 8 all these that speak, Galileans? and how then do we, every one

of us hear them speaking to each of us in his own native language ? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and those that inhabit Meso10 poiania, and Judea*, and Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asii, Phrygia,

and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Africa which are about

Cyrene, and the sojourners here who are Romans, Jews, and pros11 elytes; those of Crete, and Arabians; we hear them speaking in 12our own tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were

all in amazement and perplexity, and said one to another. What 13 can this mean? But others mocking, said, Surely these men are

filled with sweet intoxicating wine. 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said

to them, O ye men of Judea, and all you that inhabit Jerusalem! 15 let this be known unto you, and listen to my words: for these

men are not drunk, as vou suppose ; since it is bu' the third hour 16 of the dayt: but this is that great cvent which was spoken of by 17 the prophet Joel (ii. 28.) “ And it shall come to pass in the last

days, saith God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; and your young

men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Yea in those days I will pour out my spirit upon my servants, and 19 upon my handmaids; and they shall prophesy : and I will give

prodigies in heaven above, and signs upon the earth beneath ; 20 blood, and fire, and a cloud of smoke ; the sun shall be turned in

to darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and illus21 trious day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that

whosoever shall invoke the name of the Lord shall be saveu.

REFLECTIONS. With how much attention and delight should we read the history of this glorious event, so frequently referred to in the predictions of our Lord, and of so great importance to the christian cause ; the miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit ! He came down as a mighty rushing wind, to signify the powerful energy of his operations, whereby the whole world was to be shaken. He fell upon them in tongues of fire, cloven or divided into several parts, to denote the most cele. brated effect to be immediately produced, in causing them to speak with the utmost readiness and propriety, languages they had never learnt. 'An astonishing miracle ! which was intended, not for pomp and ostentation, but to render them capable of propagating the gospel to the most distant nations, to which the grace of God had cletermined to send it. It is observable, that this divine gift fell upon

.

* The dialect there differing from that of Galilee. [Some propose Idumca.]

† Nine o'clock, the hour of morning-sacrifice, before which no persons of any character tasted wine.

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