And as they spoke to the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came on them,…
Peter's discourse delivered on this text woke impulses and started efforts both amongst the adherents and opponents of the true religion that introduced a new order of things. Notice —
I. A NEW IMPULSE TO THE WORLD'S ANTAGONISM TO CHRISTIANITY. Observe —
1. The representatives of this antagonism — the world against the Church, the defenders of the false in theory and the corrupt in practice. Religion, "the priests"; politics, "the captain of the temple"; scepticism, "the Sadducees" conspired to crush the young Church. The hostile sections of a wicked world are ever ready to merge their differences in an attack on the Divinely pure and good. Pilate and Herod became friends on a similar occasion.
2. The reason of this antagonism. The priests were "grieved" because the apostles arrogated their teaching office; the captain because social tranquility was disturbed; the Sadducees because the resurrection was proclaimed. Wicked men hate truth for different reasons, and according to their passions and interests.
3. Its development. The persecutors
(1) Imprisoned the apostles.
(2) Arraigned them.
(3) Threatened them.So the antagonism was strong in spirit, but futile in efforts. In sooth, all endeavours to crush truth are fruitless and self-confounding.
II. A NEW DEMONSTRATION OF GOD'S POWER IN CHRISTIANITY.
1. In multiplying its adherents (ver. 4). Though the clouds gather, the sun rises. The tides flow, though the force of the mightiest tempest bears against them; and God's truth moves on to universal empire, though earth and hell combine against it. "Howbeit," aye, and not only despite it, but because of it. Persecution does two things which give an impulse to the course of the Christian martyr. It presents on the one side such a hideous manifestation of evil as produces a social recoil, and on the other such an exhibition of Christian goodness as awakens sympathy and admiration. As the aromatic plant emits its sweetest odours by pressure, so Christian character gains charm by suffering. As the stars only shine at night, so the brightest virtues can only shine in trial.
2. In strengthening its advocates. See how they heroically expound their cause.
(1) The miracle was wrought by Him whom they had crucified.
(2) He whom they had crucified had become pre-eminent in the universe. What they had rejected God had honoured. Observe —
(a) That men in their enterprises often reject the Divine.
(b) That though they reject the Divine, the Divine shall be honoured at last to their confusion.
(c) That He whom they had crucified was the only One that could save them.
3. In confounding its enemies.
(1) They were astonished, and two things would heighten the astonishment.
(a) The intellectual and social position of the men. Pedants in every age consider those illiterate who do not know exactly that branch of learning in which they pride themselves. The linguist, e.g., despises the man who does not understand languages, although he may know much better the wonders of God's universe. So Peter and John were not up in Rabbinical lore, but were well acquainted with more important matters.
(b) Their connection with Christ, the carpenter's son, and the crucified malefactor.
(2) They were silenced. Facts are stubborn things. The way to silence Christ's enemies is to show them lame men walking.
3. They were perplexed. They felt that something must be done, but what they know not. Seventy of a nation's magnates were confounded by two peasants. It is heaven's law that the opponents of the truth shall involve themselves in inextricable bewilderment.
4. They were thwarted (vers. 19, 20). Note here —
(1) That the will of God is the imperial rule of life, whether of monarch or slave.
(2) That universal conscience sanctions the supreme law. "Judge ye."(3) That gospel truth, when fully felt, is an irrepressible force. "We cannot but speak." "Necessity is laid upon me." Conclusion. Mark the difference in the effect of Peter's discourse and that on Pentecost. None seem here to have been pricked to the heart, although the same truths were preached. Why? Doubtless because of the different character of the audiences.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,