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dered the conduct of the rulers, and the conduct of the apostles.
1. The conduct of the rulers seems unaccountable. They saw a notable miracle done by these men, which, as they owned, they could not deny. Yet instead of showing themselves convinced, they persist in opposing. Let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
This it would be impossible to explain, if we had no examples in human life of conduct inconsistent with conviction. Unhappily, such examples are too common; it is but too common to meet with those, who having two roads open before them, knowingly choose the wrong-not, indeed, without motive. But a motive may be easily imagined; some company with which the man is engaged; some pleasures which he desires to enjoy, of which the right road would deprive him.
Now, had the priests and elders followed what was in their case the right road, and like their countrymen in the preceding chapter been converted and baptized in the name of Jesus ;-they must have abandoned the party to which they belonged, they must have lost the influence which they had long possessed; and instead of being leaders of the blind people, they must have owned themselves blind, and put themselves under the instruction of the apostles and further, as they were well aware, they must become new men and lead new lives.
If we think of this, we need no longer wonder, that though they saw the right, they followed the
wrong. Their conduct, though contrary to reason, was not contrary to human nature, but too much in accordance with it. And it is thus that Satan leads men captive at his will, when God does not see fit to interfere with his grace, and turn towards himself the bias of their heart. "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" How can they believe, whose hearts are mainly set upon anything in this world?
2. Let us now consider the conduct of the apostles. Two ways are likewise open to them: one of safety and of ease: the other of pain and danger. If they gave up their object, and taught no man in the name of Jesus, they were at liberty and might continue unmolested. Otherwise, they were straitly threatened with the vengeance of those in power. But as the rulers and elders had deliberately chosen the wrong road, so these as deliberately choose the dangerous road. Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. They incurred an immediate danger, rather than what they dreaded as a greater danger, the danger of disobeying God. They felt sure, that in preaching Jesus, they were hearkening unto God. And they chose to "obey God rather than man." God had inspired their
hearts with that resolution.
And there is another proof that God had in
4 John v. 44.
spired their hearts, stronger even than the risk they ran. Their calmness: their moderate tone. They use no vaunting or insulting language; do not defy the rulers. Many have in other times used such language, who have been sincere, no doubt, but less subdued to the spirit of the gospel. These confidently but calmly say, We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
Let all who follow their religion, follow their example too. "Honour all men." "Be courteous. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you." Such is the rule of the gospel; and, struck by its beauty and excellence, many "who obey not the word," may yet "be won" to follow it, when they behold the confidence, coupled with meekness, which it inspires.
THE APOSTLES, THREATENED BY THE RULERS, APPEAL TO GOD.-UNION OF THE BODY OF BELIEVERS.-A.D. 33.
ACTS iv. 23-37.
23. And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
24. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
25. Who by the mouth of thy servant David, hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
26. The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.'
27. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
28. For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
29. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
30. By stretching forth thine hand to heal: and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
31. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
St. Paul has said, "When I am weak, then am I strong." When placed in circumstances which bring the sense of my own weakness most closely home to me, this feeling of need casts me like a child on the bosom of my Father. His strength becomes mine, and I am weak no longer. So the apostles here. Of themselves they could do nothing.
A few obscure and friendless individuals against all
Ps. xi. 3.
2 Cor. xii. 10.
the power and influence of Jerusalem, must be scattered like dust before the wind. But going from the presence of the council, they apply directly to Him in whose cause they were engaged : and they are no longer weak: they speak confidently concerning their adversaries, as of men who were held with bit and bridle, who could go no further than was permitted them: who were gathered together by their own malice and worldly interests, but could only do whatsoever the hand and counsel of God had determined before to be done. Supported by this conviction, they "lay their help upon Him that is mighty;" they cast themselves upon God, and leave to Him the issue.
One strong ground of their confidence, is what they find in scripture. They find there reason to expect opposition. They find that it was nothing new or strange for the kings of the earth to stand up, and the rulers to take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Christ, his anointed servant. David was anointed of God to be king over Israel. And against him the heathen had raged, and the people imagined vain things. "He that sitteth in heaven had laughed them to scorn:" had set at nought their efforts, and scattered their proud imaginations. Now, Jesus had been anointed to fulfil the prophecies, and "sit on the throne of David.” And now, too, against him, and against those who were going forth in his name, the people were gathered together. But the same strength which had subdued the Philistines formerly, and established David on his throne, might now likewise