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.
The richness of any material lessens the necessity for adornment. The finest gems are the simplest set, because no environment can add either to their beauty or value. The story of the Beautiful gate is in itself a gem of such inherent worth, that, like Plato's Republic, it needs no rhetorical setting. We can hardly imagine the introduction to any great truth told with greater simplicity than this: "Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour." And yet these words lead us to the consideration of a truth comprehensive of the whole scope of practical Christianity. Our first lesson is this —
1. The disciples of Christ in the regular performance of their daily duties have ample opportunities for charity, and hence the necessity of mutual helpfulness. Objects of charity naturally divide themselves into two classes: first, those who are strong enough to approach us for help; and, secondly, those who are so weak that we must approach them to give help. Peter dealt with the latter class. While energy lies at the basis of benevolent deeds, yet no extraordinary exertion is required to discover the impotent men of this world. God usually finds them for us somewhere along the line of our daily duty. God may discover one man's object of charity in the heathenism of China; another's on the frontiers of our own civilisation; and yours between your own dwelling and the village church.
2. Wherever there is ability to do good there is always close at hand some object that needs it. The Christian system is so manifold in its organism that a place is afforded for every variety and degree of talents. No Christian is wholly lacking in ability. We are all creatures of want, and mutually dependent on one another. In practice, as in theory, the subjective and the objective are in juxtaposition. We are sometimes misled by the impression that only great deeds count in the kingdom of God.
3. Every Christian can impart vastly more than the impotent man anticipates. Peter's object of charity was a most dismal sight. Placed before a temple whose cost and magnificence filled all the world with its fame. It is the old, old story repeated again and again to the burning shame of the ages, that costly temples can be built while the more valuable temple of humanity must beg beneath their sculptured arches for bread. We may pause to inquire what Peter had to give more valuable than silver and gold. He had the Christ of history, the Christ of his own rich experience, to impart, which was infinitely more valuable than all the world's material treasure. "Christ, Christ," I hear the impotent man repeat, "what need I of Christ? I only want the means of driving away the pangs of starvation." Then says Peter, with all the authority accorded to an inspired apostle, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." You will notice that the man had merely asked for the means of buying bread; he receives the power to earn his own bread, which was far better. Do we not all receive from God more than we ask for, and infinitely more than we deserve? Two inferences from the above. Men are everywhere about us in spiritual impotency, and they recognise it not. We, as Christ's disciples, have power to help them more than they anticipate, or we ourselves imagine, until it has been put forth. If religion is of supreme moment to the human soul, how is spiritual impotency possible? Simply because the sinner's free will positively refuses the spiritual antidote. We have seen that want and the ability to relieve it go hand in hand. Is it true in the vegetable world where by the side of every poison grows its antidote? Is it true in the animal world where the bitten creature knows where to go for remedial efficacy? Who tells the birds of the tropics that a certain leaf placed over the nest protects their little ones from preying reptiles? Is it likely that "man, the paragon of animals," when bitten by sin should be in ignorance as to the antidote? Let the spiritual impotent "fasten his eyes" on the Truth, and he will receive a larger blessing than he anticipates.
4. Through human means a complete work is accomplished by bringing Christ into actual contact with human wants. There is a mighty power in human sympathy. But sympathy in the abstract is meaningless. It has content only as it is applied to an object. There are two ways in which we may express our sympathy with sinners. First by mingling with them for mere companionship, which always lowers us to their level; and, secondly, by mingling with them for the sole purpose of doing them good, which tends to raise them to our level. We need never be ashamed nor afraid to go wherever we can take Christ with us. It is only through personal, sympathetic contact that the impotent men of this world are likely to know of God and the power of His salvation. Suppose Peter had sent a written message from his home to the impotent man, saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk," the presumption is that the man would have died as he had lived, impotent. No, the two must come into vital, sympathetic contact. The weakness of the one must arouse the curative energies of the other as they associate.
5. The place where impotent men first find their Lord is always a beautiful gate to them. The place of our natural birth is dear to us. But the place of our spiritual new birth cannot be any the less so. It is a beauty that overrides every material consideration. Thus through life by doing and receiving good are beautiful gates made. By doing good along the quiet lines of our daily duties not only do we confirm our own Christian characters, but strengthen the characters and increase the joys of our fellow-men.
(C. H. Ricketts.)
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.