Acts 5:1
There are several truths which this sad incident suggests to us. We may view them thus -

I. THAT A NEW ENTERPRISE MAY SURVIVE A VERY DAMAGING BLOW. It was a very serious misfortune to the new Church that two of its members should commit a sin worthy of death, and pay that terrible penalty in the view of all. The apostles must have felt that they and the cause with which they were identified had received a severe blow; but it was far from being a fatal one. It was one from which the cause of Christ soon recovered; nay, it was overruled "for the furtherance of the gospel." Let not any Church or any sacred cause be too much disheartened by a check at the beginning. With truth and God on its side, it will survive and flourish.

II. THAT VERY SERIOUS SIN MAY BE CONNECTED WITH AN ACT WHICH IS OUTWARDLY VIRTUOUS AND GODLY. To those who looked on as Ananias and Sapphira brought the money they did bring and laid it at the feet of the apostles, their action must have seemed pious and generous in a very high degree. But we know it to have been utterly and even fatally defective. It becomes us to search with fearless and faithful glance those of our deeds which men approve as most commendable, lest, while around us is approval and congratulation, there should be entered in the book of account in heaven a sin of great enormity against our name.

III. THAT WE MAY BE COMMITTING A HEINOUS SIN IN AN ACTION WHICH SEEMS VENIAL TO OURSELVES. In all likelihood, Ananias and Sapphira imagined that they were doing an action which, while it was calculated to win respect, was not very, if at all, reprehensible in itself. They probably reconciled it to their own sense of rectitude. Men do so now. In connection with religion and philanthropy they do guilty things which kindle the wrath of the righteous Lord, supposing that they are only departing a few degrees from integrity, or are even worthy of praise. "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults."

IV. THAT IT IS A FALSE AND MOST PERILOUS THING TO SUPPOSE THAT THE GOOD CONNECTED WITH ANY COURSE WILL COUNTERBALANCE SOME ONE SERIOUS SIN THEREIN. Ananias and Sapphira may have thought that the piety and charity of their conduct would more than balance the sin of their deception. They were miserably wrong and were fearfully disabused of their mistake. If we willfully break one of God's plain commandments, supposing that the virtues of our action will cancel the wrong, and thus allow ourselves to fall into deception (as here), or into dishonesty, or into excess, or, into arrogance and pride, we shall have a sad and, it may be, a rude and awful awakening from our grievous error.

V. THAT THERE IS A FORGETFULNESS WHICH IS NOTHING LESS THAN FATAL. Ananias and Sapphira made a mistake which was simply ruinous. They overlooked the fact that the Holy Spirit of God was in close connection with his Church, and was acting through his servants. They forgot that when they were trying to deceive inspired men they were acting falsely in the face of the Divine Inspirer, so that when they imagined they were lying unto men they were really lying unto God (ver. 4). For this guilty oversight they paid the last penalty of death. Is not their sin too easily reproducible and too often re-enacted? Too commonly men guiltily overlook the presence and agency of the Divine Spirit.

1. A Church does so when it is resting in human and earthly advantages for its prosperity; when the minister trusts to his eloquence, the people to those arts and influences which are from below and not from above; when both are forgetting that there is an almighty power which is within their reach and at the command of believing prayer.

2. The human soul does so when it disregards the influences which are at work upon and within it; when it treats lightly the pleadings of the pulpit, the warnings of friendship, the prickings of conscience, the convictions and impulses which call it to newness of life. Is not this to sin against the Holy Ghost, and is not the penalty of it spiritual, eternal death? - C.







But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.
The word Ananias means "grace of God"; and the word Sapphira signifies just "a sapphire," the familiar jewel of brilliance and beauty. We should suppose these two people had an unusually bright prospect in the outset. Somebody there was who loved them enough to give them very fine names when they were little. Ananias lied; then it was that "the grace of God" went out of him for ever. Sapphira lied; when a woman loses the truth, it is as if the last light went out of a sapphire.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Hitherto all has been progress and triumph. Faith has become enthusiasm. Earth caught the colouring, yea, the very life of heaven. Private ownership was swallowed up by social beneficence, and little restrictions and classifications were swept away by a generosity akin to the love of God. Now we come upon another aspect of affairs. We find a twist in the golden thread. The whole thing must come to a stop until this be rectified. Think of the Church standing still, though glowing with the enthusiasm of love, until judgment be satisfied! Why not treat the offence as a trifling one? Why not pass it over without notice? Because the Church is called unto holiness, and sin must ever bring down the anger and judgment of God. From the conduct of these people we see —

I. THE VITAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SPIRIT AND THE FASHION OF CHRISTIANITY. We might say between a principle and a mere rule. Ananias tried to be a Christian from the outside. He put the hands of the clock to the right time, but left the mainspring broken and the pendulum still

1. We may imitate Christ, and yet not know Him after the spirit.

2. We may mingle with Christians, and yet know nothing of the spiritual power of Christianity. The incident says, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

II. THE FATAL TEMPTATION TO GIVE THE PART AS THE WHOLE. Observe not the part instead of the whole: not to give the part distinctly and avowedly as the part; but to give it as if it were really all. This is illustrated —

1. In speaking half-heartedly as if sincerely.

2. In giving a small contribution as if it exhausted our resources. "I cannot afford more," is the chief lie of the Church.

3. In concealing our convictions by using words with various meanings.

4. In having outward associations which do not express the whole tendency and trust of the heart.

5. In modifying vows according to changes in circumstances — young man dedicating himself to the ministry: young tradesman vowing to consecrate his property: young Christian vowing to offer a solemn testimony for Christ.

III. THE CONCEALED SIN AS WELL AS THE PUBLIC INIQUITY WILL BE FOLLOWED BY THE JUDGMENT OF GOD. "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?"

1. There is vet to be a reading of hearts.

2. Not only what we have done, but what we have left undone is to be judged.

3. Sins which apparently do no harm to society are to be punished. The voice of the judgment is, "The wages of sin is death."Application

1. The Church is to be holy.

2. Though hand join in hand the wicked shall not go unpunished.

3. Discipline is of greater consequence than numbers.

4. The Christian power which heals one man destroys another. Contrast the cripple with Ananias.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Monday Club Sermons.
The apostolic Church had been welded into a remarkable unity of experience and purpose. All hours and places seemed filled with the presence of God. Men had forgotten their selfishness, and lived for each other and their Lord. Pentecost and millennium were apparently but a little way and a short time apart; and then suddenly, like lightning from a clear sky, came the crime of Ananias and Sapphira. The Church was the Church militant, and not triumphant, after all. The Judas among the apostles had, and was to continue to have, his descendants. The Church in the world was to be crippled and compromised by the world in the Church. The transaction was typical and the narrative suggestive. Notice, then —

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE SIN. It was not simple falsehood. Misrepresentation, deceit, lying, in the ordinary affairs of life, are evils of incalculable magnitude; but this sin was the attempt to deceive and defraud God. In the fervour of their new-born faith and experience, men were parting with their property, and consecrating the price of it to Christ and His Church. Ananias and Sapphira had seen enough of the new religion to wish to be numbered among its followers; so they plotted to buy discipleship at a cheaper rate than their neighbours. In this they thought that they were measuring their business capacity against the business ignorance of Peter; in fact, they were trying to deceive the eyes that look through eternity. Many a man since has ventured upon the same experiment, In every community there are some who are convinced of the worth of religion, and outwardly unite with the Church. Neither their conduct nor their neglect is such as to subject them to discipline; and yet they are far from having made a complete surrender of themselves to God. Their religious life is a compromise. The bulk of their time and energy is devoted to self and the world; the dust and sweepings are offered to God. Fingers that glisten with diamonds drop dimes into the contribution-box. Luxuries are cheerfully paid for; but poverty and prudence are urged as excuses for mere pittances towards the cause of God. Ananias in broadcloth and Sapphira in silk Sit in the churches every sabbath, trying to cheapen the bargain with God, and cheating as well, by offering less than complete surrender.

II. THE ORIGIN OF THE SIN. In general it was due to an evil heart, but its specific root was the love of money.

1. Ananias and Sapphira, while they were not averse to the reputation of having made great sacrifices for the gospel, could not give up the pleasure of feeling that they had property; and so, as avaricious people, they "kept back part of the price."

2. Perhaps they desired to have the means of purchasing more luxuries than were enjoyed by those who "had all things in common"; and so, as selfish people, they "kept back part of the price."

3. Not impossibly, they were uncertain as to the permanence of this new faith, whose collapse would leave them without means of support; and so, as prudent people, they "kept back part of the price." In our day, when men are called to choose between piety and property, there are many who prevaricate, and end with a compromise. The great aggressive enterprises of the Church are crippled for lack of financial support, and yet a very considerable portion of the wealth of Christian lands is in the hands of professed disciples. They are prodigal in their prayers and hymns and exhortations, but close-handed with their money. Like the tree in the ancient legend, which uttered a moan and bled whenever a twig was broken off, they writhe when forced to give for the glory of God and the salvation of men. The old poison of avarice is still in the veins of the Church; and Christ is dishonoured, and thousands perish, because so many, who call themselves His followers, "keep back part of the price."

III. THE DISCOVERY OF THE SIN. It seemed unlikely that the transaction would be made public. The land was probably sold to some one outside the company. Ananias and Sapphira would not circulate the story of what they had done. But there was an uncalculated factor in the equation. It affected the kingdom of God, as well as the real estate market. It was fair dealing as between man and man; as between man and God it was fraud, and so it was sure to be discovered. It is a truth which men are slow to learn, that there is a Divine detective system in the universe. It is easy to deceive the world. Men may consider us generous, when in reality we are pinched in our charities; they may call us self-sacrificing, when in fact self-pleasing is the sovereign motive of our lives; they may esteem us devout, when we are cold and formal: but what is our trickery worth, so long as there is One that knows us altogether? Dionysius constructed a prison, so that he could hear all that was said by the prisoners, and so made them self-accusers in the day of their trial. To God this world is one vast whispering-gallery, and every sin which men commit reports itself to Him. What a wonderful day that will be when the secrets of all hearts are made known! Men ought always to live as in the light of the Great White Throne.

IV. THE PUNISHMENT OF THE SIN.

1. It was startling and severe. One moment Ananias and Sapphira stood before the apostle in the flush of life and health, with the lie upon their lips; She next they were in eternity, beginning the experience of its unchanging awards. The penalty might be judged extreme for a single sin: but(1) At the outset of the Christian Church it was important to emphasise the fact that the liberty of the gospel was not license.(2) More than that, the sin itself was significant. As the single blossom is evidence whether the stock is weed or flower, so this action was proof of a heart alienated from God. Grace is ample in its provisions, but strict in its conditions. The Redeemer will have the whole of men, or He will have none of them. "Every branch that beareth not fruit, He taketh away."

2. It was anticipative and representative. The judgment continues to be executed. Men now who attempt to defraud God are not beaten down as with a lightning-stroke; but, all the same, they die spiritually.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

I. IMPIOUS DECEPTION.

1. The possession devoted. "Ananias with Sapphira his wife sold a possession" (Acts 3:45; 4:34; Leviticus 27:28; Ecclesiastes 5:4).

2. The part kept back (Malachi 3:8; Joshua 7:11; John 12:6; 1 Timothy 6:10).

3. Counterfeit benevolence. Lessons:

(1)Has as its motive the praise of men rather than the approval of God.

(2)Aims chiefly at making a big impression upon people.

(3)Aims to give in such a way as shall most advertise the donor.

(4)Always tries to get credit for giving more than it actually does.

II. IMMEDIATE DETECTION.

1. The source of the sin (ver. 3; John 13:27; Ephesians 4:27; James 4:7).

2. The inexcusableness of the sin (ver. 4; Leviticus 1:3; Exodus 25:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

3. The nature of the sin. Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God (Psalm 51:4; Genesis 39:9; Luke 15:21). Lessons:

(1)Sin is suggested by Satan.

(2)No sin is unavoidable — "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie?"

(3)Sin is inexcusable — no one can plead compulsion.

(4)Sin is never concealed from the eyes of God.

(5)Sin is not so much a trespass against men, as a trespass against God.

III. INSTANT DEATH.

1. Ananias.

(1)The judgment. "Fell down and gave up the ghost" (chap. Acts 13:11; Numbers 16:32; 2 Kings 1:12).

(2)The effect. "Great fear" (Leviticus 10:3; Numbers 16:34; Deuteronomy 13:11).

(3)The burial (Leviticus 10:5; 2 Samuel 18:17; John 19:40).

2. Sapphira.

(1)Her examination (Revelation 2:21; 2 Peter 3:9).

(2)Her sin pointed out (Proverbs 11:21; Exodus 17:7; 1 Corinthians 10:9).

(3)Her sentence (Proverbs 19:9; Psalm 55:23; Job 31:3; Proverbs 29:1).

3. The great fear (Psalm 111:10; Matthew 10:28; Philippians 2:12). Lessons:

(1)Judgment may tarry, but it is sure to come at the last as a lightning stroke.

(2)In the day of judgment all hypocrites will be exposed.

(3)Judgment is not pronounced until opportunity for repentance is given.

(4)Judgment upon one or two often is mercy to the many.

(5)The judgments of God upon iniquity should cause a wholesome fear of the Lord.

(6)The judgments of God are to be feared by the workers of iniquity. There are limits even to His forbearance.

(Sunday School Times.)

I. THE SIN. It was of no common magnitude. If we consider the circumstances we shall find —

1. That this falsehood was an imposition on the society with which Ananias was himself connected.

2. That it was designed to defraud the apostles and the whole Church.

3. That he could plead no appearance of external temptation.

4. That his purpose was veiled under the pretence of religious principles.

5. That his sin was deliberately and presumptuously directed against tim Holy Spirit of God.

II. THE PUNISHMENT.

1. It was death.

2. It was inflicted without warning.

3. It immediately followed the presumptuous transgression.

4. It produced great fear upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard of it.

III. REFLECTIONS.

1. That men may enjoy high advantages, may make a fair profession of religion, and may obtain admission to its most sacred external privileges, and yet may remain slaves to vicious dispositions, and strangers to the fear of God. Other examples we have in Cain, Esau, and Judas.

2. That men may travel far in the journey of lifE before they meet with those peculiar circumstances which are fitted to discover and display their true characters. So it was with Balaam, Hazael, and Judas.

3. How corrupting, enslaving, debasing is the spirit of avarice (Proverbs 21:26; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10).

4. The encroaching nature of sinful principles and dispositions. Covetousness led to deliberate, aggravated falsehood and fraud, and to impiety so presumptuous as to provoke the immediate judgment of God. One transgression of the Divine law renders others in some degree necessary, and at the same time renders the mind blind to the sad consequences that must result from them.

5. The odious nature and pernicious tendency of the vices of lying, fraud, and hypocrisy (Proverbs 6:16, 19; Habakkuk 2:9; Jeremiah 22:13; Malachi 1:14).Conclusion: The fearful punishment of these two false disciples leads to the consideration of —

1. The omniscience of God. No human eye saw Cain murder his brother. Gehazi flattered himself that he was perfectly secure from detection. Ananias and Sapphira had no doubt prepared their plan with all possible secrecy; but they all forgot that "all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."

2. How tremendous is the power of God over His creatures! He can bestow life, and He can withdraw it at His pleasure (Deuteronomy 32:39).

(H. Thomson, D. D.)

The sin and punishment of this pair of hypocrites present the first trace of a shade on the bright form of the young Church. As in Eden the enemy could not assert his evil sway in his proper form, so in his efforts in the Church he assumed a guise suited to effect his purpose — the guise of goodness. K foe within is more to be dreaded than a foe without. But no sooner did evil reveal itself within the Christian circle than the Spirit detected and judged it. The word "but" put the conduct of Ananias and his wife in sharp contrast with that of Barnabas. Matthew Henry calls it the "melancholy but. We pass suddenly from the warm sunshine of the son of consolation" to the gloom of hypocrisy and fraud. Evil is often a close neighbour to good. "The sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them." How near to each other are chaff and wheat! but the chaff is not wheat, and is finally separated from it. Teaching by opposites is an impressive method of instruction.

I. THE SIN OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA. "Lying unto the Holy Ghost." In vers. 3 and 4 the personality and deity of the Spirit are asserted in an incidental way. Peter varies the charge of lying to the Spirit in the third verse to lying to God in the fourth. It is noteworthy that a similar exchange of expression occurs in Psalm 78:36 — "lied unto Him," and ver. 41, "tempted God." Numbers 11. and 14. clearly show that the righteous judgment which Israel's "lying" to God and "tempting" Him provoked was quite analogous to this of Ananias and Sapphira. Their case was aggravated far beyond that of Simon Magus or of Elymas. It resembles more closely that of Nadab and Abihu, of Achan and of Gehazi (Leviticus 10.; Joshua 7.; 2 Kings 5:20-27), but was more criminal, because committed against greater light and intensified by a more preferred hypocrisy. Let us note some of its aggravations.

1. Their act was gratuitous.

2. It was marked by covetousness.

3. Unbelief also entered into their guilt.

(1)They distrusted God. "Suppose this community of goods should become exhausted, what then?"

(2)There was the feeling that they would not and could not be detected in their deed.

4. The sin was preconcerted. They "agreed together" to deceive the Church and the Spirit in the Church. The plan was concocted deliberately and dispassionately.

5. The devil's agency in the sin. The question "why" implies that resistance to Satan's influence had been possible. Ananias is addressed, not as a helpless creature whom the enemy had made his tool, but as one who had made him his partner and abettor. "Filled thine heart" means something more than to suggest or to encourage; it means affections engrossed and will dominated.

II. THEIR PUNISHMENT. It was instantaneous. As their sin challenged both the omniscience and justice of God, He at once vindicated the holiness and majesty of His character. But why were these persons so swiftly and severely judged? Have not men lied to God since? Let these points be noted —

1. The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was peculiarly heinous and odious.

2. At their death "great fear came upon all." To produce this was doubtless one of the objects intended. It was important also as a permanent testimony against similar offences in every age of the Church.

3. This judgment connects with God's dispensational ways. At the opening of an economy a standard is established designed to characterise the entire period. At the beginning any gross departure is immediately punished. The first sabbath-breaker, the trespass of Nadab and Abihu at the first founding of the priesthood, and that of Achan at the first entrance into Canaan, were punished with death. Such inflictions are at the start the exhibition of God's thoughts as to what the economy should be. Nothing false, hypocritical, or presumptuous is to be tolerated in it.

III. THE LESSONS.

1. The Divine abhorrence of prevarication. If falsehood kindle among men the deepest resentment, what must be God's feelings toward the hypocrite?

2. The certainty of the exposure of hypocrisy. All that is required is some pressure. "Be sure your sin will find you out"

3. Religious enthusiasm without grace is dangerous. People run fearful risks when they profess more than their spiritual strength can carry. In times of great religious excitement men pledge themselves to what they cannot fulfil. Or remarkable experiences are claimed; then trials are encountered, and failure succeeds. Pride forbids the acknowledgment of failure; professions are as loud as ever. And for all this there is no basis in fact — it is a mere mask to hide the true state of the heart. How much safer and nobler is the honest confession of a breakdown than such loud and hollow protestations!

(W. G. Moorehead, D. D.)

I. THE SIN GENERATING-POWER OF AVARICE. "The love of money is the root of all evil."

II. AN UNDUE ATTENTION TO PUBLIC SENTIMENT. Ananias and Sapphira, without any heart sympathy with the community of goods, professed to adopt it because it was popular. They wished to appear as good as others, and did outwardly that for which they had no real respect.

III. A SPIRITUAL CONNECTION WITH THE EVIL ONE. "He is a liar and the father of it."

IV. RELIGIOUS CONTRIBUTIONS REGARDED AS CRIME (ver. 4). There was no necessity for them to give it. God does not want our property except as it expresses our loving loyalty. Better far to hold money as a miser than to give it if the heart does not go with it. Gifts to pacify conscience or for display, or to get it back with interest, is an insult to Omniscience. Great contributions may be great sins.

V. A DELIBERATE ATTMEPT TO IMPOSE UPON GOD AND HIS CHURCH (ver. 9).

VI. A SOLEMN DISPLAY OF DIVINE DISPLEASURE. Conclusion:

1. Social benevolence is the law of Christianity.

2. The tendency to depravity is to counterfeit goodness.

3. Satan's influence is no palliation of man's crime.

4. Hypocrisy must one day be unmasked and punished.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Note —

I. A PARTICULAR STATE OF THINGS occasioned by peculiar and temporary circumstances. Many who were strangers in Jerusalem would wish to remain; many would be detained longer than they anticipated; there might be serious consequences to some of them in relation to the synagogue, and they might be in danger of the confiscation of their goods; and perhaps there was an impression that the time was nigh when Christ would come, and when all property would cease. But, along with that, there was the gush of new feeling filling their hearts under the influence of their new faith. And so they clung to one another as really "members one of another"; and they showed it in this way. But —

1. It was never laid down by the apostles as a principle of the Church. This is distinctly stated by Peter. It was necessary, however, for money to be got. The most spiritual society and plans cannot go on without money. Here were many who at this time, and as public men, could not be doing anything, and many who were likely to be drawn into difficulty through their new faith; and the easiest and simplest way, to men who were not political economists, was just to throw the money into a common fund, and to live upon that as long as they could. But it is evident from the Epistles that it never was taught as a part of Christianity, for they recognise differences of rank and circumstance, and they do not call upon the rich to throw everything into a common fund. They prescribe appropriate duties to rich and poor, but they do not say that these distinctions are to be done away. Christianity is not so absurd a thing. If it were a matter of positive obligation upon a Christian to part with private property because wrong in itself, terrible consequences would follow. If it is wrong in me to have house or land, it is wrong for me to sell it to anybody else. True, indeed, you may come in with the idea that it is wrong for a Christian to have these things, and that a Christian (or a church) is to sell house and land. But are you going to doom a part of the earth to be eternally "the world" — unbelievers, to whom you will sell these things? Let us remember that the gospel is intended to be universal, and that you are not to lay down as a positive duty of the Church anything which all men cannot do. And all men cannot do this. As long as the earth lasts, there will be the land and fields and houses and private possessions; and if Christianity is to be a thing filling the earth, depend upon it, it never can do that if all people are to part with their possessions. Why, if Christianity is to be universal, the time will come when there will be nobody to buy. I do not think, therefore, that this is laid down as an obligation, or intended to be permanent, or that it involves in it a fixed principle that can become universal

2. It should, however, be remembered that a strong religious faith will bring Divine and eternal things very close to a man; and under its deep influence he will learn to hold cheaply the possessions of time, feeling that he knows not at what hour the Son of Man may come, when he must pass away from these things if they do not pass away from him.

3. Christians are to feel that they are members one of another, and that if one member suffers others must sympathise. But then the principle should be carried out fully; all men should remember that they are called upon to do this. And in this way the operation and influence of institutions and laws and habits are to be looked at and regarded, and everything which will operate with any crushing power upon a part of society; and the principle of pure humanity and Christian feeling should lead men to take out of the way what will injure a brother, and to impart of their substance and their sympathy for the promotion of universal happiness and tranquillity and comfort.

4. There are extraordinary times and circumstances when very extraordinary things may be required. There may be times when a peculiar and extraordinary call shall be made upon the liberality of the Church. And men in the Church may feel themselves called to a peculiar vocation; they may feel that God is urging them by His providence to the fulfilment of a mission for which they must free themselves from any entanglement. Barnabas had land, and he sold it, and he stood from that time forth a poor man, resting upon the Church; but then he was free to go anywhere — and he did go, fulfilling a mission to mankind. But you cannot make that universal with respect to all men.

II. THIS STATE OF THINGS BECAME A SNARE TO ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA, AND LED THEM INTO SIN. I daresay a public opinion sprung up among Christians, and perhaps they might look rather coldly upon those that did not do what others were doing. I daresay there was some kind of distinction thrown about those who were conspicuous for sympathy of this sort. And it made Ananias and his wife wish for the distinction without being willing to pay the price for it. And so they agreed to sell their property, and to lay down a part of the price, pretending it was the whole, and then to stand there as if they had stripped themselves, and to be claimants upon the common fund. This sin had some tremendous aggravations. Note —

1. The hypocrisy of the whole procedure. They were pretending, of course, to be moved by a Divine influence; to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit; pretending to give a sacred thing, "Corban," given up for the service of God and of His people — and yet they were not doing it. And it was to get an odour of sanctity.

2. The deliberateness of it. It was not a thing done upon sudden temptation. They had their object; they formed their plan; they determined upon it, and went about its execution. When they met again, could they pray? Oh! what an extinction there must be of everything like personal and conjugal piety when they rose up to do this thing! Ah! when men agree together to do a great sin, all religious exercises, religious intercourse are gone.

3. The public lie to the apostles in the presence of such of the Church as might be standing round, to the apostles as the ministers of God, to God Himself in the apostles by His Holy Spirit. There was the determination thus to tell this lie, and there was the performance of it up to the last point.

4. The dishonesty that would be involved in the after conduct of this man, in his taking (as he would) his share from the common fund, as if he had given up all, and yet he had secreted this something upon which he could fall back. The man had no faith; he could not trust God, nor the Church, nor the apostles of God; and yet he pretended to do it.

5. The source of the sin, which was his giving way to the suggestions of the devil. "Why hath Satan filled thine heart?" And there was the consummation of Satanic suggestion — his presenting the fruit of it to the Church as if it was the result and work of the Spirit of God; for he stood there, not as doing a common act, but as doing a thing which was pre-eminently the fruit of the Spirit, and yet it was the fruit and the suggestion of the devil — as he might have known.

III. THE PUNISHMENT.

1. It was extreme and instantaneous. It was not a moderate act of discipline; the extreme penalty was inflicted in a moment. He was not put away — afforded time for confession and prayer, repentance and return, but he was struck dead as with lightning from heaven. A terrible thing this must have been. Only think of the members of the Church gathered about the apostles, and Ananias coming in with this money in his hand. Perhaps it might have been a considerable sum. Think of the feeling with which he was looked at by the poor and afflicted members of the Church; how they were gazing upon him, and thinking what an act of munificence it was, what a trophy to Divine grace, what a glorious manifestation of the power of faith and of religion and of God upon this man's heart; and in a moment Peter strips him, and God strikes him dead.

2. Observe that Peter merely charges him with the sin, accuses him, puts it to his conscience, and the-man trembles and falls. Peter did not inflict the punishment; Peter had no more power to strike him dead than I have to strike any of you dead. The apostles were not so put in possession of omnipotence. In every instance where omnipotence was put forth, it was not man that wielded it; it was God. The volition of the Divine Mind went through the man, and that did it. It was not the man Peter — aye, and it was not the priest Peter (as some would be disposed to think). We will leave to other priests the pretension to this power; we will leave to the Pope the pretension that he makes to employ the secular sword because Peter did it. We say it was not Peter that did it; it was God employing Peter. Let us see it so done again; and if the Pope with a glance of his eye can strike a man dead, let him do it if he likes; but no priest, no pope is to claim secular power if all that they can do is to fulminate their curses or to put us into gaol. When Sapphira comes, Peter goes further, and he tells her that she shall die, which he had not told her husband. I think the difference results from this — that Peter himself had had a revelation made to him.

3. There is every reason to fear that this outward visible punishment was but the prelude of utter separation from God — the condemnation of both. We can hardly suppose that there was an act of forgiveness at the very same moment with this act of indignation, and that while these persons were sinking down dead under the expression of the Divine anger their souls were in that state that they could be received to the Divine bosom — "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."

4. Things like these should make us very careful how we push short, general statements too far and erect too much upon a particular statement. It is said, "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." Ananias and Sapphira were a part of that multitude. Was this the "one heart and one soul" that was diffused through them all? God forbid. It is said, "The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved." He added these; is this a specimen? They were either converted, or they were not. If they were really converted, and added to the Church, this is the issue; a dreadful fall. Or they were not converted, and yet added by an outward profession; and then they were not in that state in which they could be ultimately saved. Let us not build too much upon a single expression. They might as a whole be "of one heart and of one soul," but there might be many exceptions; the mass of those that were "added to the Church" might be truly converted, but there might be exceptions.

5. The intention of such a punishment as this.(1) It was a strong manifestation of God's condemnation of hypocrisy in religion — saying one thing and meaning another — religious pretence, profession, without religion in the heart. God can do without your money, but He cannot do without your heart. If you profess to be His, you must be a reality.(2) Perhaps it might be intended also as a kind of guard and protection to the Church, to keep the Church from being increased and enlarged under the influence of motives that might arise from the temporary state of things in it — motives which might be connected with the casting of themselves upon the fund of the Church. God would rather keep the Church small, if it might be kept pure, than enlarge it by those who might come in from questionable motives and with questionable intents.(3) Another thing would be to produce a salutary awe upon the minds of the Church. "Great fear came upon all the Church." At the beginning of that He came forth with this majestic demonstration of His presence in order to make them feel how holy He was, and how purely and spiritually He was to be worshipped.Lessons:

1. While extraordinary proceedings in the ancient Church cannot be literally precedents to us, there may be a principle in them worth following. The conduct of the Church is not a precedent to us with respect to property, but yet there is a principle in it, showing how Christians ought to feel with respect to being members one of another. So with respect to the conduct of the apostle, and the manner in which God interfered through him; that cannot be literally imitated, but that is no reason why there should not be discipline and an anxiety to preserve the fellowship of the faithful such as a Christian fellowship ought to be.

2. The seriousness that there is about a religious profession. I suppose none of you would like to be denied the name of Christian. Now I do not ask you what you are giving or professing to give to God, but I wish you to ask yourselves what you are keeping back. Some of you give your bodily attendance — your ear, eye, attention. Where is your heart? Are you keeping that back? and will this be acceptable? Some of you are giving your intellect; are you keeping back your affections? Some of you are professing publicly, like Ananias and Sapphira, to give up all by the manner in which you are associated with the Christian Church. What are you keeping back? Those of you "that are rich in this world" — what are you keeping back of that which the Church needs? In a world like this, in the movements of the Church, this great missionary institution (and that is the proper idea of the Church, moving onward until it embrace the world), money must be had. God must have your money. How much are you keeping back? What driblets are the donations connected with religious societies compared to what some of them might be! And God has His eye upon that which is kept back as well as that which is given. Ah! there are some rich men in the Church who might dread indeed if Jesus Christ were to say, "I will come unto you"; if He were to come with the purpose of going over all their documents, and looking at all their books, and examining all their accounts, and seeing the actual state of their affairs, and marking and pointing out how accumulation was going on after accumulation, and if He were to look them in the face, and say, "Well, now, after all this, what is it you do for Me? I give you all this; it is all Mine; by a waive of My hand I could deprive you of it to-morrow — every bit of it; and I entrust it to you; you are My steward; do you keep anything back?"

3. Even the honours, distinctions, reputation, that may be to be possessed or acquired in God's Church are things that are to be jealously watched lest they become temptations to sin.

4. The perfect confidence that Peter must have had in his own honesty when he acted in this way. If he did not thoroughly believe the resurrection, then he was a "false witness for God," and the apostle, standing up and accusing these persons of lying to the Holy Ghost, would himself be the great incarnation of a far worse lie. I think that impossible.

5. The devil cannot fill your heart and lead you into sin unless you let him.

(T. Binney.)

1. The case of Barnabas and that of Ananias sprang from the same movement and illustrate the same principles, yet they are reciprocally opposites. It is as necessary to moor a buoy over a rock or sand-bank as to show a light in a line with the safe entrance to the harbour. Barnabas is a light at the pier head; Ananias buoys a rock where many have perished, and warns the mariner from the place of doom. Both examples are useful. We may reap profit alike from the truth of the true and from the lie of the false. When our Lord taught His disciples how to pray, He placed near the humble suppliant of mercy a solemn hypocrite. When He taught the blessedness of pressing in while the door was open, He taught also how dreadful it is to be, even by a little, too late. This dual method is adopted everywhere in Scripture to enforce moral lessons. In morals as well as in physics you exert greater power when you apply an attraction on one side and a pressure on the other.

2. "But a certain man." The little word "but" is the hinge on which great issues turn, e.g., "The righteous is cast away in his iniquity, but the righteous hath trope in his death." The door that swings on this sharp pivot opens and shuts the way of life. Sometimes, as here, it turns from light to darkness, and sometimes from darkness to light.

3. The deep, sad cause of the conduct before us was the stirring of the religious emotions without a corresponding quickening of the moral sense. There may be much devotion of a certain kind where honesty, truth, or purity is feebly rooted and liable to die out. It is often said in certain quarters that a non-professor is more trustworthy than a professor, the common fallacy of magnifying a few glaring examples into a general law. If those who count that all piety is a mask worn to gain an end would only think, they would find that their theory destroys itself. Because honest men seem to be religious people trust them. But if it were the common rule that religious men were dishonest, they would cease to obtain credit; it would not pay a villain to assume religion, and when it ceased to pay he would cease to assume it. So the argument goes to prove that pious men, as a rule, are honest; and yet there is truth in the calumny, and because of this it lives. Apart from conscious scoundrels there are those who, although moved in a period of religious fervour, have not acquired a proper sense of the binding character of the Ten Commandments. The Anti-nomian is not a dried fossil in tomes of polemical theology; he is a living species. But true believers need not faint. Tares grow up with the wheat, but the wheat prevails even here, and at the end the separation will be complete and eternal.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

I. IT IS VAIN TO EXPECT THAT IN THIS WORLD THE CHURCH WILL EVER BE PERFECTLY PURE. I mean not only that imperfections will always adhere to the members of the Church because "there is not a just man upon earth that doth good and sinneth not," but farther, that hypocrites will be found intermixed with the saints. The wheat and the chaff lie together on the barn floor. No precautions, however strict, can prevent their admission; no discipline, however vigorous, no doctrine, however faithful, will be able to expel them.

II. WE OUGHT TO GUARD AGAINST THE PREDOMINANCE OF ANY SINFUL PASSION, whether it be avarice, ambition, sensuality, envy, pride, or any other lust of the flesh or of the spirit. As "one sinner destroys much good," so one sin reigning in the heart counteracts the efficacy of the best means, and may carry us to a very great length in depravity. If the restraints of providence be removed, and a strong temptation be presented in favourable circumstances, it will precipitate us into such excesses as shall dishonour us in the eyes of men, and provoke God to pour out upon us the fury of His wrath.

III. IMPENITENT SINNERS ARE ALWAYS IN DANGER OF PERISHING BY THE VENGEANCE OF HEAVEN. Judgment, indeed, is God's "strange work," but it is a work which a regard to His glory sometimes calls upon Him to perform. And when one victim falls, it is impossible .to tell who shall be the next. A sentence of death is passed upon all unbelievers, the execution of which is delayed only by the long-suffering and patience of God. Let not men presume upon His patience, for, although Divine, it has its limits, beyond which it will not extend (Isaiah 33:14).

IV. LET US, ABOVE ALL THINGS, STUDY TO BE SINCERE IN RELIGION. What will hypocrisy avail? Can our artifice impose upon God? (Hebrews 4:13). In vain did Ananias and Sapphira secretly concert their plan and assume the confidence of conscious integrity to quash any ,suspicion of their baseness. A good name, the esteem and friendly offices of Christians, and even worldly advantages, may be the recompense of dissimulation in this world, but what awaits it in the next? (Job 27:8).

(J. Dick, A. M.)

There is an old saying, "The corruption of the best is worst." The better a thing is, the worse is its spoiling. The greater the elevation, the greater the fall. And this is true both of profession and of reality. When a man who has talked loudly is at length unmasked as an impostor, his exposure is more terrible than if he had never affected great virtue. And when a man who has felt the truth and power of religion is overtaken by the enemy, it is sometimes found that he gives himself over more entirely to the grasp of evil than one who had never known what it was to serve another master. We look upon this scene almost as we look upon man's original fall; we seem to be reading of a paradise regained, when we are suddenly shocked and startled by the narrative of a paradise for the second time forfeited. Observe from the narrative —

I. THAT THERE IS SUCH A THING AS ACTING A FALSEHOOD.

1. Ananias did not expressly say that the sum was the whole price. It was his wife who told an express falsehood. Ananias only gave it to be understood. We have to do with a God of truth, and where truth is not, there in His sight is falsehood. We often think that, if we can avoid saying the exact opposite of the truth, it is enough. Learn, then, that wherever deception is, there is falsehood. And how many of our words are "an attempt to steer dexterously between the truth and a lie"!

2. But, even beyond this, there may be an acted falsehood. Ananias, witnessing the honest self-devotion of others. He, too, will seem to have counted all things but loss for Christ. Just as Barnabas brought the profits of his sale of land, so does Ananias bring his. Every one gives him credit, and he intends that they should do so, for a devotion which thinks only of things above, and a self-forgetfulness which cannot enjoy so long as others suffer. No word, it may be, is spoken, but the act itself says all this, and the doer intends that all this should be understood. Alas! how much of the conduct of many of us is indeed no better than an acted lie! How much is done to throw dust into the eyes of others as to our real motive, our real self! Even apart from the positive purpose of deceiving, how impossible it is to give others a true and just idea of us as we are! How does confession itself turn upon our lips into self-parade and boasting! It is so, perhaps, in mercy to others. We might draw others downwards if they saw how low are our own attainments; we might tempt them to acquiesce in imperfections against which God would have them struggle on in hope. God save us all from the falsehood of the tongue, and from the falsehood of the life, from the lie acted as well as from the lie spoken!

II. WHAT AN ILLUSTRATION HAVE WE HERE OF THE "LOVE OF MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." What made Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Ghost? Was the lust of money the wish to save something out of the surrender of their all to Christ? Thus it was that they lost both worlds, even by trying to gain both! What is it but the love of money which creates some of the most characteristic evils of society? I speak not now of that honourable industry in the business of a lawful calling, which is as much the duty as it ever can be the interest of a Christian. I speak of those precarious, adventurous, idle methods of gaining, upon which God's blessing cannot be asked, and upon which God's curse almost visibly rests. I speak of wants created by an expenditure habitually exceeding income, and supplied by the exorbitant profits of a single week in the year. I speak of examples set to the young of unlawful ventures, by which many a life has been drawn astray from the beginning, and many a hopeful career cut short by crime and infamy. I speak of a love of gain, which has made sons indifferent to a father's command and a mother's happiness, reckless in destroying the inheritance of sisters, and at last regardless even of a country's laws and the terrors of a wrath to come. Earnestly and affectionately would I warn the young of the fearful risks run by the first step into the region of chance.

III. WHAT A RESPONSIBILITY IS INVOLVED IN BEING BROUGHT NEAR TO GOD AS MEMBERS OF HIS CHURCH! Well may this be recorded as the consequence of the fate of Ananias, that great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things. Yes, there is a reality in our connection with Christ which must tell upon us for good or for evil. These means of grace, these opportunities of worship, have a meaning, whether we will or no, and we ourselves are fearfully and wonderfully concerned in it. We must spend our lives, think our thoughts, speak our words, and do our acts, in the sight and hearing of God.

IV. HOW TO CAST OUT THE FEAR OF ONE ANOTHER BY THE STRONGER AND MORE IMPRESSIVE FEAR OF GOD. Ananias and Sapphira committed this great sin in the hope of purchasing to themselves the good opinion of the Christian congregation to which they belonged. And they would have succeeded in this endeavour but for one consideration which they left out of sight. They would have succeeded in winning the esteem of man if they could only have kept God silent. And we also are daily tempted to live for the honour which comes to us from one another, and not for that honour which is of God only. When shall we give up this fatal habit of asking at each turn, What does the world say? what does the world do? — my world, I mean — the world of my family, my friends, my neighbourhood, and inquire rather, Is this right? Does Christ approve? Let me look up to Christ for direction. Let the whisper of His Spirit be my voice of admonition. And let me in all things thank the Lord for giving me warning.

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. HOW THE WICKED ONE SOWS IT.

II. HOW THE LORD OF THE FIELD PLUCKS IT OUT.

(K. Gerok.)

After a refreshing shower which has made all the flowers to smile till the teardrops of joy stand in their eyes, you will see your garden-paths spotted over with slugs and snails. These creatures lay concealed till the genial rain called them forth to make their slimy way towards, whatsoever they might devour. After this fashion revivals, of necessity, develop hypocrites; yet who would deplore the shower because of the snails, and who would rail at "times of refreshing" because mere pretenders are excited to make a base profession of a grace to which they are strangers?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Church may defy the malice of her foes, but cannot afford to pass over faithlessness of professed friends. The Jews are borne with; hypocritical pretenders are visited with Divine vengeance. The sin here consisted in false pretence and misrepresentation.

I. THE CHURCH IS NOT A PURE, UNMIXED SOCIETY OF PERFECTED BELIEVERS. Members of the Apostolic Church fell into gross sin. Perfection is not to be looked for in the nursery or school. The Church is a training-ground of the immature, and yet men unreasonably expect perfection.

II. THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE SAFETY IN THE CHURCH. There is danger necessarily involved in the weakness of all undeveloped life. The Church is not shielded from temptation. Wilfulness may lead to shipwreck of faith. New conditions of life involve new dangers. "Let him that thinketh he standeth," etc.

III. MORAL DANGERS MAY BE INCREASED BY THOSE WHO ARE NEAREST TO US IN THE RELATIONSHIPS OF LIFE. A man and his wife joined together in this sin. The perversion of family and social life to the degradation of spirits is not enough considered. If a husband induce his wife or a master his servant to violate conscience, neither need be surprised at reaping bitter fruit.

IV. WILFUL SIN PERSISTED IN BY MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH INVOLVES THEM IN DIRE AND AWFUL CALAMITIES. "Whose fan is in His hand."

(W. H. Davison.)

Eden hardly puts forth its flowers before sin enters to cast a blight over everything. The Church is hardly founded before punishment falls on two of its members for their crimes. The fate of Ananias and Sapphira may seem hard. Their sin was not so heinous as some others that went unpunished.

I. SOME CONSIDERATIONS WHICH SERVE TO MITIGATE THE SEEMING SEVERITY OF THE PUNISHMENT.

1. The Church was in its infancy. Influences brought to bear upon it at that time were more effective than later on, when its character was more fixed. A sin was more consequential then. To have permitted Ananias and Sapphira to do wrong with impunity would have soon resulted in the corruption of the whole Church. An example must be made to deter others from repeating the sin.

2. The complete character of the sin is undescribed. Peter twice refers to it as a sin against the Holy Sprat (vers. 3 and 9). This would suggest that the main element of the sin lay not in the external act, but in the condition of heart back of it. Sins are like icebergs — the larger part of them is unseen. We must not estimate the sinfulness of Ananias' sin by its external impression upon us.

3. The Apostle Peter, in his relations with these unfortunate people, was under the immediate direction of the Holy Spirit. There was nothing of spitefulness or malice in Peter's conduct. The will he obeyed was the will of another: The outcome was therefore due wholly to the immediate interposition of God.

4. All life is God's, who gave it, and who may take it back to Himself whenever and in whatever manner He pleases without doing any injustice to any rights of the creature. That He took the lives of Ananias and Sapphira would have involved no injustice even if they had not sinned.

5. The loss of two lives was a means of saving many more. Others were deterred from sin.

II. THE SIN ITSELF.

1. The action which turned out to be so wrong originated in a praiseworthy motive. To give up one's property in part or in whole for the helping of the other Christians was a noble sacrifice. The act was praiseworthy.

2. We are led to suspect, however, that their whole hearts were not set on this disinterested view of the matter. They felt the force of others' example. The approbation of the Church which followed such gifts was worth securing. There was a considerable enthusiasm aroused in their hearts. They could anticipate the happiness of hearing others praise their noble giving. But their hearts were not truly in the gift. The act conveyed the idea of a higher type of feeling than they really had.

3. The difference of extent between his good feeling and the larger deed was at once filled up by another feeling, a bad feeling. How often in producing good actions are two quantities of diverse kinds thus at work!

4. In the heart of Ananias selfishness grew until it predominated, and correspondingly unselfishness diminished until it was outweighed. The formal act of benevolence of Ananias was a good act, but it was made bad by the preponderance of vanity among the feelings which led to it. He wanted to seem more generous than he truly was. There was more of vanity than benevolence in his gift. He sinned really, therefore, in doing what was formally good.

5. For his act was a falsehood. The two persons were not brought to death for telling a falsehood so much as for acting a falsehood. They pretended to be giving a whole estate when they were giving but a part of it.

6. Their act was purely voluntary. True, Peter recognises the agency of Satan in the matter (ver. 3), but this is to be recognised in every sin. He is the tempter. He cannot compel us to sin; he can only suggest. Sin is null and void until of our own volition we affix our sign-manual to it.

7. Hence we are not surprised to find that Ananias and Sapphira were perfectly deliberate in their wrong-doing. Peter said to her, "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?" (ver. 9). That word "agreed" points to a plan. This is not an instance of a man's yielding to a furious onslaught of temptation when he has let himself be caught unprepared by it. Ananias and Sapphira show a fox-like shrewdness in their sinning. They planned it deliberately, and they carried out their plan. Their sin was not as light as it seems before we analyse it.

III. THE BEARINGS OF THEIR SIN.

1. It immediately affected men. Ananias defrauded his fellows. By not doing as he declared he intended to do he was defrauding others of that which, to be sure, had once been his, but had now, by his own voluntary profession, passed out of his ownership. He virtually acted the part of a thief.

2. His sin was also against God. He lied to the Holy Ghost (ver. 3); he tempted the Spirit of the Lord (ver. 9). His soul was in a certain relation to God, and every sin of whatever character was a violation of that relation. We owe obedience to God. Duty is obligation heavenward. Sin, whatever it be in act, has its determining element in the heart. It is the heart's rebellion against its obligation to do the will of God. It is an offence against the sovereign Lord.

3. The two are identified; sin against man is sin against God. Ananias lied to the apostles; they were acting under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit. Whatever he did toward them he did toward the Spirit which was in them. A man who shoots a prince strikes at a kingdom. Whoever sins against a fellow-man aims a blow at God. Lying, stealing, adultery, murder, are sins against men, but at the same moment they are sins against God. God hides Himself, as it were, in humanity, so that what we do to men we do to God.

4. Ananias' sin affected the Church. The importance of Ananias' sin is raised to a higher power by the fact that it concerned the welfare of the Church of Christ. His punishment is interpreted by this special bearing of his sin. Sin is thus reduplicated. Every man has special functions and relations, and every sin committed against him passes on and has an unlimited reach in these relations. One man shoots another. He sins against that man. But he does more. He makes a wife a widow; he makes children fatherless; he bereaves parents, relatives, and friends; he removes a man from the community who has a special function in it; he offends against the whole commonwealth, against all humanity indeed. Oh, the awful reach of sin! No man liveth to himself, and no man sinneth to himself.

5. The sin returned upon Ananias and his wife, who connived with him, in terrible retribution. Its wages were paid to the last farthing. As these unfortunate people were carried out to burial how impressive the reply to the heart's question, "Does sin pay?"

6. Yet this affliction was made to bear good fruit under the providence of God. The effect on the Church was salutary. There were no more Ananiases.

IV. THE INFERENCES from this study.

1. Man's accountability for sin. Satan suggests it, but man accepts his suggestion and is responsible for the result.

2. The folly of sin. As we look at Ananias and his wife, with their silly vanity, they seem almost irrational. To sin is truly, according to the plain-spokenness of the Book of Proverbs, to be a fool. To escape it we must be made wise by God.

3. Sin reaches to God. "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight," says the most heart-searching confession of sin ever penned.

4. The consequences of sin are more than we can anticipate — more as they develop after we have planted them in the field of the world's life, more as they come back to us in the harvest of retribution.

5. Lying is an especially bad sin. So bad is it, that among sins which specifically exclude from heaven lying is particularly named. God is truth Himself. We are made to be like Him.

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

The question may be asked, Was not this punishment of Ananias and Sapphira too severe? No time was given for repentance; no opportunity was offered for them to consider their transgression, and to cry unto God for pardon. We may find answer to this inquiry, I think, in the following suggestions: —

1. Their sin was an aggravated one. "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God," were Peter's words to Ananias. The peculiar enormity of their sin consisted in its being committed against the Holy Ghost. They knew of the Pentecostal gift; and now they come with a definitely settled purpose to deceive the Spirit of God in the persons of God's chosen ones, thinking Him to be such a one as themselves. Dr. Lightfoot supposes that Ananias was not an ordinary believer, but a minister, and one that had received the gift of the Holy Ghost with the hundred and twenty. Yet he dared thus by dissembling to belie and shame that gift.

2. It was a deliberate sin. It was not committed as the result of a sudden temptation; but these two had consulted together about it, and had entered into a mutual agreement to work this deception upon the apostles and the Church. It was cold-blooded in every respect. There was apparently no necessity laid upon them by outward circumstances. Ananias shows himself to have been by deliberate choice a hypocrite.

3. Sin must have become the settled purpose of their lives. God does not pronounce condemnation unto death for an initial sin or for a series of sins. It is only when the soul becomes saturated with sin, when there is no longer hope of the man's bearing fruit unto righteousness, that God casts him off. It must have been a crisis in their inner lives marking the determination of their souls — a crisis not apparent to men, but open and plain to the eye of God.

4. The severity of this punishment may have been due in a measure to the conditions surrounding the Church at that early period. The Church was in its infancy. We may further learn from this lesson —(1)That those who presume upon security and impunity in any sinful course are reckoning ignorantly and foolishly. "Be sure your Sin will find you out."(2) It is useless to bring half of self to God in consecration.(3) The wheat and the tares ever grow together in the earthly Church.

(G. C. Osgood.)

I. THE SINS OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA. No sin stands alone.

1. There was love of praise.

2. There was covetousness, an inordinate love of money. They clung to their gold.

3. There was lying.

4. There was hypocrisy, the pretence of godliness where none existed.

II. THE REVELATION OF GOD'S CHARACTER. Every Divine act is a revelation of God. What does this event show?

1. God's omniscience. He saw the sin, though it was secret.

2. God's impartiality. He deals with His followers no more leniently than with His enemies when they do wrong.

3. God's justice.

4. God's power.

III. THE TEACHINGS CONCERNING THE CHURCH.

1. Its high moral standard. The power of the Church is in its purity. The Church must be better than the world if it is to save the world.

2. Its human imperfection. Let us not expect all the people in the earthly Church to be perfect.

3. Its responsibility. The Church is held to a high account for its members, and must put away every branch which is known to be dead.

A well-matched pair, alike in ambition and in falsehood, Ananias and Sapphira. There are thousands of ways of telling a lie. A man's whole life may be a falsehood, and yet never with his lips may he falsify once. There is a falsehood by look, by manner, as well as by lip. There are persons who are guilty of dishonesty of speech, and then afterward say "may be," call it a white lie, when no lie is that colour. The whitest lie ever told was as black as perdition. There are those so given to dishonesty of speech that they do not know when they are lying. With some it is an acquired sin, and with others it is a natural infirmity. There are those whom you will recognise as born liars. Misrepresentation and prevarication are as natural to them as the infantile diseases, and are a sort of moral croup or spiritual scarlatina. Then there are those who in after-life have opportunities of developing this evil, and they go from deception to deception, and from class to class, until they are regularly graduated liars.

I. FIRST OF ALL, I SPEAK OF AGURICULTURAL FALSEHOODS. There is something in the presence of natural objects that has a tendency to make one pure. The trees never issue false stock. The wheat-fields are always honest. Rye and oats never move out in the night, not paying for the place they occupy. Corn shocks never make false assignments. Mountain brooks are always current. The gold of the wheat-fields is never counterfeit. But, while the tendency of agricultural life is to make one honest, honesty is not the characteristic of all who come to the city markets from the country districts. "You hear the creaking of the dishonest farm waggon in almost every street of our great cities, a farm waggon in which there is not one honest spoke or one truthful rivet from tongue to tailboard." The tendency in all rural districts is to suppose that sins and transgressions cluster in our great cities; but citizens and merchants long ago learned that it is not safe to calculate from the character of the apples on the top of the farmer's barrel what is the character of the apples all the way down toward the bottom. Milk-cans are not always honest. The producer sometimes practically says to the merchant, "You get your money easily, anyhow." Does he get it easily? Let those who get their living in the quiet farm and barn take the place of one of our city merchants, and see whether it is so easy. It is hard enough to have the hands blistered with outdoor work, but it is harder with mental anxieties to have the brain consumed. God help the merchants! And do not let those who live in country life come to the conclusion that all the dishonesties belong to city life.

II. I PASS ON TO CONSIDER COMMERCIAL LIES. There are those who apologise for deviation from the right and for practical deception by saying it is commercial custom. In other words, a lie by multiplication becomes a virtue. There are large fortunes gathered in which there is not one drop of the sweat of unrequited toil, and not one spark of bad temper flashes from the bronze bracket, and there is not one drop of needlewoman's heart's blood on the crimson plush; while there are other fortunes about which it may be said that on every door-knob, and on every figure of the carpet, and on every wall, there is the mark of dishonour. There are large fortunes upon which God's favour comes down, and it is just as honest and just as Christian to be affluent as it is to be poor. In many a house there is a blessing on every pictured wall, and on every scroll, and on every traceried window, and the joy that flashes in the lights, and that showers in the music, and that dances in the quick feet of the children pattering through the hall has in it the favour of God and the approval of man. But you and I know that there are in commercial life those who are guilty of great dishonesties of speech. A merchant says, "I am selling these goods at less than cost." Is he getting for these goods a price inferior to that which he paid for them? Then he has spoken the truth. Is he getting more? Then he lies. But there are just as many falsehoods before the counter as there are behind the counter. A customer comes in and asks, "How much is this article? " "It is five dollars." "I can get that for four somewhere else." Can he get it for four somewhere else, or did he say that just for the purpose of getting it cheap by depreciating the value of the goods? If so, he lied. Who would take the responsibility of saying how many falsehoods were yesterday told by hardware men, and clothiers, and lumbermen, and tobacconists, and jewellers, and importers, and shippers, and dealers in furniture, and dealers in coal, and dealers in groceries?

III. I PASS ON TO SPEAK OF MECHANICAL FALSEHOODS. Among the artisans are those upon whom we are dependent for the houses in which we live, the garments we wear, the cars in which we ride. The vast majority of them are, so far as I know them, men who speak the truth. I am speaking now of those who promise to do that which they know they will not be able to do. They say they will come on Monday; they do not come until Wednesday. They say they will have the job done in ten days; they do not get it done before thirty. So in all styles of work there are those who are not worthy of their work.

IV. I PASS ON TO SPEAK OF SOCIAL LIES. How much of society is insincere! You hardly know what to believe. They send their regards; you do not exactly know whether it is an expression of the heart or an external civility. They ask you to come to their house; you hardly know whether they really want you to come. We are all accustomed to take a discount from what we hear. Social life is struck through with insincerity. They apologise for the fact that the furnace is out; they have not had any fire in it all the winter. They apologise for the fare on their table; they never live any better. They decry their most luxurious entertainment to win a shower of approval from you. On small incomes we want the world to believe we are affluent, and society to-day is struck through with cheat and counterfeit and sham. How few people are natural!

V. I PASS ON TO SPEAK OF ECCLESISTICAL LIES, those which are told for the advancement or retarding of a church or sect. It is hardly worth your while to ask an extreme Calvinist what an Arminian believes. He will tell you an Arminian believes that a man can save himself. An Arminian believes no such thing. It is hardly worth your while to ask an extreme Arminian what a Calvinist believes. He will tell you that a Calvinist believes that God made some men just to damn them. A Calvinist believes no such thing. Then how often is it that there are misrepresentations on the part of individual churches in regard to other churches, especially if a church comes to great prosperity.

VI. LET US IN ALL DEPARTMENTS OF LIFE STAND BACK FROM DECEPTION. "Oh!" says some one, "the deception that I practise is so small it don't amount to anything." Ah! my friends, it does amount to a great deal. "Oh!" you say, "when I deceive, it is only about a case of needles, or a box of buttons, or a row of pins." The article may be so small you can put it in your vest pocket; but the sin is as big as the Pyramids, and the echo of your dishonour will reverberate through the mountains of eternity. There is no such thing as a small sin. They are all vast and stupendous, because they will have to come under inspection in the day of judgment. My friends, let us make our life correspond to what we are. Let us banish all deception from our behaviour. Let us remember that the time comes when God will demonstrate before an assembled universe just what we are. The secret will come out. We may hide it while we live, but we cannot hide it when we die.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

In a room glazed with yellow glass the photographer would get heat and light from the sunshine, but he could not produce a photograph because yellow glass, while it lets in the light and heat of the sun, keeps out the chemical or actinic ray necessary to produce a portrait. And so it is true of many that, while they live in the free light and warmth of the gospel day, while the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world shines upon and all round them, they are not savingly changed, they are not transformed by the light into the image of God. So in the case of Gehazi, Judas, and Ananias, covetousness prevented the shining of the example of those around from converting and blessing the heart.

An ingenious attempt to defraud was detected at the United States Mint recently. A package purporting to contain gold grains was delivered there by express from Little Rock. The general appearance of the grains was much like that daily received, and they also bore successfully the acid test. Subsequently a careful analysis was made to ascertain what the article really was and of what it was composed. The result was astonishing, revealing an ingenious device for the deception of parties dealing in gold bullion. The grains were found to be nothing more nor less than steel filings, and to give them the appearance of grains of the precious metal they were covered with fine gold, which was made to adhere by the use of a composition of turpentine. The Church and the world are often similarly imposed upon. Hypocrites are often able to pick up a coating of cant phrases and wear a sanctimonious appearance who are really base metal. Though the deception may succeed here, and for a time, ultimate detection is inevitable.

Christians say that they will give a tenth of their incomes, or more, to the work of Christ; and then comes a hard year of tightening in the market. They now think to themselves with a sweet caution, "I must retrench in benevolence this season." Sometimes Christians make a show of contribution, but adroitly manage to get back a fair percentage.

Now, half the trouble which many people take to be smooth and worthless impostors in religion would make them genuine Christians. A lie is a great deal harder to tell than the truth. It is actually harder to be a successful hypocrite than to be a successful Christian. In the one case God is continually helping us. In the other case God is hindering us, and all the time is exposing us to detection and disgrace. It is really easier to possess a sincere heart-piety, and to let that inward light shine out naturally from the countenance and the conduct, than it is to go through life wearing the mask of false profession. To be a true Christian is a constant joy. To seem to be one when we are not is to wear a hateful galling yoke of bondage. In order to keep up appearances an insincere professor is incessantly obliged to do many things which are exceedingly distasteful and even loathsome. He must utter many a solemn falsehood which sticks in his throat. He must forfeit all self-respect. He must perform many a penance, and call it a pleasure. He lives in the constant dread that his mask may slip aside and reveal his real character. For no man ever went through a whole false life of professed piety without awakening occasional suspicion of his "godly sincerity." Sometimes a sudden emergency jerks the mask aside and exposes the dissembler. Oh! what a wretched life is led by him who, in trying to "keep afloat" before his fellow-creatures, is constantly striving to caulk up those fatal leaks which he knows are sending him to the bottom!

(H. W. Beecher.)

We have here the first great danger that arose from within the Christian Church. In the foregoing chapter a serious danger arose from without. Two of the apostles were cast into prison. This was the first storm of human rage that broke upon the infant Church, and it passed away, like many a storm of wind upon the tender plants of nature, without doing serious damage. But dangers from within are more to be dreaded. One traitor in the camp is more terrible than a host of enemies. One little worm in the heart of a plant is more destructive than the wildest tempest. Many a noble youth and many a young congregation have been sadly injured by worldly-mindedness. Note —

I. PETER DETECTING HYPOCRISY. The sin of these people was the common crime of great profession with little principle and less practice. They wished to be counted generous, while they were really selfish; and seeming to care little for the world, they were intensely ambitious, and anxious to get as much as possible of human praise and worldly commendation. This is an evil against which we have need to watch. Liberality is now fashionable in the Church. A man was famous in ancient times as he laid his axe upon the thick trees of Lebanon, and brought them clown to build the Jewish temple. A man is famous at the present day when he is able to give ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand pounds, for the support of public charities or the extension of the gospel. These are noble deeds, which we cordially commend, but it is not impossible that in accordance with the generous fashions of our period many a large gift may be laid upon the altar of benevolence from no higher motive, and with no better purpose, than to stand well in public estimation. When Ananias and Sapphira came into the presence of Peter with their hypocrisy they were detected. Most likely the good Spirit endowed him with the power of discerning evil spirits. Certain it is that God is able to read the heart and motive of every man; and though we may succeed in imposing upon men, we must remember that God looks, with perfect eye, into all our professions, and thoroughly tests their sincerity. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked."

II. PETER EXPOSING FALSEHOOD. "Be sure thy sin will find thee out," is written on one page of God's Bible and on many pages of God's providence. The efforts made to conceal a fault enhance its crime, and make the consequences more serious. Sin is often more than doubled before it is detected or checked or punished. "He that does one fault at first, and lies to hide it, makes it two." The two or the two thousand faults spring from one. There was a first fault with the man who complained that his iniquities were more than the hairs upon his head.

1. The apostle calls the sin by its proper name, and traces it to its evil source. "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie?" Falsehood for the sake of worldly gain is one of the coolest and meanest crimes which a man is able to commit. The man smiles, and smiles again, to do his villainy. He is not only Satan-taught when his heart is filled to lie, but Satan-like, for every movement is crooked and cunning as the motions of a serpent. We read of Satan, in the days of Job, presenting himself, like an angel of light, with an air of piety, among the sons of God. He told our first parents (Genesis 3:5) great lies, which have their counterpart in those which men utter, by speech or action, when they wish their heartless worship to be taken for true devotion; put on a fair robe of friendship to cover the worst of enmity; or condescend to the meanness of a base transaction, as if it were a royal road to wealth, fame, and happiness.

2. Peter also exposed the essence of the crime. It was a daring offence against high Heaven — "unto God." These words must have had a startling effect upon the transgressor. We have seen a child suffused with crimson shame and tears of bitter sorrow when caught and, checked in the utterance of falsehood. We have seen a man grow pale as a winding-sheet, struck silent as the dumb, and unable for a time to breathe a word of apology or a prayer for pardon when shown that he had been uttering a list of untruths. You can fancy what a person must feel in an open court, before a crowd of people, when a letter is produced in his own handwriting to show that he has spoken and sworn deceitfully. The man who sows handfuls of falsehood may be expected to reap sheaves of shame and sorrow and suffering. "All liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

III. PETER CONDEMNING THE GUILTY. His words embodied a severe reproof — "Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?" The question is sharper than any two-edged sword, and must have cut the guilty man most deeply. He was, no doubt, expecting great praise for his liberality. It was a meeting of the Church, where the apostles were waiting to receive the Christian offerings for the common treasury. Ananias stepped forward with an air of peculiar importance, and when he told of selling the estate and laid down the money he would look for a hearty commendation from Peter and a round of applause from the people. But what is this? Peter looks oppressed with sorrow and displeasure; the people are silent and still. And when the apostle proceeded to describe the sin and curse of falsehood, his condemnation would fall upon the soul of Ananias like a thunderbolt. It did so fall, not from the hand of Peter, but the hand of God, and the deceiver was laid prostrate in the stillness of death. His wife, three hours afterwards, appeared at the place of meeting with similar expectations to those of her husband. She anticipated many tender and hearty greetings from the assembled disciples; but when she entered all was solemnity and sorrow. The poor woman looked round in vain for a smile or sign of approbation. Her husband, too, was absent: none had dared to whisper to her that he was away to his grave; and when Peter asked about the land and its price she was ready to repeat and confirm her husband's falsehood. Foolhardy presumption! Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished. Like Ananias, she must be carried to a dishonoured grave; and in an instant she fell down and yielded up the ghost. Such was the first great danger within the Christian Church. The early Church was delivered by a stroke of judgment that must have clothed every member in sackcloth. We read that when Achan was taken from his tent and stoned for stealing the spoils of Jericho the impression made upon the Israelites was so profound that the scene of execution was named the Valley of Achor; or, the Vale of Sorrow. And here we have the Achor of the Christian Church; for assuredly the apostles and their people would retire from this awful meeting with bitter tears and bleeding hearts to mourn the terrible doom of Ananias and Sapphira.

(J. Thompson, A. M.)

I. THE CHARACTER OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA.

1. Like ourselves, they belonged to a nation greatly blessed by God.

2. Like us, the heirs of religious memories and influences.

3. Like all of us, believers in the doctrines of Christianity; not infidels.

4. Like many of us, Church members — members of the Jerusalem, pentecostal Church — the Church of James, Barnabas, and Philip, noted for its orthodoxy, faith, and good works.

5. Like many of us, they did not go to the prayer meeting (compare Acts 4:31 with Acts 5:3). They missed the blessing and exposed themselves to temptation.

6. Like most of us, probably neither very rich nor very poor (Agur's prayer).

7. A harmonious couple (Acts 5:9).

(1)Are you helping your husband or wife to heaven or hell?

(2)Marry only in the Lord.

8. On the whole they were very reputable and highly-esteemed disciples.

II. THEIR TEMPTATION.

1. Temptation common to all. Its uses.

2. The particular temptation — a desire to gain popularity without losing their property.

III. Their sin.

1. Lying without speaking; giving a part of the worship of God for the whole.

2. Its essence a broken vow, aggravated by —

(1)Lying;

(2)Irreverence. The guilt of our broken vows aggravated by —

(3)Greater light, and —

(4)Greater mercies.

IV. THEIR PUNISHMENT.

1. Sudden death a mercy to those prepared.

2. A blessing to Ananias and Sapphira, because it saved them from a long life of lying and hypocrisy.

3. Why, then, were they slain? Not because their guilt was greater, but —

4. As an example to us: like Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3), and Uzzah (2 Samuel 6.l-9).APPLICATION. Our broken vows.

1. Unpaid subscriptions.

2. As Church officers.

3. As Church members.

4. At baptism.

5. At the Communion table.

6. To dying friends.

7. In sickness.

(J. B. Converse.)

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