Acts 6:7
And the Word of God increased, etc. Connect with the preceding description of a prayerful, obedient, spiritually minded Church. How different the result might have been had the murmuring gone on to increase and become a strife which would have broken up fellowship, dishonored the Name of Jesus, and stopped the mouths of the preachers!

I. THE FIELD in which such fruits were gathered - Jerusalem and neighborhood.

1. In some measure prepared for the new seed. God works by a deeply laid method of orderly progress The gospel the beginning of the new world because it was the end of the old; taking up into itself all that was really Divine m Judaism.

2. Broken up by the new ministry, so different from that of scribes and Pharisees.

3. A continuation of Christ's own work, upon the basis of the great facts of his history.

II. THE LABOURERS.

1. Apostles. Their spirit and method adapted to achieve spiritual success; informal; earnest; devout; inspired. Accompanied with miraculous attestation.

2. The multitude of believers. All spoke more or less. Their fellowship was an eloquent fact. Their order and self-denial and separation from the world.

III. THE HARVEST.

1. Large. Immense population of Jerusalem; continually changing.

2. Representative of the future. The center of religious life, sending streams of light over the world; devout men of all nations. Special adaptation of the Jewish mind to preaching. Knowledge of the Old Testament. Connection with Greek through Alexandria, with Latin through Rome.

3. Wonderful. Overcoming Jewish prejudice; winning many of the priests, notwithstanding opposition and persecution; foretelling the downfall of Judaism. Multiplication of disciples a spiritual fruit. Let God add to the Church. Preserve the distinction between the Church and the world. - R.







And the Word of God increased.
I. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS PROSPERITY MAY BE PROCURED. Nothing can avail without —

1. The operation of the Holy Spirit and the smile from heaven. Paul planteth, Apollos watereth, and God giveth the increase.

2. The plain preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been struck with the downrightness of the testimony of the Reformers. It was so with Farren, Luther, Calvin, etc. They did not aim at lofty periods and flowing eloquence; but they just dashed right on with this one truth, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." And if we are to see the Church of God really restored to her pristine glory, we must have back this plain, simple, gospel-preaching. Sunday-school teachers, you must teach this same gospel.

3. Much holy living to back it all up. After we have done the sermon, people say, "How about the people that attend there? Are they such people as you can trust? What about their homes? Do they make good husbands, good servants, kind masters?" And if the report of our character be bad it is all over with our testimony. The doctor may advertise, but if the patients are not cured, he is not likely to establish himself as being well skilled in his art; and the preacher may preach, but if his people do not live the gospel, they kick down with their feet what he builds up with his hands. The early Reformers were distinguished by the sanctity of their lives. When they were about to hunt out the Waldenses, the French king sent a priest to see what they were like, and be, honest man as he was, came back and said, "They seem to be much better Christians than we are. I am afraid they are heretics, but I would that all Catholics were as good as they are." This was what made the gospel victorious in those days.

4. Individual, personal exertion. No Church can have prosperity if only a part of the members are active. It was thought among Christians that we ministers were to do all the work, and that you were to sit still and enjoy the sermon, and perhaps pull it to pieces. Let me give you a parable. A certain band had been victorious in all their conflicts. But on a sudden they said in the council-chamber, "We have at our head a most valiant warrior, one whose arm is stout enough to smite down fifty of his adversaries; would it not be better if, with a few such as he to go out to the fight, the mere men-at-arms, who make up the ordinary ranks, were to stop at home?" Now, the foremost champions, with fear and trembling, undertook the task and went to the conflict, and they fought well, and did great exploits. But still no city was taken, no province was conquered, and they met together and said, "How is this? Our former prestige is forgotten; our ranks are broken; our pennons are trailed in the dust; what is the cause of it?" When out spoke the champion, and said, "Of course it is so! How did you think that some twelve or fifteen of 'us could do the work of all the thousands? When every man took his share, we dashed upon the foe like an avalanche; but now that you stay at home and put us, but a handful, to do all the work, how can you expect that great things should be done?" So each man resolved to put on his helmet and his armour once again, and go to the battle, and so victory returned. And if we are to have the victory you must be every one of you in the fight.

5. Much earnest prayer. Nothing is impossible to the man who knows how to overcome heaven by wrestling intercession. According to your faith shall it be done unto you.

6. More intense glowing spiritual life.

II. THE RESULTS WHICH FLOW FROM THIS PROSPERITY.

1. Souls are saved. John Owen said that if you bad to preach to a whole nation for a twelvemonth, in order to win one soul, it would be good wages. Richard Knill once said, that if there were only one unconverted person in the wilds of Siberia, and that God had ordained that every Christian in the world must go and talk to that one person before he would be converted, it would be an exceedingly little thing for us all to do.

2. The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is glorified.

3. The Church is edified. As those who promote sanitary measures for the benefit of the neighbourhood are thereby favouring the conditions of their own health, so the promulgation of saving knowledge throughout the world is augmenting the peace and the welfare of our own hearts, and of all who are already saved.

III. THE ALTERNATIVE. Either we must get a high state of prosperity, or else we shall lack what is to be dreaded to the very uttermost. I have seen congregations broken to pieces, and churches split up, and the bottom of it all has been because vital godliness has been drained out of the system.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE HINDRANCES.

1. The apostles had to preach to them as sinners, who, because of their ungodliness and pride, necessarily hated the gospel, which opposes itself to these evils.

2. Besides these elements of opposition, which they possessed in common with their fellow-creatures throughout the world, there were national hindrances, formalism, self-righteousness, and exclusiveness.

3. The class that was most especially opposed to the gospel from their position in society were the priests. These were first pledged to their own system, as its teachers. Their pride as teachers would rise up against the idea of renouncing this system, to which they had been so long and so warmly attached. And then their interests, as priests, were likely to be altogether subverted by the substitution of the gospel for Judaism. Their power and their wealth were both at stake.

II. ENCOURAGEMENTS. The apostles were aided —

1. By having to address to those whom they endeavoured to convert, the testimony respecting undeniable and signal facts. The Jews might oppose their various theoretical objections to the gospel, and doubtless did; but to all these the apostles could adduce in answer, plain great facts which they did not adduce from hearsay, but of which they were themselves the witnesses.

2. By the moral force of the doctrine which they had to convey.

3. By their personal character.

4. B the Divine assistance which was guaranteed. Conclusion: Our hindrances are just those which prevailed at the first preaching of the gospel, which were overborne and mastered by the first disciples of Jesus Christ, and therefore may be by His disciples now, for the very means which they possessed for wrestling with these difficulties are possessed by ourselves.

(Baptist Noel.)

I. THE WORD OF GOD INCREASED.

1. The number of its preachers increased. Stephen and Philip certainly, and the other deacons probably, were added to the company of preachers. Times of revival are always times for recruiting the ranks of the ministry.

2. The preachers declared it with augmented industry and power, encouraged by signs of Divine approval, and by the favour of the people.

3. The people received it in constantly increasing numbers, and passed it on.

II. THE DISCIPLES MULTIPLIED.

1. Converts were made. There is no surer sign of spiritual adversity than few or no conversions. For this architecture, music, wealth, etc., are no compensation. But a Church worshipping in some upper room where money is scarce, and ecclesiastical aesthetics non-existent, but where disciples are multiplied, is in a prosperous state.

2. They were made in the least likely place. In Jerusalem, the stronghold of Jewish bigotry, where that spirit was in the ascendant which had crucified the Master. Had this been in Galilee, where the prejudice was not so intense, it would not have called for so much remark. So it is a blessed thing when those predisposed in favour of the gospel — the children of pious parents, etc., are brought to Christ; but it is still more glorious when the Word of God is received by heathen, either abroad or at home.

3. They were made in great numbers. Not in ones and twos, but in multitudes. It is sad when a Church has to congratulate itself that it holds its own, and that the additions fill the gaps made by removals or deaths. No Church is prosperous which does not keep pace with the growth of the population. The same power which converted multitudes in Jerusalem can do the same in London.

III. A GREAT COMPANY OF PRIESTS WERE OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH.

1. They had everything to lose and nothing to gain, and so their conversion and adhesion to the Church was a great argument in favour of the truth of the gospel. And so it is in any age when notorious opponents are converted.

2. All their learning and prestige were now consecrated to the cause of Christ. Frequently the conversion of one man or woman in an influential position or of great ability is of more value than the conversion of scores of others, because of the higher vantage ground they occupy.

3. These, too, were converted in great numbers. There is nothing unreasonable in this. The power that can convert one can convert multitudes.

4. Their conversion was thorough, "obedient unto the faith."

(J. W. Burn.)

A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith
The Jewish priesthood was of great dignity and influence. The office was hereditary, and its members constituted a national aristocracy. Every priest could trace back his pedigree to Aaron, and no matter to what straits of poverty he might be brought his social position was unchanged. He was exempt from taxation and military service. The number of priests during the period of our Lord's life, Josephus estimated at twenty thousand. For reasons plainly to be seen, the Jewish authorities arrayed themselves in bitter hostility against the Prophet of Nazareth, and the most blood-thirsty of His enemies were God's anointed priests. The political condition of Palestine was then strange and anomalous. David's throne was occupied by a creature of the Emperor of Rome, and foreign soldiers kept the Jewish people in subjection. The Church outrivalled the state in degeneracy. Her priesthood, greedy, dissolute, and infidel, demanded unlawful fees for every temple service, disgraced the religion they professed, by the inhumanity and profligacy of their lives. With such a condition of things, no wonder that the Son of God met with the cruelty that He did: no wonder that even the chief priests were loudest in their clamours that He should die. When the Saviour rose from the dead, His scattered followers forthwith flocked about His standard, and began their great work of the conversion of the world. The first martyr, Stephen, laid down his life for the truth. On the very eve of his ordination to the office of deacon we are told that "the Word of God increased, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." It is no longer merely a company of ignorant fishermen and soft-hearted women who are found to take sides with the crucified Jesus, but the very class of men who could have been least expected to make such a sacrifice. Surely, among all the evidences afforded of the truth of the Christian religion, this is one of wonderful force and significance. Had one or two priests yielded to the overwhelming proofs vouchsafed, that Jesus was the Messiah, it would have been a testimony of no little value; but how the weight of testimony is increased when we read that a great company of those who occupied this high social position abandoned everything, and exposed themselves to opposition, ridicule, contempt, persecution, and death, that they might carry out their convictions of duty, and prove, as no men have ever done more clearly, that the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of all acceptation. Once, the contemptuous question had been asked: "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?" (John 7:48). And yet, even then, many" among the chief rulers "already believed in Jesus, "but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue" (John 12:42, and John 19:38). The day was at hand when "a great company of the priests" would acknowledge Jesus to be the Saviour of the world. Faith is here put for the Christian religion, and we are assured in this brief statement that they not only embraced the truths of the gospel as an act of the understanding, but that they pledged themselves to obey its requirements. Surely, then, they who, in our own day, claim to be unbelievers, ought to have very substantial ground to go upon before they rush to the conclusion that the multitudes who have embraced the Christian faith, and who have passed into another world, cheered and comforted by its promises, have all believed a lie!

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)

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