« VorigeDoorgaan »
that illustrious person whom the royal Psalmist describes in a prophetic Psalm, as the corner stone of a noble edifice; which stone, however inconsiderable it might at first appear, was the origin of the whole building so in like manner the salvation of all mankind was to be founded upon CHRIST, as GOD had appointed him for a Saviour, and no other.
Our LORD promised his disciples, that he would give them a mouth and wisdom, which all their adversaries should not be able to gainsay or resist. This was remarkably fulfilled on this occasion; for the whole council, with the assistance of, he Scribes, could not confute them.
It was evident, that Peter had neither practised medical skill, nor magic arts, to work this cure; and he must be the best able to account for the power by which the miracle was wrought. Neither could it be supposed, that unlearned and ignorant men would have been able to carry on a deception, or courageous enough to justify themselves in such an assembly, had they uttered a falsehood.
When Peter and John returned to their Fellow-Christians, every one present listened with joy to their account of what had passed; and, instructed by the influence of the HOLY SPIRIT to understand the prophecies, immediately perceived how exactly this event agreed with David's prediction in the second Psalm*, which they now understood related to the MESSIAH; they, therefore, unanimously offered up their praises to our heavenly FATHER, acknowledging that JESUS was truly the SON OF GOD, the HOLY ONE, against whom Pontius Pilate, Herod, and the Jewish rulers, had asso
*See Psalm ii.
ciated; but could not have prevailed against him, had not GoD in his eternal councils decreed that he should willingly submit to their malice. They then offered up their united prayers, that God would endue all those who were required to bear testimony to the Gospel with the same fortitude Peter and John possessed; and that the name of JESUS might be equally efficacious on all occasions where miracles were necessary. This prayer
was graciously received, and some visible token of its acceptance granted, perhaps similar to that on the day of Pentecost; and the whole assembly, through the DIVINE ENERGY, found themselves animated with supernatural courage, which they exercised in bearing public testimony to the truths of Christianity. The Apostles in particular illustrated the doctrine founded upon the resurrection, and the LORD gave to their hearers grace to understand and apply it. But the disciples did not so entirely give themselves up to spiritual exercises, as totally to neglect worldly concerns -though they were Christians, they were men, and stood in need of food and raiment. Estates indeed they had no use for, and houses were incumbrances to those who were from henceforth to have no settled places of abode; it was therefore resolved, that each member of the community possessed of either should sell them, in order to make a common purse for the occasional supply of each man's necessities. By this means, those who had formerly subsisted by their labour were relieved from the fear of present want, and at liberty to leave their avocations without distressing their families; and those who had before been cumbered with their possessions, were delivered from the temptations of wealth, and had leisure to attend to the one thing needful. Their laying their possessions at the Apostles?
feet, was in token of their holy contempt of the world; and the uses to which it was appropriated, evinced that the Apostles had no private views of enriching themselves.
From this Section we learn never to be ashamed of our Christian profession; and to think it the safest and wisest way, on all occasions, to obey GoD rather than MAN-to banish selfishness, and open our hearts to sentiments of benevolence, generosity, and charity. Not that Christians are now required to sell their possessions, and have all things in common-thanks to the merciful providence of GOD, the times do not render its necessary: neither did all Christians in the first age do so; for in the epistles which were written by the Apos tles, they speak of rich and poor, in the different characters they addressed; and we learn from them to con-sider ourselves as the stewards of Gon, and as such to employ our portion of worldly goods so as best to promote his honour, our own eternal happiness, and the welfare of our fellow-creatures.
THE SIN AND PUNISHMENT OF ANANIAS AND
From Acts, Chap. v.
AND Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas) which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation), a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus.
Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and. laid it at the apostles' feet.
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Whilst it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
And Ananias, hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
And Peter said unto her, Tell me whether ye the land for so much. And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the LORD? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost; and the young men came in, and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her by her husband..
And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things..
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS..
Joses, though a Levite, so far from being prejudiced against Christianity, gladly devoted himself to its ser
vice. He was by birth a Cyprian, and probably had an estate in the island of Cyprus, which he could alienate without any transgression of the law-his paternal inheritance, as a Levite, he could not have sold. Joses was named Barnabas, which in the Syriac language signifies a Son of consolation, on account (as is supposed) of his extraordinary abilities for comforting weak minds.
Ananias and Sapphira were persons of a very different character from Joses. Instead of being actuated, like him, by religious zeal, they had a view to their future worldly advantage; but the HOLY SPIRIT prevented the success of their intended fraud in a most striking manner.
It were needless to animadvert upon every circumstance of the story, for the guilt of these two hypocri tical persons must appear to every one in its proper light; but we should particularly observe, that Peter told them, "lying to one who had proved himself to be under divine influence, was lying to the HOLY GHOST, and lying to the HOLY GHOST was lying to GOD:" from whence we may infer, that the HOLY GHOST is to be considered as GOD manifested through CHRIST in the Apostles. We may also understand, that though Peter imputed the sin of Ananias (and of course that of Sapphira) to the suggestions of Satan, he intimated, that they might have resisted them.
Let the fate of this deceitful pair make a lasting im pression on our minds. Let it teach us to consider how hateful falsehood is, and make us careful to avoid all kinds of dissimulation. Let us live perpetually on our guard against the suggestions of Satan, and never suffer him to fill our hearts, but let us resist the first temptations to sin, and pray for divine grace to strengthen us.