Acts 2:44
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Sermons
The Means of GraceJohn Wesley Acts 2:44
Effects of the Divine Power Upon the HeartE. Johnson Acts 2:37-47
Early Impulses of Christian DisciplesR. Tuck Acts 2:41-44
Effects of the Pentecostal DayE. Johnson Acts 2:41-47
Spiritual FervorW. Clarkson Acts 2:41-47
The First Regime of the Body of Christ's Disciples as a Christian CommunityP.C. Barker Acts 2:42-47
The Church's Immediate Assertion of Her Own Moral ForcesP.C. Barker Acts 2:43-47
The Spiritual CommonwealthR.A. Redford Acts 2:43-47
Characteristics of the Primitive ChristiansE. Leigh.Acts 2:44-47
Christian and Anti-Christian CommunismC. Gerok, D. D.Acts 2:44-47
Christian Communism Distinguished from UnchristianC. Gerok, D. D.Acts 2:44-47
Christian FestivityW. Arnot, D. D.Acts 2:44-47
CommunismW. F. McDowell.Acts 2:44-47
Constancy in the Performance of Holy DutiesActs 2:44-47
Constancy in the Performance of Holy Duties Makes Them EasyActs 2:44-47
Gladness of Heart Springs from Singleness of HeartR. Paisley.Acts 2:44-47
Importance of Daily PrayerActs 2:44-47
Man's Willingness to Trust Everything to God But MoneyE. S. Robinson.Acts 2:44-47
Public WorshipS. Price.Acts 2:44-47
The Apparent Communism of the Infant ChurchJ. B. Brown, B. A.Acts 2:44-47
The Atmosphere of a ChurchH. W. Beecher.Acts 2:44-47
The Bright Side of LifeJ. W. Burn.Acts 2:44-47
The Communism of ChristianityGeo. Dawson, M. A.Acts 2:44-47
The Equalities and Inequalities of Human LotsCanon Ainger.Acts 2:44-47
The Holy Communion a Feast of LoveG. J. Zollikofer.Acts 2:44-47
The Primitive Christians, as Here DepictedW. Hudson.Acts 2:44-47
The Soul's AtmosphereH. W. Beecher.Acts 2:44-47
The Bible not intended to be a statute-book for nations, but a Book of Divine principles, which, while they should underlie all legislation, are not intended to supersede the natural development of human law. The glimpse into the earliest Church life specially helpful to God's people, indirectly so to the world. Confirmation of the Acts in heathen authors, as Lucian, in his 'Peregrinus Proteus,' who refers to the community of goods and other features of the early Church.

I. THE EDIFICE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH RESTS UPON THE SUPERNATURAL. Fear on every soul; signs and wonders. Divine work both in the outward world and in the hearts and consciences of men.

II. THE STRENGTH OF THE UNITING BOND in the new society is spiritual; not mere companionship, or social instinct, or common necessity, or political aim, but brotherly love springing out of faith - a faith showing itself in self-sacrifice and steadfastness.

III. THE SPECIALITY AND DISTINCTNESS of the Christian life in the midst of such a world. Unselfishness, mutual consideration, compassion for the needy, gladness and singleness of heart, devoutness, purity of home life, steadfast continuing in well-doing.

IV. THE MIGHTY EFFECT of a pure Church upon an impure world. The true method of spreading religion is not by breaking down the distinctions between Church life and worldly life, but by revealing the spiritual power of Christ's kingdom. "They had favor with all the people." The people know how to distinguish between reality and pretence. They will be always moved by sincerity. The Lord will add to his own work. The method which we see in nature is a type of that Which is ordained in grace. The vigorous life is selected to carry on the increase. Half-hearted Christianity cannot convert the world. Multitudinism is a great mistake, as well as mockery of Christ. Let the Lord add to the Church; let not our desires, or even our observances of Christian institutions, multiply numbers without increasing strength. - R.







All that believed were together, and had all things common. &&&
I. PRESENTED A NEW SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, marked —

1. By community of goods.

2. By judicious distribution to the needy. Poor people had, of course, been relieved before, but not in the systematic way which is here seen to mark the beneficence of the early Church.

3. By a new and separate place of worship. Religious exercises were conducted "at home" as well as in the Temple. Thus the disciples were both conformists and nonconformists.

II. EXHIBITED NOTABLE PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS.

1. They were strongly attached to one another.

2. They kept a good conscience, "singleness of heart."

3. They lived in happiness, "gladness."

4. They mingled devotion with all their actions, "praising God."

III. Commanded the esteem of observers," having favour with all the people."

IV. WITNESSED THE CONSTANT EXTENSION OF THE WORK OF GOD (ver. 47).

(W. Hudson.)

To those whose eyes are opened wide, because their hearts are truly loving, there is no time in God's whole year that is equal to this (Whitsuntide) time of fullest bloom. The soul of man is greatened by promises of the future, and he walks the earth in gladness because of the glorious bloom around him. But it is sad when autumn comes to see the pitiful harvest. I have seen that of a hundred blossoms on a given tree only one came to perfection. There is pathos and tragedy in that, for I see in it human life. Of a thousand babes that are born — God's holiest blossoms — how many come to manhood? Why this waste? Yet God knows best. It is His law that the bloom shall be plentiful, and that some may remain for fruit. Some must fall, but the few that remain are a prophecy of what shall be, and man must learn that a little fruit of God is worth a great waste of bloom. "All that believed were together," etc.: the doctrine was received into gladsome hearts. The spring heat was come, the winter had vanished. But what became of it? When a man looks round the world nowadays, what a strange blossom that seems to be! Who would try to gather it? When lovers, newly entranced, are scarce able to see common daylight, or to comport themselves with common sense, what are they to do? Bloom, blossom! But the blossom will not last. It is so like that outbreak of communism — and we know that did not last. But it will come again ultimately. It is the Word of God, the end of civilisation, the aim of all holy souls, that the holy city, the New Jerusalem, shall descend to earth. Here, then, is this first blossom of Christian faith, which was the natural outbreak of loving hearts. But these blossoms could not last, because the blossoms of love have to blow out in the cold, and be tried by the storm, as the blossoms of the tree must have the wind to nip them — but they prophesied as they died. Watching a little child's life, what glorious blossoms of unselfishness we see sometimes I But they don't last. The cynic sneers at this, but the wise man rejoices, for these blossoms tell him of what man may come to under more perfect conditions. And so these men got scattered, and by degrees the old world resumed its sway over them. Nevertheless, there yet remains the ultimate outcome of the Christian faith. We smile at these men, but only as a loving father smiles upon his little child who cries for the moon, because his ambition is so lofty and its realisation so impossible. Yet the Christian religion is making progress, and having its effect in working out of us what is evil and low, and what it is working out of us it will ultimately work out of the whole world. For what else mean the various efforts to put all things at the service of all men? Some of you who are much given to admiring the pictures of saints can now have a library full of the souls of the ancients; for far beyond all the saints you can paint on windows are those shelves filled with the books of the men of olden time. For in these books are the spirits of the fathers — of John Milton, of William Shakespeare — the thoughts of the wise, the songs of the minstrels, the gathered honey of all nations. And over all this is written "Free Library" — holy words which the Holy Ghost Himself might have inspired. By and by education too shall be like the gospel — free to all, crying, "Come unto me, all ye that labour," and "he that hath no money, come buy wine and milk without money and without price." Since I was a boy what has not been done to restore Pentecost? I have long given up the dream of my youth — that all men could do as these men did — live in a community. Robert Owen tried it; thousands have tried it, but they have given it up. All attempts at communism, in any practical form, have died out, gone into history, but the fruit remains. At every point we are winning — hours of leisure, places of recreation, flee libraries, free roads, free churches, free speech, cheap books. Therefore when I hear that the National Gallery is opened free to the public my soul is glad. For the beautiful works of art of the nation are there; they are not now shut up in rich men's houses, but belong alike to all. What has God to do with the rich? Did He send His sun to shine simply for the rich? Nay, but for the beggar also. The Spirit of Christ is always toward the Pentecostal blossom; but that it may become golden fruit there must be large loving; all thought of self must be consumed by the love of God. God's gifts are many; strive as far as possible to have all things common, especially the greatest things. I smile when I see men saving a little property of their own, and keeping apart from one another; for the best and greatest things are fast passing into the hands of every one. Books are cheap, and when books are cheap the inspiring things of God belong to all. High price of books means Pentecost impossible. Let every man judge his own heart to what degree the love of God has entered it, for in that degree he will be willing that all things should be common, especially the highest and greatest things. Some men smile at this doctrine, and think that we mean the dividing of money or property. No, keep your money! Free libraries, picture galleries, churches, etc. — all these we have won, and we shall win more yet. So you may keep your old purse. Those blossoms that did stop on the tree are now bearing rich and golden fruit which shall last for ever. Christianity is the death-blow of privilege, the scorner of pedigree, the ridiculer of fine linen. It turns its back on all these and says, "When thou makest a feast, call the poor," etc.; for the Christian religion means the opening of the gate of heaven to all men. It is the religion whose first miracle was to turn water into wine for humble people, and is slowly bringing back the Pentecostal spirit; not with a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire, but with the sweetness of charity. You would do well to get it into your plans of daily life, that the day will come when all the nations of Europe shall be Pentecostal, for they shall have passed from feudalism to federalism, and the custom-house shall be abolished, and all nations shall be "together and have all things common."

(Geo. Dawson, M. A.)

What about this so-called communism in the early Church? What was it in nature and extent? The passage describing the community of goods is critical. Social reformers, not always Christian, point to this as the ideal state from which the Church has wandered.

1. The arrangement was purely voluntary. What any man put in was still his. The sin of Ananias was not that he had kept back a portion of his estate by fraud, but that he lied about it. It was still in his power after the sale as before. The community of property flowed out of the new spiritual life. (See Acts 4:32-37.) "In point of fact, their experiment was simply the assertion of the right of every man to do as he chooses with his own; and they chose to live together and help each other. It was a fraternal stock company for mutual aid and protection. No man was bound to come into it unless he wished; but if he did come in, he was bound to act honestly."

2. It was a spiritual result, and not a social experiment. It cannot be explained except on the spiritual basis. It must be studied in its true setting. The Brook Farm, "Utopia," and all kindred institutions, have been social experiments. Bellamy's "Looking Backward" Society is allied with them. They have arisen for lack of the Holy Spirit. This sprung up spontaneously because of Pentecost.

3. The community of goods seems to have been a community of use, not ownership. Nobody said that aught that he possessed was his own. They were of one heart. The circumstances were peculiar. Many of the people were away from home. All had to be cared for. No one should suffer.

4. The plan was local. Jerusalem was the only city where it was tried. No trace of it is to be found in any ether Church. It evidently did not commend itself to other churches as a wise plan. The other churches took up collections just as now when a case of need was presented. (See 1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7.)

5. It was temporary. It lasted while the circumstances in which it arose continued.

6. It did not relieve poverty. It was not devised for that purpose. Many writers insist upon seeing a close connection between this incident and the subsequent poverty in Jerusalem. Thus Meyer: "And this community of goods at Jerusalem helps to explain the great and general poverty of that Church. It is probable that the apostles were prevented by the very experience acquired in Jerusalem from advising or introducing it elsewhere." Thus Gulliver: "Under such sublime inspirations it is easy to see that a communism, impossible to ordinary human nature, might temporarily flourish. But it is as easy to see that it would gradually settle to the level of ordinary motive, and would be subjected to the disturbances of inevitable inequalities in capacity and industry, as well as in piety. The Plymouth Pilgrims were, perhaps, the most single-minded men of modern times. Yet it was not till the community of lands and goods which obtained in the early years of their settlement gave place to farms in severalty, and to private property protected by law, that the annually recurring danger of absolute starvation in their colony disappeared. The lesson of such a history is, therefore, not solely the lesson of Christian consecration. It includes the utility and the sacredness of the personal control of property. It places before us the problem of combining the largest Christian benevolence with the strict maintenance of proprietary rights."

7. It was not modern communism. Says Gerok: "That holy community of goods proceeded from love to the poor; but that which is now proclaimed is the result of a hatred to the rich." And Van Dyke: "Of late years the communistic doctrine has begun to present itself in another shape. It has laid aside the red cap and put on the white cravat. It invites serious and polite inquiry. It quotes Scripture and claims to be the friend, the near relative, of Christianity. So altered is its aspect that preachers of religion are discovering that it has good points, and patting it on the back somewhat timidly, as one might pat a converted wolf who had offered his services as watch-dog." There is a fundamental and absolute difference between the doctrine of the Bible and the doctrine of the communiser. For the Bible tells me that I must deal my bread to the hungry; while the communiser tells the hungry that he may take it for himself, and if he begins with bread there is no reason why he should draw the line at cake. The Bible teaches that envy is a sin; the communiser declares that it is the new virtue which is to regenerate society. The communiser maintains that every man who is born has a right to live; but the Bible says that if a man will not work neither shall he eat; and without eating life is difficult. The communiser holds up equality of condition as the ideal of Christianity; but Christ never mentions it. He tells us that we shall have the poor always with us, and charges us never to forget, despise, or neglect them. Christianity requires two things from every man that believes in it: first, to acquire his property by just and righteous means; and, secondly, to look not only on his own things, but also on the things of others.

(W. F. McDowell.)

The infant Church, from the nature of the case, was composed mainly, though not exclusively, of the less prosperous classes. The work it had to do at Jerusalem brought together a number of persons whose homes were elsewhere, and whose ordinary occupations were suspended, and it became necessary to face the all-important question of their simplest food and lodging. For this purpose a common fund was instituted, to which those who had money or other property might contribute for the temporary support of those who had none. There is no evidence that these were anything but voluntary offerings. There follow, for example, repeated references to the existence of rich and poor side by side in the same Church, and to the need and duty of almsgiving. Had there been any system in force, tantamount to a "community of goods," neither of these things could possibly have survived. It might seem, indeed, superfluous to argue such a point were it not for two reasons — one, that there are always to be found well-meaning persons who, believing that the earliest type of Church, before corruption entered and human frailty overthrew Divine institutions, was and must be the best, and the one we ought to seek to restore, look back with yearning upon a state of things so different from our own, and resolve that our faces ought to be firmly set towards reviving the primitive usage. Imagining that true Christian equality involves equality of conditions and advantages, they see in the phenomena of our modern Church only the most terrible of inconsistencies. Many of these objectors are genuine friends and adherents of Christianity, and as such demand our warm sympathy. But there are others, I need not say, hostile to our religion, who in all times have made useful capital out of these alleged discrepancies. We cannot but notice that one chief grievance against Christianity in our day is that it does not tend to rectify human inequalities; that while it professes to hold all men equal in the sight of God, it seems quite content that they should remain unequal in their own. But though the objection is put as one against religion, it is obvious that the grievance is really one against Providence, or rather (since this form of socialism is almost always atheistic) against fate, which has allowed one man to enter the world better equipped than another for the struggle of life. Hence this form of socialism, which we see more and more asserting itself, is not merely atheistic, it is bitterly antitheistic, since it chiefly resents inequalities, due not to defective laws, but to natural, inborn, inherited differences. Such socialism demands, as the first right of humanity, that society should aim at compensating the feeble for their feebleness at the expense of the strong; or rather, that arrangements should be made that neither weak nor strong should be at any expense; that society should be restored to one level, and that of universal prosperity and comfort. This, it asserts, a reform in the world's laws might and would effect. Religion, it alleges, is a failure; civilisation is a failure; legislation is a failure, seeing that all these have so far failed to bring about an equalisation of human lots. Those who use this language and lead captive many willing listeners are at least thus far justified in that Christianity has beyond question failed to bring about the result they desire; and they might even go further and object that Christianity does not start from any such assumption as the equal rights of human beings. From first to last the Bible nowhere teaches this kind of equality among men; nor their equal right, nor the right of any individual among them, to prosperity and comfort. It does not even regard these things as the aim towards which human effort should be directed. Its millennium is not in any sense a millennium of an equally distributed prosperity. Every counsel and command addressed to the rich and strong is, on the contrary, framed on the evident expectation that inequalities .of condition would always exist. It must be frankly admitted that Jesus Christ accepted such inequality as a fact of human existence, and addressed His teaching to show how that fact might be made the best of — how it might minister to the discipline of man's nature, and its preparation for the kingdom of God. Christ's teaching abounds in denunciations of the rich. But it is never for being rich, but for not recognising and accepting the responsibility of riches. He enunciated no fixed and rigid rules for the regulation of society. He enjoined no pouring of the world's wealth into a common stock, from which the once rich and the once poor should be endowed anew on one uniform and unchangeable scale. He never offered to put back the clock of time, and to start all men on the race of life afresh. He took society as it existed in his day, and propounded the law and the spirit by which it might be made ever sounder and sounder, even while the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, lived and worked side by side. A vulgar Socialist, aiming first at winning adherents, might have preached vaguely how all this would speedily be at an end; how no one should suffer much longer from his present disabilities, but that all should share and share alike when new laws should be passed in the Constitution he would frame and establish. But Jesus promised no such thing; He introduced no such topic. He dealt, indeed, persistently with the subject of equality. He called all men, without distinction, His brethren; He spoke of them all as alike dear to the heart of God, and as equally invited to the highest blessings that God confers. He appealed to all who were weary and heavy laden to come to Him (Jesus) and He would give them rest. And, before all things, He insisted that in that kingdom there is no such thing as caste. The first upon earth might be the last in that kingdom, and the lowliest on the earth the highest and greatest there. Who can doubt that it was this Christian doctrine of equality — this form of Christian Socialism ("fellowship," "membership in one Body," He preferred to call it) that fell like music on the wearied spirits of that motley crowd? No religious caste — no intellectual caste — no social caste — each man's acceptance of the responsibilities of sonship; each man's faithful cultivation of the talent entrusted to him — this, the one way of working out his own salvation, and entering upon eternal life. This was the one only equality that Christ recognised and proclaimed. As to inequalities of human fortune, so-called, and their methods of equalisation, it apparently did not enter into His plan to speak. On such subjects as a man's right or duty to "better himself" in his earthly position He said nothing. He neither commanded nor forbade a man to do his utmost in that kind. There is a common sneer against religion that it looks with coldness upon the ambition which natures, not apparently vicious, are aware of, to rise in the world, and to win fame, position, and wealth by the effective use of the talents confided to them. Whatever can be reasonably inferred from the Bible's teaching is to the very opposite effect. A gospel which enjoins its followers to cherish and improve every talent committed to them is in itself a command to excel, and therefore to advance, in whatever the hand, or the intellect, findeth to do. And to excel, and to advance, means and implies (let us not be afraid of the word) competition. If, of two men to whom talents are entrusted, one cultivates them and the other neglects them, what power that we can even guess at can prevent one of these men outstripping the other in the course of pre-eminence? If one man rises through moral character and fidelity to the talents given him, and another sinks through moral weakness and indolence, who can deny that in that contrast is witnessed a survival of the fittest? And the gospel of Christ did not interpose to remove such inequalities. But the primary purpose of the revelation of God to men was to change their conceptions of success and failure; to alter the world's standpoint as to happiness. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." And who can fail to observe that whichever be cause and which effect, the decay of belief in a God, and the assertion of every man's right to be prosperous, always appear together? It cannot be otherwise; for belief in the God whom Christ revealed is not consistent with belief that we have all, or any of us, a right to any blessing or comfort save one, the greatest and most blessed of all. We have no rights as against God: we have only obligations. The very things that difference us from other men are our talents. We are forgetting to thank God for what He takes away. Prosperity — equal prosperity — and the gradual extinction of bodily pain and mental distress — this is the earthly paradise to which thousands are now being taught to look forward. Does it harmonise well with the teaching of Him who claimed to be the Elder Brother of the race, whose appointed life was suffering and self-denial, and whose death was the death of the Cross? The cure for discontent is to turn our thoughts to the noblest, purest, best Friend of our spirits; and then, recalling what He has been to us in the past, and what things He has prepared for us in the future, we may well feel that with all our unworthiness, all our weakness and disappointments, our profoundest sorrows and anxieties, we are more than conquerors; that having received this pledge of victory, we may indeed scorn to "change our state with kings."

(Canon Ainger.)

Under the shadow of a great calamity, or the strain of a great excitement, the lines that divide classes or limit possessions vanish like snow-wreaths in the noonday sun. "All ye are brethren" is the word of the great occasions that stir and shake society to its depths. It is an easy step to the conclusion that that which associates men lies deeper in their nature and in the nature of society than that which divides them. It is a tempting step, though a false one, from this position to the principle that that which creates and maintains the differences cometh of evil, and is to be fought against as evil. This is the conviction out of which the nobler idea and form of communism spring; that which is rooted in love of humanity, in the desire for human progress, and the realisation of a condition in which society will not have to weep tears over the miseries of the poor. Whether the communistic conviction and plan of working out the regeneration of society have any root in the nature of things, or the Word of God, is one of the most profoundly important social questions of our times. Let us consider —

I. THE REMARKABLE APPEARANCE OF A COMMUNISTIC ORGANISATION IN THE CHURCH. Nothing can look more like communism on the outside. Make this arrangement universal, a communist would say, and the social millennium will come in. It will help us to estimate the countenance which Christianity lends to communistic ideas to consider —

1. How far was this universal in the Church? It seems to have been born and to have died at Jerusalem. There appears to have been no attempt even to extend it in the Church. It was a beautiful outburst of heavenly charity and zeal; but it bloomed, flourished, and faded, so to speak, in an hour. Churches were planted everywhere, but there is not the faintest attempt to repeat the experiment. Further, it was not universal even in Jerusalem. In chap. Acts 5:1-4 St. Peter recognises that Ananias was free to adopt the plan or to decline it; and it appears from Acts 12:12 that some members retained their property, and had their households, children and servants, round them as before. It would appear that it was but a partial and temporary arrangement even in the Church which adopted it, growing out of a moment of pressure, and quietly dying away. But —

2. How far are we justified in regarding it as an arrangement or organisation of the infant society at all? Both terms are misapplied. Organisation implies a definite principle of action for a definite purpose, adopted by competent authority, and binding upon all over whom the authority extends. We find nothing of this kind in the action of the apostles and of the Church. It was a spontaneous outburst of feeling — nothing like a plan. The man who had the best right to speak for the community expressly disclaims any plan or arrangement binding on the members of the community; he recognises their entire freedom. Far from making this a primary law of the Church of Jerusalem, it was in no sense a law at all, but simply a voluntary action on the part of individuals; beautiful, heavenly in its inspiration, but valid only while the inspiration lasted, and having no beauty, no virtue apart from the spirit which gave it birth.

3. The light cast upon the institution by the legislation of the apostolic age. Remember that the Church had before it the very problems with which communism professes to be able to deal — the wrongs of oppressed classes and the miseries of the poor. No literature of communism is so charged with passionate sympathy for the oppressed and the wretched, such burning indignation against strong-handed wrong, such tender, cherishing compassion for the poor and helpless, as those Old Testament prophecies to which Christ appealed to explain His mission (Luke 4:18-21). "The poor have the gospel preached unto them" was the very crown of miracles in the Saviour's judgment; and the words — "Only they would that we should remember the poor" — tells us how sacredly the mission was cherished in the Apostolic Church. It was through no oversight of this its great function, to save the poor and so to begin at the right end the salvation of society, that the apostles suffered this institution to drop out of the habit of the Church. They were as intensely eager to enfranchise the enslaved, to deliver the oppressed, to comfort and to elevate the poor, as the most passionate of social reformers; and yet, having to deal with three great classes whose woes and wrongs were rending society in pieces — the slaves, the women and the poor — instead of proclaiming universal emancipation and community of possessions, they deliberately left the slave to the Christian brotherhood of his master, the woman to the Christian fellowship of her husband, and the poor to the Christian justice and charity of mankind. There was no attempt at a rearrangement of society, save as it might grow naturally and healthfully out of better and holier spiritual relations between class and class, and man and man. Thus they addressed themselves to the terrible social problems of their times: on this basis they sought to work out their solution. They showed themselves, like Christ, studious to maintain the existing order against violent disturbance or readjustment from without. When hardy Galileans would take Christ by force, and make Him a king, giving Him, as they dreamed, the grand opportunity to work out His glorious plans, He withdrew Himself to a desert place and prayed. The only power which could regenerate the world must come from that fountain. The Church sought to redress the wrongs, to adjust the inequalities, to heal the maladies and the miseries of society, by proclaiming the brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God, revealed in Him who is the Elder Brother of the poorest, the most crushed of the human race. You may say in answer, "Look round and see what it has wrought! Look round in Lambeth, in Bethnal Green, on burning Paris, on luxurious, dissolute New York. Is this salvation?" I feel the full pressure of the question. "How long, O Lord, how long?" is the cry that is ever rising from watching, breaking hearts. But I see also this, that the selfish lust and passion which make the day of the Lord so long, and the progress of the kingdom so slow, would bury in wreck or drown in blood every poorer and weaker attempt to work out more swiftly and vehemently the salvation of society.

II. BUT, WHAT THEN WAS THIS, "THEY HAD ALL THINGS COMMON"? WAS IT A MISTAKE?

1. On the contrary it was an inspiration; an outlet of love and joy when man's heart was bursting with them; and a holy and beautiful prophecy of what Christianity will one day accomplish for the salvation of the poor. There is many a beautiful, elevating, purifying action of the spirit in its intercourse with spirits, which if it were organised into an institution would be fatal to society. This action of the Church belongs to the same sphere as the holy waste of Mary. The money might have been saved and given to the poor, and the Master none the worse. But the prompting of the spirit which found that expression held within its glow more benediction to the poor in the long run, than the pence that might have been saved a thousand times told.

2. This action was an irrepressible outburst of joy and thankfulness. Travellers meeting in the heart of a great desert are ready to make "all things common" under the human sympathy which the new and glad experience kindles within. A shipwrecked company gathered on the shore of a desert island is ready to make "all things common," through the joy of deliverance, and shame that any of the saved should want. There are crises when all that leads a man to say that anything is his own vanishes; when the sense that one great human heart is beating everywhere, and that we are but limbs of one great body, whose private use and pleasure is nothing, whose ministry to the whole is all, possesses us. These are our moments of inspiration, of rapture. They come to us laden with the breath of a purer, brighter region, which, organised as we are, it would waste us to live in, but the breath of which, mingled with our grosser air, lends a more vivid glow to the vital flame in our hearts, and in the heart of society.

3. And it was beautiful as a prophecy. The miracles of Christ were prophecies. And this shone out as a sign, that forces were there at work, whose fountain is the heart of Christ, which will one day, after a Divine fashion, establish —

(1)Liberty, the liberty of a soul and a society under the law to Christ.

(2)Equality, not of lot or of function, but of use and of honour.

(3)Fraternity, not of rights and of claims, but of ministries and loves.

(J. B. Brown, B. A.)

That Christian communism said, What is mine is thine; modern anti-Christian communism says, What is thine is mine. Among those Christians it was said, Take what I have; modern communists say, Give me what thou hast. That holy community of goods was founded on a spirit of love to the poor; this now preached rests on a spirit of hatred to the rich.

(C. Gerok, D. D.)

I. ITS SOURCE. Not an external law or bare power, but the free impulse of love.

II. ITS OBJECT. Not general equality, but general welfare.

III. THE WAY TO EFFECT HIS OBJECT. Not by a community of goods, but by a community of hearts.

(C. Gerok, D. D.)

Once in a most lively prayer-meeting the preacher who was presiding prayed: "O Lord, help all of us to trust Thee with our whole souls!" And a hundred voices responded, "Amen!" Some also shouted, "Lord, grant it!" and "Amen, amen," all over the room. Encouraged by such sympathy, he went on: "Help us all to trust Thee wholly with our bodies!" And then the people cried, "Amen!" as heartily as before. Now the exalted sense of consecration rose to its height, and he prayed again: "Oh, help us to trust Thee wholly with our money!" And it is actually reported in private circles since that not a man had a word to say then.

(E. S. Robinson.)

And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple
See —

I.Their CONSTANCY — they continued.

II.Their FERVOUR — daily.

III.Their UNITY — with one accord.

IV.Their AUDACITY — in the temple.

V.Their CHARITY — breaking bread from house to house.

VI.Their FAMILIARITY — did eat their meat.

VII.Their ALACRITY — with gladness.

VIII.Their SINCERITY — with singleness of heart.

(E. Leigh.)

I. WE OUGHT TO WORSHIP GOD IN PUBLIC.

1. It is obvious to the natural reason of mankind that this is a duty.(1) Even those whose "foolish heart was darkened," etc., were not so blind as not to see the fitness of their honouring with public worship those whom they accounted Deities. The heathens have their temples to which they resort for the celebration of some rites, whereby they think their idols honoured.(2) God has formed our nature for society, is it not, then, a dictate of nature that we should associate ourselves for the most important purposes of religion as well as for the lesser purposes of the natural and civil life.(3) Our Creator has made us capable of signifying to all about us the sense we have of His perfections, and of our obligations to Him. Should we not, then, employ our best powers after that manner in His service, to which they are so wisely fitted? "The heavens declare the glory of the Lord; the firmament showeth His handiwork. How excellent is His name in all the earth!" And is it not fit that intelligent creatures should show forth His glories by the most open acknowledgment of them? The law of God written in the heart (Romans 2:15) obliges them to the performance of social public worship.

2. God has in His Word given plain significations of His will that men should publicly worship Him.(1) Public worship was practised long before we have any account of its being required. The light of nature directed men to assemble themselves together for the worship Of God; perhaps, therefore, He did not see it needful expressly to reveal His mind till their natural notions of religion were greatly corrupted by idolatry. Then it pleased God to give a law according to which worship was to be regulated (Exodus 23:17). But though Israel were to offer sacrifices only at the tabernacle or temple, yet they did meet together in other places, where they did engage in some parts of Divine worship. This appears from the account given us in Scripture of synagogues (Acts 15:21).(2) Jesus Christ, while He was here on earth, did not only go to Jerusalem at the great feasts, but also attended constantly to the service of the synagogue (Luke 4:16). His example lays a strong obligation upon His followers.(3) The disciples of Jesus, in the early days of Christianity, discharged their duty in this matter with great diligence, but in process of time the love of some began to cool, which appeared in their neglect of the duties of public worship. To prevent the spreading of this great evil the apostle admonished them (Hebrews 10:25).

II. THE ENDS OF PUBLIC WORSHIP.

1. The glory of God. As He made all things for Himself it is highly reasonable we should principally design the glorifying of His name in all that we do. Now when God is worshipped by His creatures, they own His being, His all-sufficiency, His infinite understanding, that to Him belongeth power and mercy; and the more public their worship is the more clearly they spread abroad the honour of His name. The house of God, where He was publicly worshipped, is called "the place where His honour dwelt" (Psalm 26:8), perhaps because He was there honoured in an eminent manner by the social worship of His people. For this reason, as we may justly suppose, the Lord is said to love the gates of Zion (Psalm 87:2). This chief end of Divine worship cannot be so well answered by private devotions. The honour of God's name is more propagated in the congregation than it can be in the family. Though our Saviour far exceeded those in knowledge who officiated in the Jewish synagogue, yet was He stated in His attendance there, for He knew that by so doing He "glorified His Father."

2. Our spiritual benefit. God has connected our advantage with His own glory. He dispenses to us blessings in that way wherein we show forth the honour of His name. He promised His people of old that in all places where He should record His name he would come unto them and bless them (Exodus 20:24). There is no appointment of any particular place under the gospel, but our Lord has said that "where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20; Revelation 1:13). God delights to honour the ordinances of His public worship by making them means of grace (Psalm 87:5). Most commonly it is by the means of public worship that sinners are awakened and converted; it is hereby that the saints are for the most part edified and comforted. All the private instructions which the psalmist enjoyed were not effectual to remove a very perplexing temptation. But when "he went into the sanctuary" so much light was imparted to him there as cleared his difficulty (Psalm 73:17). Upon which he concludes (ver. 29) that it was good for him to draw near to God, i.e., in the sanctuary. David expected that the clearest and most engaging discoveries of God would be made to him in His house, therefore he was very desirous of having his stated abode there (Psalm 27:4; Psalm 92:12-14).

3. Communion with one another in the great concerns of religion. The Scripture represents believers as one in God and Christ (John 17:20, 21). They are spoken of as "members one of another" (Ephesians 4:25). They have one God and Father, the same Mediator and Saviour; they are animated by one Spirit; they belong to the same family, and they are travelling towards the same heavenly habitation. Now, when as many of them as conveniently can assemble together to partake of the ordinances of the gospel, they hereby denote the oneness.

III. THE SEVERAL PARTS OF PUBLIC WORSHIP as mentioned in the context.

1. Prayer. The house of God is called "the house of prayer" (Matthew 21:13). We have all our common wants and weaknesses. Is it not, then, proper we should present our joint supplications to God for supplies and helps? (Matthew 18:19).

2. Praise (Psalm 48:1; Psalm 34:3). We are never in such destitute circumstances as not to be obliged to bless the name of God, therefore are we commanded to add thanksgivings to our supplications (Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18). It is proper here to consider that particular method of praising God by singing. It is natural for the joy of men's hearts to break forth into songs, and it is most fit they should express the delight they take in the perfections and mercies of God by singing His praises (James 5:13; Ephesians 5:19, 20; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:14, 15; Revelation 15:3).

3. Hearing the Word of God. Under the Mosaic constitution the priest's lips were to keep knowledge, and the people were to seek the law at his mouth (Malachi 2:7). Our Lord Jesus Christ has appointed ministers "who are to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word; to be instant in season and out of season" in preaching of it. Therefore, certainly it is the duty of Christians to be instant in season and out of season in hearing the gospel (Ephesians 4:11-13).

4. The Lord's Supper. This is meant by "breaking of bread" (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17). Application:

1. How thankful should we be for our liberty to worship God in public.

2. It is matter of great lamentation that there is so much indifference among us to the public worship of God.

3. Let us have a care of "forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is." In order to press you hereto, consider(l) That an indifference to the duties of public worship is a dangerous step towards apostacy.(2) Persons of the most eminent piety have expressed the greatest value for the public worship of God.

(S. Price.)

Great pianists carry the dumb piano with them, which is simply a mechanical keyboard for the exercising of the fingers. Rubenstein uses it, and on a recent occasion he said, "If I neglect practice a single day, I notice it, and if for two days, my friends notice it, and if for three days the people notice it." Some Christians leave off practising their religion. First they notice it themselves, then their friends, then the world. Every Christian has his dumb piano on which to practise. True it gives no sound that the world can hear, but it nevertheless accomplishes much; it is the instrument of silent prayer. McCheyne once expressed the belief that no one who prayed daily to God ever became a lost soul. It is well to recall this at times whenever the habit of silent prayer is neglected. Use the dumb piano.

It is easy to keep that armour bright which is daily used; but hanging by the walls till it be rusty, it will take some time and pains to furbish it up again. If an instrument be daily played upon, it is easily kept in tune; but let it be but a while neglected, and cast in a corner, the strings and frets break, the bridge flies off, and no small labour is required to bring it into order again. And thus, also, it is in things spiritual, in the performance of holy duties, if we continue them with a settled constancy, they will be easy, familiar, and delightful to us; but if once broken off, and intermitted, it is a new work to begin again, and will not be reduced to the former estate but with much endeavour and great difficulty.

It is observable that many who have gone into the field, have liked the work of a soldier for a battle or two, but soon have had enough, and come running home again from their colours, whereas few can bear it as a constant trade. War is a thing that they could willingly woo for their pleasure, but are loath to wed upon what terms soever. Thus many are soon engaged in holy duties, easily persuaded to take up a profession of religion, and as easily persuaded to lay it down. Like the new moon, which shines a little in the first part of the night, but is down long before half the night be gone, are lightsome professors in their youth, but whose old age is wrapt up in thick darkness of sin and wickedness. Oh! this constancy and persevering is a hard word! This taking up the cross daffy, this praying always, this watching night and day, and never laying aside our clothes and armour, indulging ourselves to remit and unbend in our holy waiting upon God, and walking with God. This sends many sorrowful from Christ; yet this is the saint's duty, to make religion his every day's work, without any vacation from one end of the year to the other.

And breaking bread from house to house did eat their meat with gladness
Love, as it is undoubtedly one of the most natural and general, so is it likewise one of the most agreeable and delightful emotions of the human heart. Whoever therefore promotes love, at the same time promotes happiness; and the firmer, the purer, the nobler that love is, the more solid is this happiness. And where shall we find a more perfect doctrine of happiness than in Christianity? Tend not all its doctrines, all its precepts, all its promises, all its rites to kindle and inflame the purest, noblest love towards God and man? Such is its whole design; this is the distinctive character of the noble few by whom it is actually attained.

1. The holy communion is a feast of the love of God. Here we see the love of God, our heavenly Father, in all its lustre; here enjoy it in its full measure. Here we draw nigh to Him, not as slaves, not as criminals, trembling at the sight of their judge, but as children, favoured, eminently endowed, meet together in His house, at His table, and rejoice and glory in His being our Father. Here we are truly blessed in the enjoyment of all the benefits wherewith He has favoured us through His Son Jesus.

2. In like manner is the holy communion a feast of love to Jesus our Lord. This holy feast emphatically reminds us of that sublime, disinterested, unprecedented love to the wandering wretched race of mortals that brought Him from a throne to the condition of a servant, to the Cross and to the sepulchre! And here we enjoy the fruits and effects of this love of our Lord. The effulgence which He brought with Him from heaven enlightens and shines round us; the virtue and the efficacy that are gone out from Him, vivify us; the serenity, the hope which He prepared for mankind reanimate us; the prospects into better worlds which He opened to them are our comfort and joy.

3. Lastly the holy communion is a feast of Christian brotherly love. Far hence away, all such as harbour malice, all cold and selfish hearts, all the slaves of envy, hatred, and revenge! Far hence, every the slightest suggestion of vanity and pride, whereby one exalts himself above another, and one in comparison of himself despises another! Do we not here rejoice and glory in our common deliverance, forgiveness, elevation, and happiness? Come, let us show ourselves glad in Jesus Christ by our love, by our mutual endeavours to become ever more humane, ever more bountiful and generally useful. Let us all rejoice in one another, as He rejoices in us all. Let us serve and assist one another, as He has helped and still helps us all.

(G. J. Zollikofer.)

This passage points out the characteristic fact of the cheerful social dispositions of the early disciples. The Jewish religion was the only one which ever organised joy as an integral and important part of its services. Christ and the apostles were Jews, and the same joyous spirit came with the new faith; and although they entered upon the organisation of the new life under circumstances calculated to make men bigoted and bitter, yet all the early periods of Christianity were sweet and calm. The earliest Christian art has not a single emblem of suffering or distress. All the representations were those of hope and cheerfulness. Subsequently philosophy almost destroyed this temper, and wrought an atmosphere of stoical hardness and moroseness which was not characteristic of true Christianity. Note: —

I. THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN ATMOSPHERE. We all know how, in the physical world, that a dull, heavy atmosphere is unfavourable to pleasure or labour. We bear with it, fight our way through it; but it is the clear, bright, genial day that affects our spirits favourably, facilitates our work, and makes things grow. So the soul has an atmosphere of one kind or another. Discouragement, sadness, obscurity of soul makes it hard for a man to live, to be social. It is especially mischievous in religious life; for all the higher graces are such as spring up and bloom only in most genial atmospheres, just as many of our plants can only blossom in a long warm summer. The characteristics of this atmosphere are —

1. Good-nature — a grace not mentioned in Scripture because Paul did not speak English. This is better than genius, property, or honour. When Baxter spoke of marrying a woman who was of a good disposition rather than one who was eminently pious, he said that the grace of God could dwell with many persons that he could not live with. This good disposition is enjoined in "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love," etc., and is that charity which is "not easily provoked," etc. Now good-natured people are often not geniuses; because to have genius one must have nerves; but men whose nerves are well covered, are relieved from many exasperations and exaggerations which annoy people; but where men have not this protection anal still are good-natured, it is a peculiar grace.

2. Cheerfulness — a hopeful state of life under any conditions; a shining state which amounts to more than contentment.

3. Faith — not simply that act which accepts Christ, but that which includes the whole action of the imagination. A practical, matter-of-fact man is like a waggon without springs — every single pebble on the road jolts him; but the man who has imagination has always the power of glancing off from hard facts, and of overcoming the world.

4. Humour. The sense of the ludicrous is a distinct peculiarity of man as lifted above the brute creation. If it calls to itself an element of distinctiveness it becomes sarcasm. When it holds up a man as an object of mirth it becomes ridicule. When it has a certain element of suppression then it developes humour. It sees things in a funny light. Blessed are the men who are able to put this cushion between themselves and all the sharp edges of affairs — who know how to see something that will convert sorrow into a source of pleasure. A man who has it is always able to call to his side good-nature and happiness, and troubles are not so troublesome, nor cares so sharp to him as they would be if he had no such faculty.

II. ITS ADVANTAGES. He who is cheerful, imaginative, humorous, has summer of the soul, and whatever he has to do he will do better in that than in any other atmosphere. This atmosphere favours —

1. Earnestness and courage. It has been thought to tend to frivolity, but that is not the case. When Napoleon was crossing the Alps, and the strength of the men had almost given out, and there was hesitation, he ordered the band to strike up a cheerful air. The sound of the drums rolled through the mountain passes, and the men, catching exhilaration from the music, applied themselves with renewed earnestness to the task. Now, when we are called to disappointments, if under the influence of imagination we can but feel cheer and good-nature, that temperament of the soul will enable us to hold on our way. What kills men is discouragement. It is sitting down under trouble that destroys men; it is standing up and mocking it that enables men to go through it without harm. "I have thee, O man," says the Gorgon of disaster. "Not yet," says the man of hope, with a smiling face, and eludes his grasp.

2. Charity — that which seeks the well-being of men. A man who is without good-nature always judges harshly; but the man who has cheerfulness and humour is at peace with other men. The most difficult people to manage are those who never see a jest or develop a smile; they carry gashing angles to the end of life. And unfortunately among them there are only too many professing Christians; so that men say that if they wanted sympathy in distress they would rather go to their drinking companions than to members of the Church. But a man who is really a Christian is "light of the world" — a man whose temper and disposition make him luminous. Sweet emotions give light to the face, and bitter emotions make it dark. And a man whose face is lit with joy and hope carries among his fellow-men that good will which takes away the friction of life and gives joy to the sorrowful and hope to the sinful.

3. Patience under difficulties. The world is a great deal larger to a man of imagination than to a "Gradgrind" — a man of mere facts — a man of miles who treats the world as though it were a football. The former takes cognisance of things invisible which help him to see that the troubles of to-day are the instruments of the joys of to-morrow. The man of facts sees only the cloud; the hopeful man sees the sun behind and the fruitful showers after the cloud.

4. Realisation of the presence of God and trust in Him. The trouble with men in this world is that they have no God. A present help in time of trouble is God, and if there be no help for you it is because you have no God that you know how to use. A man might live to the age of Methuselah and never know what music was, if he did not know how to handle the instrument; and a man may live with God around him and yet be without God because he does not know how to use Him.And the soul's atmosphere is the medium through which a man discerns God more easily than through any other. In conclusion —

1. You ask, "Does not this tend to relax conscience?" Perhaps it does, and that is the best thing about it so far as some consciences are concerned. A man may be conscientiously wrong and cruel as were Saul of Tarsus and Loyola. What is needed of conscience is that it should act in the sphere of love. Love being the summer atmosphere of the soul, let any faculty act in it, and it will act right.

2. But do not many lack the capacity for such cheerfulness? Yes, but cripples are not to be held up as models of humanity.

(H. W. Beecher.)

There ought to be such an atmosphere in every Christian church, that a man going there and sitting two hours should take the contagion of heaven and carry home a fire to kindle the altar whence he came.

(H. W. Beecher.)

1. When you ascend from the post-apostolic to the apostolic days, you seem to emerge from a stifled, airless cave, where all manner of fungous growths luxuriate, into the open field, where fresh breezes play and sunbeams glitter and dew-besprinkled flowers shed their varied perfume on the air. In the Acts you find not only a purer religion but more of common sense and manliness than in the history of the fathers.

2. We make a great mistake if, while we seek in the Scriptures and by prayer for direction in matters of faith and in the larger turning-points of life, we leave smaller affairs, such as our feasts, to the arbitrament of chance or the example of the world. "In everything by prayer and supplication," etc. Only on the great things may the stranger approach the king, but in everything is the appeal of the child welcome to the Father.The disciples did eat their bread —

I. WITH GLADNESS.

1. A preliminary to this was a liberal contribution to their poorer brethren — a necessary ingredient in all glad Christian festivity.

2. These ancient Christians were not hermits, they enjoyed their food all the more by enjoying it together. The sight of a friend's face, and the sound of his voice while we eat, are as good gifts of God as food. A convivial meeting is an object of dread to Christian parents, but it is not in itself evil: in as far as it retains its etymological meaning — eating together — it is good.

3. A good reason for eating with gladness is that we have something to eat, and a self-acting machinery which reminds us when nourishment is needed, and compels us to take it at the proper time.

4. In the case of a Christian the Giver of food is recognised, and therefore he has more gladness than other men.

II. WITH SINGLENESS OF HEART, as well as gladness, and that without which gladness soon disappears. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Simplicity is destroyed and gladness lost —

1. By burdensome and irrational luxury. The cares of the meal are sometimes as heavy as the management of the estate. Instead of singleness, doubleness of a very troublesome type is the. occupant of the heart. One half of the mental vision squints aside to calculate the estimation in which the elaborate festival is held by the guests. Simplicity may be marred, too, by the cost of the entertainment; and some approach to it might both replenish the coffers of charitable institutions and facilitate the settlement of tradesmen's bills. The Christian should "add to his faith courage" here.

2. By immoderately late hours. To turn night into day is not simplicity, and cannot promote gladness. It is like the opinion within lunatic asylums that people should lie in bed while the sun shines, and be active under gaslight during the night. What would you think of the gardener who should cover your greenhouse till noon, and make up for the deficiency of light by burning lamps beside the flowers till midnight. Treat yourselves as you treat your gardens. Young men and women would be more like the lilies in freshness and beauty if they considered and imitated them.

3. The free use and vile abuse of intoxicating drinks.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

There are two sides to every street and to every life — the bright and the dark. The man who deliberately chooses the latter must look to himself for companionship, but the man who elects the former will not lack society. The double attraction of his circumstances and his example will prove irresistible.

2. The bright side exists not only in spacious avenues fringed with lordly mansions, but in narrow lanes flanked by lowly cottages. The cheerful Christian draws satisfaction from, and shows it in, not only life's great occasions, but in life's commonplace acts. You can form no judgment of the spirit of a man when he is being united to his bride, when successful in business, or when on a holiday. Watch him at the table, or in some ordinary duty, and you will be able most accurately to gauge his character.

I. THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE IS ILLUMINED BY A TRIPLE LIGHT.

1. Gladness. We like to see a man — particularly if he be a guest — thoroughly enjoy his meal. To see him daintily picking over half of it, and sending the other half untasted away, grieves the generous host, and excites commiseration for the man who cannot relish wholesome food. The illustration may be expanded so as to embrace the whole of life. The good workman is glad with his work and glad to do it. There is no gladness for a good mother like that excited by and indulged in home and children. And for the good Christian perfect gladness is only to be found in the blessed work that God has given him to do. But insipidity or disagreeableness in any of these relations is invariably attended by poor if not bad effects.

2. Singleness of heart — a word only occurring here in the New Testament — means soil from which all stones are cleared; and hence even and smooth, presenting no obstacle to the object passing over it. So these good people did not wait till conscience thundered that while they were feasting others were starving. Nor had they to clear away a number of prudential considerations, and make a number of troublesome calculations before their beneficence could find free play. All hindrances were already swept away by the fresh vigorous tide of charity which resulted from the copious baptism of the Holy Ghost. Surely this singleness of mind is wanted everywhere. What trouble is caused by anxious thought about the future at home and in the market place. What energies are paralysed when the thought of interest is allowed to mingle with the single thought of duty. How many Christians are kept back from joyous Christian service by allowing the disturbing thought of what other people will think or feel to upset the simple conviction that God's will ought to be done. Get these thoughts swept out of the mind by the power of the Spirit, and then let the current of activity flow straight forward, and life will be bright. Otherwise it will be gloomy-a mixture of light and darkness — or hopelessly dark.

3. Thankfulness. He was a happy man who wrote that 103rd Psalm. The unthankful man is never happy, and cannot be. Selfishness and discontent kill all joy.

II. THE BRIGHT SIDE IS THE ATTRACTIVE SIDE. The disciples had "favour with all the people, and the Lord added to the Church." Thus God blesses those who walk on the bright side, and gives them their heart's desire, which is success — the gathering to themselves of a like-minded company. Religious increase is brought about in two conceivable ways — by compulsion and by attraction. The first produces hypocrites, the second only true Christians. It is only when Christians win favour that God adds. Apply this to —

1. Families. How many children have simulated godliness when forced upon them only to cast it away with disgust when the time of independence comes; but how many have risen up to call God blessed by the winsome piety they have seen at home.

2. Society. The estimate which worldly men and women form of religion is derived from what they see of professing Christians. And, alas! much of it is wholly and naturally unfavourable. The time has come to re-try the Pentecostal experiment; not in form but in spirit, a spirit that shall work through established social usages — showing how a Christian can comport himself joyously everywhere, and society will not long remain unchristianised.

3. The Church. So-called Christianity has tried force, indifference, and means calculated only to repel. Let Christians try that which will have favour with the people, use means in the best sense popular, and watch the result.

(J. W. Burn.)

Gladness and singleness of heart
They were glad at heart because they were single in heart. Their hearts were not divided between God, or Christ, and the world, and, being wholly the Lord's, they rejoiced in the Lord.

I. Their gladness was the effect of their SINGLENESS OF HEART TOWARDS GOD, towards God in Christ, whom they called Lord and God, and into whose name they had been baptized for forgiveness of sins, with the promise of receiving from Him, if they repented, the gift or baptism of the Holy Ghost. It was the proper fruit, that is to say, of that awful fear of God, tempered and softened by filial confidence and grateful love, which we see characterised in the context as the habitual frame of mind in which these primitive disciples walked with God, in the exercise of living faith in Jesus Christ. In proportion as they knew God, or knew the gospel of Christ, they saw that He was all in all, that of Him, and through Him, and to Him were all things. They connected all things, little and great, with God. All things were thus to them full of God, and since they rejoiced in God, full of the joy of God. This was the secret of their happiness, this the source, this the sum. And in proportion to the singleness of their hearts towards God, so that He was all in all, and of Him, through Him, and to Him, all things, did the gladness of their hearts become more full and ecstatic, or rise nearer to the blessedness of saints in heaven. Their joy was, then, first of all the joy of godliness and gratitude.

II. Again, this gladness proceeded from the SINGLENESS OF THEIR HEARTS TOWARDS THE WORLD, from the victory over the world, to which they were crucified by the Cross of Christ. A half-hearted Christian, if such a man there be, a worldly-minded professor of Christianity whose heart is divided between God and the world, or rather is not yet given to God, is miserable when he is called to surrender his worldly possessions, and feels his happiness to consist in giving as little as possible to the cause of Christ. But not so the man who with singleness of heart has said, "I am not mine own; I am bought with a price," therefore must I glorify my Redeemer with all that is mine. The more he can do for God, the more he can contribute to the cause of Christ, the more is his joy made full. His heart being single, his final aim being one, in the fulfilment of that aim, in the extent to which he can contribute by his exertions or possessions to its fulfilment, he is glad.

III. There was, however, another element in the joy of these Christians, for there was another distinguishing feature of their character. Theirs was THE JOY OF MUTUAL LOVE — the sweetest joy which earth can boast. Their hearts were united in the bond of perfectness, charity, and therefore they were glad. That man might well consent to part with the world who, with the world as the price, could purchase a friend, could win to himself the pure love of one purified heart. No wonder they were glad at heart. They loved one another with a pure heart fervently. Their singleness of heart in their attachment to one another made them glad. Love is the proper fruit of the gospel, for faith, which is the reception of the gospel, worketh by love. Love is happiness; pure love is pure happiness; Christian love is Christian happiness, or life eternal in present possession, the life of heaven upon earth. Theirs was therefore the gladness of love free from selfishness, and as free from sectarianism.

IV. But there was one other characteristic of this gladness of heart which must not be omitted, since it points to its source, and is the thing by which it was distinguished from all other joy. This gladness was THE JOY OF FAITH IS JESUS CHRIST. In all its elements it was the fruit of that faith. Their godliness, their gratitude, was the godliness of faith and the gratitude of faith. Their victory over the world was also the victory of faith: "For this is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith." And their love to one another was love in the Lord, love of faith's producing, for "faith worketh by love," which is the believer's life. They were glad at heart, because they believed with all their heart. What, then, is the gladness of faith, as it is described here, compared with other joys? Need I show that it was a joy peculiar in its character, and pre-eminently pure and exalted? Need I show that it was an independent, and uniform, and habitual joy? not arising from circumstances of a variable kind, not like the joy of wealth, or of honour, or of pleasure, which may come in a night and depart in a night, which return only at intervals, and soon pall and cease to please, the sooner the oftener they return. Faith may flourish whatever fades; and this joy is as independent and as uniform as is the exercise of faith. Need I show that it is a perpetually increasing joy, a light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day? Every view of God increases it, if we see Him as He is in Jesus Christ. All our intercourse with the world calls it into exercise, and gives it, if we overcome the world, renewed strength. And love produces love. By loving we learn to love, as by walking we learn to walk.

(R. Paisley.)

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