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A farther addition was soon after made. Peter and John having recovered a man from incurable lameness, by faith in the name of Jesus, the report of the miracle brought a great concourse of people together a second time. Peter improved the occasion to preach to them at the temple gate, to the purport of his former discourse. He had an attentive auditory; and his word was made effectual to the conversion of many. But by this time the enemies of Jesus were greatly alarmed at the progress of his doctrine; and having" notice of what had passed, the priests and Sadducees violently apprehended Peter, with John, and put them in prison. He had not finished his discourse, but he had said enough to be remembered; and this interruption, with the boldness of his following defence, made his words more regarded. The next day they were brought before the high priest, rulers, and elders; and being asked concerning the late miracle, Peter, who had once trembled at the voice of a girl, was not afraid to use the utmost freedom and plainness with the council and heads of the Jewish nation. He confessed the name and cause of Jesus; reminded them of their wickedness, in causing him to be crucified, and, in direct answer to their question, assured them that the miracle was wrought in his name, and by

C Acts, iii.

Acis, iv. 16, 17. Many consultations have been held, and devices framed, to stop the progress of the Gospel, as if it was a dangerous infection ; but all such attempts are vain. They may as easily restrain the dawning of the day as suppress the spreading of the Gospel, when the Lord is pleased to raise ip fit instruments to promote it, and to vouchsafe a scason of refreshment from his presence. Then its influence cannot be restrained, a spark becomes a flame, a little one a multitude, and opposition only makes the effects more visible and noticel.

his power. Though the council were highly offended with this language, and the more so, as they observed the persons who spoke were private and unlettered men; yet, being unable to deny the fact (for the man who had been lame stood before them,) and unwilling to incur the odium of punishing an action they were ashamed to disapprove, they dissembled their rage, and, for- ' bidding the apostles to speak any more to the people, they dismissed them: yet they did not depart until they had protested against this inhibition, and declared their resolution to obey God rather than man.

The believers, though numerous, amounting to many thousands, lived in harmony and love, as children of one family. The greater part of them were poor; those, therefore, who had estates or money, willingly put their all into a common stock, for the use of the whole, which was intrusted to the care of the apostles. This is recorded as an instance of the benevolent and disinterested spirit with which the Gospel inspired them; but is not enjoined as a precedent to be universally observed, since we have many proofs that the usual distinctions in civil life were retained in other churches, planted by the apostles; and it soon gave occasion to discover, that in the best societies there may be found some unworthy intruders, and that very spacious actions may be performed from base and dishonourable motives. Even under this richest dispensation of grace, there were some professors influenced by no higher motives than hypocrisy and vain glory. Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, attempted to impose on the apostles by a concerted lie, and would have had the praise of giving their whole substance, when their avarice would only permit

e Acts, v.

them to spare a part. As a warning to all pretenders who seek to join or serve the church from sordid and selfish views, Peter, by the direction of the Holy Ghost, denounced a severe sentence against this unhappy pair, and they both fell deadf at his feet. The cause and suddenness of their death was a vindication of the apostle's integrity and authority, and a seasonable admonition to others, to deter any from attempting to associate with the disciples who were not in heart devoted to the Lord.

The numbers of the believers still increased, and the report of the apostles' doctrine and miracles extended from Jerusalem to the adjacent parts. The priests and Sadducees, therefore, soon renewed their efforts to suppress them: they apprehended the apostles again, and put them in the common prison as malefactors; but the Lord, to confirm the faith and courage of his people, and to show how easily he can protect those who serve him, delivered them the same night by his angel. In the morning, when their enemies were met, and commanded them to be brought to the tribunal, they were surprised to hear that the prison doors were found secure, and the prisoners all escaped. They were, however, soon informed that they were not gone far, but were preaching boldly to the people (as the angel had directed them,) regardless of their adversaries' designs against them. They were alarmed at this notice, and began to be apprehensive of the event;' yet,

f The apostolic censures were not like the papal anathemas, * bruta fulmina, words without effect; they were accomplished in an instant. See Acts, xiii. 11.

& Acts, v. 24. It is not only a fruitless, but a very uneasy undertaking, to fight against the truth and those who profess it. The boldest and wisest champions in this desperate cause are often brought to their wits'end, and to foresee their own disappointinent.

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hurried on by their enmity to Jesus and his Gospel, they once more sent their officers to take them, which they attempted in the mildest manner possible; for, as the prosecution was groundless and malicious, they were not without fear lest the multitude should interpose; but they had to do with the followers of Jesus, who would countenance no tumult in their own favour, and were neither afraid nor ashamed to confess his name in the face of danger. The apostles, therefore, peaceably yielded themselves, and, being brought before the council, were severely questioned for disregarding the late prohibition they had received. Peter and the rest answered with their usual firmness; they avowed the fact, and their determination to persevere," and charged them as the betrayers and murderers of Jesus in stronger terms than before. The majority of the council were exceedingly enraged at their boldness; they were cut to the heart, and consulted to put them to death. But the more moderate advice of Gamaliel prevailed: he showed them, from some recent instances, that if this new sect was no more than a human institution, they need not give themselves trouble to suppress it, for it would soon sink and disappear of itself; but if it was indeed of God, their opposition would be not only in vain, but, in effect, a rebellion against

h Peter and the apostles answered, “ We ought to obey « God rather than men.” It should seem that this (if any) may be called a natural maxim, and that the rudest savage, or the least child, that can be made to understand the terms, must assent to the truth of the proposition as readily as they perceive that two and two make four. How strange then is it, that men of the greatest parts and penetration other things so seldom receive it! There are few periods to be found, even in the Christian church, in which those who steadily acted upon this principle were not considered as heretics of the worst sort.

God himself: he therefore recommended milder methods, and, having considerable repute among them for his wisdom, the rest assented to him. In this manner the Lord, who has the hearts of all in his power, delivered the apostles a third time, by raising them an advocate from amongst their enemies; yet, to save appearances, and that it might not be thought the council had proceeded so far without good cause, they were not dismissed till they had been scourged, and again enjoined silence. They departed, rejoicing that they had the honour to suffer disgracei for the sake of Christ, and returned to encourage their companions; continuing still publicly, and from house to house, to teach and proach in the name of Jesus.

* These were happy times, when the whole company of the faithful were of one heart and mind, firmly united in affection, sentiment, ordinance and practice. Their adversaries, though angry,

and desirous to injure them, were powerfully restrained by the Divine Providence; so that they enjoyed peace in the midst of war, and were favoured with much grace in their hearts, and a daily increase in their numbers. Yet it was not long before an occasion arose which

i lIere were faith and love in exercise: to suffer reproach for Christ, was, in their esteem, an honour and privilege. It is mournful to observe how little of this spirit is to be found amongst us.

How soon are we offended and troubled when our names are reproached; how uncasy to lie under contempt; how impatient to justify ourselves, and to be thought well of by all persons ! Far from accounting it an honour to be made conformable to Jesus in this respect, we feel it a burden which we are restless to shake off; yet it must be borne, or we must give up profession and all;

for neither are our characters more respectable than the first Christians, nor is the world better reconciled to the things of God now than it was then.

k Acts, vi.

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