When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
I. THE RANGE OF DIVINE LOVE. (Ver. 39.) Peter declared, at this the outset of the new dispensation, that the range of God's redeeming love would be "exceeding broad."
1. It was to go from generation to generation: "to you and to your children."
2. It was to extend to remotest regions: "to all that are afar off."
3. It was to embrace every one whom the summons of the inviting Lord should reach: "as many as the Lord our God shall call." Thus, at the beginning, the apostles gave a true idea of the fullness of that "kingdom of God" of which their Master had spoken so much, and which he lived and died to establish.
II. THE FIRST RESULT OF DIVINE TRUTH (Ver. 37.) This was (and is):
1. Spiritual agitation.
2. Earnest inquiry. When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart; they said, "What shall we do?" This is the simple, natural, constant course of things divine in the heart of man. When the truth of God is faithfully preached, and when the seed falls on good soil, there is spiritual agitation; the soul is smitten, the heart pierced; there are "great searchings of heart;" the old apathy, self-sufficiency, equanimity, is disturbed and broken up, and the spirit is troubled with a deep disquietude. It discovers that everything is wrong: the past is guilty, the present utterly unsatisfactory, the future clouded. Then comes earnest inquiry: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" "Wherewithal shall we come before the Lord?" How shall we be forgiven, justified, accepted? What is the path of reconciliation and peace? Through what spiritual experiences must we pass? What is the way into the kingdom of God? The soul, thus in earnest, turns to the sacred Scriptures or addresses those who speak in the name of Christ.
III. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER'S COUNSEL TO THE INQUIRING. (Vers. 38, 40.)
1. Repent; i.e. turn from sin and selfishness to righteousness and holy service; abandon the old and evil life of folly, thoughtlessness, worldliness, wrong-doing; put that away with shame and sorrow, and enter the opposite path - turn Godwards, truthwards, heavenwards.
2. Accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Teacher, Lord, Savior; be baptized into him. Heartily accept him, and honestly avow him, as your Divine Redeemer.
3. Separate yourself from the sin which surrounds you; "save yourselves," etc. (ver. 40); have no participation in guilt, and have no sympathy or fellowship with sinners, as such.
IV. THE PROMISE OF DIVINE MERCY AND INDWELLING POWER. These conditions fulfilled, there will be:
1. Remission of sins (ver. 38).
2. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost (ver. 38). Christ, our almighty Savior, our Divine Friend, being with us, we shall have above us a reconciled heavenly Father to whom we can look up with rejoicing, childlike trust and love; and we shall have within us a Holy Spirit, cleansing the thoughts of our heart by his inspiration; sanctifying our nature; empowering us for the burden, the witness, and the battle of life; preparing us for the companionships and engagements of immortality. - C.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(W. Arthur, M. A.)I. THE INQUIRY MADE. Men always want to know what they are to do when conviction of sin is on them. This was Paul's excited cry when on the way to Damascus, and that of the Philippian jailer. And until a sinner is willing to do anything that he may, if possible, undo what he has done amiss, little evidence of a contrite state of heart does he afford. But how blessed is God's plan of salvation. We have not to do or to undo; another has done for us what is required, and what we could not do. Jesus has died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. All left for us, therefore, is repentance which leads to the avoidance of sin in future, by submitting to His ordinances, and present realising, appropriating faith. "Men and brethren!" Previously any contemptuous terms were good enough for the followers of the Nazarene; but see how the change of heart affects the speech. A sinner under conviction will naturally become more guarded in language than before. How many ways has the Spirit of God of producing conviction; and how many ways has a convicted sinner of showing the conviction which is thus produced! Not only do men adopt new modes of action, but new styles of speech.
II. THE REPLY GIVEN. How ready is the apostle to respond.
1. "Repent," as if he would say, do not go about to establish a righteousness of your own; do not suppose that by costly sacrifices or penal suffering you shall be saved. Hate your sin and flee from it. Repent; sincerely, instantly, earnestly; seek mercy, for it is awaiting you.
2. Be baptized, as an expression of your determination henceforth to be enrolled under the banner of the Messiah, thus publicly admitting His claims, and showing your faith in Him, and obedience to Him.
3. Do this in reference to the remission of your sins; not supposing that baptism will save you, but rather that it will symbolise the regenerative power of the Spirit by which you have been awakened, and then you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
(W. Antliff, D. D.)
I. ARGUMENT, for the judgment is gained by the truth.
II. CONVICTION, for the awakened are pricked to the heart.
III. ENQUIRY, for they ask, "What must we do?"
IV. COMFORT, for its subjects have received remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Sunday School Times.1. Men must be pricked in their heart before they can have the joy of salvation in their heart.
2. The conditions of salvation — how easy! Salvation has only to be accepted.
3. The conditions of salvation — how hard! Each one must repent; that is, turn from his sin; and that is no easy matter.
4. Salvation is accompanied with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Without His help, no one could conquer sin.
5. The promise of salvation and the help of the Holy Spirit is to all men of all peoples.
6. The promise of salvation is a family covenant, extending through the father to the children.
7. The exhortation, now as ever, is: "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."
(Sunday School Times.)
I. TO SUPPOSE THAT THE ONLY PRACTICAL END OF CHRISTIANITY HAS BEEN VOLUNTARILY ABANDONED. If Christianity cannot renew men in the image of God, she ceases to have any special distinction above other religions. Her mission here was to overcome Satan in the realm in which he had hitherto triumphed, to re-establish the empire of God.
II. Not only would this practical end be abandoned, but THE STANDING EVIDENCE TO CHRISTIANITY WOULD BE DISCONTINUED. The miracles and prophecies are past, and no accumulation of arguments can demonstrate to our neighbours at this moment that Christianity is a power which can actually make men superior to their own circumstances and sins. The only real and effective evidence is living men who have been regenerated. Wherever men can be pointed to whose lives are a manifest example of salvation from sin, there is the standing evidence that Christianity is "the power of God unto salvation." Is it supposable that Christ has withdrawn or diminished that power which would show continually that He "saves His people from their sins"?
III. The converting power is also THE CHURCH'S GREAT ATTRACTION. It is true that some would attract men by ceremonies, or talent, or the charms of architecture or music, — attract them that they may convert them; whereas the true order is, Convert, that you may attract. The one is the order of the charlatan, who trusts to factitious allurements for attracting the public, in the hope that he may cure some; the other, the order of the true physician, who trusts to the fact of his curing some as the means of attracting others. Whenever the Church sends into a family one new convert glowing with love and joy, she kindles light which will, in all probability, give light to all that are in the house. Whenever she is the means of making one shopman turn from his sins, and exhibit to his comrades a picture of holy living, in all probability she will soon have others from that shop at her altars. Whenever she brings one factory-girl to sit, like Mary, at the feet of Jesus, very probably in a little while other Marys will be with her.
IV. The converting power is also THE PRINCIPAL LEVER WHICH CHRISTIANITY CAN USE FOR RAISING THE STANDARD OF MORALS IN NATIONS.
1. Instruction is the basis of all moral operation; but instruction in morals, as in science, is of little force unless backed by experiment. One tradesman converted, and manfully taking ground among his companions against trade tricks once used by himself, casts greater shame upon their dishonesty than all the instructions they ever heard from pulpits; or, rather, gives an edge, a power, and an embodiment to them all. One youth whom religion strengthens to walk purely, among dissipated companions, sends lights and stings into their consciences, which mere instruction could not give, because it shows them that purity is not, as temptation says, unattainable. And so with all the virtues; it is but by embodying them in the persons of men that they become thoroughly understood by the public mind.
2. Just in proportion as the number of converted men is great or small, will be the amount of conscience in the community generally. Each new convert adds somewhat to the existing moral influence, and weakens the ties which bind men to sin. Where no one is godly, moderately correct persons are almost ashamed of their lack of badness; where a tenth of the adults are godly, even ordinary sinners are ashamed of their lack of goodness; and where a fifth, or a third, of the adults are so, the hindrances to the conversion of the rest are as nothing, compared with those that exist where the great masses are still living in their sins.
V. The converting power is also THE ONLY MEANS WHEREBY CHRISTIANITY RAISES UP AGENTS FOR HER OWN PROPAGATION.
1. That which is wanted in an agent, above all, is zeal, burning desire to save sinners. This zeal is never a mutter of mere conviction, but always a matter of nature. It is "Christ in you." It is "the love of Christ constraining you." Agents with this nature we can have only by successive outpourings of the Spirit of God, by constant accessions of new converts.
2. When they who have been great sinners are themselves converted, having been forgiven much, they love much, and frequently become mighty instruments of winning others to Christ. When "numbers turn to the Lord," saying, "We have redemption in His blood, even the forgiveness of sins," — then some will assuredly appear with plain marks that the spirit of the prophets is in them, and that they are called to spread, far and wide, the glorious salvation of which they themselves partake.
3. Nothing so re-animates the zeal of old Christians as witnessing the joy and simplicity, the gratitude and fervour, of those who have been lately born of God. While the old disciple is to the young one an example of moderation and strength, the young is to the old an example of fervour; the one shedding upon the other a steadying influence, while he receives in return a cheering and an impelling one.
4. It is also wonderful how much the occurrence of conversions heightens the efficiency of men already employed in the ministry, or in other departments of the work of God, The preacher preaches with new heart, the exhorter exhorts with revived feeling, he that prays has double faith and fervour; and the joy of conquest breathes new vigour into all the Lord's host.
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
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