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" 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, 1 etc. ACTS V. 17-26. ALTHOUGH the people in their zeal endeavored to place their sick under the shadow of Peter as he passed, it is not said that any were healed specifically by that method. There is, however, no ground, on the other side, to deny the possibility of such a case. It was the design of the Lord at that time to magnify the apostles in the eyes of the multitude, in order that popular favor might shield them from the hatred of the chiefs^ and so preserve their lives for subsequent service. There was thus a specific use for such miracles as would tend to increase the people s veneration for the preachers of the Word.
How the Seed grew. 115 It is not expressly said (v. 17) that the high priest, whether Caiaphas or Annas, was himself a Sadducee. It is more probable that he was a Pharisee, and that he obtained the support of his rivals in persecuting the Christians. Though the two sects were at daggers drawn between themselves, they were reconciled at once when an opportunity occurred of joining hands to crucify Christ in his members. The central point of the apostles testimony was the resurrection of Jesus. This stirred especially the enmity of the Sadducees. They maintained the dismal
creed that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit. They were more offended by witnesses of a fact, than by preachers of a doctrine. Though they had no creed themselves, they bore a willing hand in hunting down those who believed. The spirit of the Sadducees is not contemptible for influence and numbers in our day. The broad Church, in its fully developed form, is a dangerous enemy to the true Church. The Church may be destroyed by the admission of unbelievers, as well as by the ejection of believers. One of the phases of modern indifference is the favor with which persons of influence regard the proposal to endow indiscriminately all sects and creeds. It is the firmness of the people opposing the tendencies of poli ticians that has hitherto prevented the Papacy from being acknowledged and maintained by the State. It is not that political parties concur in believing that Romanism is true; they only observe that it is pow erful, and they wish its power to be exerted on their side. The angel of the Lord opened the prison doors. These preternatural interpositions were not intended to remove the witnesses beyond the reach of the perse cutors; for in each case the liberated apostles remained on the spot and repeated their testimony. The design was to bring a moral power to bear on both the judges and the populace. It was an appeal to the magistrates to restrain them from persecuting; and, in case it should fail on that side, an appeal from unjust power to the sympathies of the common people. In this way it pleased their Divine Protector to execute at that time
ri6 The Church in the House.
his own command, "Touch not mine anointed; and do my prophets no harm." The angel opened the prison, and carried to the prisoners the Master s message, that they should con tinue to preach the gospel; but the angel himself does not preach. You never find an angel calling on sinners to repent. There is not a gospel according to the an gel. Angels are like little children, employed to carry letters to the Master s friends. They may try to peep into the contents on the way, but they cannot compre hend the meaning. The name applied by the angel to designate the gos pel of Christ is worthy of notice. He calls it "this life." Here, doubtless,, the messenger s memory was faithful, for it is likely that the Lord who sent him would himself give it that designation. It was he who said, " I am the resurrection and the life." In sight of the angels a new life had sprung up in the world, differ ent from any they had witnessed hitherto. The message further bears that the liberated apos tles should continue to speak the "words of this life." These are the seeds from which the new life springs; the sowers must go forth and sow them. It is as if in our sight a new and better kind of vegetation should burst from the ground, more beautiful and more fruitful than any that had hitherto been known. We should, in such a case, examine curiously, and gather carefully, and sow again those precious seeds. "The seed is the Word," and the Word is the seed the seed of this new life that grows on the old soil. Go spread it on the field, and keep nothing back: speak " all the words of this life." It is of use to remember here, that it was beside a grave that Jesus uttered the words, " I am the resur rection and the life." It is light in darkness.
And, finally, in this brief but pregnant message which the angel bore, the apostles are instructed to speak all the words of this life "to the people" There is no respect of persons here; no pandering to rank and power. The true enfranchisement of the common peo ple lies in the gospel of Christ. Would that the strug gling, bleeding nations could see it ! If the Son make them free, they shall be free indeed.
How tJie Seed grew. 117 When the civil and ecclesiastical authorities (ver. 24) ascertained the facts, "they doubted of them whereunto this would grow." Some glimmer of light has penetrated at last. They are not so confident now in the efficacy of their own prescription, " Speak no more in this name." They begin to discover that this Word, which they at tempted by a short process tc crush, is a thing with life in it: they suspect that it will grozv. They were right. It had begun to grow. They feared its growth, for they felt it was their enemy. So Pharaoh had a presentiment that Israel would grow grow too great to be kept in bondage and commanded that the male children should be drowned. But infant Moses was drawn out of the water, and grew grew to be the deliverer of Israel, the scourge of Egypt. Herod had a presentiment that the Babe born in Bethlehem would "grow" till he should reach the king dom, and dealt a cruel blow against the young child s life. But the child grew, and Herod must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. "Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish." Casting our eye backward in the light of Scripture on those successive efforts by the powers of this world to crush that living Word, which is the only seed of a
new life for men, we may well "rejoice with trembling" over its wonderful preservation from age to age. He who sits King upon the floods had said, " Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it;" and therefore it was preserved. Suppose a world full of human inhabitants with a short store of prepared food, but with no seed which might produce a continued supply a whole world with out a single grain of living seed. Suppose now that a messenger from another orb should come with a single grain of wheat. Can you conceive the care with which the gift would be cherished ? Can you conceive the hor ror that would seize upon the multitudes if they thought the precious grain was in danger of being crushed ? The seed of the Word was cherished and preserved, not by men, for they knew not that it was their life, but by the loving and wise providence of God. The seed, sown in the ground when Jesus died, grew to dimensions that the Jewish rulers recked not of. In our day it has
n8 The Church in the House. grown great; after our day it will grow greater. The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ. When the magistrates received a report from their officers that the prisoners had escaped, and left the doors of the prison standing open (ver. 23), they were amazed. They knew not what to make of it. But while they hesitated, another messenger arrived (ver. 25), announ cing, not that the prisoners had fled, which would have been a natural and easily comprehended course, but that they were "standing in the Temple and teaching the people." Here is a still greater difficulty. This is not a case
of ordinary escape from prison. These men do not save themselves when safety is within their reach. This step in the experience of the servants is the duplicate of one that occurred to the Master. When the band came to arrest him (John xviii. 6), he cast them to the earth by his look. He showed them that he might escape, and yet surrendered himself to their will. It was another appeal to their hearts. If they yield, it is well; but if they resist, it will harden them the more. So with the apostles here; the Lord sent his angel and set his servants free. He showed the persecutors that they had no power over these men, "except it were given them from above." But having done this, the Master left the witnesses in their enemies hands. His will was, that his servants should neither flee nor fight; that they should preach the cross, and bear it; that they should overcome as he had overcome, by enduring. Stolid, like the band that seized Jesus in the gar den, they went to the Temple and arrested the apos tles; but aware by this time of the favor with which the populace regarded them, they led the prisoners gently into the presence of the court. But not only did the officers offer no violence to the apostles in ar resting them, the apostles offered no resistance to the arrest. Such was the temper and attitude of the crowd, that the officers feared a rescue if they should apply force. Peter and John were sharp enough to observe the situation. They had nothing more to do than make some show of resistance, and a disturbance \vould have taken place, in which they could escape.
Again at the Bar. 119 But this was not in their way. They understood better the instructions of their Lord. Had these two men, who bore the first brunt of the persecution, adopted the method of saving themselves by favor of a riotous
multitude, the Christian Church might never have ob tained a footing in the world. If they had taken the sword, they would have perished by the sword. They witnessed and suffered: so, the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
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