Acts 4:1
The principles which are illustrated or suggested here are -

I. THAT MEN IN THE HIGHEST RELIGIOUS POSITION MAY BE ALL WRONG IN THEIR THEOLOGY. The priests were grieved that the apostles taught the people that which we know to have been God's own truth (ver. 2). In every age since then, the teaching of pure doctrine has been a veritable grief to those who have been regarded by many as the religious authorities of the land.

III. THAT MEN IN THE HIGHEST POLITICAL POSITION MAY BE USING THEIR POWER AGAINST THE WELL-BEING OF THE STATE. The state officials "came upon" the apostles of our Lord (ver. 1), and "laid hands on them, and put them in hold" (ver. 3). How often has this scene been re-enacted since then; the men in office using their authority to restrain and silence the teachers of truth, the reformers of national life!

III. THAT FAITHFUL MEN HAVE THEIR CONSOLATIONS WHEN OPPOSED AND SILENCED BY THE STRONG. That was not a very unhappy evening which Peter and John spent in the stronghold of the temple. As they walked within the narrow bounds of their captivity, they thought rejoicingly of the "five thousand men" who had heard the word they had spoken, and had believed it and been saved by it. Spiritual successes are an ample compensation for material discouragements (Acts 16:25).

IV. THAT TO FAITHFUL MEN GOD GRANTS COURAGE AND CONSTANCY ACCORDING TO THEIR DAY. (Vers. 5-13.) Before the Sanhedrim Peter and John show themselves brave and fearless. There is nothing apologetic about their demeanor, nothing supplicatory about their tone. They stand erect and they "speak straight on," as men who stand before God and who speak for him. In truth, they are men in whom dwells (ver. 8); hence their noble attitude and their manly spirit. God gives them grace according to their day. So will he to us also. Let us be receptive of his truth when he speaks to us; let us be faithful at our post when we speak for him; and then, when the trial hour shall come, he will nerve us for the scenes through which we shall have to pass, and we shall be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."

V. THAT THERE IS ONE, AND ONLY ONE, ROAD TO HEAVEN. (Ver. 12.) Many paths lead into it; there are many ruts in the road; many very different pilgrims along it; many views as we look out on either side of it and at different stages on it. But there is only one way: this is found in him who says, "I am the Way."

VI. THAT THE SPIRITUAL TRIUMPHS OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH ARE THE MOST COGENT WITNESSES ON ITS BEHALF. (Ver. 14.) In presence of reclaimed drunkenness, silenced profanity, cleansed and uplifted impurity, regenerated selfishness, humbled pride, what can infidelity or irreverence do? It is dumb; it is helpless.

VII. THAT HUMAN ERROR 18 IMPOTENT IN ITS CONTEST WITH DIVINE TRUTH. (Vers. 16-21.) Authority, in the person of this Jewish Sanhedrim, is ill intentioned enough; it is willing enough to smite; it Considers patiently and earnestly how far it dares to go; it threatens, forbids, threatens still further, and then impotently and ignominiously releases. Error is often fiercely antagonistic, industriously hostile, actively opposed to the truth of God; but let us take courage in dark hours - it is held under restraint; there is a point beyond which it cannot go; it will be compelled to relax its hold, and truth will come forth, before long, rejoicing in its liberty. - C.







And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them.
was an officer of a sort which Luke mentions in the plural in his Gospel (Luke 22:4), and is several times mentioned in the Old Testament, as in Jeremiah 20:1. This officer, with his subordinates, had charge of the Levites, especially of those who kept the night watch in the temple. A hint at the forms and ceremonies which accompanied his duties may be obtained, perhaps, from Psalm 134, in which vers. 1 and 2 are supposed to be the address of these strategoi, or captains or archons of the temple, and ver. 3 the response of the Levite watchers. The talmudical name for this captain appears to have been the "man of the mountain of the house [of the Lord]," and he is frequently mentioned in ancient Jewish writings. A little quotation will show a part of his duties: "The man of the mount of the house [or temple] used to make his rounds among the several watches, with burning torches before him. If he found any of the watch not standing on his feet, he said to him, 'Peace be to thee.' But if he observed one asleep, he struck him with his staff, and then was at liberty to set on fire his garments. And when he was asked by others, 'What is the noise in the court?' he answered, 'the cry of a lazy Levite, whose clothes have been burned, because he slept on guard.' Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob said, 'Once they found my mother's brother asleep, and burned his garment.'" It is most probable that this custom is alluded to in Revelation 16:15, "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked" etc. An official of corresponding power, but, of course, different duties, has charge of the temple enclosure in Jerusalem to-day. He is the "Sheikh of the Sanctuary"; and in addressing him the proper form is" Ya Sheikh," or "O Elder."

(Prof. I. H. Hall.)

1. The name of Jesus was the power that wrought the miracle; or to use the incomparable language of the preacher himself, "by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before yon whole." By the name we are to understand all the powers and prerogatives that centre in the Person. An ambassador borrows all his authority from the name of his sovereign. Paul, in the provincial court at Philippi, saved himself by invoking the name of Caesar. The inquisitors before whom Peter stood on this occasion supposed that Jesus was dead. It was, indeed, true that bodily He had vanished from the sight of men; but He had left behind Him a name in which resided the tremendous power of His spiritual presence, which was destined thereafter to be the working force in history until the whole world should be subjugated to God. For want of ability to discern this fact, Hume and Gibbon and all other undevout historians have been at their wits' end. They have marked the operations of a mysterious force, working like a magnet, and leading the nations on toward a brighter, better day; but for the most part they have frankly acknowledged their inability to locate or characterise it. The name of Jesus is this unnamed factor in universal history.

2. The name of Jesus, though despised by these inquisitors, has taken precedence of all others in heaven or on earth. Or, again to quote the preacher, "This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." Christ dead? Ah, no! Could these ecclesiastics have looked forward through the centuries they would have seen His name written on all scrolls of honour, His Cross glowing on innumerable spires that were to point, like index-fingers, to His throne in heaven, and His kingdom spreading like a vast tabernacle to enfold the world. In vain do kings of the earth set themselves and rulers take counsel together against this Jesus.

3. The name of Jesus alone has power to save; in Peter's words, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved." Among those who listened to the apostle that day there was probably not one who did not cherish some sort of hope of salvation; but if these words were true they were all leaning on broken reeds.(1) No doubt there were rabbis there who congratulated themselves on their acquaintance with current theology. They knew the technics of the argument between the schools of Shammai and Hillel, and were thoroughly adept in the traditions of the elders. But, without desiring to belittle the importance of dogma, it is right to say that the brain is a good way from the heart, and there is a vast difference between theology and religion. Many a man has, intellectually, a faultless creed who is nevertheless an utter stranger to vital godliness. But souls are not saved that way. A man may know all about the Nicene and the Ante-Nicene fathers, and all about creeds and symbols and theological systems, but if he has not made the acquaintance of Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour, he shall not enter into life.(2) Then, doubtless, there were others in Peter's audience who hoped to be saved for their devotion to the Church. We cannot dispense with the Church; nor dare we cast reproach upon it, for it is the bride of Jesus Christ; nevertheless, to rely upon externals for salvation is to face an awful disappointment at the great day. This was the trouble with the Pharisees.(3) No doubt there were moralists also in this company, and, if so, Peter's word ruled them out of heaven. For morality, as such, however admirable, has no saving virtue in it. Emerson objects to the use of the term "mere morality," but what else shall we call that sort of legalism which takes no cogni-sance of the Lawgiver? The trouble with "mere morality" is that it leaves uncancelled the mislived past; it has no power to atone for a single sin, while it ignores the claims of Jehovah. In saying that we say nothing against morality, for the law is good; but the atoning power must be sought for elsewhere. Peter's sermon had a remarkable effect upon the minds of his distinguished hearers.(a) They marvelled that "unlearned and ignorant men" should have such forensic power. Bat they knew nothing of the influence of the Holy Ghost that rested upon them.(b) They "took knowledge of these men that they had been with Jesus." The ground of that conclusion lay in the fact that they had manifestly caught His Spirit.

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

A notable miracle had been wrought at the gate of the temple, and a notable sermon had been preached to the assembled crowd, who were filled with wonder and amazement. It is the sequel of that which had been thus done and said which furnishes our present theme. We notice —

I. THE OFFENCE OF THE APOSTLES. It was not that they had been the means of bringing healing and health to a disabled man. Most sympathetic souls doubtless were glad. Others, probably (are there not always such?), after a little, began to question this way of coming to his health. It was not according to the regular practice. It was a reflection upon the professed practitioners of the healing art. But this was not the grievance to those with whom the two disciples of Jesus are brought into speedy conflict. These were the ruling class, the Sadducees, of whom were also the officials, both ecclesiastical and civil, who arrested Peter and John and locked them up for more deliberate examination. These were the rulers of the Church in that day; but they were by no means the religious class. The offence of the apostles was not that they had healed the lame man, or even that they had been disciples of Jesus, but that "they taught the people and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead." It was an offence of doctrine rather than of deed which excited the opposition of these Sadducean rulers. It was the offence of supernaturalism. But there was something more than this in it. Men oppose teachings often because the teachings conflict with the lives which they prefer to live. Supernaturalism always has its foes, for it implies a present God — a God who works, who sees and will judge. Ours is a Sadducean age. Natural science has engrossed the attention of the learned class to a large degree. They will accept mind cure or hypnotism, but not the healing touch of God. They will allow the inspiration of the poet, but not of the prophet. The offence of the Cross is not the only one which stirs up hostility. The offence of supernaturalism is now equally cause of anger and derision as it was in the days of Peter and John.

II. THE DEFENCE OF THE APOSTLES. Thus arraigned and thus accused, the two disciples are put in ward until the morrow. This was the very time for which they bad been prepared — the very time to exercise their gift to be witnesses here in the very court of Israel. And that is what they were: not defenders of themselves, but sturdy, truthful, uncompromising witnesses to Jesus and the resurrection. So they rehearse the facts. "You ask us who has done this good deed to the helpless man? Jesus has done it; Jesus the Christ, the Messiah for whom Israel has looked and longed. Nay, you know Him well, Jesus of Nazareth, the Man whom you so lately condemned to death, yes, 'whom ye crucified' — He is the Author of this cure. For God undid your murder and raised Him from the dead." So they bore testimony to the thing which had been done. But now they testify to the greater things which He can do. "He is the only One by whom we can be saved. We disciples or your priests and Sadducees can be safe and be saved alone by Him whose name and power has wrought this cure." The defence of those who believe in supernaturalism is not argument. You cannot reason about the particulars in a sphere which men refuse to recognise. What can you do? You can oppose your faith to their unbelief, your confidence to their incredulity. You can give your ringing testimony to what you know. Testimony will win the day for Christ sooner and more surely than reasoning; for it will secure a hearing for the reasons of the faith that is in the disciples. Witnesses are more important than advocates. A hundred reasons why it should be so are not half as strong as one "It is so."

III. THE CHANGE OF THE JUDGES. After this form of a trial, the accusation and the defence, the court retires to consult. They cannot deny the facts. Facts are unfortunately stubborn things. What shall they do? "Let us silence them," they say; and so they bring the two unlearned men before them, and charge them, with all the authority they have, and with what dignity they can, "not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus." How well they were able to enforce their command the further record tells. It is not the last time in the history of the world that men of deep convictions have been met with a similar command. Right or wrong, it is impossible to correct men's thinking, or, for very long, their speaking, by the mere command or compulsion to be silent. The very command is a confession of weakness. To ask your foe not to strike again is to acknowledge your fear of him. You cannot silence witnesses. The fire which is in men's hearts cannot be smothered by the authority of courts, civil or ecclesiastical. The truth of God will overcome all lies at last in the kingdom of the truth, h the hot fires of experience the dross will be run off and the pure silver reflect the image of its Maker. All through this passage the name of Jesus is set forth as the source of power, of salvation, and of Divine teaching.

(Geo. M. Boynton.)

I was once driven upon an Irish jaunting-car with a little child of four years of age. It began to rain, and a hood was placed over the child's head. I heard her mutter, "That is such a pretty view." I said, "How can that be when your head is covered?" "Oh," she replied, "I see my knees, my shawl, and my pretty little feet." A good illustration of people who cannot see farther than the extremity of their own beautiful selves.

(J. Alexander, D. D.)

The Church ecclesiastical is like a vast water company chartered to supply the Church spiritual from the great river of the water of life. But how absurd it would be for a water company to claim the right to interdict rain from heaven, or to say to the inhabitants of a particular district, "You shall receive no water except it pass through the hydraulic machinery which I have constructed."

(General Gordon.)

To the tempter God said, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed." But the hatred reigns in the breasts of the children of the devil, "he that is born after the flesh persecutes him that is born after the Spirit," while those who are "counted to the Saviour as a seed" are told to love their enemies. The first-fruit of the enmity was the murder of Abel. The first-fruit of this enmity towards the Apostolic Church was the imprisonment of Peter and John. But it belongs to the disciples of a crucified Saviour to do good and receive evil.

I. THE IMPRISONMENT OF THE APOSTLES (vers. 1-4). Peter had said to Christ, "I will go with Thee to prison " etc., and our Lord had said to the sons of Zebedee, "Ye shall, indeed, drink of the cup that I drink of." And now we see —

1. The first act of violence, which was the arrest of Peter and John. "While they were speaking to the people" gracious words there was a rush in the assembly, and an iron hand was laid on the preachers, not by "rude fellows of the baser sort," but the priests, of whom Hosea said, "As troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of the priests murder in the way by consent." The Sadducees were then in possession of authority, which they employed to indulge in the enjoyment of this life, as they believed in no other, and were cruel to all who disturbed their ease. They were, therefore, "vexed that the apostles preached, through Jesus, the resurrection from the dead." For if He who was known to have been put to death was alive again, He was that "Man by whom came the resurrection of the dead." What was there in this to grieve any one? Is the present life so long that we should not wish for another? Or were these rulers so wicked that they suspected a future life must be to them a state of punishment? To wish to die like a dog belongs to those who wish to live like a dog. But, whatever men might think or say of the Resurrection, the question with magistrates should have been, What injury will this do to society? Will men be worse neighbours, or subjects, for believing that, after this life, they will rise, and be judged for the deeds done in the body? And yet, how many have felt the rude hand of violence for no other crime than preaching, through, Jesus the resurrection from the dead!

2. The first night which the apostles passed in prison is full of interest. See them led along to where criminals are lodged, the healed man following, not leaping for joy, but asking in sorrow, "Is it a crime, then, that they have made me walk?" Arrived at the gaol, the authorities demand entrance for two prisoners, who have done — what? good to body and to soul. Shall we pity them? No; save your pity for their persecutors. For, if you say, "But what must it be for pious men to pass a first night in a gaol?" I answer, but they are in a good .cause, with a good conscience, and in good company; and with these three attendants a man may lie easy on a cold, hard, stone floor; and in a dreary dungeon pass a pleasant night. For now Peter blesses his Lord, that, instead of denying Him, he can suffer for Him; and John feels that he is indeed the disciple whom Jesus so loved, as to hand from His own lips the cup of suffering, that His "beloved may drink also." Call them not prisoners; their spirits are not imprisoned, but mount together to the mercy-seat, in prayer for grace to suffer well. And they knew that "the Word of God was not bound," that the Church now numbered five thousand. If the apostles were kept from sleep, it was for joy of such triumphs. But "He giveth His beloved sleep," which often refuses to shed its balm on royal eyelids, while it rests sweetly on theirs who, exhausted with labours and devotions, sink down, and, like Jacob, though with a stone for a pillow, see visions of God, heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending, in attendance on the:heirs of salvation. Thus Bunyan, passing through the wilderness, lighted on a den, where he slept, and saw what myriads have gladly kept awake to read.

II. THEIR COMING FORTH AND TRIAL (vers 5-22).

1. The court is particularly described, as of importance to the narrative. The great men lived in the suburbs, and now called a general meeting in the city. The rulers were probably the president and vice-president of the Sanhedrim; the elders the body of the council; and the scribes, the persons who acted as counsel, and clerks of the court. Annas was the high:priest, as Caiaphas had been. Alexander's name intimates a heathenish Jew; but he was then a man of note. John is thought to have been the Ben Zacchai, celebrated in the Talmud, who, forty years before the destruction of the temple, saw the gates open spontaneously, and said, "I know thine end"; for Zechariah prophesied, "Open thy gates, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars." "All the kindred of the high priest," who were a species of nobles, were now assembled, as if their dignities were at stake. Listen to the examination: "By what power, or by what name, have you done this? — you?" For the last word stands as if it were uttered in scorn: "You, fellows, to have done this!" See how "God taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and turneth the counsel of the wicked headlong." For they venture not to deny the fact. The more contemptuously they treat the apostles, as unequal to such a work, the more they glorify Christ. But who ever heard of trying men for the crime of healing in a moment? Who would think of accusing a physician for curing thoroughly and speedily? They ask, what name has done it; as if alluding to the Jews' notion of a magic virtue in the name of Jehovah, which modern Jews have affirmed Jesus learned, and by it wrought His miracles. Had the apostles themselves dictated the examination, they could scarcely have made it more to their mind; for it elicited —

2. The defence which they made (vers. 8-12). "It was done in the name of Jesus, the Messiah of Nazareth, whose name we pronounced ere we wrought the cure. You, indeed, condemned Him to die on the Cross; but God raised Him from the dead, of which the proof is before you." The rulers had asked after the wonder-working name, and they now know more than they wished; for what a stab must this have been to their pride! What a thunder-bolt to their consciences I They, aware that Jesus promised to rise again, had set a guard to prevent, and now are told that a miracle has proved it true. But see how Peter turns their attention from healing bodies to salvation for the soul. Who sees not here the fulfilment of Christ's promise to His apostles, "be not anxious what ye shall say, for the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say"?

3. The council's embarrassment arose from the sight of the apostles and of the man they had cured. "Seeing the freedom of Peter and John," who spoke like men at their ease, and "conceiving them illiterate and private" men, the rulers could not account for their unembarrassed air. They were not among the literati, nor in any public office, but in private secular life; and they were known to have been with Jesus, who was neither in high station Himself, nor attended by those who were; for it was asked, "Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed on Him?" But the man who was healed was another embarrassing sight, to which the council had nothing to reply. This embarrassment induced them to order all others out of the hall, ashamed to say before them, "What shall we do to these men?" It is, indeed, difficult to know what to do with men who are tried for their good deeds; and still more with men who can work miracles. Often have persecutors seized their victims and then knew not what to do with them. Hence, with a confounding coolness, they plot to smother a miracle, that it may not spread further, as if it were an infectious plague. Thus commenced a long course of threats and orders, not less impious than vain. This was overruled, to bring out to view the great principle of religious liberty. From this time Christ is declared to be the paramount Ruler in religion. "It is impossible for us not to speak what we have seen and heard." Not to speak at all to any man in the name of Jesus! Bid us, neither breathe nor think! A religion of ceremony may be put down by brute force; but to hide the love of Jesus is as impossible as to "hide the ointment of your right hand." Having, therefore, threatened again, they let the apostles go; the people made it dangerous to punish (ver. 21). Thus ended the first act of persecution, and thus commenced the triumph of religious freedom.

III. THE LIBERTY OF THE APOSTLES WAS IMPROVED IN A MANNER WORTHY OF THE MEN AND OF THEIR CAUSE. Earth and heaven exhibit scenes full of instruction.

1. On earth, the two confessors, "being let go, returned to their own company" (vers. 23-30). A night in gaol, and fierce threats, had wrought no change, except to increase their attachment to a cause that could not be gainsaid; and when restraint was taken off, as the bird whose string is cut soars away to its nest, they returned to their own company. Of the sufferings of a night in gaol, they say, they think, nothing. The threats, however, call forth a united prayer to God, expressing their submission to His Sovereign pleasure, and their confidence in Him as the Almighty Creator. They had astonished the enemy by their very courage; but they knew themselves too well to trust to this; for he that was a hero in the last battle may turn coward in the next; and therefore they ask for boldness. "He giveth more grace"; and they who ask it are the men who endure to the end. The apostles ask that "God's hand might still be stretched forth to heal"; though one such display of power had cost them one night in gaol. Attention to an apostolic prayer becomes us. Mark its Scriptural character; a large portion is the Word of God; its high rationality; for the Psalm quoted is not misapplied; its deep humility, with its lofty bearing; its superiority to self; with its consecration to the Divine honour; and then say whether these men were either deceivers or deceived? If we pray like apostles, shall we not wisely adapt our prayers to occasions as they arise?

2. Heaven responded to earth; for, they having thus prayed, a second Pentecost followed. As in the first, a mighty sound, like a roaring wind, roused attention; so now, an earthquake, which shook the place where they were assembled, spoke the descending God. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, in new and more abundant measures. Rich recompense for bonds and imprisonments.Conclusion:

1. Let their testimony sink into your hearts, that "there is salvation in no other name, but that of Jesus the Crucified."

2. When you have believed, and found salvation in it, you will show the attraction of affinity as they did, who, "being let go, returned to their own company."

3. Triumph is the testimony of Jesus against all the terrors of persecution; which is a blunt weapon, that has ever failed of its object, from the hour that these apostles were let go, to this moment.

(J. Bennett.)

The authorities were offended because —

I. The apostles TAUGHT. This is emphatically true of the priests, who looked upon themselves as the only lawfully constituted teachers.

1. They considered that the apostles were not personally qualified (ver. 13). "Unlearned" means they had not been trained in Rabbinical lore — they were not brought up to letters — they were agrammatoi. Men in every age lay undue stress upon "Grammar." Not to have been trained in the public schools is of itself almost fatal to any man who aspires to the office of a teacher. But were not the priests right? It is necessary we should distinguish between scholarship and learning. Scholarship is proficiency in words and forms and opinions; learning is a large sympathy with life, and a deep insight into the eternal truth of things. In the priest we see scholarship; in the apostles learning; and the learning of the latter is infinitely preferable to the scholarship of the former. But the men of scholarship looked down contemptuously upon the men of learning. Does that surprise you? It has been repeated over and over again in the history of our own country. Did not the clergy sneer at the ministers of Dissent — Bunyan and his contemporaries — whom they now indeed emulate each other to honour? The best thing is to honour the living prophets, the next best thing is to respect and perpetuate the memory of the dead. One fact the history of the Church has indisputably demonstrated — that scholarship alone, however valuable it may be as an accessory, is not a sufficient qualification to teach the people. But though scholarship alone is not a sufficient qualification, yet learning is; and better still to have both scholarship and learning. The ministry of the apostles was characterised by learning, the ministry of the middle ages by scholarship; let us hope Chat the ministry of the future will be distinguished for its happy combination of the two.

2. They considered that the apostles had no official right to teach. They were idiotai — men of no profession, private individuals, in a word, laymen. And the professionals were very indignant that parties outside the sacred pale of the sacerdotal order, and not commissioned, should set themselves up as teachers. Laymen were considered very ignorant men; the idiotai suggested idiots. The priests claimed an exclusive right to teach. This, however, had not always been the case in Jewry. The ceremonies of religion had been entrusted to the priests, the teaching of the people to the prophets. But prophecy had long died out, and the priesthood had stepped into its place; and having once possessed themselves of the power they guarded it most jealously. Does this seem strange? The same thing has occurred over and over again. The now famous pedlar of Elstow was charged with insolence, irreverence, and disloyalty for daring to stand up to deliver himself of the truths burning in his soul. The police came suddenly upon him and immured him in Bedford gaol for twelve long years. Why? What evil had he done? This — that he, a layman, one of the idiotai, should venture to trespass on the prohibited preserves of the priests! This mischievous spirit is still smouldering.

II. The apostles taught THE PEOPLE.

1. Some felt vexed on personal considerations, for the apostles, labouring to enlighten and convert the people, were indirectly undermining the power of the priests. The heyday of priestcraft is generally the "times of ignorance," and it naturally desires the prolongation of those times. Peter and John held out the lamp of knowledge, and the authorities rushed upon the lamp-bearers and endeavoured to break the lamp. With what result? With the simple result of smashing the glass and letting the flame burn more intensely than before, and kindle five thousand other lamps.

2. Others felt annoyed on ecclesiastical grounds. The priests knew, through the instinct of self-preservation, that the enlightenment of the people meant virtually their deposition. The people had to receive implicitly and unquestioningly the word of priests and rabbis as to what the will of God was; or worse still, their interpretation of it. This monopoly plunged the people into an elaborate system of lifeless traditions and burdensome superstitions. And when the apostles demanded back the key of knowledge and desired to lead the people into the hidden dwelling place of truth, with what reward did they meet? They were cast into prison. Does that surprise you? No; for this history has been enacted over again in Christendom. The key of knowledge was taken away from Europe, and the Scriptures were allowed to lie in an unknown language. Luther on the Continent and Wycliffe in England endeavoured to unlock the treasures, to translate the Scriptures into the popular language, and to scatter broadcast the knowledge of the Divine will; and they were vilified, excommunicated, and hunted about for their pains. Nevertheless the translation of the Bible caused the Papal hierarchy to topple to its ruin in Germany and England. Mark that well. Priests still forbid laymen to peruse and expound the Scriptures — they must believe on authority. The essence of Romanism is to believe on authority. The essence of Protestantism to believe on proof.

3. Others felt annoyed on civil grounds. They would say as all despots have in effect said — "Knowledge is power. If you educate the people you put into their hands a weapon which they have not the wisdom to use. What if they use it for revolution? To avert the evil, we will refuse the good." That has always been the language of despotism; and forthwith it proceeds to fetter, and if need be, to kill the champions of popular education. No doubt knowledge is a tremendous power — especially religious knowledge; and often, alas! it has been converted to mean, vulgar ends. But are we to reject the use of a thing because of its abuse? Do not have fires, and you will have no conflagrations. Light, no doubt, does multiply the shadows; shall we on that account declaim against the sun?

III. They taught the people, through, Jesus THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD.

1. The teaching reflected deep discredit on the tribunals of the nation. The leading members of those courts had crucified Christ; but yet God had raised Him up from the dead. Now the Resurrection was a complete vindication of Christ's character; but to vindicate His character was to brand the character of His judges. Therefore those judges were irritated beyond measure. In their furious madness the infant Church saw the fulfilment of the prophecy (ver. 25). You have seen a spirited unmanageable horse snorting wildly and plunging desperately — his eyes flashing fire, his nostrils breathing thunders. That is the very figure used in this chapter to describe the raging of the Jewish authorities against the gospel — they were like wild beasts, filled with foolish and unreasonable fury.

2. The teaching was new. The Pharisees were very much in love with the old, and were deemed wiser than their descendants. The Pharisees were the champions of orthodoxy, and in confederacy with the other sections of the Jewish Church put the apostles on their trial for healing the lame man. The Sanhedrim assembled — the court had to decide between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. The miracle they could not deny. The question was, "By what power or by what name have ye done this?" The whole trial turned upon that hinge. Were the apostles orthodox, yea or no? You know the conclusion they arrived at — the apostles were branded as heretics, and forbidden to heal or to preach any more in the name of Jesus. We should never forget that the apostles and the Saviour Himself, were charged with heresy and persecuted to death on account of it. This teaches us two lessons.(1) That we should be careful not to reject any doctrine because of its novelty, nor call the advocates of new opinions by bad, unpopular names. Every truth — of science as well as theology — was considered heresy on its first promulgation. The heterodoxy of one age is the orthodoxy, of the next. Truth is first crucified, then raised from the dead, then exalted to the throne and adored.(2) Not to refute what we deem heresy by imprisonment. Jesus Christ argued with the people of Jerusalem, and they took up stones to cast at Him. It is a very easy but a very foolish way to meet an argument with a stone. And yet it has been the universal practice till recently. The Christians hold certain views concerning life and death, and the Jews persecute them. Among Christians again, certain parties hold views different from the majority and they are burnt. Mankind are slow to learn than it is a cowardly thing to kill a man for an opinion.

3. Their teaching, moreover, flatly contradicted an influential section of the hierarchy. The Sadducees probably prided themselves on how little they believed. They would no doubt style themselves broad thinkers; but certainly they were not broad believers. Breadth of thought is in our time, too, preferred to breadth of faith. But there is something fundamentally wrong with the man whose broad thinking leads to narrow believing. Broad thinking should always lead to broad believing, and where the faith is feeble, it is to me a proof positive that the thinking is not broad, but lax. Anyhow, the Sadducees conspired to suppress the teaching of the apostles. In the Gospels the merciless hostility of the Pharisees is in the forefront; but in the Acts the fierce enmity of the Sadducees; for there the fact and the doctrine of the resurrection find a more prominent place. Scepticism knows how to imprison and behead its opponents as well as superstition. Unbelief, not faith, is the real source of persecution. Let men believe in God, and that He is stronger than the devil; in truth, and that it is more potent than error; in right, and that it will and must prove triumphant over might, and they can afford to be patient, they will see the futility of resorting to physical force. The truth of liberty is based in religion. What has unbelief done on behalf of liberty? It has written. What has Christianity done? It has bled. Infidels have pleaded for it, but Christians have died for it. Did their imprisonment check the mighty progress of the gospel? Nay, "many of them that heard the Word believed." Times of persecution are generally times of much spiritual prosperity. Some of the early martyrs had for their mystic symbol a candle surrounded by a crowd of angry men puffing as hard as they could to blow it out; but the harder they puffed the more brightly burnt the candle. The English Reformers were sorely harassed, but did they abandon the cause of Protestantism? No; some of them devised an anvil for their coat of arms with the striking motto "This anvil hath broken many hammers." "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

(J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

I. THE PERSECUTORS were typical — the "priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees." Here we have —

1. Men whose tenets were discredited — the Sadducees.

2. Men whose prerogative was invaded — the priests.

3. The subordinate, notoriously accessible to bribes — "the captain of the temple," the servant of the priests and the Sadducees, who would desire what would please them. Is there not here a type of the agency employed in all religious persecutions? Outraged orthodoxy, slighted privilege, and vile sycophancy have distinguished themselves in many ways and in various combinations in the attacks made on faithful reformers and evangelists from age to age.

II. THE GROUND was typical. The persecutors were "annoyed." God was not employing them. They were unable to give any explanation. And their own cherished notions were ceasing to command the respect of the people. Has it not been ever thus, when "unauthorised" teachers have been more welcome and more successful than the official representatives of the Church? But the will of the Lord be done.

III. THE TREATMENT was typical. They were —

1. Stopped in their preaching. But "the Word" had been effectually spoken. Those who wished and had determined to hinder were restrained until God's own time.

2. Apprehended. Their reasons were not met with counter-reasons. To deal with truth by physical force! What a confession of ignorance and weakness!

3. Imprisoned. That they could do; but they could not imprison or bind the truth, nor prevent it becoming the instrument of spiritual freedom to those who received it.

IV. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS were typical. The preachers —

1. Had remained at the post of duty until forced away. They had nothing to reproach themselves with on that account.

2. Had the pleasure of knowing that the good work had progressed.

3. Had a whole night for meditation and prayer. In like manner have the Lord's persecuted servants been comforted and sustained since.

(W. Hudson.)

Two men disclaiming all original power excited Jewish society by the performance of a miraculous deed. The excitement became in the long run bewilderment. The Jewish leaders were completely baffled. The facts of Christianity have been awkward stumbling-blocks in the way of unbelief. Opponents can see two sides to a theory, but to a fact it is vain to oppose a suggestion of fancy or a jeer of ill will.

I. ON THE SIDE OF THE JEWISH LEADERS there was —

1. Illiberality. "Being grieved that they taught the people." The highest pre-Christian culture! Christ alone has shown Himself the friend of universal man — slave or king. Christianity has a universal appeal. It is not a taper, it is the sun.

2. Shortsightedness. They put the apostles in prison! Fools! They could not put God in prison! Had the apostles been original workers the imprisonment might have met the case. The apostles were put into prison because they did good to the diseased and instructed the ignorant. Christianity is still the physical and moral regenerator of the world. The only charge that can be brought against it is that it continually seeks to do good.

3. Impotence. "What shall we do?" etc. They "threatened" the apostles: that is, they shook their fists at the sun in order to darken the world! They stamped on the sea shore to repel the tide! They sent a message to the wind stating that they would henceforth be independent of air! We see how small men are when they set themselves against truth.

II. ON THE SIDE OF THE APOSTLES there was —

1. Complete intelligence within the sphere of their ministry. Though they were unlearned and ignorant men, yet within the compass of their work they were wise and efficient. This is the secret of success. Know what you do know. Do not venture beyond the line of your vocation. Every preacher is strong when he stands on fact and experience. Christians must not accept the bait which would draw them upon unknown or forbidden ground.

2. Unconquerable courage in narrating and applying facts. Look at —

(1)The dignity of the address.

(2)The calm and emphatic assertion of the name of Christ.

(3)The direct and special impeachment of the hearers. "Whom ye crucified." "Set at nought of you builders."Dignity is proper in the preachers of truth. Christ is the life of Christianity — beware of lauding the system and forgetting the Man. Accusation is the work of every Christian evangelist. Prove the world's crime.

3. Christian magnanimity in preaching the gospel (ver. 12).

(1)Man needs saving.

(2)All men, even Christ's murderers, may be saved.

(3)There is but one way of saving them.

4. Incorruptible loyalty to God and His truth (ver. 19). "Things that we have seen and heard." What a field! Missions at home and abroad — schools, labours, sacrifices, death-beds.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

1. Not only did Peter and John cure the lame man, they proceeded to "teach the people." Herein was their greatest fault. Christianity is a teaching religion. It seeks out all the people, and speaks the popular tongue. It is just here that preachers may learn their most useful lesson. Our danger is that we speak to the classes; the apostles taught the masses. We can never get back to that universal speech unless those of you who are educated and highly refined will support us. You must be content to be partially neglected in so far as intellectual luxuries are concerned, and must assist us in providing good wholesome bread for the common people. That is precisely the difference between Christianity and every other religion. Others say, "Keep the people in the dark"; this, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Others draw a screen, as lectured from behind a curtain to his disciples, and from behind they mutter their unintelligible incantations; this lifts its red banner, throws it out upon the willing wind, and on it is written, "This thing was not done in a corner." Other religions are philosophies only; Christianity is a gospel as well.

2. A very marvellous thing occurs here, in a kind of parenthesis. The rulers put them in prison. "Howbeit"! — God has His finger in this! He comes through very narrow spaces, and seizes very transient opportunities. "Howbeit" — Wait there a while to get the full rush of this glorious announcement — "many of them which heard the Word believed." Why should not that be the case now, so that whatever may happen to the preacher within the next hour be may know, as he goes to his account, that he has left behind him a harvest before the time?

3. The morning came, and justice must be done. This question was hurled at them, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" Beware of turning your religion into a piece of metaphysical inquiry. It is at that point that Christianity is often defeated in her most beneficent purposes. The learned men wanted to analyse what we now call the modus operandi. Instead of accepting the man, the concrete, positive, indisputable fact, they wanted to lure the apostles, and those who followed them, into metaphysical quagmires and difficulties. Preachers do not answer the "why" and the "how" of merely inquisitive minds. Have the man himself with you, and let him be your argument. Christianity rests on facts, not upon opinions. If the Church of Christ has not the Man with it, any amount of mere philosophical theorising and speculation will do harm rather than good. Where is the man you have saved? Produce him. Where are the hungry you have fed, the ignorant you have instructed, the enslaved you have emancipated? Produce them. This is a fact. not a quibble. By whatever means it is done the effect is certain, and the cause of such an effect must itself be good.

4. Peter and John will surely stammer before this glittering assembly I The maid that taunted the rough-spoken Galilaean was too much for Peter; when he sees Annas, etc., there will be no spirit left in him. How does the narrative road? "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost." That is a thousand Peters: Peter multiplied by the very Deity. Peter? — a straw blown away by the mocking wind, by himself. But Peter "filled with the Holy Ghost" was a man of war clothed with heavenly panoply, eloquent with heaven's thunder, gracious with heaven's love. Have we received the Holy Ghost? The question is not, "Are we well trained intellectually?" "Have we read many books?" "Are we able to conduct very subtle arguments?" We shall know whether we have received the Spirit by the fire that is in us. We have received the first baptism, we have been "christened," Christ-named, christianised in the sense of having been brought to the church, and had the initial water sprinkled upon our forehead; but have we received the Holy Ghost? There is no mistaking Him.

5. Peter having been challenged to give an account of the circumstance, made the eloquent reply which you find within verses 9 to 12 inclusive. Whenever Peter spake suddenly, on great subjects, he spake the very heart of God. How much he makes of Christ in the 10th verse! We seem hardly to have heard the whole style and title of Jesus before. We have them here. We have called the Saviour "Jesus," sometimes we have called Him "Jesus Christ." By some short indication of this kind we have made reference to the Redeemer. But how seldom have we given Him His full style and title! — "Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him." There is no mistaking that address. What Christ do you preach? We have heard of the Christ of the painter — a figure tenderly coloured, set in wondrous lights and shades. We have stood before it, and sometimes we have thrilled in its presence, and felt the waters stealing into our eyes. But that Christ never saved the Soul, it is only a creation of art. We have heard of the Christ of the poet. Christ has been spoken of in flowing rhyme and stately blank verse; but that Christ never came from the intellect into the depths of the heart in its deadliest remorse on account of sin. We must go back to the apostolic Christ if we have to realise apostolic conceptions and to win apostolic successes in the ministry. Peter might well have ended by the statement contained in the 10th verse, but Peter often found it difficult to conclude when Christ was the theme. How can a river end except in the sea? The little pool, the purling rill, soon sinks in the sand; but the river — deep, broad, fluent — moves on through channelled rocks and shady woods, on, on to the solemn sea. Peter went onward. Said he, "This is the stone which was set at nought by you builders, which is become the head of the corner." The place trembled under the vibration of that living voice! He might have ended there; but it was difficult, let us repeat, for Peter ever to end when Christ was the theme. So he continued, "Neither is there salvation in any other," etc. The original question was not one of salvation, it was merely a question of healing a lame man. But you never find the apostles confining themselves to the mere incident. Every miracle is only a text. Let an apostle heal a man's ankle-bones, and from those ankle-bones he swings clear off to Christ's world. saving Cross. "If we have healed your ankle-bones, we meant it to be symbolic of the greater healing of your soul."

6. Now, it was the turn of the Sanhedrim to be shut up and put "in hold unto the next day," and every day after that. When they saw the boldness of Peter and John "they marvelled." Any man that can be accounted for will never influence his age. He will make a splash in the pool; but the bubbles will be seen a moment, then will sink for ever. You never can make out the secret of a Whitefield. You never can make out the secret power of any man who makes a whole world hear him. If you could account for him you would be as great as he is. What then did the wise and influential Jews do? "Threaten them." You feel the difference of temperature between vers. 11, 12, and vers. 16-18. The apostles must not speak any morel There must be an end of this nuisance. Society is not to be disturbed by such propagandists. Peter, having heard the threatening, said unto them, "Whether it be right " That is the word that makes history, that thrills the ages. And the apostles having received this threatening, "went to their own company, and reported," etc. What a talk they had! How they reminded one another of the occasion of the movement! And when the company had heard it all "they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said,... "They too became eloquent. And when they had prayed, "the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Pentecost after Pentecost! Poor Church! Thou hast fallen upon empty times. They are but mean challenges that are addressed to us now. If we could be once more threatened with the prison and the stake, the rod of iron and the keen double-edged weapon, some of us might be heroes. At present we may be but common clay.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. WHEN GOD IS CARRYING ON ANY DESIGN FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS GLORY GREAT OPPOSITION WILL BE MADE TO IT. Satan will not remain a quiet spectator, and his servants will be stirred up to his assistance. In this combination it ought not to surprise us to find, not only persons of profane principles and wicked lives, but some who, in consequence of their apparent attachment to religion, might have been expected to range themselves on the opposite side. When God way setting His Son on His holy hill of Zion, not only did the "heathen" rage, who were ignorant of prophecy, and had not seen the miracles of Jesus, but the favoured "people," to whom the oracles of God were committed, and among whom the Messiah had appeared, "imagined a vain thing."

II. GOD MAY EXPOSE HIS PEOPLE TO MUCH DISCOURAGEMENT WHEN THEY ARE WALKING IN HIS OWN WAY. The apostles preached Christ by express commission from heaven, and on their success. depended the conversion of the world. Yet in the outset they were opposed by the supreme authority in the nation. In the course of their ministry they were subjected to danger and suffering, and most of them lost their lives in the cause. Superficial reasoners may conclude that God is at variance with Himself, retarding the execution of His own plans, and may complain that, instead of rewarding, He punishes men for their zeal and fidelity. "But the foolishness of God is wiser than men." By such dispensations He exercises the faith of His servants, and makes known His power in carrying on His designs in spite of the utmost efforts of His adversaries; while in the behaviour of His people, such examples of courage, patience, and love are exhibited, as afford no slight testimony to the truth of religion. Converts are made by the sufferings of the saints as well as by their doctrine.

III. CHRIST REQUIRES NO SERVICE FOR WHICH HE DOES NOT FURNISH THEM WITH NECESSARY AID. He is no hard taskmaster. As His commandments are reasonable, so His grace strengthens us to obey them. When Peter and John were called to plead His cause before the Jewish council, they were "filled with the Holy Ghost." Hence did cowardly fishermen become undaunted apostles; hence have simple and uneducated men put learning to silence; hence have feeble and delicate women endured with unshaken firmness, cruel tortures, and death in its most terrible forms. "As thy day, so shall thy strength be."

IV. GREAT IS THE TRUTH, AND IT WILL PREVAIL. It confounded and silenced the Jewish council; it made foolish the wisdom of the world, vanquishing its vain philosophy and sophistical eloquence by the plain doctrine of the Cross; it will, in like manner, triumph over infidelity, superstition, heresy, and licentiousness. From what it has already done we may calculate the effects which are yet to be expected from it (Psalm 110:2, 3).

V. LET US BE CAREFUL TO MAINTAIN A GOOD CONSCIENCE IN OUR RELIGIOUS PROFESSION. This was the constant study of the apostles, and hence they considered not what was honourable in the eyes of the world, what was advantageous or safe, but solely what was right. It was God only whom they were resolved to obey, and they minded not the contrary commands and threatenings of men. You will never enjoy peace of mind, you will never act uprightly and consistently till you learn to regulate your conduct by the fixed standard of truth and rectitude, and not by the shifting opinions and fancies of men. Beware of the vain attempt to serve two masters. The result of such an attempt will be that you will serve neither of them fully, and will lose the reward promised by both.

(J. Dick, A. M.)

Courage is of various sorts. Brazen courage is simply an outside affair, born of impudence. Many a timid soul will cower before it, but itself will always cower when rightly met. Physical courage is an affair of the body, born of mere brute force. There is a courage of love, conscience, conviction, action, repose. What is Christian courage? Let us to-day look back to the time when Christ's disciples were first under the fire of persecution and see —

I. ITS OCCASION. Peter and John had healed a lame man, and to the wondering crowd preached Jesus and His resurrection. Out of patience with this continued talk about Jesus — the priests, because Jesus had denounced their hypocrisy and formalism; the Sadducees, because in Jesus was set forth the resurrection, which they scouted and denied — had got the apostles arraigned before the Sanhedrim. In the presence of this august body they proved what stuff they were made of. They had no friends at this court. Wealth, learning, fashion, pride, numbers, and even piety and the national faith, and. the very oracles of God, were arrayed against these poor disciples. Peter stood in view of them all, calm and confident, a splendid illustration of the truth that "the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1), and made his reply.

II. ITS SECRET. "Filled with the Holy Ghost." This made the difference between Peter before the ascension and Peter after it. It was not natural courage, "to the manner born." Peter's impetuous ardour often got him into trouble, but his courage failed him when put to the test. He could use his sword under sudden impulse, but his temporary boldness is followed by blank cowardice. He could leap from the ship in impulsive obedience, but he scarcely touches the waters before he cries out for fear. This is Peter by nature. But after Pentecost what granite-like firmness he exhibits! what courage of conviction! what unflinching loyalty to truth! what boldness in the rebuke of wrong! This is Peter by grace. The bank of sand is transformed into a rock of firmness. Impulse has given way to principle. Fear of man is exchanged for fear of God.

III. ITS CHARACTERISTICS.

1. Courtesy. Peter gives the men of the court their appropriate titles, recognises their office and authority, and addresses them with deference and respect. Bravery does not consist in brusqueness and bravado and bluster. To speak the truth boldly one need not be a boor or a bear. There is a so-called maintaining one's self-respect which is simply a manifesting one's impudence. But the courtesy had no weakness in it. Where grace salts courage, the courage is not noisy or dogged or defiant, but marked by a quiet courtesy in the very repose of conscious power.

2. Prudence. The deed was "good," and Peter reminds them of it. It is well-doing they are to be examined about, not evil-doing. Peter first turns attention from the method to the thing. The work itself could challenge only gratitude and joy. Of itself it could provoke no opposition. One would think the healing of a lifelong cripple to be a matter about which there could be no two opinions. How can a corrupt tree bring forth such good fruit? He made the most of his circumstances. So will the highest courage always. While scorning compromise of principle, it presses into service every alleviating circumstance. It does not court a tilt or invite a conflict.

3. Frankness. The council demanded by what authority or name they had done this. They got for instant answer, "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth." Here Peter might have stopped. This was the truth, and nothing but the truth. But this was not the truth that put Peter in bonds. He knew he was a prisoner because of some other word that he had been bold enough to speak in the presence of the people, and in the frankness of righteous boldness that word must be spoken now in the presence of the court. "Whom ye crucified," for this had stirred the priests against him; and, "whom God raised from the dead"; for this had stirred the Sadducees against him (vers. 1, 2). This is simply another Daniel (see Daniel 6:10). It was not necessary to pray with "his windows open"; but, having been open when he prayed in security, they must not be shut when the king's decree threatens with a den of lions any man that prays. Christian courage will wear no masks. The temptation to be compromisingly politic at the point of real danger is most plausibly insidious and subtle, and a brave spirit gets here its sorest test. The man of real Christian courage will die rather than be sheltered behind a truth withheld.

4. Fidelity. Peter had fully stated the facts. But here was a rare opportunity to bring out also the meaning of the facts. Peter might never get such a hearing again. So he makes the rejected Christ the glorious and chief corner-stone in Zion (Psalm 118:22; Ephesians 2:20). These trusters in Abraham and good works are thus told that there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby they must be saved. This was the top and crown of Christian courage. It was transforming the prisoner's bar into a pulpit. This is another John the Baptist ready to lose his head rather than fail to testify that his hearers are wrong. A brave soul will preach the gospel as fearlessly to the Sanhedrim as to a mass-meeting. Opportunity is obligation.

IV. ITS EFFECTS. "They marvelled." The first effect was profound surprise. Then they came to recognise them as men they had seen before in the company of Jesus. And beholding the cripple, a healed and living witness to the truth, "they had nothing to speak against." They were silenced completely, just as Jesus had said they would be (Luke 21:15). So now —

1. Men wonder first at the boldness. They see nothing behind it, nothing to support it — no arms, government, material resource — and they are astounded. The world knows not its secret. The natural man has not entered into its hiding-place.

2. Then they have nothing to speak against. Christian courage has a wonderful way of disarming opposition. Opposition may still rage, as it did here, but it has no case, as it had not here.Conclusion:

1. The Spirit of God can make the weakest saint bold.

2. We can afford to trust Christ.

3. Truth will sometimes smite to silence when it does not smite to heal.

(Herrick Johnson, D. D.)

Christian Age.
I. IN TIMES OF TROUBLE AND PERSECUTION (vers. 1-4) adding all the more to the Church.

II. IN GIVING AID TO HIS DISCIPLES (vers. 5-8). Fulfilling the promise to Peter of courage and right words.

III. IN THE SALVATION OF MEN (vers. 9-12). The only name by which men can be saved is His.

IV. IN CHANGING CHARACTER (vers. 13, 14). Making His disciples like Himself.

(Christian Age.)

Peter's discourse delivered on this text woke impulses and started efforts both amongst the adherents and opponents of the true religion that introduced a new order of things. Notice —

I. A NEW IMPULSE TO THE WORLD'S ANTAGONISM TO CHRISTIANITY. Observe —

1. The representatives of this antagonism — the world against the Church, the defenders of the false in theory and the corrupt in practice. Religion, "the priests"; politics, "the captain of the temple"; scepticism, "the Sadducees" conspired to crush the young Church. The hostile sections of a wicked world are ever ready to merge their differences in an attack on the Divinely pure and good. Pilate and Herod became friends on a similar occasion.

2. The reason of this antagonism. The priests were "grieved" because the apostles arrogated their teaching office; the captain because social tranquility was disturbed; the Sadducees because the resurrection was proclaimed. Wicked men hate truth for different reasons, and according to their passions and interests.

3. Its development. The persecutors

(1)Imprisoned the apostles.

(2)Arraigned them.

(3)Threatened them.So the antagonism was strong in spirit, but futile in efforts. In sooth, all endeavours to crush truth are fruitless and self-confounding.

II. A NEW DEMONSTRATION OF GOD'S POWER IN CHRISTIANITY.

1. In multiplying its adherents (ver. 4). Though the clouds gather, the sun rises. The tides flow, though the force of the mightiest tempest bears against them; and God's truth moves on to universal empire, though earth and hell combine against it. "Howbeit," aye, and not only despite it, but because of it. Persecution does two things which give an impulse to the course of the Christian martyr. It presents on the one side such a hideous manifestation of evil as produces a social recoil, and on the other such an exhibition of Christian goodness as awakens sympathy and admiration. As the aromatic plant emits its sweetest odours by pressure, so Christian character gains charm by suffering. As the stars only shine at night, so the brightest virtues can only shine in trial.

2. In strengthening its advocates. See how they heroically expound their cause.(1) The miracle was wrought by Him whom they had crucified.(2) He whom they had crucified had become pre-eminent in the universe. What they had rejected God had honoured. Observe —

(a)That men in their enterprises often reject the Divine.

(b)That though they reject the Divine, the Divine shall be honoured at last to their confusion.

(c)That He whom they had crucified was the only One that could save them.

3. In confounding its enemies.(1) They were astonished, and two things would heighten the astonishment.(a) The intellectual and social position of the men. Pedants in every age consider those illiterate who do not know exactly that branch of learning in which they pride themselves. The linguist, e.g., despises the man who does not understand languages, although he may know much better the wonders of God's universe. So Peter and John were not up in Rabbinical lore, but were well acquainted with more important matters.(b) Their connection with Christ, the carpenter's son, and the crucified malefactor.(2) They were silenced. Facts are stubborn things. The way to silence Christ's enemies is to show them lame men walking.

3. They were perplexed. They felt that something must be done, but what they know not. Seventy of a nation's magnates were confounded by two peasants. It is heaven's law that the opponents of the truth shall involve themselves in inextricable bewilderment.

4. They were thwarted (vers. 19, 20). Note here —(1) That the will of God is the imperial rule of life, whether of monarch or slave.(2) That universal conscience sanctions the supreme law. "Judge ye."(3) That gospel truth, when fully felt, is an irrepressible force. "We cannot but speak." "Necessity is laid upon me." Conclusion. Mark the difference in the effect of Peter's discourse and that on Pentecost. None seem here to have been pricked to the heart, although the same truths were preached. Why? Doubtless because of the different character of the audiences.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Proof from —

1. Miracles — the lame man.

2. Prophecy and Scripture (ver. 11).

3. History (ver. 21).

4. The heart and experience (ver. 13).

(O. Smith, D. D.)

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