And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul…
It is safe to say that this verse marks one of the world's largest moral strides of progress. It is a landmark in itself, of widest significance. It is a moral landmark of deepest and most grateful omen. Travel through the whole history of the Old Testament, and you come to no spot that can show a sight like this. The nearest approach to it some finger-post prophetic, prophetic of nothing else than this. From this landmark the world has confessedly traveled on again far. But it is not either "taken away" or so much as "removed." It stands where it did, and it is what it was. And it has become also a beacon. Some beacons are for warning, but this for encouragement and for inspiration of the highest degree. In the unanimity so novel and surprising found in this passage of sacred history, there is no great difficulty in distinguishing the essential and permanent amid what was accidental and likely to be temporary. Eighteen centuries fled of the world's and the Church's history have not failed to throw on the subject all necessary light. They have shown that it was none of the genius of Christianity to reduce the complexity of human life and business to a simplicity that would show no problem at all. Christianity has far too much genius for this; its meaning and its resources alike justly more ambitious, almost by an infinite quantity. And they have shown that amid a multitude and a variety of elements and interests, of relationships and duties, Christian principle, motive, and love have been ever engaged, are still engaging themselves, in eliminating one fellowship, one family. Want shall not be more common than resource, nor demand than supply, nor prayer than the loving-kindness which hears and answers, prompt and bountiful. And these things not of physical miracle, but of the community of "kindred minds." Meanwhile we are permitted to examine the conditions of a fellowship that amounted to a unanimity most astonishing. We are permitted to study it not in theory but in actual fact. Notice -
I. THE REAL NATURE OF THIS UNANIMITY SO NOVEL. It is of a moral sort. It is not of an intellectual sort, nor indeed of any other possibly more open to view, but less deep and far-reaching than this. "They were of one heart and one soul. They felt one, wished, hoped, purposed, and sought, as though, instead of being a multitude," they were "all one."
II. THE SOURCE OF THIS UNANIMITY SO NOVEL. One thing, one thing only, accounts for it. It comes from spiritual causes, and is of spiritual birth. It answers to the work of deepest impressions and influences made upon whatever was deepest found in certain men. It is true that certain some, who had "no depth" in them, and had experienced no deep influences, seemed caught by the contagion of it; but what they were really caught by was the contagion of the appearance of it. Long before the sun rose to its "scorching heat" they were "withered away." No entrancing Utopian doctrine captivated the "multitude." The Holy Spirit wrought deep in their heart. No calculations of the doctrines of human society, of science, of economy, showed the way to this unanimity, but only the uncalculatingness of "souls" moved by that same Holy Spirit. The doctrinaire and the professed unbeliever may have their version to give of this unanimity, but to the believer in Scripture it is as important to note as it is impossible to disbelieve it, that this great phenomenon was the fruit of a supernatural Being working in men's hearts. Of all lame philosophies of human life and human events, that is the lamest that leaves out the theology of the simplest version of Christianity.
III. THE VISIBLE EFFECTS OF THIS UNANIMITY WERE NOVEL. These visible effects were practical in their nature. They were such as both pervaded and penetrated - they dominated the life of those in whom they were shown forth. They consisted of good deeds. They were the good deeds of genuine "charity." They bespoke the extinction (at all events for the time) of selfishness, and they furnished a literal example of the fulfilling of "the second great commandment," viz. the loving of one's neighbor as one's self. They were effects that showed no labored attempt, nor even the consciousness of effort, and in these very features of them looked the more like "the fruits of the Spirit." Nor could they be confounded with mere detached and individual good deeds. They were systematic, and if they could be said to leave the giver poorer at all, they left him also poorer for all his life. He gave and gave all that he had to give in many instances, and therein notably differenced himself from the man who may work himself up or be worked up to the point of giving one large subscription, but who has never yet risen to the occasion of giving - in one that largest and least - himself, first to "the Lord and then to his people." But this it is that was the attested outcome of the unanimity of these disciples, that they gave themselves to one another. And of this no account offers itself but one that carries with it the inevitable conclusion, that they had first given themselves to the Lord. However, it is the thing patent with which we have here to do, and that was not the profession of a Divine, but the proof of a mutual, love. Pointing to this unusual "multitude," we may say - nay, all subsequent times have said - "The works that they did bare witness of them." For the rich and those who had, by a voluntary leveling down, and by the simplest, most natural organization, put poverty, want, and their attendant evils to flight. Artificial distinction on the one hand, and envy on the other, sank swift below the horizon. Wonderful transformation to be wrought only by the "Holy Spirit" While it lasted it showed a dispensation by itself, unique, "elect, precious." While it lasted, it exhibited the people of God as "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people," successfully showing forth "the praises of him" who had called them "out of darkness" into what certainly was "marvelous light."
IV. EVERYTHING REMARKABLE IN THIS UNANIMITY WAS SO FAR FORTH INTENSIFIED IN THE MULTITUDE OF THOSE AMONGST WHOM IT WAS PROVED, The greater multitude of any people must carry so much greater variety. Varieties of age and character, of position and of past life, must in this multitude have been strikingly represented. But all these, whatever they were, did "that one and the selfsame Spirit work to a harmony and union unknown before. To think of the vast variety of opinion, and temper, and taste, and feeling, all meekly, obediently, gladly, lowering their pride! They sway themselves into a rest of peace that "the world knoweth not." And worthy of observation indeed is this. It shuts the mouth of the taunt that Christianity is the religion of a clique, of the weak, of the few. It is the open augury of a religion that is to convince, to unite, and to rule all; but its rule, the rule that is most binding of all rule - that of love. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.