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to be done? Peter at once answered the question, by bidding them to repent; that is, to be sorry for their sin, in having put Jesus to death, and to turn and follow the direction of mind which would lead them to entirely different opinions and feelings from those which they had hitherto had. He bid them further immediately enter into the covenant of grace, by each receiving baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; whose covenant was, that their sins should be remitted, and not brought against them. Then they too should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, as the disciples already had; for the promise which Jesus had given of sending the Holy Spirit, was not to a few only, or to one generation of men, but it extended to those who were then present, and their children; and not only to them, but even to the Gentiles, although far off from the knowledge of God as they then were, yet to such among them as the Lord God of the children of Israel shall choose to call, the blessed promise of Jesus was also made.
Peter continued his address with much more instruction concerning Jesus, and exhorted the people to escape from the danger of the perverse and evil set of people amongst whom they were living.
Those amongst the crowd who listened with satisfaction to these exhortations, at once came forward and received baptism. We are not told whether these were the whole of those whose consciences had been affected; but the number of persons who, upon this occasion, were added to the few previous disciples of Christ, was about three thousand.
1. We have in this portion the account of the fulfilment of Christ's promise, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, to establish his kingdom of grace upon earth. Upon this occasion attention was drawn, by the sound of the mighty rushing wind, and by the sight of the flames of fire. These were mere outward tokens of the presence of the Holy Ghost, whose power was shewn in the working of a miracle, which had its effect upon the mind. The promise which was thus fulfilled, is one which extends even to the present day, and to every part of the family of man, in
which some portion of Christ's Church is to be found. This was expressly stated by the apostle, and is included in the words of Jesus (John xiv. 16, 17), "he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." We have not now such tokens as those which were given on the day of Pentecost: but the actual presence of the Spirit of God which those tokens shewed, was the important point then; and it continues to be the important point now, when tokens can only be sought for in that holiness of life which Christ enables His true disciples to manifest. Even in that day there were not wanting some who, in spite of the evidence of their senses, could mock at the power of the Holy Spirit in those to whom he was given; much more then may we expect, that there will be a spirit of mockery in the world against those who, while they live above the standard of the world's morals, openly attribute all the good they do to the power of the Holy Spirit
What testimony have I that I have really received the gift of the Holy Ghost? What tokens of His presence does my conduct afford? and how do I bear the ridicule which may be drawn forth against me?
2. The first miracle that was produced upon the descent of the Holy Ghost to form the Church of Christ, was the gift of a power which made those who received it able to speak the languages of various people. And in one sense it may be said that a miracle of the same kind has been wrought ever since by the same Spirit in that church. There is a language of the heart which consists in a sympathy of thoughts and feelings in those who possess it; and as true christians, whatever may be their nation or mode of speech, are all drawn by the Holy Ghost to love the same Saviour, to have the same expectations, and to desire the same enjoyments: a power of feeling is given, by which differences of country and of circumstances are all overcome and laid aside, and each is able to communicate freely with others concerning the wonderful works of God in the language of heaven, to which his soul is born through a new birth by the Holy Ghost.
How far has the Spirit of Christ within me enabled me to overcome difficulties arising from the differences of character in my fellow-christians?
3. In this first publication of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit, the testimony to Jesus as the Christ, is drawn from the application of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which are shewn to have been fulfilled in Him; and this is ever the means which the same Spirit takes in opening the Gospel to the heart of man. The exhortation of Christ himself should be always applied-" Search the Scriptures they are they which testify of me." (John v. 39.) The Holy Spirit has taken of the things of Christ and shewn them to us in other Scriptures, besides those which were known at the day of Pentecost; but the subject of all is Jesus the Messiah, the Lord and Master of Davidthe name in which alone there is remission of sins-He on whom we must call, in order that we may be saved.
With what object do I read the Scriptures? is it to gain from them the knowledge of Christ as my Saviour?
4. The general terms in which those are spoken of who were pricked in heart under the apostle's appeal, is painfully contrasted with the particular statement of the number who upon that occasion gladly received the word, and were added to the Church. The pricking of the conscience is often resisted, and its pain put away, by those who refuse to receive with gladness the humbling doctrines of salvation by Christ. The movement of conscience is a forewarning of the approach of the Spirit, who brings Christ to the soul, though that soul may not be willing to come to Christ. Nothing can be more dangerous than to neglect the reprovings of conscience against sin, since nothing is more likely to harden the heart against Christ.
When I am painfully sensible that I have followed a wrong course, have I gladly received the directions of Scripture which lead to repentance?
Gracious God, who hast promised to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask thee, make me, I beseech thee, partaker of that precious gift; and grant that his power may be seen and known by the fruits of holiness which thou enablest me to bring forth. Strengthen me against the fear of man, which alone makes his ridicule to be dangerous. Fill me with those heavenly affections which belong to thy people, redeemed out of every kindred and tongue and nation; that being taught by the Spirit, I may feel the oneness of mind and heart which overcomes all difficulties and differences amongst thy people. Lead me to search thy word; and open my eyes to see and understand the wonderful things that are contained therein, testifying to my soul of Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Quicken my conscience to feel the sinfulness of sin; and draw my heart to turn readily from every sin of which my conscience warns me, so that I may gladly receive the word of salvation by Christ Jesus alone. Amen.
The state of the Church at the beginning.
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.
ACTs, chap. II. verses 42 to 47.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, 42 and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every 43 soul and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all 44 that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their 45 possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and 46 breaking bread from house to house [or, at home], did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour 47 with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
From the day of the great addition to the church upon the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the whole body of disciples continued constantly to attend the teaching of the apostles. They formed also a community, or body of persons distinct from their Jewish brethren, and as one family amongst themselves. They kept up the regular celebration of the Lord's Supper, as he had commanded on the evening before his crucifixion. They joined also regularly in the exercise of united prayers. These four points are stated in a manner which makes each distinct from the other in the original Greek; although the English translation does not make the distinction so clear between the two first, which may perhaps have led to some mistake regarding the fellowship which is spoken of.
There was a deep solemnity and holy reverence amongst the people, which was felt by every one of the disciples. This was kept up in a lively manner by the occasional miracles which were performed by the apostles, as signs of the truth of their testimony to Christ. All the believers lived upon the terms of affectionate brotherly intercourse; and being together for a time in one city, and joined by one common interest, what any of them had was freely applied to the use of all. The possessions and property of those who had most was freely sold by them, and shared amongst the whole body, that the wants of each might be supplied. They were all of one mind in agreeing to continue their attendance upon the daily service in the temple, which was the worship appointed by God for the Jews; while they performed their own peculiar service of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper at home, in their private houses. In this manner they lived in cheerfulness and frank sincerity of heart, giving praise to God, and obtaining the good opinion of all who knew them. In this state of the christian body, it pleased God to increase the number of those who received the salvation of Christ, by the daily addition of new converts.
This is an affecting description of the state of Christ's church in its earliest days; and it stands in sad contrast