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TIME.—About A.D. 32.
May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I may
understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it. AMEN.
THE SCRIPTURE. Acts, chap. V. verses 12 to 42. And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solo13 mon's porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them : but 14 the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the 15 Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) Insomuch that they
brought forth the sick into the streets, [or, in every street], and laid
them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing 16 by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out
of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them
which were vexed with unclean spirits : and they were healed every one. 17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which
is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, [or, envy,] 18 and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought 20 them forth, and said, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people 21 all the words of this life.” And when they heard that, they entered into
the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the
senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them 22 brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, 23 they returned, and told, saying, “ The prison truly found we shut with
all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors : but when 24 we had opened, we found no man within.” Now when the high priest
and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, 25 they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and
told them, saying, “ Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are stand26 ing in the temple, and teaching the people.” Then went the captain with
the officers, and brought them without violence : for they feared the peo27 ple, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought
them, they set them before the council : and the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in
this name? and, behold, ye hare filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Then Peter and the other 29 apostles answered and said, “ We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a 30 tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a 31 Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And 32 we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” When they heard that, 33 they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood 34 there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; and said unto men, “ Ye men of Israel, take 35 heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For 36 before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody ; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves : who was slain ; and all, as many as obeyed [or, believed] him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the 37 days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him : he also perished ; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And 38 now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone : for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be 39 of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” And to him they agreed : and when they had called the 40 apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that 41 they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in 42 the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
The fearful judgment inflicted upon Ananias and Sapphira was not the only miraculous testimony given by God to the truth of the Apostles' doctrine ; but they were enabled to perform many miracles of various kinds. In consequence of the power that evidently accompanied their words, there was a general anxiety to profit by its effect upon bodily afflictions : people brought their sick friends out of their houses, and placed them on mattrasses, or couches, in the streets through which Peter was likely to pass; in order that, if the press of the crowd should prevent them from bringing the case of each before his immediate attention, at least some of these helpless persons might be under the shadow of his body as he went by; in the hope that, being so near a person gifted with such extraordinary power, they might receive some of its influence. It does not appear whether any of these sick people did actually receive the benefit they expected from the passing shadow of Peter; though we are told that numbers of sick and afflicted people, especially those who were under the influence of evil spirits, were brought to the Apostles by their relations and friends, not only from different parts of the city of Jerusalem itself, but also from the neighbouring places, and that they were cired of their various complaints.
Such was the effect of the Apostles' power amongst the Jewish people generally: and while these miracles were being wrought upon the mingled crowd who were drawn together, the body of christians was grown so large, that they required some more commodious place for their frequent assemblies, than the private house of any of them would afford. It was therefore agreed to meet habitually under a range of pillars near that part of the Temple, called the Court of the Gentiles : this range of pillars formed an immense walk upon a high terrace; and was the place where people waited for the services of the Temple. It was called Solomon's porch; and afforded sufficient space for various groups to collect in different parts of it. (John X. 23. Acts iii. 11.) The people who had not made up their minds to join the body of christians and be baptized, were impressed with respect towards them; and were so restrained by this feeling, that no one ventured to join himself to any of their meetings in this public place: but great numbers, both of men and women, were continually becoming members of the body, and taking upon themselves the profession of the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The effect produced upon the people by the Apostles' preaching and miracles, greatly exasperated the High Priest, and all his party amongst the Jews. He was a Sadducee; and we have already seen, that this sect were more especially opposed to the christians, on account of the doctrine of the resurrection (see pages 29 and 32). The enraged Sadducees, headed by the high priest, took upon
themselves to seize the persons of the Apostles, and to commit them to the common prison of the town. However in the night, immediately after they were confined, the Lord sent one of his angels to release them : the angel opened the doors of the jail, and led the Apostles out into the street. No details are given of the manner in which this was done ; though when a similar deliverance was effected by an angel, some particulars are related. (Acts xii. 7–11.) As soon as they were at large, the angel bid them go publicly and take their places in the Temple, and there proclaim to the assembled people the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as the words of life.
When the morning dawned, the Apostles proceeded to obey the injunctions they had received from the angel; they stationed themselves in the Temple, and began to preach the Gospel. The high priest and his party of Sadducees having, as they thought, secured the Apostles, issued summonses to all the members of the Sanhedrim, or Jewish senate, to attend a meeting ; and ordered the prisoners to be brought into court. The proper officers having gone to fetch them from the jail, finding they were not there, returned to the Council and reported; that, upon arriving at the prison, they found the doors properly fastened and guarded, the locks and bolts safely closed, and the sentinels on duty outside ; but that, when they had the doors opened, there was nobody inside. This intelligence greatly perplexed the high priest and the chief priests, as well as the captain of the military guard of the Temple (see page 29); and they were alarmed as to what might come of it.
While they were in this perplexity, somebody came into the council, and told them that the persons who had been put into prison, were at that moment preaching publicly in in the Temple. The captain immediately accompanied the officers to the Temple himself, and took the Apostles into custody again; but in doing this, they used no violence, for the crowd was so strongly in favour of the Apostles, that they had reason to fear that they might have been stoned if they had. Having brought the prisoners safely, they placed them before the assembled Sanhedrim; where the high priest began at once to examine them. He asked whether the apostles had not received strict orders, never to preach to the people the doctrine of Jesus Christ : yet, in spite of these directions, they had gone on proclaiming the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that all Jerusalem had become occupied with the subject ; and by the way in which they preached, it was evident that they meant to charge the high priest and the Sanhedrim with having been the cause of his death.
The apostles at once replied to this question; and Peter undertook to speak the answer in the name of the whole. He referred to the appeal which he had made to the common sense of the Sanhedrim, when he and John had been before them
the former occasion. He had then asked them to decide, whether it was “right in the sight of God to hearken to them, more than to God.” (Acts iv. 19; see page 36.) This was the answer they had made, when the council had given them the strict charge now referred to :they had not deceived their rulers, but had acted upon the reasonable principle set forth in their answer. They could only now repeat the same statement;-it was their duty “to obey God rather than man.” The Almighty Jehovah, who had revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and had called himself their God, was the same God who had raised Jesus to life, after he had been delivered to death by the very Sanhedrim which Peter was then addressing; and had been executed in consequence, by the Roman punishment of crucifixion. After his resurrection, he had been taken up into heaven by God, who had given him there the highest honour, placing him at his right hand above all other beings :-as a Prince, to rule over Israel ; as a Saviour, to reconcile them to God, by turning their hearts to repentance,—and to put away God's wrath against them, by forgiving their sins. (Isa. ix. 6, 7. Luke i. 32, 33. 2 Cor. v. 19. Acts üï. 19.) Now they, the apostles, were appointed to testify of these truths, both in Jerusalem and everywhere else (Acts i. 8); and the Holy Spirit himself had confirmed their testimony, many miraculous evidences of His presence having accompanied their obedience to His commands.
This reply of the apostles filled the members of the council with rage; and they consulted together, to see