Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
What a remarkable combination of poverty which can give nothing, with power which can do almost anything! "Silver and gold have I none" — then we are ready at once to class him with the men from whom no help is to be expected, with those who hang upon others. The speech, however, does not end there. "Rise up and walk," says the penniless man. Why, Pilate who was the great man at Jerusalem, or Caesar who was yet greater at Rome, would never have dared to utter anything so bold. Peter, however, ventured in Christ's name, and the result was perfect soundness given immediately by the great Author of life, who has made our frames so curiously and can repair them so easily. St. Peter walked through the streets of Jerusalem on that memorable morning an unobserved and undistinguished man. Many passed him by, probably, who had upon them the trappings of worldly wealth, or were swelling with the pride of office, and if they looked the obscure Galilean in the face, would have taken him for one of the many thousand drudges who filled the streets of Jerusalem. Yet was there a hidden power within which made him really greater than the world's rulers. And the contrast was equally striking between the utterly defenceless condition of Peter and John and the boldness with which they bore their simple emphatic testimony as witnesses for Christ. Precisely of the same character was the apostle's defence of the next day before the council. The history of mankind shows nothing grander than these two appearances of the first preacher of the gospel before two such audiences. But I wish you to notice that in the text we have not only a plain historical account of something said and done by one eminent saint, but —
I. A SYMBOLICAL ACCOUNT OF THE CHURCH'S WORK IN MANY AGES. It was specially true of the apostles, considering the place they filled, the work they wrought, the testimony they bore, the blessings they dispensed, that being "poor," they "made many rich"; but numbers, like-minded with them, have trod in their steps, and have earned their praise. The Church which they founded has often been poor as they were. Yet at those very times, more than in her more prosperous days, she has said to many a crippled soul, "Rise up and serve thy God." Just when she had nothing to bribe men with, when her life would have been destroyed if it had not been "hidden with Christ in God," then she has been strengthened with might by Him whose servant and witness she is, and her tones have been louder than before, her port loftier, her message clearer, her triumphs more blessed. She has gone abroad from city to city, or from village to village, proclaiming aloud, "'Silver and gold have I none.' Let the men who covet either go elsewhere and seek them; they are often baits to snare men's souls. But I carry with me better treasures. I teach the man of halting pace and crippled limb to run in the ways of righteousness." Thus often has the Church prophesied in sackcloth, and while many have called her traitress because she would not bow down to images of gold, and some have branded her with heresy, because her message squared not with the creeds that were most in favour at court, others have come thronging from their homes to give her their greeting and blessing. Look, e.g., at the sixteenth century, and the man who did more than any other to distinguish it from the ages of black darkness which went before it. Who was it that said to prostrate Europe, "Rise up and walk"? It was the son of a Saxon miner, singing Christmas carols at fourteen, that he might earn a few pence to supply the cravings of hunger, the companion of the poor till the fame of his deeds brought him to the company of princes. There were mighty princes in that day, one of them governing a larger portion of Europe, and swaying its destinies more absolutely than any single potentate of our own time. On one occasion the monk and the emperor met face to face, and who that reads the scene must not see that the man of power grew little by the side of the fearless, upright champion of truth? It was Peter and the Jewish council over again. If. But we will come to humbler scenes and more every-day characters.
1. Look at one of God's saints. He has lived a life of faith, and in his humble way has honoured God, served the Church, blessed his generation. And now the day is come that he must depart hence. No inventory need be taken of his goods; no will is wanted. Such an one might say to his weeping children, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee." And who shall despise the legacy? It is better than the miser's gold. They are not poor, but rich, who inherit his blessing and his prayers; but how often does the portion of the covetous turn to poverty! It looks like a spreading tree rich in foliage and fruit; but a worm is at the root, and lo! one branch withers, and then another, till at last nothing but a bare trunk is left.
2. Take instances from among the living. Look at the lone woman, whose week's pittance just buys her week's bread, giving kind looks, pleasant words, spare half-hours, to some ailing or afflicted friend. Look at the little child, who never had a sixpence perhaps of its own, dutiful at home, gentle and patient abroad, running on errands for the sick, brightening with its innocent look and cheerful prattle some desolate fireside where infant -voices were once heard, but are now heard no more. Look at some aged man of God, who finds it hard to make his weakened limbs hold out from Sunday to Sunday, ministering to the sick, offering a word in season to the reckless, pointing the dying sinner to the Lamb of God, comforting many a tried and tempted brother with cordials from the storehouse of God's promises. Do not all these say in turn, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee"? Is it not a blessed work, that of ministering out of our little to those who have less? Is not your scanty fare the sweeter when you come home from making some dark chambers more bright, and some heavy hearts more hopeful? Very precious are alms like these, worth a hundred times more than the money gifts of the wealthy, ranking higher in God's account, bestowed at greater cost, more blessed proofs of the power .of faith. Oh! if the poor, one and all, were a brotherhood of living, loving Christians, they might almost do without help from others, help from each other to each other would be dispensed so wisely and so seasonably, and large-hearted generosity would find such a response in warm-hearted gratitude.
3. God forbid, however, that because they might befriend their equals more, we should befriend any of them less! God forbid that the miserably stinted measure of all our charities should descend to a yet lower standard!
(1) Many have leisure. How many hours in a month are given by many to any public object? What is the world the better for their mot being compelled to toil at some allotted task?
(2) We might pursue the subject and speak of knowledge, worldly influence, talents of any special kind. Whose are they? Who gave them? Whose are you? Who redeemed you and told you that you were not your own?
(3) And if we speak of what man may do for his brother-man, our prayers, surely, must not be forgotten. Who can say to a neighbour, "What I have give I thee," if he be not one who remembers them all in turn, when he pleads for his own mercies before the throne of grace?
(J. Hampden Gurney, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.