And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.…
No doubt there was something in it of a special character. It was held at a moment of danger. There was that, therefore, in the circumstances from which God's mercy has spared us. Should we be here at all, were it otherwise? Those of us who even in quiet times, when it is respectable to be a Christian, cannot conquer indolence, forego inclination, brave a smile or a sneer, in behalf of Christ; what would they do if the voice of the world turned altogether against Christ? Certainly, then, our thanksgivings should arise to God for having permitted us to live in quiet times. And then we ought to set ourselves to make our worship as much like theirs as by God's grace we can.
I. THE MANNER OF THIS WORSHIP. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord." Not their heart only, but their voice.
1. Some have called this the first example of a creed, one of those joint utterances of a common faith which our Church has prescribed to us, e.g., in "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." "Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth," etc.
2. Others have seen in this the proof of the existence of a Liturgy. They have said that, in order to lift up their voice to God in these words, they must first have known them. We will not enter into these arguments: they at least want certainty.
3. It will be enough for us to observe, that, while one spoke, all followed; the well-known voice of St. John or St. Peter led, and they who heard found no difficulty in adding a humble voice, as well as a pure heart, to the words of supplication, accompanying the speaker to the throne of the heavenly grace, and saying the prayer after him. In this elementary point let us be earnest to resemble them. If the heart is engaged, the voice will not be withheld.
II. ITS NATURE. It was —
1. Reverent. How profound is the adoration of God as the alone Great and Good and Holy! How solemn is the sense of that rightful sovereignty over all things! The least that can be looked for in this House of Prayer is reverence; the feeling of the sinful approaching the Sinless, the creature the Creator.
2. Scriptural. "Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said." It is not essential to prayer that it be in Scripture words, but it is essential that it be founded on Scripture doctrine; that our petitions be addressed to God as He is, and not to God as we fancy Him. And we can only know God as He is by becoming acquainted with Him in His Word.
3. Believing. Unbelieving men would have seen only Herod, etc., banded together against God and against His Christ, and said, What are we against the world? But their eye was not thus bounded. Above all human agency for evil, they saw the hand of God working wholly for good. The murder of Jesus, what was it? In itself, a Satanic, a diabolical act; in its consequences, the working out of God's counsel; the redemption of a world.
4. Practical. We are too ready to let our prayers stop with themselves; to be satisfied if a ray of comfort, if a passing thought of peace is left behind them. We have our reward, even as we prescribed it. But these worshippers looked to conduct, to duty, to future trials of their faith and constancy, and asked for grace sufficient. To quicken this zeal, to strengthen this devotion, they pray that God's hand may still be outstretched to heal; that He will never leave them without witness, but will give them daily proof that His holy Servant Jesus is indeed strong to help, mighty to save. We ought in prayer to bethink ourselves of coming trial; and while we trust God implicitly with the unforeseen, to ask His help expressly for that which we can see before us. One word of definite request is worth volumes of vague general aspirations.
(1) In itself; because it is real and means something; because it is the address of a living man to a living God on a topic which concerns life.
(2) In its effects; because one thing actually granted is a proof of being heard; is God's own witness to His own grace; is a token for good, shown and proved, encouraging confidence in Him who is not only the Giver of single blessings, but the Fountain of all goodness, and the very source of life.
III. ITS EFFECTS. An immediate sign followed it. The place was shaken. These things are of the past. Men then looked for outward signs, and wanted them, while faith was young. In this age there is no outward sign which scepticism could not account for: signs would not convince the infidel, and the believing ask not for them. But has God, then, no sign for His people? Has worship no sign of its acceptance? Is there nothing now corresponding to the altar-flame which attested God's regard to man's offering? Yes, there is an inward peace following upon Divine communion: a glow of faith, and a comfort of love, and a joy of hope, by which "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God." He who seeks God with all his heart, on any occasion of worship, shall find Him, and know that he finds: he shall feel it good for him to be here, and he shall be sent on his way rejoicing. Filled with the Holy Ghost, by a conscious communication between his soul and God, he shall go forth, to bear a more manful and a more consistent testimony to the gospel. Conclusion:
1. Expect great things from worship. Worship will be, in great measure, what you make it in your use and expectation. If you look for much, you will also receive much: if you expect little, you will also reap little.
2. Carry your worshipping thoughts forth with you. Let them not be dissipated by idle words, by foolish levity, just outside or even within these walls. The great enemy will watch you after this service, that he may catch away the seed sown.
Parallel VersesKJV: And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.