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for the fulfilment of the gracious promise of the Holy Ghost. That promise was not confined to the apostles, but was given for the general comfort of all Christ's people throughout the dispensation of the Gospel (Acts ii. 39); and in every generation, christians may apply the spirit of this command, when they find themselves in circumstances similar to those in which the disciples were left at this time. They were in doubt and difficulty, not yet perfectly enlightened from above, and puzzled by the disappointment of their most anxious hopes. Such a state of mind very commonly occurs to sincere christians; and then it is that, whatever be the outward circumstances, while we pray for that Spirit which is promised to all those that ask, we may wait in quietness and confidence for the fulfilment of that promise.
When I have prayed for the direction of the Spirit in particular circumstances, with what patience, and with what confidence have I waited for the promised gift?
2. In the disciples' wish to obtain information of the time for the fulfilling of God's promises of temporal advantage to their nation, there was a mixture of fleshly infirmity with Scriptural anticipations. The confidence of faith ought to control any curiosity as to the times and seasons; and our Lord's reply to the inquiry of the disciples contrasted the search after hidden knowledge which God has not thought fit to reveal, with the employment of that present power which he has been pleased to intrust to us. Though it was not for the disciples to know the times and the seasons, yet they were to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, for the purpose of bearing witness to Jesus all over the world; and this may be applied to many points of knowledge, less deep than that sought by the Apostles. How often does the study of some doctrinal point, more curious than practical, lead us to waste precious moments which ought rather to be occupied in improving those gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, by which a christian may bear testimony for Christ in his immediate circle. Much of the knowledge which we are tempted to desire may be placed beyond our reach by the nature of our particular
duties; which however always give us an opportunity of manifesting that we are living by the power of Christ's Spirit.
How much of my time and thoughts is occupied in searching into the deep things of religion? and how much devoted to the manifestation of the power of religion by the practice of plain duties?
3. The ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven affords us the strongest inducements to seek those things which are above, where He sitteth at the right hand of God. We are taught too by his own message from heaven, that he will come back again to earth in like manner as he was seen to go from it. There can scarcely be anything more stirring to the heart than faith in these facts; and the manner in which they are stated may suggest the mode in which our faith should work, "Why stand ye gazing up?" is a question which enforces the last application. This same Jesus shall come again," is an assurance which sets us to work to prepare for meeting him by active diligence, rather than by idle contemplation. That he will certainly return, and that we shall certainly have to meet him sooner or later, is the important point for each christian to consider, though the times and seasons be dependant upon the unrevealed will of the Father. And that they are reserved for his own authority, affords us the comfort of being permitted under any circumstances, to pray that he would hasten his kingdom.
What effect has my faith in the ascension of the Lord Jesus, and my expectation of his return to the earth?
Thou gracious Saviour, who hast ascended into heaven, and there upholdest all things by the word of thy power; send down, I beseech thee, that blessed Spirit, the promise of the Father, which we have heard of thee. Teach me firmly to believe thy promise, and fully to expect its performance, so that I may ask that gift, the gift of the Holy
Ghost, in confidence, and wait for thy answer in patience. Teach me, O Lord, to be satisfied with the blessing of feeling the power of thy truth, without seeking to fathom its depths; let me not be drawn off from the exercise of the Spirit of grace which thou affordest me, by any temptation to understand those things which Thou hast reserved to thyself. Grant that I may live a christian life, and be ready to meet Thee, whatever may be the time or the season of Thine appearing. I praise thee that thou hast sent from on high to proclaim to thy people the certainty of thy coming again. Lord, let me not gaze after thee in curious wonder, but rather make me to watch for thy coming in diligent preparation, to the glory of thy name. AMEN.
Election of Matthias.
TIME.-Between the 16th and
the 26th May, A.D. 30.
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. I. verses 13 to 26.
And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where 13 abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphæus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued 14 with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. And in those days Peter 15 stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of the names together were about an hundred and twenty,) " Men and brethren, 16 this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained 17 part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward 18 of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jeru- 19 salem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama,
20 that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of the Psalms, 'Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein : 21 and his bishoprick [or, office, or, charge] let another take.' Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus 22 went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be 23 a witness with us of his resurrection." And they appointed two, Joseph 24 called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they
prayed, and said, "Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew 25 whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this
ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he 26 might go to his own place." And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
When the disciples had returned to Jerusalem after the ascension of our Lord, they proceeded at once to the room which was the usual abode of the eleven apostles (who are named upon this occasion by St. Luke as Peter and James, John and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphæus and Simon Zelotes, and Judas, or Jude, the brother of James), where they were joined by those women who had followed Jesus, together with Mary his mother and those persons who were called the Lord's brethren, probably the subsequent children of Mary. Here they were occupied in earnest prayer and supplications, in which they continued with union of heart and spirit. (Matt. xviii. 19, 20.)
Not long after this eventful day, upon some occasion in which the whole body of disciples in Jerusalem, which consisted of about one hundred and twenty persons, were assembled together, Peter rose and addressed them, calling their attention to the Old Testament Scriptures which had prophesied of the betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ by Judas. He explained how the expression in the forty-first Psalm (ver. 9)" mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread"-truly applied to Judas; for that traitor was amongst the number of the Lord's apostles, and had shared in the apostolic work. This false apostle had obtained thirty pieces of silver as the reward of his wickedness, in delivering Jesus into the hands of his enemies. He had received the money from
the chief priests the day before he executed his promised purpose; and he lost no time in employing it to the best advantage. He had determined to invest the money in the purchase of a field near Jerusalem, and had immediately struck the bargain with the owner, although perhaps the money was not paid; since he afterwards took back the same sum to the chief priests, and when they refused to receive it, flung it down on the pavement of the temple. (Matt. xxvii. 3-5.) On leaving the temple he went to the piece of land which he had bought, led there perhaps by disappointed avarice, which, added to the remorse he felt, drove him to despair; from which he had no blessing of divine grace to save him. Under this load of guilt and wretchedness, he could bear his life no longer; and put an end to it from this world, by hanging himself on a tree in the field which he had thought to possess. The rope which he used for the purpose broke with his weight, and falling down his body burst, and all his bowels gushed out upon the ground. This dreadful circumstance became publicly known in Jerusalem, and procured for that piece of ground the name of "the field of blood."
Peter proceeded to point out another portion of the Psalms, in which this character to be given to the property of Judas is referred to: he repeated a part of the 69th Psalm (ver. 25), in which it is said, "Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein;" and he added another part of the 109th Psalm (ver. 8), where it is written, "let another take his office" or apostolical charge. Applying these to Judas, he said that in order to fulfil the latter prophecy, it was necessary that some one should be chosen to supply his place, out of those who had been personally acquainted with the life and doctrine of the Lord Jesus during the three years that he had occupied with his ministry amongst them upon earth, from the preparatory preaching of the kingdom of God by John the Baptist, to the day of the ascension of the Lord into heaven. Such a one must be appointed to the apostleship of Judas, to join the other eleven in bearing testimony to the resurrection of Christ.
Two persons were then selected from amongst those who were thus qualified ;—one named Joseph Barsabas (that is,