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Title: The Expositor's Bible: The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 1
Author: Stokes, G. T.
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *


  THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE

  EDITED BY THE REV.

  W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A., LL.D.,

  Editor of "The Expositor."

  THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.


  NEW YORK

  51 EAST TENTH STREET

  (NEAR BROADWAY).

  1891.


  BY

  G. T. STOKES, D.D.

  NEW YORK:

  A. C. ARMSTRONG AND SON,

  51 EAST TENTH STREET

  (NEAR BROADWAY).

  1891.


  THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE.

  EDITED BY THE REV. W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A., LL.D.

  _Crown 8vo, cloth._


  FIRST SERIES, 1887-88.

  Colossians.
  By A. MACLAREN, D.D.

  St. Mark.
  By Very Rev. the Dean of Armagh.

  Genesis.
  By Prof. MARCUS DODS, D.D.

  1 Samuel.
  By Prof. W. G. BLAIKIE, D.D.

  2 Samuel.
  By the same Author.

  Hebrews.
  By Principal T. C. EDWARDS, D.D.

SECOND SERIES, 1888-89.

  Galatians.
  By Prof. G. G. FINDLAY, B.A.

  The Pastoral Epistles.
  By Rev. A. PLUMMER, D.D.

  Isaiah I.--XXXIX.
  By G. A. SMITH, M.A. Vol. I.

  The Book of Revelation.
  By Prof. W. MILLIGAN, D.D.

  1 Corinthians.
  By Prof. MARCUS DODS, D.D.

  The Epistles of St. John.
  By Rt. Rev. W. ALEXANDER, D.D.
THIRD SERIES, 1889-90.

  Judges and Ruth.
  By Rev. R. A. WATSON, M.A.

  Jeremiah.
  By Rev. C. J. BALL, M.A.

  Isaiah XL.-LXVI.
  By G. A. SMITH, M.A. Vol. II.

  St. Matthew.
  By Rev. J. MONRO GIBSON, D.D.

  Exodus.
  By Very Rev. the Dean of Armagh.

  St. Luke.
  By Rev. H. BURTON, B.A.

FOURTH SERIES, 1890-91.

  Ecclesiastes.
  By Rev. SAMUEL COX, D.D.

  St. James and St. Jude.
  By Rev. A. PLUMMER, D.D.

  Proverbs.
  By Rev. R. F. HORTON, M.A.

  Leviticus.
  By Rev. S. H. KELLOGG, D.D.

  The Gospel of St. John.
  By Prof. M. DODS, D.D. Vol. I.

  The Acts of the Apostles.
  By Rev. Prof. G. T. STOKES, D.D.

  NEW YORK: A. C. ARMSTRONG AND SON.



  THE
  ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.

  BY THE REV.
  G. T. STOKES, D.D.,

  PROFESSOR OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF DUBLIN,
  AND VICAR OF ALL SAINTS', BLACKROCK.

  NEW YORK:
  A. C. ARMSTRONG AND SON,
  51 EAST TENTH STREET
  (NEAR BROADWAY).
  1891.



PREFACE.

This volume contains an exposition of the Acts of the Apostles down
to, but not including, the conversion of St. Paul and the baptism of
Cornelius. There is a natural division at that point. Prior to these
events, the inspired narrative is engaged with what the late Bishop
Lightfoot of Durham called great "representative facts," prophetical
or typical of the future developments of the Church, whether among
Jews or Gentiles;[1] while the subsequent course of the history deals
almost entirely with missionary work among the heathen and the labours
of St. Paul.[2]

  [1] See the treatise on the Christian Ministry in his
  _Philippians_, p. 186.

  [2] Dr. Goulburn, in his _Acts of the Deacons_, suggested this
  view of the Acts of the Apostles nearly thirty years ago.

We are dependent for the story of these earliest days of the Church's
life upon the Acts of the Apostles. I have endeavoured, however, to
illustrate the narrative by copious references to ancient documents,
some of which may appear of dubious value and authority, such as the
_Acts of the Saints_ and the writings of the mediæval Greek
hagiologist, Simeon Metaphrastes, who lived in the tenth century.[3]
The latter writer has been hitherto regarded as more famous for his
imagination than for his historical accuracy. This age of ours is a
noted one, however, for clearing characters previously regarded as
very doubtful, and Simeon Metaphrastes has come in for his own share
of this process of rehabilitation. The distinguished writer just
referred to, Dr. Lightfoot, as we have shown in a note on p. 218, has
proved that Metaphrastes embodied in his works valuable early records,
dating back to the second century, which in critical hands can shed
much light upon primitive Christian history.[4] In fact, students of
Holy Scripture and of early Christianity are learning every day to
look more and more to ancient Greek, Syriac, and Armenian writers, and
to the libraries of the Eastern Churches, for fresh light on these
important subjects. It is only natural we should do so. Writers like
Simeon Metaphrastes and Photius, the student Patriarch of
Constantinople, lived a thousand years nearer the apostolic times than
we do. They flourished in an age of the highest civilization, when
precious literary works, in hundreds and thousands, which are no
longer known amongst us, lay all around them and at their command.
These men and their friends gathered them up and extracted them, and
common sense alone teaches that a critical study of their writings
will reveal to us somewhat of the treasures they possessed. The
libraries of the East again form a great field for investigation.
During the last fifty years we have paid some little attention to
them, which has been amply rewarded. The recovery of the complete
works of Hippolytus and of Clement of Rome, the discovery of the
_Teaching of the Apostles_ and of the _Diatessaron_ of Tatian, are
only specimens of what we may yet hope to exhume from the dust of
ages.

  [3] For an account of Simeon Metaphrastes the English reader
  should consult Dr. Schaff's valuable _Encyclopædia of Historical
  Theology_.

  [4] See Professor Ramsay on "The Tale of Saint Abercius" in the
  _Journal of Hellenic Studies_, vol. iii., p. 338, for a full
  account of this new source of early Church history which his
  travels and excavations have brought to our notice.

The testimony, too, borne by these finds has been of the greatest
importance. The _Diatessaron_ alone has formed the most triumphant
reply to the argument against the Gospels, specially against St.
John's Gospel, formulated some years ago by the author of
_Supernatural Religion_. And the process of discovery is still going
on. I have said something in the notes to the final lecture of the
present volume concerning the latest discovery of this kind which
throws some light upon the composition of the Acts. I refer to the
lost _Apology_ of Aristides, which has just been brought to light. Let
me very briefly tell its story and show its bearing on the age and
date of the Acts. Eusebius, the historian of the fourth century,
mentions in his _Chronicle_, under the year 124, the two earliest
apologies written in defence of Christianity; one by Quadratus, a
hearer of the Apostles, the other by Aristides, a philosopher of
Athens. Now this year 124 was about twenty years after St. John's
death. These apologies have hitherto been best known by this
historian's notice, though Eusebius says they were widely circulated
in his time. The _Apology_ or defence of Aristides has often been
sought for. In the seventeenth century it was said to have been extant
in a monastery near Athens,[5] but no Western had ever seen it in a
complete shape in modern times. Two years ago, however, Professor J.
Rendel Harris, M.A., of Cambridge and of Haverford College,
Pennsylvania, discovered it in a Syriac version in the library of the
convent of St. Catharine on Mount Sinai, whence he has published it
with an English translation in a new series of _Texts and Studies in
Biblical and Patristic Literature_, the first number of which has
appeared at Cambridge within the last few weeks.[6]

  [5] Ceillier, _Hist. des Auteurs Ecclésiastiques_, i., 403.

  [6] Mr. Harris's discovery is not the first find of this ancient
  apologist in modern times. The Armenian Mechitarites of Venice
  published what they called two sermons of Aristides in 1878; which
  Cardinal Pitra, the learned librarian of the Vatican, reprinted in
  1883, in his _Analecta Sacra_, t. iv., pp. x, xi, 6-11, 282-86.
  One of these sermons was a fragment of the _Apology_ of Aristides,
  which the Mechitarites scarcely at first recognised as such. M.
  Rénan, in his _Origines de Christianisme_, vol. vi., p. vi (Paris,
  1879), scoffed at this fragment, declaring that, from the
  technical theological terms, such as Theotokos, therein used, it
  was evidently posterior to the fourth century. Doulcet, in the
  _Revue des Questions Historiques_ for October 1880, pp. 601-12,
  made an effective reply with the materials at hand at the time;
  but Mr. Harris's publication of the complete work triumphantly
  demonstrates that M. Rénan's objections were worthless (see
  Harris, pp. 2, 3, 27). It is another proof that Christians have
  everything to hope and nothing to fear from such discoveries of
  early documents. Mr. Harris's preface is specially interesting,
  because it shows that we have had the _Apology_ of Aristides all
  the time, though we knew it not, as it was worked in the
  quasi-oriental tale of Barlaam and Joasaph printed among the works
  of St. John of Damascus.

I need not go farther into the story of the recovery of this document,
which raises high our expectations of others still more interesting.
The _Apology_ of Quadratus would be even more important, as it bore
direct testimony to the miracles of our Lord. The brief extract from
it which Eusebius gives in his _History_, book iv., chap. 3, proves
how precious would be the complete work. "The deeds of our Saviour,
says Quadratus, were always before you, for they were true; those that
were healed, those that were raised from the dead, who were seen, not
only when healed and when raised, but were always present. They
remained for a long time, not only whilst the Saviour was sojourning
with us, but likewise when He had been removed. So that some of them
have also survived to our own times."

In the _Apology_ of Quadratus we should obtain a picture of the
popular theology of the Church during that dark period which elapsed
between the days of Clement of Rome and Ignatius, and those of Justin
Martyr. The _Apology_ of Aristides which has been found reveals
something indeed in the same direction, but is more occupied with an
attack upon paganism than in a statement of the Christian faith. Here,
however, consists its bearing on the Acts of the Apostles, not
directly, but by way of contrast. Let me explain what I mean. In
lecture xvii., when treating of the story of Simon Magus, I have shown
how the simple narrative of the Acts concerning that man became
elaborated in the second century till it formed at last a regular
romance; whence I conclude that if the Acts had been written in the
second century the story of Simon Magus would not be the simple matter
we read in St. Luke's narrative. Now our argument for the date of the
Acts derived from the _Apology_ of Aristides is of much the same kind.
This document shows us what the tone and substance of second century
addresses to the pagans were. It is the earliest of a series of
apologies extending over the whole of that century. The _Apology_ of
Aristides, the numerous writings of Justin Martyr, specially the
_Oratio_ and the _Cohortatio ad Græcos_ attributed to him, the
_Oration_ of Tatian addressed to the Greeks, the _Apologeticus_ and
the treatise _Ad Nationes_ of Tertullian, the _Epistle to Diognetus_,
the writings of Athenagoras, all deal with the same topics, the
theories and absurdities of Greek philosophy, the immoral character of
the pagan deities, and the purity of Christian doctrine and
practice.[7] If the Acts of the Apostles had been composed in the
second century, the address of St. Paul to the Athenians would have
been very different from what it is, and must necessarily have
partaken of those characteristics which we find common to all the
numerous treatises addressed to the heathen world of that date. If the
Acts were written in the second century, why does not the writer put
arguments into St. Paul's mouth like those which were current among
the Christian apologists of that time? The philosophical argument of
Aristides, which is followed by Justin Martyr[8] and the later
apologists, when contrasted with the simplicity of St. Paul, is a
conclusive proof of the early date of the composition of the Acts.[9]
But this is not the only argument of this kind which modern research
furnishes. Aristides shows us what the character of Christian
controversy with the pagans was in the generation succeeding the
Apostles. We can draw the same conclusion when we examine Christian
controversy as carried on against the Jews of the same period.

  [7] The apologists of the second century will be found in a
  collected shape in Otto's _Corpus Apologetarum_, in nine vols.
  (Jena, 1842-72). Most of those mentioned above will be found in an
  English shape in Clarke's Ante-Nicene Library. See also Harnack in
  _Texte und Untersuchungen_, bd. i., hft. i. (Leipzig, 1882).

  [8] St. Jerome, in _Ep._ 70, addressed to Magnus, a Roman
  rhetorician, expressly says that Justin Martyr imitated Aristides.
  The _Cohortatio ad Græcos_ attributed to him is much liker the
  treatise of Aristides than Justin's admitted first and second
  apologies.

  [9] Overbeck, Zeller, and Schwegler fix the composition of the
  Acts between 110 and 130, the very date of the _Apology_ of
  Aristides. See Zeller's _Acts of the Apostles_, p. 71 (London:
  Williams & Norgate, 1875).

We have a number of treatises directed against the Jews by Christian
writers of the second century: the _Dialogue_ of Justin Martyr with
Trypho the Jew, of Jason and Papiscus, and the treatise of Tertullian
directed _Ad Judæos_. When compared with one another we find that the
staple arguments of these writings are much the same.[10] They were
evidently framed upon the model of St. Stephen's address at Jerusalem,
of St. Paul at Antioch in Pisidia, and of the Epistle to the
Galatians. They deal with the transitory and temporary character of
the Jewish law, they enter very largely into the fulfilment of Old
Testament prophecy, and they notice Jewish objections. The second
century works are, however, elaborate treatises, dealing with a great
controversy in a manner which experience had showed to be far the most
effective and telling. The Jewish controversy in the Acts, whether in
the mouth of St. Peter, St. Stephen, or St. Paul, is treated in a much
simpler way. The speakers think, speak, write, like men who are making
their first essays in controversy, and have no experience of others to
guide them. Had the Acts been written in the second century, the
writer must have composed the addresses to the Jews as well as those
to the Gentiles after the model of the age when he was writing. The
more carefully, however, we examine and contrast these two
controversies, as conducted in the Acts and in the writings of the
second century respectively, the more thoroughly shall we be convinced
of the apostolic date of St. Luke's narrative, of its genuine
character, and of its historic worth.

  [10] For an account of the Jewish controversy in the second
  century see Gebhardt and Harnack's _Texte_, bd. i., hft. 3
  (Leipzig, 1883), where Harnack seeks to critically restore the
  substance of the dialogue between Jason and Papiscus. An article
  on "Apologists" in the _Dictionary of Christian Biography_, vol.
  i., pp. 140-47, and another on "Theophilus" (13) in the same work,
  vol. iv., p. 1009, should be consulted.

I have written this book from my own standpoint as a decided
Churchman, but I hope that I have said nothing which can really hurt
the feelings of any one who thinks otherwise, or which may tend to
widen those differences between Christians which are such a terrible
hindrance to the cause of true religion and its progress in the world.

I have tried to use the Revised Version consistently throughout my
expositions, but I fear that my attempt has been but vain. In my
formal quotations I think I have succeeded. But then, in commenting
upon Scripture, a writer constantly refers to and quotes passages
without formal reference. Here is where I must have failed. The
Authorized Version is so bound up with all our earliest thoughts and
associations that its language unconsciously colours all our ideas and
expressions. Any one who at present makes such an attempt as I have
done will find illustrated in himself the phenomena which we behold in
writings of the fifth and sixth centuries. St. Jerome published a
Revised Version of the Latin translation of the Scripture about the
year 400 A.D. For hundreds of years afterwards Latin writers are found
using indiscriminately the old Latin and the new Latin translations.
St. Patrick's _Confession_, for instance, was composed about the
middle of the fifth century. Quotations from both versions of the New
Testament are found in that document, affording a conclusive
indication of its date; just as the mixture of the Revised and
Authorized Versions will form a prominent feature in theological works
composed towards the close of the nineteenth century.

I have to acknowledge the kind assistance of the Rev. H. W. Burgess,
LL.D., who has patiently read all my proofs, and called my attention
to many a solecism or mistake which might have otherwise disfigured my
pages; and of Mr. W. Etienne Phelps, B.A., deputy keeper of Primate
Marsh's Library, who has compiled the index.

  GEORGE T. STOKES.

  ALL SAINTS' VICARAGE, BLACKROCK,
  _May 27th, 1891_.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.

  THE ORIGIN AND AUTHORITY OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.

  ACTS i. 1, 2.

                                                                  PAGE

  Title--Apocryphal Acts--Paul and Thecla--Evidence of
    Tertullian--His Chronological Position--Modern
    Analogies--Muratorian Fragment and Bobbio--Epistle from
    Lyons--Pothinus an Apostolic Man--Marcion and St.
    Luke--Defects of German Criticism--Growth of New Testament
    Canon--Newly-discovered Second Century Documents--
    Scillitan Martyrs--Primitive Christians and Biblical
    Criticism--Advantages of Uncertainty on Theology--
    Theological Accuracy of St. Luke                              1-22


  CHAPTER II.

  THE CONVERSATIONS OF THE GREAT FORTY DAYS.

  ACTS i. 6-9.

  Subject-Matter Revealed in the Acts--Our Lord's
    Post-Resurrection Appearances--Apostolic Curiosity--
    Messianic Idea among Jews--Books of Enoch and of
    Jubilees--Evidence for Inspiration of New Testament--
    Christianity a Practical Religion--Contrast with
    Paganism--Mithraism--Spiritual Blessing of Christ's
    Reticence concerning the Future--Antinomies in
    Scripture--Bad Effects of Human Curiosity--At
    Thessalonica--In the Middle Ages--In Last and Present
    Centuries--Irvingism--Holy Ghost alone the Source of
    Spiritual Power                                              23-42


  CHAPTER III.

  THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST, AND ITS LESSONS.

  ACTS i. 9.

  Position of Doctrine of Ascension in Epistles--And in
    Apostolic Teaching--Curious and Foolish Questions about
    it--_The Unseen Universe_--Fitness of the Doctrine--And
    Necessity if the Church was to rise out of Judaism into
    Christianity--Illustrations, London and the Papacy--Rénan's
    Theory--The Ascension Glorified Human Nature--Paganism
    Degraded It--Gladiatorial Shows and Story of the Monk
    Telemachus--Tacitus and Slavery--Cato the Censor and the
    Treatment of Slaves--The Ascension and Darwinism             43-60


  CHAPTER IV.

  THE ELECTION OF MATTHIAS.

  ACTS i. 24-26.

  Expectation Days--Principle of Divine Delay--Christian
    Seasons and Judaism--Pentecost and Sinai--Continuity of
    the Divine Purposes--Christian Chronology--Tatian's
    _Oration_--The Apostles and the Upper Room--Narratives
    of Epiphanius and Cyril of Jerusalem--Christianity
    Supra-local--Last Notice of the Blessed Virgin--Doctrine
    of the Assumption--Self-restraint of Scriptural Writers--
    Choice of New Apostle--St. Peter's Proposition--His
    Character--_Privilegium Petri_--Reasons for the Election--
    The Christian Ministry and the Resurrection--C. Leslie's
    _Short and Easy Method_--History of St. Matthias--
    Apocryphal Gospels--Papias on Fate of Judas Iscariot         61-81


  CHAPTER V.

  THE PENTECOSTAL BLESSING.

  ACTS ii. 1-4.

  Origin and History of Pentecost--Gnosticism and Antinomianism--
    Modern Aspect of Ancient Heresies--Ancient Union and
    Modern Divisions of Christendom--Jeremy Taylor's Prayer--
    The Fiery Tongues--Protest against Persecution and Penal
    Laws in Religion--Ussher and Baxter, Mistakes of--
    Death-Scene of Queen Caroline--Importance of Corporate
    Aspect of Christianity--Clergy and Laity in Apostolic
    Church--Gift of Tongues and Irvingism--Modern Theories
    about Pentecost--Hypnotism--Greek and Latin not Universal
    Languages in Apostolic Times--Ramsay's _Geography of Asia
    Minor_                                                      82-106


  CHAPTER VI.

  ST. PETER'S FIRST SERMON.

  ACTS ii. 14.

  Reports of Ancient Sermons, how Derived--Use of
    Shorthand among Ancients--St. Peter's Auditory--Celts
    of Britain at Crucifixion--Jews in Arabia--Homerite
    Martyrs--St. Peter's Conduct at Pentecost an Evidence
    for the Resurrection--Contrast with his Action at
    Antioch--St. Peter's Universal Conceptions and
    Language--A Protest against Ebionism and Unitarianism--
    St. Peter and Christ's Descent into Hades--
    Apollinarianism and the True Doctrine of Our Lord's
    Humanity--David's Sepulchre and Christ's Resurrection--
    Jewish Traditions                                          107-126


  CHAPTER VII.

  THE FIRSTFRUITS OF PENTECOST.

  ACTS ii. 37-39.

  Contrast between Our Lord's Preaching and that of His
    Apostles--Proof of Extraordinary Work of the Spirit--
    Evidence of Tacitus--Spiritual Power a Different Thing
    from Religious Knowledge--Character of St. Peter's
    Teaching--Repentance--Modern Antinomianism--Williams,
    Baxter, Stillingfleet, Wesley--St. Peter and Baptism--
    Baptism in the _Didache_--Story of that Manual and its
    Discovery--The Baptismal Formula--Immersion--Infant
    Baptism--St. Peter and the Power of the Keys               127-147


  CHAPTER VIII.

  FIRST RECORDED MIRACLE AND FIRST PERSECUTION.

  ACTS iii. 1-6.

  The Acts a Mirror of Church History--Pause after
    Pentecost, Reason of--Need of Pastoral Work--Relapses
    in Mission Field--The Corinthian Case--Rest and
    Spiritual Growth--Evils of Excitement--Contrast
    of Christianity with the Montanists and Cynics--
    True Religion not, however, Purely Contemplative--
    Circumstances of First Miracle--Which was Typical
    of Church's Future Work--Among the Poor and Sick--
    Story of St. Crispin--St. Chrysostom's Sermons--
    First Franciscans Contrasted with Early Methodists--
    Medical Missions--Place of Miracle--Solomon's Porch--St.
    Peter's Address Model for Preachers--Shows Divinity of
    Christ--Exalts Christ--Is Bold and Prudent withal          148-172


  CHAPTER IX.

  THE FIRST PERSECUTION.

  ACTS iv. 1-3, 5-7.

  St. Peter's Teaching in Solomon's Porch and the Captain of
    the Temple--The Romans and Jewish Law--Discovery of Temple
    Tablet--The Sadducees and the Work of Opposition--Sadduceism
    and Modern Theories--Sceptics and Religious Intolerance--
    Pliny and the Martyrs--Trial of the Apostles--Constitution
    of the Sanhedrin--Sadduceism and the Priesthood--St.
    Peter's Defence and Christ's Promise--Afford no
    Support to Unprepared Teaching in Ordinary Life--St.
    Peter and the Power of Christ's Name--The Sanhedrin and
    Miracles--The Jews and Magic--Reverence towards the Name
    of God--Early Symbolism and Christ's Name--Salvation
    through Christ and the Wider Hope                          173-192


  CHAPTER X.

  THE COMMUNITY OF GOODS.

  ACTS iv. 32-35.

  The Holy Scriptures and the Errors of their Heroes--
    Controversy between St. Jerome and St. Augustine--A
    Mistaken View of Christ's Second Advent the Source of
    Community of Goods--Communism and the Essenes--And
    Anabaptists--And Plymouthism--Source of Poverty in
    Jerusalem Church--Warning to Missionary Churches--
    Apostolic Constitutions--And Primitive Missions--Fayûm
    Documents--Evils of Indiscriminate Almsgiving--True
    Christian Charity--Post Office Savings Banks--Jerusalem
    Communism and Modern Legislation and Ideals--A Warning
    and yet a Noble Conception--Connection of Enthusiasm
    and Spiritual Power                                        193-210


  CHAPTER XI.

  HONESTY AND PRETENCE IN THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH.

  ACTS iv. 36, 37; v. 1-6.

  Hebrews and Hellenists in the Synagogue and in the
    Church--Original Christians were Hebrews--Introduction
    of Hellenists--Who became the Bridge whereby Christianity
    was Communicated to the World--Barnabas and Greek
    Culture--A Native of Cyprus--His Personal Appearance--And
    History according to Simeon Metaphrastes--Personal
    Character--Story of Ananias--His Sin and Punishment--
    Proved that Christianity had a Stern as well as a
    Loving Side--Dr. Vaughan's Application of this Incident    211-228


  CHAPTER XII.

  GAMALIEL AND HIS PRUDENT ADVICE.

  ACTS v. 38-40.

  The Apostles again Brought before Sanhedrin--Because of
    St. Peter's Miracles--Note on the Miraculous Effects
    of St. Peter's Shadow and Hypnotism--St. Peter and
    Angelic Deliverances--Jortin's Theory--The Incarnation
    Rendered the Age a Special Time--The Sadducees and
    Materialism--Gamaliel a Pharisee--Effect of a Spiritual
    Creed on the Character--His Address--Cases of Judas
    and Theudas--Modern Illustrations--Gamaliel's Family
    History--Gamaliel in the _Clementine Recognitions_ and
    in Greek Christian Tradition--Gamaliel and Nicodemus
    in the _Bibliotheca_ of Photius--Gamaliel and the
    Spirit of Toleration--St. Augustine and Cornelius à
    Lapide--Conduct of the Apostles                            229-245


  CHAPTER XIII.

  PRIMITIVE DISSENSIONS AND APOSTOLIC PRECAUTIONS.

  ACTS vi. 1-4.

  The Election of the Seven a Crisis in Church History--Date
    of St. Stephen's Martyrdom--Occasion of it--Primal
    Relation of Judaism to Christianity--Not Mutually
    Exclusive--Illustrated by those of First Methodists
    to Church of England--Tyranny and Deposition of
    Pilate--Multiplication of Christians led to Murmuring
    and thence to Choice of Seven--Showing Benefits and
    Drawbacks of Prosperity--Imperfections of Apostolic
    Church--Fallacy of Roman _à priori_ Argument for
    Infallibility--Reciprocal Influence of Church and
    World--Various Meanings of Term "World"--Murmuring
    arose from Racial and Linguistic Differences--Hebrews
    and Hellenists--Modern Analogies--Diversity of Functions
    in Church--Serving of Tables Differs from Ministry of
    Word--Which Demands Study, Meditation, and Prayer--
    Weakness of Modern Pulpit Accounted for--Election
    of Deacons and Number--The Diaconate and Cardinalate       246-267


  CHAPTER XIV.

  ST. STEPHEN AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.

  ACTS vi. 5, 6; 8-11.

  The Seven were Scriptural--Origin of Diaconate--Bishop
    Lightfoot's View--Influence of the Synagogue upon the
    Church--Illustrated by Marcionites--And by Pilgrim
    Fathers in New England--Constitution of Synagogues--
    Jewish Almoners or Deacons--Evidence to Diaconate of
    Apostolic Fathers--Of Pliny--Of Irenæus--Connection
    of Community of Goods with the Eucharist--Poor Law
    among Jews--And Christians--Testimony of Lucian--
    Christianity Viewed from the Outside--Difference
    between Ancient and Modern Office--Life-long
    Diaconate in Ancient Celtic Church--St. Patrick's
    Father--Election of Deacons in the Synagogues--
    Imposition of Hands and Ordination--Names of Deacons
    and Nicolas of Antioch--St. Stephen and the Charge
    of Blasphemy--Every True Teacher must expect
    Misrepresentation                                          268-292


  CHAPTER XV.

  ST. STEPHEN'S DEFENCE AND THE DOCTRINE OF INSPIRATION.

  ACTS vi. 12-14; vii. 1, 2.

  Derivation and Meaning of Name "Stephen"--Libertine
    Assailants of St. Stephen--United with Cilicians--St.
    Paul and the Sanhedrin--Selden on Sanhedrin--Use of
    Shorthand among the Ancients--The _Acts_ of the
    Martyrs and Investigations of M. le Blant--Effective
    Character of Stephen's _Apology_--Analysis of
    it--Naturally Irritating to Jewish Officialism--Charity
    towards Persecutors--Reverence towards the Past--A
    Good Thing, but may be Pressed too far--Lessons for
    our Age--Science and Religion--Mistakes in the Martyr's
    Speech--Natural--Useful, too, as Testifying to Honesty
    of Report--And Teaching True Doctrine of Inspiration--Dr.
    Vaughan on St. Stephen's Mistakes--St. Stephen and
    Freedom of Church Worship--Christian Universalism not
    Inconsistent with Sacred and Consecrated Buildings         293-321


  CHAPTER XVI.

  THE FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYRDOM.

  Testimony of Church of Lyons to St. Stephen's Martyrdom--
    Earliest Celtic Martyrdoms and Celtic Assemblies--
    Christmas Day and St. Stephen's Day--Christmas Season
    and Three Classes of Martyrs--Dies Natalis and the
    Liturgies--Immediate Cause of St. Stephen's Death--
    Locality of the Martyrdom--Newly-discovered
    Church of St. Stephen--Survey of Western Palestine--
    Jewish Stonings--St. Stephen died under Forms
    of Law--Christianity and Human Law--Testimony of St.
    Clement's Epistle--St. Stephen and Prayer to Jesus
    Christ--Doctrine of Book of Common Prayer--St.
    Stephen's Funeral--Early Christian View of
    Resurrection--Story told by John Malalas--Persecution
    and Church Extension                                       322-345


  CHAPTER XVII.

  SIMON MAGUS AND THE CONVERSION OF SAMARIA.

  Prominence of Hellenists in the Church's Earliest
    Days--Apostles and Deacons Contrasted--Source of St.
    Luke's Knowledge of Early Church History--St. Philip
    at Cæsarea--Exact Locality where Philip taught in
    Samaria--Our Lord's Ministry in Samaria a Failure--
    Why?--Because the Spirit was not yet given--Presence of
    the Holy Ghost the Condition of Permanent Blessing--St.
    Philip and Simon Magus--Story of Simon as told by
    Justin Martyr--Evidence for Early Date of the Acts--
    Justin and Simon's Statue--Simon a Sorcerer--Jews and
    Sorcery--Jewish Gnosticism--Fayûm Manuscripts and
    Magic--Contrast between Philip's Miracles and
    Simon's Magic--Need of Miracles at Outset of
    Christianity--Philip's Doctrine Concerning
    the Kingdom of God--What it involved--Church's
    Prosperity Dependent entirely upon Christ--Threefold
    Result of Philip's Teaching--John Keble on Christian Joy   346-368


  CHAPTER XVIII.

  THE APOSTLES AND CONFIRMATION.

  Apostolic Mission to Samaria--Development of
    Church--Position of St. Peter--False Decretals--
    Confirmation, Origin of--New Testament is not an
    Exhaustive Manual of Rites and Ceremonies--Tertullian
    on Standing at Prayer--Conservative Character of
    Church Ritual--Illustrated by Cases of Dean Hook,
    J. H. Newman, Tate and Brady, and the Plymouth
    Brethren--Apostolic Example Perpetuated in Second
    Century Practice--And in Case of Confirmation--Calvin
    on its Apostolic Origin                                    369-384


  CHAPTER XIX.

  ST. PETER AND SIMON MAGUS.

  ACTS viii. 18, 19.

  Change in Confirmation at Reformation--Yet the Rite
    remained Essentially the Same as of Old--Importance
    of Tertullian's Testimony for its Primitive Origin--
    Cyprian's and Augustine's View--Relation of Cyprian
    to Tertullian--Imposition of Hands United with Prayer
    in Ancient and Modern Church--Utility and Blessings
    of the Rite--Improvement which might be made in its
    Administration--Conduct of Simon Magus--He was
    Intellectually Convinced but Spiritually Unconverted--
    Application of his Example to Foreign Missions--Late
    Controversy Concerning Educational Missions--Simon's
    Conduct and Simony--Definition of Simony--Sin not
    Confined to Established Churches--Takes Subtle Shapes
    in Every Community--St. Peter's Exhortation to Simon
    Magus--Corrects a Modern Error                             385-397


  CHAPTER XX.

  EVANGELISTIC WORK IN THE PHILISTINE'S LAND.

  ACTS viii. 26-8; ix. 32.

  Those Passages Typical of Evangelistic Efforts and
    Qualifications for Success in them--St. Philip
    Contrasted with St. Peter--Need of Education for
    Mission Field--Christian Missionaries of Early Centuries
    Partook of Highest Culture--Pantænus--Origen--Clement--
    These Texts show Importance of Clear Conception in
    Theology--Clear Views need not be Narrow Views--Distinction
    between St. Philip's Guidance and that of St. Peter--Reasons
    for Angelic Interference--Archbishop Trench on John v.
    4.--Apostolic Labours all tended Westward--Philip's
    Mission towards Gaza--Obstinate Paganism of Gaza--
    Proved by Survey of Palestine--Ethiopian Eunuch--Candace
    and her Kingdom--St. Philip's Doctrines--Abyssinian
    Traditions--Revised Version and the Eunuch's Confession--
    Creed of Apostolic Church--Witness of Aristides'
    _Apology_                                                   398-419


  INDEX                                                         421-424



CHAPTER I.

_THE ORIGIN AND AUTHORITY OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES._

     "The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that
     Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which He
     was received up, after that He had given commandment through the
     Holy Ghost unto the apostles whom He had chosen."--ACTS i. 1, 2.


These words constitute the very brief preface which the writer thought
sufficient for the earliest ecclesiastical history ever produced in
the Church of God. Let us imitate him in his brevity and conciseness,
and without further delay enter upon the consideration of a book which
raises vital questions and involves all-important issues.

Now when a plain man comes to the consideration of this book one
question naturally strikes him at once: How do I know who wrote this
book, or when it was written? What evidence or guarantee have I for
its authentic character? To these questions we shall apply ourselves
in the present chapter.

The title of the book as given in our Bibles does not offer us much
help. The title varies in different manuscripts and in different
ancient authors. Some writers of the second century who touched upon
apostolic times call it by the name our Bibles retain, The Acts of the
Apostles; others call it The Acts of the Holy Apostles, or at times
simply The Acts. This title of "Acts" was indeed a very common one,
in the second and third centuries, for a vast variety of writings
purporting to tell the story of apostolic lives, as an abundance of
extant apocryphal documents amply proves. The Acts of Paul and Thecla,
the Acts of St. Thomas, of St. Peter, and of St. John, were
imitations, doubtless, of the well-known name by which our canonical
book was then called. Imitation is universally acknowledged to be the
sincerest form of flattery, and the imitation of the title and form of
our book is an evidence of its superior claim and authority. One of
the oldest of these apocryphal Acts is a document celebrated in
Christian antiquity as the Acts of Paul and Thecla. We know all about
its origin. It was forged about the year 180 or 200 by a presbyter of
Asia Minor who was an enthusiastic admirer of the Apostle St. Paul.
But when we take up the narrative and read it, with its absurd legends
and its manifold touches and realistic scenes drawn from the
persecutions of the second century, and well known to every student of
the original records of those times, we can at a glance see what the
canonical Acts of the Apostles would have been had the composition
been postponed to the end of the second century. The Acts of Paul and
Thecla are useful, then, as illustrating, by way of contrast in title
and in substance, the genuine Acts of the New Testament which they
imitated.[11]

  [11] See a copious account of this strange second-century forgery
  in Dr. Gwynne's article on Thecla in the fourth volume of the
  _Dictionary of Christian Biography_. Dr. Salmon, in his
  _Introduction to the N.T._, chap. xix., gives a most interesting
  description of the apocrypha Acts of the Apostles, which even the
  unlearned can enjoy.

But then, some one might say, how do we know that the genuine Acts of
the Apostles existed prior to the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the
time of Tertullian, who first mentions these apocryphal Acts, and
tells us of their forged origin? The answer to that query is easy
enough. Yet it will require a somewhat copious statement in order to
exhibit its full force, its convincing power.

Tertullian is a writer who connects the age of apostolic men, as we
may call the men who knew the Apostles--Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement of
Rome, and such like--with the third century. Tertullian was born about
the middle of the second century, and he lived till the third century
was well advanced. He was one of those persons whose chronological
position enables them to transmit historical facts and details from
one critical point to another. Let me illustrate what I mean by a
modern example. Every unprejudiced thinker will acknowledge that the
Rev. John Wesley was a man who exercised an extraordinary religious
influence. He not only originated a vast community of world-wide
extent, which calls itself after his name, but he also imparted a
tremendous impetus to spiritual life and work in the Church of
England. After the departure of Mr. Wesley from this life his mantle
fell upon a certain number of his leading followers, men like Adam
Clarke, the commentator; Jabez Bunting, the organizer of modern
Wesleyanism; Thomas Coke, Robert Newton, and Richard Watson, the
author of the _Institutes of Theology_. Several of these men lived far
into this century, and there are at the present day thousands still
alive who recollect some of them, while there are many still alive who
can recollect all of them. Now let us draw a parallel with all
reverence, and yet with perfect fairness. John Wesley began his life
at the beginning of the eighteenth century as our Lord began His
human life at the beginning of the first century. John Wesley's
immediate disciples perpetuated their lives till the middle of the
present century. Our Lord's apostles and immediate followers
perpetuated their lives in some cases till well into the second
century. At the close of the nineteenth century there are hundreds, to
say the least, who remember Adam Clarke and Thomas Coke, who in turn
were personally acquainted with John Wesley. In the last quarter of
the second century there must have been many still alive--apostolic
men, I have called them--whose youthful memories could bear them back
to the days when the Apostle St. John, and men like St. Mark, and St.
Luke, and St. Ignatius, still testified what they had personally seen
and heard and known. Why, the simple fact is this, that in the year
1950 there will be still living numerous persons who will be able to
say that they have personally known many individuals who were the
friends and acquaintances of John Wesley's immediate disciples. Four
long lives of ninety years, the one overlapping the other, will easily
cover three centuries of time.

Let us dwell a little more on this point, for it bears very directly
on Tertullian's witness, not only to the canon of the New Testament,
but also to the whole round of Christian doctrine. It is simply
wonderful what vast tracts of time can be covered by human memory even
at the present day, when that faculty has lost so much of its power
for want of exercise, owing to the printing-press. I can give a
striking instance from my own knowledge. There is at present an
acquaintance of mine living in this city of Dublin where I write. He
is hale and hearty, and able still to take the keenest interest in the
affairs of religion and of politics. He is about ninety-five years of
age, and he has told me within the last twelve months that he
remembers quite well a grand-aunt of his born in the reign of Queen
Anne, who used to tell him all the incidents connected with the
earliest visits of John and Charles Wesley to Ireland about 1745. If
Tertullian's experience was anything like my own, he may quite easily
have known persons at Rome or elsewhere who had heard the tale of St.
Paul's preaching, labour, and miracles from the very men whom the
Apostle had converted at Antioch, Damascus, and Rome. I can give a
more striking instance still, which any reader can verify for himself.
Mr. S. C. Hall was a writer known far and wide for the last seventy
years. About the middle of this century Mr. Hall was at the height of
his popularity, though he only passed to the unseen world within the
last year or so. In the year 1842 he, in union with his accomplished
and well-known wife, composed a beautifully-illustrated work,
published in three volumes, called _Picturesque Ireland_, which now
finds an honoured place in many of our libraries. In the second volume
of that work Mr. Hall mentions the following curious fact bearing on
our argument. He states that he was then (in 1842) staying at the
house of a gentleman, Sir T. Macnaghten, whose father had commanded at
the siege of Derry in 1689, one hundred and fifty-three years before.
Yet vast as the distance of time was, the explanation which he offered
was easy enough. The Macnaghten Clan was summoned to assist in the
celebrated siege of Derry. They refused to march unless headed by
their chief, who was then a boy of seven. The child was placed on a
horse and duly headed his clan, who would follow him alone. That child
married when a very old man, and his eldest son attained to an
equally patriarchal age, carrying with him the traditions of Jacobite
times down to the reign of Queen Victoria. I could give many other
similar instances, illustrating my contention that vivid and accurate
traditions of the past can be transmitted over vast spaces of time,
and that through persons who come into living contact with one
another.[12]

  [12] The Irish people are very Oriental in the tenacity with which
  they retain ancient traditions, transmitting them intact to
  posterity. Abundant instances have proved this, the traditions
  having been perpetuated in some cases for five hundred years or
  more. The following case has come under the writer's notice in his
  own neighbourhood. There is near Dublin a village called Finglas,
  celebrated for its ancient Abbey. A cross stood there which had
  been venerated from the earliest times. When Cromwell's soldiers
  were advancing to attack Dublin about the year 1648, their
  iconoclastic fame reached the inhabitants of Finglas, who took the
  ancient cross and buried it in one of the glebe fields. Some one
  hundred and sixty years later a vicar of Finglas of antiquarian
  tastes heard traditions of this event. He learned from an
  extremely old man that his grandfather when a boy had been present
  at the burial of the cross, and had shown him the spot where it
  was concealed. The vicar made excavations, and duly found the
  cross, which he re-erected some time about 1810, in a spot where
  it is still to be seen. This instance will show how two long lives
  could cover the space between St. Paul's middle age and
  Tertullian's mature years. See _Fingal and its Churches_, by Rev.
  R. Walsh, D.D., pp. 147-49. Dublin, 1888. St. Jerome, _De Vir.
  Illust._, 53, mentions a similar case in his time. St. Jerome knew
  an old man who when young had himself known one of St. Cyprian's
  secretaries. St. Jerome wrote about A.D. 400, St. Cyprian died in
  257; the difference exactly between Tertullian and St. Paul.

Tertullian must have had ample means, then, of ascertaining the facts
concerning the books of the New Testament from living witnesses. There
is again another point we must bear in mind, and it is this: the
distance of time with which Tertullian's investigations had to deal
was not so vast as we sometimes imagine. It was by no means so great
as the spaces we have just now referred to. We naturally think of
Tertullian as living about the year 200, and then, remembering that
our Saviour was born just two centuries before, we ask, What is the
value of a man's testimony concerning events two centuries old? But we
must bear in mind the exact point at issue. We are not enquiring at
all about events two centuries old, but we are enquiring as to
Tertullian's evidence with respect to the canonical Gospels and the
Acts; and none of these was one hundred years old when Tertullian was
born, about 150 A.D., while the Gospel of St. John may not have been
more than sixty years old, or thereabouts, at the same date. Now if we
take up the writings of Tertullian, which are very copious indeed, we
shall find that the Acts of the Apostles are quoted at least one
hundred times in them, long passages being in some cases transcribed,
and the whole book treated by him as Scripture and true history. If we
accept the ordinary view, that the Acts were written previously to St.
Paul's death, the book was only a century old at Tertullian's birth.
But we can come nearer to the apostolic times.

The Muratorian Fragment is a document which came to light by chance
one hundred and fifty years ago. It illustrates the age of the Acts,
and shows what wondrous testimonies to the New Testament scriptures we
may yet gain. Its story is a very curious and interesting one for
ourselves. St. Columbanus was an Irish missionary who, about the year
600 A.D., established a monastery at Bobbio, a retired spot in North
Italy. He gathered a library there, and imparted a literary impulse to
his followers which never left them.[13] Some Irish monk a hundred
years later than Columbanus employed his time in copying into a book
an ancient manuscript of the second century giving a list of the books
of the New Testament then received at Rome. This second-century
manuscript enumerated among these the four Gospels, the Acts of the
Apostles, and thirteen Epistles of St. Paul. Concerning the Acts of
the Apostles, the Roman writer of this document, who lived about A.D.
170, says: "The Acts of all the Apostles are written in one book. Luke
explains to the most excellent Theophilus everything which happened in
his presence, as the omission of Peter's martyrdom and of Paul's
journey into Spain manifestly proves;" a passage which clearly shows
that about the middle of the second century the Acts of the Apostles
was well known at Rome, and its authorship ascribed to St. Luke.[14]
But this is not all. We have another most interesting second-century
document, which proves that at the very same period our canonical book
was known and authoritatively quoted far away in the south of France.
It is hard to exaggerate the evidential value of the Epistle of the
Churches of Lyons and Vienne written about the year 177, and addressed
to their brethren in Asia Minor. That letter quotes the books of the
New Testament in the amplest manner, and without any formal
references, just as a modern preacher or writer would quote them,
showing how common and authoritative was their use. Leader-writers in
the _Times_ or the _Saturday Review_ often garnish their articles with
a scriptural quotation; the late Mr. John Bright, in his great popular
orations, loved to point them with an apt citation from Holy Writ; but
he never thought it necessary, nor do journalists ever think it
necessary, to prefix a formal statement of the place whence their
texts have been derived. They presume a wide knowledge and a formal
recognition of the text of the Bible. So it was in this epistle
written from Lyons and Vienne, and in it we find an exact quotation
from the Acts of the Apostles--"According as Stephen the perfect
martyr prayed, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."

  [13] See two articles on St. Columbanus and his library in the
  _Expositor_ for June and August 1889.

  [14] Dr. Salmon, in his _Introd. N.T._, pp. 48-54, describes the
  Muratorian Fragment.

But this is not the whole of the argument which can be derived from
the Epistle of the Lyonnese Christians, which is given to us at full
length in the fifth book of the _Church History_ of the celebrated
historian Eusebius. Their incidental notice of the Acts involves a
vast deal when duly considered. The Epistle from Lyons implies that
the Acts were received as authoritative and genuine in the churches of
towns like Ephesus, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Miletus, where the memories
and traditions of the Apostles were still vivid and living. Then, too,
the Bishop of Lyons had suffered in this persecution. His name was
Pothinus. He was the first Bishop of the Church of Lyons, and he died
when he was more than ninety years of age, and may have been a
disciple of an apostle, or of one of the first generation of
Christians. At any rate, his memory would easily carry him back to the
days of Domitian and the times of the first century; and yet the
Church over which this first-century Christian presided accepted the
Acts of the Apostles. The testimony of Pothinus helps then to carry
back the Acts of the Apostles to the year 100 at least. But we can go
farther still, and closer to apostolic times.

The Gospel of St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are, we may say,
universally admitted to be by the same writer. The reference of the
Acts to the Gospel, the unity of style and tone of thought, all
demonstrate them to be the production of one mind. Any circumstance
therefore which proves the early existence of the Gospel equally
proves the existence of the Acts of the Apostles. Now we have proof
positive that the Gospel of St. Luke occupied an authoritative
position and was counted an apostolic and sacred writing at Rome in
the early years of the second century, say between 100 and 150,
because when Marcion, whom we might call a primitive Antinomian,
wished to compile a gospel suited to his own purposes, he took St.
Luke's Gospel, cut out whatever displeased him, and published the
remainder as the true version. The perversion and mutilation of St.
Luke's work shows that it must already have held a high position in
the Church at Rome, or else there would have been no object in
mutilating it. Marcion's treatment of St. Luke proves the use and
position the Gospel and the Acts must have occupied in days when the
converts and companions of the Apostles were still alive.[15] That is
as far as we can go back by external testimony. But then we must
remember what these facts involve--that the Gospel and the Acts
occupied authoritative positions in various parts of the world, and
specially in Rome, Gaul, Africa, and Asia Minor, in the generation
next after the Apostles. Then let us take up the Book of Acts itself,
and what does this book, known at Rome and throughout the Christian
world at that early period, tell us? It informs us that it was the
work of the writer of the Gospel, and that the writer was a companion
of the Apostle Paul throughout the portion of his career sketched in
the latter part of the book. The Christian Church has never pinned
its faith to the Lukian authorship of either the Gospel or the Acts.
The question of the authorship of these books is an open one, like
that of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The Acts has been attributed to
Silas, to Timothy, to Titus; but I may say, without going into any
further details on this question, that every attempt to ascribe the
Acts to any one else save to the beloved physician has failed, and
must fail, because he was the real author, well known to the living
tradition of the Church of Rome in the early part of the second
century, as that tradition is handed down to us in the language of the
Muratorian Fragment.

  [15] See Dr. Sanday's _The Gospels in the Second Century_, and Dr.
  Salmon's _Introd. N.T._, pp. 204-208.

If we were writing a critical treatise, we should of course have to
enter upon the full discussion of many questions which might here be
raised. The Acts of the Apostles in its latter chapters plainly claims
to be the work of an eye-witness. In its opening words, placed at the
head of this dissertation, it claims to be the work of the author of
the Gospel. All the facts fall into a simple, natural order if we
accept the traditional testimony of the Church that the Acts and the
Gospel were both of them written before the martyrdom of St. Paul, and
were indited by the hands of St. Paul's companion St. Luke. Any other
solution is forced, unnatural, and involves inconsistencies on every
side. We may turn aside from this brief outline of the critical
question, to some more purely spiritual reflections, simply referring
those who desire more information on the questions of date and
authorship to such exhaustive works as those of Dr. Salmon's
_Introduction to the New Testament_; Dr. Westcott on the _New
Testament Canon_; Dr. Charteris on _Canonicity_, or Meyer's
_Introduction to the Acts_.

First, then, it may strike the intelligent reader, how comes it that
we have not much fuller testimony in early Christian writers to the
Acts of the Apostles, and to all the books of the Old Testament? How
is it that the writings of Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement of Rome, do not
abound with references, not merely to the Acts, but also to the four
Gospels and to the other works of the New Testament? How is it that we
have to depend on this obscure reference and that dubious quotation?
These are questions which have often puzzled my own mind before I had
investigated, and must often have raised anxiety and thought in other
minds sincerely desirous of being rooted and grounded in the truth.
But now, after having investigated, and thought, I think I can see
solid reasons why things are as they are; clear evidences of the truth
of the Christian story in the apparent difficulties. Historic
imagination is one of the necessary requisites in such an
investigation, and historic imagination is one of the qualities in
which our German cousins, from whom most of the objections to the
canon of the New Testament have been derived, are conspicuously
deficient. They are gifted with prodigious industry, and an amazing
capacity for patient investigation. They live secluded lives, however,
and no one is a worse judge of practical life, or forms wilder
conclusions as to what men actually do in practical life, than the
academic pure and simple. A dear friend, now with God, himself a
distinguished resident of a well-known college, used often to say to
me, "Never trust the opinion of a mere college fellow or professor
upon any practical point; they know nothing about life." This dictum,
begotten of long experience, bears on our argument. German thought and
English thought offer sharp and strong contrasts on many points, and
on none more than in this direction. English students mix more in the
world, are surrounded by the atmosphere of free institutions, and
realize more vividly how men spontaneously act under the conditions of
actual existence. The German thinker evolves his men of the past and
the facts of their existence out of his own consciousness, without
submitting them to the necessary corrections which experience dictates
to his English brother; and the result is, that while we may be very
ready to accept the premises of the Germans, we should be in general
somewhat suspicious of their conclusions. Scholarship alone does not
entitle a man to pronounce on questions of history. It is only one of
the elements requisite for the solution of such problems. Knowledge of
men, experience of life, enabling a man to form a just and true mental
picture of the past and of the motives by which men are
influenced,--these are elements equally necessary. Now let us try and
throw ourselves back by an effort of historical imagination into the
age of Polycarp, Ignatius, and Clement of Rome, and I think we shall
at once see that the omission of such abundant references to the New
Testament as men at times desiderate was quite natural in their case.

Let us reflect a little. The manner in which the early Christians
learned the facts and truths of Christianity was quite different from
that which now prevails. If men wish now to learn about original
Christianity they resort to the New Testament. In the age of Polycarp
they resorted to the living voice of the elders who had known the
Apostles, and had heard the truth from their lips. Thus Irenæus, who
had the four Gospels before him, tells us: "I can recall the very
place where Polycarp used to sit and teach, his manner of speech, his
mode of life, his appearance, the style of his address to the people,
his frequent references to St. John and to others who had seen our
Lord; how he used to repeat from memory the discourses which he had
heard from them concerning our Lord, His miracles, and His mode of
teaching; and how, being instructed himself by those who were
eye-witnesses of the Life of the Word, there was in all that he said a
strict agreement with the Scriptures." And it is very natural that
men, though possessed of the Gospels, should thus have delighted in
the testimony of elders like Polycarp. There is a charm in the human
voice, there is a force and power in living testimony, far superior to
any written words. Take, for instance, the account of a battle
contributed to a newspaper by the best-informed correspondent. Yet how
men will hang on the lips and follow with breathless attention the
narrative of the humblest actor in the actual contest. This one fact,
known to common experience, shows how different the circumstances of
the early Christians were as touching the canonical books from those
which now exist, or existed in the third and fourth centuries. Again,
we must remember that in the age of Polycarp there was no canon of the
New Testament as we have it.[16] There were a number of books here
and there known to have been written by the Apostles and their
immediate followers. One Church could show the Epistle written by St.
Paul to the Ephesians, another that written to the Colossians. Clement
of Rome, when writing to the Corinthians, expressly refers them to the
First Epistle to the Corinthians, which possibly was treasured by them
as their one sacred document of the new covenant; and so it was
doubtless all over the Christian world till well-nigh the close of the
second century. The New Testament was dispersed in portions, a few
leading Churches possessing perhaps all or most of the books, and a
few remote ones probably only a few detached epistles, or a solitary
gospel. A Greek document found in the National Library at Paris within
the last few years illustrates this point. The Scillitan martyrs were
a body of Africans who sealed their testimony to the faith by
suffering martyrdom in the year 180, about three years after the
sufferings of the Christians of Lyons and Vienne. North Africa, now
the chosen home of the false prophet, was then the most fruitful field
for the religion of the Crucified, yielding doctors, saints,
confessors, in multitudes. The document which has now come to light
tells the story of these north Africans and their testimony to the
truth. The details of their judicial examination are there set forth,
and in one question, proposed by the heathen magistrate, we have an
interesting glimpse of the very point upon which we are insisting, the
scattered and detached nature of the New Testament writings at that
period. The President of the Roman Court, in the course of his
examination, asks the leader of the martyrs, St. Speratus, "What are
those books in your cases?" "They are," he replied, "the epistles of
that holy man Paul." So that apparently the Scillitan Church depended
for instruction, in the closing years of the second century, upon the
Epistles of St. Paul alone.[17]

  [16] The latest enquiries and discoveries confirm this view, which
  may be deduced from a study of the apostolic Fathers, with which
  should be compared the new second-century documents belonging to
  Ephesus and Rome discussed in _Texte u. Untersuch_. of Gebhardt
  and Harnack for 1888. Their titles are the tract _De Aleatoribus_,
  by Pope Victor I., and the _Martyrdoms_ of Carpus and Papylus,
  Companions of St. Polycarp. Pope Victor gives a long extract from
  the _Shepherd of Hermas_, and calls it "Divine Scripture;" which
  shows that the canon was not closed at Rome in the last fifteen
  years of the second century.

  [17] An interesting account of this second-century document will
  be found in the _Texts_, edited by Gebhardt and Harnack, or in the
  _Dict. Christ. Biog._ under "Scillitan Martyrs." Every scrap of
  second century evidence is of the greatest importance for biblical
  criticism.

The canon of the New Testament grew up by degrees somehow thus. While
the Apostles and their followers and the friends of their followers
lived and flourished, men naturally sought after their living
testimonies, consulting doubtless such documents as well which lay
within their reach. But when the living witnesses and their friends
had passed away, the natural instinct of the Church, guided by that
Spirit of Truth which in the darkest times has never wholly left
Christ's Spouse, led her to treasure up and dwell with greater love
upon those written documents which she had possessed from the
beginning. It is no wonder, then, that we do not find large quotations
and copious references to the canonical books in the earliest
writers--simply because it was impossible they should then have
occupied the same place in the Christian consciousness as they now do.
Rather, on the contrary, we should be inclined to say that, had they
been largely quoted and frequently referred to by Polycarp, Ignatius,
or Clement, men might naturally have derived therefrom a forcible
argument against the genuine character of the works of these primitive
Fathers, as such quotations would have been contrary to the principles
of human nature. It is very important for us to remember these facts.
They have a very clear bearing upon present-day controversies. Friends
and foes of Christianity have often thought that the truth of our
religion was bound up with the traditional view of the canon of the
New Testament, or with some special theory of inspiration; forgetting
the self-evident truth that Christianity existed at the beginning
without a canon of the New Testament, that the early Christians
depended upon personal testimony alone, and that if the Apostles and
their friends had never written a line or left a solitary document
behind them, yet that we should have abundant information concerning
the work and teaching of our Lord and His Apostles in the writings of
the successors of the Apostles, compared with and fortified by
contemporaneous pagan testimony. Men have sometimes thought and spoken
as if the New Testament descended from heaven in its present shape,
like the image that fell down from Jupiter which the Ephesians
worshipped, forgetting the true history of its upgrowth and origin.
The critical theories that have been advanced in abundance of late
years would have troubled a second-century Christian very little. If
the Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel were denied, or the
Pauline authorship of Colossians or Ephesians questioned; what does it
matter? would have been his reply. These documents may have been
forgeries, but there are plenty of other documents which tell the same
story, and I have myself known many men who have suffered and died
because they had embraced the truths, from the lips of the Apostles
themselves, which they have taught me. The simple fact is, that if all
the books of the New Testament were proved impudent forgeries except
the Epistle to the Romans, the two Epistles to the Corinthians, and
the Galatians, which every person admits, we should have ample and
convincing statements of Christian truth and doctrine. The devout
Christian may, then, make his mind easy, certain that no efforts and
no advances in the field of biblical criticism are likely to ruffle
even a feather of the faith once delivered to the saints.

But then, some one may come forward and say, is not this a very
uncomfortable position for us? Would it not have been much more easy
and consoling for Christians to have had the whole canon of Scripture
infallibly decided by Divine authority once for all, so as to save all
doubts and disputations on the whole subject? Would it not have been
better had the Acts of the Apostles expressly named St. Luke as its
author, and appended ample proofs that its statement was true? This
objection is a very natural one, and springs up at times in every
mind; and yet it is merely part and parcel of the larger objection,
Why has Revelation been left a matter of doubt and disputation in any
respect? Nay, it is part of a still wider and vaster question, Why has
truth in any department, scientific, philosophical, ethical, or
historical, been left a matter of debate? Why has it not shone forth
by its own inherent light and compelled the universal consent of
admiring mankind? Why has not the great fundamental truth of all, the
existence and nature of God, been made so clear that an atheist could
not possibly exist? A century and a-half ago Bishop Butler, in his
immortal _Analogy_, disposed of this objection, which still crops up
afresh in every generation as if that work had never been written.[18]
God has placed us here in a state of probation, and neither in
temporal nor in spiritual matters is the evidence for what is true,
and right, and wise so clear and overwhelming that no room is left
for mistake or error. As it is in every other department of life, so
is it especially with reference to the canon of Scripture. It would
doubtless be very convenient for us if the whole question were settled
authoritatively and no doubts possible, but would it be good for us?
would it be wholesome for our spiritual life? I trow not. We have,
indeed, a living and speaking example of the blessings of uncertainty
in the state of the Roman Catholic Church, which has tried to better
the Divine method of training mankind, and banish all uncertainty.
That communion undertakes to settle infallibly all questions of
theology, and to leave nothing in doubt; and with what result? The
vast body of the laity take no interest whatsoever in theological
questions. They regard theology as outside their sphere, and belonging
to the clergy exclusively. The clergy in turn believe that the Pope,
in his office of infallible and universal pastor and teacher, has
alone the right and authority to settle doctrines, and they leave it
to him. They have made a solitude, and that they call peace, and the
pretence alone of an authority which undertakes to release man from
doubt and the need of investigation has paralysed theological inquiry
among Roman Catholics.

  [18] See Butler's _Analogy_, Part II., chap. vi.

The same results on a vastly larger scale must have happened
throughout the Christian world had God made His revelation so clear
that no doubt could arise concerning it. Man is a lazy animal by
nature, and that laziness would at once have been developed by the
very abundance of the light vouchsafed. Religion would have been laid
aside as a thing settled once for all. All interest would have been
lost in it, and human attention would have been concentrated on those
purely mundane matters where uncertainty arises, and therefore
imperiously demands the mind's thought and care. The blessings of
uncertainty would offer a very wide topic for meditation. The man of
vast wealth whose bread is certain can never know the childlike faith
whereby the poor man waits upon his God and receives from Him day by
day his daily dole. The uncertainties of life hide from us much future
sorrow, teach us to walk by faith, not by sight, and lead us to depend
completely on the loving guidance of that Fatherly Hand which does all
things well. The uncertainties of life develop the spiritual life of
the soul. The doubts and questions which arise about religion bring
their own blessings with them too. They develop the intellectual life
of the spirit. They prevent religion becoming a matter of
superstition, they offer opportunities for the exercise of the graces
of honesty, courage, humility, and love; and thus form an important
element in that Divine training by which man is fitted here below for
the beatific vision which awaits him hereafter. Human nature ever
craves with longing desire to walk by sight. The Divine method
evermore prescribes, on the contrary, that man must for the present
walk by faith. Very wisely indeed, and with truest spiritual instinct,
the poet of the _Christian Year_ has sung, in words applicable to life
and to theology alike:--

     "There are who, darkling and alone,
      Would wish the weary night were gone,
      Though dawning morn should only show
      The secret of their unknown woe:
      Who pray for sharpest throbs of pain
      To ease them of doubt's galling chain:
      'Only disperse the cloud,' they cry,
    'And if our fate be death, give light and let us die.'

     "Unwise I deem them, Lord, unmeet
      To profit by Thy chastenings sweet,
      For Thou wouldst have us linger still
      Upon the verge of good or ill,
      That on Thy guiding hand unseen
      Our undivided hearts may lean,
      And this our frail and foundering bark
    Glide in the narrow wake of Thy belovèd ark."[19]

  [19] J. Keble, "The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany."

The thoughts with which we have hitherto dealt connect themselves with
the opening words of the text with which we have begun this chapter,
"The former treatise I made, O Theophilus." There are two other points
in this passage which are worthy of devout attention. The writer of
the Acts took a thoroughly historical view of our Lord's life after
the resurrection as well as before that event. He considered that our
Lord's person, no matter how it may have been modified by His death
and resurrection, was still as real after these events as in the days
when He ministered and wrought miracles in Galilee and Jerusalem. His
whole life was continuous, from the day of the birth in Bethlehem
"until the day He was taken up."

Then again St. Luke recognises the dual personality of our Lord. As we
shall afterwards have frequently to notice, St. Luke realized His
Divine character. In the opening verses of this book he recognises His
complete and perfect humanity--"After that He had given commandment
through the Holy Ghost unto the Apostles." There was an ancient heresy
about the nature of our Lord's person, which denied the perfection of
our Lord's humanity, teaching that His Divinity took the place of the
human spirit in Christ. Such teaching deprives us of much comfort and
instruction which the Christian can draw from a meditation upon the
true doctrine as taught here by St. Luke. Jesus Christ was God as
well as man, but it was through the manhood He revealed the life and
nature of God. He was perfect Man in all respects, with body, soul,
and spirit complete; and in the actions of His manhood, in the
exercise of all its various activities, He required the assistance and
support of the Holy Ghost just as really as we ourselves do. He
taught, gave commandments, worked miracles through the Holy Ghost. The
humanity of the Eternal Son required the assistance of the Divine
Spirit. Christ sought that Divine aid in prolonged communion with His
Father and His God, and then went forth to work His miracles and give
His commandments. Prayer and the gift of the Spirit and the works and
marvels of Christ were closely connected together, even before the
open descent of the Spirit and the wonders of Pentecost. There was a
covenant blessing and a covenant outpouring of the Spirit peculiar to
Christianity which was not vouchsafed till Christ had ascended. But
the Divine Spirit had been given in a measure long before Christ came.
It was through the Spirit that every blessing and every gift came to
patriarchs, prophets, warriors, teachers, and workers of every kind
under the Jewish dispensation. The Spirit of God came upon Bezaleel
and Aholiab, qualifying them to work cunningly for the honour and
glory of Jehovah when a tabernacle was to be reared. The Spirit of God
came upon Samson, and roused his natural courage when Israel was to be
delivered. The Spirit of God could rest even upon a Saul, and convert
him for a time into a changed character. And just as really the Holy
Ghost rested upon the human nature of Jesus Christ, guiding Him in the
utterance of those commandments, the outcome and development of which
we trace in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.



CHAPTER II.

_THE CONVERSATIONS OF THE GREAT FORTY DAYS._

     "They therefore, when they were come together, asked Him, saying,
     Lord, dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And
     He said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons,
     which the Father hath set within His own authority. But ye shall
     receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall
     be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa and Samaria,
     and unto the uttermost part of the earth."--ACTS i. 6-9.


The conversations and intercourse between our Lord and His apostles
during the forty days which elapsed from the resurrection to the
ascension must have been of intensest interest, yet, like so much that
we should esteem interesting concerning the heroes of Scripture and
their lives, these things are wrapped round with thickest darkness. We
get a glimpse of the risen Christ here and there. We are told He was
conversing with His disciples touching the things concerning the
kingdom of God. And then we are practically referred to the Acts of
the Apostles if we wish to know what topics His resurrection
discourses dealt with. And when we do so refer to the Acts we find
that His disciples moved along the line of Christian development with
steps sure, unfaltering, and decided, because they doubtless felt
themselves nerved by the well-remembered directions, the conscious
guidance of the Eternal Son of God, vouchsafed in the commandments
given by Him in the power of the Holy Ghost.

Let us reflect for a little on the characteristics of Christ's risen
appearances to His disciples. I note then in the first place that they
were intermittent, and not continuous,--here and there, to Mary
Magdalene at one time; to the disciples journeying to Emmaus, to the
assembled twelve, to five hundred brethren at once, at other times.
Such were the manifestations of our Lord; and some may feel inclined
to cavil at them, and ask, Why did He not dwell continuously and
perpetually with His disciples as before His resurrection? And yet,
reading our narrative in the light of other scriptures, we might
expect the resurrection appearances of Christ to have been of this
description. In one place in the Gospel narrative we read that our
Lord replied thus to a section of His adversaries: "In the
resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as
angels in heaven." Now we often read of angelic appearances in Holy
Scripture, in the Old and New Testament alike. We read too of
appearances of Old Testament saints, as of Moses and Elias on the
Mount of Transfiguration. And they are all like those of our Lord
Jesus Christ after His resurrection. They are sudden, independent of
time or space or material barriers, and yet are visible and tangible
though glorified. Such in Genesis was Abraham's vision of angels at
the tent door, when they did eat and drink with him. Such was Lot's
vision of angels who came and lodged with him in wicked Sodom. Such
was Peter's vision when an angel released him, guided him through the
intricate mazes of Jerusalem's streets; and such were Christ's
appearances when, as on this occasion, His disciples, now accustomed
to His risen and glorified form, tested Him as of old with the
question, "Lord, dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to
Israel?"

I. _Now let us here notice the naturalness of this query concerning
the restoration of the kingdom._ The Apostles evidently shared the
national aspirations of the Jews at that time. A large number of books
have come to light of late years, which show what a keen expectation
of the Messiah's kingdom and His triumph over the Romans existed at
the time, and prior to the time, of our Saviour. The book of Enoch,
discovered one hundred years ago in Abyssinia, and translated into
English in the beginning of the present century, was written a century
at least before the Incarnation.[20] The book of Jubilees was written
in Palestine about the time of our Lord's birth; the Psalter of
Solomon dates from the same period. All these works give us clearest
glimpses into the inner mind, the religious tone, of the Jewish nation
at that time.[21] The pious unsophisticated people of Galilee were
daily expecting the establishment of the Messianic kingdom; but the
kingdom they expected was no spiritual institution, it was simply an
earthly scene of material glory, where the Jews would once again be
exalted above all surrounding nations, and the hated invader expelled
from the fair plains of Israel. We can scarcely realize or understand
the force and naturalness of this question, "Dost Thou at this time
restore the kingdom to Israel?" as put by these Galilean peasants till
one takes up Archbishop Laurence's translation of the book of Enoch,
and sees how this eager expectation dominated every other feeling in
the Jewish mind of that period, and was burned into the very secrets
of their existence by the tyranny of Roman rule. Thus, let us take the
forty-seventh chapter of the book of Enoch, which may very possibly
have been in the thoughts of the Apostles as they presented this query
to their Lord. In that chapter we read the following words, attributed
unto Enoch: "There I beheld the Ancient of Days, whose head was like
white wool; and with Him another, whose countenance resembled that of
man. His countenance was full of grace, like that of one of the holy
angels. Then I inquired of one of the angels who went with me, and who
showed me every secret thing concerning this Son of Man, who He was,
whence He was, and why He accompanied the Ancient of Days. He answered
and said to me, This is the Son of Man, to whom righteousness belongs,
with whom righteousness has dwelt, and who will reveal all the
treasures of that which is concealed. For the Lord of Spirits has
chosen Him, and His portion has surpassed all before the Lord of
Spirits in everlasting uprightness. This Son of Man whom thou
beholdest shall raise up kings and the mighty from their couches, and
the powerful from their thrones; shall loosen the bridles of the
powerful, and break in pieces the teeth of sinners. He shall hurl
kings from their thrones and their dominions, because they will not
exalt and praise Him, nor humble themselves before Him, by whom their
kingdoms were granted to them. The countenance likewise of the mighty
shall He cast down, filling them with confusion. Darkness shall be
their habitation, and worms shall be their bed; nor from that their
bed shall they hope to be again raised, because they exalted not the
Name of the Lord of Spirits." This is one specimen of the Messianic
expectations, which were just then worked up to fever pitch among the
Galileans especially, and were ever leading them to burst out into
bloody rebellion against the power of the Romans. We might multiply
such quotations fourfold did our space permit. This one extract must
suffice to show the tone and quality of the religious literature upon
which the souls of the Apostles had fed and been sustained, when they
proposed this query, "Dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to
Israel?" They were thinking simply of such a kingdom as the book of
Enoch foretold.

  [20] The book of Enoch was translated into English by Archbishop
  Laurence, and was first published about seventy years ago. There
  is an exhaustive article on the subject in the second volume of
  the _Dictionary of Christian Biography_, written by Professor
  Lipsius of Jena.

  [21] The book of Jubilees has never been published in English. An
  interesting account of it will be found in the later editions of
  Kitto's _Biblical Cyclopædia_. The reader will find another
  account of the book of Jubilees in the _Dict. Christ. Biog._, iv.,
  507. The Psalms of Solomon are contained in the _Cod. Pseud. Vet.
  Test._ of J. A. Fabricius. There is a brief notice of them in the
  _Dict. Chris. Biog._, iv., 508, under the title "Pseudepigrapha."

This very point seems to us one of the special and most striking
evidences for the inspiration and supernatural direction of the
writers of the New Testament. Their natural, purely human, and
national conception of the kingdom of God was one thing; their final,
their divinely taught and inspired conception of that kingdom is quite
another thing. I cannot see how, upon any ground of mere human
experience or human development, the Apostles could have risen from
the gross, material conceptions of the book of Enoch, wherein the
kingdom of the Messiah would have simply been a purified, reformed,
and exalted copy of the Roman Empire of that day, to the spiritual and
truly catholic idea of a kingdom not of this world, which ruled over
spirits rather than over bodies.[22] Some persons maintain that
Christianity in its doctrines, organisation, and discipline was but
the outcome of natural forces working in the world at that epoch. But
take this doctrine alone, "My kingdom is not of this world," announced
by Christ before Pilate, and impressed upon the Apostles by revelation
after revelation, and experience after experience, which they only
very gradually assimilated and understood. Where did it come from? How
was it the outcome of natural forces? The whole tendency of Jewish
thought was in the opposite direction. Nationalism of the most narrow,
particular, and limited kind was the predominant idea, specially among
those Galilean provincials who furnished the vast majority of the
earliest disciples of Jesus Christ. Our minds have been so steeped in
the principles of Christian liberalism, we have been so thoroughly
taught the rejection of race-prejudice, that we can scarcely realize
the narrow and limited ideas which must have ruled the minds of the
first Christians, and therefore we miss the full force of this
argument for the Divine character of the Christian religion. A Roman
Catholic peasant from Connaught, an Ulster Orangeman, a Celtic
Presbyterian Highlander, none of these will take a wide, tolerant,
generous view of religion. They view the question through their own
narrow provincial spectacles. And yet any one of them would have been
broad, liberal, and comprehensive when contrasted with the tone and
thought of the Galilean provincials of our Lord's day. They lived
lonely, solitary lives, away from the din, the pressure, and the
business of daily life; they knew nothing of what the great outside
world was thinking and doing; they fed their spirits on the glories of
the past, and had no room in their gloomy fanaticism for aught that
was liberal and truly spiritual. How could men like them have
developed the idea of the Catholic Church, boundless as the earth
itself, limited by no hereditary or fleshly bonds, and trammelled by
no circumstances of race, climate, or kindred? The magnificence of the
idea, the grandeur of the conception, is the truest and most
sufficient evidence of the divinity of its origin. "In Christ Jesus
there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female," the
rapt expression of an inspired and illuminated Apostle, when compared
with this query, "Dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to
Israel?" the darkened utterance of carnal and uninspired minds groping
after truth, furnishes to the thinking soul the clearest evidence of
the presence of a supernatural power, of a Divine enlightenment,
vouchsafed to the Apostles upon the Day of Pentecost. If this higher
knowledge, this nobler conception, this spiritualised ideal, came not
from God, whence did it come?

  [22] The strongest argument, from a mere literary point of view,
  for the existence of a supernatural element in Christianity and
  primitive Christian literature will be derived from a contrast
  between the Jewish literature of the period of the Christian era
  and the New Testament. Take, for instance, the book of Jubilees.
  It was written about the time of our Lord, and probably in
  Galilee. It represents the current tone of Jewish religion, and
  shows us, with its narrowness and absurdities, what the New
  Testament would have been had it been the product of unassisted
  human nature. The book of Jubilees or of Enoch is the strongest
  argument for the inspiration of the New Testament. I cannot even
  imagine what explanation can be offered of the difference in tone
  between the Christian and the Jewish writings save that of the
  inspiration of the Christian.

I do not think we can press this point of the catholicity and
universality of the Christian idea and the Christian society too far.
We cannot possibly make too much of it. There were undoubtedly
Christian elements, or elements whence Christian ideas were developed,
prevalent in the current Judaism of the day. Many a clause of the
Lord's Prayer and of the Sermon on the Mount can be paralleled almost
word for word from the Jewish teachers and writings of the times
immediately preceding our Lord. There was nothing in Christ of that
petty vanity of little minds which craves after complete originality,
and which will be nothing if not completely new. He was indeed the
wise and the good householder, who brought forth out of His treasures
things old as well as things new. Many a teacher and thinker, like
Philo, whose ideas had been broadened by the Divine training of
banishment and enforced exile in Alexandria or in Asia Minor, had
risen to nobler and wider views than were current in Palestine. But it
was not among these, or such as these, that the catholic ideas of the
gospel took their rise. Christianity took its rise among men whose
ideas, whose national aspirations, whose religious hopes, were of the
narrowest and most limited kind; and yet, amid such surroundings and
planted in such a soil, Christianity assumed at once a world-wide
mission, rejected at once and peremptorily all mere Judaic
exclusiveness, and claimed for itself the widest scope and
development. The universality of the Gospel message, the
comprehensive, all-embracing character of the Gospel teaching, as set
forth in our Lord's parting words, is, we conclude, an ample evidence
of its Divine and superhuman origin.

II. _In this passage again there lies hidden the wisest practical
teaching for the Church of all ages._ We have warnings against the
folly which seeks to unravel the future and penetrate that veil of
darkness by which our God in mercy shrouds the unknown. We have
taught us the benefits which attend the uncertainties of our Lord's
return and of the end of this present dispensation. "It is not for you
to know times or seasons." Let us endeavour to work out this point,
together with the manifold illustrations of it which the history of
the Church affords.

(_a_) The wisdom of the Divine answer will best be seen if we take the
matter thus, and suppose our Lord to have responded to the apostolic
appeal fixing some definite date for the winding-up of man's probation
state, and for that manifestation of the sons of God which will take
place at His appearing and His kingdom. Our Lord, in fixing upon some
such definite date, must have chosen one that was either near at hand
or else one that was removed far off into the distant future. In
either of these cases He must have defeated the great object of the
Divine society which He was founding. That object was simply this, to
teach men how to lead the life of God amid the children of men. The
Christian religion has indeed sometimes been taunted with being an
unpractical religion, turning men's eyes and attention from the
pressing business and interests of daily life to a far-away spiritual
state with which man has nothing to do, at least for the present. But
is this the case? Has Christianity proved itself unpractical? If so,
what has placed Christendom at the head of civilization? The
tendencies of great principles are best shown in the actions of vast
masses. Individuals may be better or worse than their creeds, but if
we wish to see the average result of doctrines we must take their
adherents in the mass and enquire as to their effect on them. Here,
then, is where we may triumph. The religions of Greece and of Rome are
identical in principle, and even in their deities, with the paganism
of India, as the investigations of comparative historians have
abundantly shown.[23] Compare Christendom and India from the simply
practical point of view, and which can show the better record? The
paganism of India, Persia, and Western Asia was the parent of the
paganism of Greece and Rome. The child has passed away and given place
to a noble and spiritual religion, while the parent still remains. And
now what is the result? Can the boldest deny that while barbarism,
decay, and death reign over the realms of Asiatic paganism, though
starting with every advantage upon its side, concerning the religion
of the Cross, which is taunted with being an unpractical religion, and
concerning that religion alone, can it be said in the language of the
rapt Jewish seer, "Wheresoever the waters of that river have come,
behold there is life," and that the fair plains, and crowded cities,
and the massive material development and civilisation of Europe and of
America alike proclaim the truth, that Christianity has the promise of
the life which now is as well as of that which is to come?

  [23] The most curious instance of the essential identity of the
  nature deities of the West and East will be found in Mithraism.
  The worship of Mithras was originally the worship of the sun. It
  started from India, passed into Persia, thence found its way to
  Asia Minor, and about 70 B.C. was introduced into Rome, where it
  became, about A.D. 200, the great rival of Christianity, imitating
  the sacraments of baptism and holy communion in rites of its own.
  Mithraism easily combined with the worship of Apollo, or the
  Sun-God. Apollo, Mithras, and Baal were fundamentally one and the
  same. Tertullian, Justin Martyr, and Origen call Mithraism a
  demoniacal imitation of Christianity. See more on this point in
  the article on Mithras in the _Dictionary of Christian Biography_,
  vol. iii., p. 925.

(_b_) Our Lord's answer to His Apostles was couched in words suited to
develop this practical aspect of His religion. It refused to minister
to mere human curiosity, and left men uncertain as to the time of His
return, that they might be fruitful workers in the great field of
life. And now behold what ill results would have followed had He acted
otherwise! The Master in fact says, It is not well for you to know the
times or seasons, because such knowledge would strike at the root of
practical Christianity. Uncertainty as to the time of the end is the
most healthful state for the followers of Christ. Christ holds out the
prospect of His own return for a twofold purpose: first, to comfort
His people under the daily troubles of life--"Rejoice in the Lord
alway: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto
all men. The Lord is at hand;" "Whatever our hope or joy or crown of
glorying, are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus Christ at His
coming;" "If we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again, even so
them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with
Him,"--these and dozens of other passages, which will recur in a
moment to every student of St. Paul's writings, prove the power to
comfort and sustain exercised by the doctrine of Christ's second
coming. But there was another and still more powerful influence
exercised by this doctrine. It stirred men up to perpetual
watchfulness and untiring care. "Watch, therefore, for ye know neither
the day nor the hour;" "Therefore be ye also ready, for in an hour
that ye think not the Son of man cometh;" "The night is far spent, the
day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and
let us put on the armour of light,"--these and many a similar
exhortation of the Master and of his chosen Apostles alike, indicate
to us that another great object of this doctrine was to keep
Christians perpetually alive with an intense anxiety and a sleepless
watchfulness directed towards the person and appearing of Christ. The
construction of the gospel narrative shows this.

(_c_) There are in the New Testament, taken as a whole, two contrasted
lines of prophecy concerning the Second Coming of Christ. If in one
place the Lord Jesus speaks as if the date of His coming were fixed
for His own generation and age, "Verily, I say unto you, this
generation shall not pass away till all these things shall be
fulfilled," in the very same context He indicates that it is only
_after a long time_ that the Lord of the servants will return, to take
account of their dealings with the property entrusted to them. If St.
Paul in one place seems to indicate to the Thessalonians the speedy
appearing of Christ and the end of the dispensation, in another
epistle he corrects such a misapprehension of his meaning. If the
Revelation of St. John in one place represents the awful Figure who
moves amid the Churches, watching their works and spying out their
secret sins, as saying, "Behold, I come quickly," the same book
pictures a long panorama of events, extending over vast spaces of
time, destined yet to elapse before the revelation of the city of God
and the final triumph of the saints. The doctrine of Christ's second
appearing is like many another doctrine in the New Testament. Like the
doctrine of God's election, which is undoubtedly there, and yet side
by side with election appears as really and truly the doctrine of
man's free will; like the doctrine of God's eternal and almighty love,
side by side with which appears the existence of a personal devil, and
of an abounding iniquity and sorrow which seems to contradict this
doctrine; like the doctrine of the Godhead itself, where the Unity of
the Divine Nature is most clearly taught, yet side by side therewith
appears the manifold personality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as
existing in that Nature;--so too is it in the case of the doctrine of
Christ's Second Coming. We have a twofold antinomy. In one line of
prophecy we have depicted the nearness and suddenness of Christ's
appearing; in another line we behold that tremendous event thrown into
the dim and distant future. And what is the result upon the human mind
of such opposite views? It is a healthy, useful, practical result. We
are taught the certainty of the event, and the uncertainty of the time
of that event; so that hope is stirred, comfort ministered, and
watchfulness evoked. We can see this more clearly by imagining the
opposite. Suppose Christ had responded to the spirit of the apostolic
query, "Dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" and
fixed the precise date of His coming? He would in that case have
altogether defeated the great end of His own work and labour. Suppose
He had fixed it a thousand years from the time of His Ascension. Then
indeed the doctrine of Christ's Second Coming would have lost all
personal and practical power over the lives of the generation of
Christians then living, or who should live during the hundreds of
years which were to elapse till the date appointed. The day of their
death, the uncertainty of life, these would be the inspiring motives
to activity and devotion felt by the early Christians; while, as a
matter of fact, St. Paul never appeals to either of them, but ever
appeals to the coming of Christ and His appearing to judgment as the
motives to Christian zeal and diligence. But a more serious danger in
any such prediction lurks behind. What would have been the result of
any such precise prophecy upon the minds of the Christians who lived
close to the time of its fulfilment? It would have at once defeated
the great end of the Christian religion, as we have already defined
it. The near approach of the great final catastrophe would have
completely paralysed all exertion, and turned the members of Christ's
Church into idle, useless, unpractical religionists. We all know how
the near approach of any great event, how the presence of any great
excitement, hinders life's daily work. A great joy or a great sorrow,
either of them is utterly inconsistent with tranquil thought, with
steady labour, with persistent and profitable exertions. The
expectation of some tremendous change, whether it be for happiness or
misery, creates such a flutter in the spirit that steady application
is simply out of the question. So would it have been in our supposed
case. As the time fixed for the appearance of our Lord drew nigh, all
work, business, labour, the manifold engagements of life, the rearing
of families, the culture of the ground, the development of trade and
commerce, would be considered a grand impertinence, and man's powers
and man's life would be prostrated in view of the approaching
catastrophe.

(_d_) Again and again has history verified and amply justified the
wisdom of the Master's reply, "It is not for you to know times or
seasons." It was justified in apostolic experience. The Second Epistle
to the Thessalonians is a commentary on our Lord's teaching in this
passage. The Christians of Thessalonica imbibed the notion from St.
Paul's words that Christ's appearance to judgment was at hand. Perhaps
St. Paul's words in his first Epistle led them into the mistake. The
Apostle was not infallible on all questions. He was richly inspired,
but he knew nothing of the future save what was expressly revealed,
and beyond such express revelations he could only surmise and guess
like other men.[24] The Thessalonians, however, were led by him to
expect the immediate appearance of Christ, and the result was just
what I have depicted. The transcendent event, which they thought
impending, paralyzed exertion, destroyed honest and useful labour,
scandalized the gospel cause, and compelled St. Paul to use the
sternest, sharpest words of censure and rebuke. The language of St.
Paul completely justifies our line of argument. He tells us that the
spirits of the Thessalonians had been upset, the natural result of a
great expectation had been experienced as we might humanly have
predicted. The beginning of the second chapter of his Second Epistle
proves this: "Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him; to the end
that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled,
either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the
day of the Lord is present." See here how he dwells on mental
perturbation as the result of high-strung expectation; and that is
bad, for mental peace, not mental disturbance, is the portion of
Christ's people. Then again he indicates another result of which we
have spoken as natural under such circumstances. Idleness and its long
train of vices had followed hard upon the mental strain which found
place for a time at Thessalonica, and so in the third chapter of the
Epistle he writes, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that
walketh disorderly;" and then he defines the disorderliness of which
he complains, "For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly,
that work not at all, but are busybodies." Or, to put the matter in a
concise shape, and interpret St. Paul into modern language, the
expectation of the near approach of the judgment and the personal
appearing of Christ had upset the spirits of the Thessalonians; it had
so fluttered them they could not attend to ordinary business. Human
nature then asserted itself. Idleness resulted from the mental
disturbance. Idleness begot gossip, disorder, and scandals. The idlers
indeed professed that they ceased from labour in order to give their
whole attention to devotion. But St. Paul knew that there was no
incompatibility between work and prayer, while he was convinced there
was the closest union between idleness and sin. Idleness put on an
appearance of great spirituality, but St. Paul effectually met the
difficulty. He knew that an idler, no matter how spiritual he
pretended to be, must eat, and so he strikes at the root of such mock
religion by laying down, "If any will not work, neither let him
eat,"--a good healthy practical rule, which soon restored the moral
and spiritual tone of the Macedonian Church to its normal condition.

  [24] The miraculous gifts of the Spirit possessed by the Apostles
  did not guard them against mistakes as to the future, nor override
  the exercise of private judgment and common sense, nor enable them
  to work miracles or cure sicknesses for their own purposes. St.
  Paul, for instance, was obliged to depend upon the assistance of
  St. Luke when he was ill. The miraculous powers were restrained,
  as in our Lord's example, to cases where God's glory was specially
  advanced by their exercise.

(_e_) The experiences of Thessalonica have been often repeated down
through the ages till we come to our own day. I remember a curious
instance that I once read of exactly the same spirit, and exactly the
same method of cure, as St. Paul used, in the case of an Egyptian
monastery in the fifth century. The monks were then divided into two
classes. There were monks who laboured diligently and usefully in
communities, and there were others who lived idle lives as solitaries,
pretending to a spirituality too great to permit them to engage in
secular pursuits. A solitary one day entered a monastery presided over
by a wise abbot. He found the monks all diligently employed, and,
addressing them from his superior standpoint, said, "Labour not for
the meat that perisheth." "That is very good, brother," said the
abbot. "Take our brother away to his cell," he said to one of his
attendants, who left him there to meditate. Nature, after a time,
began to assert its sway, and the solitary became hungry. He heard the
signal for the midday meal, and wondered that no man came to summon
him. Time passed, and the evening meal was announced, and yet no
invitation came. At last the solitary left his cell and proceeded in
search of food, when the wise abbot impressed on him the Pauline rule
that it was quite possible to unite work and worship, labouring for
the bread that perisheth while feeding on the bread that is eternal.

The tenth century again verified the wisdom of the Divine denial to
reveal the future, or fix a date for Christ's second coming. The year
1000 was regarded in the century immediately preceding it as the limit
of the world's existence and the date of Christ's appearing. The
belief in this view spread all over Europe, and the result was just
the same as at Thessalonica. Men abandoned all work, they left their
families to starve, and thought the one great object worth living for
was devotion and preparation for their impending change. And the
result was widespread misery, famine, disease, and death, while,
instead of working any beneficial change upon society at large, the
terror through which men had passed brought about, when the dreaded
time had gone by, a reaction towards carelessness and vice, all the
greater from the self-denial which they had practised for a time. And
as it was in the earlier ages so has it been in later times. The
people of London were, in the middle of the last century, deluded into
a belief that on a certain day the Lord would appear to judgment, with
the result that the business of London was suspended for the time. The
lives of John Wesley and his fellow-evangelists tell us how diligently
they seized the opportunity of preaching repentance and preparation
for the coming of Christ, though they shared not the belief in the
prediction which gained them their audience. While again in the
present century there was a widespread opinion about the year 1830
that the coming of Christ was at hand. It was the time when the
Irvingite and Darbyite bodies sprang into existence, in which systems
the near approach of the Second Coming forms an important element. Men
then thought that it was a mere matter of days or weeks, and in
consequence they acted just like the Thessalonians. In their ardour
their minds were upset, their business and families neglected, and, as
far as in them lay, the work of life and of civilisation was utterly
destroyed. While when again we come to later times experience has
taught that no men have been more profitless and unpractical
Christians than the numbers, by no means inconsiderable, who have
spent their lives in vain attempts to fix now for this year, and again
for that day, the exact time when the Son of Man should appear. The
wisest Christians have acted otherwise. It is told of a foreign
bishop, eminent for his sanctity and for the wise guidance which he
could give in the spiritual life, that he was once engaged in playing
a game of bowls. One of the bystanders was of a critical disposition,
and was scandalized at the frivolity of the bishop's occupation, so
much beneath the dignity, as it was thought, of his character. "If
Christ was to appear the next moment, what would you do?" he asked the
bishop. "I would make the next stroke the best possible one," was the
wise man's reply. And the reply involved the true principle which the
Lord Himself by His refusal to gratify the Apostles' curiosity desired
to impress on His people. The uncertainty of the time of Christ's
coming, combined with the certainty of the event itself, should stir
us up to intensity of purpose, to earnestness of life, to a hallowed
enthusiasm to do thoroughly every lawful deed, to think thoroughly
every lawful thought, conscious that in so doing we are fulfilling the
will and work of the great Judge Himself. Blessed indeed shall be
those servants whom the Lord when He cometh shall find so doing.

III. Christ, after He had reproved the spirit of vain curiosity which
strikes at the root of all practical effort, then indicates the source
of their strength and the sphere of its activity. "Ye shall receive
power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you." They were wanting then,
as yet, in power, and the Holy Ghost was to supply the want.
Intellect, talent, eloquence, wit, all these things are God's gifts,
but they are not the source of spiritual power. A man may possess them
one and all, and yet be lacking in that spiritual power which came
upon the Apostles through the descent of the Spirit. And the sphere of
their appointed activity is designated for them. Just as in the
earliest days of Christ's public ministry He spake words indicative
of the universal spirit of the gospel, and prophesied of a time when
men from the east and west should come and sit down in the kingdom of
God, while the children of the kingdom should be cast out, so, too,
one of His few recorded resurrection sayings now indicates the same:
"Ye shall be My witnesses, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and
Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Jerusalem,
Judæa,--the Apostles were to begin their great practical life of
witnessing at home, but they were not to stay there. Samaria was next
to have its opportunity, and so we shall find it to have been the
case; and then, working from home as centre, the uttermost parts of
the earth, a distant Spain from Paul, and a distant India from Thomas,
and a barbarous Scythia from Andrew, and a frigid, ocean-girt Britain
from a Joseph of Arimathæa,[25] were to learn tidings of the new life
in Christ.[26]

  [25] See my _Ireland and the Celtic Church_ for the traditions
  about St. Joseph of England.

  [26] The line of argument followed in this chapter was originally
  suggested to me by a sermon for the First Sunday in Advent,
  printed in a volume of _Sermons at the Octagon Chapel, Bath_, by
  the Rev. W. C. Magee, B.D., now Archbishop of York. London,
  Hatchards, 1858.



CHAPTER III.

_THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST, AND ITS LESSONS._

     "When He had said these things, as they were looking, He was
     taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight."--ACTS i.
     9.


In this passage we have the bare literal statement of the fact of
Christ's ascension. Let us now consider this supernatural fact, the
Ascension, and meditate upon its necessity, and even naturalness, when
taken in connection with the whole earthly existence of Incarnate God,
and then strive to trace the results and blessings to mankind which
followed from it in the gift of the new power, the covenanted gift of
the Spirit, and in the spread of the universal religion.


I. The ascension of our Lord is a topic whereon familiarity has worked
its usual results; it has lost for most minds the sharpness of its
outline and the profundity of its teaching because universally
accepted by Christians; and yet no doctrine raises deeper questions,
or will yield more profitable and far-reaching lessons. First, then,
we may note the place this doctrine holds in apostolic teaching.
Taking the records of that teaching contained in the Acts and the
Epistles, we find that it occupies a real substantial position. The
ascension is there referred to, hinted at, taken as granted,
pre-supposed, but it is not obtruded nor dwelt upon overmuch.[27] The
resurrection of Christ was the great central point of apostolic
testimony; the ascension of Christ was simply a portion of that
fundamental doctrine, and a natural deduction from it. If Christ had
been raised from the dead and had thus become the firstfruits of the
grave, it required but little additional exercise of faith to believe
that He had passed into that unseen and immediate presence of Deity
where the perfected soul finds its complete satisfaction. In fact, the
doctrine of the resurrection apart from the doctrine of the ascension
would have been a mutilated fragment, for the natural question would
arise, not for one age but for every age, If Jesus of Nazareth has
risen from the dead, where is He? Produce your risen Master, and we
will believe in Him, would be the triumphant taunt to which Christians
would be ever exposed. But then when we closely examine the teaching
of the Apostles, we shall find that the doctrine of the ascension was
just as really bound up with all their preaching and exhortations as
the doctrine of the resurrection; the whole Christian idea as
conceived by them just as necessarily involved the doctrine of the
ascension as it did that of the resurrection. St. Peter's conception
of Christianity, for instance, involved the ascension. Whether in his
speech at the election of Matthias, or in his sermon on the day of
Pentecost, or in his address in Solomon's Porch after the healing of
the crippled beggar, his teaching ever presupposes and involves the
ascension. He takes the doctrine and the fact for granted. Jesus is
with him the Being "whom the heavens must receive until the times of
restoration of all things." So is it too with St. John in his Gospel.
He never directly mentions the fact of Christ's ascension, but he
always implies it. So too with St. Paul and the other apostolic
writers of the New Testament. It would be simply impossible to exhibit
in detail the manner in which this doctrine pervades and underlies all
St. Paul's teaching. The ascended Saviour occupies the same position
in St. Paul's earliest as in his latest writings. Is he speaking of
the lives of the Thessalonians in his First Epistle to that Church:
"they are waiting for God's Son from heaven." Is he pointing them
forward to the second advent of Christ: it is of that day he speaks
when "the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven." Is he in Rom. viii.
dwelling upon the abiding security of God's elect: he enlarges upon
their privileges in "Christ Jesus, who is at the right hand of God,
making intercession for us." Is he exhorting the Colossians to a
supernatural life: it is because they have supernatural privileges in
their ascended Lord. "If ye then were raised with Christ, seek the
things above, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God." The
more closely the teaching of the Apostles is examined, the more
clearly we shall perceive that the ascension was for them no ideal
act, no imaginary or fantastic elevation, but a real actual passing of
the risen Saviour out of the region and order of the seen and the
natural into the region and order of the unseen and supernatural.
Just as really as they believed Christ to have risen from the dead,
just as really did they in turn believe Him to have ascended into the
heavens.

  [27] The incarnation and the ascension are, in this respect, very
  much on a level in St. Paul's writings. The incarnation and birth
  of our Lord are referred to incidentally, but only incidentally,
  in Rom. i. 3; Gal. iv. 4; 1 Tim. iii. 16; yet the facts of the
  birth and incarnation must have occupied a great share of St.
  Paul's attention, if we are to judge of his teaching by the Gospel
  of St. Luke, his disciple and companion. The Apostle never
  formally states the doctrine of the incarnation as St. Luke set it
  forth, because it was well known by all to whom he wrote as the
  very foundation of his system. A bare reference was therefore
  enough. It was just the same with the doctrine of the ascension.


II. But some one may raise curious questions as to the facts of the
ascension. Whither, for instance, it may be asked, did our Lord depart
when He left this earthly scene? The childish notion that He went up
and up far above the most distant star will not of course stand a
moment's reflection. It suits the apprehension of childhood, and the
innocent illusion should not be too rudely broken; but still, as the
advance of years and of wisdom dispels other illusions, so too will
this one depart, when the child learns that there is neither up nor
down in this visible universe of ours, and that if we were ourselves
transported to the moon, which seems shining over our heads, we should
see the earth suspended in the blue azure which would overhang the
moon and its newly-arrived inhabitants. The Book of the Acts of the
Apostles does not describe our Saviour as thus ascending through
infinite space. It simply describes Him as removed from off this
earthly ball, and then, a cloud shutting Him out from view, Christ
passed into the inner and unseen universe wherein He now dwells. The
existence of that inner and unseen universe, asserted clearly enough
in Scripture, has of late years been curiously confirmed by scientific
speculation. Scripture asserts the existence of such an unseen
universe, and the ascension implies it. The second coming of our
Saviour is never described as a descent from some far-off region. No,
it is always spoken of as an Apocalypse,--a drawing back, that is, of
a veil which hides an unseen chamber. The angels, as the messengers of
their Divine Master, are described by Christ in Matt. xiii. as
"coming forth" from the secret place of the Most High to execute His
behests.[28] What a solemn light such a scriptural view sheds upon
life! The unseen world is not at some vast distance, but, as the
ascension would seem to imply, close at hand, shut out from us by that
thin veil of matter which angelic hands will one day rend for ever.
And then how wondrously the speculations of that remarkable book to
which I have referred, _The Unseen Universe_, lend themselves to this
scriptural idea, pointing out the necessity imposed by modern
scientific thought for postulating some such interior spiritual
sphere, of which the external and material universe may be regarded as
a temporary manifestation and development.[29] The doctrine of the
ascension, when rightly understood, presents then no difficulties from
a scientific point of view, but is rather in strictest accordance with
the highest and subtlest forms of modern thought. But when we advance
still closer to the heart of this doctrine, and endeavour, quite apart
from all mere carping criticism, to realize its meaning and its power,
we shall perceive a profound fitness, beauty, and harmony in this
mysterious fact. Laying apart all carping criticism, I say, because
the critical spirit is not appreciative, it is on the look-out for
faults, it necessarily involves a certain assumption of superiority in
the critic to the thing or doctrine criticised; and most certainly it
is not to the proud critic, but to the humble soul alone, that the
doctrines of the Cross yield of their sweetness, and make revelation
of their profound depths. We can perceive a fitness and a naturalness
in the ascension; we can advance even farther still, and behold an
absolute necessity for it, if Christ's work was to be perfected in all
its details, and Christianity to become, not a narrow local religion,
but a universal and catholic Church.

  [28] See Archbishop Trench on the Draw-net in _Notes on the
  Parables_, p. 145, 10th ed.

  [29] We now live so fast that it may perhaps be necessary to
  explain that the _Unseen Universe_ was a book written some ten or
  eleven years ago by two eminent scientists, showing how that it
  was needful, on the principles, of modern science, to postulate
  the existence of an unseen universe, out of which the seen
  universe has been derived, and into which it is in turn passing.


III. The ascension was a fitting and a natural termination of Christ's
earthly ministry, considering the Christian conception of His sacred
Personality. When the Second Person of the Eternal Trinity wished to
reveal the life of God among men, and to elevate humanity by
associating it for ever with the person of Him who was the Eternal
God, He left the glory which He had with the Father before the world
was, and entered upon the world of humanity through a miraculous door.
"The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting
of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the
Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her
substance." These are the careful, accurate, well-balanced words of
the second Article of the Church of England, in which all
English-speaking Christians substantially agree. They are accurate, I
say, and well-balanced, avoiding the Scylla of Nestorianism, which
divides Christ's person, on the one side, and the Charybdis of
Eutychianism, which denies His humanity, on the other. The Person of
God, the Eternal Word, assumed human nature, not a human person, but
human nature, so that God might be able, acting in and through this
human nature as His instrument, to teach mankind and to die for
mankind. God entered upon the sphere of the seen and the temporal by
a miraculous door. His life and work were marked all through by
miracle, His death and resurrection were encompassed with miracle; and
it was fitting, considering the whole course of His earthly career,
that His departure from this world should be through another
miraculous door. The departure of the Eternal King was, like His first
approach, a part of a scheme which forms one united and harmonious
whole. The Incarnation and the Ascension were necessarily related the
one to the other.


IV. Again, we may advance a step further, and say that not only was
the ascension a natural and fitting termination to the activities of
the Eternal Son manifest in the flesh, it was a necessary completion
and finish. "It is expedient," said Christ Himself, "that I go away;
for if I go not away the Comforter will not come to you." For some
reason secret from us, but hidden in the awful depths of that Being
who is the beginning and the end, the source and the condition of all
created existence, the return of Christ to the bosom of the Father was
absolutely necessary before the outpouring of the Divine Spirit of
Life and Love could take place. How this can have been we know not. We
only know the fact as revealed to us by Jesus Christ and affirmed by
His Apostles. "Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and
having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath
poured forth this which ye see and hear," is the testimony of the
illuminated Apostle St. Peter on the day of Pentecost, speaking in
strict unison with the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself as reported in
St. John's Gospel. But without endeavouring to intrude into these
mysteries of the Divine nature, into which even the angels themselves
pry not, we behold in the character and constitution of Christ's
Church and Christ's religion sufficient reasons to show us the Divine
expediency of our Lord's ascension. Let us take the matter very
plainly and simply thus. Had our Lord not ascended into the unseen
state whence He had emerged for the purpose of rescuing mankind from
that horrible pit, that mire and clay of pollution, immorality, and
selfishness in which it lay at the epoch of the Christian era, He must
in that case (always proceeding on the supposition that He had risen
from the dead, because we always suppose our readers to be believers)
have remained permanently or temporarily resident in some one place.
He might have chosen Jerusalem, the city of the great King, as His
abode, and this would have seemed to the religious men of His time
quite natural. The same instinct of religious conservatism which made
the Twelve to tarry at Jerusalem even when persecution seemed to
threaten the infant Church with destruction, would have led the risen
Christ to fix His abode at the city which every pious Jew regarded as
the special seat of Jehovah. There would have been nothing to tempt
Him to Antioch, or Athens, or Alexandria, or Rome. None of these
cities could have held out any inducement or put forward any claim
comparable for one moment with that which the name, the traditions,
and the circumstances of Jerusalem triumphantly maintained. Nay,
rather the tone and temper of those cities must have rendered them
abhorrent as dwelling-places to the great Teacher of holiness and
purity.

At any rate, the risen Saviour, if He remained upon earth, must have
chosen some one place where His presence and His personal glory would
have been manifested. Now let us contemplate, and work out in some
detail, the results which would have inevitably followed. The place
chosen by our Lord as His visible dwelling-place must then have become
the centre of the whole Church. At that spot pilgrims from every land
must necessarily have assembled. To it would have resorted the doubter
to have his difficulties resolved, the sick and weak to have their
ailments cured, the men of profound devotion to bathe themselves and
lose themselves in the immediate presence of Incarnate Deity. All
interest in local Churches or local work would have been destroyed,
because every eye and every heart would be perpetually turning towards
the one spot where the risen Lord was dwelling, and where personal
adoration could be paid to Him. All honest, manly self-reliance would
have been lost for individuals, for Churches, and for nations.
Whenever a difficulty or controversy arose, either in the personal or
ecclesiastical, the social or political sphere, men, instead of trying
to solve it for themselves under the guidance of the Divine Spirit,
would have hurried off with it to the Fount of supernatural wisdom, as
an oracle, like the fabled pagan ones of old, whence direction would
infallibly be gained. Judaism would have triumphed and the
dispensation of the Spirit would have ceased.

The whole idea, too, of Christianity as a scheme of moral probation
would have been overthrown. Christ as belonging to the supernatural
sphere would of course have been raised above the laws of time and
space. For Him the powers of earth and the terrors of earth would have
had no meaning, and heavenly glory, shooting forth from His sacred
Person, would have compelled obedience and acceptance of His laws at
the hands of His most deadly and obstinate foes. Sight would have
taken the place of faith, and the terrified submission of slaves would
have been substituted for the moral, loving obedience of the
regenerate soul. The whole social order of life would also have been
overthrown. God has now placed men in families, societies, and
nations, that they might be proved by the very difficulties of their
positions. The probation which God thereby exercises over men extends
not to those alone who are subject to government, but to those as well
who are entrusted with government. God by His present system tries
governors and governed, kings and subjects, magistrates and people,
parents and children, teachers and pupils, all alike. Any one who has
ever made the experiment knows, however, how impossible it is to give
full play to one's power and faculties, whether of government or of
teaching, when overlooked by the conscious presence of one who can
supersede and control all the arrangements made or all the
instructions offered. Nervousness comes in, and paralyzes the best
efforts a man might otherwise make. So would it have been had Christ
remained upon earth. Neither those placed in authority nor those set
under authority would have done their best or played their part
effectually, feeling there was One standing by whose all-piercing gaze
could see the imperfection of their noblest actions. A modern
illustration or two will perhaps exhibit more plainly what we mean.
London, with its enormous and ever-growing population, constitutes in
many respects a portentous danger to our national life. But thoughtful
colonists often see in it a danger which does not strike us here at
home. London has a tendency to sap the springs of local interest and
local self-reliance. Every colonist who attains to wealth and position
feels himself an exile till he can get back to London, which he
regards as the one centre of the empire worth living at; while the
colonies, viewing London as the centre of England's wealth, power, and
resources, feel naturally inclined to fling upon London the care and
responsibility of the empire's protection, in which all its separate
parts should take their proportionate share.

Or again, let us take an illustration from the ecclesiastical sphere.
M. Renan is a writer who has depicted the early history of the Church
from a sceptical point of view. He has done so with all the skill of a
novelist, aided by the resources of immense erudition. Before Renan
became a sceptic he was a Roman Catholic, and a student for the
priesthood in one of those narrow seminaries wherein exclusively the
Roman Church now trains her clergy. Renan can never, therefore, view
Christianity save through a Roman medium, and from a Roman Catholic
standpoint. Descended himself from a Jewish stock, and trained up in
Roman Catholic ideas, Renan, sceptic though he be, is lost in
admiration of the Papacy, because it has combined the Jewish and the
ancient imperial ideas, so that Rome having taken the place which
Jerusalem once occupied in the spiritual organisation, has now become
the local centre of unity for the Latin Church, where Christ's vicar
visibly bears sway, to whom resort can be had from every land as an
authoritative guide, and whence he and he alone dispenses with more
than imperial sway the gifts and graces of Divine love. Rome is for
the Latin Church the centre of the earth, and upon Rome and its
spiritual ruler all interest is concentrated as Christ's earthly
representative and deputy. Now what London is to our own colonists,
what Rome is for its adherents, such, and infinitely more, would the
localised presence of Jesus Christ have been for the Christian world
had not the ascension taken place. The Papacy, instead of securing
the universality of the Church, strikes a deadly blow at it. The
Papacy, with its centralised ecclesiastical despotism, is not the
Catholic Church, it is simply the local Church of Rome spread out into
all the world; just as Judaism never was and never could have been
catholic in its ideal, no matter how widely spread it was, from the
shores of the British Islands in the West to the far-distant regions
of China in the East. Its adherents, like the eunuch of Ethiopia,
never felt a local interest in their religion,--their eyes ever turned
towards Zion, the city of the great King. And so would it have been
with the bodily presence of Christ manifested in one spot; the
Christian Church would still have remained a purely local institution,
and the place where the risen Saviour was manifested would have been
for Christian people the one centre towards which all their thoughts
would gravitate, to the complete neglect of those home interests and
labours in which each individual Church ought to find the special work
appointed for it by the Master. It was expedient for the Church that
Christ should go away, to deepen faith, to strengthen Christian
self-reliance, to offer play and scope for the power and work of the
Holy Ghost, to render life a testing-ground, and a place of probation
for the higher life to come. But above all, it was expedient that
Christ should go away in order that the Church might rise out of and
above that narrow provincialism in which the Jewish spirit would fain
bind it, might attain to a truly universal and catholic position, and
thus fulfil the Master's magnificent prophecy to the woman of Samaria,
when, viewing in spirit the Church's onward march, beholding it
bursting all local and national bonds, recognising it as the religion
of universal humanity, He proclaimed its destiny in words which shall
never die--"Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh when neither in this
mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father. God is a
Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in
truth." The ascension of Jesus Christ was absolutely necessary to
equip the Church for its universal mission, by withdrawing the bodily
presence of Christ into that unseen region which bears no special
relation to any terrestrial locality, but is the common destiny, the
true fatherland, of all the sons of God.[30]

  [30] The line of thought here worked out was originally suggested
  to me by Canon Liddon's sermon on "Our Lord's Ascension the
  Church's Gain," in his first series of University sermons.

V. We have now seen how the ascension was needful for the Church, by
rendering Christ an ideal object of worship for the whole human race,
thus saving it from that tendency to mere localism which would have
utterly changed its character. We can also trace another great
blessing involved in it. The ascension glorified humanity as humanity,
and ennobled man viewed simply as man. The ascension thus transformed
life by adding a new dignity to life and to life's duties.

This was a very necessary lesson for the ancient world, especially the
ancient Gentile world, which Christ came to enlighten and to save.
Man, considered by himself as man, had no peculiar dignity in the
popular religious estimate of Greece and Rome. A Greek or a Roman was
a dignified person, not, however, in virtue of his humanity, but in
virtue of his Greek or Roman citizenship. The most pious Greeks or
Romans simply despised mankind as such, regarding all other nations
as barbarians, and treating them accordingly. Roman law exempted Roman
citizens from degrading and cruel punishments, which they reserved for
men outside the limits of Roman citizenship, because that humanity as
humanity had no dignity attached to it in their estimation. The
gladiatorial shows were the most striking illustration of this
contempt for human nature which paganism inculcated.[31]

  [31] The gladiatorial shows form an interesting standard by which
  we may compare the practical effects of Christian and the very
  highest pagan sentiment. Tertullian denounced them in the
  strongest language in his treatise _De Spectaculis_. Cicero, in
  the _Tusculan Disputations_, ii. 17, defends them warmly as the
  best discipline against fear of pain and death.

It is a notable evidence, too, of the firm grasp upon the popular mind
this contempt had taken, of the awful depths to which the fatal
infection had permeated the public conscience, that it was not till
four hundred years after the Incarnation, and not till one hundred
years after the triumph of Christianity, that these frightful
carnivals of human blood and slaughter yielded to the gentler and
nobler principles of the religion of the Cross. No name indeed in the
long roll of Christian martyrs, who for truth and righteousness have
laid down their lives, deserves higher mention than that of
Telemachus, the Asiatic monk, who, in the year 404, hearing that the
city, where the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul had suffered, was
still disgraced by the gladiatorial shows, made his way to Rome, and
by the sacrifice of his own life terminated them for ever within the
bounds of Christendom. Telemachus rushed between the combatants in the
arena, flung them asunder, and then was stoned to death by the mob,
infuriated at the interruption of their favourite amusement.[32] A
tragic but glorious ending indeed, showing clearly how little the
Roman mob realized as yet the doctrine of the sanctity of human
nature; how powerful was the sway which paganism and pagan modes of
thought held as yet over the populace of nominally Christian Rome; the
tradition of which even still perpetuates itself in the cruel
bull-fights of Spain. From the beginning, however, Christianity took
exactly the opposite course, declaring to all the dignity and glory of
human nature in itself. The Incarnation was in itself a magnificent
proclamation of this great elevating and civilising truth. The title
Son of Man, which Christ, rising above all narrow Jewish nationalism,
assumed to Himself, was a republication of the same dogma; and then,
to crown the whole fabric, comes the doctrine of the ascension,
wherein mankind was taught that human nature as joined to the person
of God has ascended into the holiest place of the universe, so that
henceforth the humblest and lowliest can view his humanity as allied
with that elder Brother who in the reality of human flesh--glorified,
indeed, spiritualised and refined by the secret, searching processes
of death--has passed within the veil, now to appear in the presence of
God for us. What new light must have been shed upon life--the life of
the barbarian and of the slave--crushed beneath the popular theory of
St. Paul's day![33] What new dignity this doctrine imparted to the
bodies of the outcast and despised, counted fit food only for the
cross, the stake, or the arena! Man might despise them and ill-treat
them, yet their bodies were made like unto the one glorious Body for
ever united to God, and therefore they were comforted, elevated,
enabled to endure as seeing Him who is invisible. Cannot we see many
examples of the consoling, elevating power of the ascension in the New
Testament? Take St. Paul's writings, and there we trace the influence
of the ascension in every page. Take the very lowest case. Slaves
under the conditions of ancient society occupied the most degraded
position. Their duties were of the humblest type, their treatment of
the worst description, their punishments of the most terrible
character.[34] Yet for even these oppressed and degraded beings the
doctrine of the ascension transformed life, because it endowed that
menial service which they rendered with a new dignity. "Servants, obey
in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye
service, as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God."
And why? Because life has been enriched with a new motive:
"Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men;
knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the
inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ." _Ye serve the Lord
Christ._ That was the supreme point. The cooking of a dinner, the
dressing of an imperious lady's hair, the teaching of a careless or
refractory pupil--all these things were transfigured into the service
of the ascended Lord. And as with the servant, so was it with their
masters. The ascension furnished them with a new and practical motive,
which, at first leading to kindly treatment and generous actions,
would one day, by the force of logical deduction as well as of
Christian principle, lead to the utter extinction of slavery.
"Masters, render unto your servants that which is just and equal,
knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven." The doctrine of the
ascension diffused sweetness and light throughout the whole Christian
system, furnishing a practical motive, offering an ever-present and
eternal sanction, urging men upwards and onwards; without which
neither the Church nor the world would ever have reached that high
level of mercy, charity, and purity which men now enjoy. Perhaps here
again the present age may see the doctrine of the ascension asserting
its glory and its power in the same direction. Much of modern
speculation tends to debase and belittle the human body, teaching
theories respecting its origin which have a natural tendency to
degrade the popular standard. If people come to think of their bodies
as derived from a low source, they will be apt to think a low standard
of morals as befitting bodies so descended. The doctrine of evolution
has not, to say the least, an elevating influence upon the masses. I
say nothing against it. One or two passages in the Bible, as Gen. ii.
7, seem to support it, appearing, as that verse does, to make a
division between the creation of the body of man and the creation of
his spirit.[35] But the broad tendency of such speculation lies in a
downward moral direction. Here the doctrine of the ascension steps in
to raise for us, as it raised for the materialists of St. Paul's day,
the standard of current conceptions, and to teach men a higher and a
nobler view. We leave to science the investigation of the past and of
the lowly sources whence man's body may have come; but the doctrine of
the ascension speaks of its present sanctity and of its future glory,
telling of the human body as a body of humiliation and of lowliness
indeed, but yet proclaiming it as even now, in the person of Christ,
ascended into the heavens, and seated on the throne of the Most High.
It may have been once humble in its origin; it is now glorious in its
dignity and elevation; and that dignity and that elevation shed a halo
upon human nature, no matter how degraded and wherever it may be
found, because it is like unto that Body, the firstfruits of humanity,
which stands at the right hand of God. Thus the doctrine of the
ascension becomes for the Christian the ever-flowing fountain of
dignity, of purity, and of mercy, teaching us to call no man common or
unclean, because all have been made like unto the image of the Son of
God.

  [32] The original authority for the story of Telemachus is
  Theodoret's _Eccles. Hist._, v. 26. It is vigorously told by
  Gibbon in the thirtieth chapter of his _Decline and Fall_.

  [33] The doctrine of the sanctity of human life was unknown under
  paganism. Tacitus tells us, about the year A.D. 61, how that
  Pedianus Secundus, prefect of the city, having been murdered by
  one of his slaves, the whole body of his slaves, numbering more
  than four hundred persons, of every age and sex, were put to death
  (_Annals_, xiv., 42-45).

  [34] We have no idea of the frightful character of pagan slavery.
  The worst form which negro slavery ever took never approached it.
  The following story will give our readers some idea of it. Cato,
  the censor, wrote a treatise, very little read or known, called
  _De Re Rustica_, treating of farming operations. In this he gives
  directions concerning the economical management of slaves, and
  among other things tells how wine for their winter consumption was
  to be prepared. "Put into a cask ten amphoræ of sweet wine, two
  amphoræ of sour vinegar, and as much wine boiled down by
  two-thirds. Add fifty amphoræ of pure water. Mix all together with
  a stick three times a day for five consecutive days. After this
  add sixty-four amphoræ of stale salt and water."

  [35] See St. George Mivart, _Genesis of Species_, p. 282. The
  whole chapter (xii.) on Theology and Evolution is well worth
  careful study.



CHAPTER IV.

_THE ELECTION OF MATTHIAS._

     "They prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of
     all men, shew of these two the one whom Thou hast chosen, to take
     the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell
     away, that he might go to his own place. And they gave lots for
     them; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with
     the eleven apostles."--ACTS i. 24-6.


We have selected the incident of this apostolic election as the
central point round which to group the events of the ten days'
expectation which elapsed between the Ascension and Pentecost. But
though this election is a most important fact, in itself and in the
principles involved therein, yet there are numerous other
circumstances in this waiting time which demand and will amply repay
our thoughtful attention.

I. There is, for instance, the simple fact that ten days were allowed
to elapse between Christ's departure and the fulfilment of His promise
to send the Comforter to take His place with His bereaved flock. The
work of the world's salvation depended upon the outcome of this Divine
agent. "Tarry ye in the city till ye be endued with power from on
high;" and all the time souls were hurrying on to destruction, and
society was becoming worse and worse, and Satan's hold upon the world
was daily growing in strength. God, however, acted in this interval
according to the principles we see illustrated in nature as well as
in revelation. He does nothing in a hurry. The Incarnation was
postponed for thousands of years. When the Incarnation took place,
Christ grew up slowly, and developed patiently, till the day of His
manifestation to Israel. And now that Christ's public work on earth
was done, there is no haste in the further development of the plan of
salvation, but ten days are suffered to elapse before His promise is
fulfilled. What a rebuke we read in the Divine methods of that
faithless unbelieving haste which marks and mars so many of our
efforts for truth and righteousness, and specially so in these
concluding years of the nineteenth century. Never did the Church stand
more in need of the lesson so often thus impressed upon her by her
Divine Teacher. As Christ did not strive nor cry, neither did any man
hear His voice in the streets, so neither did He make haste, because
He lived animated by Divine strength and wisdom, which make even
apparent delay and defeat conduce to the attainment of the highest
ends of love and mercy. And so, too, Christ's Church still does not
need the bustle, the haste, the unnatural excitement which the world
thinks needful, because she labours under a sense of Divine guidance,
and imitates His example who kept His Apostles waiting ten long days
before He fulfilled His appointed promise. What a lesson of comfort,
again, this Divine delay teaches! We are often inclined to murmur in
secret at the slow progress of God's Church and kingdom. We think that
if we had the management of the world's affairs things would have been
ordered otherwise, and the progress of truth be one long-continued
march of triumph. A consideration of the Divine delays in the past
helps us to bear this burden, though it may not explain the
difficulty. God's delays have turned out to His greater glory in the
past, and they who wait patiently upon Him will find the Divine delays
of the present dispensation equally well ordered.

II. Then again, how carefully, even in His delays, God honours the
elder dispensation, though now it had grown old and was ready to
vanish away. Christianity had none of that revolutionary spirit which
makes a clean sweep of old institutions to build up a new fabric in
their stead. Christianity, on the contrary, rooted itself in the past,
retained old institutions and old ideas, elevating indeed and
spiritualising them, and thus slowly broadened down from precedent to
precedent. This truly conservative spirit of the new dispensation is
manifest in every arrangement, and specially reveals itself in the
times selected for the great events of our Lord's ministry--Easter,
Ascension, then the ten days of expectation, and then Pentecost. And
it was most fitting that it should be so. The old dispensation was a
shadow and picture of the higher and better covenant one day to be
unfolded. Moses was told to make the tabernacle after the pattern
shown to him in the mount, and the whole typical system of Judaism was
modelled after a heavenly original to which Christ conformed in the
work of man's salvation.

At the first Passover, the paschal lamb was offered up and the
deliverance from Egypt effected; and so, too, at the Passover the true
Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ, was presented unto God as an acceptable
sacrifice, and the deliverance effected of the true Israel from the
spiritual Egypt of the world. Forty days after the Passover, Israel
came to the mount of God, into which Moses ascended that he might
receive gifts for the people; and forty days after the last great
Paschal Offering, the great spiritual Captain and Deliverer ascended
into the Mount of God, that He, in turn, might receive highest
spiritual blessings and a new law of life for God's true people. Then
there came the ten days of expectation and trial, when the Apostles
were called to wait upon God and prove the blessings of patient
abiding upon Him, just as the Israelites were called to wait upon God
while Moses was absent in the mount. But how different the conduct of
the Apostles from that of the more carnal Jews! How typical of the
future of the two religions--the Jewish and the Christian! The Jews
walked by sight, and not by faith; they grew impatient, and made an
image, the golden calf, to be their visible Deity. The Apostles
tarried in patience, because they were walking by faith, and they
received in return the blessing of an ever-present unseen Guide and
Comforter to lead them, and all who like them seek His help, into the
ways of truth and peace. And then, when the waiting time is past, the
feast of Pentecost comes, and at Pentecost, the feast of the giving of
the old law, as the Jews counted it, the new law of life and power,
written not on stony tables, but on the fleshy tables of the heart, is
granted in the gift of the Divine Comforter. All the lines of the old
system are carefully followed, and Christianity is thus shown to be,
not a novel invention, but the development and fulfilment of God's
ancient purposes.[36] We can scarcely appreciate nowadays the
importance and stress laid upon this view among the ancient expositors
and apologists. It was a favourite taunt used by the pagans of Greece
and Rome against Christianity that it was only a religion of
yesterday, a mere novelty, as compared with their own systems, which
descended to them from the dawn of history. This taunt has been indeed
most useful in its results for us moderns, because it led the ancient
Christians to pay the most careful attention to chronology and
historical studies, producing as the result works like _The Chronicle
of Eusebius_, to which secular history itself owes the greatest
obligations.

  [36] See on this point Dr. John Lightfoot's _Horæ Hebraicæ_, Acts
  ii. 1; and a sermon by the learned Joseph Mede of Cambridge on
  Deut. xvi. 16, 17, in his _Works_, vol. i., p. 350 (London, 1664).

The heathens reproached Christians with the novelty of their faith,
and then the early Christians replied by pointing to history, which
proved that the Jewish religion was far older than any other,
maintaining at the same time that Christianity was merely the
development of the Jewish religion, the completion and fulfilment in
fact and reality of what Judaism had shadowed forth in the ritual of
the Passover and of Pentecost.[37]

  [37] See this point worked out in Dr. Salmon's article _Chronica_,
  in the first volume of the _Dict. Christ. Biog._, and in the
  opening of his article on _The Chronicle of Eusebius_ in the
  second volume of the same work. A brief extract from one of the
  earliest and most learned apologists, who lived about the middle
  of the second century, will show how the Christians elaborated
  this argument. Tatian, in ch. xl. of his _Oration to the Greeks_,
  speaks thus: "Therefore from what has been said it is evident that
  Moses was older than the ancient heroes, wars, and demons. And we
  ought rather to believe him, who stands before them in point of
  age, than the Greeks, who, without being aware of it, drew his
  doctrines as from a fountain. For many of the sophists among them,
  stimulated by curiosity, endeavoured to adulterate whatever they
  learned from Moses, and from those who philosophised like him,
  first that they might be considered as having something of their
  own, and secondly, that covering up by a certain rhetorical
  artifice whatever things they did not understand, they might
  misrepresent the truth as if it were a fable. But what the learned
  among the Greeks have said concerning our polity and the history
  of our laws, and how many and what kind of men have written of
  these things, will be shown in the treatise against those who have
  discoursed of Divine things."

III. We notice again in this connection the place where the Apostles
met, and the manner in which they continued to assemble after the
ascension, and while they waited for the fulfilment of the Master's
promise: "They returned unto Jerusalem, and they went up into an upper
chamber." Round this upper room at Jerusalem has gathered many a story
dating from very early ages indeed. The upper room in which they
assembled has been identified with the chamber in which the Last
Supper was celebrated, and where the gift of the Holy Ghost was first
received, and that from ancient times. Epiphanius, a Christian writer
of the fourth century, to whom we owe much precious information
concerning the early ages of the Church, tells us that there was a
church built on this spot even in Hadrian's time, that is, about the
year 120 A.D.[38] The Empress Helena, again, the mother of Constantine
the Great, identified or thought she identified the spot, and built a
splendid church to mark it out for all time; and succeeding ages have
spent much care and thought upon it. St. Cyril of Jerusalem was a
writer little referred to and little known in our day, who yet has
much precious truth to teach us. He was a learned bishop of Jerusalem
about the middle of the fourth century, and he left us catechetical
lectures, showing what pains and trouble the Early Church took in the
inculcation of the fundamental articles of the Christian creed. His
catechetical lectures, delivered to the candidates for baptism,
contain much valuable evidence of the belief, the practice, and the
discipline of the early ages, and they mention among other points the
church built upon Mount Zion on the spot once occupied by this upper
room. The tradition, then, which deals with this chamber and points
out its site goes back to the ages of persecution; and yet it is
notable how little trouble the book of the Acts of the Apostles takes
in this matter. It is just the same with this upper chamber as with
the other localities in which our Lord's mighty works were wrought.
The Gospels tell us not where His temptations occurred, though man has
often tried to fix the exact locality. The site of the Transfiguration
and of the true Mount of Beatitudes has engaged much human curiosity;
the scene of Peter's vision at Joppa and of St. Paul's conversion on
the road to Damascus,--all these and many other divinely honoured
localities of the Old as well as of the New Testament have been
shrouded from us in thickest darkness, that we might learn not to fix
our eyes upon the external husk, the locality, the circumstances, the
time, which are nothing, but upon the interior spirit, the love, the
unity, the devotion and self-sacrifice which constitute in the Divine
sight the very heart and core of our holy religion.[39] They assembled
themselves, too, in this upper chamber in a united spirit, such as
Christianity, though only in an undeveloped shape, already dictated.
The Apostles "continued steadfastly in prayer, with the women also,
and Mary, the mother of Jesus." The spirit of Christianity was, I say,
already manifesting itself.

  [38] Epiphanius, _On Weights and Measures_, ch. xiv.

  [39] The traditions about the upper chamber are given at length in
  Fr. Quaresmius, _Terræ Sanctæ Elucidatio_, t. ii., p. 119
  (Antwerp, 1639), with which may be compared Bingham's
  _Antiquities_, bk. viii., ch. i., sec. 13; Mede's _Discourse Of
  Churches_ in his _Works_, vol. i., p. 408; and Bishop Milles'
  notes on Cyril's _Catech._, xvi. 2, in his edition of that writer,
  p. 225.

In the temple, as in the synagogues to this day, the women prayed in
a separate place; they were not united with the men, but parted from
them by a screen. But in Christ Jesus there was to be neither male nor
female. The man in virtue of his manhood had no advantage or
superiority over the woman in virtue of her womanhood; and so the
Apostles gathered themselves at the footstool of their common Father
in union with the women, and with Mary the mother of Jesus. How
simple, again, this last mention of the Blessed Virgin Mother of the
Lord! how strangely and strongly contrasted the scriptural record is
with the fables and legends which have grown up round the memory of
her whom all generations must ever call blessed. Nothing, in fact,
shows more plainly the historic character of the book we are studying
than a comparison of this last simple notice with the legend of the
assumption of the Blessed Virgin as it has been held since the fifth
century, and as it is now believed in the Church of Rome. The popular
account of this fabled incident arose in the East amid the
controversies which rent the Church concerning the Person of Christ in
the fifth century. It taught that the Holy Virgin, a year or so after
the ascension, besought the Lord to release her; upon which the angel
Gabriel was sent to announce her departure in three days' time. The
Apostles were thereupon summoned from the different parts of the world
whither they had departed. John came from Ephesus, Peter from Rome,
Thomas from India, each being miraculously wafted on a cloud from his
special sphere of labour, while those of the apostolic company who had
died were raised for the occasion. On the third day the Lord descended
from heaven with the angels, and took to Himself the soul of the
Virgin. The Jews then attempted to burn the body, which was
miraculously rescued and buried in a new tomb, prepared by Joseph of
Arimathea in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. For two days the angels were
heard singing at the tomb, but on the third day their songs ceased,
and the Apostles then knew that the body had been transferred to
Paradise. St. Thomas was indeed vouchsafed a glimpse of her ascension,
and at his request she dropped him her girdle as a token, whereupon he
went to his brother Apostles and declared her sepulchre to be empty.
The Apostles regarded this as merely a sign of his customary
incredulity, but on the production of the girdle they were convinced,
and on visiting the grave found the body was gone.[40]

  [40] See, for a fuller account, Salmon's _Introduction N. T._, 4th
  ed., pp. 384-86, and the references there given.

Can any contrast be greater or more striking between the inspired
narrative, composed for the purpose of ministering to godly life and
practice, and such legendary fables as this, invented to gratify mere
human curiosity, or to secure a temporary controversial triumph? The
Divine narrative shrouds in thickest darkness details which have no
spiritual significance, no direct bearing on the work of man's
salvation. The human fable intrudes into the things unseen, and revels
with a childish delight in the regions of the supernatural and
miraculous.

What a striking likeness do we trace between the composition of the
Acts and of the Gospels in this direction! The self-restraint of the
evangelical writers is wondrous. Had the Evangelists been mere human
biographers, how they would have delighted to expatiate on the
childhood and youth and earlier years of Christ's manhood. The
apocryphal Gospels composed in the second and third centuries show us
what our Gospels would have been had they been written by men
destitute of an abundant supply of the Divine Spirit. They enter into
the most minute incidents of our Lord's childhood, tell us of His
games, His schoolboy days, of the flashes of the supernatural glory
which ever betrayed the awful Being who lay hidden beneath. The
Gospels, on the other hand, fling a hallowed and reverent veil over
all the details, or almost all the details, of our Lord's early life.
They tell us of His birth, and its circumstances and surroundings,
that we might learn the needful lesson of the infinite glory, the
transcendent greatness of lowliness and humiliation. They give us a
glimpse of our Lord's development when twelve years old, that we may
learn the spiritual strength and force which are produced through the
discipline of obedience and patient waiting upon God; and then all
else is concealed from human vision till the hour was come for the
manifestation of the full-orbed God-Man. And as it was with the
Eternal Son, so was it with that earthly parent whom the consensus of
universal Christendom has agreed to honour as the type of devout
faith, of humble submission, of loving motherhood. Fable has grown
thick round her in mere human narrative, but when we turn to the
inspired Word, whether in the Gospels or in the Acts,--for it is all
the same in both,--we find a story simple, restrained, and yet
captivating in all its details, ministering indeed to no prurient
curiosity, yet rich in all the materials which serve to devout
meditation, culminating in this last record, where the earthly parent
finally disappears from out of sight, eclipsed by the heavenly glory
of the Divine Son:--"These all continued stedfastly in prayer, with
the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus."

IV. And then we have the record of the apostolic election, which is
rich in teaching. We note the person who took the first step, and his
character, so thoroughly in unison with that picture which the four
Gospels present. St. Peter was not a forward man in the bad sense of
the word, but he possessed that energetic, forcible character to which
men yield a natural leadership. Till St. Paul appeared St. Peter was
regarded as the spokesman of the apostolic band, just as during our
Lord's earthly ministry the same position was by tacit consent
accorded to him. He was one of those men who cannot remain inactive,
especially when they see anything wanting. There are some men who can
see a defect just as clearly, but their first thought is, What have I
to do with it? They behold the need, but it never strikes them that
they should attempt to rectify it. St. Peter was just the opposite:
when he saw a fault or a want his disposition and his natural gifts at
once impelled him to strive to rectify it. When our Lord, in view of
the contending rumours afloat concerning His ministry and authority,
applied this searching test to His Apostles, "But whom do ye say that
I am?" it was Peter that boldly responded, "Thou art the Christ, the
Son of the living God." Just as a short time afterwards the same Peter
incurred Christ's condemnation when he rebuked the Saviour for the
prophecy of His forthcoming death and humiliation. The character of
St. Peter as depicted in the Gospels and the Acts is at unison with
itself. It is that of one ever generous, courageous, intensely
sympathetic, impulsive, but deficient, as impulsive and sympathetic
characters often are, in that staying power, that capacity to bear up
under defeat, discouragement, and darkness which so conspicuously
marked out the great Apostle of the Gentiles, and made him such a
pillar in the spiritual temple of the New Jerusalem. Yet St. Peter did
his own work, for God can ever find employment suitable to every type
of that vast variety of temperament which finds shelter beneath the
roof of Christ's Church. St. Peter's impulsiveness, chastened by
prayer, solemnized by his own sad personal experience, deepened by the
bitter sorrow consequent on his terrible fall, urged him to take the
first conscious step as the leader of the newly-constituted society.
How very similar the Peter of the Acts is to the Peter of St. Matthew;
what an undesigned evidence of the truth of these records we trace in
the picture of St. Peter presented by either narrative! Just as St.
Peter was in the Gospels the first to confess at Cæsarea, the first to
strike in the garden, the first to fail in the high priest's palace,
so was he the first "to stand up in these days in the midst of the
brethren," and propose the first corporate movement on the Church's
part.

Here again we note that his attitude at this apostolic election proves
that the interviews which St. Peter held with Christ after the
Resurrection must have been lengthened, intimate, and frequent, for
St. Peter's whole view of the Christian organization seems thoroughly
changed. Christ had continued with His Apostles during forty days,
speaking to them of the things concerning the kingdom of God; and St.
Peter, as he had been for years one of the Lord's most intimate
friends, so he doubtless still held the same trusted position in these
post-resurrection days. The Lord revealed to him the outlines of His
kingdom, and sketched for him the main lines of its development,
teaching him that the Church was not to be a knot of personal
disciples, dependent upon His manifested bodily presence, and
dissolving into its original elements as soon as that bodily presence
ceased to be realized by the eye of sense; but was rather to be a
corporation with perpetual succession, to use legal language, whose
great work was to be an unceasing witness to Christ's resurrection. If
Peter's mind had not been thus illuminated and guided by the personal
instruction of Christ, how came it to pass that prior to the descent
of the Spirit the Apostles move with no uncertain step in this matter,
and unhesitatingly fill up the blank in the sacred college by the
election of Matthias into the place left vacant by the terrible fall
of Judas? The speech of St. Peter and the choice of this new Apostle
reflect light back upon the forty days of waiting. No objection is
raised, no warm debate takes place such as heralded the solution of
the vexed question concerning circumcision at the council of
Jerusalem; no one suggests that as Christ Himself had not supplied the
vacancy the choice should be postponed till after the fulfilment of
the Master's mysterious promise, because they were all instructed as
to our Lord's wishes by the conversations held with Christ during His
risen and glorified life.

Let us pause a little to meditate upon an objection which might have
been here raised. Why fill up what Christ Himself left vacant? some
short-sighted objector might have urged; and yet we see good reason
why Christ may have omitted to supply the place of Judas, and may have
designed that the Apostles themselves should have done so. Our Lord
Jesus Christ gifted His Apostles with corporate power; He bestowed
upon them authority to act in His stead and name; and it is not God's
way of action to grant power and authority, and then to allow it to
remain unexercised and undeveloped. When God confers any gift He
expects that it shall be used for His honour and man's benefit. The
Lord had bestowed upon the Apostles the highest honour, the most
wondrous power ever given to men. He had called them to an office of
which He Himself had spoken very mysterious things. He had told them
that, in virtue of the apostolic dignity conferred upon them, they
should in the regeneration of all things sit upon thrones, judging the
twelves tribes of Israel. He had spoken, too, of a mysterious
authority with which they were invested, so that their decisions here
upon earth would be ratified and confirmed in the region of heavenly
realities. Yet when a gap is made by successful sin in the number of
the mystical twelve who are to judge the twelve tribes, He leaves the
selection of a new Apostle to the remaining eleven, in order that they
may be compelled to stir up the grace of God which was in them, and to
exercise the power entrusted to them under a due sense of
responsibility. The Lord thus wished to teach the Church from earliest
days to walk alone. The Apostles had been long enough depending on His
personal presence and guidance, and now, that they might learn to
exercise the privileges and duties of their Divine freedom, He leaves
them to choose one to fill that position of supernatural rank and
office from which Judas had fallen. The risen Saviour acted in grace
as God ever acts in nature. He bestowed His gifts lavishly and
generously, and then expected man to respond to the gifts by making
that good use of them which earnest prayer, sanctified reason, and
Christian commonsense dictated.

St. Peter's action is notable, too, in another aspect. St. Peter was
undoubtedly the natural leader of the apostolic band during those
earliest days of the Church's history. Our Lord Himself recognised his
natural gifts as qualifying him to fulfil this position. There is no
necessity for a denial on our part of the reality of St. Peter's
privilege as contained in such passages as the verse which says, "I
will give unto thee (Peter) the keys of the kingdom of heaven." He was
eminently energetic, vigorous, quick in action. But we find no traces
of that despotic authority as prince of the Apostles and supreme head
over the whole Church with which some would fain invest St. Peter and
his successors. St. Peter steps forward first on this occasion, as
again on the day of Pentecost, and again before the high priest after
the healing of the impotent man, and yet again at the council of
Jerusalem; for, as we have already noted, St. Peter possessed in
abundance that natural energy which impels a man to action without any
desire for notoriety or any wish to thrust himself into positions of
undue eminence. But then on every occasion St. Peter speaks as an
equal to his equals. He claims no supreme authority; no authority, in
fact, at all over and beyond what the others possessed. He does not,
for instance, on this occasion claim the right as Christ's vicar to
nominate an Apostle into the place of Judas. He merely asserts his
lawful place in Christ's kingdom as first among a body of equals to
suggest a course of action to the whole body which he knew to be in
keeping with the Master's wishes, and in fulfilment of His revealed
intentions.

V. The address of St. Peter led the Apostles to practical action. He
laid the basis of it in the book of Psalms, the mystical application
of which to our Lord and His sufferings he recognises, selecting
passages from the sixty-ninth and the one hundred and ninth Psalms as
depicting the sin and the fate of Judas Iscariot;[41] and then sets
forth the necessity of filling up the vacancy in the apostolic office,
a fact of which he had doubtless been certified by the Master Himself.
He speaks as if the College of the Apostles had a definite work and
office; a witness peculiar to themselves as Apostles, which no others
except Apostles could render. This is manifest from the language of
St. Peter. He lays down the conditions of a possible Apostle: he must
have been a witness of all that Jesus had done and taught from the
time of His baptism to His ascension. But this qualification alone
would not make a man an Apostle, or qualify him to bear the witness
peculiar to the apostolic office. There were evidently numerous such
witnesses, but they were not Apostles, and had none of the power and
privileges of the Twelve. He must be chosen by his brother Apostles,
and their choice must be endorsed by Heaven; and then the chosen
witness, who had known the past, could testify to the resurrection in
particular, with a weight, authority, and dignity he never possessed
before. The apostolic office was the germ out of which the whole
Christian ministry was developed, and the apostolic witness was
typical of that witness to the resurrection which is not the duty
alone, but also the strength and glory of the Christian ministry; for
it is only as the ministers and witnesses of a risen and glorified
Christ that they differ from the officials of a purely human
association.[42]

  [41] Peter may have learned this mystical mode of interpretation
  from our Lord Himself in His conversations. See Luke xxiv. 44-9.

  [42] The intimate connection between the Christian ministry and
  the miraculous facts of Christianity has been powerfully argued by
  Charles Leslie in his _Short and Easy Method with the Deists_. He
  contends that the existence of the Christian ministry is a
  standing evidence of the supernatural facts of the gospel which
  can alone explain that existence. If the facts never happened, how
  did the Christian ministry arise? Hence he concludes the perpetual
  character and obligation of the ministry for Christians, or, to
  quote his own words, "Now the Christian priesthood, as instituted
  by Christ Himself, and continued by succession to this day, being
  as impregnable and flagrant a testimony to the truth of the matter
  of fact of Christ as the sacraments or any other public
  institutions; besides that, if the priesthood were taken away, the
  sacraments and other public institutions which are administered by
  their hands, must fall with them: therefore the devil has been
  most busy, and bent his greatest force, in all ages, against the
  priesthood, knowing that if that goes down, all goes with
  it."--Leslie's _Works_, vol. i., p. 27.

After St. Peter had spoken, two persons were selected as possessing
the qualifications needful in the successor of Judas. Then when the
Apostles had elected they prayed, and cast lots as between the two,
and the final selection of Matthias was made. Questions have sometimes
been raised as to this method of election, and attempts have been
sometimes made to follow the precedent here set. The lot has at times
been used to supersede the exercise of human judgment, not only in
Church elections, but in the ordinary matters of life; but if this
passage is closely examined, it will be seen that it affords no
justification for any such practice. The Apostles did not use the lot
so as to supersede the exercise of their own powers, or relieve them
of that personal responsibility which God has imposed on men, whether
as individuals, or as gathered in societies civil or ecclesiastical.
The Apostles brought their private judgment into play, searched,
debated, voted, and, as the result, chose two persons equally well
qualified for the apostolic office. Then, when they had done their
best, they left the decision to the lot, just as men often do still;
and if we believe in the efficacy of prayer and a particular
Providence ordering the affairs of men, I do not see that any wiser
course can ever be taken, under similar circumstances, than that which
the Apostles adopted on this occasion. But we must be careful to
observe that the Apostles did not trust to the lot absolutely and
completely. That would have been trusting to mere chance. They first
did their utmost, exercised their own knowledge and judgment, and
then, having done their part, they prayerfully left the final result
to God, in humble confidence that He would show what was best.

The two selected candidates were Joseph Barsabas and Matthias, neither
of whom ever appeared before in the story of our Lord's life, and yet
both had been His disciples all through His earthly career. What
lessons for ourselves may we learn from these men! These two eminent
servants of God, either of whom their brethren counted worthy to
succeed into the apostolic College, appear just this once in the
sacred narrative, and then disappear for ever. Indeed it is with the
Apostles as we have already noted in the case of our Lord's life and
the story of the Blessed Virgin, the self-restraint of the sacred
narrative is most striking. What fields for romance! What wide scope
for the exercise of imagination would the lives of the Apostles have
opened out if the writers of our sacred books had not been guided and
directed by a Divine power outside and beyond themselves. We are not,
indeed, left without the materials for a comparison in this respect,
most consoling and most instructive for the devout Christian.

Apocryphal histories of all the Apostles abound on every side, some of
them dating from the second century itself. Many of them indeed are
regular romances. The Clementine Homilies and Recognitions form a
religious novel, entering into the most elaborate details of the
labours, preaching, and travels of the Apostle Peter. Every one of the
other Apostles, and many of the earliest disciples too, had gospels
forged in their honour; there was the Gospel of Peter, of Thomas, of
Nicodemus, and of many others. And so it was with St. Matthias.[43]
Five hundred years after Christ the Gospel of Matthias was known and
repudiated as a fiction. A mass of tradition, too, grew up round him,
telling of his labours and martyrdom, as some said in Ethiopia, and as
others in Eastern Asia.

  [43] The literature of the apocryphal Gospels is very extensive.
  Those who wish to pursue this subject will find abundant materials
  in an article on "Gospels, Apocryphal" in the second volume of the
  _Dictionary of Christian Biography_, written by Professor Lipsius
  of Jena; or in Dr. Salmon's _Introduction to the New Testament_,
  Lect. XI. Origen mentioned the Gospel of Matthias, while again
  Eusebius (_H. E._, iii., 25) describes it as heretical. See
  Fabricius, _Cod. Apoc. N. T._ p. 782. The apocryphal Acts of
  Andrew and Matthias may be seen in Tischendorf's _Acta Apoc._, p.
  132. Nelson's _Fasts and Festivals_ tells, in a convenient shape,
  the traditions about St. Matthias and the other Apostles.

Clement, a writer who lived about the year 200, at Alexandria,
recounts for us some sayings traditionally ascribed to St. Matthias,
all of a severe and sternly ascetic tone. But in reality we know
nothing either of what St. Matthias did or of what he taught. The
genuine writings of apostolic times carry their own credentials with
them in this respect. They are dignified and natural. They indulge in
no details to exalt their heroes, or to minister to that love of the
strange and marvellous which lies at the root of so much religious
error. They were written to exalt Christ and Christ alone, and they
deal, therefore, with the work of Apostles merely so far as the story
tends to increase the glory of the Master, not that of His servants.
Surely this repression of the human agents, this withdrawal of them
into the darkness of obscurity, is one of the best evidences of the
genuineness of the New Testament. One or two of the earliest witnesses
of the Cross have their story told at some length. Peter and Paul,
when compared with James or John or Matthias, figure very largely in
the New Testament narrative. But even they have allotted to them a
mere brief outline of a portion of their work, and all the rest is
hidden from us. The vast majority even of the Apostles have their
names alone recorded, while nothing is told concerning their labours
or their sufferings. If the Apostles were deceivers, they were
deceivers who sought their rewards neither in this life, where they
gained nothing but loss of all things, nor in the pages of history,
where their own hands and the hands of their friends consigned their
brightest deeds to an obscurity no eye can pierce.[44] But they were
not deceivers. They were the noblest benefactors of the race, men
whose minds and hearts and imaginations were filled with the glory of
their risen Redeemer. Their one desire was that Christ alone should be
magnified, and to this end they willed to lose themselves in the
boundless sea of His risen glory. And thus they have left us a noble
and inspiriting example. We are not apostles, martyrs, or confessors,
yet we often find it hard to take our part and do our duty in the
spirit displayed by Matthias and Joseph called Barsabas. We long for
public recognition and public reward. We chafe and fret and fume
internally because we have to bear our temptations and suffer our
trials and do our work unknown and unrecognised by all but God. Let
the example of these holy men help us to put away all such vain
thoughts. God Himself is our all-seeing and our ever-present Judge.
The Incarnate Master Himself is watching us. The angels and the
spirits of the just made perfect are witnesses of our earthly
struggles. No matter how low, how humble, how insignificant the story
of our spiritual trials and struggles, they are all marked in heaven
by that Divine Master who will at last reward every man, not according
to his position in the world, but in strict accordance with the
principles of infallible justice.

  [44] The dignified self-restraint of the Acts is nowhere more
  manifest than in its reference to Judas Iscariot. The only notice
  bestowed upon him is connected with the election of Matthias.
  Papias was a writer of the beginning of the second century. He
  knew some of the Apostles and early disciples, and gathered
  diligently every tradition about the Church's early days. Papias
  made an attempt to harmonise the account of the death of Judas
  given by St. Peter with that told in St. Matthew, which has been
  preserved for us by two Greek commentators, Œcumenius, who
  lived in the tenth, and Theophylact, who flourished in the
  eleventh century. The difficulty is this. St. Matthew says that
  Judas hanged himself; St. Peter says that he burst asunder. Papias
  harmonises the two by telling that Judas first of all hanged
  himself on a fig-tree, but the halter broke. He was then seized
  with a terrible dropsy, and swelled up to an enormous size, so
  that when endeavouring to pass where a waggon could go he burst
  asunder. The narrative of Papias is given in Theophylact on Matt.
  xxvii., and Œcumenius on Acts i. Dr. Routh, in his _Reliquiæ
  Sacræ_, vol. i., pp. 9, 25, points out that the horrid details of
  the story, which cannot be here printed, are due to the Greek
  commentators enlarging on the simple facts stated by Papias.
  Origen, with characteristic daring, suggests that Judas committed
  suicide as soon as he saw that our Lord was condemned, in order
  that he might arise in the region of the dead before Him, and
  there seek His forgiveness. There is a curious Latin book,
  published in 1680, which gives all the traditions about the
  traitor. Its title is Kempius, _On the Life and Fate of Judas
  Iscariot_.



CHAPTER V.

_THE PENTECOSTAL BLESSING._

     "And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all
     together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a
     sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the
     house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them
     tongues parting asunder (or distributing themselves), like as of
     fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled
     with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as
     the Spirit gave them utterance."--ACTS ii. 1-4.


In these words we find the record of the event which completed the
Church, and endowed it with that mysterious power which then was, and
ever since has been, the source of its true life and of its highest
success.

The time when the gift of the Spirit was vouchsafed is marked for us
as "when the day of Pentecost was now come." Here again, as in the
fact of the ascension and the waiting of the Church, we trace the
outline of Christianity in Judaism, and see in the typical ceremonial
of the old dispensation the outline and shadow of heavenly realities.

What was the history of the Pentecostal feast? That feast fulfilled in
the Jewish system a twofold place. It was one of the great natural
festivals whereby God taught His ancient people to sanctify the
different portions of the year. The Passover was the feast of the
first ripe corn, celebrating the beginning of the barley harvest, as
again the Pentecostal loaves set forth, solemnized, and sanctified the
close of the wheat harvest. No one was permitted, according to the
twenty-third of Leviticus, to partake of the fruits of the earth till
the harvest had been sanctified by the presentation to God of the
first ripe sheaf, just as at the greatest paschal festival ever
celebrated, Christ, the first ripe sheaf of that vast harvest of
humanity which is maturing for its Lord, was taken out of the grave
where the rest of the harvest still lies, and presented in the inner
temple of the universe as the first-fruits of humanity unto God. At
Pentecost, on the other hand, it was not a sheaf but a loaf that was
offered to signify the completion of the work begun at the Passover.
At Pentecost the law is thus laid down: "Ye shall bring out of your
habitations two wave loaves of two tenth parts of an ephah: they shall
be of fine flour, they shall be baken with leaven, for first-fruits
unto the Lord" (Lev. xxiii. 17). Pentecost, therefore, was the harvest
festival, the feast of ingathering for the Jews; and when the type
found its completion in Christ, Pentecost became the feast of
ingathering for the nations, when the Church, the mystical body of
Christ, was presented unto God to be an instrument of His glory and a
blessing to the world at large. This feast, as we have already
intimated, was a fitting season for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and
that for another reason. Pentecost was considered by the Jews as a
festival commemorative of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai in the
third month after they had been delivered from the bondage of Egypt.
It was a fitting season, therefore, for the bestowal of the Spirit,
whereby the words of ancient prophecy were fulfilled, "I will put My
law in their inward parts, and in their heart I will write it; and I
will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Jer. xxxi. 33).[45]

The time when the Spirit was poured out on the assembled body of
Christians, and the Church's foundations laid deep and strong,
revealed profound reverence for the old dispensation, raising by
anticipation a protest against the heretical teaching which became
current among the Gnostics in the second century, and has often since
found place in Christian circles, as amongst the Anabaptists of
Germany and the Antinomians at the time of the Reformation. This view
taught that there was an essential opposition between the Old and the
New Testament, some maintainers of it, like the ancient Gnostics,
holding that the Old Testament was the production of a spiritual being
inferior and hostile to the Eternal God. The Divine Spirit guided St.
Luke, however, to teach the opposite view, and is careful to honour
the elder dispensation and the old covenant, showing that Christianity
was simply the perfection and completion of Judaism, and was developed
therefrom as naturally as the bud of spring bursts forth into the
splendid blossom and flower of summer. We trace these evidences of the
Divine foreknowledge, as well as of the Divine wisdom, in these
Pentecostal revelations, providing for and forecasting future dangers
with which, even in its earlier days, the bark of Christ's Church had
desperately to struggle.[46]

  [45] In the last lecture I have already given the reference to
  Lightfoot's and Mede's works where this point is fully worked out.

  [46] The same view has practically been taught by some modern
  sects, who have proclaimed that all of the Old Testament and the
  whole of our Lord's teaching till He died were intended for Jews
  only, and have no relation to Christians. It is hard to say how
  such persons regard the Old Testament and the greater part of the
  four Gospels, save as interesting fossils to be hung up in a
  museum of comparative religion.

I. Now let us take the circumstances of the Pentecostal blessing as
they are stated, for every separate detail bears with it an important
message. The place and the other circumstances of the outpouring of
the Spirit are full of instruction. The first disciples were all with
one accord in one place. There was unity of spirit and unity in open
manifestation to the world at large. Christ's disciples, when they
received the gifts of heaven's choicest blessings, were not split up
into dozens of different organizations, each of them hostile to the
others, and each striving to aggrandise itself at the expense of
kindred brotherhoods. They had keenly in remembrance the teaching of
our Lord's great Eucharistic supplication when He prayed to His Father
for His people that "they may all be one; even as Thou Father, art in
Me, and I in Thee ... that the world may believe that Thou didst send
Me." There was visible unity among the followers of Christ; there was
interior love and charity, finding expression in external union which
qualified the disciples for the fuller reception of the spirit of
love, and rendered them powerful in doing God's work amongst men. The
state of the Apostles and the blessing then received have an important
message for the Christianity of our own and of every age. What a
contrast the Christian Church--taking the word in its broadest sense
as comprising all those who profess and call themselves
Christians--presents at the close of the nineteenth when compared with
the opening years of the first century. May not many of the problems
and difficulties which the Church of to-day experiences be traced up
to this woeful contrast? Behold England nowadays, with its two hundred
sects, all calling themselves by the name of Christ; take the
Christian world, with its Churches mutually hostile, spending far
more time and trouble on winning proselytes one from the other than
upon winning souls from the darkness of heathenism;--surely this one
fact alone, the natural result of our departure from the Pentecostal
condition of unity and peace, is a sufficient evidence of our evil
plight. We do not purpose now to go into any discussion of the causes
whence have sprung the divisions of Christendom. "An enemy hath done
this" is a quite sufficient explanation, for assuredly the great enemy
of souls and of Christ has counterworked and traversed the work of the
Church and the conversion of the world most effectually thereby. There
are some persons who rejoice in the vast variety of divisions in the
Church; but they are shortsighted and inexperienced in the danger and
scandals which have flowed, and are flowing, from them. It is indeed
in the mission field that the schisms among Christians are most
evidently injurious. When the heathen see the soldiers of the Cross
split up among themselves into hostile organizations, they very
naturally say that it will be time enough when their own divergences
and difficulties have been reconciled to come and convert persons who
at least possess internal union and concord. The visible unity of the
Church was from the earliest days a strong argument, breaking down
pagan prejudice. Then, again, not only do the divisions of Christians
place a stumbling-block in the way of the conversion of the heathen,
but they lead to a wondrous waste of power both at home and abroad.
Surely one cannot look at the religious state of a town or village in
England without realizing at a glance the evil results of our
divisions from this point of view. If men believe that the preaching
of the Cross of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, and that
millions are perishing from want of that blessed story, can they feel
contentment when the great work of competing sects consists, not in
spreading that salvation, but in building up their own cause by
proselytising from their neighbours, and gathering into their own
organization persons who already have been made partakers of Christ
Jesus? And if this competition of sects be injurious and wasteful
within the bounds of Christendom, surely it is infinitely more so when
various contending bodies concentrate all their forces, as they so
often do, on the same locality in some unconverted land, and seem as
eagerly desirous of gaining proselytes from one another as from the
mass of paganism.

Then, too, to take it from another point of view, what a loss in
generalship, in Christian strategy, in power of concentration, results
from our unhappy divisions? The united efforts made by Protestants,
Roman Catholics, and Greeks, are indeed all too small for the vast
work of converting the heathen world if they were made with the
greatest skill and wisdom. How much more insufficient they must be
when a vast proportion of the power employed is wasted, as far as the
work of conversion is concerned, because it is used simply in
counteracting and withstanding the efforts of other Christian bodies.
I say nothing as to the causes of dissensions. In many cases they may
have been absolutely necessary, though in too many cases I fear they
have resulted merely from views far too narrow and restrained; I
merely point out the evil of division in itself as being, not a help,
as some would consider it, but a terrible hindrance in the way of the
Church of Christ. How different it was in the primitive Church! Within
one hundred and fifty years, or little more, of the ascension of Jesus
Christ and the outpouring of the Divine Spirit, a Christian writer
could boast that the Christian Church had permeated the whole Roman
empire to such an extent that if the Christians abandoned the cities
they would be turned into howling deserts. This triumphant march of
Christianity was simply in accordance with the Saviour's promise. The
world saw that Christians loved one another, and the world was
consequently converted. But when primitive love cooled down, and
divisions and sects in abundance sprang up after the conversion of
Constantine the Great, then the progress of God's work gradually
ceased, till at last Mahometanism arose to roll back the tide of
triumphant success which had followed the preaching of the Cross, and
to reduce beneath Satan's sway many a fair region, like North Africa,
Egypt, and Asia Minor, which once had been strongholds of
Christianity. Surely when one thinks of the manifold evils at home and
abroad which the lack of the Pentecostal visible union and concord has
caused, as well as of the myriads who still remain in darkness while
nominal Christians bite and devour one another, we may well join in
the glowing language of Jeremy Taylor's splendid prayer for the whole
Catholic Church, as he cries, "O Holy Jesus, King of the saints and
Prince of the Catholic Church, preserve Thy spouse whom Thou hast
purchased with Thy right hand, and redeemed and cleansed with Thy
blood. O preserve her safe from schism, heresy, and sacrilege. Unite
all her members with the bands of faith, hope, and charity, and an
external communion when it shall seem good in Thine eyes. Let the
daily sacrifice of prayer and sacramental thanksgiving never cease,
but be for ever presented to Thee, and for ever united to the
intercession of her dearest Lord, and for ever prevail for the
obtaining for each of its members grace and blessing, pardon and
salvation."[47]

  [47] Prayer for all estates of men in the Holy Catholic Church, in
  Jeremy Taylor's _Holy Living_, chap. iv., sec. vii.

II. Furthermore, we have brought before us the external manifestations
or evidences of the interior gift of the Spirit really bestowed upon
the Apostles at Pentecost. There was a sound as of a rushing mighty
wind; there were tongues like as of fire, a separate and distinct
tongue resting upon each disciple; and lastly there was the miraculous
manifestation of speech in divers languages. Let us take these
spiritual phenomena in order. First, then, "there came from heaven a
sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house
where they were sitting;" a sign which was repeated in the scene
narrated in the fourth chapter and the thirty-first verse, where we
are told that "when they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they
were gathered together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost."
The appearances of things that were seen responded to the movements
and powers that were unseen. It was a supernatural moment. The powers
of a new life, the forces of a new kingdom, were coming into
operation, and, as the result, manifestations that never since have
been experienced found place among men. We can find a parallel to what
then happened in scientific investigations. Geologists and astronomers
push back the beginning of the world and of the universe at large to a
vast distance, but they all acknowledge that there must have been a
period when phenomena were manifested, powers and forces called into
operation, of which men have now no experience. The beginning, or the
repeated beginnings, of the various epochs must have been times of
marvels, which men can now only dream about. Pentecost was for the
Christian with a sense of the awful importance of life and of time and
of the individual soul a far greater beginning and a grander epoch
than any mere material one. It was the beginning of the spiritual
life, the inauguration of the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah, the
Lord and Ruler of the material universe; and therefore we ought to
expect, or at least not to be surprised, that marvellous phenomena,
signs and wonders even of a physical type, should accompany and
celebrate the scene. The marvels of the story told in the first of
Genesis find a parallel in the marvels told in the second of Acts. The
one passage sets forth the foundation of the material universe, the
other proclaims the nobler foundations of the spiritual universe. Let
us take it again from another point of view. Pentecost was, in fact,
Moses on Sinai or Elijah on Horeb over again, but in less terrific
form. Moses and Elijah may be styled the founder and the refounder of
the old dispensation, just as St. Peter and the Apostles may be called
the founders of the new dispensation. But what a difference in the
inaugural scene! No longer with thunder and earthquake, and mountains
rent, but in keeping with a new and more peaceful economy, there came
from heaven the sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind. It is not,
too, the only occasion where the idea of wind is connected with that
of the Divine Spirit and its mysterious operations. How very similar,
as the devout mind will trace, are the words and description of St.
Luke, when narrating this first outpouring of the Spirit, to the words
of the Divine Master repeated by St. John, "The wind bloweth where it
listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it
cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the
Spirit."

There appeared, too, tongues, separate and distinct, sitting upon each
of them. The outward and visible sign manifested on this occasion was
plainly typical of the new dispensation and of the chief means of its
propagation. The personality of the Holy Ghost is essentially a
doctrine of the new dispensation. The power and influence of God's
Spirit is indeed often recognised in the Old Testament. Aholiab and
Bezaleel are said to have been guided by the Spirit of God as they
cunningly devised the fabric of the first tabernacle. The Spirit of
Jehovah began to move Samson at times in the camp of Dan; and, on a
later occasion, the same Spirit is described as descending upon him
with such amazing force that he went down and slew thirty men of
Ashkelon. These and many other similar passages present to us the
Jewish conception of the Spirit of God and His work. He was a force, a
power, quickening the human mind, illuminating with genius and
equipping with physical strength those whom God chose to be champions
of His people against the surrounding heathen. Aholiab's skill in
mechanical operations, and Samson's strength, and Saul's prophesying,
and David's musical art, were all of them the gifts of God. What a
noble, what a grand, inspiring view of life and life's gifts and work,
is there set before us. It is the old lesson taught by St. James,
though so often forgotten by men when they draw a distinction between
things sacred and things secular, "Every good gift and every perfect
boon is from above, coming down from the Father of light." A deeper
view, indeed, of the Divine Spirit and His work on the soul can be
traced in the prophets, but then they were watchers upon the
mountains, who discerned from afar the approach of a nobler and a
brighter day. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath
anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor." That was Isaiah's
statement of his work as adopted by our Lord; and now, at the very
foundation of the Church, this deeper and nobler tone of thought
concerning the Spirit is proclaimed, when there appeared tongues like
as of fire sitting upon each of them.

The sign of the Holy Spirit's presence was a tongue of fire. It was a
most suitable emblem, pregnant with meaning, and indicative of the
large place which the human voice was to play in the work of the new
dispensation, while the supernatural fire declared that the mere
unaided human voice would avail nothing. The voice needs to be
quickened and supported by that Divine fire, that superhuman energy
and power, which the Holy Ghost alone can confer. The tongue of fire
pointed on the Pentecostal morn to the important part in the Church's
life, and in the propagation of the gospel, which prayer, and praise,
and preaching would hereafter occupy. It would have been well, indeed,
had the Church ever remembered what the Holy Ghost thus taught,
specially concerning the propagation of the gospel, for it would have
been thereby saved many a disgraceful page of history. The human
tongue, illuminated and sanctified by fire from the inner sanctuary,
was about to be the instrument of the gospel's advancement,--not penal
laws, not the sword and fire of persecution; and so long as the
divinely-appointed means were adhered to, so long the course of our
holy religion was one long-continued triumph. But when the world and
the devil were able to place in the hands of Christ's spouse their own
weapons of violence and force, when the Church forgot the words of
her Master, "My kingdom is not of this world," and the teachings
embodied in the symbol of the tongue of fire, then spiritual paralysis
fell upon religious effort; and even where human law and power have
compelled an external conformity to the Christian system, as they
undoubtedly have done in some cases, yet all vital energy, all true
godliness, have been there utterly lacking in the religion established
by means so contrary to the mind of Christ. Very good men have made
sad mistakes in this matter. Archbishop Ussher was a man whose deep
piety equalled his prodigious learning, yet he maintained that the
civil sword ought to be used to repress false doctrine; the divines of
the Westminster Assembly have left their opinion on record, that it is
the duty of the magistrate to use the sword on behalf of Christ's
kingdom; Richard Baxter taught that the toleration of doctrines which
he considered false was sinful; and all of them forgot the lesson of
the day of Pentecost, that the tongue of fire was to be the only
weapon permissible in the warfare of the kingdom whose rule is over
spirits, not over bodies. The history of religion in England amply
proves this. The Church of England enjoyed, about the middle of the
last century, the greatest temporal prosperity. Her prelates held high
estate, and her security was fenced round by a perfect bulwark of
stringent laws. Yet her life-blood was fast ebbing away, and her true
hold upon the nation was speedily relaxing. The very highest ranks of
society, whom worldly policy attached nominally to her communion, had
lost all faith in her supernatural work and commission. A modern
historian has shown this right well in his description of the
death-scene of Queen Caroline, a woman of eminent intellectual
qualities, who had played no small part in the religious life of this
nation during the reign of her husband George II. Queen Caroline came
to die, and was passing away surrounded by a crowd of attendants and
courtiers. The whole Court, permeated by the spirit of earthliness
which then prevailed, was disturbed by the death of the Queen's body,
but no one seems to have thought of the Queen's soul, till some one
mildly suggested that, for decency's sake, the Archbishop of
Canterbury should be sent for that he might offer up prayer with the
dying woman. Writing here in Ireland, I cannot forget that it was just
the same with us at that very period. Religion was here upheld by
worldly power; the Church, which should have been viewed as simply a
spiritual power, was regarded and treated as a mere branch of the
civil service, and true religion sank to its lowest depths. And we
reaped in ourselves the due reward of our deeds. The very men whose
voices were loudest in public for the repression of Romanism were
privately living in grossest neglect of the offices and laws of
religion and morality, because they in their hearts despised an
institution which had forgotten the Pentecostal gift, and sought
victory with the weapons of the flesh, and not with those of the
spirit. May God for evermore protect His Church from such miserable
mistakes, and lead her to depend more and more upon the power of the
blessed and ever-present Pentecostal gift!

A separate and distinct tongue, too, sat upon each individual
assembled in the upper room,--significant of the individual character
of our holy religion. Christianity has a twofold aspect, neither of
which can with impunity be neglected. Christianity has a corporate
aspect. Our Lord Jesus Christ came not so much to teach a new
doctrine as to establish a new society, based on newer and higher
principles, and working towards a higher and nobler end than any
society ever previously founded. This side of Christianity was
exaggerated in the Middle Ages. The Church, its unity, its interests,
its welfare as a corporation, then dominated every other
consideration. Since the Reformation, however, men have run to the
other extreme. They have forgotten the social and corporate view of
Christianity, and only thought of it as it deals with individuals. Men
have looked at Christianity as it deals with the individual alone, and
have forgotten and ignored the corporate side of its existence. Truth
is many-sided indeed, and no side of truth can with impunity be
neglected. Some have erred in dwelling too much on the corporate
aspect of Christianity; others have erred in dwelling too much on its
individual aspect. The New Testament alone combines both in due
proportion, and teaches the importance and necessity of a Church, as
against the extreme Protestant, on the one hand, who will reduce
religion to a mere individual matter; and of a personal religion, an
individual interest in the Spirit's presence, as here indicated by the
tongues which sat upon each of them, as against the extreme Romanist,
on the other hand, who looks upon the Church as everything, to the
neglect of the life and progress of the individual. This passage does
not at the same time lend any assistance to those who would thence
conclude that there was no distinction between clergy and laity, and
that no ministerial office was intended to exist under the
dispensation of the kingdom of heaven. The Spirit, doubtless, was
poured out upon all the disciples, and not upon the Twelve alone, upon
the day of Pentecost, as also upon the occasion of the conversion of
Cornelius and his household. Yet this fact did not lead the Apostles
and early Christians to conclude that an appointed and ordained
ministry might be dispensed with. The Lord miraculously bestowed His
graces and gifts at Pentecost and in the centurion's house at Cæsarea,
because the gospel dispensation was opened on these occasions first of
all to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. But when, subsequently to
the formal opening, we read of the gifts of the Spirit, we find that
their bestowal is connected with the ministry of the Apostles, of St.
Peter and St. John at Samaria, or of St. Paul at Ephesus. The Holy
Ghost was poured out upon all the company assembled in the upper room,
or in the centurion's house; yet the Apostles saw nothing in this fact
inconsistent with a ministerial organization, else they would not have
set apart the seven men full of faith and of the Holy Ghost to
minister to the widows at Jerusalem, nor would they have laid hands
upon elders in every church which they founded, nor would St. Paul
have written, "He that seeketh the office of a bishop desireth a good
work," nor would St. Peter have exhorted the elders to a diligent
oversight of the flock of God after the model of the Good Shepherd
Himself. St. Peter clearly thought that the Pentecostal gifts did not
obliterate the distinction which existed between the shepherds and the
sheep, between a fixed and appointed ministry and the flock to whom
they should minister, though in the very initial stages of the
miraculous movement the Spirit was bestowed without any human agency
upon men and women alike.[48]

  [48] In the primitive Church the gift of preaching or prophesying
  seems to have been widely diffused and exercised among what we
  should call the laity, while at the same time a fixed and
  appointed ministry exercised the pastoral office, including
  therein the celebration of the sacraments and the exercise of
  Church discipline. This seems the explanation of the phenomena we
  behold in St. Paul's Epistles, in the manual called the _Teaching
  of the Twelve Apostles_, and in that curious production of the
  primitive Church called the _Shepherd of Hermas_. But though
  preaching and prophesying were at first very freely exercised, the
  disorders which arose at Corinth and other places quickly taught
  the necessity for fixed rules. It was just the same in the
  synagogue. The ritual and worship was conducted by the officials.
  Preaching was free and open to all, but subject to the control and
  direction of the ruler of the Synagogue, as the case of St. Paul
  at Antioch in Pisidia proves (Acts xiii. 15).

III. Lastly, in this passage we find another external proof of the
Spirit's presence in the miraculous gift of tongues. That gift
indicated to the Apostles and to all ages the tongue as the instrument
by which the gospel was to be propagated, as the symbol fire indicated
the cleansing and purifying effects of the Spirit.[49] The gift of
tongues is one that has ever excited much speculation, and specially
so during the present century, when, as some will remember, an
extraordinary attempt to revive them was made, some sixty years ago,
by the followers of the celebrated Edward Irving. Devout students of
Scripture have loved to trace in this incident at Pentecost, at the
very foundation of the new dispensation, a reversal of that confusion
of tongues which happened at Babel, and have seen in it the removal of
"the covering cast over all peoples, and the veil that is spread over
all nations."[50] The precise character of the gift of tongues has of
late years exercised many minds, and different explanations have been
offered of the phenomena. Some have viewed it as a miracle of hearing,
not of speaking, and maintained that the Apostles did not speak
different languages at all, but that they all spake the one Hebrew
tongue, while the Jews of the various nationalities then assembled
miraculously heard the gospel in their own language.

  [49] Lightfoot, _Horæ Hebraicæ_, Acts, chap. ii., ver. 3, notes
  that "there is a form of prayer in the Jewish writings which was
  used on the solemn fast of the ninth month Ab, one clause of which
  illustrates the Divine symbol, 'Have mercy, O God, upon the city
  that mourneth, that is trodden down and desolate, because Thou
  didst lay it waste by fire, and by fire wilt build it up again.'"

  [50] Isa. xxv. 7. See Lightfoot, _Horæ Heb._, on Acts ii.

The miracle is in that case intensified one hundredfold, while not one
single difficulty which men feel is thereby alleviated. Meyer and a
large number of German critics explain the speaking with tongues as
mere ecstatic or rapturous utterances in the ordinary language of the
disciples. Meyer thinks too that some foreign Jews had found their way
into the band of the earliest disciples. They naturally delivered
their ecstatic utterances, not in Aramaic, but in the foreign tongues
to which they were accustomed, and legend then exaggerated this
natural fact into the form which the Acts of the Apostles and the
tradition of the Christian Church have ever since maintained.[51] It
is, indeed, rather difficult to understand the estimate formed by such
critics of the gift of tongues, whether bestowed on the day of
Pentecost or during the subsequent ministrations of St. Paul at
Corinth and Ephesus. Meyer is obliged to confess that there were some
marvellous phenomena in Corinth and other places to which St. Paul
bears witness. He describes himself as surpassing the whole Corinthian
Church in this particular gift (1 Cor. xiv. 18), so that if St. Paul's
testimony is to be relied upon,--and Meyer lays a great deal of weight
upon it,--we must accept it as conclusively proving that there existed
a power of speaking in various languages among the first Christians.
But the explanation offered by many critics of the gift of tongues as
undoubtedly exercised at Corinth reduces it to something very like
those fanatical exhibitions witnessed among the earliest followers of
the Irvingite movement, or, to put it plainly, to a mere uttering of
gibberish, unworthy of apostolic notice save in the language of
sternest censure, as being a disorderly and foolish proceeding
disgraceful to the Christian community.

  [51] Meyer on _Acts_ (ii. 4), vol. i., pp. 67, 68. Clark's
  translation.

Meyer's theory and that of many modern expositors seems, then, to me
very unsatisfactory, raising up more difficulties than it solves. But
it may be asked, what explanation do you offer of the Pentecostal
miracle? and I can find no one more satisfactory than the
old-fashioned one, that there was a real bestowal of tongues, a real
gift of speaking in foreign languages, granted to the Apostles, to be
used as occasion required when preaching the gospel in heathen lands.
Dean Stanley, in his commentary on Corinthians, gives, as was his
wont, a clear and attractive statement of the newer theory, putting in
a vigorous shape the objections to the view here maintained. I know
there are difficulties connected with this view, but many of these
difficulties arise from our ignorance of the state and condition of
the early Church, while others may spring from our very imperfect
knowledge of the relations between mind and body. But whatever
difficulties attend the explanation I offer, they are as nothing
compared with the difficulties which attend the modern explanations to
which I have referred.[52] What, then, is our theory, which we call
the old-fashioned one? It is simply this, that on the day of Pentecost
Christ bestowed upon His Apostles the power of speaking in foreign
languages, according to His promise reported by St. Mark (xvi. 17),
"They shall speak with new tongues." This was the theory of the
ancient Church. Irenæus speaks of the tongues as given "that all
nations might be enabled to enter into life;" while Origen explains
that "St. Paul was made a debtor to different nations, because,
through the grace of the Holy Spirit, he had received the gift of
speaking in the languages of all nations." This has been the
continuous theory of the Church as expressed in one of the most
ancient portions of the Liturgy, the proper prefaces in the Communion
office. The preface for Whit Sunday sets forth the facts commemorated
on that day, as the other proper prefaces state the facts of the
Incarnation, the Resurrection, and Ascension. The fact which Whit
Sunday celebrates, and for which special thanks are then offered, is
this, that then "the Holy Ghost came down from heaven in the likeness
of fiery tongues, lighting upon the Apostles, to teach them, and to
lead them to all truth; giving them both the gift of divers languages,
and also boldness with fervent zeal constantly to preach the gospel
unto all nations."[53]

  [52] The speculations and discussions now rife concerning
  hypnotism ought to teach modesty of assertion as to what is or is
  not possible. On the 28th of March there appeared in an eminent
  medical authority, the _Lancet_ newspaper, a review of a number of
  works on hypnotism, acknowledging the wonders of the subject, and
  containing this expression of opinion: "It is quite impossible to
  assign any limits to the influence of mind upon body, which is
  probably much more potent and far-reaching than we are usually
  prepared to admit." Now among the works reviewed in that article
  was one by Dr. Albert Moll of Berlin, published in the
  "Contemporary Science Series." That book makes statements about
  hypnotism which would quite cover Scripture miracles at which even
  devout people have stumbled, such as the miracles wrought by the
  shadow of St. Peter, or by handkerchiefs brought from the body of
  St. Paul (Acts v. 15, and xix. 12), which Meyer regards as mere
  legendary accretions to the genuine story. Moll, however, makes
  quite as wondrous statements about hypnotism. On page 1 he thus
  begins his _History of Hypnotism_: "In order to understand the
  gradual development of modern hypnotism from actual magnetism we
  must distinguish two points: firstly, that there are human beings
  who can exercise a personal influence over others, either by
  direct contact or even from a distance; and, secondly, the fact
  that particular psychical facts can be induced in human beings by
  certain physical processes. This second fact especially has long
  been known among the Oriental peoples, and was utilized by them
  for religious purposes. Kiesewetter attributes the early
  soothsaying by means of precious stones to hypnosis, which was
  induced by steadily gazing at the stones. This is also true of
  divination by looking into vessels and crystals, as the Egyptians
  have long been in the habit of doing, and has often been done in
  Europe: by Cagliostro, for example. These hypnotic phenomena are
  also found to have existed several thousand years ago among the
  Persian magi, as well as up to the present day among the Indian
  yogis and fakirs, who throw themselves into the hypnotic state by
  means of fixation of the gaze." The phenomena mentioned in the
  Acts, whether as to the tongues or to miracles worked through
  inanimate objects, may be compared with Moll's statements on pp.
  5, 6, 84, and 362.

  [53] The proper preface in the Book of Common Prayer is longer and
  more minute than the corresponding one in the Missal. The
  Reformers extended the ancient form, inserting a special reference
  to the gift of tongues.

Now this traditional interpretation has not only the authority of the
past on its side; we can also see many advantages which must have
accrued from a gift of this character. The preface we have just cited
states that the tongues were bestowed for the preaching of the gospel
among all nations. And surely not merely as a striking sign to
unbelievers, but also as a great practical help in missionary labours,
such a gift of tongues would have been invaluable to the Church at its
very birth. There was then neither time, nor money, nor organization
to prepare men as missionaries of the Cross. An universal commission
and work were given to twelve men, chiefly Galilean peasants, to go
forth and found the Church. How could they have been fitted for this
work unless God had bestowed upon them some such gift of speech? The
vast diversity of tongues throughout the world is now one of the chief
hindrances with which missionary effort has to contend. Years have
often to elapse before any effective steps can be taken in the work of
evangelisation, simply because the question of the languages bars the
way. It would have been only in accordance with God's action in
nature, where great epochs have been ever signalised by extraordinary
phenomena, if such a great era-making epoch as the birth of the Church
of Christ had been marked with extraordinary spiritual powers and
developments, which supplied the want of that learning and those
organizations which the Lord now leaves to the spiritual energies of
the Church itself. But it is sometimes said, we never hear of this
power as used by the Apostles for missionary purposes. Nothing,
however, is a surer rule in historical investigations than this,
"Never trust to mere silence," specially when the records are but few,
scanty, fragmentary. We know but very little of the ways, worship,
actions of the Apostles. Silence is no evidence either as to what they
did or did not do. Some of them went into barbarous and distant lands,
as history states. Eusebius (III., 1) tells us that St. Thomas
received Parthia as his allotted region, while St. Andrew taught in
Scythia. Eusebius is an author on whom great reliance is justly
placed. He is one, too, whose accuracy and research have been again
and again confirmed in our own day by discoveries of every kind. I
see, then, no reason why we should not depend upon him upon this point
as well as upon others. Now if the Apostles taught in Scythia and
Parthia, what an enormous advantage it must have given them in their
work among a strange and barbarous people if, by means of the
Pentecostal blessing, they could at once proclaim a crucified Saviour.
It is sometimes said, however, the gift of speaking with foreign
languages was not required by the Apostles for missionary purposes, as
Greek alone would carry a man all through the world, and Greek the
Apostles evidently knew. But people in saying so forget that there is
a great difference between possessing enough of a language to travel
over the world, and speaking with such facility as enables one to
preach. English will now carry a man over the world, but English will
not enable him to preach to the people of India or of China. Greek
might carry Apostles all over the Roman Empire, and might enable St.
Thomas to be understood by the courtiers of the great kings of
Parthia, where traces of the ancient Greek language and civilization,
derived from Alexander's time, long prevailed. But Greek would not
enable a primitive Christian teacher to preach fluently among the
Celts of Galatia, or of Britain, or among the natives of Spain or of
Phrygia, or the barbarians of Scythia.[54] We see from St. Paul's
case how powerful was the hold which the Aramaic language had over the
people of Jerusalem. When the excited mob heard St. Paul speak in the
Hebrew tongue they listened patiently, because their national
feelings, the sentiments which sprang up in childhood and were allied
with their noblest hopes, were touched. So must it have been all the
world over. The Pentecostal gift of tongues was a powerful help in
preaching the gospel, because, like the Master's promise to assist
their minds and their tongues in the hour of need, it freed the
Apostles from care, anxiety, and difficulties, which would have sorely
hindered their great work. But while I offer this explanation, I
acknowledge that it has its own difficulties; but then every theory
has its difficulties, and we can only balance difficulties against
difficulties, selecting that theory which seems to have the fewest.
The conduct, for instance, of the Corinthians, who seem to have used
the gift of tongues simply to minister to the spirit of display, not
to edification or to missionary work, seems to some a great
difficulty. But after all is not their conduct simply an instance of
human sin, perverting and misusing a divine gift, such as we often
see still? God still bestows His gifts, the real outcome and work of
the Spirit. Man takes them, treats them as his own, and misuses them
for his own purposes of sin and selfishness. What else did the
Corinthians do, save that the gift which they abused was an
exceptional one; but then their circumstances, times, opportunities,
punishments, all were exceptional and peculiar. The one thing that was
not peculiar was this, the abiding tendency of human nature to degrade
Divine gifts and blessings. There must, we again repeat, be
difficulties and mystery connected with this subject, no matter what
view we take. Perhaps, too, we are no fitting judges of the gifts
bestowed on the primitive Church, or the phenomena manifested under
such extraordinary circumstances, when everything, every power, every
force, every organization, was arrayed against the company of the
twelve Apostles. Surely miracles and miraculous powers seem absolutely
necessary and natural in such a case.[55] We are not now sufficient or
capable judges of events as they then existed. Perhaps, too, we are
not sufficient judges because we do not possess that spirit which
would make us to sympathise with and understand the state of the
Church at that time. "They were all together in one place." The
Church was then visibly united, and internally united too. A
nineteenth century Christian, with the endless divisions of
Christendom, is scarcely the most fitting judge of the Church and the
Church's blessings when the Spirit of the Master pervaded it and the
prayer of the Master for visible unity was fulfilled in it.
Christendom is weak now from its manifold divisions. Even in a mere
natural way, and from a mere human point of view, we can see how its
divisions destroy its power and efficacy as Christ's witness in the
world. But when we take the matter from a spiritual point of view, we
cannot even guess what marvellous gifts and endowments, needful for
the edification of His people and the conversion of the world, we now
lack from want of the Divine charity and peace which ruled the hearts
of the twelve as they assembled in the upper room that Pentecostal
morn. We shall better understand primitive gifts when we get back
primitive union.

  [54] It is a completely mistaken notion, which no one would
  cherish who had read history with a full-orbed mental eye,
  realizing the past with its circumstances, that Latin and Greek
  superseded all other languages throughout the empire. Local
  dialects and languages continued to flourish all the time, save
  amongst the official classes. Else how did Welsh survive to this
  day in England? How did Celtic survive in France side by side with
  Latin? The two celebrated cases of Gregory of Tours and of St.
  Patrick show that their Latin was of a very rude and corrupt kind;
  their real spoken language was Celtic, the tongue of the mass of
  the people. In a learned work just published I note a confirmation
  of this view. Professor Ramsay, in his _Historical Geography of
  Asia Minor_, p. 24, avows how his mind has changed on this
  question in regard to Asia Minor. "Romans governed Asia Minor,
  because with their marvellous governing talent they knew how to
  adapt their administration to the people of the plateau. It is
  true that the great cities (of Asia Minor) put on a Western
  appearance, and took Latin or Greek names. Latin and Greek were
  the languages of government, of the educated classes, and of
  polite society. Only this superficial aspect is attested in
  literature and in ordinary history, and when I began to travel the
  thought had never occurred to me that there was any other. The
  conviction has gradually forced itself on me that the real state
  of the country was very different. Greek was not the popular
  language of the plateau, even in the third century after Christ;
  the mass of the people spoke Lycaonian, and Galatian, and
  Phrygian, although those who wrote books wrote Greek, and those
  who governed spoke Latin." See again pp. 98, 99 for much more on
  the same subject, showing the prevalence of the native languages
  of Asia Minor down to the year A.D. 500.

  [55] Christians often give their sceptical opponents an advantage
  over them by allowing them to state the difficulties of
  Christianity and never retorting the difficulties of scepticism.
  There is no historical fact of the distant past that cannot be
  encumbered with numerous difficulties, deduced, in most cases,
  from our own ignorance. No difficulty on our side is so great as
  that which the sceptic has to meet in undertaking to explain, on
  purely natural grounds, the rise and success of Christianity on
  the very spot and at the very time its Author had been crucified.
  The Christian story is simple and natural; the sceptical
  explanation forced, unnatural, and surrounded by a thousand
  appalling difficulties.



CHAPTER VI.

_ST. PETER'S FIRST SERMON._

     "But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and
     spake forth unto them, saying, Ye men of Judæa, and all ye that
     dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my
     words."--ACTS ii. 14.


This verse contains the opening words of St. Peter's address to the
multitude who were roused to wonder and inquiry by the miraculous
manifestations of Pentecost. That address is full of interest when
viewed aright, freed from all the haze which the long familiarity of
ages has brought with it. In this second chapter we have the report of
a sermon preached within a few days of Christ's ascension, addressed
to men many of whom knew Jesus Christ, all of whom had heard of His
work, His life, and His death, and setting forth the apostolic
estimate of Christ, His miracles, His teaching, His ascended condition
and glory. We cannot realize, unless by an intellectual effort, the
special worth of these apostolic reports contained in the Acts. Men
are sometimes sceptical about them, asking, how did we get them at
all? how were they handed down? This is, however, an easier question
to answer than some think. If we take, for instance, this Pentecostal
address alone, we know that St. Luke had many opportunities of
personal communication with St. Peter. He may have learned from St.
Peter's own mouth what he said on this occasion, and he could compare
this verbal report with the impressions and remembrances of hundreds
who then were present. But there is another solution of the difficulty
less known to the ordinary student of Holy Scripture. The ancients
made a great use of shorthand, and were quite well accustomed to take
down spoken discourses, transmitting them thus to future ages.
Shorthand was, in fact, much more commonly used among the ancients
than among ourselves. The younger Pliny, for instance, who was a
contemporary of the Apostles, never travelled without a shorthand
writer, whose business it was to transcribe passages which struck his
master in the books he was perpetually studying. The sermons of
Chrysostom were all extemporaneous effusions. In fact, the
golden-mouthed patriarch of Constantinople was such an indefatigable
pulpit-orator, preaching almost daily, that it would have been
impossible to have made any copious preparation. The extensive reports
of his sermons which have come down to us, the volumes of his
expositions on the books of Scripture which we possess, prove that
shorthand must have been constantly used by his hearers.[56] Now what
would we give for a few shorthand reports of sermons by Clement of
Rome, by St. Luke, by Timothy, by Apollos, preached in Rome,
Alexandria, or Antioch? Suppose they were discovered, like the
numerous Egyptian manuscripts which have of late years come to light,
deposited in the desert sands, and were found to set forth the
miracles, the ministry, and the person of Christ exactly as now we
preach them, what a marvellous confirmation of the faith we should
esteem them! And yet what should we then possess more than we already
have in the sermons and discourses of St. Peter and St. Paul, reported
by an eye and ear-witness who wrote the Acts of the Apostles?

  [56] I read the other day the report of an eminent Unitarian
  divine who was lecturing upon the Gospels. He was upholding the
  view that it was impossible that reports of the discourses of
  Christ and of His Apostles could have been handed down in anything
  like their shape as given in the New Testament, because it was an
  age without shorthand. The lecturer is an eminent metaphysical and
  philosophical critic, but he is evidently not versed in the social
  life of the ancients. Had the lecturer but referred to Prof. J. E.
  B. Mayor's edition of Pliny's _Letters_, Book iii., p. 96, he
  would have found abundant references proving that shorthand was a
  usual accomplishment among educated men long prior to the
  Christian era.

I. The congregation assembled to listen to this first Gospel discourse
preached by a human agent was a notable and representative one. There
were Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in
Mesopotamia and in Judæa,--or, as an ancient expositor (Tertullian)
puts it, in Armenia[57] and Cappadocia,--in Pontus and Asia, in
Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and in the parts of Libya about
Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and
Arabians. The enumeration of the various nationalities listening to
St. Peter begins from the extremest east; it proceeds then to the
north, from thence to the south, terminating with Rome, which
represents the west. They were all Jews or Jewish proselytes, showing
how extremely wide, at the epoch of the Incarnation, was the
dispersion of God's ancient people. St. Paul, in one profound passage
of the Epistle to the Galatians, notes that "God sent forth His Son in
the fulness of time," that is, at the exact moment when the world was
prepared for the advent of the truth. This "fulness of time" may be
noted in many directions. Roman roads, Roman law, commerce, and
civilization opened channels of communication which bore the tidings
of the gospel into every land. A sweet singer of our own time, the
late Sir Samuel Ferguson, has depicted in his _Lays of the Western
Gael_ this diffusion of the gospel through the military organization
of Rome. He represents a Celt from Ireland as present at the
crucifixion. This may seem at first somewhat improbable, as Ireland
was never included within the bounds of the Roman Empire; and yet the
poet's song can be justified from history. Though never included
formally within the Empire, Irishmen and Scotch Highlanders must often
have served in the ranks of the Roman army, just as at the present
day, and especially in India, men of foreign nationalities are often
found serving in the ranks of the British army. In later times
Irishmen most certainly formed a Roman legion all to themselves. St.
Jerome tells us[58] that he had seen them acting in that capacity at
Treves, in Germany. They were noted for their bravery, which, as
Jerome believes, they sustained by consuming human flesh. Three
hundred years earlier Irishmen may often have enlisted in the service
of those British legions which the Romans withdrew from Britain and
located in the East; and thus Sir Samuel Ferguson does not pass the
bounds of historic credibility when he represents a certain centurion,
who had been present at the crucifixion, as returning to his native
land, and there proclaiming the tidings of our Lord's atoning
sacrifice:--

  [57] Tertullian, _Against the Jews_, chap. vii.

  [58] _Adv. Jovin._, lib. ii., cap. 7, in Migne's _Pat. Lat._, t.
  xxiii., col. 296.

    "And they say, Centurion Altus, when he to Emania came,
    And to Rome's subjection called us, urging Cæsar's tribute claim,
    Told that half the world barbarian thrills already with the faith,
    Taught them by the God-like Syrian, Cæsar lately put to death."[59]

  [59] I have worked out this point at some length in _Ireland and
  the Celtic Church_, chap. i., pp. 14-20.

The dispersion of the Jews throughout not only the Roman Empire, but
far beyond its limits, served the same end, and hastened the fulness
of time needed for the Messiah's appearance. We must remember,
however, that the long list of varied nationalities present at this
Pentecostal feast were not Gentiles, they were Jews of the dispersion
scattered broadcast among the nations as far as Central Asia towards
the east, as far as southern Arabia and Aden on the south, and Spain
and Britain on the west. The course of modern investigation and
discovery amply confirms the statement of this passage, as well as the
similar statement of the eighth chapter, which represents a Jewish
statesman of Abyssinia or Ethiopia as coming up to Jerusalem for the
purposes of devotion. Jewish inscriptions have been found in Aden
dating back long before the Christian era. A Jewish colony existed
ages before Christ in the region of Southern Arabia, and continued to
flourish there down to the Middle Ages.[60] At Rome, Alexandria, and
Greece the Jews at this period constituted an important factor in the
total population.[61] The dispersion of the Jews had now done its
work, and brought with it the fulness of time required by the Divine
purposes. The way of the Messiah had been effectually prepared by it.
The Divine seed fell upon no unploughed and unbroken soil. Pure and
noble ideas of worship and morality had been scattered broadcast
throughout the world. Some years ago the Judgment of Solomon was found
depicted on the ceiling of a Pompeian house, witnessing to the spread
of scriptural knowledge through Jewish artists in the time of Tiberius
and of Nero. A race of missionaries, too, equipped for their work, was
developed through the discipline of exile. The thousands who hung upon
Peter's lips needed nothing but instruction in the faith of Jesus
Christ, together with the baptism of the Spirit, and the finest, the
most enthusiastic, and the most cosmopolitan of agencies lay ready to
the Church's hand. While, again, the organization of synagogues, which
the exigencies of the dispersion had called into existence, was just
the one suited to the various purposes of charity, worship, and
teaching, which the Christian Church required. Whether, indeed, we
consider the persons whom St. Peter addressed, or the machinery they
had elaborated, or the diffusion of pure religious ideas they had
occasioned, we see in this passage a splendid illustration of the care
and working of Divine Providence bringing good out of evil and real
victory out of apparent defeat. Prophet and psalmist had lamented over
Zion's ruin and Israel's exile into foreign lands, but they saw not
how that God was thereby working out His own purposes of wider
blessing to mankind at large, fitting Jews and Gentiles alike for that
fulness of time when the Eternal Son should be manifested.

  [60] The history of the Jewish settlement in the south of Arabia
  is very little known by the average student of the Acts, and yet
  it is a wonderful confirmation of its accuracy both here and in
  the account of the Ethiopian eunuch. This colony existed in Arabia
  long before the Christian era. They claimed, indeed, to have been
  a portion of the Jews of the Captivity. They established an
  independent kingdom in Southern Arabia, which bitterly persecuted
  the Christians about the year 500. A full account of this
  little-known persecution, and of the Homerite martyrs who suffered
  in it, will be found by those curious in such matters in that
  great monumental work the _Acta Sanctorum_ of the Bollandists,
  vols. x. and xii. for October, under the names of St. Arethas and
  St. Elesbaan. Large quantities of manuscripts about this Jewish
  colony were discovered some years ago in the mosques of Southern
  Arabia. A considerable number of Jews still find a place there.
  See, for an account of the Jewish kingdom in Arabia, an article on
  Elesbaan, in vol. ii. of the _Dictionary of Christian Biography_.
  Gibbon in his forty-second and fiftieth chapters has much about
  it.

  [61] The Jewish cemeteries discovered at Rome date back to the
  time of our Lord, or even before it. They were the models on which
  the Christians made the catacombs. The symbols of Judaism appear
  in the Christian tombs. See Northcote's _Epitaphs of the
  Catacombs_, and Brownlow and Northcote's _Roma Sotteranea_.

II. The brave, outspoken tone of this sermon evidences the power and
influence of the Holy Spirit upon St. Peter's mind. St. Chrysostom, in
his famous lectures on the Acts of the Apostles, notes the courageous
tone of this address as a clear evidence of the truth of the
resurrection. This argument has been ever since a commonplace with
apologists and expositors, and yet it is only by an effort that we can
realize how very strong it is. Here was St. Peter and his fellow
Apostles standing up proclaiming a glorified and ascended Messiah.
Just seven weeks before, they had fled from the messengers of the High
Priest sent to arrest their Master, leaving Him to His fate. They had
seen Him crucified, knew of His burial, and then, feeling utterly
defeated, had as much as possible withdrawn themselves from public
notice. Seven weeks after, the same band, led by St. Peter, himself a
short time before afraid to confess Christ to a maidservant, boldly
stand up, charge upon the multitude, who knew all the circumstances of
Christ's execution, the crime of having thus killed the Prince of
Life, and appeal to the supernatural evidence of the gift of tongues,
to which they had just listened, as the best proof of the truth of
their message. St. Peter's courage on this occasion is one of the
clearest proofs of the truth of his testimony. St. Peter was not
naturally a courageous man. He was very impulsive and very
sympathetic. He was the creature of his surroundings. If he found
himself in the midst of Christ's friends, he was the most forward to
uphold Christ's cause, but he had not much moral stamina. He was sadly
deficient in staying power. His mind was very Celtic in its tone, to
draw an illustration from national characteristics. The Celtic mind is
very sympathetic, ardent, enthusiastic. It is swept along in moments
of excitement, either of victory or of defeat, by the dominating power
of numbers. How often has this quality been manifested by the French
people, for instance? They are resistless when victorious; they
collapse utterly and at once when defeated. St. Peter was just the
same. He was sympathetic, ardent, enthusiastic, and fell, in later as
well as in earlier age, into the perils which attend such
temperaments. He denied his Master when surrounded by the menials of
the high priest. He was ready to die for that Master a few hours
before, when sitting surrounded by Christ's disciples in the secrecy
of the upper room. Divine grace and the baptism of the Spirit did not
at all change his natural character in this respect. Divine grace,
whether granted in ancient or in modern times, does not destroy
natural character, which is God's gift to man. It merely refines,
purifies, elevates it. We find, indeed, a striking illustration of
this law of the Divine life in St. Peter's case.

One of the most convincing proofs of the truth of the New Testament is
the identity of character we behold in the representations given of
St. Peter by writers who produced their books quite independently of
each other. St. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians long prior to
any of the Gospel narratives. Yet St. Paul's picture of St. Peter in
the Epistle to the Galatians is exactly the same as that drawn by the
four Evangelists alike. St. Paul depicts him as the same intensely
sympathetic, and therefore the same unstable person whom the
Evangelists describe. The brave scene in the upper chamber, and the
scene of cowardice and disgrace in the high priest's palace, were in
principle re-enacted twenty years after, about the year A.D. 53, at
Antioch. St. Peter was very bold in maintaining the right of Gentile
freedom, and hesitated not to live like the Gentile Christians of
Antioch, so long as none of the strict Jewish Christians of Jerusalem
knew about it. St. Peter wished, in fact, to stand well with both
parties, and therefore strove to conciliate both. He was, for the
time, a type of that famous character Mr. Facing-two-ways. He lived,
therefore, as a Gentile, until some of the Jerusalem brethren arrived
at Antioch, when he at once quailed before them and retreated,
betraying the cause of Christian freedom, and sacrificing, just as men
do still, Christian principle and honesty upon the altar of
self-seeking popularity. St. Peter, we therefore maintain, always
remained at heart the same character. He was bold and forward for
Christ so long as all went well, because he was intensely sympathetic;
but he had very little of that power of standing alone which marked
St. Paul, and nerved him, even though a solitary witness, when the
cause of truth was involved. This somewhat lengthened argument is
absolutely necessary to show the strength of our conclusion: that it
must have been an overpowering sense of the awful reality of Christ's
resurrection and ascension which alone could have overcome this
natural weakness of St. Peter, and make him on the day of Pentecost as
brave in proclaiming Jesus Christ to his red-handed murderers as he
was bold to propose a new Apostle in place of the hapless traitor to
the assembled disciples in the upper chamber. St. Peter evidently
believed, and believed with an intense, overwhelming, resistless
conviction, in the truth of Christ's resurrection and ascension, which
thus became to him the source of personal courage and of individual
power.

III. Again, the tone of St. Peter's sermon was remarkable because of
its enlarged and enlightened spirituality. It proved the Spirit's
power in illuminating the human consciousness. St. Peter was rapidly
gaining a true conception of the nature of the kingdom of God. He
enunciates that conception in this sermon. He proclaims Christianity,
in its catholic and universal aspect, when he quotes the prophet Joel
as predicting the time when the Lord would pour out His Spirit upon
all flesh. St. Peter does not indeed seem to have realized all at once
the full significance of his own teaching. He did not see that his
words applied to the Gentiles equally with the Jews, sounding the
death-knell of all national exclusiveness in religion. Had he seen the
full meaning of his own words, he would not have hesitated so much
about the baptism of Cornelius and the admission of the Gentiles. It
has been found true, not only of St. Peter, but of teachers,
reformers, politicians, statesmen, that they have not at once
recognised all the vast issues and undeveloped principles which lay
wrapped up in their original message. The stress and trial of life
alone draw them out, at times compelling their authors to regret their
earlier actions, at other times leading them to follow out with
intensified vigour the principles and movements which they had
themselves set in operation. Luther, when he protested against
indulgences; Erasmus, when he ridiculed the ignorance of the monks
and advocated the study of the Greek New Testament; John Hampden, when
he refused to pay ship money; or Bishop Ken, when he declined
obedience to the orders of King James II.;--none of them saw whereunto
their principles would necessarily grow till time had thoroughly
threshed their teaching and their actions, separating the husk of
external circumstances, which are so variable, from the kernel of
principle, which is eternally the same, stern, severe, inexorable, in
its operations. So it was with St. Peter, and still earlier with the
prophets. They sang of and preached a universal religion, as in this
passage, but yet none of them realized the full scope and meaning of
the words they had used, till a special revelation upon the housetop
at Joppa compelled St. Peter to grasp and understand and apply the
principles he had been already proclaiming.

In this respect, indeed, we recognise the greatness, the divinity of
the Master Himself towering above the noblest of His followers; above
even Peter himself, upon whom He pronounced such an eulogium, and
bestowed such privileges. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught this
universality of Christianity, and expressly recognised it. St. Peter
indeed taught it in this sermon, but he did not recognise the force of
his own words. Jesus Christ not only taught it, but realized the
meaning of His teaching. It was indeed no part of Christ's earthly
ministry to preach to the Gentiles. He came to the house of Israel
alone. Yet how clearly He witnesses, how distinctly He prophesies of
the future universality of His kingdom. He heals a centurion's
servant, proclaiming at the same time that many shall come from the
east and west, and sit down in the kingdom, while the children of the
kingdom shall be cast out. He risks His life among the inhabitants of
the city where He had been brought up, in order that He may deliver
this truth. He repeats it to the woman of Samaria, in order that He
may chase away her national superstition. He embodies it in His great
eucharistic prayer for His Apostles and for His Church at large. The
more carefully and the more devoutly we study Christ's words, the more
lofty will be our conception of His personality and character, who
from the very beginning recognised the full force of His message, the
true extent of that Divine society He was about to establish. The
avowed catholicity of Christ's teaching is one of the surest proofs of
Christ's divinity. He had not to wait as Peter waited, till events
explained the meaning of His words; from the beginning He knew all
things which should happen.

Still the tone of St. Peter's sermon proved that the Spirit had
supernaturally enlightened him. He had already risen to spiritual
heights undreamt-of hitherto, even by himself. A comparison of a few
passages proves this. In the sixteenth chapter of St. Matthew we have
narrated for us the scene where our Lord extracts from St. Peter his
celebrated confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living
God," and then soon after bestows upon him the equally celebrated
rebuke, "Get thee behind Me, Satan! thou art a stumblingblock unto Me:
for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men." St.
Peter, with his horror-struck opposition to the very idea of Christ's
death and suffering, evidently cherished the same notions of the
kingdom of God, which Christ had come to establish, as James and John
did when they petitioned for the highest place in the Master's
kingdom. This carnal conception of a temporal kingdom and earthly
forces and human weapons St. Peter retained when he armed himself
with a sword and prepared to defend his Master in the Garden of
Gethsemane; and even later still when, after the resurrection, the
Apostles, acting doubtless through Peter as their spokesman, demanded,
"Dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" But the Spirit
was vouchsafed, and new power, of which the Master had spoken, was
granted, and that power raised Peter above all such low Jewish ideas,
and the kingdom announced to the Jews is no longer a kingdom of earth,
with its carnal weapons and its dignities. He now understood what the
Master had taught when He witnessed before Pontius Pilate His good
confession, "My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of
this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be
delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence." The
carnal conception passes away under the influence of the heavenly
solvent, and St. Peter proclaimed a kingdom which was a purely
spiritual dominion, dealing with remission of sins and a purified
interior life, through the operation and indwelling of the Holy Ghost.
The power of the Holy Ghost was shown in St. Peter's case by the vast
and complete change which passed at once over his spiritual ideas and
outlook. The thoughts and expectations of the pious Jews of
Galilee--the very class from whom St. Peter sprang--were just then
shaped and formed by the popular apocalyptic literature of the period,
as we have already pointed out in the second lecture. The Second
Epistle of St. Peter and the Epistle of Jude prove that the Galileans
of that time were careful students of works like the Assumption of
Moses, the Book of Enoch, and the Ascension of Isaiah, which agree in
representing the kingdom of God and the reign of the Messiah as
equivalent to the triumph of the Jewish nation over all foreign
dominion and bondage. St. Peter and the other eleven Apostles shared
these natural ideas and expectations till the Spirit was poured out,
when they learned in a profounder spiritual comprehension to estimate
aright the scope and meaning of our blessed Lord's teaching. St. Peter
dwells, therefore, in his sermon on Christ's person, His sufferings,
His resurrection, His ascension, no longer indeed for the purpose of
exalting the Jewish nation, or predicting its triumph, but to point a
purely spiritual lesson. "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you
in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye
shall receive"--not honour, riches, temporal freedom, but "ye shall
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." The subject-matter of St. Peter's
sermon, the change in his tone of teaching, is another great proof of
a supernatural force and power imparted on the Day of Pentecost.

IV. Let us look somewhat farther into the matter of this earliest
Christian sermon, that we may learn the apostolic view of the
Christian scheme. Some persons have asserted that the earliest
Christians were Ebionites,[62] and taught a system of doctrine akin to
modern Unitarianism. This theory can best be tested by an appeal to
the Acts of the Apostles. What, for instance, was the conception of
Christ's life, work, and ascended state, which St. Peter presented to
the astonished multitude? We must not expect, indeed, to find in this
sermon a formulated and scientific system of Christian doctrine. St.
Peter was as yet far too near the great events he declared, far too
close to the superhuman personality of Christ, to co-ordinate his
ideas and arrange his views. It is a matter of every-day experience
that when a new discovery is suddenly made, when a new revelation
takes place in the region of nature, men do not grasp at once all the
new relations thereby involved, all the novel applications whereof it
is capable. The human mind is so limited in its power that it is not
till we get some distance away from a great object that we are enabled
to survey it in the fulness of its outline. Inspiration assisted St.
Peter, elevated his mind, raised his tone of thought to a higher
level, but it did not reverse this fundamental law under which the
human mind works. Yet St. Peter's discourse contains all the great
principles of Catholic Christianity as opposed to that low view which
would represent the earliest Christians as preaching the purely
humanitarian scheme of modern Unitarianism. St. Peter taught boldly
the miraculous element of Christ's life, describing Him as "a man
approved of God by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did
by Him." Yet he did not dwell as much as we might have expected upon
the miraculous side of Christ's ministry. In fact, the earliest
heralds of the Cross did not make as much use of the argument from
miracles as we might have expected them to have done. And that for a
very simple reason. The inhabitants of the East were so accustomed to
the practices of magic that they simply classed the Christian
missionaries with magicians. The Jewish explanation of the miracles of
our Lord is of this description. The Talmudists do not deny that He
worked miracles, but assert that He achieved them by a special use of
the Tetragammaton, or the sacred name of Jehovah, which was known only
to Himself. The sacred writers and preachers refer, therefore, again
and again to the miracles of our Saviour, as St. Peter does in the
second chapter, as well-known and admitted facts, whatever explanation
may be offered of them, and then turn to other aspects of the
question. The Apostles had, however, a more powerful argument in
reserve. They preached a spiritual religion, a present peace with God,
a present forgiveness of sins; they point forward to a future life of
which even here below believers possess the earnest and the pledge.
We, with our minds steeped in ages of Christian thought and teaching,
can have no idea of the convincing self-evidencing force of teaching
like that, to a Jew reared up in a system of barren formalism, and
still more to a Gentile, with spiritual instincts longing for
satisfaction, and which he was expected to satisfy with the
bloodstained shows of the amphitheatre or with the immoralities and
impure banquetings of the pagan temples. To persons in that condition,
an argument derived from a mere wonderful work brought little
conviction, for they were well accustomed to behold very marvellous
and apparently miraculous actions, such as to this day the wandering
jugglers of India exhibit.[63] But when they beheld lives transfused
by the love of God, and heard pure spiritual teaching such as
responded to the profoundest depths of their own hearts, then deep
answered unto deep. The preaching of the Cross became indeed the power
of God unto salvation, because the human soul instinctively felt that
the Cross was the medicine fittest for its spiritual maladies.

  [62] The term Ebionite is thus well explained by the Rev. J. M.
  Fuller in the _Dict. Christ. Biog._, vol. ii., p. 25: "The term
  Ebionism expresses conveniently the opinions and practices of the
  descendants of the Judaizers of the apostolic age, and is very
  little removed from Judaism. Judaism was for them not so much a
  preparation for Christianity as an institution eternally good in
  itself, and but slightly modified in Christianity. Whatever merit
  Christianity possessed, was possessed as the continuation and
  supplement of Judaism. The divinity of the old covenant was the
  only valid guarantee for the truth of the new. Hence the tendency
  of this class of Ebionites to exalt the old at the expense of the
  new, to magnify Moses and the prophets, and to allow Jesus Christ
  to be 'nothing more than a Solomon or a Jonas' (Tertull., _De
  Carne Christi_, c. 18); 'Legal righteousness was to them the
  highest type of perfection; the earthly Jerusalem, in spite of its
  destruction, was an object of adoration, as if it were the House
  of God' (Irenæus, _Adv. Hær._, i., 26); its restoration would take
  place in the millennial kingdom of Messiah, and the Jews would
  return there as the manifested chosen people of God."

  [63] See Moll's _Hypnotism_, p. 216, in the "Contemporary Science
  Series."

V. Again, this sermon shows the method of interpreting the Psalms and
Prophets popular among the pious Jews of St. Peter's time. St. Peter's
method of interpretation is identical with that of our Lord, of St.
Paul, and of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He beholds in
the Psalms hints and types of the profoundest doctrines of the Creed.
We can see this in both the quotations which he makes. St. Peter finds
in the sixteenth Psalm a prophecy of the intermediate state of souls
and of the resurrection of our Lord. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in
Hades" is a text which has furnished the basis of the article in the
Apostles' Creed which teaches that Christ descended into hell. It is a
pity indeed that the translation which the last revisers have adopted,
"Hades" instead of "Hell," was not used in the English translation of
the Apostles' Creed; for the ordinary reading has misled many a
thoughtful and serious soul, as if the Creed taught that the pure and
sinless spirit of the Saviour had been made partaker of the horrors of
eternal misery. Whereas, in truth, the doctrine of Scripture and of
the Creed alike merely asserts that our Lord's spirit, when separated
from the body, entered and thereby sanctified and prepared the place
or state where Christian souls, while separated from their bodies,
await the general resurrection of the just and the completion of their
happiness. The doctrine of the intermediate state, as taught by Bishop
Pearson and other great divines, is primarily based on two texts, the
passage before us and the words of our Saviour to the penitent thief,
"To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise" (Luke xxiii. 43). This
doctrine accurately corresponds with the catholic doctrine of our
Lord's Person. The Arian heresy denied the true deity of our Lord. The
second great heresy was the Apollinarian, which denied His true and
perfect humanity. The orthodox doctrine taught the tripartite nature
of man, that is, that there was in man, first, a body, secondly, the
animal soul which man possesses in common with the beasts, and which
perishes at death, and, lastly, the human spirit which is immortal and
by which he maintains communion with God. Now the Apollinarian heresy
asserted that Jesus Christ possessed a body and a soul, but denied His
possession of a spirit. Its theory was that the Divine nature took the
place of a true human spirit in Christ, so that Christ was unlike His
brethren in this respect, that when the body died, and the animal soul
perished, He had no human spirit by which He might enter into Hades,
or dwell in Paradise. The Divine nature was the only portion of the
Incarnate Lord which then survived. Against this view the words of St.
Peter testified beforehand, teaching, by his adaptation of David's
prophecy, that our Lord possessed the fulness of humanity in its
threefold division, whereby He was enabled to share the experience and
lot of His brethren, not only in this life, but also in the
intermediate state of Hades, wherein the spirits of the blessed dead
await re-union with their bodies, and expect in hope the second advent
of their Lord.[64]

  [64] See the article on "Apollinaris the Younger" in the _Dict.
  Christ. Biog._, vol. i., for a concise account of the Apollinarian
  heresy.

St. Peter's interpretation again of the Psalms recognised in David's
words a prophecy of the resurrection: "Neither wilt Thou give Thy Holy
One to see corruption,"--a rendering of the New Testament revisers
which, however literal, is not nearly as vigorous or suggestive as the
old translation, "Neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see
corruption." St. Peter then proceeds to point out how impossible it
was that this prediction could have been fulfilled in David. David's
flesh undoubtedly did see corruption, because every one knew where his
tomb was. St. Peter's speech here touches upon a point where we can
confirm his accuracy out of ancient historians. David was buried,
according to ancient writers, in the city of David (2 Kings ii. 10).
The Rabbis went even further, they determined the time of his death.
According to a writer quoted by that great seventeenth-century
teacher, Dr. John Lightfoot,[65] "David died at Pentecost, and all
Israel bewailed him, and offered their sacrifices the day following."
After the return from Babylon the site of the sepulchre was known, as
Neh. iii. 16 reports, telling us that Nehemiah the son of Azbuk
repaired the wall over against the sepulchre of David; while still
later Josephus[66] tells us that Hyrcanus, the high priest, and Herod
the Great opened David's tomb, and removed vast treasures from it. St.
Peter's words on this occasion possess an important evidential
aspect, and suggest one of the gravest difficulties which the
assailants of the resurrection have to face. St. Peter appealed to the
evidence of David's tomb as demonstrating the fact that he was dead,
and that death still held him in its power. Why did not his opponents
appeal to the testimony of Christ's tomb? It is evident from St.
Peter's argument that Christ's tomb was empty, and was known to be
empty. The first witnesses to the resurrection insisted, within a few
weeks of our Lord's crucifixion, upon this fact, proclaimed it
everywhere, and the Jews made no attempt to dispute their assertions.
Our opponents may indeed say, we acknowledge the fact of the emptiness
of the tomb, but the body of Christ was removed by St. Peter and his
associates. How then, we reply, do you account for St. Peter's action?
Did conscious guilt and hypocrisy make him brave and enthusiastic? If
they say, indeed, Peter did not remove the body, but that his
associates did, then how are we to account for the conversations St.
Peter thought he had held with his risen Master, the appearances
vouchsafed to him, the close converse, "eating and drinking with him
after He was risen from the dead"? St. Peter, by his appeal to David's
tomb, and its bearing on the sixteenth Psalm, proves that he believed
in no ideal resurrection, no phantasm,--no ghost story, to put it
plainly; but that he taught the doctrine of the resurrection as the
Church now accepts it.

  [65] _Horæ Hebraicæ_ on Acts ii. 29.

  [66] See Josephus, _Antiqq._, XIII., viii., 4; XVI., vii., 1;
  _Wars_, I., ii., 5.



CHAPTER VII.

_THE FIRSTFRUITS OF PENTECOST._

     "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and
     said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what
     shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized
     every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission
     of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
     For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that
     are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto
     Him."--ACTS ii. 37-39.


The sermon of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost and the sermon of our
Lord present a striking contrast. Our Lord's sermons were of various
kinds; they were at times consoling, yet full of instruction and
direction. Such, for instance, was the Sermon on the Mount. At other
times His discourses were stern, and full of sharp reproof. Such was
His teaching in His parting addresses to the Jews delivered in the
temple, recorded in the synoptic Gospels. Yet they apparently failed,
for the time at least, in producing any great practical results. In
fact, His temple discourses served only to irritate His foes, and
arouse their hostility.

St. Peter delivered a sermon on the day of Pentecost which was quite
as stern and quite as calculated to irritate, and yet that discourse
was crowned with results exceeding those ever achieved by our Lord,
though His discourses far surpassed St. Peter's in literary skill, in
spiritual meaning, in eternal significance and value. Whence came
this fact? It simply happened in fulfilment of Christ's own prophecy
recorded by St. John, where He predicts that His Apostles shall
achieve greater works than He had achieved, "because I go unto the
Father" (John xiv. 12). The departure of Christ into the true Holy of
Holies opened the channel of communication between the eternal Father
and the waiting Church; the Spirit was poured out through Christ as
the channel, and the result was conviction and conversion; leading the
people to cry out, in response to St. Peter's simple statement of
facts, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

I. One of the first qualifications absolutely necessary, if a man is
to write history tellingly and sympathetically, is a historical
imagination. Unless a man can, from a multitude of separate and often
independent details, reconstruct the past, realize it vividly for
himself, and then depict it with life and force to his readers, he
will utterly fail as a historian. The same historical imagination is
needed, too, if we wish to realize the full force of the circumstances
we are considering. It is hard even for those who do possess such an
imagination to throw themselves back into all the circumstances and
surroundings of the Apostles at Pentecost; but when we succeed in
doing so, then all these circumstances can only be explained on the
supposition--the orthodox and catholic supposition--that there must
have happened a supernatural occurrence, and that there must have been
granted a supernatural power and blessing on the day of Pentecost.

The courage of St. Peter when preaching his sermon is, as we have
already noticed, a proof of the descent of the Spirit. The
resurrection of his Master had doubtless inspired him with all the
power of a new idea. But St. Peter's history, both before the day of
Pentecost and after it, amply proved that mere intellectual conviction
could be united with grievous moral cowardice. We cannot doubt, for
instance, that St. Peter was intellectually convinced of the justice
of the Gentile claims, and their right to a full equality with the
Jews, when St. Paul felt compelled to withstand him at Antioch. Yet he
was possessed with no such spiritual enthusiasm on the question as
that which moved St. Paul, or else he never would have fallen into
such lamentable hypocrisy as he displayed on that occasion. The gift
of the Spirit was needed by St. Peter before an intellectual
conviction could be transformed into an overwhelming spiritual
movement, which swept every obstacle from its path. Again, the conduct
of the people is a proof of the descent of the Spirit. St. Peter
assails their actions, charges upon them the murder of the Messiah,
and proclaims the triumph of Christ over all their machinations. Yet
they listen quietly, respectfully, without opposition, as mobs do not
usually listen to speeches running counter to their prejudices. Some
wondrous phenomena, such as the gift of tongues, combined with
divinely persuasive eloquence, flinging the ægis of their protection
over the preacher's defenceless person, must have so struck the minds
of these fanatical Jews as to keep them quiet while St. Peter spoke.
But the result of St. Peter's speech was the chiefest evidence that
something extraordinary must have happened at Jerusalem in the
earliest days of the Church's history. Secular history tells us, as
well as the sacred narrative, that Christianity rose again from what
seemed its grave at the very spot where, and at the very moment when,
the crucifixion had apparently extinguished it for ever.

The evidence of the historian Tacitus is conclusive upon this point.
He lived and flourished all through the time when St. Paul's ministry
was most active. He was born about the year 50, and had every
opportunity of becoming acquainted with the facts concerning the
execution of Christ and the rise of Christianity, as they were
doubtless laid up in the imperial archives at Rome. His testimony,
written at a period when, as some maintain, neither the Acts of the
Apostles nor the Gospels of the New Testament were in existence,
exactly tallies with the account given by our sacred books. In his
_Annals_, book xv., chap. 44, he writes concerning Christianity:
"Christus, from whom the name of Christian has its origin, suffered
the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one
of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous
superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out in Judæa."
So that the Pagan historian, who knew nothing about Christianity save
what official pagan documents or popular report told him, agrees with
the Scriptures that Christianity was checked for a moment by the death
of its founder, and then gained its earliest and most glorious triumph
on the very scene of its apparent defeat where--and this is a very
important part of the argument--previously the most marvellous wisdom
and the most striking signs and wonders had utterly failed to gain any
large measure of success. Whence, then, can we explain this fact, or
how account for this conscience-stricken cry, "Men and brethren, what
shall we do?" unless we assume, what the narrative of our text
declares, that the Holy Ghost, in all His convincing and converting
power, had been poured out from on high?

And surely our own personal experience daily corroborates this view.
There may be intellectual conviction and controversial triumph without
any spiritual enthusiasm. Sermons may be clever, powerful, convincing,
and yet, unless the Spirit's power be sought, and an unction from on
high be vouchsafed, no spiritual harvest can be expected. St. Peter's
sermon, if viewed from a human standpoint, could no more have been
expected to succeed than the Master's. The one new element, however,
which now entered into the combination, explains the difference. The
Spirit was now given, and men therefore hearkened to the servant where
they had turned a deaf ear to the Master. It is a lesson much needed
for our generation, especially in the case of the young, and of our
Sunday-school system. The religious instruction of youth is much more
carefully looked after than it used to be. Primers, handbooks,
elementary commentaries, catechists' manuals, are published in
profusion, and many think that provided a Sunday or day school
distinguishes itself in the examination list, which is now the one
great educational test, religious knowledge has been secured. The
contrast between St. Peter's success and our Lord's failure warns us
that there is a vast difference between religious life and religious
knowledge. The most irreligious people, the most bitter opponents of
Christianity, have been produced by schools and systems where
religious knowledge was literally crammed down the throats of the
children in a hard, mechanical, unloving style. But let there be no
mistake. I do not object to organised religious instruction. I think,
in fact, that a vast amount of Sunday-school teaching is utterly
worthless for want of such organization. Our Sunday-school system
will, in fact, be thoroughly inefficient, if not useless, as a system,
till every Sunday-school has its teachers' meeting, presided over by
a competent instructor, who will carefully teach the teachers
themselves in a well-ordered, systematic course. But after all this
has been done, we must still remember that Christianity is something
more than a system of doctrine, or a Divine scheme of philosophy,
which can be worked up like Aristotle's _Ethics_ or Mill's _Logic_.
Christianity is a Divine power, a power which must be sought in faith,
in humiliation, and in prayer; and till the Holy Ghost be duly
honoured, and His presence be humbly sought, the finest system and the
most elaborate organizations will be found devoid of any fruitful life
and vigour.

II. There are many other points of interest in this passage; let us
take them one by one as they offer themselves. The people, seized by
conviction and in acute pain of conscience, cried out, "What shall we
do?" St. Peter replied, "Repent, and be baptized." Repent is the
Apostle's first rule,--contrasting very strongly with some modern
systems which have been devised on a plan very different from that of
our Lord and of His Apostles. The preaching of the New Testament is
ever the same. John the Baptist came, and his teaching was briefly
summed up thus, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
John was removed, and Christ came. The lamp ceased to shine, and then
the true Light stood revealed; but the teaching was the same, and the
Messiah still proclaims, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at
hand." The system of teaching to which I refer parries the force of
our Lord's example, as well as of the Baptist's words, by saying, that
was the old dispensation. Till Christ died, the new covenant did not
come into force, and therefore Christ taught in His public ministry
merely as a Jew, speaking on Jewish grounds to Jews. But let us see
whether such an explanation, which makes void our Lord's personal
teachings and commands, is tenable. A reference to this passage
sufficiently settles this point. The Master departs and the Spirit is
outpoured, and still the apostolic and inspired teaching is just the
same. The cry of the multitude, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
produces, from the illuminated Apostle, the same response, "Repent,"
coupled with a new requirement, "Be baptized, every one of you, for
the remission of sins." And the same message has ever since continued
to be the basis of all real spiritual work. Simon Magus is found by
St. Peter with his mind intellectually convinced, but with his
affections untouched and his heart spiritually dead. To Simon Magus
Peter delivers the same message, "Repent of this thy wickedness, and
pray God if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee."
John Wesley was one of the greatest evangelists that ever lived and
worked for God. During the whole sixty years of his continuous
labours, from the time when he taught his pupils in Oxford College and
the prisoners in Oxford jail down to the last sermon that he preached,
his ministry and teaching were modelled upon that of the New
Testament,--it was ever a preaching of repentance. He counted it
utterly useless and hopeless to preach the comforts of the gospel
before he had made men feel and wince beneath the terrors of the law
and the sense of offended justice. Modern times have seen, however, a
strange perversion of the gospel method, and some have taught that
repentance was not to be urged or even mentioned to Christian
congregations.

This is one of the leading points which the Plymouth Brethren
specially press in the course of their destructive and guerilla-like
assaults upon the communions of reformed Christendom. The apostolic
doctrine of repentance finds no place in their scheme; while again
their teaching on this subject, or something very like it, is often
reproduced, all unconsciously it may be, by the conductors of those
mission services so common throughout the country. It is as hard now
to preserve a just balance in teaching, as it was in the days of St.
Paul and St. James. It is no easy matter so to preach repentance as
not to discourage the truly humble soul; so to proclaim God's
forgiving love as not to encourage presumption and carelessness.

I have said, indeed, that the doctrine of the Plymouth body on this
point is a modern one. It is modern, indeed, when compared with the
genuine teaching of the New Testament; but still it is, in fact,
ancient, for it dates back to the Antinomians, who, two hundred and
fifty years ago, created a great sensation among the Puritan divines.
A brief historical narrative will prove this. The sermons of Dr.
Tobias Crisp and Fisher's _Marrow of Modern Divinity_ are books whose
very titles are now forgotten, and yet the diligent student will there
find all those ideas about repentance, justification, and assurance
which are now produced as marvellous new truths, though reprobated two
centuries ago as earnestly by Churchmen, like Bull, Beveridge, and
Stillingfleet, as by Howe, and Baxter, and Williams among the
Nonconformists and Puritans. The denial of the necessity for Christian
repentance was based, by the logical Antinomians of the olden time,
upon the theory that Christ bore in His own person the literal sins of
the elect; so that an elect person has nothing whatsoever to do with
his sins save assure himself, by an act of faith, that his sins were
forgiven and rendered completely non-existent eighteen hundred years
ago. The formula which they delight in and I have heard used, even by
Churchmen, is this: "Believe that you are saved, and then you are
saved." The result of this teaching in every age, wherever it has
appeared, is not far to seek. The main stress of all Christian effort
is devoted not to the attainment of likeness to Christ, or that
pursuit of holiness without which the beatific vision of God is
impossible. The great point urged by this party in every age is the
supreme importance of assurance which they identify with saving
faith.[67] Therefore it is that they discourage, aye, and go farther,
utterly reject, all teaching of repentance. The words of one of those
old writers puts the matter in its simplest form. In the reign of
James II. and William III. there arose a great controversy in London
touching this very point. Dr. Williams, the founder of the well-known
library in Grafton Street, London, was the leader on one side, while
the sermons of Tobias Crisp were the rallying-point on the other.
Williams and Baxter maintained the importance of repentance and the
absolute necessity of good works for salvation. On the opposite side,
the views and doctrines which we have seen pressed in modern times
were explicitly stated, but with far more fearlessness and logical
power than are ever now used. Here are a few of the propositions which
Dr. Williams felt himself bound to refute. I shall give them at some
length, that my readers may see how ancient is this heresy. "The elect
are discharged from all their sins by the act of God laying their sins
upon Christ on the cross, and consequently that the elect upon the
death of Christ ceased to be sinners, and ever since sins committed by
them are none of their sins, they are the sins of Christ." Again, the
Antinomians taught, in language often still reproduced, "Men have
nothing to do in order to salvation, nor is sanctification a jot the
way of any person to heaven. Nor can the duties and graces of the
elect, nor even faith itself, do them the least good, or prevent the
least evil; while, on the other hand, the grossest sins which the
elect commit cannot do them the least harm, nor ought they to fear the
least hurt from their own sins." While again, coming still closer to
the point on which we have been insisting, they declared, according to
Dr. Williams, that "the covenant of grace hath no condition to be
performed on man's part, even though in the strength of Christ.
Neither is faith itself the condition of this covenant, but all the
saving benefits of this covenant actually and really belong to the
elect before they are born, yea, and even against their will;" while
as to the nature of faith, they taught "that saving faith is nothing
else but our persuasion or absolute concluding within ourselves that
our sins are pardoned, and that Christ is ours." Hence they derived a
dogma of their own, directly and plainly contradictory of the teaching
of the New Testament on the subject of repentance, "that Christ is
offered to blasphemers, murderers, and the worst of sinners, that
they, remaining ignorant, unconvinced, and resolved in their purpose
to continue such, may be assured they have a full interest in Christ;
and this by only concluding in their own minds that Christ is theirs."
It is plain to any one fully acquainted with modern religious thought,
that all the special doctrines of Plymouthism concerning
justification, repentance, and faith, are involved in the statements
which Dr. Williams set himself to refute, and which he does refute
most ably, in works long since consigned to the oblivion of our great
libraries, though well worthy of careful study amid the troubles of
the present age.[68] Assurance, a present knowledge of a present
salvation, present peace, these are the only topics pressed upon the
unconverted. If the multitude at Jerusalem had asked the same question
from our modern teachers which they asked from the Apostles, "Men and
brethren, what shall we do?" the reply would have been, "Do you know
you are saved? If not, believe that you are saved, believe that Jesus
died for you." But not one of them would have given the apostolic
reply, "Repent, and be baptized, and ye shall receive the gift of the
Holy Ghost," because the doctrine of repentance and the value and use
of the sacrament of baptism find no place in this new-fangled scheme.

  [67] This point has been admirably discussed by Dr. Salmon in his
  sermon on "Present Salvation" in his volume of sermons styled _The
  Reign of Law_, pp. 295-99.

  [68] This controversy between the Antinomian party and the London
  Nonconformists of the orthodox sort is now almost unknown, and yet
  it created great excitement in religious circles, conformist and
  nonconformist, in the time of William III. Bishop Stillingfleet of
  Worcester, the aged Baxter, and many of the leading divines,
  joined in it. The echoes of it will be found resounding in the
  more modern controversy between John Wesley and Fletcher on the
  one side, and Rowland Hill and Lady Huntingdon on the other, about
  the year 1770. A brief account of Dr. Daniel Williams will be
  found in Schaft's edition of Herzog's _Cyclopædia_; see also
  Calamy's _Life_ i., 323.

III. "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus
Christ for the remission of your sins." These words form the basis of
a well-known clause in the Nicene Creed, which says, "I acknowledge
one baptism for the remission of sins." They suggest in addition some
very important discussions. The position which baptism occupies in
apostolic teaching is worthy of careful notice. It is pressed upon
the multitude as a present duty, and as the result there were three
thousand persons baptized in that one day. It was just the same with
Cornelius the centurion, and with the Philippian jailer whom St. Paul
converted. Baptism did not then succeed a long course of preparatory
training and instruction, as now is the case in the mission field.
When men in apostolic times received the rudiments of the faith, the
sacrament of baptism was administered, as being the channel or door of
admission into Christ's Church; and then, being once admitted into
God's house, it was firmly believed that the soul's life would grow
and develop at a vastly accelerated rate. A grave question here
suggests itself, whether baptism of converts from paganism is not
often too long delayed? The Apostles evidently regarded the Church as
an hospital where the wounds of the soul were to be healed, as a
Divine school where the ignorance of the soul was to be dissipated,
and therefore at once admitted the converts to the sacrament upon the
profession of their rudimentary faith. The Church soon reversed this
process, and demanded an amount of spiritual knowledge and a
development of spiritual life as the conditions of baptism, which
should have been looked for as the result of admission within her
sacred ranks, forgetful of that great missionary law laid down by the
Master Himself, which places baptism first and teaching afterwards,
"Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing
them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost:
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
We freely admit that there may have been a quickened spiritual
vitality, a stronger spiritual life, in the case of the earliest
converts, enabling them in the course of a few hours to attain a
spiritual level which demanded a more prolonged effort on the part of
the later disciples. When we come to the times of the later apostolic
age, and inquire from such a book as the lately-discovered _Teaching
of the Twelve Apostles_, what the practice of the Church was then, we
see that experience had taught a more regular, a less hasty course of
action.[69] The law of baptism in the _Didache_, as the _Teaching of
the Twelve Apostles_ is usually called, runs thus: "Now concerning
baptism, thus baptize ye; having first uttered all these things,
baptize into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit, in running water. But if thou hast not running water, baptize
in other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. But if
thou hast neither, pour water upon the head thrice, into the name of
the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the
baptizer and the baptized fast, and whatever others can; but the
baptized thou shalt command to fast for one or two days before."

  [69] As some readers may not know what the work called the
  _Teaching of the Twelve Apostles_ is, let me explain its history
  in a few words. Early Christian writers, from the year A.D. 200,
  speak of a work called the _Teaching of the Twelve Apostles_ in
  the highest terms. It was evidently, as known by them, a manual
  used in the catechetical instruction of the young. This manual was
  known to all the early ages, but disappeared from the view of the
  Western Church during the middle ages. Nearly twenty years ago it
  was discovered in Constantinople by the learned Greek Bishop
  Bryennios, and published by him about ten years ago. It is
  assigned by some critics to the concluding years of the first
  century. A convenient and cheap edition of it will be found in the
  second volume of the Apostolic Fathers in Griffith and Farran's
  "Ancient and Modern Library." It is called the _Teaching of the
  Twelve Apostles_, or else the _Didache_, using a Greek title,
  which has the advantage of being shorter.

From these words it is plain that the immediate baptism of converts
had ceased probably with the first organization of the Church. A
pause was instituted between the first conviction of the truth and the
complete initiation which baptism involved, but not such a period of
delay as the months and even years over which the preparation for
baptism was subsequently spread. This delay of baptism sprang out of a
mistaken view of this Divine sacrament. Men came to look on it as a
charm, whereby not merely admission was obtained to the Divine society
which our Lord had founded, but also as bringing with it a complete
purgation from the sins of a careless life. Men postponed it,
therefore, to the very last, so that all sins might be swept away at
once. The Emperor Constantine was a good example of this mischievous
extreme. He was a man who took a kind of interest in theological
matters. Like our own King James I., he considered it his duty to
settle the religious affairs of his empire, even as his predecessors
had done in the days of paganism. He presided over Church councils,
dictated Church formularies, and exercised the same control in the
Church as in the State, being all the time unbaptized. He was scarce
aught but a pagan too in disposition and temper. He retained pagan
symbols, titles, and observances, and imbrued his hands, Herod-like,
in the blood of his own family. Yet he delayed his baptism to the very
last, under the notion that then there could be thus effected at one
stroke the complete removal of the accumulated sins of a lifetime.

IV. The comparison of the passage just quoted from the _Teaching of
the Apostles_ with the words of my text suggests other topics. The
Plymouth Brethren, at least in some of their numerous ramifications,
and other sects, have grounded upon the words, "be baptized, every one
of you, in the name of Jesus Christ," a tenet that baptism should not
be conferred in the name of the Trinity, but in that of Jesus alone.
It is indeed admitted that while our Lord commanded the use of the
historic baptismal formula in the concluding words of St. Matthew's
Gospel, the formula itself is never expressly mentioned in the Acts of
the Apostles. Not merely on the day of Pentecost, but on several other
occasions, Christian baptism is described as if the Trinitarian
formula was unknown. In the tenth chapter Cornelius and his household
are described as "baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." In the
nineteenth chapter St. Paul converts a number of the Baptist's
disciples to a fuller and richer faith in Christ. They were at once
"baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." But a reference to the
newly-discovered _Teaching of the Twelve Apostles_ explains the
difficulty, offering an interesting example of the manner in which
modern discoveries have helped to illustrate and confirm the Acts of
the Apostles. In the _Didache_, as in the Acts, the expression
"baptism in the name of the Lord" is used. The _Didache_ lays down
with respect to the communion, "Let no one eat or drink of your
Eucharist except those baptized into the name of the Lord." Yet this
does not exclude the time-honoured formula of Christendom. The same
apostolic manual lays down the rule, a little before this prohibition
which we have just quoted, "Baptize into the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit," and then in the tenth chapter
describes baptism thus administered in the threefold name, as baptism
in the name of the Lord; and thus it was doubtless in the case of the
Acts. For the sake of brevity St. Luke speaks of Christian baptism as
baptism in the name of Christ, never dreaming at the same time that
this was exclusive of the divinely appointed formula, as certain
moderns have taught. The Acts of the Apostles, and the _Didache_ prove
their primitive character, and show that they deduce their origin from
the same early epoch, because they both describe Christian baptism as
performed in the name of Christ; and yet this fact does not exclude,
according to either, the use of the threefold Name. It is evident
that, whether in the Acts or in the _Didache_, baptism in the name of
the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost was regarded as baptism especially in
the name of Jesus Christ, because while the Father and the Spirit were
known to the Jews, the one new element introduced was that of the name
of Jesus, whom God had made both Lord and Christ. Baptism in the
Triune Name was emphatically baptism in the name of the Lord. This
passage, when compared with the _Didache_, sheds light on another
point. The mode wherein baptism should be administered has been a
point often discussed. Some have maintained the absolutely binding and
universal character of immersion; others have stood at the opposite
extreme, and upheld the method of sprinkling. The Church of England,
in union with the ancient Church, has laid down no hard-and-fast rule
on the subject. She recognises immersion as the normal idea in a warm
Eastern climate, but she allows pouring (not sprinkling) of water to
be substituted for immersion, which has, as a matter of fact, taken
the place in the Western Church of the more regular and ancient
immersion.[70] The construction of the ancient Churches, with their
baptisteries surrounded with curtains, and the female assistants for
the service of their own sex, amply proves that in the ancient Church,
as to this day in the Eastern Church, baptism was ordinarily
administered by immersion. The Church proved its Eastern origin by the
mode wherein its initial sacrament was at first applied. But it also
showed its power of adaptation to Western nations by allowing the
alternative of pouring water when she dealt with the needs of a colder
climate. Yet from the beginning the Church cannot have made the
validity of her sacraments depend upon the quantity of water that was
used. Take the cases reported in the Acts of the Apostles, or the
rules prescribed in the apostolic manual, the _Didache_. In the latter
it is expressly said that pouring with water shall suffice if a larger
quantity is not at hand. On the day of Pentecost it was clearly
impossible to immerse three thousand persons in the city of Jerusalem.
The Ethiopian eunuch baptized by St. Philip in the wilderness could
not have been immersed. He came to a stream trickling along, scarce
sufficient to lave his feet, or perhaps rather to a well in the
desert; the water was deep down, and reached only, as in the case of
Jacob's well, by a rope or chain. Even if the water could have been
reached, common sense, not to speak of any higher motive, would have
forbidden the pollution of an element so needful for human life. The
baptism of the eunuch must have been by pouring or affusion, as must
also have been the case with the Philippian jailer. The difficulties
of the case are forgotten when people insist that immersion must
necessarily have been the universal rule in ancient times.[71] Men and
women were baptized separately, deaconesses officiating in the case
of the women. When immersion was used the men descended naked, or
almost so, into the baptistery, which was often a building quite
separate and distinct from the church, with elaborate arrangements for
changing garments.[72] The Church, in the days of earliest freedom and
purity, left her children free in those points of minor detail,
refusing to hamper herself or limit her usefulness by a restriction
which would have equally barred entrance to her fold in the burning
deserts or in the ice-bound regions of the frozen north, where baptism
by immersion would have been equally impossible.

  [70] The method of sprinkling is completely unknown to the Church
  ancient or modern, and should be absolutely rejected, as tending
  to a disuse of the element of water at all.

  [71] The case of Perpetua and Felicitas, and the other famous
  martyrs of Carthage in the beginning of the third century, proves
  that pouring with water must have sufficed for baptism in a Church
  so intensely conservative as the Church of North Africa.
  Tertullian in his writings often reproves its members for the
  superstitious extremes to which they pushed their conservative
  feelings, imitating every ancient Christian custom, rational or
  irrational. Felicitas and her friends were baptized in prison,
  where they were thrust into a noisome dungeon. How could they have
  been immersed in such a place? This case is good evidence for the
  practice of the second century as well.

  [72] See the articles on Baptism and Baptistery in Smith and
  Cheetham's _Dictionary of Christian Antiquities_, vol. i.

Again, the extent of the baptismal commission is indicated in this
passage. "Make disciples of all the nations by baptism" are the words
of our Lord. "Be baptized, every one of you, for the promise is to you
and to your children, and to all that are afar off," is St. Peter's
application of this passage. St. Peter's language admits of various
interpretations. Like much of Scripture, the speaker, when uttering
these words, meant probably one thing, while the words themselves mean
something much wider, more catholic and universal. When Peter spake
thus he proclaimed the world-wide character of Christianity, just as
when he quoted the prophet Joel's language he declared the mission of
the Comforter in its most catholic aspect, embracing Gentiles as well
as Jews. "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh." But St. Peter
never thought of the full scope of his words. He meant, doubtless,
that the promise of pardon, and acceptance, and citizenship in the
heavenly kingdom was to those Jews that were present in Jerusalem, and
to their children, and to all of the Jews of the dispersion scattered
afar off amid the Gentiles. Had Peter thought otherwise, had he
perceived the wider meaning of his words, he would have had no
hesitation about the reception of the Gentiles, and the baptism of
Cornelius would not have demanded a fresh revelation.

We often, indeed, invest the Apostles and the writers of Holy
Scripture with an intellectual grasp of a supernatural kind, which
prevents us recognising that growth in Divine knowledge which found
place in them, as it found place in the Divine Master Himself. We
silently vote them infallible on every topic, because the Spirit's
presence was abundantly vouchsafed. The inspiration they enjoyed
guided their language, and led them to use words which, while
expressing their own sentiments, admitted a deeper meaning and
embraced a wider scope than the speaker intended. It was just the same
with the Apostles' words as with their conduct in other respects. The
presence and inspiration of the Spirit did not make them sinless, did
not destroy human infirmities. It did not destroy St. Peter's moral
cowardice, or St. Paul's hot temper, or St. Barnabas's family
partiality and nepotism; and neither did that presence illumine at
once St. Peter's natural prejudices and intellectual backwardness,
which led him long to restrain the mercies and lovingkindness of the
Lord to His ancient people, though here on the day of Pentecost we
find him using language which plainly included the Gentiles as well as
the Jews within the covenant of grace. A farther question concerning
the language of St. Peter here arises. Do not his words indicate that
children were fit subjects for baptism? Do they not justify the
practice of infant baptism? I honestly confess that, apart from the
known practice of the Jews, St. Peter's language would not necessarily
mean so much. But then when we take the known practice of the Jews
into consideration; when we remember that St. Peter was speaking to a
congregation composed of Jews of the dispersion, accustomed, in their
own missionary work among the heathen, to baptize children as well as
adults, we must admit that, in the absence of any prohibition to the
contrary, the effect of the words of St. Peter upon his hearers must
have been this; they would have acted when Christians as they had
already done as Jews, and baptized proselytes of every age and
condition on their admission to the Christian fold. (See Lightfoot,
_Hor. Heb._, St. Matt. iii. 6.)

V. Such was St. Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost. The results of
it in the unity of doctrine and discipline and the community of goods
will come before us in subsequent chapters. One thought stands out
prominent as we survey this second chapter. Here in very deed we find
an ample fulfilment of our Lord's promise to St. Peter which has been
so completely misused and misunderstood, "I will give unto thee the
keys of the kingdom of heaven;" a passage which has been made one of
the scriptural foundations of the monstrous claims of the See of Rome
to an absolute supremacy alike over the Christian Church and over the
individual conscience. In this respect, however, Scripture is its own
best interpreter. Just reflect how it is in this matter. Christ first
of all defines, in the celebrated series of parables related in the
thirteenth of St. Matthew, what the kingdom of heaven is. It is the
kingdom He had come to reveal, the society He was establishing, the
Church and dispensation of which He is the Head and Chief. To St.
Peter he gave the keys, or power of opening the doors, of this
kingdom; and this office St. Peter duly executed. He opened the door
of the kingdom of heaven to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, and to
the Gentiles by the conversion and baptism of Cornelius. St. Peter
himself recognised on one occasion the special Providence which
watched over him in this matter. He points out, in his speech to the
brethren gathered at the first council held at Jerusalem, that "a good
while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles
should hear the word of the gospel;" a passage which seems a
reminiscence of the earlier promise of Christ, which Peter must have
so well remembered, and a humble recognition of the glorious
fulfilment which that promise had received at the Divine hand.[73] The
promise was a purely personal one peculiar to St. Peter, as purely
personal as the revelation made to him on the housetop at Joppa, and
as such received a complete fulfilment in the Church's infant days.
But Rome's vaulting ambition would not be content with the fulfilment
which satisfied St. Peter himself, and on this text has been built up
a series of claims which, culminating in the celebrated traffic in
indulgences, precipitated the great revolution involved in the German
Reformation.

  [73] See Dr. John Lightfoot's _Horæ Hebraicæ_, St. Matt. xvi. 19.



CHAPTER VIII.

_THE FIRST MIRACLE._

     "Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of
     prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man that was lame
     from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the
     door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them
     that entered into the temple; who seeing Peter and John about to
     go into the temple, asked to receive an alms. And Peter,
     fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us. And he
     gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them.
     But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but what I have,
     that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
     walk."--ACTS iii. 1-6.


The Acts of the Apostles considered as the first history of the Church
may be viewed as typical of all ecclesiastical history. It is in this
respect a microcosm wherein, on a small scale, we see represented the
triumphs and the mistakes, the strength and the weakness, of God's
elect people throughout the ages. Thus in the incident before us,
embracing the whole of the third chapter and the greater portion of
the fourth, we have set forth a victory of the Apostles, their
subsequent persecution, together with the blessing and strength
vouchsafed in and through that persecution. The time of these events
cannot be fixed with any great exactness. They occurred probably
within a few weeks or months of the day of Pentecost. That is the
nearest we can approach to a precise date. There seems indeed to have
been a pause after the excitement and success of Pentecost, and for
this we think that we can see a good reason. The Apostles must have
had plenty to do with the vast multitude gathered upon the day of
Pentecost, striving to lead them into a fuller knowledge of the faith.
We are apt to imagine at first sight that supernatural enlightenment
was vouchsafed to these earliest converts, superseding any necessity
for careful and patient instruction, so that upon their baptism the
whole work was completed. But when we reflect upon other cases in the
New Testament, we can easily see that the three thousand souls
converted by St. Peter's speech must have needed and received a great
deal of teaching. The Church of Corinth was one of St. Paul's own
founding, and upon it he lavished careful attention for a year and a
half; yet we see from his Epistles to the Corinthians how much
guidance was needed by them even in elementary questions of morals,
how rapidly the Church fell into grossest licence when deprived of his
personal ministrations. Theophilus again, to whom the Acts were
addressed by St. Luke, is reminded, in the preface of the Gospel, of
the catechetical instruction in Christian truth which he had
received.[74] Assuredly, then, the small band of the twelve Apostles
and their few male assistants must have had their hands full enough
for many weeks after Pentecost, endeavouring to give their converts
such an insight into the great principles of the faith as would enable
them to carry back to their various distant homes a competent
knowledge of the laws and doctrines of the new dispensation. A few
moments' reflection will show that the newly-baptized had much to
learn about Christ,--the facts of His life, His doctrines, sacraments,
the constitution of His Church, and the position allotted to the
Apostles,--before they could be considered sufficiently rooted and
grounded in the faith. And if this was so with converts from Judaism,
then how much more must such careful instruction after baptism have
been found needful in the case of the Gentiles when the time came for
their admission? Much preparatory work had been done for the Jews by
their Old Testament training. They had not much to learn from the
Apostles in practical morality; they had a right conception of God,
His character, and His service. But as for the Pagans, their whole
intellectual and spiritual life, all their notions and conceptions
about God, and life, and morals, were all hopelessly wrong. The
Apostles and the earliest teachers had then, and missionaries amongst
the heathen have still, to make a clearance of the whole pagan ground,
laying a new foundation, and erecting thereon a new structure,
intellectual, moral, and spiritual. St. Paul recognised the vast
importance of such diligent pastoral work and catechetical training
after baptism when writing his pastoral Epistles, because bitter
experience had taught him their value. At Corinth for more than two
years, and at Ephesus for three years, he had laboured diligently in
building up his converts. And notwithstanding all his exertions, how
quickly the Corinthians fell away into pagan habits of unbridled
licence as soon as he left them! The Acts of the Apostles by this
pause in evangelistic work which we here trace, strikes a note of
warning concerning the future missionary work of the Church, speaking
clearly about the necessity of diligent pastoral care, and
prophesying of the certain relapses into wild excesses which may be
expected to occur among those who have only been just rescued from the
mire of paganism. This is one explanation of the pause in apostolic
work we here seem to perceive.

  [74] The apostolic manual called the _Teaching of the Twelve
  Apostles_, to which we have already referred, proves that the
  Church of the Apostles' day required catechisms and introductory
  formularies just as much as we do.

Again, the analogy of the faith, the laws of human nature, suggest the
need of a period of restful calm after the Pentecostal excitement, and
previous to any new and successful advance. So it has been in God's
dealing in the past. The excitement connected with the first attempts
made by Moses to rescue his people was followed by the forty years'
exile in Midian, which again led to their triumphant rescue from
bondage. Elijah's victory over Jezebel and her idol priests was
followed by the retreat of forty days to Horeb. The excitement of our
Lord's baptism was succeeded by the forty days' fast in the
wilderness. The human mind cannot be ever on the strain. Excitement
must be followed by repose, or else the course of action adopted will
be hurried, imperfect, transient in its results. The works of God in
nature are never such. As a modern poet has nobly sung:--

    "One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee;
    One lesson which in every wind is blown;
    One lesson of two duties kept at one,
    Though the loud world proclaim their enmity;--
    Of toil unsever'd from tranquillity;
    Of labour, that in lasting fruit outgrows
    Far noisier schemes, accomplished in repose,
    Too great for haste, too high for rivalry."[75]

  [75] Sonnet by Matthew Arnold on Rural Work.

There is great calm and dignity in nature; and there was great calm
and dignity in grace when God was laying the foundations of His
kingdom by the hands of His Apostles. There never was an age which
more needed this lesson of nature and grace alike than this nineteenth
century.[76] The religion of the age has been infected by the Spirit
of the world, and men think that the fortresses of sin and ignorance
will fall, provided there be used a sufficient quantity of noise, of
puffing, and of excitement. I do not wish to find the slightest fault
with energetic action. The Church of Christ has been in the past
perhaps a little too dignified in its methods and operations. It has
hesitated, where St. Paul never would have hesitated, to adapt itself
to changed circumstances, and has ofttimes refused, like a timorous
lawyer, to venture on some new and untried sphere because there was no
precedent. The Reformers and their first followers were an
illustration of this. The utter lack of missionary spirit and effort
among the Reformers is one of the darkest blots upon their history.
How sadly they contrast with the Jesuit Society, which started into
existence at the same period of the world's history. No one is more
keenly alive to the faults and shortcomings of that world-renowned
Society than I am, yet I heartily admire the energy and devotion with
which, from its earliest days, the Society of Jesus flung itself into
missionary work, endeavouring to repair the losses which the Papacy
sustained in Europe by fresh conquests in India, China, and America.
The Reformers were so busy in bitter controversies among themselves,
and so intent upon endeavouring to fathom God's decrees and purposes,
that they forgot the primary duty of the Church to spread the light
and truth which it has received; they were deficient in Christian
energy, and thus brought upon themselves the blight and curse of
spiritual barrenness. Controversy evermore brings with it the
desolation of spiritual leanness. Men cease to really believe in a
religion which they only know upon paper, and only think of as a thing
to be discussed. Living contact with human souls and human wants saves
religion, because it translates it from a mere dead dogma into a
living fact. A man who has come to doubt doctrinal statements which he
has never verified, will be brought back to faith by the irresistible
evidence of sinful lives changed and broken hearts comforted.

  [76] This line of thought has been already touched upon in Lect.
  IV., pp. 61-3.

The Church of England has again and again manifested this spirit. In
Ireland she refused to give the nation the Liturgy and the Bible in
the Irish tongue. In Wales she hesitated in condescending to vulgar
wants, and long refused to bestow a native episcopate upon the Celts
of England, because the evil tradition of centuries, down from the age
of the Norman conquest, had ordained that no Welshman should be a
bishop. But still, while I am opposed to the Church binding itself in
fetters of that kind, I am equally of opinion that there is a middle
course between dignified idleness and extravagant carnal
sensationalism. I have heard efforts advocated for home missionary
work which, I am sure, would never have met with the approbation of
the first missionaries of the Cross. The Church must be energetic, but
the Church need not adopt the methods of quack medicine-sellers, or of
the strolling circus. Such methods were not unknown in the primitive
ages of the Church.

The preachers of the stoic philosophy strove in the second century to
counteract the efforts of the Christian Church by reforming paganism,
and by preaching it vigorously. They adopted every means to attract
the public attention and interest--eccentricity, vulgarity,
coarseness; and yet they failed, and were defeated by a society which
trusted, not in human devices and carnal forces, but in the
supernatural power of God the Holy Ghost.[77] The Montanists again,
towards the close of the second century, fell into the same error. The
Montanists are in many respects one of the most interesting of the
early Christian sects. They tried to retain the customs and the spirit
of apostolic Christianity, but they mistook the true methods of
action. They confounded physical excitement with spiritual fervour,
and strove by weird dances and strange cries, borrowed from the pagans
of the Phrygian mountains, to bind to themselves the sweet influences
of the Heavenly Comforter. The Church of that period diligently
avoided the error of pagan stoics and of Christian schismatics. As it
was in the second century, so was it just after Pentecost. The Church
followed close upon its Master's footsteps, of whom it was said, "He
shall not strive nor cry, neither shall any man hear His voice in the
streets," and developed in quietness and retirement the spiritual life
of the thousands who had crowded into the door of faith which Peter
had opened.

  [77] This episode in the history of paganism in the second century
  is very little known. It has been well depicted in an interesting
  little book, _The Age of the Antonines_, by the Rev. W. W. Capes,
  M.A., which only costs a couple of shillings. Chap. VIII. should
  specially be consulted.

Again there is a lesson in this period of pause and seclusion, not
merely for the Church in its corporate capacity, but for individual
souls. The spirit of interior sanctity is nourished most chiefly
during such times of retirement and obscurity. Obscurity has indeed
many advantages when viewed from the standpoint of the spiritual life.
Publicity and high station and multiplicity of affairs bring with them
many disadvantages. They deprive us of that peace and calm which
enable a man to contrast the things of time with those of eternity,
and to value them in their true light. Over-activity, fussiness, even
in the most spiritual matters, is a dire enemy of true heart belief,
and therefore of true strength of spirit. The Master Himself felt it
so. There were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much
as to eat. Then it was He said, "Come ye into the desert, that ye may
rest awhile." The excitement and strain of Pentecost, and all the
subsequent efforts which Pentecost entailed, must have told seriously
upon the Apostles, and so they imitated the Master, that they might
renew their exhausted vigour at its primal fountain. How many a man,
busy in missions, or preaching, or the thousand other forms which
evangelistic and religious work now takes, would be infinitely better
if this apostolic lesson were duly learned. How many a terrible
scandal has arisen simply from a disregard and contempt for it. If men
will think they can labour, as this passage shows the Apostles could
not, without thought and reflection, and interior communion with God;
if they will spend all their strength in external effort and never
make time and secure seasons for spiritual replenishment, they may
create much noise for a time, but their toil will be fruitless, and if
they are saved themselves it will only be as by fire.

The period of retirement and obscurity came however to an end at last.
The Apostles never intended to form an order purely contemplative.
Such an idea, in fact, never could have entered into the mind of one
of those early Christians. They remembered that their Master had
expressly said, "Ye are the salt of the earth," and salt is useless if
kept stored up in a vessel by itself, and never applied to any object
where its curative properties might have free scope. When the spirit
of Eastern gnosticism, springing from the dualism of Persia, invaded
the Church, and gained a permanent hold within it, then men began to
despise their bodies and life, and all that life entails. Like Eastern
fanatics, they desired to abstract themselves as much as possible from
the things and duties of the present, and they invented, or rather
adopted from the farther East, purely contemplative orders, which
spent useless lives, striving, like their prototypes of India, to rise
superior to the positions which God had assigned them. Such were not
the Apostles. They used rest, contemplation, they did not abuse them;
and when their tone and power was restored, they issued forth again
upon the field of religious activity, and joined in the public worship
of the crowd. "Peter and John went up together into the temple at the
hour of prayer, being the ninth hour."

The action of Peter and John in thus frequenting the temple worship
gives us a glimpse into the state of feeling and thought which
prevailed then and for a great many years after in the Church of
Jerusalem. The Church of that city naturally clung longest of all to
the old Jewish connection. Eusebius, in his _Ecclesiastical History_
(iv. 5), tells us that the first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were
Hebrews, and that all the members of the Church were Hebrews too. It
was only, in fact, upon the final destruction of Jerusalem, which
happened under Hadrian, after the rebellion of Barcochba, A.D. 135,
that the Church of Jerusalem shook itself completely free from the
trammels of Judaism.[78]

  [78] See the article on Barcochba in the _Dict. Christ. Biog._,
  vol. i.

But in those earliest days of the Church the Apostles naturally could
not recognise the course of the Divine development. They cherished the
notion that Judaism and Christianity would be found compatible the one
with the other. They had not yet recognised what St. Stephen first of
all, and then St. Paul, and most chiefly the author of the Hebrews,
came to recognise, that Judaism and Christianity as full-blown systems
were absolutely antagonistic; that the Jewish dispensation was
obsolete, antiquated, and must utterly and for ever fade before a
nobler dispensation that was once for all to take its place. It is
hard for us to realize the feelings of the Apostles at this great
transition epoch, and yet it is well for us to do so, because their
conduct is full of lessons specially suited for seasons of transition.
The Apostles never seem to me more clearly under the direction of the
Divine Spirit than in their whole course of action at this time. They
proceeded in faith, but not in haste. They held firmly to the truths
they had gained, and they waited patiently upon God, till the course
of His providence showed them how to co-ordinate the old system with
the new truths,--until He had taught them what parts of the ancient
covenant should be dropped and what retained. Their conduct has
instruction very suitable for the present age, when God is giving His
Church fresh light on many a question through the investigations of
science. Well, indeed, will it be for Christian people to have their
hearts grounded, as the Apostles' were, in a spirit of Divine love,
knowing personally in whom they have believed; and then, strong in
that inner revelation of God to the spirit, which surpasses in might
and power all other evidences, they may patiently wait the evolution
of His purposes. The prophetic declaration is true for every age, "He
that believeth will not make haste."

The circumstances of the first apostolic miracle were simple enough.
Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of the
evening sacrifice. They were entering the temple by the gate well
known to all dwellers at Jerusalem as the Beautiful Gate, and there
they met the cripple whom they healed in the name and by the power of
Jesus of Nazareth. The spot where this miracle was performed was
familiar to the Jews of that day, though its precise locality is still
a matter of controversy. Some hold that this Beautiful Gate was one
described by Josephus in his _Wars of the Jews_ (v. 5, 3) as
surpassingly splendid, being composed of Corinthian brass, and called
the Gate of Nicanor. Others think that it was the gate Shushan, which
stood in the neighbourhood of Solomon's Porch; while others identify
it with the gate Chulda, which led into the Court of the Gentiles. It
was most probably the first of these which was situated on the eastern
side of the outermost court of the temple, looking towards the valley
of Kedron.[79] Here was gathered a crowd of beggars, such as then
frequented the temples of the pagans as well as of the Jews, and such
as still throng the approaches of Eastern and many Western churches.
Out of this crowd one man addressed Peter and John, asking an alms.
This man was well known to the regular worshippers in the temple. He
was a cripple, and one long accustomed to haunt the same spot, for he
was above forty years old. Peter replied to his prayer in the
well-known words, "Silver and gold have I none: but what I have, that
give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk;" and then
he performed one of the few miracles ascribed to the direct action of
St. Peter. Here it may be asked, Why was this miracle of healing the
cripple at the temple gate the only one recorded of those earliest
signs and wonders wrought by apostolic hands? The answer seems to be
threefold: this miracle was typical of the Church's future work; it
was the occasion of St. Peter's testimony before the Sanhedrin; and it
led up to the first persecution which the Jewish authorities raised
against the Church.

  [79] See Lightfoot's _Horæ Hebraicæ_, Acts iii. 2. De Voguë in his
  great work on the Temple of Jerusalem, fully gives the traditions
  which attached themselves to this gate. In the fourth century it
  was celebrated by the Christian poet Prudentius, and in the fifth
  or sixth a gate called the Golden Gate was erected on its site.
  This gate still remains, and De Voguë in his plates vii. to xii.
  gives a series of views of it.

Viewing the Acts of the Apostles as a type of what all Church history
was to be, and a Divine exposition of the principles which should
guide the Church in times of suffering as well as in times of action,
we can see good and solid reasons for the insertion of this particular
narrative. First, then, this miracle was typical of the Church's work,
for it was a beggar that was healed, and this beggar lay helpless and
hopeless at the very doors of the temple. The beggar typified humanity
at large. He was laid, indeed, in a splendid position,--before him was
extended the magnificent panorama of hills which stood round about
Jerusalem; above him rose the splendours of the building upon which
the Herods had lavished the riches and wonders of their gorgeous
conceptions,--but he was nothing the better for all this material
grandeur till touched by the power which lay in the name of Jesus of
Nazareth. And the beggar of the Beautiful Gate was in all these
respects the fittest object for St. Peter's earliest public miracle,
because he was exactly typical of mankind's state. Humanity, Jew and
Gentile alike, lay at the very gate of God's temple of the universe.
Men could discourse learnedly, too, concerning that sanctuary, and
they could admire its beauteous proportions. Poets, philosophers, and
wise men had treated of the temple of the universe in works which can
never be surpassed, but all the while they lay outside its sacred
precincts. They had no power to stand up and enter in, leaping, and
walking, and praising God. It is very important, in this age of
material civilization and of intellectual advance, that the Church
should insist vigorously upon the great truth taught by this miracle.
The age of the Incarnation must have seemed to the men of that time
the very acme of civilization and of knowledge; and yet the testimony
of all history and of all literature is that just then mankind was in
the most deplorable state of moral and spiritual degradation. The
witness of St. Paul in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans
is amply borne out by the testimony, conscious and unconscious, of
pagan antiquity. A writer of the last century, now to a great extent
forgotten, Dr. Leland by name, investigated this point in the fullest
manner in his great work on the necessity of a Divine revelation,
demonstrating that mankind, even when highly civilized, educated,
cultured, lies like a beggar at the door of the temple, till touched
by the hand and power of the Incarnate God.

This miracle of healing the beggar was typical of the Church's work
again, because it was a beggar who thus received a blessing when the
Church roused itself to the discharge of its great mission. The first
man healed and benefited by St. Peter was a poor man, and the Church's
work has ever led her to deal with the poor, and to interest herself
most keenly in their well-being. This first miracle is typical of
Christian work, because Christianity is essentially the religion of
the masses. At times, indeed, Christian teachers may have seemed to
rank themselves on the side of power and riches alone; but then men
should take good care to distinguish between the inconsistent conduct
of Christian teachers and the essential principles of Christianity.
The founder of Christianity was a carpenter, and its earliest
benediction pronounced the blessedness of those that are poor in
spirit, and ever since the greatest triumphs of Christianity have been
gained amongst the poor. Christian hagiology, Christian legend, and
Christian history alike, have combined to attest this truth. The
Church calendar is decorated with lists of saints, some of them of
very doubtful character, while others of them have stories connected
with their careers full of meaning and rich with lessons for this
generation. Thus, for instance, October 25th is the feast of a martyr,
St. Crispin, from whom the great trade of shoemakers is designated.
"The sons of St. Crispin" is a title going back to the earliest ages
of the Church's love. St. Crispin was a Roman senator, brought up and
nourished amid all that luxury with which pagan Rome surrounded the
children of the highest classes. Crispin became acquainted with the
faith of the followers of the Carpenter of Nazareth amid the dire
persecutions which marked the final struggle between Christianity and
paganism under the Emperor Diocletian during the earliest years of the
fourth century. He was baptized, and feeling that a life of gilded
idleness was inconsistent with his Master's example, he resigned his
place, position, and property, retired into Gaul, and there devoted
himself to the trade of shoemaking, as being one which could be
exercised in great quietness. Manual toil was at that time considered
an occupation fitted only for slaves, for we ought never to forget
that the dignity of labour is no human invention, nor is it part of
the religions of nature. Nay, rather, the dignity of idleness was the
doctrine of Greek and Roman paganism. St. Crispin recognized the great
law of labour taught by Christ and taught by His Apostles, and became
the most successful of shoemakers, preaching at the same time the
gospel with such success that the persecutors selected him as one of
their earliest victims in that district of Gaul where he resided.[80]
It has been just the same in every age. The true power of the Church
has been ever displayed in preaching the gospel to the children of
toil. An interesting example of this may be gathered from an age which
we are apt to think specially dark. In mediæval times the secular or
parochial clergy became very lax and careless throughout these
islands. The mendicant friars, the followers of St. Francis, came and
settled everywhere in the slums of the great towns, devoting
themselves to the work of preaching to the poor. And they speedily
attained a marvellous power over men. The Franciscans in the
thirteenth century were exactly like the early Methodists in the last
century. Both societies placed their chapels among the abodes of want;
there they laboured, and there they triumphed, because they worked in
the spirit and power indicated by this first recorded miracle of the
beggar healed at the temple gate.[81] It will be a bad day for
religion and for society when the Church ceases to be the Church and
champion of the weak, the down-trodden, the destitute. Here, however,
lies a danger. Its work in this direction must be done in no one-sided
spirit. Christianity must never adopt the language or the tone of the
mere agitator. I fear that some who now pose as specially the
champions of the poor are missing that spirit of mental balance and
fairness which will alone enable them to be Christian champions,
because seeking to do justice unto all men. It is easy enough to
flatter any class, rich or poor; and it is specially tempting to do so
when the class so flattered chances to hold the reins of political
power. It is very hard to render to all their due, shrinking not from
telling the truth, even when unpleasant, and reproving the faults of
those whose side we favour. A Christianity which triumphs through
appeals to popular prejudices, and seeks a mere temporary advantage by
riding on the crest of popular ignorance, is not the religion taught
by Christ and His Apostles.

  [80] The story of St. Crispin is told at length by the Bollandists
  in the _Acta Sanctorum_ for October, vol. xi., pp. 495 to 540. St.
  Chrysostom in one of his orations paints a vigorous picture of two
  imaginary cities, one where all the people were rich, with an
  abundance of slaves, and therefore dependent on others for all the
  necessaries and conveniences of life; the other city inhabited by
  none but poor freemen, where everyone laboured at manual toil and
  provided for his wants by his own exertions. He then asks which is
  the happier; unhesitatingly giving the palm to the city of
  poverty, labour, and freedom.

  [81] The analogy I have drawn between the early Methodists and the
  Franciscans will be amply borne out if one will take the trouble,
  in any of our large towns, to notice where the Franciscans have
  left traces of their existence. The name Francis Street and the
  ruins of Franciscan foundations will almost always be found just
  outside the original walls, among the slums of the people. This
  point is noticed by Mr. Brewer in his interesting introduction to
  the _Monumenta Franciscana_, in the Rolls Series. He says, on p.
  xvii, "In London, York, Warwick, Oxford, Bristol, Lynn, and
  elsewhere, the Franciscan convents stood in the suburbs and
  abutted on the city walls. They made choice of the low, swampy,
  and undrained spots in the large towns, amongst the poorest and
  most neglected quarters." The Franciscans proved that splendid
  material structures are not necessary for great spiritual
  triumphs. An investigation of the topography of our older towns
  would show exactly the same great truth about early Methodist
  chapels. They were almost always placed in poor localities, as the
  name of Preaching Lane, often still connected with them, shows.
  See my _Ireland and the Anglo-Norman Church_, pp. 331-34, for more
  on this point.

But yet, again, the conversion of this beggar was effected through his
healing; and here we see a type of the Church's future work. The
Church, then, as represented by the Apostles, did not despise the
body, or regard efforts after bodily blessing beneath its dignity.
Spiritual work went hand in hand with healing power. This has been a
lesson which Christian people, at home and abroad, have been slow
enough to learn. The whole principle, for instance, of medical
missions is covered by this action on the part of the Apostles. For a
long time the Church thought it was its solitary duty to preach the
gospel by word of mouth, and it has only been in comparatively modern
days that men have learned that one of the most powerful means of
preaching the gospel was the exercise of the healing art; for surely
if the gift of healing, conveyed from God by supernatural means, could
be an effective help towards evangelistic work, the same gift of
healing, conveyed from precisely the same source by natural channels
indeed, but channels none the less truly Divine, can still be
effective to the same great end. The Church should count no human
interest beyond its sway, and should take the keenest interest and
claim a living share in every portion of life's work. At home or
abroad the bodies of men are her care as well as their souls, because
bodies as well as souls have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, and both
alike await their perfection and glorification through Jesus Christ.
Schools, hospitals, sanitary and medical science, the dwellings and
amusements of the people, trade, commerce, all should be the care of
the Church, and should be based on Christ's law, and carried out on
Christian principles. The Incarnation of Christ has given a deeper
meaning than he ever dreamt of to the pagan poet's words,--

  "Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto."

We think, furthermore, that this miracle has been divinely recorded
because it was the occasion of St. Peter's testimony both to the
people and to their rulers. Let us strive to realize the circumstances
and the locality. Peter and John, going up to the temple, met this
impotent beggar at the entrance to the Court of the Women, into which
the Beautiful Gate led. Our modern notions about churches confuse all
true conceptions concerning the temple. The vast majority of people,
when they think of the temple, form to themselves an idea of a vast
cathedral, when they ought instead to think of a large college, with
square succeeding square and court following court. As Peter and John
ascended the temple hill they came first to the Court of the Gentiles,
which served as a market, and in which a crowd of mendicants were
assembled to solicit alms. Out of this Court of the Gentiles the
Beautiful Gate led into the Court of the Women, which was reserved for
the ordinary religious offices of the Jewish people.[82] One of the
beggars addressed the Apostles, soliciting a gift; whereupon the
Apostles worked the miracle of healing. Upon this a crowd collected,
attracted by the excited conduct of the man who had received such an
unexpected blessing. They ran together after the manner of all crowds
which assemble so easily and so rapidly in a city, and then, hurrying
into the cloister, called Solomon's Porch, which was a remnant of the
ancient temple, heard the address of St. Peter. It must have been a
spot filled with cherished memories for the Apostle. Every Jew
naturally venerated this cloister, because it was Solomon's; just as
men in the grandest modern cathedral still love to point out the
smallest relic of the original structure out of which the modern
building grew. At San Clemente, in Rome, the priests delight to show
the primitive structure where they say St. Clement ministered about
the year A.D. 100.[83] At York the vergers will indicate far down in
the crypt the fragments of the earliest Saxon church, which once stood
where that splendid cathedral now rears its lofty arches. So, too, the
Jews naturally cherished this link of continuity between the ancient
and the modern temples. But for St. Peter this Solomon's Porch must
have had special memories over and above the patriotic ideas that were
linked with it. He could not forget that the very last feast of the
Dedication which the Master had seen on earth, He walked in this
porch, and there in His conversation with the Jews claimed an equality
with the Father which led them to make an attempt on His life.

  [82] See Lightfoot on the Court of the Women in his _Chorography
  of the Holy Land_, chap. xix. in his _Works_, vol. ii., p. 29. The
  best modern description will be found in Count de Voguë's _Le
  Temple de Jérusalem_, pp. 53-6 (Paris, 1864), with which may be
  compared a paper on the site of the Temple by Colonel Warren in
  the _Transactions_ of the Society of Biblical Archæology, vol.
  vii., pp. 308-30.

  [83] In the new edition of _Clement of Rome_, by Bishop Lightfoot,
  vol. i., pp. 92, 93, there is an account of this ancient church.

Here, then, it was that within twelve months the Apostle Peter makes a
similar claim on his Master's behalf, in a discourse which extends
from the twelfth to the twenty-sixth verse of the third chapter. That
discourse has two distinct divisions. It sets forth, first the claims,
dignity, and nature of Christ, and then makes a personal appeal to the
men of Jerusalem. St. Peter begins his sermon with an act of profound
self-renunciation. When the Apostle saw the people running together,
he answered and said, "Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why
look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we
made this man to walk?" The same spirit of renunciation appears at an
earlier stage of the miracle. When the beggar solicited an alms, Peter
said, "Silver and gold have I none: but what I have, that give I thee.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." One point is at once
manifest when St. Peter's conduct is compared with his Master's under
similar circumstances. St. Peter acts as a delegate and a servant;
Jesus Christ acted as a principal, a master,--the Prince of Life, as
St. Peter calls Him in the fifteenth verse of this third chapter. The
distinction between the miracles of Christ and the miracles of the
Apostles declares the New Testament conception of Christ's dignity and
person. Compare, for instance, the narrative of the healing of the
impotent man at the Pool of Bethesda, told in the fifth chapter of St.
John, with that of the healing of the impotent man laid at the temple
gate. Christ said, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." He made no
appeal, He used no prayer, He invoked no higher name. He simply spake
and it was done. The Apostle Peter, the rock-man, the leader of the
apostolic band, takes the greatest care to assure the multitude that
he had himself neither power nor efficacy in this matter, and that
all the power lay in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Now,
leaving aside for the moment any question of the truth or reality of
these two miracles, is it not manifest from these two parallel cases
that the New Testament writings place Jesus Christ on an exalted
standpoint far above that of any human being whatsoever; in a
position, in fact, which from the boldness and magnificence of its
claims can only be fitly described in the language of the Nicene Creed
as "God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God."

St. Peter's words teach another lesson. They are typical of the spirit
which should ever animate the Christian preacher or teacher. They turn
the attention of his hearers wholly away from himself, and exalt
Christ Jesus alone. And such has ever been and ever must be the secret
of successful preaching. Self-consciousness, in fact, injures the
effect of any kind of labour. The man who does not lose himself in his
work, of whatever kind--political, philanthropic, or religious--his
work may be, but is ever thinking of himself and the results of his
actions upon his own prospects, can never become an enthusiast; and it
is only enthusiasm and enthusiastic action which can really affect
mankind. And surely the preacher of Christian truth who thinks of
himself rather than of the great subject of his mission, who only
preaches that he may be thought clever or eloquent, debases the
Christian pulpit, and must be an awful failure in that day when God
shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. St. Peter here, John
the Baptist in still earlier days, ought to be the models for
Christian teachers. Men came to the Baptist, did him homage, yielded
him respect; but he pointed them from himself to Christ. He was a
lamp, but Christ was the light; and the Baptist's teaching reached
its highest, noblest level when he turned his disciples' gaze away
from himself, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the
sin of the world." Let me, however, not be mistaken. I do not mean to
say that a Christian teacher, whether writer or speaker, should never
allow a single reflex thought as to his own performances to rise in
his mind, should never desire to preach ably or eloquently. A man who
could set up such a standard must be ignorant of human nature and of
Scripture alike. One cannot, for instance, read St. Paul's Second
Epistle to the Corinthians without noting how sorely he was touched by
his own unpopularity amongst them and the successful machinations of
his opponents. Daily experience will prove that no attainments in the
spiritual life will prevent a man from valuing the esteem and
recognition of his fellow men. But such a desire to please and be
successful must be kept in stern control. It must not be the great
object of a Christian. It must never lead him to keep back one jot or
tittle of the counsel of God. The natural desire to please must be
closely watched. It easily leads men to idolatry, to the installation
of human fame, power, influence, gold, in the place of that Eternal
Saviour whose worship ought to be the great end and the true life of
the soul.

St. Peter, after his act of abnegation and self-humiliation, then
proceeds to set forth the claims and to narrate the history of Jesus
Christ, and in doing so enters into the particulars of His trial and
condemnation, which he charges boldly home upon his listeners, who, as
distinguished from his audience on the day of Pentecost, were most
probably the permanent residents in Jerusalem. The Apostle narrates
the events of our Lord's trial just as we find them in the
Gospels--His interviews with Pilate, the outcry of the people, the
choice and character of Barabbas. He asserts His resurrection, and
implies, without asserting, His ascension, by the words, "Whom the
heavens must receive until the times of the restitution of all
things." The primitive gospel of St. Peter was just like that taught
by St. Paul, as he puts it forward in the fifteenth chapter of First
of Corinthians, "Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I have
received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the
scriptures: and that He was buried, and that He rose again." The
earliest message, proclaimed by St. Paul or St. Peter, was one and the
same; it was a declaration of certain historical facts, and what it
was then such it must ever remain. Whenever the historical facts are
disbelieved, then men may speak beautifully of the spiritual ideas and
the moral truths symbolised by Christianity, just as Hypatia and the
Neo-Platonists of Alexandria could speak in picturesque language
concerning the deep poetic meaning of the old pagan legends. Poetry
and legends are, however, the veriest husks wherewith to support an
immortal soul under the great trials of life; and when that day comes
for any soul when the great historical facts set forth in the Creed
are rejected, then Christianity may remain in name and appearance, but
it will cease to be the gospel of joy and peace and comfort, for the
human soul can only sustain itself in the supreme moments of sorrow,
separation, and death by the solid realities of fact and truth.

St. Peter, again, in this sermon leaves us a type of what Christian
sermons should be. He was plain spoken, yet he was tender and
sympathetic. He was plain spoken. He does not hesitate to state the
crimes of the Jews in the most vigorous language. God had glorified
His servant Jesus, but they delivered Him up to the agents of the
idolatrous Romans; they denied Him, desired a murderer to be granted
in place of the Prince of Life; urged His death when even the Roman
judge would have let Him go,--and all this they had done to the
long-expected and long-desired Messiah. Peter is not wanting in
plainness of speech. And the Christian teacher, whether clergyman or
layman, whether a pastor in the pulpit, a teacher in the
Sunday-school, or the editor of a newspaper at his desk, ought to
cultivate and exercise the same Christian boldness and courage. The
true Christian ideal will be attained by following St. Peter's example
on this occasion. He combined boldness and prudence, courage and
gentleness. He spoke the truth in all honesty, but he did not adopt an
attitude or use language which would arouse unnecessary opposition.
What courtesy, what sympathetic, charitable politeness is manifest in
St. Peter's excuse, which he offers in the course of his sermon for
the Jews, rulers and people alike! "And now, brethren, I wot that
through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." Some men think
that prudence is an idea which should never enter the head of a
messenger of Christ, though no one impressed more frequently the
necessity of that great virtue than did the Master, for He knew how
easily imprudence may undo all the good that faithfulness might
otherwise attain. Wisdom like the serpent's, gentleness like the
dove's, was Christ's own rule for His Apostles. Boldness, and courage,
and honesty, are blessed things, but they should be guided and
moderated by charity. Earthly motives easily insinuate themselves in
every man's heart, and when a man feels urged on to declare some
unpleasant truth, or to raise a violent and determined opposition, he
should search diligently, lest that while he imagines himself
following a heavenly vision and obeying a Divine command, he should be
only yielding to mere human suggestions of pride, or partisanship, or
uncharitableness.



CHAPTER IX.

_THE FIRST PERSECUTION._

     "And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain
     of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved
     that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the
     resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put
     them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.... And
     it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and
     scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and
     Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest,
     were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them
     in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye
     done this?"--ACTS iv. 1-3, 5-7.


The fourth chapter of the Acts brings the Apostles into their first
contact with the Jewish state organisation. It shows us the secret
springs which led to the first persecution, typical of the fiercest
that ever raged against the Church, and displays the calm conviction
and moral strength by which the Apostles were sustained. The
historical and local circumstances narrated by St. Luke bear all the
marks of truth.

I. The miracle of healing the lame man had taken place in Solomon's
porch or portico, which overlooked the Kedron valley, and was an usual
resort as a promenade or public walk, specially in winter. Thus we
read, in St. John x. 22, 23, that our Lord walked in Solomon's porch,
and it was winter. Solomon's porch looked towards the rising sun, and
was therefore a warm and sunny spot. It was popular with the
inhabitants of Jerusalem for the same reason which led the Cistercians
of the Middle Ages, when building magnificent fabrics like Fountains
Abbey, to place their cloister garths, where exercise was taken, on
the southern side of their churches, that there they might receive and
enjoy the heat and light of our winter sun.

The crowd which was collected by Peter soon attracted the attention of
the temple authorities, who had a regular police under their control.
The Jews were permitted by the Romans to exercise the most unlimited
freedom within the bounds of the temple to secure its sanctity. In
ordinary cases the Romans reserved to themselves the power of capital
punishment, but in the case of the temple and its profanation they
allowed it to the Sanhedrin.

An interesting proof of this fact has come to light of late years,
attesting, in a most striking manner, the accuracy of the Acts of the
Apostles. Josephus, in his _Antiquities_ (xv. xi. 5), when describing
the Holy Place, tells us that the royal cloisters of the temple had
three walks, formed by four rows of pillars, with which they were
adorned. The outermost walk was open to all, but the central walk was
cut off by a stone wall, on which were inscriptions forbidding
foreigners--that is, Gentiles--to enter under pain of death. Now in
the twenty-first chapter of the Acts we read that a supposed breach of
this law was the occasion of the riot against St. Paul, wherein he
narrowly escaped death.[84]

  [84] "Moreover he brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath
  defiled this holy place. For they had before seen with him in the
  city Trophimus the Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had
  brought into the temple" (Acts xxi. 28, 29).

The Jews were actually about to kill St. Paul when the soldiers came
upon them. To this fact, Tertullus the orator, when speaking before
the governor Felix, alludes, and that without rebuke, saying of St.
Paul, "Whom we took, and would have judged according to our law."[85]
Here comes in our illustration of the Acts derived from modern
archæological research. Some few years ago there was discovered at
Jerusalem, and there is now laid up in the Sultan's Museum at
Constantinople, a sculptured and inscribed stone, containing one of
these very Greek notices upon which the Apostles must have looked,
warning Gentiles not to enter within the sacred bounds, and denouncing
against transgressors the penalty of death which the Jews sought to
inflict upon St. Paul.[86] Now it was just the same about the other
details of the temple worship. Inside the sacred area the Jewish law
was supreme, and Jewish penalties were enacted. In order, therefore,
that the temple might be duly protected the priests watched in three
places, and the Levites in twenty-one places, in addition to all their
other duties connected with the offering of the sacrifices and the
details of public worship. These guards discharged the duties of a
sacred or temple police, and their captain was called the captain of
the temple, or, as he is denominated in the Talmud, "The ruler of the
mountain of the House."

  [85] Acts xxiv. 6.

  [86] I have never seen a notice of this interesting biblical
  discovery in any English magazine or journal. There is an account
  of it in the _Revue Archéologique_ for 1885, series iii., t. v.,
  p. 241, by Clermont-Ganneau, its original discoverer. He calls it
  an authentic page of the New Testament.

Much confusion has, indeed, arisen concerning this official. He has
been confounded, for instance, with the captain of the neighbouring
fortress of Antonia. The Romans had erected a strong square castle,
with lofty walls, and towers at the four corners, just north of the
temple, and connected with it by a covered way. One of these flanking
towers was one hundred and five feet high, and overlooked all the
temple area, so that when a riot began the soldiers could hurry to
quell it. The captain of the garrison which held this tower is called,
in our version, the chief captain, or, more properly, the chiliarch,
or colonel of a regiment, as we should put it in modern phraseology.
But this official had nothing whatever to say to questions of Jewish
law or ritual. He was simply responsible for the peace of Jerusalem;
he represented the governor, who lived at Cæsarea, and had no concern
with the disputes which might arise amongst the Jews. But it was quite
otherwise with the captain of the temple. He was a Jewish official,
took cognisance of Jewish disputes, and was responsible in matters of
Jewish discipline which Roman law respected and upheld, but in which
it did not interfere. This purely Jewish official, a priest by
profession, appointed by the Jewish authorities, and responsible to
them alone, appears prominently on three distinct occasions. In the
twenty-second of St. Luke's Gospel we have the account of the betrayal
by the traitor Judas. When he was meditating that action he went first
to the chief priests and the captains to consult with them. A Roman
commander, an Italian, a Gaul, or possibly even a Briton,--as he might
have been, for the Romans were accustomed to bring their Western
legionaries into the East, as in turn they garrisoned Britain with the
men of Syria,--would have cared very little whether a Galilean teacher
was arrested or not. But it was quite natural that a Jewish and a
temple official should have been interested in this question. While
again on this occasion, and once more upon the arrest of the Apostles
after the death of Ananias and Sapphira, the captain of the temple
appears as one of the highest Jewish officials.[87]

  [87] See more on this point in Dr. John Lightfoot's _Horæ
  Hebraicæ_, Luke xxii. 4 and Acts iv.

II. We see too the secret source whence the opposition to apostolic
teaching arose. The priests and the captain of the temple and the
Sadducees came upon them. The captain was roused into action by the
Sadducees, who were mingled in the crowd, and heard the words of the
Apostles proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus Christ, "being grieved
that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the
resurrection from the dead." It is noteworthy how perpetually the
Sadducees appear as the special antagonists of Christianity during
these earliest years. Our Lord's denunciations of the Pharisees were
so often repeated that we are apt to think of them as the leading
opponents of Christianity during the apostolic age. And yet this is a
mistake. There was an important difference between the Master's
teaching and that of His disciples, which accounts for the changed
character of the opposition. Our Lord's teaching came specially into
conflict with the Pharisees and their mode of thought. He denounced
mere external worship, and asserted the spiritual and inner character
of true religion. That was the great staple of his message. The
Apostles, on the other hand, testified and enforced above everything
else the risen, the glorified, and the continuous existence in the
spirit world of the Man Christ Jesus. And thus they came into conflict
with the central doctrine of Sadduceism which denied a future life.
Hence at Jerusalem, at least, the Sadducees were ever the chief
persecutors of the Apostles, while the Pharisees were favourable to
Christianity, or at least neutral. At the meeting of the Sanhedrin of
which we read in the fifth chapter, Gamaliel, a Pharisee, proposes the
discharge of the imprisoned Apostles. In the twenty-third chapter,
when St. Paul is placed before the same Sanhedrin the Pharisees take
his side, while the Sadducees are his bitter opponents. We never read
of a Sadducee embracing Christianity; while St. Paul, the greatest
champion of the gospel, was gained from the ranks of the Pharisees.
This fact sheds light on the character of the apostolic teaching. It
was not any system of evanescent Christianity; it was not a system of
mere ethical teaching; it was not a system where the facts of Christ's
life were whittled away, where, for instance, His resurrection was
explained as a mere symbolical idea, typifying the resurrection of the
soul from the death of sin to the life of holiness; for in that case
the Sadducees would not have troubled themselves on this occasion to
oppose such teaching. But apostolic Christianity was a system which
based itself on a risen Saviour, and involved, as its fundamental
ideas, the doctrines of a future life and of a spiritual world, and of
a resurrection where body and soul would be again united.

Some strange representations have been from time to time put forward
as to the nature of apostolic and specially of Pauline Christianity,
but one of the strangest is what we may call the Matthew Arnold
theory, which makes the apostolic teaching a poor, emasculated thing,
devoid of any real foundation of historical fact. If Christianity, as
proclaimed by St. Peter and St. Paul, was of this type, why, we ask,
was it so bitterly opposed by the Sadducees? They at any rate
understood the Apostles to teach and preach a Jesus Christ literally
risen from the dead and ascended in the truth of human nature into
that spiritual and unseen world whose existence they denied. For the
Sadducees were materialists pure and simple. As such they prevailed
among the rich. The poor, then as ever, furnished very few adherents
to a creed which may satisfy persons who are enjoying the good things
of this life. It has very few attractions, however, for those with
whom life is dealing hardly, and to whom the world presents itself in
a stern aspect alone. It is no wonder the new teaching concerning a
risen Messiah should have excited the hatred of the rich Sadducees,
and should have been welcomed by the poorer classes, among whom the
Pharisees had their followers. The system of the Sadducees was a
religion indeed. It satisfied a want, for man can never do without
some kind of a religion. It recognised God and His revelation to
Moses. It asserted, however, that the Mosaic revelation contained
nothing concerning a future life, or the doctrine of immortality. It
was a religion, therefore, without fear of a future, and which could
never indeed excite any enthusiasm, but was very satisfactory and
agreeable for the prosperous few as long as they were in prosperity
and in health. Peter and John came preaching a very disturbing
doctrine to this class of people. If Peter's view of life was right,
theirs was all wrong. It was no wonder that the Sadducees brought upon
them the priests and the captain of the temple, and summoned the
Sanhedrin to deal with them. We should have done the same had we been
in their position. In every age, indeed, the bitterest persecutors of
Christianity have been men like the Sadducees. It has often been said
that persecution on the part of a sceptic or of an unbeliever is
illogical. The Sadducees were unbelievers as regards a future life.
What matter to them was it, then, if the Apostles preached a future
life, and convinced the people of its truth? But logic is always
pushed impetuously aside when it comes in contact with deep-rooted
human feeling, and the Sadducees instinctively felt that the conflict
between themselves and the Apostles was a deadly one; one or other
party must perish. And so it was under the Roman empire. The ruling
classes of the empire were essentially infidel, or, to use a modern
term, we should rather perhaps style them agnostic. They regarded the
Christian teaching as a noxious enthusiasm. They could not understand
why Christians should not offer incense to the deity of the emperor,
or perform any act of idolatry which was commanded by state law, and
regarded their refusal as an act of treason. They had no idea of
conscience, because they were essentially like the Sadducees.[88] So
was it again in the days of the first French Revolution, and so we
find it still. The men who reject all spiritual existence, and hold a
Sadducean creed, fear the power of Christian enthusiasm and Christian
love, and had they only the power would crush it as sternly and
remorselessly as the Sadducees desired to do in apostolic times, or as
the Roman emperors did from the days of Nero to those of Diocletian.

  [88] Pliny in his _Letters_, x., 97, writes to the Emperor Trajan
  expressing this view when telling how he dealt with the Christians
  of Bithynia: "I asked them whether they were Christians: if they
  admitted it, I repeated the question twice, and threatened them
  with punishment; if they persisted, I ordered them to be at once
  punished: for I was persuaded, whatever the nature of their
  opinions might be, a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy
  certainly deserved correction." A philosopher could not understand
  a man keeping a conscience in opposition to the law. The martyrs
  vindicated the freedom of the Christian conscience.

III. The Apostles were arrested in the evening and put in prison. The
temple had an abundance of chambers and apartments which could be used
as prisons, or, as the Sanhedrin were accustomed to sit in a basilica
erected in the court outside the Beautiful Gate, and inside Solomon's
porch or cloister, there was probably a cell for prisoners connected
with it. The next morning St. Peter and St. John were brought up
before the court which met daily in this basilica, immediately after
the hour of the morning sacrifices. We can realize the scene, for the
persons mentioned as having taken part in the trial are historical
characters. The Sanhedrin sat in a semicircle, with the president in
the centre, while opposite were three benches for the scholars of the
Sanhedrists, who thus practically learned law. The Sanhedrin, when
complete, consisted of seventy-one members, comprising chief priests,
the elders of the people, and the most renowned of the rabbis; but
twenty-three formed a quorum competent to transact business.[89] The
high priest when present, as Annas and Caiaphas both were on this
occasion, naturally exercised great influence, though he was not
necessarily president of the council. The sacred writer has been
accused, indeed, of a historical mistake, both here and in his Gospel
(iii. 2), in making Annas high priest when Caiaphas was actually
occupying that office, Annas, his father-in-law, having been
previously deposed by the Romans. St. Luke seems to me, on the other
hand, thus to prove his strict accuracy. Caiaphas was of course the
legal high priest so far as the Romans were concerned. They recognised
him as such, and delivered to him the high priest's official robes,
when necessary for the fulfilment of his great office, keeping them
safe at other times in the tower of Antonia. But then, as I have
already said, so long as the Roman law and constitutions were observed
on great state occasions, they allowed the Jews a large amount of Home
Rule in the management of their domestic religious concerns, and were
not keen in marking offences, if only the offences were not thrust
into public notice. Annas was recognised by the Sanhedrin and by the
Jews at large as the true high priest, Caiaphas as the legal or
official one; and they kept themselves on the safe side, as far as the
Romans were concerned, by uniting them in their official consultations
in the Sanhedrin. The Sadducees, doubtless, on this occasion made
every effort that their own party should attend the council meeting,
feeling the importance of crushing the rising sect in the very bud. We
read, therefore, that with the high priest came "John, and Alexander,
and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest."[90] The
priestly families were at this period the aristocracy of the Jews, and
they all belonged to the Sadducees, in opposition to the democracy who
favoured the Pharisees. These latter, indeed, had their own
representatives in the Sanhedrin, as we shall see on a later
occasion,--men of light and leading, like Gamaliel; but the permanent
officials of the Jewish senate were for the most part Sadducees, and
we know how easily the permanent officials can pack a popular body,
such as the Sanhedrin was, with their own adherents, when any special
end is to be attained.

  [89] It would take more space than we can now afford to explain
  the constitution of the Sanhedrin. There is an admirable and
  concise article on the subject in Schaff's edition of Herzog's
  _Cyclopædia_, and another in Kitto's _Biblical Cyclopædia_. Dr.
  John Lightfoot describes it in his _Horæ Hebraicæ_, which we so
  often quote. The most extensive and minute account of it will,
  however, be found in Latin in Selden's treatise _De Synedriis_,
  illustrated with plates.

  [90] Dr. John Lightfoot, in his _Horæ Hebraicæ_, chap. iv., verse
  6, identifies John mentioned in this passage with Rabban Jochanan
  ben Zaccai, the priest who lived till after the destruction of
  Jerusalem, and prophesied of that event forty years before it
  occurred. He was, however, a Pharisee, though the vast majority of
  the priests were Sadducees. Lightfoot tells the following story of
  him from the ancient Jewish books: "Forty years before the
  destruction of the city, when the gates of the temple flew open of
  their own accord, Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai said, O Temple,
  Temple, why dost thou disturb thyself? I know thy end, that thou
  shalt be destroyed, for so the prophet Zechary hath spoken
  concerning thee, Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may
  devour thy cedar." He lived to be one hundred and twenty years
  old. He was permitted by Titus to remove the Sanhedrin to Jabneh
  on the destruction of the city, where he presided over it.

It was before such a hostile audience that the Apostles were now
called to witness, and here they first proved the power of the Divine
words, "When they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall
speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall
speak."[91] St. Peter threw himself upon God, and found that his trust
was not in vain. He was at the moment of need filled with the Holy
Ghost, and enabled to testify with a power which defeated his
determined foes. He had a special promise from the Master, and he
acted upon it. But we must observe that this promise was a special
one, limited to the Apostles and to those in every age placed in
similar circumstances. This promise is no general one. It was given to
the Apostles to free them from care, anxiety, and forethought as to
the matter and form of the addresses which they should deliver when
suddenly called to speak before assemblies like the Sanhedrin. Under
such circumstances they would have no time to prepare speeches
suitable for ears trained in all the arts of oratory as then practised
amongst the ancients, whether Jews or Gentiles. So their Master gave
them an assurance of strength and skill such as none of their
adversaries could equal or resist. "It is not ye that speak, but the
Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." This promise has been,
however, misunderstood and abused when applied to ordinary
circumstances. It was good for the Apostles, and it is good for
Christian men placed under similar conditions, persecuted for the sake
of their testimony, and deprived of the ordinary means of preparation.
But it is not a promise authorising Christian teachers, clerical or
lay, to dispense with careful thought and industrious study when
communicating the truths of Christianity, or applying the great
principles contained in the Bible to the manifold circumstances of
modern life. Christ certainly told the Apostles not to premeditate
beforehand what they should say. When relying, however, upon the
promises of God, we should carefully seek to ascertain how far they
are limited, and how far they apply to ourselves; else we may be
putting our trust in words upon which we have no right to depend. A
presumptuous trust is next door to an act of rebellion, and has often
led to unbelief. Our Lord said to the Apostles, "Provide neither gold
nor silver nor brass in your purses," because He would provide for
them; but He did not say so to us, and if we go out into life
presumptuously relying upon a passage of Scripture that does not
belong to us, unbelief may overtake us as a strong man armed when we
find ourselves disappointed. And so, too, with this promise of
supernatural guidance which the Apostles enjoyed, and which saints of
every age have proved true when placed in similar circumstances; it is
a special one for them, it does not apply to us. Christian teachers,
whether in the pulpit, or the Sunday school, or the home circle, must
still depend as completely as the Apostles did upon the Holy Ghost as
the source of all successful teaching. But in the case of the Apostles
the inspiration was immediate and direct. In the case of ordinary
Christians like ourselves placed amid all the helps which God's
providence gives, we must use study, thought, meditation, prayer,
experience of life, as channels through which the same inspiration is
conveyed to us. The Society of Friends, when George Fox established
it, testified on behalf of a great truth when it asserted that the
Holy Ghost dwelt still, as in apostolic times, in the whole body of
the Church, and spake still through the experience of Christian
people. Their testimony was a great truth and a much-needed one in the
middle of the seventeenth century, when Churchmen were in danger of
turning religion into a great machine of state police, such as the
Greek Church became under the earlier Christian emperors, and when
Puritans were inclined to smother all religious enthusiasm beneath
their intense zeal for cold, rigid scholastic dogmas and confessions
of faith. The early Friends came proclaiming a Divine power still
present, a Church of God still energised and inspired as of old, and
it was a revelation for many an earnest soul. But they made a great
mistake, and pushed a great truth to a pernicious extreme, when they
taught that this inspiration was inconsistent with forethought and
study on the part of their teachers as to the substance and character
of their public ministrations. The Society of Friends teaches that
men should speak forth to their assemblies just what the Holy Ghost
reveals on the spot, without any effort on their own part, such as
meditation and study involve. They have acted without a promise, and
they have fared accordingly. That Society has been noted for its
philanthropy, for the peaceful, gentle lives of its members; but it
has not been noted for expository power, and its public teachers have
held but a low place among those well-instructed scribes who bring
forth out of God's treasures things new and old.[92]

  [91] St. Matt. x. 19.

  [92] The decay in the numbers of the Society of Friends may be
  traced to several causes. The Society has done its work. Its
  testimony has borne its appointed fruit, and, like other systems
  which have sufficiently acted their part, it is passing away. One
  of the most evident causes of its decline is the decay of
  preaching consequent upon their notion of immediate inspiration.
  The advance of general education has told on their members, who
  cannot endure the unprepared and undigested expositions which
  satisfied their fathers. The decay in the preaching power of the
  Evangelical party in the Church of England may, in many cases, be
  traced to much the same source. No Church or society can now hope
  to retain the allegiance of its educated members which does not
  recognise that the help of the Holy Spirit is vouchsafed through
  the ordinary channels of study and meditation.

Expositors of Scripture, teachers of Divine truth, whether in the
public congregation or in a Sunday-school class, must prepare
themselves by thought, study, and prayer; then, having made the way of
the Lord clear, and removed the hindrances which barred His path, we
may humbly trust that the Holy Ghost will speak by us and through us,
because we honour Him by our self-denial, and cease to offer burnt
sacrifices unto the Lord of that which costs us nothing.[93]

  [93] As a Sunday school teacher for more than thirty years I feel
  bound to say that half the teaching in Sunday schools is useless
  from want of preparation on the part of teachers. A large
  proportion of them never think of opening their Bibles beforehand
  and studying the appointed lessons, jotting down a number of
  leading questions to assist their memories. The result is, that
  after a few questions suggested by the text, the teacher turns to
  read a story or indulge in gossip with his pupils. A well-prepared
  teacher will never find an hour too long for the work appointed. I
  have already said something on pp. 131, 132, above, upon this
  subject, which is an extremely important and practical one.

IV. The address of St. Peter to the Sanhedrin is marked by the same
characteristics as we find in those directed to the people. It is
kindly, for though the Apostles could speak sternly and severely just
as their Master did at times, yet they have left in this special
direction an example to public speakers and public teachers of truth
in every age. They strove first of all to put themselves in sympathy
as much as possible with their audience. They did not despise the art
of the rhetorician which teaches a speaker to begin by conciliating
the good feelings of his audience towards himself. To the people St.
Peter began, "Ye men of Israel;" he recognises their cherished
privileges, as well as their sacred memories,--"Ye are the children of
the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers." To
the bitterly hostile audience of the Sanhedrin, where the Sadducees
largely predominated, Peter's exordium is profoundly respectful and
courteous, "Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel." The
Apostles and the earliest Evangelists did not despise human feelings
or outrage human sentiment when setting out to preach Christ
crucified. We have known men so wrong-headed that they were never
happy unless their efforts to do good or spread their peculiar
opinions eventuated in a riot. When evangelistic work or any kind of
attempt to spread opinions evokes violent opposition, that very
opposition often arises from the injudicious conduct of the
promoters; and then when the opposition is once evoked or a riot
caused, charity departs, passion and violent feelings are aroused, and
all hope of good evaporates for the time. There was profound practical
wisdom in that command of our Lord to His Apostles, "When they
persecute you in this city, flee ye into another," even taking the
matter only from the standpoint of a man anxious to spread his
peculiar sentiments.

The Apostle's address was kindly, but it was plain-spoken. The
Sanhedrin were sitting as a board of inquisitors. They did not deny
the miracle which had been wrought. We are scarcely fit judges of the
attitude of mind occupied by an Eastern, specially by an Eastern Jew
of those earlier ages, when confronted with a miracle. He did not deny
the facts brought under his notice. He was too well acquainted with
magic and the strange performances of its professors to do so. He
merely inquired as to the sources of the power, whether they were
Divine or diabolical. "By what power or by what name have ye done
this?" was a very natural inquiry in the mouth of an ecclesiastical
body such as the Sanhedrin was. It was disturbed by facts, for which
no explanation such as their philosophy furnished could account. It
was upset in its calculations just as, to this day, the performances
of Indian jugglers or the weird wonders of hypnotism upset the
calculations of the hard, narrow man who has restricted all his
investigations to some one special branch of science, and has so
contracted his horizon that he thinks there is nothing in heaven or in
earth which his philosophy cannot explain. We should mark the
expression, "By what _name_ have ye done this?" for it gives us a
glimpse into Jewish life and practice. The Jews were accustomed in
their incantations to use several kinds of names; sometimes those of
the patriarchs, sometimes the name of Solomon, and sometimes that of
the Eternal Jehovah Himself. Of late years vast quantities of Jewish
and Gnostic manuscripts have come to light in Egypt and Syria
containing various titles and forms used by the Jewish magicians and
the earlier Christian heretics, who were largely imbued with Jewish
notions. It is quite in keeping with what we know of the spirit of the
age from other sources that the Sanhedrin should ask, "By what power
or by what name have ye done this?" While again, when we turn to the
book of the Acts of the Apostles itself we find an illustration of the
council's inquiry in the celebrated case of the seven sons of Sceva,
the Jewish priest at Ephesus, who strove to use for their own magical
purposes the Divine name of Jesus Christ, and suffered for their
temerity. St. Peter's reply to the question of the court proves that
the Christian Church adopted in all its Divine offices, whether in the
working of miracles then or of baptism and of ordination, as still,
the invocation of the Sacred Name, after the Jewish model. The Church
still baptizes and ordains in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Ghost. Christ Himself had adopted the formula for
baptism, and the Church has extended it to ordination, pleading thus
before God and man alike the Divine power by which alone St. Peter
healed the cripple and the Church sends forth its ministers to carry
on Christ's work in the world.

St. Peter's address was, as we have already said, very kindly, but
very bold and plain-spoken in setting forth the power of Christ's
name. He had learnt by his Jewish training the tremendous importance
and solemnity of names. Moses at the bush would know God's name
before he went as His messenger to the captive Israelites. On Sinai
God Himself had placed reverence towards His name as one of the
fundamental truths of religion. Prophet and psalmist had conspired
together to teach St. Peter that holy and reverend was the name of
God, and to impress upon him thus the power and meaning which lies in
Christ's name, and indeed in all names, though names are things we
count so trifling. St. Peter dwells upon this point all through his
addresses. To the people he had said, "His name, through faith in His
name, hath made this man strong." To the rulers it was the same. It
was "by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, this
man doth stand here before you whole." "There is none other name under
heaven whereby we must be saved." The Sanhedrin understand the
importance of this point, and tell the Apostles they must not teach in
this name. St. Peter pointedly refuses, and prays, when come to his
own company, "that wonders may be done through the name of Thy holy
servant Jesus."

St. Peter realized the sanctity and the power of God's name, whether
revealed in its ancient form of Jehovah or its New Testament form of
Jesus Christ. Well would it be if the same Divine reverence found a
larger place amongst ourselves. Irreverence towards the sacred name is
far too prevalent; and even when men do not use God's name in a
profane way, there is too much lightness in the manner in which even
religious men permit themselves to utter that name which is the
expression to man of supreme holiness,--"God bless us," "Lord help us
and save." How constantly do even pious people garnish their
conversations and their epistles with such phrases or with the
symbols D.V., without any real feeling that they are thereby appealing
to Him who was and is and is to come, the Eternal. The name of God is
still holy as of old, and the name of Jesus is still powerful to calm
and soothe and bless as of old, and Christian people should sanctify
those great names in their conversation with the world.[94]

  [94] The primitive Christians had a profound reverence for the
  names of our Saviour, which they delighted to depict in different
  ways, some of them so secret as to defy the curiosity of the
  pagans. They used the symbol I.H.S., which I have known to arouse
  the susceptibilities of suspicious Protestants, though nothing but
  a Latin or Western adaptation of the three first letters of the
  Greek word ΙΗΣΟΥΣ written in capitals. The fish, again,
  was a favourite symbol, because each letter of the Greek word
  ἰχθύς stood for a different title of our Lord, Ἰησοῦς,
  Χριστός, Θεός, Ὑιός, Σωτηρ, or Jesus, Christ, God,
  Son, Saviour.

St. Peter was bold because he was daily comprehending more and more of
the meaning of Christ's work and mission, was gaining a clearer
insight into the dignity of His person, and was experiencing in
himself the truth of His supernatural promises. How could a man help
being bold, who felt the Spirit's power within, and really held with
intense belief that there was salvation in none other save Christ?
Personal experience of religion alone can impart strength and courage
and boldness to endure, to suffer, and to testify. St. Peter was
exclusive in his views. He would not have suited those easy-going
souls who now think one religion just as good as another, and
consequently do not regard it as of the slightest moment whether a man
be a follower of Christ or of Mahomet. The earliest Christians had
none of this diluted faith. They believed that as there was only one
God, so there was only one Mediator between God and man, and they
realized the tremendous importance of preaching this Mediator. The
Apostles, however, must be cleared from a misconstruction under which
they have at times suffered. St. Peter proclaims Christ to the
Sanhedrin as the only means of salvation. In his address to Cornelius
the centurion of Cæsarea, he declares that in every nation he that
feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him. These
passages and these two declarations appear inconsistent. Their
inconsistency is only superficial, however, as Bishop Burnet has well
explained in his exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles, a book not
read very much in these times.[95] St. Peter taught exclusive
salvation through Christ. Christ is the only means, the only channel
and way by which God confers salvation. Christ's work is the one
meritorious cause which gains spiritual blessing for man. But then,
while there is salvation only in Christ, many persons may be saved by
Christ who know not of Him consciously, else what shall we say or
think about infants and idiots? It is only by Christ and through
Christ and for His sake that any soul can be saved. He is the only
door of salvation, He is the way as well as the truth and the life.
But then it is not for us to pronounce how far the saving merits of
Christ may be applied and His saving power extend. St. Peter knew and
taught that Jesus Christ was the one Mediator, and that by His name
alone salvation could be obtained. Yet he did not hesitate to declare
as regards Cornelius the centurion, that in every nation he that
feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him. It ought to
be sufficient for us, as it was for the Apostles, to believe that the
knowledge of Christ is life eternal, while satisfied to leave all
other problems in the hands of Eternal Love.

  [95] See Burnet's exposition of the eighteenth Article in his
  commentary on the Thirty-Nine Articles.



CHAPTER X.

_THE COMMUNITY OF GOODS._

     "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and
     soul: and not one of them said that aught of the things which he
     possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with
     great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection
     of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. For neither
     was there among them any that lacked: for as many as were
     possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices
     of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles'
     feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as any one
     had need."--ACTS iv. 32-5.


The community of goods and its results next claim our attention in the
course of this sacred record of primitive Church life. The gift of
tongues and this earliest attempt at Christian communism were the two
special features of apostolic, or perhaps we should rather say of
Jerusalem, Christianity. The gift of tongues we find at one or two
other places, at Cæsarea on the first conversion of the Gentiles, at
Ephesus and at Corinth. It then disappeared. The community of goods
was tried at Jerusalem. It lasted there a very short time, and then
faded from the ordinary practice of the Christian Church. The record
of this vain attempt and its manifold results embodies many a lesson
suitable to our modern Christianity.

I. The book of the Acts of the Apostles in its earliest chapters
relates the story of the triumph of the Cross; it also tells of the
mistakes made by its adherents. The Scriptures prove their Divine
origin, and display the secret inspiration and guidance of their
writers, by their thorough impartiality. If in the Old Testament they
are depicting the history of an Abraham or of a David, they do not,
after the example of human biographies, tell of their virtues and
throw the mantle of obscurity over their vices and crimes. If in the
New Testament they are relating the story of apostolic labours, they
record the bad as well as the good, and hesitate not to tell of the
dissimulation of St. Peter, the hot temper and the bitter disputes of
a Paul and a Barnabas.

It is a notable circumstance that, in ancient and modern times alike,
men have stumbled at this sacred impartiality. They have mistaken the
nature of inspiration, and have busied themselves to clear the
character of men like David and the holy Apostles, explaining away the
plainest facts,--the lie of Abraham, the adultery of David, the
weaknesses and infirmities of the Apostles. They have forgotten the
principle involved in the declaration, "Elijah was a man of like
passions with ourselves;" and have been so jealous for the honour of
scriptural characters that they have made their history unreal,
worthless as a living example. St. Jerome, to take but one instance,
was a commentator upon Scripture whose expositions are of the greatest
value, specially because he lived and worked amid the scenes where
Scripture history was written, and while yet living tradition could be
used to illustrate the sacred narrative. St. Jerome applied this
deceptive method to the dissimulation of St. Peter at Antioch of which
St. Paul tells us in the Galatians; maintaining, in opposition to St.
Augustine,[96] that St. Peter was not a dissembler at all, and that
the whole scene at Antioch was a piece of pious acting, got up between
the Apostles in order that St. Paul might have the opportunity of
condemning Judaizing practices. This is an illustration of the
tendency to which I am referring. Men will uphold, not merely the
character of the Scriptures, but the characters of the writers of
Scripture. Yet how clearly do the Sacred Writings distinguish between
these things; how clearly they show that God imparted His treasures in
earthen vessels, vessels that were sometimes very earthy indeed, for
while in one place they give us the Psalms of David, with all their
treasures of spiritual joy, hope, penitence, they in another place
give us the very words of the letter written by King David ordering
the murder of Uriah the Hittite. This jealousy, which refuses to admit
the fallibility and weakness of scriptural personages, has been
applied to the doctrine of the community of goods which finds place in
the passage under review. Some expositors will not allow that it was a
mistake at all; they view the Church at Jerusalem as divinely guided
by the Holy Spirit even in matters of temporal policy; they ascribe to
it an infallibility greater and wider than any claimed for the Roman
Pontiff. He claims infallibility in matters pertaining to faith and
morals, when speaking as universal doctor and teacher of the Universal
Church; but those writers invest the Church at Jerusalem with
infallibility on every question, whether spiritual or temporal, sacred
or secular, because the Holy Ghost had been poured out upon the
twelve Apostles on the day of Pentecost. Now it is quite evident that
neither the Church of Jerusalem nor the Apostles themselves were
guided by an inspiration which rendered them infallible upon all
questions. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit which was granted to them
was a gift which left all their faculties in precisely the same state
as they were before the descent of the Spirit. The Apostles could make
moral mistakes, as Peter did at Antioch; they were not infallible in
forecasting the future, as St. Paul proved when at Ephesus he told the
Ephesian elders that he should not again visit their Church,[97]
while, indeed, he spent much time there in after years. The whole
early Church was mistaken on the important questions of the calling of
the Gentiles, the binding nature of the Levitical law, and the time of
Christ's second coming. The Church of Jerusalem, till the conversion
of Cornelius, was completely mistaken as to the true nature of the
Christian dispensation. They regarded it, not as the new and final
revelation which was to supersede all others; they thought of it
merely as a new sect within the bounds of Judaism.

  [96] See an interesting letter from St. Augustine to St. Jerome on
  this question in the _Letters_ of St. Augustine (Clark's edition),
  vol. i., pp. 30-2. With which compare Bishop Lightfoot on
  _Galatians_, p. 128.

  [97] _Cf._ Acts xx. 25; 1 Tim. i. 3, iii. 14, iv. 13; 2 Tim. i.
  18. St. Paul's address to the Ephesian elder was delivered in the
  spring of 58 A.D. He twice revisited Ephesus, six years later, in
  64 A.D. See Lewin's _Fasti Sacri_, pp. 314, 334,--a book of
  marvellous learning and research, which every critical student of
  the Acts should possess, together with the same author's _Life of
  St. Paul_.

It was a similar mistake which led to the community of goods. We can
trace the genesis and upgrowth of the idea. It cannot be denied that
the earliest Christians expected the immediate return of Christ. This
expectation brought with it a very natural paralysis of business life
and activity. We have seen the same result happening again and again.
At Thessalonica St. Paul had to deal with it, as we have already noted
in the second of these lectures. Some of the Thessalonians laboured
under a misunderstanding as to St. Paul's true teaching: they thought
that Jesus Christ was immediately about to appear, and they gave up
work and labour under the pretence of preparing for His second coming.
Then St. Paul comes sharply down upon this false practical deduction
which they had drawn from his teaching, and proclaims the law, "If any
man will not work, neither shall he eat." We have already spoken of
the danger which might attend such a time. Here we behold another
danger which did practically ensue and bring forth evil fruit. The
first Christian Pentecost and the days succeeding it were a period of
strained expectation, a season of intense religious excitement, which
naturally led to the community of goods. There was no apostolic rule
or law laid down in the matter. It seems to have been a course of
action to which the converts spontaneously resorted, as the logical
deduction from two principles which they held; first, their
brotherhood and union in Christ; secondly, the nearness of Christ's
second advent. The time was short. The Master had passed into the
invisible world whence He would shortly reappear. Why should they not
then, as brethren in Christ, have one common purse, and spend the
whole time in waiting and watching for that loved presence? This seems
a natural explanation of the origin of a line of policy which has been
often appealed to in the practical life of modern Europe as an example
for modern Christians; and yet, when we examine it more closely, we
can see that this book of the Acts of the Apostles, while it tells of
their mistake, carries with it the correction of the error into which
these earliest disciples fell.[98] The community of goods was adopted
in no other Church. At Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, we hear nothing of it
in those primitive times. No Christian sect or Church has ever tried
to revive it, save the monastic orders, who adopted it for the special
purpose of completely cutting their members off from any connection
with the world of life and action; and, in later times still, the wild
fanatical Anabaptists at the Reformation period, who thought, like the
Christians of Jerusalem, that the kingdom of God, as they fancied it,
was immediately about to appear.[99] The Church of Jerusalem, as the
apostolic history shows us, reaped the natural results of this false
step. They adopted the principles of communism; they lost hold of that
principle of individual life and exertion which lies at the very root
of all civilisation and all advancement, and they fell, as the natural
result, into the direst poverty. There was no reason in the nature of
its composition why the Jerusalem Church should have been more
poverty-stricken than the Churches of Ephesus, Philippi, or Corinth.
Slaves and very humble folk constituted the staple of these Churches.
At Jerusalem a great company of the priests were obedient to the
faith, and the priests were, as a class, in easy circumstances. Slaves
cannot at Jerusalem have constituted that large element of the Church
which they did in the great Greek and Roman cities, simply because
slavery never reached among the Jews the same development as in the
Gentile world. The Jews, as a nation, were a people among whom there
was a widely diffused comfort, and the earliest Church at Jerusalem
must have fairly represented the nation. There was nothing to make the
mother Church of Christendom that pauper community we find it to have
been all through St. Paul's ministry, save the one initial mistake,
which doubtless the Church authorities found it very hard afterwards
to retrieve; for when men get into the habit of living upon alms it is
very difficult to restore the habits of healthy independence.

  [98] The communism of the early Christians was not a novel notion.
  The Essenes, a curious Jewish sect of that time, had long
  practised it; see Bishop Lightfoot's essay on the Essenes in his
  commentary on Colossians, 3rd ed., p. 416. Josephus, in his
  _Antiqq._, XVIII., i., 5, and in his _Wars_, II., viii., 3,
  describes the communism of the Essenes in language that would
  exactly apply to that of the early Christians. Thus in the latter
  place he says: "These men are despisers of riches, and so very
  communicative as raises our admiration. Nor is there to be found
  any one among them who hath more than another; for it is a law
  among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be
  common to the whole order; insomuch that among them all there is
  no appearance of poverty or excess of riches, but every one's
  possessions are intermingled with every other's possessions, and
  so there is, as it were, one patrimony among all the brethren."

  [99] The thirty-eighth Article of the Church of England is
  directed against the Anabaptist theory. A paralysis of ordinary
  life and action was temporarily produced at Jerusalem after the
  day of Pentecost. This quickly led to the community of goods, with
  its evil results. The paralysis produced at Jerusalem by the
  excitement and expectation of those early days was reproduced in
  this century at the time when Irvingism and Plymouthism took their
  first rise, some sixty years ago. The best illustration of the
  practical effects of such one-sided spiritual expectation will be
  found in a book forgotten by this generation, _The Letters and
  Papers of Lady Powerscourt_, published in 1838. She was eminent in
  the religious world of her day, and was intimately mixed up with
  the prophetical movement out of which Irvingism and Plymouthism
  were developed. The fundamental doctrine of both these sects was
  the immediate personal appearance and reign of Christ on earth.
  Lady Powerscourt's correspondence shows the results on an ardent
  mind of such an idea. She gave up society, separated herself from
  the world in a hermit's cottage at Lough Bray in the deepest
  recesses of the Wicklow Mountains, and there occupied herself in
  writing to her friends exhortations to cease from life's work,
  such as the following, which we find on p. 235: "There is much
  seemingly to be said for the things of this world being sanctified
  to heavenly uses; yet I cannot help feeling more and more assured
  every day that a divorce must take place,--that God and the world
  cannot be joined,--that it behoves us to make plain that we are
  the risen ones by our portion not being in any degree from
  hence,--that we are not struggling upwards through mire and dirt,
  but we are as let down from heaven. We take our stand in the
  kingdom of heaven, looking from above at earth, not from earth at
  heaven." When people begin to "look from above at earth," the step
  to communism is not a long one. Vast numbers of persons never
  recovered themselves from the strain of that time (A. D. 1830),
  but remained all their lives in a state of dreamy disappointment.
  I have enlarged on this subject in an article on J. N. Darby in
  the _Contemporary Review_ for 1885.

II. This incident is, however, rich in teaching for the Church of
every age, and that in very various directions. It is a significant
warning for the mission field. Missionary Churches should strive after
a healthy independence amongst their members. It is, of course,
absolutely necessary that missionaries should strive to supply
temporal employment to their converts in places and under
circumstances where a profession of Christianity cuts them off at once
from all communication with their old friends and neighbours. The
primitive Church found it necessary to give such temporal relief, and
yet had to guard against its abuse; and we have been far too remiss in
looking for guidance to those early centuries when the whole Church
was necessarily one great missionary organization. The Apostolic
Canons and Constitutions are documents which throw much light on many
questions which now press for solution in the mission field. They
pretend to be the exact words of the Apostles, but are evidently the
work of a later age. They date back in their present shape, at latest,
to the third or fourth centuries, as is evident from the fact that
they contain elaborate rules for the treatment of martyrs and
confessors,--and there were no martyrs after that time,--directing
that every effort should be made to render them comfort, support, and
sympathy. These Constitutions prove that the Church in the third
century was one mighty co-operative institution, and an important
function of the bishop was the direction of that co-operation. The
second chapter of the fourth book of the Apostolic Constitution lays
down, "Do you therefore, O bishops, be solicitous about the
maintenance of orphans, being in nothing wanting to them; exhibiting
to the orphans the care of parents; to the widows the care of
husbands; to the artificer, work; to the stranger, an house; to the
hungry, food; to the thirsty, drink; to the naked, clothing; to the
sick, visitation, to the prisoners, assistance." But these same
Constitutions recognise equally clearly the danger involved in such a
course. The wisdom of the early Church saw and knew how easily alms
promiscuously bestowed sap the roots of independence, and taught
therefore, with equal explicitness, the absolute necessity for
individual exertion, the duty of Christian toil and labour; urging the
example of the Apostles themselves, as in the sixty-third Constitution
of the second book, where they are represented as exhorting, "Let the
young persons of the Church endeavour to minister diligently in all
necessaries; mind your business with all becoming seriousness, that so
you may always have sufficient to support yourselves and those that
are needy, and not burden the Church of God. For we ourselves, besides
our attention to the Word of the Gospel, do not neglect our inferior
employments; for some of us are fishermen, some tent-makers, some
husbandmen, that so we may never be idle." In the modern mission field
there will often be occasions when, as in ancient times, the
profession of Christianity and the submission of the converts to
baptism will involve the loss of all things.[100] And, under such
circumstances, Christian love, such as burned of old in the hearts of
God's people and led them to enact the rules we have now quoted, will
still lead and compel the Church in its organized capacity to lend
temporal assistance to those that are in danger of starvation for
Christ's sake; but no missionary effort can be in a healthy condition
where all, or the greater portion, of the converts are so dependent
upon the funds of the mission that if the funds were withdrawn the
apparent results would vanish into thin air. Such missions are utterly
unlike the missions of the apostolic Church; for the converts of the
apostolic age were made by men who went forth without purse or scrip,
who could not give temporal assistance even had they desired to do so,
and whose great object ever was to develop in their followers a
healthy spirit of Christian manliness and honest independence.

  [100] An interesting illustration of ancient missionary work and
  its likeness to modern efforts turned up a few years ago among the
  Fayûm papyri. It was a document containing the curse pronounced by
  a pagan mother upon her son who had turned Christian, solemnly
  cutting him off from his kith and kin. It will be found in a
  translated shape in the _Transactions_ of the Society of Biblical
  Archæology for 1884, Part I. Modern converts, too, just like the
  ancient, have often to suffer the loss of all things for Christ's
  sake.

III. Then, again, this passage teaches a much-needed lesson to the
Church at home about the methods of poor relief and almsgiving.
"Blessed," says the Psalmist, "is he that considereth the poor." He
does not say, "Blessed is he that giveth money to the poor," but,
"Blessed is he that considereth the poor." Well-directed, wise,
prudent almsgiving is a good and beneficial thing, but indiscriminate
almsgiving, almsgiving bestowed without care, thought, and
consideration such as the Psalmist suggests, brings with it far more
evil than it prevents. The Church of Jerusalem very soon had
experience of these evils. Jealousies and quarrels soon sprang up even
where Apostles were ministering and the supernatural gifts of the
Spirit were present,--"There arose a murmuring of the Grecians against
the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily
ministrations;" and it has been ever since the experience of those
called to deal with questions of temporal relief and the distribution
of alms, that no classes are more suspicious and more quarrelsome than
those who are in receipt of such assistance. The chaplains and
managers of almshouses, asylums, charitable funds, and workhouses know
this to their cost, and ofttimes make a bitter acquaintance with that
evil spirit which burst forth even in the mother Church of Jerusalem.
Time necessarily hangs heavy upon the recipients' hands, forethought
and care are removed and cease to engage the mind, and people having
nothing else to do begin to quarrel. But this was not the only evil
which arose: hypocrisy and ostentation, as in the case of Ananias and
Sapphira, deceit, thriftlessness, and idleness showed themselves at
Jerusalem, Thessalonica, and other places, as the Epistles of St. Paul
amply testify. And so it has been in the experience of the modern
Church. I know myself of whole districts where almsgiving has quite
demoralised the poor and eaten the heart out of their religion, so
that they value religious ministrations, not for the sake of the
religion that is taught, but solely for the sake of the temporal
relief that accompanies it. I know of a district where, owing to the
want of organization in religious effort and the shattered and broken
character of Protestant Christianity, the poor people are visited and
relieved by six or seven competing religious communities, so that a
clever person can make a very fair income by a judicious manipulation
of the different visitors. It is evident that such visitations are
doing evil instead of good, and the labour and money expended are
worse than useless. The proper organization of charitable relief is
one of the desirable objects the Church should set before it. The
great point to be aimed at should be not so much the ministration of
direct assistance to the people as the development of the spirit of
self-help. And here comes in the action of the Christian State. The
institution of the Post Office Savings Bank, where the State
guarantees the safety of the depositor's money, seems a direct
exposition and embodiment of the principle which underlay the
community of goods in the apostolic Church. That principle was a
generous, unselfish, Christlike principle. The principle was right,
though the particular shape which the principle took was a mistaken
one. Experience has taught the Church of Christ a wiser course, and
now the system of State-guaranteed Savings Banks enables the Church to
lead the poor committed to her care into wiser courses. Parochial and
congregational Savings Banks ought to be attached to all Christian
organizations, so as to teach the poor the industrial lessons which
they need. We have known a district in a most thriftless
neighbourhood, where immense sums used to be wasted in indiscriminate
almsgiving, and yet where the people, like the woman in the Gospels,
were never one whit the better, but rather grew worse. We have seen
such a district, in the course of a few years, quite regenerated in
temporal matters, simply by the action of what is called a parochial
Penny Savings Bank. Previously to its institution the slightest fall
of snow brought heart-rending appeals for coal funds, blankets, and
food; while a few years of its operation banished coal funds and
pauperism in every shape, simply by teaching the people the magic law
of thrift, and by developing within them the love and the power of
self-respecting and industrious independence. And yet efforts in this
direction will not be destructive of Christian charity. They tend not
to dry up the springs of Christian love. Charity is indeed a blessing
to the giver, and we should never desire to see the opportunity
wanting for its display. Ill indeed would be the world's state if we
had no longer the poor, the sick, the needy with us. Our sinful human
nature requires its unselfish powers to be kept in action, or else it
quickly subsides into a state of unwholesome stagnation. Poor people
need to be taught habits of saving, and this teaching will require
time, and trouble, and expense. The clergy and their congregations may
teach the poor thrift by offering a much higher interest than the Post
Office supplies, while, at the same time, the funds are all deposited
in the State Savings Bank. That higher interest will often demand as
much money as the doles previously bestowed in the shape of mere gifts
of coal and food. But then what a difference in the result! The mere
dole has, for the most part, a demoralising tendency, while the money
spent in the other direction permanently elevates and blesses.[101]

  [101] It is not generally known that the Post Office offers
  special facilities for the establishment of such Penny Savings
  Banks as I advocate. The Post Office will supply books for
  depositors and permit a deposit account to be opened without any
  limit. I have seen in my own parish the beneficial working of such
  an institution, increasing annually in its results for the last
  twenty years.

IV. But there is a more important lesson still to be derived from this
incident in the apostolic Church. The community of goods failed in
that Church when tried under the most favourable circumstances,
terminating in the permanent degradation of the Christian community at
Jerusalem; just as similar efforts must ever fail, no matter how broad
the field on which they may be tried or how powerful the forces which
may be arrayed on their behalf. Christian legislatures of our own age
may learn a lesson of warning against perilous experiments in a
communistic direction from the disastrous failure in Jerusalem; and
there is a real danger in this respect from the tendency of human
nature to rush to extremes. Protestantism and the Reformation
accentuated the individual and individual independence. The feeling
thus taught in religion reacted on the world of life and action,
developing an intensity of individualism in the political world which
paralysed the efforts which the State alone could make in the various
matters of sanitary education and social reform. In the last
generation Maurice and Kingsley and men of their school raised in
opposition the banner of Christian socialism, because they saw clearly
that men had run too far in the direction of individualism,--so far,
indeed, that they were inclined to forget the great lesson taught by
Christianity, that under the new law we are members one of another,
and that all members belong to one body, and that body is Christ. Men
are so narrow that they can for the most part take only one view at a
time, and so now they are inclined to push Christian socialism to the
same extreme as at Jerusalem, and to forget that there is a great
truth in individualism as there is another great truth in Christian
socialism. Dr. Newman in his valuable but almost forgotten work on
the Prophetical Office of the Church defined the position of the
English Church as being a _Media Via_, a mean between two extremes.
Whatever may be said upon other topics, the office of the Christian
Church is most certainly a _Via Media_, a mean between the two
opposite extremes of socialism and individualism. Much good has been
effected of late years by legislation based upon essentially
socialistic ideas. Reformatory and industrial schools, to take but one
instance, are socialistic in their foundations and in their
tendencies. The whole body of the State undertakes in them
responsibilities and duties which God intended individuals to
discharge, but which individuals persistently neglect, to the injury
of their innocent offspring, and of society at large. Yet even in this
simple experiment we can see the germs of the same evils which sprang
up at Jerusalem. We have seen this tendency appearing in connection
with the Industrial School system, and have known parents who could
educate and train their children in family life encouraged by this
well-intentioned legislation to fling their responsibilities over upon
the State, and neglecting their offspring because they were convinced
that in doing so they were not only saving their own pockets but also
doing better for their children than they themselves could. It is just
the same, and has ever been the same, with all similar legislation. It
requires to be most narrowly watched. Human nature is intensely lazy
and intensely selfish. God has laid down the law of individual effort
and individual responsibility, and while we should strive against the
abuses of that law, we should watch with equal care against the
opposite abuses. Foundling hospitals as they were worked in the last
century, for instance, form an object-lesson of the dangers inherent
in such methods of action. Benevolent persons in the last century
pitied the condition of poor children left as foundlings. There was,
some sixty years ago, an institution in Dublin of this kind, which was
supported by the State. There was a box into which an infant could be
placed at any hour of the day or night; a bell was rung, and by the
action of a turn-stile the infant was received into the institution.
But experience soon taught the same lesson as at Jerusalem. The
Foundling Hospital may have temporarily relieved some deserving cases
and occasionally prevented some very painful scenes, but the broad
results upon society at large were so bad, immorality was so
increased, the sense of parental responsibility was so weakened, that
the State was compelled to terminate its existence at a very large
expense. Socialism when pushed to an extreme must necessarily work out
in bad results, and that because there is one constant and fixed
quantity which the socialist forgets. Human nature changes not; human
nature is corrupt and must remain corrupt until the end, and so long
as the corruption of human nature remains the best-conceived plans of
socialism must necessarily fail.

Yet the Jerusalem idea of a voluntary community of goods was a noble
one, and sprang from an unselfish root. It was purely voluntary
indeed. There was no compulsion upon any to adopt it. "Not one of them
said that aught that he possessed was his own," is St. Luke's
testimony on the point. "While it remained, did it not remain thine
own? And after it was sold, was it not in thy power?" are St. Peter's
words, clearly testifying that this Christian communism was simply the
result and outcome of loving hearts who, under the influence of an
overmastering emotion, had cast prudence to the winds. The communism
of Jerusalem may have been unwise, but it was the proof of generous
and devout spirits. It was an attempt, too, to realize the conditions
of the new life in the new heaven and the new earth wherein dwelleth
righteousness, while still the old heaven and the old earth remained.
It was an enthusiasm, a high, a holy, and a noble enthusiasm; and
though it failed in some respects, still the enthusiasm begotten of
fervent Christian love succeeded in another direction, for it enabled
the Apostles "with great power to give witness to the resurrection of
the Lord Jesus." The union of these two points in the sacred narrative
has profound spiritual teaching for the Church of Christ.
Unselfishness in worldly things, enthusiasm about the kingdom of
Christ, fervent love to the brethren, are brought into nearest contact
and united in closest bonds with the possession of special spiritual
power over the hearts of the unbelievers. And then, again, the
unselfishness existed amongst the body of the Church, the mass of the
people at large. We are sure that the Apostles were leaders in the
acts of self-denial. No great work is carried out where the natural
and divinely-sent leaders hang back. But it is the love and enthusiasm
of the mass of the people which excite St. Luke's notice, and which he
illustrates by the contrasted cases of Barnabas and Ananias; and he
connects this unselfish enthusiasm of the people with the possession
of great power by the Apostles. Surely we can read a lesson suitable
for the Church of all ages in this collocation. The law of interaction
prevails between clergy and people still as it did between the
Apostles and people of old. The true minister of Christ will
frequently bear before the throne of God those souls with whom the
Holy Ghost has entrusted him, and without such personal intercession
he cannot expect real success in his work. But then, on the other
hand, this passage suggests to us that enthusiasm, fervent faith,
unselfish love on the people's part are the conditions of ministerial
power with human souls. A people filled with Christ's love, and
abounding in enthusiasm, even by a mere natural process produce power
in their leaders, for the hearts of the same leaders beat quicker and
their tongues speak more forcibly because they feel behind them the
immense motive power of hallowed faith and sacred zeal. But we believe
in a still higher blessing. When people are unselfish, brimming over
with generous Christian love, it calls down a supernatural, a Divine
power. The Pentecostal Spirit of love again descends, and in roused
hearts and converted souls and purified and consecrated intellects
rewards with a blessing such as they desire the men and women who long
for the salvation of their brethren, and are willing, like these
apostolic Christians, to sacrifice their dearest and their best for
it.



CHAPTER XI.

_HONESTY AND PRETENCE IN THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH._

     "And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is,
     being interpreted, Son of exhortation), a Levite, a man of Cyprus
     by race, having a field, sold it, and brought the money, and laid
     it at the apostles' feet."--ACTS iv. 36, 37.

     "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
     thy heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the
     price of the land? Whiles it remained, did it not remain thine
     own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power? How is it
     that thou hast conceived this thing in thy 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 upon all that
     heard it. And the young men arose and wrapped him round, and they
     carried him out and buried him."--ACTS v. 1-6.


The exact period in the history of the apostolic Church at which we
have now arrived is a most interesting one. We stand at the very first
origin of a new development in Christian life and thought. Let us
observe it well, for the whole future of the Church is bound up with
it. Christianity was at the beginning simply a sect of Judaism. It is
plain that the Apostles at first thus regarded it. They observed
Jewish rites, they joined in the temple and synagogue worship, they
restricted salvation and God's favour to the children of Abraham, and
merely added belief in Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah to
the common Jewish faith. The Spirit of God was indeed speaking through
the Apostles, leading them, as it led St. Peter on the day of
Pentecost, to speak words with a meaning and scope far beyond their
thoughts. They, like the prophets of old, knew not as yet what manner
of things the Spirit which was in them did signify.

    "As little children lisp, and tell of Heaven,
    So thoughts beyond their thought to those high bards were given."

Their speech had a grander and wider application than they themselves
dreamt of; but the power of prejudice and education was far too great
even for the Apostles, and so, though the nobility and profuseness of
God's mercy were revealed and the plenteousness of His grace was
announced by St. Peter himself, yet the glory of the Divine gift was
still unrecognised. Jerusalem, the Temple, the Old Covenant, Israel
after the flesh,--these things as yet bounded and limited the horizon
of Christ's Church. How were the new ideas to gain an entrance? How
was the Church to rise to a sense of the magnificence and universality
of its mission? Joseph, who by the Apostles was surnamed Barnabas,
emerges upon the scene and supplies the answer, proving himself in
very deed a son of consolation, because he became the occasion of
consoling the masses of mankind with that truest comfort, the peace of
God which passes all understanding. Let us see how this came about.

I. The Christian leaders belonged originally to the extreme party in
Judaism. The Jews were at this time divided into two sections. There
was the Hebrew party on the one hand; extreme Nationalists as we might
call them. They hated everything foreign. They clung to the soil of
Palestine, to its language and to its customs. They trained up their
children in an abhorrence of Greek civilisation, and could see nothing
good in it. This party was very unprogressive, very narrow-minded,
and, therefore, unfit to recognise the developments of God's purposes.
The Galileans were very prominent among them. They lived in a
provincial district, remote from the influences of the great centres
of thought and life, and missed, therefore, the revelations of God's
mind which He is evermore making through the course of His
providential dealings with mankind. The Galileans furnished the
majority of the earliest Christian leaders, and they were not fitted
from their narrowness to grasp the Divine intentions with respect to
Christianity and its mission. What a lesson for every age do we behold
in this intellectual and spiritual defect of the Galileans. They were
conscientious, earnest, devout, spiritually-minded men. Christ loved
them as such, and devoted Himself to their instruction. But they were
one-sided and illiberal. Their very provincialism, which had sheltered
them from Sadduceism and unbelief, had filled them with blind
prejudices, and as the result had rendered them unable to read aright
the mind of God and the development of His purposes. Man, alas! is a
very weak creature, and human nature is very narrow. Piety is no
guarantee for wisdom and breadth, and strong faith in God's dealings
in the past often hinders men from realizing and obeying the Divine
guidance and the evolution of His purposes amid the changed
circumstances of the present. The Galilean leaders were best fitted to
testify with unfaltering zeal to the miracles and resurrection of
Christ. They were not best fitted to lead the Church into the
possession of the Gentiles.

There was another party among the Jews whom God had trained by the
guidance of His Providence for this purpose. The Acts of the Apostles
casts a strong and comforting light back upon the history of the
Lord's dealings with the Jews ever since the days of the Babylonish
Captivity. We can see in the story told in the Acts the reason why God
permitted the overthrow of Jerusalem by the hands of Nebuchadnezzar,
and the apparent defeat for the time of His own designs towards the
chosen people. The story of the dispersion is a standing example how
wonderfully God evolves good out of seeming ill, making all things
work together for the good of His Church. The dispersion prepared a
section of the Jews, by travel, by foreign civilization, by culture,
and by that breadth of mind and sympathy which is thereby produced, to
be mediators between the Hebrew party with all their narrowness, and
the masses of the Gentile world whom the strict Jews would fain have
shut out from the hope of God's mercy. This liberal and progressive
party is called in the Acts of the Apostles the Hellenists. They were
looked at askance by the more old-fashioned Hebrews. They were Jews,
children of Abraham indeed, of the genuine stock of Israel. As such
they had a true standing-ground within the Jewish fold, and as true
Jews could exercise their influence from within much more effectually
than if they stood without; for it has been well remarked by a shrewd
observer, that every party, religious or political, is much more
powerfully affected by movements springing from within than by attacks
directed from without. An explosive operates with much more
destructive force when acting from within or underneath a
fortification than when brought into play from outside. Such was the
Hellenistic party. No one could deny their true Jewish character, but
they had been liberalized by their heaven-sent contact with foreigners
and foreign lands; and hence it is that we discern in the Hellenistic
party, and specially in Joseph who by the Apostle was surnamed
Barnabas, the beginnings of the glorious ingathering of the Gentiles,
the very first rift in the thick dark cloud of prejudice which as yet
kept back even the Apostles themselves from realizing the great object
of the gospel dispensation. The Hellenists, with their wealth, their
culture, their new ideas, their sense and value of Greek thought, were
the bridge by which the spiritual life, hitherto wrapped in Jewish
swaddling clothes, was to pass over to the masses of the Gentile
world. The community of goods led Joseph Barnabas to dedicate his
substance to the same noble cause of unselfishness. That dedication
led to disputes between Hellenists and Hebrews, and these disputes
occasioned the election of the seven deacons, who, in part, at least,
belonged to the more liberal section. Among these deacons we find St.
Stephen, whose teaching and martyrdom were directly followed by St.
Paul and his conversion, and St. Paul was the Apostle of the Gentiles
and the vindicator of Christian freedom and Christian liberty. St.
Barnabas and his act of self-denial and self-sacrifice in surrendering
his landed estate are thus immediately connected with St. Paul by
direct historic contact, even if they had not been subsequently
associated as joint Apostles and messengers of the Churches in their
first missionary journeys; while again the mistaken policy of
communism is overruled to the world's abiding benefit and blessing.
How wonderful, indeed, are the Lord's doings towards the children of
men!

II. We have thus suggested one of the main lines of thought which run
through the first half of this book of the Acts. Let us now look a
little more particularly at this Joseph Barnabas who was the occasion
of this great, this new departure. We learn then, upon consulting the
sacred text, that Joseph was a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race; he
belonged, that is, to the class among the Jews whose interests were
bound up with the maintenance of the existing order of things; and yet
he had become a convert to the belief proclaimed by the Apostles. At
the same time, while we give full credit to this Levite for his
action, we must not imagine that either priests or Levites or Jews at
that period fully realized all the consequences of their decisions. We
find that men at every age take steps blindly, without thoroughly
realizing all the results which logically and necessarily flow forth
from them. Men in religious, political, social matters are blind and
cannot see afar off. It is only step by step that the purposes of God
dawn upon them, and Joseph Barnabas, the Levite of Cyprus, was no
exception to this universal rule. He was not only a Levite, but a
native of Cyprus, for Cyprus was then a great stronghold and resort of
the Jewish race. It continued to be a great centre of Jewish influence
for long afterwards. In the next century, for instance, a great Jewish
rebellion burst forth wherever the Jews were strong enough. They rose
in Palestine against the power of the Emperor Hadrian, and under their
leader Barcochba vindicated the ancient reputation of the nation for
desperate and daring courage; while, in sympathy with their brethren
on the mainland, the Jews in Cyprus seized their arms and massacred a
vast multitude of the Greek and Roman settlers, numbering, it is said,
two hundred and forty thousand persons. The concourse of Jews to
Cyprus in the time of the Apostles is easily explained. Augustus Cæsar
was a great friend and patron of Herod the Great, and he leased the
celebrated copper mines of the island to that Herod, exacting a
royalty upon their produce, as we learn from Josephus, the well-known
Jewish historian (_Antiqq._, xvi. iv. 5). It was only to be expected,
then, that when a Jewish monarch was leaseholder and manager of the
great mining industry of the island, his Jewish subjects should flock
thither, and it was very natural that amongst the crowds who sought
Cyprus there should be found a minister of the Jewish faith whose
tribal descent as a Levite reminded them of Palestine, and of the City
of God, and of the Temple of Jehovah and of its solemn, stately
worship.[102] This residence of Barnabas in Cyprus accounts for his
landed property which he had the right to sell just as he liked. A
Levite in Palestine could not, according to the law of Moses when
strictly construed, possess any private landed estate save in a
Levitical city. Meyer, a German commentator of great reputation, has
indeed suggested that Jer. xxxii. 7, where Jeremiah is asked to redeem
his cousin's field in the suburbs of Anathoth, proves that a member of
the tribe of Levi could possess landed estate in Palestine. He
therefore concludes that the old explanation that the landed property
of Barnabas was in Cyprus, not in Palestine, could not stand. But the
simple fact is that even the cleverest German expositors are not
familiar with the text of their Bibles, for had Meyer been thus
familiar he would have remembered that Anathoth was a city belonging
to the priests and the tribe of Levi, and that the circumstance of
Jeremiah the priest possessing a right to landed property in Anathoth
was no proof whatsoever that he could hold landed property anywhere
else, and, above all, affords no ground for the conclusion that he
could dispose of it in the absolute style which Barnabas here
displayed.[103] We conclude then that the action of Barnabas on this
occasion dealt with his landed estate in Cyprus, the country where he
was born, where he was well known, and where his memory is even still
cherished on account of the work he there performed in conjunction
with St. Paul.

  [102] Philo was a contemporary of the Apostles. He has left us
  many works dealing with this period. He speaks of the Jews of
  Cyprus in the account of his embassy to the Emperor Caius
  Caligula. See Milman's _History of Jews_, iii., 111, 112, and
  Conybeare and Howson's _Life of St. Paul_, chap. v.

  [103] See Lightfoot's _Horæ Heb._, Acts iv. 36; _cf._ Josh. xxi.
  18.

III. Let us see what else we can glean concerning this personage thus
prominent in the early Church, first for his generosity, and then for
his missionary character and success. It is indeed one of the most
fruitful and interesting lines upon which Bible study can be pursued,
thus to trace the scattered features of the less known and less
prominent characters of Scripture, and see wherein God's grace
specially abounded in them.

The very personal appearance of Barnabas can be recalled by the
careful student of this book.[104] Though it lies a little out of our
way, we shall note the circumstance, as it will help us to form a
more lively image of Barnabas, the Son of Consolation. The two
Apostles, Paul and Barnabas, were on their first missionary tour when
they came to the city of Lystra in Lycaonia. There the multitude,
astonished at the miracle wrought upon the cripple by St. Paul,
attempted to pay divine honours to the two Christian missionaries.
"They called Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercurius, because he was the
chief speaker." It must have been their physical characteristics as
well as the mode of address used by the Apostles which led to these
names; and from the extant records of antiquity we know that Jupiter
was always depicted as a man with a fine commanding presence, while
Mercury, the god of eloquent speech, was a more insignificant figure.
Jupiter, therefore, struck the Lycaonian people as the fittest name
for the taller and more imposing-looking Apostle, while St. Paul, who
was in bodily presence contemptible, was designated by the name of the
active and restless Mercury. His character again shines through every
recorded action of St. Barnabas. He was a thoroughly sympathetic man,
and, like all such characters, he was ever swept along by the
prevailing wave of thought or action, without allowing that supreme
place to the judgment and the natural powers which they should always
hold if the feelings and sympathies are not to land us in positions
involving dire ruin and loss. He was carried away by the enthusiasm
for Christian communism which now seized upon the Jerusalem Church.
He was influenced by the Judaizing movement at Antioch, so that "even
Barnabas was carried away with the Petrine dissimulation." His
sympathies got the better of his judgment in the matter of St. Mark's
conduct in abandoning the ministry to which St. Paul had called him.
His heart was stronger, in fact, than his head. And yet this very
weakness qualified him to be the Son of Consolation. A question has,
indeed, been raised whether he should be called the Son of Consolation
or the Son of Exhortation, but, practically, there is no difference.
His consolations were administered through his exhortations. His
speech and his advice were of a consoling, healing, comforting kind.
There are still such men to be found in the Church. Just as all other
apostolic graces and characteristics are still manifested,--the
eloquence of a Paul, the courage of a Peter, the speculative flights
of a John,--so the sympathetic power of a Barnabas is granted to some.
And a very precious gift it is. There are some good men whose very
tone of voice and bodily attitudes--their heads thrown back and their
arms akimbo, and their aggressive walk--at once provoke opposition.
They are pugnacious Christians, ever on the look out for some topic of
blame and controversy. There are others, like this Barnabas, whose
voices bring consolation, and whose words, even when not the clearest
or the most practical, speak counsels of peace, and come to us
thick-laden with the blessed dews of charity. Their advice is not,
indeed, always the wisest. Their ardent cry is always, Peace, peace.
Such a man on the political stage was the celebrated Lucius Carey,
Lord Falkland, in the days of the great civil war, who, though he
adhered to the Royalist cause, seemed, as the historian tells us, to
have utterly lost all heart once that active hostilities commenced.
Men of this type appear in times of great religious strife. Erasmus,
for instance, at the time of the Reformation, possessed a good deal of
this spirit which is devoted to compromise, and ever inclined to place
the interests of peace and charity above those of truth and principle,
just as Barnabas would have done at Antioch were it not for the
protest of his stronger and sterner friend St. Paul. And yet such men,
with their sympathetic hearts and speech, have their own great use,
infusing a healing, consoling tone into seasons of strife, when others
are only too apt to lose sight of the sweet image of Christian love in
pursuit of what they consider the supreme interests of religious or
political truth. Such a man was Barnabas all his life, and such we
behold him on his first visible entrance upon the stage of Church
history, when his sympathies and his generosity led him to consecrate
his independent property in Cyprus to his brethren's support, and to
bring the money and lay it down at the Apostles' feet.

  [104] The early history of Barnabas is thus described by
  Metaphrastes, an ancient Greek writer. Barnabas was born in
  Cyprus, of rich parents, who sent him to be trained at Jerusalem
  under Gamaliel. There he formed an early friendship with St. Paul.
  He was a witness of our Lord's miracles, and was converted by the
  healing of the impotent man at Bethesda. He then was the means of
  converting his sister Mary and her son Mark, who was the young man
  with the pitcher of water whom our Lord commanded His disciples to
  follow when He was sending them to prepare the Passover. Mary's
  house was the place where the upper room was situated, and
  continued to be the meeting-place of the Christians, as we find
  from Acts xii. Metaphrastes had formerly a very bad reputation as
  regards truthfulness, but modern investigation has shown that his
  _Lives_ contain some very ancient documents, going back to the
  second century at least. See Bishop Lightfoot's address to the
  Carlisle Church Congress in _Expositor_ 1885, vol. i., p. 3; Prof.
  Ramsay in _Expositor_ 1889, vol. ix., p. 265 and refs., and Cave's
  _Lives of the Primitive Fathers_, p. 35.

IV. Now for the contrast drawn for us by the inspired pen of St. Luke,
a contrast we find oft repeating itself in Church history. Here we
have the generous sympathetic Son of Consolation on the one side, and
here, too, we have a warning and a type for all time that the tares
must evermore be mingled with the wheat, the false with the true, the
hypocrites with real servants of God, even until the final separation.
The accidental division of the book into chapters hinders casual
readers from noticing that the action of Ananias and his wife is set
by the writer over against that of Barnabas. Barnabas sold his estate
and brought the price, the whole price, and surrendered it as an
offering to the Church. The spirit of enthusiastic giving was abroad,
and had seized upon the community; and Barnabas sympathized with it.
Ananias and Sapphira were carried away too, but their spirits were
meaner. They desired to have all the credit the Church would give them
for acting as generously as Barnabas did, and yet, while getting
credit for unselfish and unstinting liberality, to be able to enjoy in
private somewhat of that which they were believed to have surrendered.
And their calculations were terribly disappointed. They tried to play
the hypocrite's part on most dangerous ground just when the Divine
Spirit of purity, sincerity, and truth had been abundantly poured out,
and when the spirit of deceit and hypocrisy was therefore at once
recognised. It was with the Apostles and their spiritual natures then
as it is with ourselves and our physical natures still. When we are
living in a crowded city we notice not strange scents and ill-odours
and foul gases: our senses are dulled, and our perceptive powers are
rendered obtuse because the whole atmosphere is a tainted one. But
when we dwell in the pure air of the country, and the glorious breezes
from mountain and moor blow round us fresh and free, then we detect at
once, and at a long distance, the slightest ill-odour or the least
trace of offensive gas. The outpoured presence of the Spirit, and the
abounding love which was produced thereby, quickened the perception of
St. Peter. He recognised the hypocrisy, characterized the sin of
Ananias as a lie against the Holy Ghost; and then the Spirit and Giver
of life, seconding and supporting the words of St. Peter, withdrew His
support from the human frame of the sinner, and Ananias ceased to
live, just as Sapphira, his partner in deceit, ceased to live a few
hours later. The death of Ananias and Sapphira have been ofttimes the
subject of much criticism and objection, on the part of persons who
do not realize the awfulness of their position, the full depths of
their hypocrisy, and the importance of the lesson taught by their
punishment to the Church of every age. Their position was a specially
awful one, for they were brought into closest contact, as no Christian
can now be brought, with the powers of the world to come. The Spirit
was vouchsafed during those earliest days of the Church in a manner
and style which we hear nothing of during the later years of the
Apostles. He proved His presence by physical manifestations, as when
the whole house was shaken where the Apostles were assembled; a
phenomenon of which we read nothing in the latter portion of the Acts.
By the gift of tongues, by miracles of healing, by abounding spiritual
life and discernment, by physical manifestations, the most careless
and thoughtless in the Christian community were compelled to feel that
a supernatural power was present in their midst and specially resting
upon the Apostles. Yet it was into such an atmosphere that the spirit
of hypocrisy and of covetousness, the two vices to which Christianity
was specially opposed, and which the great Master had specially
denounced, obtruded itself as Satan gained entrance into Eden, to
defile with their foul presence the chosen dwelling-place of the Holy
Ghost. The Holy Ghost vindicated His authority therefore, because, as
it must be observed, it was not St. Peter sentenced Ananias to death.
No one may have been more surprised than St. Peter himself at the
consequences which followed his stern rebuke. St. Peter merely
declared his sin, "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God;" and
then it is expressly said, "Ananias hearing these words fell down, and
gave up the ghost." It was a stern action indeed; but then all God's
judgments have a stern side. Ananias and Sapphira were cut off in
their sins, but men are every day summoned into eternity in precisely
the same state and the same way, and the only difference is that in
the case of Ananias we see the sin which provoked the punishment and
then we see the punishment immediately following. Men object to this
narrative simply because they have a one-sided conception of
Christianity such as this period of the world's history delights in.
They would make it a religion of pure unmitigated love; they would
eliminate from it every trace of sternness, and would thus leave it a
poor weak flabby thing, without backbone or earnestness, and utterly
unlike all other dispensations of the Lord, which have their stern
sides and aspects as well as their loving.

It may well have been that this incident was inserted in this typical
Church history to correct a false idea which would otherwise have
grown up. The Jews were quite well accustomed to regard the Almighty
as a God of judgment as well as a God of love. Perhaps we might even
say that they viewed Him more in the former light than in the latter.
Our Lord was obliged, in fact, to direct some of His most searching
discourses to rebuke this very tendency. The Galileans, whose blood
Pilate mingled with their sacrifices, the men upon whom the tower of
Siloam fell,--neither party were sinners above all that were at
Jerusalem, or were punished as such. Such was his teaching in
opposition to the popular idea. The Apostles were once quite ready to
ascribe the infirmity of the man born blind to the direct judgment of
the Almighty upon himself or upon his parents. But men are apt to rush
from one extreme to another. The Apostles and their followers were
now realizing their freedom in the Spirit; and some were inclined to
run into licentiousness as the result of that same freedom. They were
realizing, too, their relationship to God as one of pure filial love,
and they were in great danger of forgetting that God was a God of
justice and judgment as well, till this stern dispensation recalled
them to a sense of the fact that eternal love is also eternal purity
and eternal truth, and will by no means clear the guilty. This is a
lesson very necessary for every age of the Church. Men are always
inclined, and never, perhaps, so much as at the present time, to look
away from the severe side of religion, or even to deny that religion
can have a severe side at all. This tendency in religious matters is
indeed simply an exhibition of the spirit of the age. It is a time of
great material prosperity and comfort, when pain is regarded as the
greatest possible evil, softness, ease, and enjoyment the greatest
possible good. Men shrink from the infliction of pain even upon the
greatest criminals; and this spirit infects their religion, which they
would fain turn into a mere matter of weakly sentiment. Against such a
notion the judicial action of the Holy Ghost in this case raises an
eternal protest, warning the Church against one-sided and partial
views of truth, and bidding her never to lower her standard at the
world's call. Men may ignore the fact that God has His severe aspect
and His stern dispensations in nature, but yet the fact remains. And
as it is in nature so is it in grace: God is merciful and loving to
the penitent, but towards the hypocritical and covetous He is a stern
judge, as the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira proved.

V. This seems one of the great permanent lessons for the Church of
every age which this passage embodies, but it is not the only one.
There are many others, and they most important. An eminent modern
commentator and expositor[105] has drawn out at great length, and with
many modern applications and illustrations, four great lessons which
may be derived from this transaction. We shall just note them, giving
a brief analysis of each. (1) There is such a thing as acting as well
as telling a falsehood. Ananias did not say that the money he brought
was the whole price of his land; he simply allowed men to draw this
conclusion for themselves, suggesting merely by his conduct that he
was doing exactly the same as Barnabas. There was no science of
casuistry in the apostolic Church, teaching how near to the borders of
a lie a man may go without actually being guilty of lying. The lie of
Ananias was a spiritual act, a piece of deception attempted in the
abyss of the human soul, and perpetrated, or attempted rather, upon
the Holy Spirit. How often men lie after the same example. They do not
speak a lie, but they act a lie, throwing dust into the eyes of others
as to their real motives and objects, as Ananias did here. He sold his
estate, brought the money to the Apostles, and would fain have got the
character of a man of extraordinary liberality and unselfishness, just
like others who truly sacrificed their all, while he enjoyed in
private the portion which he had kept back. Ananias wished to make the
best of both worlds, and failed in his object. He sought to obtain a
great reputation among men, but had no regard to the secret eye and
judgment of the Almighty. Alas! how many of our actions, how much of
our piety and of our almsgiving, is tainted by precisely the same
vice. Our good works are done with a view to man's approbation, and
not as in the sight of the Eternal God.

  [105] C. J. Vaughan, D.D., _The Church of the First Days_, pp.
  105-12.

(2) What an illustration we find in this passage of the saying of the
Apostle, "The love of money is the root of all evil; which while some
coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves
with many sorrows!" The other scriptures are full of warnings against
this vice of covetousness; and so this typical history does not leave
the Church without an illustration of its power and danger. Surely if
at a time when the supernatural forces of the unseen life were
specially manifested, this vice intruded into the special sphere of
their influence, the Church of every age should be on its perpetual
guard against this spirit of covetousness which the Bible
characterises as idolatry.

(3) What a responsibility is involved in being brought near to God as
members of His Son's Church below! There were hypocrites in abundance
at Jerusalem at that time, but they had not been blessed as Ananias
had been, and therefore were not punished as he. There is a reality in
our connection with Christ which must tell upon us, if not for good,
then inevitably for evil. Christ is either the savour of life unto
life or else the savour of death unto death unto all brought into
contact with Him. In a far more awful sense than for the Jews the
words of the prophet Ezekiel are true, "That which cometh into your
mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as
the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone;"[106] or as
the poet of the _Christian Year_ has well put it in his hymn for the
eighteenth Sunday after Trinity:--

    "Fain would our lawless hearts escape,
        And with the heathen be,
    To worship every monstrous shape
        In fancied darkness free.

    Vain thought, that shall not be at all,
        Refuse we or obey;
    Our ears have heard th' Almighty's call,
        We cannot be as they.

    We cannot hope the heathen's doom
        To whom God's Son is given,
    Whose eyes have seen beyond the tomb,
        Who have the key of Heaven."

  [106] Ezek. xx. 32.

(4) Lastly, let us learn from this history how to cast out the fear of
one another by the greater and more awful fear of God. The fear of man
is a good thing in a degree. We should have respect to the opinion of
our fellows, and strive to win it in a legitimate way. But Ananias and
his consort desired the good opinion of the Christian community
regardless of the approval or the watchful eye of the Supreme Judge,
who interposed to teach His people by an awful example that in the new
dispensation of Love, as well as in the old dispensation of Law, the
fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and that they and they
alone have a good understanding who order their lives according to
that fear, whether in their secret thoughts or in their public
actions.



CHAPTER XII.

_GAMALIEL AND HIS PRUDENT ADVICE._

     "And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them
     alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be
     overthrown: but if it is of God, ye will not be able to overthrow
     them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God. And
     to him they agreed: and when they had called the Apostles unto
     them, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of
     Jesus, and let them go."--ACTS v. 38-40.


We have set forth in these verses an incident in the second appearance
before the council of the Apostle Peter and the other Apostles,
conspicuous among whom must have been James the brother of John. It is
almost certain that James the son of Zebedee was at this time very
prominent in the public work of the Church, for we are told in the
opening of the twelfth chapter that when Herod would vex and harass
and specially weaken the Church, it was neither Peter nor John he
first arrested, but he laid hands on James, and placed on him the
honour of being the earliest martyr from amongst the sacred band of
the Apostles. Peter we may, however, be sure was the centre of
Sadducean hate at this period, and one of the most conspicuous members
of the Church. We should at the same time beware of exaggeration, and
strive to estimate the events of these earliest days of the Church,
not as we behold them now, but as they must have then appeared unto
the members of the Sanhedrin. The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira seem
now to us extraordinary and awe-inspiring, and sufficient to strike
terror into the hearts of all unbelievers; but probably the story of
them had never reached the ears of the authorities. Human life was but
little accounted of among the Romans who ruled Palestine. A Roman
master might slay or torture his slaves just as he pleased; and the
Romans, scorning the Jews as a conquered race, would trouble
themselves but little concerning quarrels or deaths among them, so
long as public order and the stated business of society were not
interfered with. The public miracles which St. Peter wrought, these
were the things which brought matters to a crisis, and called afresh
the attention of the Sanhedrin, charged as they were with all
religious authority, as the miracle of healing wrought upon the
impotent man had led to the arrest of the Apostles on a previous
occasion.[107] It is a mistake often made, in studying the history of
the past, to imagine that events which we now see to have been
important and epoch-making must have been so regarded by persons
living at the time when they happened. Men are never worse judges of
the true value of current history than when they are placed in the
midst of it. It is always the on-lookers who see most of the play. Our
minds are so limited, our thoughts are so completely filled up with
the present, that it is not till we have got away from the events, and
can view them in their due proportion and symmetry, surrounded with
all their circumstances, that we can hope to form a just appreciation
of their relative importance. I have often seen a hill of a few
hundred feet in height occupying a far more commanding position in
men's eyes than a really lofty mountain, simply because the one was
near, the other far off. The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira are
recorded therefore at full length, because they bring eternal lessons
of justice, judgment, and truth along with them. The numerous public
miracles wrought by Peter when "multitudes came together from the
cities round about Jerusalem, bringing sick folk and them that were
vexed with unclean spirits, and they were healed every one," seemed to
the Sanhedrin and the religious public of Jerusalem the all-important
topics, though they are passed wholly over in the Scriptures as
matters of no spiritual interest. If it requires a vast exercise of
patience and wisdom to estimate events aright in their mere worldly
aspect, it requires the operation and guidance of the Holy Ghost to
form a sound judgment upon the relative spiritual value of events
falling within the sphere of Church history; and there indeed it is
most true that matters which seem all-important and striking to man
are judged by God as insignificant and unworthy of notice. So
contradictory are ofttimes the ways of God and the opinions of man.

  [107] Acts v. 12-16 states that St. Peter wrought many miracles,
  and further that men sought to place their sick in such a position
  that even his shadow might fall upon them, thinking that it
  brought healing with it. This statement has been spoken of as a
  demonstrative proof of legendary growth by Zeller in his work on
  the Acts, and is weakly apologised for by Meyer. But the analogy
  of hypnotism at the present time, when cures are wrought and
  extraordinary influence exercised without corporeal contact, is
  quite sufficient to vindicate St. Luke's account from the charge
  of legend. If moderns can produce marvellous results without
  immediate touch; if, for instance, hypnotised patients when
  blindfolded can read a book by means of their stomachs or their
  noses (Moll, p. 366, already quoted), or blisters can be raised by
  a piece of white paper merely by suggestion, as stated by Moll,
  pp. 114-22, surely the statement of St. Luke is no necessary proof
  of legend and old wives' fables. See my remarks on p. 100 above.

The public miracles wrought by St. Peter had this effect,--the only
one noted at length by the sacred writer: they led to the fresh arrest
of Peter and the other Apostles by the High Priest and the sect of the
Sadducees, and to their incarceration in the public prison attached to
the temple. Thence they were delivered by an angel and sent to speak
publicly in the temple, where their adversaries officially assembled;
just as on a later occasion Peter, when imprisoned by himself, was
released by angelic interference. Men looking back upon the history of
the primitive Church, and judging of it as if it were the history of
an ordinary time and age, have objected to the angelic interventions
narrated here and in a few other places in the New Testament. They
object because they do not realize the circumstances of the time. Dr.
Jortin was a shrewd writer of the last century, now too much
neglected. He remarked in one place that, suppose we admit that a
special revelation of the good powers of the heavenly world was made
in Christ, it was natural and fair that a special manifestation of the
powers of evil should have been permitted at the time of Christ's
Incarnation, in order that the triumph of good might be the greater;
and thus he would account for the diabolical possessions which play
such an important part in the New Testament. The principle thus laid
down extends much farther indeed. The great miracle of the
Incarnation, the great manifestation of God in Christ, naturally
brought with it lesser heavenly manifestations in its train. The
Incarnation raises for a believer the whole level of the age when it
occurred, and makes it an exceptional time. The eternal gates were for
a moment lifted up, and angels went in and out for a little; and
therefore we accept without endeavouring to explain the words of the
narrative which tells us that an angel opened the prison doors for the
Apostles, bidding them go and speak in the temple all the words of
this life. And then from the temple, where they were teaching early in
the morning, about daybreak of the day following their arrest, they
are led by the officers before the Sanhedrin which was sitting in the
city. Here let us pause to note the marvellous accuracy of detail in
St. Luke's narrative. The Sanhedrin used to sit in the temple, but a
few years before the period at which we have arrived, four or five at
most, they removed from the temple into the city, a fact which is just
hinted at in the fifth verse of the fourth chapter, where we are told
that the rulers, and elders, and scribes were gathered together in
Jerusalem, that is, in the city, not in the temple; while again in
this passage we read that when the High Priest came and convened the
council and all the senate of the children of Israel, they sent their
officers to bring the prisoners before them. These officers after a
while returned with the information that the Apostles were preaching
in the temple. If the Sanhedrin were meeting in the temple, they would
doubtless have learned this fact as soon as they assembled, especially
as they did not sit till after the morning sacrifice, several hours
after the Apostles appeared in the temple.[108] When brought before
the council the Apostles boldly proclaimed their intention to
disregard all human threats, and persevere in preaching the death and
resurrection of Christ. The majority would then have proceeded to
extreme measures against the Apostles, and in doing so would only
have acted after their usual manner.

  [108] See Dr. John Lightfoot, _Horæ Hebraicæ_, on the Acts, iv. 5.
  _Cf._ his remarks on St. Mark xv. 1, where that learned Hebraist
  seems to support this view, though admitting that there is
  something to be said on the other side, viz., that the council met
  in the temple as of old.

The greater part of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees, and they, as
Josephus tells us, were men of a bloodthirsty character, ever ready to
proceed to punish in the most cruel manner. The simple fact is this,
the Sadducees were materialists. They looked upon man as a mere
animated machine, and therefore, like the pagans of the same period,
they were utterly regardless of human sufferings or of the value of
human life. We little recognise, reared up as we have been in an
atmosphere saturated with Christian principles, how much of our
merciful spirit, of our tender care for human suffering, of our
reverent respect for human life, is owing to the spiritual ideas of
the New Testament, teaching as it does the awful importance of time,
the sanctity of the body, and the tremendous issues which depend upon
life. Sadducees and pagans knew nothing of these things, because they
knew nothing of the inestimable treasure lodged in every human form.
Life and time would have been very different for mankind had not the
spiritual principles inculcated by Pharisee and by Christian alike
triumphed over the cold stern creed which strove on this occasion to
stifle the religion of the Cross in its very infancy. When the
Sadducees would have adopted extreme measures, the words of one man
restrained them and saved the Apostles, and that one man was Gamaliel,
whose name and career will again come before us. Now let us apply
ourselves to the consideration of his address to the Sanhedrin.
Gamaliel saw that the large public gathering to whom he was speaking
were thoroughly excited and full of cruel purposes. He therefore, like
a true orator, adopts the historical method as the fittest one for
dealing with them. He points out how other pretenders had arisen,
trading on the Messianic expectations which then existed all over
Palestine, and specially in Galilee, and how they had been all
destroyed without any action on the part of the Sanhedrin. He
instances two cases: Judas, who lived in the days of Cyrenius and the
taxing under Augustus Cæsar; and Theudas, who some time previous to
that event had arisen, working upon the religious and national hopes
of the Jews, as the persons now accused before them seemed also to be
doing. He points to the fate of the pretenders he had mentioned, and
advises the Sanhedrin to leave the Apostles to the same test of Divine
Providence, confident that if mere impostors, like the others, they
will meet with the same death at the hands of the Romans, without any
interference on their part.

It is evident that Gamaliel must have had some special reason for
selecting the risings of Theudas and Judas, beyond the fact that they
were rebels against established authority. The closing years of the
kingdom of Herod the Great were times when numberless rebellions took
place. Josephus gives us the names of several leaders who took part in
them, but, as he tells us (_Antiqq._, XVII. x. 4), there were then
"ten thousand other disorders," into the details of which he did not
enter. All these risings had, however, these distinguishing features,
they were all unsuccessful, and they were all quenched in blood.
Gamaliel must have seen some feature common to the Christian movement
and to those headed by Theudas and Judas some thirty years earlier,
leading him to adduce these examples. That common feature was their
Messianic character. They all alike proclaimed new hopes for Israel,
and appealed to the religious expectations which then excited the
people, and still are embodied in works like the book of Enoch,
produced about that period; while all the other attempts were animated
by a mere spirit of plunder or of personal ambition. But here we are
met with a difficulty. The rationalistic commentators of Germany have
urged that St. Luke composed a fancy speech and put it into the mouth
of Gamaliel, and in doing so made a great historic mistake. They
appeal to Josephus as their authority. He states that a Theudas arose
about A.D. 44, some ten years later than this meeting of the
Sanhedrin, and drew a large number of adherents after him, but was
defeated by the Roman governor. On the other hand, the words of
Gamaliel refer to the case of a Theudas who lived half a century
earlier, and preceded Judas the Galilean. To put the matter plainly,
St. Luke is accused of having composed a speech for Gamaliel, and,
when doing so, of having committed a great blunder, representing
Gamaliel as appealing to an incident which did not happen till ten
years later.[109]

  [109] See, for instance, Zeller on the Acts of the Apostles, vol.
  i., p. 228 (Norgate and Williams: London, 1875), where he says:
  "We must therefore maintain the possibility that our author, after
  the fashion of ancient historians, freely invented Gamaliel's
  speech; and it is a question how much of it belongs to history at
  all, and especially whether Gamaliel delivered the discourse in
  favour of the Christian cause;" with which statement the whole
  context, pp. 223-32, should be compared. The report of Gamaliel's
  speech is due of course to St. Paul, who was doubtless present
  during its delivery.

This circumstance has long attracted the notice of commentators, and
has been explained in different ways. Some maintain that there was an
older Theudas, who headed an abortive Messianic rebellion previous to
the time of Cyrenius and the days of the taxing. This is a very
possible explanation, and the identity of names constitutes no valid
objection. The same names often occur in connection with the same
movements, political or religious. In the third century, for instance,
the Novatian heresy arose at Carthage, and thence was transferred to
Rome. It was headed by two men, Novatus and Novatian, the former a
Carthaginian, the latter a Roman presbyter. What a fine subject for a
mythical theory, were not the facts too indisputably historical! How a
German critic would revel in depicting the impossibility of two men
with names so like holding precisely the same office and supporting
exactly the same views in two cities so widely separated as Rome and
Carthage! Or let us take two modern instances. The Tractarian movement
is not yet quite sixty years old. It has not therefore yet passed out
of the sphere of personal experience. It started in Oxford during the
thirties, and there in Oxford we find at that very period two divines
named William Palmer, both favouring the Tractarian views, both
eminent writers and scholars, but yet tending finally in different
directions, for one William Palmer became a Roman Catholic, while the
other remained a devoted son of the Reformation. Or to come to still
more modern times. There was an Irish movement in 1848 which numbered
amongst its most prominent leaders a William Smith O'Brien, and there
is now an Irish movement of the same character, and it also numbers a
William O'Brien amongst its most prominent leaders. A Parnell leads
the movement for repeal of the Union in 1890. Ninety years earlier, a
Parnell resigned high office sooner than consent to the consummation
of the same legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland. We might
indeed produce parallel cases without number from the range of
history, specially of English history, showing how political and
religious tendencies run in families, and reproduce exactly the same
names, and that at no distant intervals. But the very passage before
us, the speech of Gamaliel and its historical argument, affords a
sufficient instance. Gamaliel adduced the case of Judas the Galilean
as an illustration of an unsuccessful religious movement. Every one
admits that here at least Josephus and the Acts of the Apostles are at
one. Judas the Gaulonite, as Josephus styles him in one place, or the
Galilean as he calls him in another place, was the founder of the sect
of the Zealots, who "have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say
that God is to be their only ruler and Lord" (Josephus, _Antiqq._,
XVIII., i. 6). Judas was defeated at the time of the taxing under
Cyrenius, and yet more than forty-five years later we find his sons
Simon and James suffering crucifixion under the Romans because they
were following their father's example.[110]

  [110] The family of Gamaliel himself illustrates the principle for
  which we are contending, viz., that families have a tendency to
  reproduce exactly the same political and religious tendencies.
  Gamaliel himself was grandson of the Jewish patriarch Hillel I.,
  who presided over the Sanhedrin long before the Christian era.
  Gamaliel's grandson, Gamaliel II., was president of the Sanhedrin
  during the first twenty years of the second century. He was
  distinguished by the same liberal principles as characterised his
  grandfather. Gamaliel II. was succeeded by his son Simon. So that
  the presidency of the Sanhedrin continued in the same family for
  nearly two centuries. It is a notable fact, and not without its
  bearing on some modern controversies, that the Jewish canon of the
  Old Testament was not finally closed till the time of the
  presidency of Gamaliel II., that is, about the year 117 A.D. "Up
  to this time the members of the Sanhedrin themselves, in whom was
  vested the power to fix the canon, disputed the canonicity of
  certain portions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus the school of
  Shammai excluded Ecclesiastes and the Canticles from the text of
  Holy Writ, declaring that they proceeded from Solomon's uninspired
  wisdom. It was the Sanhedrin at Zabne which decided that these
  books are inspired, and that they form part of the canon."--See
  Mr. Ginsburg's article on Gamaliel II. in the _Dictionary of
  Christian Biography_, vol. ii., p. 607.

Another explanation has also been offered. It has been suggested that
Theudas was simply another name for one of the many rebels whom
Josephus mentions,--for Simon, for instance, who had been a slave of
Herod the Great, and had upon his death headed a revolt against
authority. Either explanation is quite tenable, as opposed to the view
which represents St. Luke as committing a gross historical error. And
we are the more justified in offering these suggestions when we
reflect upon the numberless instances where modern research has
confirmed, and is every year confirming, the minute accuracy of this
writer, who doubtless derived his information concerning what passed
in the Sanhedrin, on this occasion, from St. Paul, who either as a
member of the council or a favourite pupil of Gamaliel may have been
present listening to the debates, or even sharing in the final
decisions.[111]

  [111] Upon the question of the historical accuracy of the Acts of
  the Apostles, the appendix to the late Bishop Lightfoot's
  collected essays on _Supernatural Religion_ (London, 1889) should
  be consulted. The opening paragraph bears directly upon our point.
  "In a former volume M. Renan declared his opinion that the author
  of the third Gospel and the Acts was verily and indeed (_bien
  réellement_) a disciple of St. Paul.... Such an expression of
  opinion, proceeding from a not too conservative critic, is
  significant; and this view of the authorship, I cannot doubt, will
  be the final verdict of the future, as it has been the unbroken
  tradition of the past. But at a time when attacks on the
  genuineness of the work have been renewed, it may not be out of
  place to call attention to some illustrations of the narrative
  which recent discoveries have brought to light. No ancient work
  affords so many tests of veracity, for no other has such numerous
  points of contact in all directions with contemporary history,
  politics, topography, whether Jewish, or Greek, or Roman."

Let us now turn from the purely historical side of Gamaliel's speech,
and view it from a spiritual standpoint.

The address of Gamaliel was so favourable to the Apostles that it has
helped to surround his name and memory with much legendary lore. It
was the tradition of the ancient Greek Church from the fifth century
that he was converted to Christianity and baptized, along with his son
Abibus and Nicodemus, by St. Peter and St. John.[112] This story of
Gamaliel's secret adherence to Christianity goes even much farther
back. There is a curious Christian novel or romance, which dates back
to close upon the year 200, called the _Clementine Recognitions_. We
find the same tradition in the sixty-fifth chapter of the first book
of these _Recognitions_.[113] But the sacred narrative itself gives us
no hint of all this, contenting itself with setting forth the prudent
advice which Gamaliel gave to the assembled council. It was wise
advice, and well would it have been for the world if influential
religious and political teachers in all ages had given similar
counsel. Gamaliel was a man of large scholarship, combined with a wide
mind, and he had learned that time is a great solvent, and the
greatest of tests. Beneath its influence the most pretentious
schemes, the most promising of structures, fade away if built upon the
sand of human wisdom, while opposition only tends to consolidate and
develop those that are built upon the foundation of Divine strength
and power. The policy of patience recommended by Gamaliel is a wise
one, either for the Church or for the state, in things spiritual and
things secular alike. And yet it is one from which the natural man
recoils with an instinctive repugnance. It speaks well for the Jewish
Sanhedrin that on this occasion they yielded accord to the advice of
their president. We are glad to recognise this spirit in these men,
where we so often have to find matter for blame. Well would it have
been for the Church and for the credit of Christianity had the spirit
which moved even the Sadducean majority in the Jewish council been
allowed to prevail; and yet how little have the men of tolerant mind
been regarded in moments of temporary triumph such as the Sanhedrin
just then enjoyed. Gamaliel's advice, "Refrain from these men and let
them alone. If the work be of man it will be overthrown; if of God, ye
will not be able to overthrow them," strikes a blow at the policy of
persecution, which is essentially a policy of impatience. The
intolerant man is an impatient man, not willing to imitate the Divine
gentleness and long-suffering, which waits, endures, and bears with
the sins and ignorance of the children of men. And the Church of
Christ, when she became intolerant, as she did as soon as ever
Constantine placed within her reach the sword of human power, forgot
the lesson of the Divine patience, and reaped within herself, in a
shallow religion, in a poorer life, in a restrained intellectual and
spiritual grasp, the due reward of those who had fallen away from an
imitation of the Divine example to a mere human level. It is sad to
see, for instance, in the case of a man so thoroughly spiritual as St.
Augustine was, how easily he fell into this human infirmity, how
quickly he became intolerant when the secular arm was ranged on the
side of his own opinions. The Church in his own boyhood, during the
days of Julian, had to strive against the intolerance of the pagans;
the orthodox, who upheld the Catholic view of the nature of the
Godhead and the scriptural doctrine of the Holy Trinity, had to
struggle against the intolerance of the Arians. Yet as soon as power
was placed in St. Augustine's own hand he thought it right to exercise
compulsion against those who differed from him.

  [112] We learn this from the _Bibliotheca_ of Photius, Cod. 171.
  Photius was a very learned Greek patriarch of the ninth century.
  He was a diligent student, and made an analysis of every book he
  read. These extracts have been gathered into one volume called his
  _Bibliotheca_ or _Library_, and can now be consulted in any
  collection of the Greek fathers. Photius reports his story about
  Gamaliel and Nicodemus from two earlier writers, Chrysippus and
  Lucian, presbyters of Jerusalem.

  [113] For an account of the Clementine _Recognitions_ see Dr.
  Salmon's Introduction to the N. T., 4th ed., pp. 14-19, 373-75.
  Translations, both of the _Recognitions_ and _Homilies_, can be
  consulted in Clark's Ante-Nicene Library.

It was exactly the same in later days. Men may take up commentators of
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Protestant and Roman Catholic
alike. There they will find many remarks, acute, devout,
heart-searching, but very few of them will be found to have arrived at
the mental fairness and balance involved in those words, "Refrain from
these men, and let them alone." Cornelius a Lapide was a Jesuit
commentator of those times. He wrote many valuable expositions of Holy
Scripture, including one dealing with this book of the Acts, filled
with thoughts suggestive and stimulating. It is, however, almost
ludicrous to notice how he strives to evade the force of Gamaliel's
words, and to escape the application of them to his own Protestant
opponents. The Sanhedrin were quite right, he thinks, in adopting
Gamaliel's advice, and in showing themselves tolerant of the apostolic
preaching because the Apostles worked miracles; and so, though they
were unconvinced, still they had just reason to suspend their
judgment. But as for the Protestants of his time, they were heretics;
they were the opponents of the Church, the bride of Christ, and
therefore Gamaliel's words had no application to them; as if the very
question that was raised by the Protestants was not this--whether
Cornelius a Lapide himself and his Jesuit brethren did not represent
Antichrist, and whether the Protestants were not the true Church of
God, who therefore on his own principles were quite justified in
persecuting their Romish opponents. It is very difficult to get men to
acknowledge their own fallibility. Every party, when triumphant,
believes that it has a monopoly of truth, and has a Divine right of
persecution; and every party when downcast and in adversity sees and
admires the beauties of toleration. Verily societies, churches,
families, as well as individuals, have good right diligently to pray,
"In all time of our wealth, good Lord, deliver us," for never are men
in greater spiritual danger than when prosperity leads them to vote
themselves infallible, and to practise intolerance towards their
fellow-men on account of their intellectual or religious opinions.

The sentiment of Gamaliel on this occasion may however be pushed to a
mischievous extreme. He advised the Sanhedrin to exercise patience and
self-control, but he did not apparently go any farther. He did not
recommend them to adopt the noblest course, which would have been
unprejudiced examination into the claims put forward by the Christian
teachers. Gamaliel's advice was good, it was perhaps the best he could
have given, or at least which could have been expected under the
circumstances, but it was not the highest or noblest conceivable. It
was the kind of advice always given by men who do not wish to commit
themselves untimely, but who are waiters upon Providence, postponing
their decision as to which side they shall join until they first see
which side will win. Opportunists, the French call them; men who are
sitting upon the fence, we in homelier phrase designate them. It is
well to be prudent in our actions, because true prudence is only
Christian wisdom, and such wisdom will always lead us to take the most
effectual ways of doing good. But then prudence may be pushed to the
extreme of moral cowardice, or at least the name of prudence may be
used as a cloak for a contemptible desire to stand well with all
parties, and thereby advance our own selfish interests. Prudence
should be united with moral courage; it should be ready to take the
unpopular side, and to champion truth and righteousness even when in a
depressed and lowly condition. It was easy enough to side with Christ
when the multitude cried, "Hosanna in the Highest." But the test of
deepest love and unfailing devotion was when the women stood by the
cross, and when the Magdalen sought out the grave in the garden that
she might anoint the dead body of her loved Lord.

Finally, let us just notice the conduct of the Apostles under those
circumstances. The Apostles were freed from the pressing danger of
death, but they did not entirely escape. The Sanhedrin were logically
inconsistent. They refrained from putting the Apostles to death, as
Gamaliel advised, but they flogged them as Roman laws permitted; and a
Jewish disciplinary flogging, when forty stripes save one were
inflicted, was so severe that death sometimes resulted from it.[114]
Man is a curiously inconsistent being, and the Sanhedrin showed on
this occasion that they had their own share of this weakness. Gamaliel
advised not to kill the Apostles, but let time work out the Divine
purposes either of success or failure. They adopt the first part of
his advice, but are not willing to allow Providence to develop His
designs without their interference, and so by their stripes endeavour
to secure that failure shall attend the apostolic efforts. But it was
all in vain. The Apostles were living under a realized sense of
heavenly things. The love of Christ, and communion with Christ and the
Spirit of Christ, so raised them above all earthly surroundings that
what things seemed loss and shame and grief to others were by them
counted highest joy, because they looked at them from the side of God
and eternity. Human threats availed nothing with men animated by such
a spirit,--nay, rather as proofs of the opposition of the evil one,
they only quickened their zeal, so that "every day, in the temple and
at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ."
How wondrously life would be transformed for us all did we view its
changes and chances, its sorrows and its pains, as the Apostles
regarded them. Poverty and disgrace, undeserved loss and suffering,
all alike would be transfigured into surpassing glory when endured for
Christ's sake, while our powers of labour and work, and our active
zeal in the holiest of causes, would be quickened, because, like them,
we should walk and live and toil in the loved presence of One who is
invisible.

  [114] St. Paul, as he tells us in 2 Cor. xi. 24, was five times
  flogged by the Jews. When the Jews inflicted this punishment the
  culprit was tied to a pillar in the synagogue; the executioner,
  armed with a scourge of three distinct lashes, inflicted the
  punishment; while an official standing by read selected portions
  of the law between each stroke. Thirteen strokes of the threefold
  scourge was equivalent to the thirty-nine stripes. This was the
  flogging the Apostles suffered on this occasion.



CHAPTER XIII.

_PRIMITIVE DISSENSIONS AND APOSTOLIC PRECAUTIONS._

     "Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was
     multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against
     the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily
     ministration. And the twelve called the multitude of the
     disciples unto them, and said, It is not fit that we should
     forsake the word of God, and serve tables. Look ye out therefore,
     brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the
     Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But
     we will continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the
     word."--ACTS vi. 1-4.


The sixth chapter of the Acts, and the election of the Seven, mark a
distinct advance in the career of the early Church. This sixth chapter
is like the twelfth of Genesis and the introduction of Abraham upon
the stage of sacred history. We feel at once as if the narrative of
Genesis had come into contact with modern times, leaving the
mysterious period of darkness all behind. So is it with the Acts of
the Apostles. The earliest days of the primitive Church were quite
unlike all modern experience. The Church had received a great blessing
and a wondrous revelation, and had been enriched with marvellous
powers. But just as men act when they have experienced a surpassing
joy or a tremendous calamity,--they are upset for a time, they do not
realize their position, they do not take all the circumstances in at
once, nor can they quite settle what their future course shall be;
they must get a little way distant from the joy or the sorrow before
they make their future arrangements,--so was it with the Apostles
during that space of time which elapsed from the Pentecostal
outpouring down to the election of the Seven. We are so accustomed to
think of the Apostles as inspired men, that we forget that inspiration
did not destroy their natural powers or infirmities, but rather must
have acted in consonance with the laws of their constitution. The
Apostles must, to a certain extent, have been upset by the
extraordinary events they had witnessed. They sought and found daily
guidance in the power of the Spirit; but they had made no settled
plans, had not compared or arranged their ideas, had formed no scheme
of doctrine or teaching, had realized nothing concerning the future of
the society they were unconsciously building up under the Divine
leading. God had His plans; the ascended Lord had spoken to the
Apostles concerning the future of the Kingdom of Heaven; but it would
be making the Apostles more than men of like passions and like
infirmities with ourselves to imagine that during those stirring and
eventful days they had consciously realized the whole scheme of
Christian doctrine and government. That period of a few months--for it
could not have been more--was a period of Divine chaos, out of which
the final settlement of the Church of God began slowly to evolve
itself under the direction of God the Holy Ghost. How long, it may be
asked, did this period of unsettlement last? A question which resolves
itself into the further one bearing directly on our present
subject,--what was the date of the election and subsequent martyrdom
of Stephen? The answer to this throws much light on the apostolic
history and the events recorded in the first five chapters of this
book.

I. St. Stephen was put to death some time in the year 37 A.D., after
Pontius Pilate had been recalled from the government of Palestine, and
before his successor had arrived to take up the reins of power.[115]
The Jewish authorities took advantage of the interregnum in order to
gratify their spite against the eminent orator who was doing so much
damage to their cause. Under ordinary circumstances the Jewish
Sanhedrin could not put a man to death unless they had received the
fiat of the Roman authorities. Now, however, during this interval,
there was no supreme authority from whom this fiat could be secured,
and so they seized the opportunity and executed Stephen as a
blasphemer, according to the method prescribed in the law of Moses.
This happened in the year 37 A.D., about four years after the
Crucifixion. We must, however, observe another point. During the
latter years of his administration, Pontius Pilate had been acting in
a most tyrannical manner. This fact explains a circumstance which must
strike the most casual reader of the Acts. We there read that the
supreme Jewish council made two attempts to restrain the Apostles; the
first after the healing of the cripple at the Temple Gate, and the
second when Gamaliel dissuaded them from their purposes of blood.
After that they allowed the Apostles to pursue their course without
any hostility. This appears to the casual reader more striking, more
difficult to understand, than it was in reality. We are now obliged to
think of Judaism and Christianity as opposed and mutually exclusive
religions; we cannot conceive of a man being a Jew and a Christian at
the same time. But it was not so with the Apostles and their followers
at the period of which we are writing. This may seem contradictory to
what I have elsewhere stated as to the antagonistic character of the
two religions. But the apparent inconsistency is easily explained. As
full-blown and realized systems, Judaism and Christianity are
inconsistent. The one was a bud, the other an expanded flower. The
same individual bulb cannot be at the same moment a bud and a flower.
But the Apostles had not as yet realized Christianity as a full-blown
system, nor grasped all its consequences. There was no inconsistency
when they made a conjoint profession of Judaism and Christianity. The
Apostles and their followers were all scrupulous observers of the law
of Moses; and no dwellers in Jerusalem were more regular attendants at
the Temple worship than the persons who had as yet no distinct name,
and were known only as followers of the Prophet of Nazareth. To take
an illustration from modern ecclesiastical history, the Apostles and
the early Jerusalem Church must have been simply known to the Jewish
authorities, just as the first Methodists at Oxford were known to the
Church authorities of John Wesley's earlier days, as stricter members
of the Church of England than the usual run of people were. This fact
alone lessens the difficulty we might find in accounting for the
statements made as to the continued activity of the Apostles, and the
freedom they enjoyed even after they had been solemnly warned by the
Sanhedrin. Neither the Apostles themselves nor the Jewish council
recognised as yet any religious opposition in the teaching of Peter
and his brethren. The Apostles themselves had not yet formulated
their ideas nor perceived whither their principles would ultimately
lead them. No one indeed would have been more surprised than
themselves had they foreseen the antagonistic position into which they
would be ultimately forced; and as for the Sanhedrin, the only charge
they brought against the Apostles was not a religious one at all, but
merely that they were challenging the conduct and decision of the
authorities concerning the execution of Jesus Christ, and, as the High
Priest put it, "intend to bring this Man's blood upon us."[116] But
then history reveals to us some other facts which completely explain
the difficulty and vindicate the historical accuracy of the sacred
narrative. St. Stephen was put to death in the year 37. At that time
he may have been acting as a deacon for two, or even three, years,
during which Christian teaching and views made very rapid progress,
all unopposed by the Jewish authorities, simply because their
attention was concentrated on other topics of much more pressing
interest. Pilate was appointed governor of Palestine in 26 A.D. He
ruled it for ten years, till the end of 36 A.D., when he was recalled.
God causes all things to work together for good, and overrules even
state changes to the development of His purposes. Pilate's whole
period of rule was, as I have already said, marked by tyranny; but the
concluding years were the worst. The members of the Sanhedrin were
then specially excited by two actions which touched themselves most
keenly. He seized on the accumulated proceeds of the Temple-tax of
two drachmas, about eighteen pence, paid by every Jew throughout the
world, which then amounted to a vast sum, expending it in making an
aqueduct for the supply of Jerusalem. This action affected the
pecuniary resources of the Jewish authorities. But he attacked them on
a dearer point still, for he set up the images of the emperor in the
Holy City, and thus wounded them in their religious feelings,
introducing the abomination of desolation into the most sacred
places.[117]

  [115] See the authorities for the chronology of this period as
  given in Lewin's _Fasti Sacri_, pp. 247-53.

  [116] The Church during its earliest years called itself merely
  the Way, not recognising the term Christian at all. This is
  brought out clearly in the Revised Version, as in Acts ix. 2, xix.
  9, 23, xxiv. 14. The adoption of the name Christian probably
  marked the more distinct separation of the Church from the
  synagogue.

  [117] See Josephus, _Antiqq._, XVIII., iii., 1, 2.

All the attention of the priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and
the people, was concentrated upon the violent deeds of Pilate. They
had no time to think of the Apostles,--who, indeed, must themselves
have shared in the national enthusiasm and universal hostility which
Pilate's attempts excited. A common opposition stilled, for the time,
the internal strife and controversy about the prophet of Nazareth
which had, for a little, rent asunder the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Let us now repeat the dates to which we have attained. St. Stephen was
executed in 37 A.D.; his election took place probably in 34 A.D. The
first seven chapters of the Acts set before us, then, all we know of
the history of the earliest four years of the Church's life and work;
and yet though very briefly told, that history tallies with what we
learn from writers like Josephus and Philo.

II. Let us now return to the text of our narrative. This sixth chapter
offers a very useful glimpse into the inner life of the primitive
Church. It shows us what led up to the election of the Seven in these
words: "Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was
multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the
Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily
ministration."

(_a_) The election sprang out of the multiplying, and the multiplying
begat a murmuring among the disciples. There is here teaching for the
Church of all time, plain and evident to every reader, a lesson which
history has repeated from age to age. Increase of numbers does not
always mean increase of happiness, increase of devotion, increase of
true spiritual life, but has often brought increase of trouble and
discontent alone. What a lesson of patient submission under present
trials the wise man may here read. God has made all things double one
against another; and when He bestows such notable increase as He
granted to the apostolic Church, He adds thereto some counter-balancing
disadvantage to keep His people low and make them humble. Undiluted
joy, unmitigated success, is not to be the portion of God's people
while tabernacling here below. How often has the lesson been repeated
in their experience of the past as in our own personal experience as
well!

The trial of the apostolic Church was typical of the trials which
awaited future ages. The Church in the Diocletian persecution, for
instance, was wasted and torn. The records of that last great trial
through which the Church passed, just prior to her final triumph over
Paganism, are lighted up by the fires of the most determined attempt
ever made to crush the faith of the Crucified One. How often during
that last persecution God's faithful ones must have wept in secret
over the ruin of the holy places and the threatened destruction of the
faith! Yet the trials of the hours of adversity were as nothing
compared with the dangers which beset the Church when the faith
triumphed under Constantine, and the multitude of the disciples was
increased and multiplied by the power of imperial patronage. The
trials of the day of persecution were external, and utterly powerless
to affect the spiritual life of Christ's mystical body. The trials of
a multiplying and enlarging Church were internal; they arose from
unbelief, and hypocrisy, and want of Christian love, and were
destructive of the life of God in the human soul. The dangers of
success, the subtle temptations of prosperity, making us proud,
contemptuous of others, self-conscious, dependent wholly upon man and
independent of God, are the lessons, ecclesiastical, social, and
personal, pressed upon us by the opening words of this sixth chapter.

(_b_) These words, again, correct a popular mistake, and reproduce a
warning of our Master too often forgotten. When the disciples were
increasing, and the hearts of the Apostles all aglow with the success
vouchsafed them, "a murmuring arose between the Grecian Jews and the
Hebrews." What a glimpse we get here into the very heart and centre of
early Christian social life. It is often the hardest task in
historical researches to get such a glimpse as here is given. We know
the outer life of societies, of families, of dynasties. We see them in
their external form and symmetry: we behold them in their company
dress and in their public appearances; but till we get to know and
realize their common every-day life, how they ate, drank, slept, how
their social intercourse was maintained, we fail to grasp the most
important side of their existence. The primitive Church is often
thought of and spoken of as if its social and spiritual life were
wholly unlike our own; as if sin and infirmity were entirely absent,
and perfect holiness there prevailed. This expression, "Now in these
days there arose a murmuring," shows us that the presence of
supernatural gifts, the power of working miracles and speaking with
other tongues, did not raise the spiritual level of individual
believers above that we find in the Church of the present day. The
distribution of alms is always attended by jealousies and disputes,
rendering the work one of the most unpleasant tasks which can be
undertaken by any man. No matter how earnestly one strives to be fair
and just, no matter how diligently one may seek to balance claim
against claim and righteously to satisfy the wants of those who seek
relief, still there will always be minds that will never be content,
and will strive to detect injustice and wrong and favouritism, no
matter how upright the intention may be. What a comfort to God's
servant striving to do his duty is the study of this sixth chapter of
the Acts! Fretting and worry, weary days and sleepless nights, are
often the only reward which the Christian philanthropist receives in
return for his exertions. But here comes in the Acts of the Apostles
to cheer. It was just the same with the Apostles, for they must have
been the chief almoners or distributers of the Church's common fund
prior to the election of the Seven. The Apostles themselves did not
escape the accusation of favouritism, and we may be well content to
bear and suffer what the Apostles were compelled to endure. Let us
only take heed that like them we suffer wrongfully, and that our
conscience testify that we have striven to do everything in the sight
of the Lord Jesus Christ; and then, disregarding all human murmuring
and criticism, we should calmly proceed upon our work, in no way
discouraged because the recipients of Christian bounty still act as
even the primitive Christians did. This is one important lesson we
gain from this passage.

(_c_) We may, again, learn another great truth from this incident, and
that is, that the primitive Church was no ideal communion, but a
society with failings and weaknesses and discontent, exactly like
those which exist in the Church of our own times. The favourite
argument with controversialists of the Church of Rome, when trying to
draw proselytes from among Protestants, is, as logicians say, of an _à
priori_ type. They will enlarge upon the importance of religion and
religious truth, and upon the awful consequences which will result
from a mistake on such a vital question, and then they will argue that
God must have constituted a living infallible guide on such an
important topic, and that guide is in their opinion the Pope, as the
head of the Catholic Church. The Scriptures are full of
warnings--unnoticed warnings they often are, but still they are full
of them--as to the untrustworthy character of all such kind of
arguments. In this sixth chapter, for instance, the thoughtful and
meditative student can see a specimen of these providential
admonitions, and a reason for its insertion in the sacred story.
Christ came to establish the Christian Church upon earth. For this
purpose He lived and suffered and rose again. For this purpose He sent
forth the Third Person of the Holy Trinity to lead and guide and dwell
in His Church; and surely, _à priori_, we might as well conclude that
in the Church so founded, so guided, so ruled by Peter and the rest of
the Apostles, there would have been found no such thing as
favouritism, or murmuring, or discontent,--sentiments which might
exist in the unregenerate world, but which should find no place in the
kingdom of the Spirit. But, when we turn to the sacred record of
Christ's sayings, and the inspired history of Christ's Church, we find
that all our _à priori_ presumptions and all our logical anticipations
are put to flight, for the Master warns us in the thirteenth of St.
Matthew, when speaking His wondrous parables concerning the Kingdom of
Heaven, that sin and imperfection will ever find their place in His
Church; and then the history of the Acts of the Apostles comes in to
confirm the inspired prophecy, and we see from this chapter how the
primitive Church of Christ was torn and racked with mere earthly
feelings and mere human infirmities, like the ordinary worldly
societies which existed all around; "there arose a murmuring" even in
the Church where Apostles taught, where the Holy Ghost dwelt, and
where the Pentecostal gifts were displayed. The occasion of the
murmuring, too, is noteworthy and prophetic. It was like the trial
under which man fell and by which Christ was tempted. It was a mere
material temptation. Even in the primitive Church, living as it did in
the region and presence of the supernatural, expecting every day and
hour the return of the ascended Lord, even there material
considerations entered, and the world and the things thereof found a
place, and caused divisions where they would seem to have been
strictly excluded by the very conditions of the Church's existence.
The Church and the world there touched and influenced one another; and
so it must be always. There is a world indeed against which the Church
must ever protest--the world of impure lusts and wicked desires, the
world of which Paganism was the presiding genius; but then there is a
world in which the Church must exist and with which it must deal, the
world which God has created and ordained, the world of human society
and human wants, feelings, desires, appetites. With these the Church
must ever come in contact. Monasticism and asceticism have endeavoured
indeed in the past to get rid of this world. They cut men and women
off from marriage and separated them from society, and reduced human
wants to a minimum; and yet nature asserted itself, and the
corruptions of monasticism have been a divinely-ordered protest
against foolish attempts to separate between things spiritual and
things secular, between the Church founded by Christ and the world
created by God.[118] The murmuring arose on this occasion because the
Apostles made no such mistake, but recognised fearlessly that the
Church of Christ took cognizance of such a question as the daily
distribution and the temporal wants of its disciples. The apostolic
Church did not disdain a mere economic question, and yet the Church of
our own time has been slow enough to follow its example; but, thank
God, it is learning more and more of its duty in this respect. The
time has been when nothing was considered worthy of the notice of the
Christian pulpit or of Church synods and Church courts save purely
spiritual and doctrinal questions. The vast subjects of education, of
the social life, of the amusements of the people, the methods of
legislation or statesmanship, were thought outside the region of
Christian activity, and were utterly neglected or else left wholly to
those who made no profession at least of being guided by Christian
principle. But now we have learned the important truth that the Church
is a Divine leaven placed in the mass of human society to permeate it
through and through; and perhaps the present danger is that the clergy
should forget the apostolic warning, true for every age, that while
the Church in its totality, priests and people, should take an active
interest in these questions, and strive to mould the whole life of man
on Christian principles, it is not at the same time "fit that the
ministry should forsake the word of God and serve tables."

  [118] The term world is one that has very various meanings in
  Scripture, and good people have often made serious practical
  mistakes by confounding these meanings. I once met a serious young
  man disposed to the views of the "Brethren," who gravely told me
  that he thought it wrong to admire beautiful scenery because it
  was written, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in
  the world." There are three distinct uses of the term "world" in
  Scripture: as expressing, (1) the material earth, Psalm xxiv. 1,
  "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and
  they that dwell therein;" (2) the people on the earth, John iii.
  16, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son"
  for it; (3) the impure lusts and desires which found full scope
  under paganism, and still intrude themselves into the kingdom of
  Christ, 1 John ii. 15, 16, "Love not the world, neither the things
  that are in the world.... For all that is in the world, the lust
  of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life,
  is not of the Father, but is of the world." It is evident that if
  we take the bad meaning of world in this last passage and apply it
  to the other two we shall end in the old Manichean view that the
  material world and the men on it are the handiwork of a bad or
  inferior deity, and therefore should be entirely rejected. I know
  that some very grave and serious people have fallen into this
  confusion, and have thus banished all sweetness and light from
  their own lives and from those of their families. It is a curious
  circumstance, too, that we read in ancient writers that the
  Manichean heresy always recommended itself to persons of a similar
  temperament, who in consequence led lives of a very strict and
  puritanical type. They looked upon the world and all that was in
  it as the devil's creation. How then could they smile upon, love,
  or enjoy anything therein? See the article "Manicheans" in the
  _Dict. Christ. Biog._

III. But we have not yet done with this murmuring or with the lessons
it furnishes for the Church of the future. What lay at the basis of
this murmuring, and of the jealousy thereby indicated? "There arose a
murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews;" a racial question
developed itself, and racial, or perhaps we should rather say, in this
case, social and linguistic, differences found place in the apostolic
Church, and gave rise to serious quarrels even where the Spirit in
fullest measure and in extraordinary power was enjoyed. There was
bitter dissension between Jews and Samaritans, though they believed in
the same God and reverenced the same revelation. Political
circumstances in the past sufficiently explain that quarrel. There was
almost, if not quite, as bitter hostility between the Grecians and the
Hebrews, because they spoke different languages and practised diverse
customs, and that though they worshipped in the same temple and
belonged to the same nation. The origin of these differences in the
Christian Church of Jerusalem goes back to a very distant period. Here
comes in the use of the Apocrypha, "which the Church doth read for
example of life and instruction of manners." If we wish to understand
the course of events in the Acts we must refer to the books of
Maccabees, where is told the romantic story of the struggle of the
Jews against the Greek kings of Syria, who tried to force them into
conformity with the religion of Greece, which then was counted the
religion of civilization and of culture. The result was that the
intensely national party became bitterly hostile to everything
pertaining to Greece and its civilization. The Jews of Palestine of
that period became like the purely Celtic Irish of the Reformation
epoch. The Irish identified the Reformation with England and English
influence, just as the Jews identified Paganism with Greece and Syria,
and Greek influence; and the result was that the Irish became the most
intensely ultramontane nation, and the Palestinian Jews became the
most intensely narrow and prejudiced nation of their time. The
Palestinian or Hebrew Jews, speaking the Aramaeic or Chaldee tongue,
scorned Greek language and all traces of Greek civilization, while
the Jews of the Dispersion, specially those of Alexandria, strove to
recommend the Jewish religion to the Gentile world, whose civilization
and culture they appreciated, and whose language they used. The
opposition of the Hebrew to the Grecian Jews was very bitter, and
expressed itself in language which has come down to us in the Talmudic
writings. "Cursed be he who teacheth his son the learning of the
Greeks," was a saying among the Hebrews; while again, we hear of
Rabban Simeon, the son of Gamaliel, St. Paul's teacher, who used to
embody his hatred of the Grecians in the following story: "There were
a thousand boys in my father's school, of whom five hundred learned
the law and five hundred the wisdom of the Greeks; and there is not
one of the latter now alive, excepting myself here and my uncle's son
in Asia."[119] Heaven itself was supposed by the Hebrews to have
plainly declared its hostility against their Grecian opponents. Hence,
naturally, arose the same divisions at Jerusalem. There were in that
city nearly five hundred synagogues, a considerable proportion of
which belonged to the Grecian Jews. All classes and all the
synagogues, Hebrew and Grecian alike, contributed their quota to the
earliest converts won by the Apostles; and these converts brought
their old jealousies and oppositions with them into the Church of
Christ. The Hebrew or the Grecian Jew of yesterday could not forget,
to-day, because he had embraced a belief in Jesus of Nazareth as the
Messiah, all his old feelings and his old hereditary quarrels, and
hence sprang the Christian dissensions of which we read, prophetic of
so many similar racial and social and linguistic dissensions in the
Church down to the present time. The Acts of the Apostles is a kind of
magic mirror for Church history. In the olden times men dreamt of a
magic mirror into which one could look and see the course of their
future life depicted. We can see something of the same in this
inspired book. The bitter dissensions which racial and linguistic
differences have made in the Church of every age are here depicted in
miniature. The quarrels between East and West, between Greeks and
Latins, between Latins and Teutons, between Teuton and Celt, between
Roman Catholic and Protestant, between the Whites and Negroes, between
European Christians and Hindoo converts; the scandalous scenes still
enacted round the Holy Place at Jerusalem, where peace is kept between
nominal Christians only by the intervention of Mahometan
soldiers,--all turn upon the same points and embody the same
principles, and may best find solution upon the lines laid down by the
Apostles. And what were these lines? They laid down that there are
diversities of functions and of work in the Church of Christ; there is
a ministry of the word, and there is a serving of tables. One class
should not absorb every function; for if it does, the highest function
of all, the ministry of the word and prayer, will inevitably suffer.
Well, indeed, would it have been had this lesson been far more laid to
heart. How many a schism and rent in the visible Church of Christ has
been caused because no work, no spiritual function, was found for a
newly-awakened layman anxious to do something for Him who had done so
much for his soul. The principle here laid down in germ is a very
fruitful one, suitable for every age. A new crisis, a fresh
departure, an unexpected need, has arisen, and a new organization is
therefore at once devised by the Apostles; and well would it have been
had their example found closer imitation. We have been too much in the
habit of looking upon the Church of Christ as if it were once for all
stereotyped in apostolic times, and as if there were nothing to be
done in the living present save to adapt these ancient institutions to
our modern needs. The Roman Catholic Church has been in many respects
more true to apostolic principles than the children of the
Reformation. With all her intense conservatism Rome has never
hesitated to develop new organizations as new needs have arisen, and
that in the boldest manner. It has often been remarked that the Church
of Rome would never have lost John Wesley and the Wesleyans as the
Church of England did. She would have put a brown cassock upon him,
and girded him with a rope, and sent him forth as the head of a new
order, to do the work to which he felt impelled and for which God had
qualified him. Experience has taught us, however, that we cannot
safely neglect apostolic precedent; and the warning implied in the
words of the Apostles, "it is not fit that we should forsake the word
of God and serve tables," has been amply fulfilled. The highest
ministry of the word has been injured by the accumulation of all
public work in the Church on one class alone. What minister of Jesus
Christ does not feel that, even with the wider and more apostolic
views now prevalent, with all the recognition of the service which
godly Christian laymen render, the old tradition is still strong, and
clergymen are too absorbed in the mere serving of tables, to the
neglect of their higher functions? The laity often complain of the
poor, thin, meagre character of the preaching to which they are
compelled to listen; but how can it be otherwise when they demand so
much purely secular service, so much serving of tables from those
whose great work is to teach? The Church of England, in her service
for the ordination of priests, demands from the candidates whether
they will devote themselves to the study of the Word of God, and such
other studies as bear upon the same. I often wonder how her clergy are
now to fulfil this solemn vow, when frequently they have not a night
in the week at home, save perhaps Saturday evening, and when, from
early morning to late at night, all their energies are swallowed up in
the work of schools, and clubs, and charitable organizations, and
parochial visitation, leaving little time and still less energy for
the work of meditation and thought and study. The clergy are the
Lord's prophets, watchmen upon the walls of Zion. It is their great
business to explain the Lord's will, to translate the ideas of the
Bible into the language of modern life, to apply the Divine principles
of doctrine and discipline laid down in the Bible to the ever-varying
wants of our complex modern civilization; and how can this function be
discharged unless there be time for reading and for thinking, so as to
gain a true notion of what are these modern wants, and to find out how
the eternal principles of the Scriptures are to be applied to them? We
require a great deal more organized assistance in the work of the
Church, and then, when that assistance is forthcoming, we may expect
and demand that the highest ministry of all, "the ministry of the Word
and prayer," shall be discharged with greater efficiency and blessing.
The Apostles in meeting this crisis, laid down a law of true
development and living growth in the divine society. The Church of
Christ is ever to have the power to organize herself in face of new
departures, while at the same time they proclaim the absolute
necessity and the perpetual obligation of the Christian ministry in
its highest aspect; for surely if even for Apostles it was needful
that their whole time should be devoted to the ministry of the word of
God and prayer, and the Church of that time, with all its wondrous
gifts, demanded such a ministry, there ought to exist in the modern
Church also an order of men wholly separated unto those solemn duties.

  [119] Lightfoot's _Horæ Heb._, Acts vi. 1, where there is a long
  and learned discussion, extending over several pages, upon the
  distinction between the Hebrew and the Grecian Jews.

IV. The Apostles having determined upon the creation of a new
organization to deal with a new need, then appeal to the people for
their assistance, and call upon them to select the persons who shall
be its members; but they, at the same time, reserve their own rights
and authority, and, when the selection has been made, claim the power
of ordination and appointment for themselves. The people nominated
while the Apostles appointed. The Apostles took the most effective
plan to quiet the trouble which had arisen when they took the people
into their confidence. The Church has been often described as the
mother of modern freedom. The councils of old time were the models and
forerunners of modern parliaments. The councils and synods of the
Church set an example of open discussion and of legislative assemblies
in ages when tyrannical authority had swallowed up every other vestige
of liberty. The Church from the beginning, and in the Acts of the
Apostles, clearly showed that its government was not to be an absolute
clerical despotism, but a free Christian republic, where clergy and
people were to take counsel together. It is a noteworthy thing indeed,
that even in the Roman Catholic Church, where the exclusive claims of
the clergy have been most pressed, the recognition of the rights of
the laity in the matter of Church councils and debates has found place
down to modern times. The representatives of the Emperor and other
Christian princes took their seats in the Council of Trent, jointly
with bishops and other ecclesiastics; and it was only at the Vatican
Council of 1870 that this last lingering trace of lay rights finally
disappeared. The Apostles laid down by their action the principle of
Church freedom, and the mutual rights of clergy and people; but they
also gave a very practical hint for the peaceful management of
organizations, whether ecclesiastical, or social, or political. They
knew what was the right thing to do, but they did not impose their
will by the mere exercise of authority; they took counsel with the
people, and the result was that a speedy solution of all their
difficulties was arrived at. How many a quarrel in life would be
avoided, how many a rough place would be made smooth, were the
apostolic example always followed. Men naturally resist a law imposed
from without without any appearance of consultation with them or of
sanction on their part; but men willingly yield obedience to laws,
even though they may dislike them, which have been passed with their
assent and appeal to their reason. In Church matters especially would
this rule apply, and the example of the Apostles be most profitably
followed. Autocratic action on the part of the clergy in small matters
has often destroyed the unity and harmony of congregations, and has
planted roots of bitterness which have ruined ministerial usefulness.
While steadily maintaining great fundamental principles, a little tact
and thought, a wise condescension to human feeling, will often win the
day, and carry measures which would otherwise be vigorously resisted.

Finally, the Apostles enunciate the principles which should guide the
Church in its selection of officials, specially when they have to deal
with the temporal concerns of the Society. "Look ye out therefore from
among you seven men of good report." Attempts have been made to
explain why the number was fixed at seven. Some have asserted that it
was so determined because it was a sacred number, others because there
were now seven congregations in Jerusalem, or seven thousand converts.
Perhaps, however, the true reason was a more commonplace one, and that
was that seven is a very convenient practical number. In case of a
difference of opinion a majority can always be secured on one side or
other, and all blocks avoided. The number seven was long maintained in
connection with the order of deacons, in imitation of the apostolic
institution. A council at Neo-Cæsarea, in the year 314, ordained that
the number of seven deacons should never be exceeded in any city,
while in the Church of Rome the same limitation prevailed from the
second century down to the twelfth, so that the Roman Cardinals, who
were the parochial clergy of Rome, numbered among them merely seven
deacons down to that late period. The seven chosen by the primitive
Church were to be men of good report because they were to be public
functionaries, whose decisions were to allay commotions and
murmurings; and therefore they must be men of weight, in whom the
public had confidence. But, further, they must be men "full of the
Spirit and of wisdom." Piety was not the only qualification; they must
be wise, prudent, sound in judgment as well. Piety is no security for
wisdom, just as in turn wisdom is no security for piety; but both must
be combined in apostolic officials. The Apostles thereby teach the
Church of all time what are the qualifications necessary for effective
administrators and officials. Even in charitable distributions and
financial organizations the Church should hold up the high standard
set before her by the Apostles, and seek out men actuated by religious
principle, guided by religious truth, swayed by Divine love, the
outcome of that Spirit whose grace and blessing are necessary for the
due discharge of any office, whether of service, of charity, or of
worship, in the Church of Jesus Christ; but possessed withal of strong
common sense and vigorous intellectual power, for love and zeal
separated from these often fall into mistakes which make religion and
its adherents a laughing-stock to the world and a hindrance to the
cause of truth and holiness. God can indeed make the weak things of
this world to confound the high and mighty, but it would be
presumptuous in us to think that we can do the same, and therefore
must seek out the instruments best suited in every way to do God's
work and accomplish His purposes.



CHAPTER XIV.

_ST. STEPHEN AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY._

     "And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose
     Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip,
     and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas
     a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the Apostles: and
     when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.... Stephen,
     full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among
     the people. But there arose certain of them that were of the
     synagogue called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the
     Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and
     Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to withstand
     the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned
     men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words
     against Moses, and against God."--ACTS vi. 5, 6; 8-11.


The names of the seven chosen on the suggestion of the Apostles raises
very naturally the question, To what office were they appointed? Did
the seven elected on this occasion represent the first beginning of
that office of deacon which is regarded as the third rank in the
Church, bishops being first, and presbyters or priests second. It is
agreed by all parties that the title of deacon is not given to them in
the sixth chapter of the Acts, and yet such an unprejudiced and fair
authority as Bishop Lightfoot, in his Essay on the Christian Ministry,
maintains that the persons selected and ordained at this crisis
constituted the first origin of the diaconate as it is now
known.[120] The Seven are not called, either here or wherever else
they are mentioned in the Acts, by the name of deacons, though the
word διακονεῖν (serve), which cannot be exactly rendered
into English, as the noun deacon has no equivalent verb answering to
it, is applied to the duties assigned to them. But all the best
critics are agreed that the ordination of the Seven was the occasion
of the rise of a new order and a new office in the Church, whose work
dealt more especially with the secular side of the ministerial
function. The great German critic Meyer, commenting on this sixth
chapter, puts it well, though not so clearly as we should like. "From
the first regular overseership of alms, the mode of appointment to
which could not but regulate analogically the practice of the Church,
was gradually developed the diaconate, which subsequently underwent
further elaboration." This statement is somewhat obscure, and
thoroughly after the manner of a German critic; let us develop it a
little, and see what the process was whereby the distributers of alms
to the widows of the earliest Church organization became the officials
of whom St. Laurence of Rome in the third, and St. Athanasius of
Alexandria in the fourth century were such eminent examples.

  [120] Bishop Lightfoot, commenting on Philippians, p. 186, says:
  "I have assumed that the office thus established represents the
  later diaconate; for though this point has been much disputed, I
  do not see how the identity of the two can reasonably be called in
  question. If the word deacon does not occur in the passage, yet
  the corresponding verb and substantive, διακονεῖν and
  διακονία, are repeated more than once. The functions,
  moreover, are substantially those which devolved on the deacons of
  the earliest ages, and which still in theory, though not
  altogether in practice, form the primary duties of the office.
  Again, it seems clear, from the emphasis with which St. Luke
  dwells on the new institution, that he looks on the establishment
  of this office, not as an isolated incident, but as the
  institution of a new order of things in the Church. It is, in
  short, one of those representative facts of which the earlier part
  of his narrative is almost wholly made up."

I. The institutions of the synagogue must necessarily have exercised a
great influence over the minds of the Apostles and of their first
converts. One fact alone vividly illustrates this idea. Christians
soon began to call their places of assembly by the name of churches or
the Lord's houses, but the old habit was at first too strong, and so
the churches or congregations of the earliest Christians were called
synagogues. This is evident even from the text of the Revised Version
of the New Testament, for if we turn to the second chapter of the
Epistle of James we read there, "If there come into your _synagogue_ a
man with a gold ring,"--showing that in St. James's day a Christian
church was called a synagogue. This custom received some few years ago
a remarkable confirmation from the records of travel and discovery.
The Marcionites were a curious Christian sect or heresy which sprang
up in the second century. They were intensely opposed to Judaism, and
yet so strong was this tradition that even they seem to have retained,
down to the fourth century, the name of synagogue as the title of
their churches, for some celebrated French explorers have discovered
in Syria an inscription, still in existence, carved over the door of a
Marcionite church, dated A.D. 318, and that inscription runs thus:
"The Synagogue of the Marcionites."[121]

  [121] See Le Bas and Waddington's _Voyage Archéologique_, vol.
  iii., p. 583, _Inscriptions_, No. 2558; and Dr. Salmon's article
  on Marcion in Smith's _Dict. Christ. Biog._, iii., 819. There is
  one passage in the Epistles which shows that not merely the name
  but the organization of synagogues was adopted by the early
  Church. In 1 Cor. vi. 1 it is written, "Dare any of you, having a
  matter against his neighbour, go to law before the unrighteous,
  and not before the saints?" This verse cannot be rightly
  understood unless we remember that every synagogue had its own
  judicial tribunal, composed of ten men, who decided on Mondays and
  Thursdays every controversy among the Jews, inflicting immediate
  corporal punishment on the condemned. The Romans permitted and
  supported this domestic jurisdiction, just as the Turkish Empire,
  which has inherited so many of the Roman traditions, allows the
  Greek and other Eastern Churches to exercise jurisdiction over
  their own members in all questions touching religion, supporting
  their decisions by force if necessary. St. Paul, in this passage,
  wishes the members of the Christian synagogues to act like those
  of the Jewish, and avoid the scandal of Christians going to law
  with their brethren before pagans.

Now seeing that the force of tradition was so great as to compel even
an anti-Jewish sect to call their meeting-houses by a Jewish name, we
may be sure that the tradition of the institutions, forms, and
arrangements of the synagogue must have been infinitely more potent
with the earliest Christian believers, constraining them to adopt
similar institutions in their own assemblies. Human nature is always
the same, and the example of our own colonists sheds light upon the
course of Church development in Palestine. When the Pilgrim Fathers
went to America, they reproduced the English constitution and the
English laws in that country with so much precision and accuracy that
the expositions of law produced by American lawyers are studied with
great respect in England. The American colonists reproduced the
institutions and laws with which they were familiar, modifying them
merely to suit their own peculiar circumstances; and so has it been
all the world over wherever the Anglo-Saxon race has settled--they
have done exactly the same thing. They have established states and
governments modelled after the type of England, and not of France or
Russia. So was it with the early Christians. Human nature compelled
them to fall back upon their first experience, and to develop under a
Christian shape the institutions of the synagogue under which they had
been trained. And now when we read the Acts we see that here lies the
most natural explanation of the course of history, and specially of
this sixth chapter. In the synagogue, as Dr. John Lightfoot expounds
it in his _Horæ Hebraicæ_ (Matt. iv. 23), the government was in the
hands of the ruler and the council of elders or presbyters, while
under them there were three almoners or deacons, who served in the
same capacity as the Seven in superintending the charitable work of
the congregation. The great work for which the Seven were appointed
was distribution, and we shall see that this was ever maintained, and
is still maintained, as the leading idea of the diaconate, though
other and more directly spiritual work was at once added to their
functions by St. Stephen and St. Philip.[122] Now just as our
colonists brought English institutions and ideas with them wherever
they settled, so was it with the missionaries who went forth from the
Mother Church of Jerusalem. They carried the ideas and institutions
with them which had been there sanctioned by the Apostles, and thus we
find deacons mentioned in conjunction with bishops at Philippi,
deacons joined with bishops in St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy, and the
existence of the institution at Corinth, and its special work as a
charitable organization, implied in the description given of Phœbe
to the Roman Christians in the sixteenth chapter of the Epistle to the
Romans. St. Paul's directions to Timothy in the third chapter of his
first Epistle deal both with deacons and deaconesses, and in each case
lay down qualifications specially suited for distributers of
charitable relief, whose duty called upon them to visit from house to
house, but say nothing about any higher work. They are indeed "to hold
the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience;" they must be sound in
the faith like the Seven themselves; but the special qualifications
demanded by St. Paul are those needed in almoners: "The deacons must
be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of
filthy lucre."

  [122] Bishop Lightfoot, in his well-known Essay on the Christian
  Ministry, from which we have already quoted, does not admit any
  likeness between the office of the diaconate in the Church and any
  similar office in the synagogue. He refuses to recognise the
  Chazzan or sexton of the synagogue as in any sense typical of
  Christian deacons. But he has not noticed the three almoners or
  deacons attached to every synagogue, whom his seventeenth-century
  namesake, Dr. John Lightfoot, in his tract on synagogues (_Horæ
  Hebr._, St. Matt. iv. 23), considers the origin of the Christian
  deacons.

So far as to the testimony of Scripture. When we pass beyond the
bounds of the canonical books, and come to the apostolic fathers, the
evidence is equally clear. They testify to the universality of the
institution, and bear witness to its work of distribution. Clement of
Rome was a contemporary of the Apostles. He wrote an Epistle to the
Corinthians, which is the earliest witness to the existence of St.
Paul's Epistles to the same Church. In Clement's epistle we find
express mention of deacons, of their apostolic appointment, and of the
universal diffusion of the office. In the forty-third chapter of his
epistle Clement writes to the Corinthians concerning the
Apostles:--"Thus preaching through countries and cities they appointed
bishops and deacons for those who should afterwards believe," clearly
implying that deacons then existed at Rome, though we have no express
notice of them in the epistle written by St. Paul to the Roman
Church.

There is a rule, however, very needful for historical investigations.
Silence is no conclusive argument against an alleged fact, unless
there be silence where, if the alleged fact had existed, it must have
been mentioned. Josephus, for instance, is silent about Christ and
Christianity. Yet he wrote when its existence was a matter of common
notoriety. But there was no necessity for him to notice it. It was an
awkward fact too, and so he is silent. St. Paul does not mention
deacons as existing at Rome, though he does mention them at Philippi.
But Clement's words expressly assert that universally, in all cities
and countries, this order was established wherever the Apostles
taught; and so we find it even from pagan records. Pliny's letter to
Trajan, written about A.D. 110, some fifteen or twenty years later
than Clement, testifies that the order of deacons existed in far
distant Bithynia, among the Christians of the Dispersion to whom St.
Peter directed his Epistle. Pliny's words are, "I therefore thought it
the more necessary, in order to ascertain what truth there was in this
account, to examine two slave-girls who were called deaconesses
(_ministræ_), and even to use torture." (See the article Trajanus in
the _Dict. Christ. Biog._, iv., 1040.) It is exactly the same with St.
Ignatius in the second chapter of his Epistle to the Trallians, which
dates about the same period. The spiritual side of the office had now
come more prominently into notice, as the occasion of their first
appointment had fallen into disuse; but still Ignatius recognises the
origin of the diaconate when he writes that "the deacons are not
deacons of meats and drinks, but servants of the Church of God"
(Lightfoot, _Apost. Fathers_, vol. ii., sec. i., p. 156). While again
Polycarp, in his Epistle to the Philippians, ch. v., recognises the
same qualities as necessary to deacons which St. Paul requires and
enumerates in his Epistle to Timothy. Justin Martyr, a little later,
twenty years or so, tells us that the deacons distributed the elements
consecrated in the Holy Communion to the believers that were absent
(Justin, _First Apol._, ch. lxvii.). This is most important testimony,
connecting the order of deacons as then flourishing at Rome and their
work with the Seven constituted by the Apostle. The daily distribution
of the Apostle's time was closely connected with the celebration of
the Eucharist, which indeed in its meal or food, common to all the
faithful, and its charitable collections and oblations, of which
Justin Martyr speaks, retained still some trace of the daily
distribution which prevailed in the early Church, and occasioned the
choice of the Seven. The deacons in Justin Martyr's day distributed
the spiritual food to the faithful, just as in earlier times they
distributed all the sustenance which the faithful required, whether in
their spiritual or their temporal aspect. It is evident, from this
recital of the places where the deacons are incidentally referred to,
that their origin was never forgotten, and that distribution of
charitable relief and help was always retained as the essence, the
central idea and notion, of the office of deacon, though at the same
time other and larger functions were by degrees entrusted to them, as
the Church grew and increased, and ecclesiastical life and wants
became more involved and complex.[123] History bears out this view.
Irenæus was the disciple of Polycarp, and must have known many
apostolic men, men who had companied with the Apostles and knew the
whole detail of primitive Church government; and Irenæus, speaking of
Nicolas the proselyte of Antioch, describes him as "one of the seven
who were first ordained to the diaconate by the Apostles." Now Irenæus
is one of our great witnesses for the authenticity of the Four
Gospels; surely then he must be an equally good witness to the origin
of the order of deacons and the existence of the Acts of the Apostles
which is implied in this reference. It is scarcely necessary to go
farther in Church history, but the lower one goes the more clearly we
shall see that the original notion of the diaconate is never
forgotten. In the third century we find that there were still only
seven deacons in Rome, though there were forty-six presbyters, a
number which was retained down to the twelfth century in the seven
cardinal deacons of that Church.[124] The touching story of the
martyrdom of St. Laurence, Archdeacon of Rome in the middle of the
third century, shows that he was roasted over a slow fire in order to
extort the vast sums he was supposed to have in charge for the purpose
of relieving the sick and the poor connected with the Roman Church;
proving that the original conception of the office as an executive and
charitable organization was then vigorously retained; just as it is
still set forth in the ordinal of the Church of England, where, after
reciting how the deacon's office is to help the priest in several
subordinate positions, it goes on to say, "Furthermore, it is his
office, where provision is so made, to search for the sick, poor, and
impotent people of the parish, to intimate their estates, names, and
places where they dwell, unto the curate, that by his exhortation they
may be relieved by the alms of the parishioners."

  [123] The community of goods may have evolved itself naturally
  enough out of the celebration of the Eucharist. Just let us
  realize what must have happened, say, on the day of Pentecost and
  the few succeeding days. The Apostles seem to have been living a
  common life during the ten days of expectation. They dwelt in the
  house where the upper room was. The day after Pentecost there must
  have been a great deal to do, in prayer, baptism, and celebration
  of the Eucharist. Their converts would join with them in the
  eucharistic feast, from day to day celebrated after the primitive
  fashion at the end of a common meal. Some enthusiast may then have
  suggested that, as the Master might at any moment appear, they
  should always live and eat in common. After a time, as the numbers
  increased, this arrangement had to be modified, and a daily
  distribution was substituted for daily common meals. The community
  of goods may thus have been developed out of the spiritual feast
  of the Eucharist, which they took in common. When the daily
  distribution terminated by the exhaustion of the funds, the Agape
  or lovefeast took its place, remaining as a fragment or relic of
  the earlier custom. Pliny in his letter mentions the Agape, and
  rightly distinguishes it from the worship of the Christians which
  was celebrated in the early morning. "After these ceremonies they
  used to disperse, and assemble again to share a common meal of
  innocent food."

  [124] In the twelfth century the number of cardinal deacons was
  fixed at fourteen, at which it has ever since remained.

The only objection of any value which has been raised to this line of
argument is based on a mere assumption. It has been said that the
Seven were appointed for a special emergency, and to serve a temporary
purpose connected with the community of goods which existed in the
early Church of Jerusalem, and therefore when this arrangement ceased
the office itself ceased also. But this argument is based on the
assumption that the Christian idea of a community of goods wholly
passed away, so that services of an order like the Seven were no
longer required. This is a pure assumption. The community of goods as
practised at Jerusalem was found by experience to be a mistake. The
shape of the idea was changed, but the idea itself survived. The old
form of community of goods passed away. The Christians retained their
rights of private property, but were taught to regard this private
property as in a sense common, and liable for all the wants and needs
of their poor and suffering brethren. A charitable order, or at least
an order charged with the care of the poor and their relief, must
inevitably have sprung up among the Jewish Christians. The relief of
the poor was a necessary part of the duty of a synagogue. The Jewish
domestic law enforced a poor-rate, and collected it through the
organization of each synagogue, by means of three deacons attached to
each. Selden, in his great work on _The Laws of the Hebrews_, bk. ii.,
chap. vi. (_Works_, i., 632), tells us that if "any Jew did not pay
his fair contribution he was punished with stripes." As soon as the
Jewish Christians began to organize themselves, the idea of almoners,
with their daily and weekly distributions, after the synagogue model,
was necessarily developed.[125] We have an unexceptionable piece of
evidence upon this point. The satirist Lucian lived at the close of
the second century. He was a bitter scoffer, who jeered at every form
of religion, and at Christianity above all. He wrote an account of a
certain Syrian named Peregrinus Proteus, who was an impostor trading
upon the religious principles of various philosophical sects, and
specially on those of the Christians. Lucian tells us that the
Christians were the easiest persons to be deceived, because of their
opinions. Lucian's words are interesting as showing what a
second-century pagan, a clever literary man too, thought of
Christianity, viewing it from the outside. For this reason we shall
quote a little more than the words which immediately bear upon the
subject. "It is incredible with what alacrity these people (the
Christians) support and defend the public cause. They spare nothing,
in fact, to promote it. These poor men have persuaded themselves that
they shall be immortal, and live for ever. They despise death
therefore, and offer up their lives a voluntary sacrifice, being
taught by their lawgiver that they are all brethren, and that,
quitting our Grecian gods, they must worship their own sophist, who
was crucified, and live in obedience to His laws. In compliance with
them, they look with contempt on all worldly treasures, and hold
everything in common--a maxim which they have adopted without any
reason or foundation. If any cunning impostor, therefore, who knows
how to manage matters, come amongst them, he soon grows rich by
imposing on the credulity of those weak and foolish men." We can see
here that the great outer world of paganism considered a community of
goods as still prevailing among the Christians. Their boundless
liberality, their intense devotion to the cause of their suffering
brethren, proved this, and therefore, because a practical community of
goods existed amongst them, an order of men was required to
superintend the distribution of their liberality in the Second Century
just as truly as the work of the Seven was needed in the Church of
Jerusalem.

  [125] See Kitto's _Biblical Cyclopædia_, articles on Synagogue and
  Deacon, or Schaff's edition of Herzog's _Cyclopædia_, article on
  Synagogues.

II. We thus can see that the office of deacon, as now constituted, had
its origin in apostolic times, and is built upon a scriptural
foundation; but here we are bound to point out a great difference
between the ancient and the modern office. An office or organization
may spring up in one age, and after existing for several centuries may
develop into a shape utterly unlike its original. Yet it may be very
hard to point out any special time when a vital change was made. All
we can say is that the first occupants of the office would never
recognise their modern successors. Take the papacy as an instance.
There has been at Rome a regular historical succession of bishops
since the first century. The succession is known and undoubted. Yet
could one of the bishops of Rome of the first three centuries,--above
all, could a first-century bishop of Rome like St. Clement, by any
possibility recognise himself or his office in the present Pope Leo
XIII.? Yet one would find it difficult to fix the exact moment when
any vital change was made, or any unwonted claims put forward on
behalf of the Roman See.[126] So was it in the case of deacons and
their office. Their modern successors may trace themselves back to the
seven elected in the primitive Church at Jerusalem, and yet the office
is now a very different one in practice from what it was then. Perhaps
the greatest difference, and the only one we can notice, was this. The
diaconate is now merely the primary and lowest rank of the Christian
ministry; a kind of apprenticeship, in fact, wherein the youthful
minister serves for a year, and is then promoted as a matter of
course; whereas in Jerusalem or Rome of old it was a lifelong office,
in the exercise of which maturity of judgment, of piety, and of
character were required for the due discharge of its manifold duties.
It is now a temporary office, it was of old a permanent one. And the
apostolical custom was much the best. It avoided many difficulties
and solved many a problem. At present the office of the diaconate is
practically in abeyance, and yet the functions which the ancient
deacons discharged are not in abeyance, but are placed upon the
shoulders of the other orders in the Church, already overwhelmed with
manifold responsibilities, and neglecting, while serving tables, the
higher aspects of their work. The Christian ministry in its purely
spiritual, and specially in its prophetical or preaching aspect, is
sorely suffering because an apostolic office is practically set aside.
In the ancient Church it was never so. The deacons were chosen to a
life-office. It was then but very seldom that a man chosen to the
diaconate abandoned it for a higher function. It did not indeed demand
the wholesale devotion of time and attention which the higher offices
of the ministry did. Men even till a late period, both in East and
West, combined secular pursuits with it. Thus let us take one
celebrated instance. The ancient Church of England and of Ireland
alike was Celtic in origin and constitution. It was intensely
conservative, therefore, of ancient customs and usages derived from
the times of persecution, when Christianity was first taught among the
Gauls and Celts of the extreme West. The well-known story of the
introduction of Christianity into England under St. Augustine and the
opposition he met with prove this. As it was in other matters, so was
it with the ancient Celtic deacons; the old customs remained; they
held office for life, and joined with it at the same time other and
ordinary occupations. St. Patrick, for instance, the apostle of
Ireland, tells us that his father Calpurnius was a deacon, and yet he
was a farmer and a decurion, or alderman, as we should say, of a Roman
town near Dumbarton on the river Clyde. This happened about the year
400 of the Christian era.[127]

  [126] The College of Cardinals offers another illustration of
  this. The Cardinals were originally the parochial clergy of Rome.
  As Rome's ecclesiastical ambition increased, so did that of her
  parochial clergy, who came to imagine that, standing so close to
  the Pope, who was the door, they were themselves the hinges
  (cardines) on whom the door turned. I wonder if one of the
  original presbyters of Rome would be able to recognise his office
  in that of a modern cardinal claiming princely rank and
  precedence!

  [127] I have expanded this subject in _Ireland and the Celtic
  Church_, ch. ii., viii., ix.; and in _Ireland and the Anglo-Norman
  Church_, pp. 352-70.

Here indeed, as in so many other cases, the Church of Christ needs to
go back to scriptural example and to apostolic rule. We require for
the work of the Church deacons like the primitive men who devoted
their whole lives to this one object; made it the subject of their
thoughts, their cares, their studies, how they might instruct the
ignorant, relieve the poor and widows, comfort the prisoners, sustain
the martyrs in their last supreme hour; and who thus using well the
office of a deacon found in it a sufficient scope for their efforts
and a sufficient reward for their exertions, because they thereby
purchased for themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith
of Jesus Christ. The Church now requires the help of living agencies
in vast numbers, and they are not forthcoming. Let her avail herself
of apostolic resources, and fall back upon primitive precedents. The
real diaconate should be revived. Godly and spiritual men should be
called upon to do their duty. Deacons should be ordained without being
called to give up their ordinary employments. Work which now unduly
accumulates upon overburdened shoulders should be assigned to others
suitably to their talents, and thus a twofold blessing would be
secured. Christian life would flourish more abundantly, and many a
rent and schism, the simple result of energies repressed and
unemployed, would be destroyed in their very commencement.

We have devoted much of our space to this subject, because it is one
of great interest, as touching the origin and authority of the
Christian ministry, and also because it has been a subject much
debated; but we must hurry on to other points connected with the first
appointment to the diaconate. The people selected the person to be
ordained to this work. It is probable that they made their choice out
of the different classes composing the Christian community. The mode
of election of the Seven, and the qualifications laid down by the
Apostles, were derived from the synagogue. Thus we read in Kitto's
_Cyclopædia_, art. "Synagogue:"--"The greatest care was taken by the
rulers of the synagogue and of the congregation that those elected
almoners should be men of modesty, wisdom, justice, and have the
confidence of the people. They had to be elected by the harmonious
voice of the people." Seven deacons altogether were chosen. Three were
probably Hebrew Christians, three Grecian Christians or Hellenists,
and one a representative of the proselytes, Nicolas of Antioch. This
would have been but natural. The Apostles wanted to get rid of
murmurs, jealousies, and divisions in the Church, and in no way could
this have been more effectually done than by the principle of
representation. Had the Seven been all selected from one class alone,
divisions and jealousies would have prevailed as of old. The Apostles
themselves had proved this. They were all Hebrew Christians. Their
position and authority might have secured them from blame. Yet
murmurings had arisen against them as distributers, and so they
devised another plan, which, to have been successful, as it doubtless
was, must have proceeded on a different principle. Then when the seven
wise and prudent men were chosen from the various classes, the
Apostles asserted their supreme position: "When the Apostles had
prayed, they laid their hands on them." And as the result peace
descended like a shower upon the Church, and spiritual prosperity
followed upon internal peace and union.

III. "They laid their hands on them." This statement sets forth the
external expression and the visible channel of the ordination to their
office which the Apostles conferred. This action of the imposition of
hands was of frequent use among the ancient Jews. The Apostles, as
well acquainted with Old Testament history, must have remembered that
it was employed in the case of designation of Joshua as the leader of
Israel in the place of Moses (Num. xxvii. 18-23; compare Deut. xxxiv.
9), that it was used even in the synagogue in the appointment of
Jewish rabbis, and had been sanctioned by the practice of Jesus
Christ. The Apostles naturally, therefore, used this symbol upon the
solemn appointment of the first deacons, and the same ceremonial was
repeated upon similar occasions. Paul and Barnabas were set apart at
Antioch for their missionary work by the imposition of hands. St. Paul
uses the strongest language about the ceremony. He does not hesitate
to attribute to it a certain sacramental force and efficacy, bidding
Timothy "stir up the gift of God which is in thee through the laying
on of my hands" (2 Tim. i. 6); while again when we come down a few
years later we find the "laying on of hands" reckoned as one of the
fundamental elements of religion, in the sixth chapter of the Epistle
to the Hebrews. But it was not merely in the solemn appointment of
officials in the Church that this ceremony found place. It was
employed by the Apostles as the rite which filled up and perfected the
baptism which had been administered by others. Philip baptized the
Samaritans. Peter and John laid their hands on them and they received
the Holy Ghost. The ceremony of imposition of hands was so essential
and distinguishing a point that Simon Magus selects it as the one he
desires above all others effectually to purchase, so that the outward
symbol might be followed by the inward grace. "Give me also this
power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands, he may receive the Holy
Ghost," was the prayer of the arch-heretic to St. Peter; while again
in the nineteenth chapter we find St. Paul using the same visible
ceremony in the case of St. John's disciples, who were first baptized
with Christian baptism, and then endued by St. Paul with the gift of
the Spirit. Imposition of hands in the case of ordination is a natural
symbol, indicative of the transmission of function and authority. It
fitly indicates and notifies to the whole Church the persons who have
been ordained, and therefore has ever been regarded as a necessary
part of ordination. St. Jerome, who was a very keen critic as well as
a close student of the Divine oracles, fixes upon this public and
solemn designation as a sufficient explanation and justification of
the imposition of hands in ordinations, lest any one should be
ordained without his knowledge by a silent and solitary prayer. Hence
every branch of the Church of Christ has rigorously insisted upon
imposition of hands after the apostolic example, in the case of
ordinations to official positions, with one or two apparent and very
doubtful exceptions, which merely prove the binding character of the
rule.

IV. The list of names again is full of profit and of warning. How
completely different from human histories, for instance, is this
Divine record of the first doings of the Church! How thoroughly shaped
after the Divine model is this catalogue of the earliest officials
chosen by the Apostles! Men have speculated whether they were Hebrews
or Grecians, whether they belonged to the seventy sent forth by Christ
or to the hundred and twenty who first gathered into the upper room at
Jerusalem. All such speculations are curious and interesting, but they
have nothing to do with man's salvation; therefore they are sternly
put on one side and out of sight. How we should long to know the
subsequent history of these men, and to trace their careers! yet Holy
Writ tells us but very little about them, nothing certain, in fact,
save what we learn about St. Stephen and St. Philip. God bestowed Holy
Scripture upon men, not to satisfy or minister to their curiosity, but
to nourish their souls and edify their spirits. And surely no lesson
is more needed than the one implied in the silences of this passage;
there is in truth none more necessary for our publicity-seeking and
popularity-hunting age than this, that God's holiest servants have
laboured in obscurity, have done their best work in secret, and have
looked to God alone and to His judgment for their reward. I have said
indeed that concerning the list of names recorded as those of the
first deacons, we know nothing but of St. Stephen and St. Philip,
whose careers will again come under our notice in later chapters.
There is, however, a current tradition that Nicolas, the proselyte of
Antioch, did distinguish himself, but in an unhappy direction. It is
asserted by Irenæus in his work _Against Heresies_ (Book I., ch. 26),
that Nicolas was the founder of the sect of Nicolaitans denounced in
the Revelation of St. John (ch. ii., 6, 16). Critics are, however,
much divided upon this point. Some clear Nicolas of this charge, while
others uphold it. It is indeed impossible to determine this matter.
But supposing that Nicolas of Antioch was the author of this heresy,
which was of an antinomian character, like so many of the earliest
heresies that distracted the primitive Church, this circumstance would
teach us an instructive lesson. Just as there was a Judas Iscariot
among the Apostles, and a Demas among St. Paul's most intimate
disciples, so was there a Nicolas among the first deacons. No place is
so holy, no office so sacred, no privileges so great, but that the
tempter can make his way there. He can lurk unseen and unsuspected
amid the pillars of the temple, and he can find us out, as he did the
Son of God Himself, amid the wilds of the desert. Official position
and exalted privileges confer no immunity from temptation. Nay,
rather, they bring with them additional temptations over and above
those which assail the ordinary Christian, and should therefore lead
everyone called to any similar work to diligent watchfulness, to
earnest prayer, lest while teaching others they themselves fall into
condemnation. There is, however, another lesson which a different
version of the history of Nicolas would teach. Clement of Alexandria,
in his celebrated work called the _Stromata_ (Book II., chap. 20, and
Book III., chap. 4), tells us that Nicolas was a most strictly
virtuous man. He was extreme even in his asceticism, and, like many
ascetics, used language that might be easily abused to the purposes of
wickedness. He was wont to say that the "flesh must be abused,"
meaning that it must be chastised and restrained. One-sided and
extreme teaching is easily perverted by the wicked nature of man, and
men of impure lives, listening to the language of Nicolas, interpreted
his words as an excuse for abusing the flesh by plunging into the
depths of immorality and crime. Men placed in official positions and
called to the exercise of the clerical office should weigh their
words. Extreme statements are bad unless duly and strictly guarded.
The intention of the speaker may be good, and a man's own life
thoroughly consistent, but unbalanced teaching will fall upon ground
where the life and intention of the teacher will have no power or
influence, and bring forth evil fruit, as in the case of the
Nicolaitans.

V. The central figure of this whole section of our narrative is St.
Stephen. He is introduced into the narrative with the same startling
suddenness which we may note in the case of Barnabas and of Elijah. He
runs a rapid course, flings all, Apostles and every one else, into the
shade for a time, and then disappears, exemplifying those fruitful
sayings of inspiration, so true in our every-day experience of God's
dealings, "The first shall be last, and the last first." "Paul may
plant, Apollos may water, but it is God alone that giveth the
increase." Stephen, full of grace and power, did great signs and
wonders among the people. These two words, grace and power, are
closely connected. Their union in this passage is significant. It was
not the intellect, or the eloquence, or the activity of St. Stephen
which made him powerful among the people and crowned his labours with
such success. It was his abundant grace. Eloquence and learning,
active days and laborious nights, are good and necessary things. God
uses them and demands them from His people. He chooses to use human
agencies, and therefore demands that the human agents shall give Him
of their best, and not offer to Him the blind and lame of their flock.
But these things will be utterly useless and ineffective apart from
Christ and the power of His grace. The Church of Christ is a
supernatural society, and the work of Christ is a supernatural work,
and in that work the grace of Christ is absolutely necessary to make
any human gift or exertion effectual in carrying out His purposes of
love and mercy. This is an age of organizations and committees and
boards; and some good men are so wrapped up in them that they have no
time to think of anything else. To this busy age these words,
"Stephen, full of grace and power," convey a useful warning, teaching
that the best organizations and schemes will be useless to produce
Stephen's power unless Stephen's grace be found there as well. This
passage is a prophecy and picture of the future in another aspect. The
fulness of grace in Stephen wrought powerfully amongst the people. It
was the savour of life unto life in some. But in others it was a
savour of death unto death, and provoked them to evil deeds, for they
suborned men "which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words
against Moses, and against God."

We get in these words, in this false accusation, even through its
falsehood, a glimpse into the character of St. Stephen's preaching. A
false accusation need not be necessarily altogether false. Perhaps
rather we should say that, in order to be effective for mischief, a
twisted, distorted charge, with some basis of truth, some semblance of
justification about it, is the best for the accuser's purpose, and the
most difficult for the defendant to answer. St. Stephen was ripening
for heaven more rapidly than the Apostles themselves. He was learning
more rapidly than St. Peter himself the true spiritual meaning of the
Christian scheme. He had taught, in no ambiguous language, the
universal character of the Gospel and the catholic mission of the
Church. He had expanded and applied the magnificent declarations of
the Master Himself, "The hour cometh, when neither in this mountain,
nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father;" "The hour cometh, and
now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit
and in truth." And then the narrow-minded Grecian Jews, anxious to
vindicate their orthodoxy, which was doubted by their Hebrew brethren,
distorted Stephen's wider and grander conceptions into a charge of
blasphemy against the holy man. What a picture of the future of
Christ's best and truest witnesses, especially when insisting on some
nobler and wider or forgotten aspect of truth. Their teaching has been
ever suspected, distorted, accused as blasphemous; and so it must ever
be. And yet God's servants, when they find themselves thus
misrepresented, can realize to themselves that they are but following
the course which the saints of every age have run, that they are being
made like unto the image of Stephen the first martyr, and of Jesus
Christ Himself, the King of Saints, who suffered under a similar
accusation. The mere popularity-hunter will, of course, carefully
eschew such charges and suspicions. His object is human praise and
reward, and he shapes his teaching so as to carefully avoid giving
offence. But then the mere popularity-hunter seeks his reward here
below, and very often gets it. Stephen, however, and every true
teacher looks not for reward in this world. Stephen taught truth as
God revealed it to his soul. He suffered the consequence, and then
received his crown from that Almighty Judge before whose awful
tribunal he ever consciously stood. Misrepresentation must ever be
expected by God's true servants. It must be discounted, borne with
patiently, taken as a trial of faith and patience, and then, in God's
own time, it will turn out to our greater blessing. One consideration
alone ought to prove sufficient to console us under such
circumstances. If our teaching was not proving injurious to his cause,
the Evil One would not trouble himself about it. Let us only take good
heed lest our own self-love and vanity should lead us to annoy
ourselves too much about the slander or the evil report, remembering
that misrepresentation and slander is ever the portion of God's
servants. Jesus Christ and Stephen were thus treated. St. Paul's
teaching was accused of tending to licentiousness; the earliest
Christians were accused of vilest practices; St. Athanasius in his
struggles for truth was accused of rebellion and murder; the Reformers
were accused of lawlessness; John Wesley of Romanism and disloyalty;
William Wilberforce of being an enemy to British trade; John Howard of
being an encourager of crime and immorality. Let us be content then if
our lot be with the saints, and our portion be that of the servants of
the Most High.

Again, we learn from this place how religious zeal can overthrow
religion and work out the purposes of evil. Religious zeal, mere party
spirit taking the place of real religion, led the Hellenists to suborn
men and falsely accuse St. Stephen. They made an idol of the system of
Judaism, and forgot its spirit. They worshipped their idol so much
that they were ready to break the commandments of God for its sake.
The dangers of party spirit in matters of religion, and the evil deeds
which have been done in apparent zeal for God and real zeal for the
devil, these are still the lessons, true for the future ages of the
Church, which we read in this passage. And how true to life has even
our own age found this prophetic picture. Men cannot indeed now
suborn men and bring fatal charges against them in matters of
religion, and yet they can fall into exactly the same crime. Party
religion and party zeal lead men into precisely the same courses as
they did in the days of St. Stephen. Partisanship causes them to
violate all the laws of honour, of honesty, of Christian charity,
imagining that they are thereby advancing the cause of Christ,
forgetting that they are acting on the rule which the Scriptures
repudiate,--they are doing evil that good may come,--and striving to
further Christ's kingdom by a violation of His fundamental precepts.
Oh for more of the spirit of true charity, which will lead men to
support their own views in a spirit of Christian love! Oh for more of
that true grasp of Christianity which will teach that a breach of
Christian charity is far worse than any amount of speculative error!
The error as we think it may be in reality God's own truth; but the
violation of God's law implied in such conduct as Stephen's
adversaries displayed, and as party zeal now often prompts, can never
be otherwise than contrary to the mind and law of Jesus Christ.



CHAPTER XV.

_ST. STEPHEN'S DEFENCE AND THE DOCTRINE OF INSPIRATION._

     "[The Grecian Jews] stirred up the people, and the elders, and
     the scribes, and came upon him, and seized him, and brought him
     into the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This
     man ceaseth not to speak words against this holy place, and the
     law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall
     destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses
     delivered unto us."--ACTS vi. 12-14.

     "And the high priest said, Are these things so? And he said,
     Brethren and fathers, hearken."--ACTS vii. 1, 2.


St. Stephen and St. Philip are the two prominent names among the
primitive deacons. Stephen, however, much surpasses Philip. Devout
expositors of Scripture have recognised in his name a prophecy of his
greatness. Stephen is Stephanos, a garland or crown, in the Greek
language. Garlands or crowns were given by the ancient Greeks to those
who rendered good services to their cities, or brought fame to them by
winning triumphs in the great national games. And Stephen had his name
divinely chosen for him by that Divine Providence which ordereth all
things, because he was to win in the fulness of time an imperishable
garland, and to gain a crown of righteousness, and to render highest
services to the Church of God by his teaching and by his testimony
even unto death. St. Stephen had a Greek name, and must have belonged
to the Hellenistic division of the Jewish nation. He evidently
directed his special energies to their conversion, for while the
previous persecutions had been raised by the Sadducees, as the persons
whose prejudices had been assailed, the attack on Stephen was made by
the Grecian Jews of the synagogues belonging to the Libertines or
freedmen, in union with those from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and
Asia. The Libertines had been slaves, Jewish captives, taken in the
various wars waged by the Romans. They had been dispersed among the
Romans at Rome and elsewhere. There in their captivity they had
learned the Greek language and become acquainted with Greek culture;
and now, when they had recovered their freedom through that suppleness
and power of adaptation which the Jewish race has ever displayed, they
returned to Jerusalem in such numbers that a synagogue of the
Libertines was formed. Their captivity and servitude had, however,
only intensified their religious feelings, and made them more jealous
of any attempts to extend to the Gentiles who had held them captives
the spiritual possessions they alone enjoyed. There is, indeed, an
extremely interesting parallel to the case of the Libertines in early
English history, as told by Bede. The Saxons came to England in the
fifth century and conquered the Christian Celts, whom they drove into
Wales. The Celts, however, avenged themselves upon their conquerors,
for they refused to impart to the pagan Saxons the glad tidings of
salvation which the Celts possessed.[128] But the Libertines were not
the only assailants of St. Stephen. With them were joined members of
synagogues connected with various other important Jewish centres.
Jerusalem was then somewhat like Rome at the present time. It was the
one city whither a race scattered all over the world and speaking
every language tended. Each language was represented by a synagogue,
just as there are English Colleges and Irish Colleges and Spanish
Colleges at Rome, where Roman Catholics of those nationalities find
themselves specially at home. Among these Hellenistic antagonists of
St. Stephen we have mention made of the men of Cilicia. Here,
doubtless, was found a certain Saul of Tarsus, enthusiastic in defence
of the ancient faith, and urgent with all his might to bring to trial
the apostate who had dared to speak words which he considered
derogatory of the city and temple of the great king.

  [128] See Bede's _Ecclesiastical History_, Book ii., chap. 2.

Saul, indeed, may have been the great agent in Stephen's arrest. It is
a nature and an intellect like his that can discern the logical
results of teaching like St. Stephen's, and then found an accusation
upon the deductions he makes rather than upon the actual words spoken.
Saul may have placed the Church under another obligation on this
occasion. To him may be due the report of the speech made by Stephen
before the Sanhedrin. Indeed, it is to St. Paul in his unconverted
state we feel inclined to attribute the knowledge which St. Luke
possessed of the earlier proceedings of the council in the matter of
the Christians.[129] After St. Paul's conversion we get no such
details concerning the deliberations of the Sanhedrin as we do in the
earlier chapters of the Acts, simply because Saul of Tarsus, the
rising champion and hope of the Pharisees, was present at the earlier
meetings and had access to their inmost secrets, while at the later
meetings he never appeared save to stand his trial as an accused
person. The question, How was Stephen's speech preserved? has been
asked by some critics who wished to decry the historic truth of this
narrative, and to represent the whole thing as a fancy sketch or
romance, worked up on historic lines indeed, but still only a romance,
written many years after the events had happened. Critics who ask this
forget what modern research has shown in another department. The
_Acts_ of the martyrs are sometimes very large documents, containing
reports of charges, examinations, and speeches of considerable length.
These have often been considered mere fancy history, the work of
mediæval monks wishing to celebrate the glory of these early witnesses
for truth, and sceptical writers have often put them aside without
bestowing even a passing notice upon them.

  [129] I have already said something on p. 181 of the meetings of
  the council, but not perhaps quite enough to explain St. Paul's
  relation to St. Luke as far as the Acts of the Apostles is
  concerned. The Sanhedrin sat in a semicircle. In the centre of the
  arc the president was placed; at either extremity there sat a
  scribe, while the disciples or pupils of the Sanhedrists were
  arranged in three rows appropriate to their respective
  attainments. In Selden's _Works_, i., 1323, in his treatise on the
  _Assemblies of the Hebrews_, the reader can see a plan of the
  Sanhedrin when sitting. St. Paul, as a favourite pupil of the
  President Gamaliel, would have the best place among the disciples,
  if he were not actually one of the council. Selden says that the
  disciples were arrayed in this prominent position not only that
  they might be instructed in law, but also might be available for
  serving on the council if any member died suddenly or was taken
  ill. St. Paul probably made numerous notes of the speeches
  delivered before him, and could supply St. Luke with notices
  written and verbal. The article in Schaff's _Theological
  Cyclopædia_ on Sanhedrin should be consulted for more information
  and references on this point, as well as the other references on
  p. 181.

Modern investigation has taken these documents, critically
investigated them, compared them with the Roman criminal law, and has
come to the conclusion that they are genuine, affording some of the
most interesting and important examples of ancient methods of legal
procedure anywhere to be found. How did the Christians get these
records? it may be asked. Various hints, given here and there, enable
us to see. Bribery of the officials was sometimes used. The notaries,
shorthand writers, and clerks attendant upon a Roman court were
numerous, and were always accessible to the gifts of the richer
Christians when they wished to obtain a correct narrative of a
martyr's last trial. Secret Christians among the officials also
effected something, and there were numerous other methods by which the
Roman judicial records became the property of the Church, to be in
time transmitted to the present age.[130] Now just the same may have
been the case with the trials of the primitive Christians, and
specially of St. Stephen. But we know that St. Paul was there. Memory
among the Jews was sharpened to an extraordinary degree. We have now
no idea to what an extent the human memory was then developed. The
immense volumes which are filled with the Jewish commentaries on
Scripture were in those times transmitted from generation to
generation simply by means of this power. It was considered, indeed, a
great innovation when those commentaries were committed to writing
instead of being intrusted to tradition. It is no wonder then that St.
Paul could afford his disciple, St. Luke, a report of what Stephen
said on this occasion, even if he had not preserved any notes
whatsoever of the process of the trial. Let us, however, turn to the
consideration of St. Stephen's speech, omitting any further notice of
objections based on our own ignorance of the practices and methods of
distant ages.

  [130] M. Le Blant is one of the greatest living authorities on
  ancient art and history. He has been head of the French
  Archæological School at Rome. He has published an extremely able
  work on the subject of the _Acts_ of the martyrs, in which he
  treats them in a strictly scientific manner. He confronts them
  with the processes of Roman law, the facts of chronology and
  history, and triumphantly shows the vast amount of truth contained
  in these documents. He also explains how the Christians got
  possession of the Roman magistrates' notes, which they then
  inserted in the local Church records, and dispersed amid other
  Churches, after the manner of the Epistle of the Lyonnese Church,
  to which reference has been already made. Le Blant, on p. 9 of his
  memoir, quotes one ancient document, which incidentally mentions
  that "inasmuch as it was necessary to collect all the records of
  the martyrs' confessions, the Christians paid one of the javelin
  men two hundred denarii for the privilege of transcribing them."
  We are apt to forget that both Jews and Romans conducted all their
  persecutions under strict judicial forms. We sometimes think that
  the persecutions were mere outbursts of popular rage, managed
  after the manner of a street riot. The examples of the magistrates
  at Corinth and Ephesus in the Acts of the Apostles ought to dispel
  this illusion. The Romans had a perfect horror of civil
  commotions, and sternly repressed them. If a sect was to be put
  down, it should be put down in a legal manner, with questions and
  answers and due records of the proceedings.

I. The defence of St. Stephen was a speech delivered by a Jew, and
addressed to a Jewish audience. This is our first remark, and it is an
important one. We are apt to judge the Scriptures, their speeches,
arguments, and discussions, by a Western standard, forgetting that
Orientals argued then and argue still not according to the rules of
logic taught by Aristotle, nor by the methods of eloquence derived
from the traditions of Cicero and Quinctilian, but by methods and
rules essentially different. What would satisfy Westerns would have
seemed to them utterly worthless, just as an argument which now seems
pointless and weak appeared to them absolutely conclusive. Parallels,
analogies, parables, mystical interpretations were then favourite
methods of argument, and if we wish to understand writers like the
authors of the scriptural books we must strive to place ourselves at
their point of view, or else we shall miss their true interpretation.
Let us apply this idea to St. Stephen's defence, which has been often
depreciated because treated as if it were an oration addressed to a
Western court or audience. Erasmus, for instance, was an exceedingly
learned man, who lived at the period of the Reformation. He was well
skilled in Latin and Greek learning, but knew nothing of Jewish ideas.
He hesitates not, therefore, to say in his Annotations on this passage
that there are many things in Stephen's speech which have no bearing
on the question at issue; while Michaelis, another German writer of
great repute in the earlier days of this century, remarks that there
are many things in this oration of which we cannot perceive the
tendency, as regards the accusation brought against the martyr. Let us
examine and see if the case be not otherwise, remembering that promise
of the Master, given not to supersede human exertion or to indulge
human laziness, but given to support and sustain and safeguard His
persecuted servants under circumstances like those amid which Stephen
found himself. "But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or
what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what ye
shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your
Father that speaketh in you." What, then, was the charge brought
against Stephen? He was accused of "speaking blasphemous words against
Moses, and against God," or, to put it in the formal language used by
the witnesses, "We have heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth shall
destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered
unto us." Now Stephen, if merely a man of common sense, must have
intended to reply to this indictment. Some critics, as we have just
noted, think that he failed effectually to do so. We are indeed often
in great danger of paying too much attention and lending too great
weight to objections of this kind urged by persons who assume to
themselves the office of critics; and to counteract this tendency
perhaps it is as well to note that a leading German writer of a
rationalistic type, named Zeller, who has written a work to decry the
historical character of the Acts, finds in St. Stephen's words an
oration "not only characteristic, but also better suited to the case
and to the accusation raised against him than is usually supposed."

Disregarding, then, all cavils of critics whose views are mutually
destructive, let us see if we cannot discern in this narrative the
marks of a sound and powerful mind, guided, aided, and directed by the
Spirit of God which dwelt so abundantly in him. St. Stephen was
accused of irreverence towards Moses, and hostility towards the
temple, and towards all the Jewish institutions. How did he meet this?
He begins his address to the Sanhedrin at the earliest period of their
national history, and shows how the chosen people had passed through
many changes and developments without interfering with their essential
identity amid these changes. His opponents now made idols of their
local institutions and of the buildings of the temple, but God's
choice and God's promise had originally nothing local about them at
all. Abraham their great father was first called by God in Ur of the
Chaldees, far away across the desert in distant Mesopotamia. Thence he
removed to Charran, and then, only after the lapse of years, became a
wanderer up and down in Canaan, where he never possessed so much of
the land as he could set his foot upon. The promises of God and the
covenant of grace were personal things, made to God's chosen children,
not connected with lands or buildings or national customs. He next
takes up the case of Moses. He had been accused of blasphemy and
irreverence towards the great national law-giver. His words prove that
he entertained no such feelings; he respected and revered Moses just
as much as his opponents and accusers did. But Moses had nothing to
say or do with Canaan, or Jerusalem, or the temple. Nay, rather, his
work for the chosen people was done in Egypt and in Midian and on the
side of Horeb, where the presence and name of Jehovah were manifested
not in the temple or tabernacle, but in the bush burning yet not
consumed.

The Grecian Jews accused Stephen of irreverence towards Moses. But how
had their forefathers treated that Moses whom he recognised as a
divinely-sent messenger? "They thrust him from them, and in their
hearts turned back again into Egypt." Moses, however, led them onward
and upward. His motto was hope. His rod and his voice ever pointed
forward. He warned them that his own ministry was not the final one;
that it was only an intermediate and temporary institution, till the
prophet should come unto whom the people should hearken. There was a
chosen people before the customs introduced by Moses. There may
therefore be a chosen people still when these customs cease, having
fulfilled their purpose. The argument of St. Stephen in this passage
is the same as that of St. Paul in the fourth chapter of Galatians,
where he sets forth the temporary and intermediate character of the
Levitical law and of the covenant of circumcision. So teaches St.
Stephen in his speech. His argument is simply this:--I have been
accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses because I
proclaimed that a greater Prophet than he had come, and yet this was
only what Moses himself had foretold. It is not I who have blasphemed
and opposed Moses: it is my accusers rather. But then he remembers
that the accusation dealt not merely with Moses. It went farther, and
accused him of speaking blasphemous words against the national
sanctuary, "saying that Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place."
This leads him to speak of the temple. His argument now takes a
different turn, and runs thus. This building is now the centre of
Jewish thoughts and affections. But it is a mere modern thing as
compared with the original choice and promise of God. There was no
chosen dwelling-place of the Almighty in the earliest days of all; His
presence was then manifested wherever His chosen servants dwelt. Then
Moses made a tent or tabernacle, which abode in no certain spot, but
moved hither and thither. Last of all, long after Abraham, and long
after Moses, and even after David, Solomon built God an house. Even
when it was built, and in all its original glory, even then the
temporary character of the temple was clearly recognised by the
prophet Isaiah, who had long ago, in his sixty-sixth chapter,
proclaimed the truth which had been brought forward as an accusation
against himself: "Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool; what
house will ye build Me, saith the Lord, or what is the place of My
rest? Hath not My hand made all these things?"--a great spiritual
truth which had been anticipated long before Isaiah by King Solomon,
in his famous dedication prayer at the opening of the temple: "But
will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven and the heaven
of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have
builded" (1 Kings viii. 27). After St. Stephen had set forth this
undeniable truth confirmed by the words of Isaiah, which to the
Pharisaic portion of his audience, at least, must have seemed
conclusive, there occurs a break in the address.

One would have thought that he would then have proceeded to describe
the broader and more spiritual life which had shone forth for mankind
in Christ, and to expound the freedom from all local restrictions
which should henceforth belong to acceptable worship of the Most High.
Most certainly, if the speech had been invented for him and placed in
his mouth, a forger would naturally have designed a fuller and more
balanced discourse, setting forth the doctrine of Christ as well as
the past history of the Jews. We cannot tell whether he actually
entered more fully into the subject or not. Possibly the Sadducean
portion of his audience had got quite enough. Their countenances and
gestures bespoke their horror of St. Stephen's doctrine. Isaiah's
opinion carried no weight with them as contrasted with the
institutions of Moses, which were their pride and glory; and so, borne
along by the force of his oratory, St. Stephen finished with that
vigorous denunciation which led to his death: "Ye stiffnecked and
uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost:
as your fathers did, so do ye." This exposition of St. Stephen's
speech will show the drift and argument of it as it appears to us. But
it must have seemed to them much more powerful, plain-spoken, and
aggressive. He vindicated himself to any right-thinking and fair mind
from the accusation of irreverence towards God, towards Moses, or
towards the Divine institutions. But the minds of his hearers were
not fair. He had trampled upon their prejudices, he had suggested the
vanity of their dearest ideas, and they could not estimate his reasons
or follow his arguments, but they could resort to the remedy which
every failing though for the present popular cause possesses,--they
could destroy him. And thus they treated the modern as their ancestors
had treated the ancient prophets. What a lesson Stephen's speech has
for the Church of every age! How wide and manifold the applications of
it! The Jewish error is one that is often committed, their mistake
often repeated. The Jews identified God's honour and glory with an old
order that was fast passing away, and had no eyes to behold a new and
more glorious order that was opening upon them. We may blame them then
for their murder of St. Stephen, but we must blame them gently,
feeling that they acted as human nature has ever acted under similar
circumstances, and that good motives were mingled with those feelings
of rage and bigotry and narrowness that urged them to their deed of
blood. Let us see how this was. Stephen proclaimed a new order and a
new development, embracing for his hearers a vast political as well as
a vast religious change. His forecast of the future swept away at once
all the privileges and profits connected with the religious position
of Jerusalem, and thus destroyed the political prospects of the Jewish
people. It is no wonder the Sanhedrin could not appreciate his
oration. Men do not ever listen patiently when their pockets are being
touched, their profits swept away, their dearest hopes utterly
annihilated. Has not human experience often repeated the scene acted
out that day in Jerusalem? On the political stage men have often seen
it,--we ourselves have seen it. The advocates of liberty, civil and
religious, have had to struggle against the same spirit and the same
prejudices as St. Stephen. Take the political world alone. We now look
back and view with horror the deeds wrought in the name of authority
and in opposition to the principles of change and innovation. We read
the stories of Alva and the massacres in the Netherlands, the bloody
deeds of the seventeenth century in England and all over Europe, the
miseries and the bloodshed of the American war of independence, the
fierce opposition with which the spirit of liberty has been resisted
throughout this century; and our sympathies are altogether ranged on
the side of the sufferers,--the losers and defeated, it may have been,
for the time, but the triumphant in the long run.

The true student, however, of history or of human nature will not
content himself with any one-sided view, and he will have some
sympathy to spare for those who adopted the stern measures. He will
not judge them too harshly. They reverenced the past as the Jews of
Jerusalem did, and reverence is a feeling that is right and blessed.
It is no good sign for this age of ours that it possesses so little
reverence for the past, thinks so lightly of the institutions, the
wisdom, the ideas of antiquity, and is ready to change them at a
moment's notice. The men who now are held up to the execration of
posterity, the high priest and the Sanhedrin who murdered Stephen, the
tyrants and despots and their agents who strove to crush the
supporters of liberty, the writers who cried them down and applauded
or urged on the violent measures which were adopted and sometimes
triumphed for the time,--we should strive to put ourselves in their
position, and see what they had to say for themselves, and thus seek
to judge them here below as the Eternal King will judge them at the
great final tribunal. They knew the good which the old political
institutions had worked. They had lived and flourished under them as
their ancestors had lived and flourished before them. The future they
knew not. All they knew was that changes were proposed which
threatened everything with which their dearest memories were bound up,
and the innovators seemed dangerous creatures, obnoxious to God and
man, and they dealt with them accordingly.

So it has been and still is in politics. The opponents of political
change are sometimes denounced in the fiercest language, as if they
were morally wicked. The late Dr. Arnold seems a grievous offender in
this respect. No one can read his charming biography by Dean Stanley
without recognising how intolerant he was towards his political
opponents; how blind he was to those good motives which inspire the
timorous, the ignorant, and the aged, when brought face to face with
changes which appear to them thickly charged with the most dangerous
results. Charity towards opponents is sadly needed in the political as
well as in the religious world. And as it has been in politics so has
it been in religion. Men reverence the past, and that reverence easily
glides into an idolatry blind to its defects and hostile to any
improvement. It is in religion too as in politics; a thousand other
interests--money, office, expectations, memories of the loved and
lost--are bound up with old religious forms, and then when the prophet
arises with his Divine message, as Stephen arose before the Sanhedrin,
the ancient proverb is fulfilled, the corruption of the best becomes
the worst, the good motives mingle with the evil, and are used by the
poor human heart to justify the harshest, most unchristian deeds done
in defence of what men believe to be the cause of truth and
righteousness. Let us be just and fair to the aggressors as well as to
the aggrieved, to the persecutors as well as to the persecuted. But
let us all the same take good heed to learn for ourselves the lessons
this narrative presents. Reverence is a good thing, and a blessed
thing; and without reverence no true progress, either in political or
spiritual things, can be made. But reverence easily degenerates into
blind superstitious idolatry. It was so with the Sanhedrin, it was so
at the Reformation, it has ever been so with the opponents of true
religious progress. Let us evermore strive to keep minds free, open,
unbiassed, respecting the past, yet ready to listen to the voice and
fresh revelations of God's will and purposes made to us by the
messengers whom He chooses as He pleases. Perhaps there was never an
age which needed this lesson of Stephen's speech and its reception
more than our own. The attitude of religious men towards science and
its numerous and wondrous advances needs guidance such as this
incident affords. The Sanhedrin had their own theory and
interpretation of God's dealings in the past. They clung to it
passionately, and refused the teaching of Stephen, who would have
widened their views, and shown them that a grand and noble development
was quite in accordance with all the facts of the case, and indeed a
necessary result of the sacred history when truly expounded. What a
parable and picture of the future we here find! What a warning as to
the attitude religious men should take up with respect to the progress
of science! Patience, intellectual and religious patience, is taught
us. The Sanhedrin were impatient of St. Stephen's views, which they
could not understand, and their impatience made them lose a blessing
and commit a sin. Now has it not been at times much the same with
ourselves? Fifty or sixty years ago men were frightened at the
revelations of geology,--they had their own interpretations of the
past and of the Scriptures,--just as three centuries ago men were
frightened at the revelations and teaching of modern astronomy.
Prejudiced and narrow men then strove to hound down the teachers of
the new science, and would if they could have destroyed them in the
name of God. Patience here, however, has done its work and has had its
reward. The new revelations have been taken up and absorbed by the
Church of Christ. Men have learned to distinguish between their own
interpretations of religion and of religious documents on the one hand
and the religion itself on the other. The old, human, narrow,
prejudiced interpretations have been modified. That which could be
shaken and was untrue has passed away, while that which cannot be
shaken has remained.

The lesson taught us by these instances of astronomy and geology ought
not to be thrown away. Patience is again necessary for the Christian
and for the scientist alike. New facts are every day coming to light,
but it requires much time and thought to bring new facts and old
truths into their due correlation, to look round and about them. The
human mind is at best very small and weak. It is blind, and cannot see
afar off, and it is only by degrees it can grasp truth in its fulness.
A new fact, for instance, discovered by science may appear at first
plainly contradictory to some old truth revealed in Scripture. But
even so, we should not lose our patience or our hope taught us by this
chapter. What new fact of science can possibly seem more
contradictory to any old truth of the Creeds than St. Stephen's
teaching about the universal character of God's promise and the
freeness of acceptable worship must have seemed when compared with the
Divine choice of the temple at Jerusalem? They appeared to the
Sanhedrin ideas mutually destructive, though now we see them to have
been quite consistent one with another. Let this historic retrospect
support us when our faith is tried. Let us welcome every new fact and
new revelation brought by science, and then, if they seem opposed to
something we know to be true in religion, let us wait in confidence
begotten of past experience that God in His own good time will clear
up for His faithful people that which now seems difficult of
comprehension. Patience and confidence, then, are two lessons much
needed in this age, which St. Stephen's speech and its reception bring
home to our hearts.

II. We have now spoken of the general aspect of the discourse, and the
broad counsels we may gather from it. There are some other points,
however, points of detail as distinguished from wider views, upon
which we would fix our attention. They too will be found full of
guidance and full of instruction. Let us take them in the order in
which they appear in St. Stephen's address. The mistakes and
variations which undoubtedly occur in it are well worthy of careful
attention, and have much teaching necessary for these times. There are
three points in which Stephen varies from the language of the Old
Testament. In the fourteenth verse of the seventh chapter Stephen
speaks thus: "Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him,
and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls;" while, if we turn
to the Pentateuch, we shall find that the number of the original
Hebrew immigrants is placed three times over at seventy, or threescore
and ten, that is in Gen. xlvi. 27, Exod. i. 5, and Deut. x. 22. This,
however, is only a comparatively minor point. The Septuagint or Greek
version of the Pentateuch reads seventy-five in the first of these
passages, making the sons of Joseph born in Egypt to have been nine
persons, and thus completing the number seventy-five, at which it
fixes the roll of the males who came with Jacob. The next two verses,
the fifteenth and sixteenth, contain a much more serious mistake. They
run thus:--"So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our
fathers, and were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre
that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father
of Sychem." Now here there occur several grave errors. Jacob was not
carried over and buried at Sychem at all, but at the cave of
Machpelah, as is plainly stated in Gen. l. 13. Again, a plot of ground
at Sychem was certainly bought, not by Abraham, however, but by Jacob.
Abraham bought the field and cave of Machpelah from Ephron the
Hittite. Jacob bought his plot at Sychem from the sons of Emmor. There
are in these verses, then, two serious historical mistakes; first as
to the true burial-place of Jacob, and then as to the purchaser of the
plot of ground at Sychem. Yet, again, there is a third mistake in the
forty-third verse, where, when quoting a denunciation of Jewish
idolatry from Amos v. 25, 26, he quotes the prophet as threatening, "I
will carry you away beyond Babylon," whereas the prophet did say,
"Therefore I will cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus." St.
Stephen substituted Babylon for Damascus, two cities between which
several hundred miles intervened. I have stated the difficulty thus
as strongly as possible, because I think that, instead of constituting
a difficulty, they are a real source of living help and comfort, as
well as a great practical confirmation of the story. Let us take this
last point first. I say that these mistakes, admitted mistakes which I
make no vain attempt to explain away, constitute a confirmation of the
story as given in the Acts against modern rationalistic opponents. It
is a favourite theme of many of these writers that the Acts of the
Apostles is a mere piece of fancy history, a historical romance
composed in the second century for the purpose of reconciling the
adherents of St. Paul, or the Gentile Christians, with the followers
of St. Peter, or the Jewish Christians. The persons who uphold this
view fix the date of the Acts in the earlier half of the second
century, and teach that the speeches and addresses were composed by
the author of the book and put into the mouths of the reputed
speakers. Now, in the mistake made by St. Stephen, we have a
refutation of this theory. Surely any man composing a speech to put
into the mouth of one of his favourite heroes and champions would not
have represented him as making such grave errors when addressing the
supreme Jewish senate. A man might easily make any of these slips
which I have noticed in the heat of an oration, and they might have
even passed unnoticed, as every speaker who has much practice in
addressing the public still makes precisely the same kind of mistake.
But a romancer, sitting down to forge speeches suitable to the time
and place, would never have put in the mouth of his lay figures grave
errors about the most elementary facts of Jewish history. We conclude,
then, that the inaccuracies reported as made by St. Stephen are
evidences of the genuine character of the oration attributed to him.
Then again we see in these mistakes a guarantee of the honesty and
accuracy of the reports of the speech. The other day I read the
objections of a critic to our Gospels. He wished to know, for
instance, how the addresses of our Lord could have been preserved in
an age when there was no shorthand. The answer is, however, simple
enough, and conclusive: there was shorthand in that age.[131]
Shorthand was then carried to such perfection that an epigram of
Martial (xiv. 208), a contemporary poet, celebrating its triumphs may
be thus translated:--

    "Swift though the words, the pen still swifter sped;
    The hand has finish'd ere the tongue has said."

  [131] See p. 108 above, where I have touched on this point.

While even if the Jews knew nothing of shorthand, the human memory, as
we have already noted, was then developed to a degree of which we have
no conception. Now, whether transmitted by memory or by notes, this
address of St. Stephen bears proofs of the truthfulness of the
reporter in the mistakes it contains. A man anxious for the reputation
of his hero would have corrected them, as parliamentary reporters are
accustomed to make the worst speeches readable, correcting evident
blunders, and improving the grammar. The reporter of St. Stephen's
words, on the contrary, gave them to us just as they were spoken. But
then, I may be asked, how do you account for St. Stephen's mistake?
What explanation can you offer? My answer is simple and plain enough.
I have no other explanation to offer except that they are mistakes
such as a speaker, filled with his subject, and speaking to an excited
and hostile audience, might naturally make; mistakes such as truthful
speakers every day make in their ordinary efforts. Every man who
speaks an extemporaneous discourse such as Stephen's was, full of
references to past history, is liable to such errors. Even when the
memory retains the facts most accurately, the tongue is apt to make
such lapses. Let a number of names be mingled up together in a speech
or sermon where frequent mention has to be made of one now and of
another again, how easily in that case a speaker substitutes one for
another. But it may be objected that it is declared of Stephen that he
was "full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom," that "he was full of faith
and power," and that his adversaries "were not able to resist the
wisdom and the spirit with which he spake." But surely this might be
said of able, devoted, and holy men at the present day, and yet no one
would say that they were miraculously kept from the most trivial
mistakes, and that their memories and tongues were so supernaturally
aided that they were preserved from the smallest verbal inaccuracies.
We are always inclined to reverse the true scientific method of
enquiry, and to form notions as to what inspiration must mean, instead
of asking what, as a matter of fact, inspiration did mean and involve
in the case of the Bible heroes. People when they feel offended by
these mistakes of St. Stephen prove that they really think that
Christianity was quite a different thing in the apostolic days from
what it is now, and that the words "full of the Holy Ghost" and the
presence of the Divine Spirit meant quite a different gift and
blessing then from what they imply at the present time. I look upon
the mistakes in this speech in quite a different light. St. Luke, in
recording them exactly as they took place, proves, not merely his
honesty as a narrator, but he also has handed down to us a most
important lesson. He teaches us to moderate our notions and to chasten
our _à priori_ expectations. He shows us we must come and study the
Scriptures to learn what they mean by the gift and power of the Holy
Spirit. St. Luke expressly tells us that Stephen was full of the Holy
Ghost, and then proceeds to narrate certain verbal inaccuracies and
certain slips of memory to prove to us that the presence of the Holy
Ghost does not annihilate human nature, or supersede the exercise of
the human faculties. Just as in other places we find Apostles like St.
Peter or St. Paul spoken of as equally inspired, and yet the
inspiration enjoyed by them did not destroy their human weakness and
infirmities, and, full of the Holy Ghost as they were, St. Paul could
wax wroth and engage in bitter dissension with Barnabas, his
fellow-labourer; and St. Peter could fall into hypocrisy against which
his brother Apostle had publicly to protest. It is wonderful how
liable the mind is, in matters of religion, to embrace exactly the
same errors age after age, manifesting themselves in different shapes.
Men are ever inclined to form their theories beforehand, and then to
test God's actions and the course of His Providence by those theories,
instead of reversing the order, and testing their theories by facts as
God reveals them. This error about the true theory of inspiration and
the gifts of the Holy Ghost which Protestants have fallen into is
exactly the same as two celebrated mistakes, one in ancient, the other
in modern times. The Eutychian heresy was very celebrated in the fifth
century. It split the Eastern Church into two parts, and prepared the
way for the triumph of Mahometanism. It fell, too, into this same
error. It formed an _à priori_ theory of God and His nature. It
determined that it was impossible for the nature of Deity to be united
to a nature which could feel hunger and thirst and weakness, because
that God cannot be affected by any human weakness or wants. It denied,
therefore, the real humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the reality
of His human life and actions; teaching that His human body was not
real, but merely a phenomenal or apparent one, and then explaining
away all the statements and facts of Gospel history which seemed to
them to conflict with their own private theory. In the West we have
had ourselves experience of the same erroneous method of argument. The
adherents of the Church of Rome argue for the infallibility of the
Pope in the same way. They dilate on the awful importance of religious
truth, and the fearful consequences of a mistake in such matters.
Hence they conclude that it is only natural and fitting that a living,
speaking, teaching, infallible guide should be appointed by God to
direct the Church, and thence they conclude the infallibility of the
Pope; a method of argument which has been amply exposed by Dr. Salmon
in his work on the Infallibility of the Church. The Roman Catholics
form their theory first, and when they come to facts which conflict
with their theory, they deny them or explain them away in the most
extraordinary manner.

Protestants themselves, however, are subject to the same erroneous
methods. They form a theory about the Holy Ghost and His operations.
They conclude, as is true, that He is Himself right, and just, and
true in all His doings, and then they conclude that all the men whom
He chose in the earliest age of the Church, and who are mentioned in
Scripture as endued with His grace, must have been as free from every
form of error as the Holy Spirit Himself. They thus fashion for
themselves a mere _à priori_ theory like the Eutychian and the
Romanist, and then, when they apply their theory to passages like St.
Stephen's speech, they feel compelled to deny facts and offer forced
explanations, and to reject God's teaching as it is embodied in the
divinely taught lessons of history. Let us be honest, fearless
students of the Scriptures. St. Stephen was full of the Holy Ghost,
and as such his great, broad, spiritual lessons were taught by the
Spirit, and commend themselves as Divine teaching to every Christian
heart. But these lessons were given through human lips, and had to be
conveyed through human faculties, and as such are not free from the
imperfections which attach themselves to everything human here below.
Surely it is just the same still. God the Holy Ghost dwells with His
people as of old. There are men even in this age of whom it still may
be said, that in a special sense "they are full of the Holy Ghost," a
blessing granted in answer to faithful prayer and devout communion and
a life lived closely with God. The Holy Spirit speaks through them and
in them. Their sermons, even on the simplest topics, speak with power,
they teem with spiritual unction, they come home with conviction to
the human conscience. Yet surely no one would dream of saying that
these men are free from slips of speech and lapses of memory in their
extemporaneous addresses, or in their private instructions, or in
their written letters, because the Holy Ghost thus proves His presence
and His power in His people as of old. The human heart and conscience
easily and at once distinguish between that which is due to human
weakness and what to Divine grace, according to that most pregnant
saying of an Apostle himself gifted above all others, "We have this
treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be
of God and not of us." This view may be startling to some persons who
have been accustomed to look to the Bible as some persons look to the
Pope, as an oracle which will give them infallible guidance on every
topic without the exercise of any thought or intelligence on their own
part. Yet it is no original or novel notion of my own, but one that
has been luminously set forth by a devout expositor of Scripture,
dealing with this very passage many years ago. Dr. Vaughan, in his
lectures on the Acts, preaching at Doncaster when vicar of that place,
thus states his conclusions on this point:--"Now I will address one
earnest word to persons who may have noticed with anxiety in this
chapter, or who may have heard it noticed by others in a tone of cavil
or disbelief, that in one or two minor points the account here given
of Jewish history seems to vary from that contained in the narrative
of the Old Testament. For example, the history in the book of Genesis
tells us that the burying-place bought by Abraham was in Mamre or
Hebron, not at Sychem; and that it was bought by him of Ephron the
Hittite, Jacob (not Abraham) being the purchaser of the ground at
Shechem of the sons of Hamor, Shechem's father. My friends, can you
really suppose that a difference of this nature has anything to do,
this way or that, with the substantial truth of the gospel revelation?
I declare to you that I would not waste the time in endeavouring (if I
was able) to reconcile such a variance. It is to be regretted that
Christian persons, in their zeal for the literal accuracy of our Holy
Book, have spoken and written as if they thought that anything could
possibly depend upon such a question. We all know how easy it is to
get two witnesses in a court of justice to give their stories of an
occurrence in the same words. We know also how instant is the
suspicion of falsehood which that formal coincidence of statement
brings upon them. Holy Scripture shows what I may indeed call a noble
superiority to all such uniformity. Each book of our Bible is an
independent witness; shown to be so, not least, by verbal or even
actual differences on some trifling points of detail. And they who
drink most deeply at the fountain head of Divine truth learn to
estimate these things in the same manner; to feel what we might
describe as a lordly disdain for all infidel objections drawn from
this sort of petty, paltry, cavilling, carping, creeping criticism.
Let our faith at last, God helping us, be strong enough and decided
enough to override a few or a multitude of such objections. We will
hear them unmoved; we will fearlessly examine them; if we cannot
resolve them, then, in the power of a more majestic principle, we will
calmly turn from them and pass them by. What we know not now, we may
know hereafter; and if we never know we will believe still." These are
wise words, very wholesome, very practical, and very helpful in this
present age.

III. Let us briefly gather yet another lesson from this passage. The
declaration of the Church's catholicity and the universal nature of
Christian worship contained in verses 47-50 deserve our attention.
What did St. Stephen say?--"But Solomon built Him a house. Howbeit the
Most High dwelleth not in houses made with hands; as saith the
prophet, The heaven is My throne, and the earth the footstool of My
feet; what manner of house will ye build Me? saith the Lord; or what
is the place of My rest? Did not My hand make all these things?"
These words must have sounded as very extraordinary and very
revolutionary in Jewish ears, because they most certainly struck at
the root of the exclusive privilege claimed for Jerusalem, that it was
the one place upon earth where acceptable worship could be offered,
and where the Divine presence could be manifested. It seems no wonder
that they should have roused the Sanhedrin to the pitch of fury which
ended in the orator's judicial murder. But these words have been at
times pressed farther than Stephen intended. He merely wished to teach
that God's special and covenanted presence was not for the future to
be limited to Jerusalem. In the new dispensation of the Messiah whom
he preached, that special covenanted presence would be found
everywhere. Where two or three should be gathered in Christ's name
there would God's presence be found. These words of Stephen have
sometimes been quoted as if they sounded the death-knell of special
places dedicated to the honour and glory of God, such as churches are.
It is evident, however, that they have no such application. They
sounded the death-knell of the exclusive privilege of one place, the
temple, but they proclaimed the freedom which the Church has ever
since claimed, and the Jewish Church of the dispersion, by the
institution of synagogues, had led the way in claiming teaching that
wherever true hearts and true worshippers are found, there God reveals
Himself. But we must bear in mind a distinction. Stephen and the
Apostles rejected the exclusive right of the Temple as the one place
of worship for the world. They asserted the right to establish special
places of worship throughout the world. They rejected the exclusive
claims of Jerusalem. But they did not reject the right and the duty of
God's people to assemble themselves as a collective body for public
worship, and to realize Christ's covenanted presence. This is an
important limitation of St. Stephen's statement. The absolute duty of
public collective worship of the Almighty cannot be too strongly
insisted upon. Men neglect it, and they support themselves by an
appeal to St. Stephen's words, which have nothing to do with public
worship more than with private worship. The Jews imagined that both
public and private worship offered in the Temple had some special
blessing attached, because a special presence of God was there
granted. St. Stephen attacked this prejudice. His words must, however,
be limited to the exact point he was then dealing with, and must not
be pressed farther. Private prayer was binding on all God's people in
the new and freer dispensation, and so, too, public worship has a
special covenant blessing attached to it, and the blessing cannot be
obtained if people neglect the duty. Public worship has been by
Protestants looked at too much, as if it were only a means of their
own edification, and thus, when they have thought that such
edification could be as well or better attained at home, by reading a
better sermon than they might chance to hear in the public
congregation, they have excused their absence to their own conscience.
But public worship is much more than a means of edification. It is the
payment of a debt of worship, praise, and adoration due by the
creature to the Creator. In that duty personal edification finds a
place, but a mere accidental and subsidiary place. The great end of
public worship is worship, not hearing, not edification even, though
edification follows as a necessary result of such public worship when
sincerely offered. The teaching of St. Stephen did not then apply to
the erection of churches and buildings set apart for God's service,
or to the claim made for public worship as an exercise with a peculiar
Divine promise annexed. It simply protests against any attempt to
localise the Divine presence to one special spot on earth, making it
and it alone the centre of all religious interest. St. Stephen's words
are indeed but a necessary result of the ascension of Christ as we
have already expounded its expediency. Had Christ remained on earth,
His personal presence would have rendered the Church a mere local and
not an universal institution; just as the doctrine of Roman Catholics
about the Pope as Christ's Vicar, and Rome as his appointed seat, has
so far invested Rome with somewhat of the characteristics of Jerusalem
and the Temple. But our Lord ascended up on high that the hearts and
minds of His people might likewise ascend to that region where, above
time, and sense, and change, their Master evermore dwells, as the
loadstone which secretly draws their hearts, and guides their
tempest-tossed spirits across the stormy waters of this world to the
haven of everlasting rest.



CHAPTER XVI.

_THE FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYRDOM._

     "And they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the
     witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man
     named Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and
     saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and
     cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.
     And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was
     consenting unto his death."--ACTS vii. 58-60; viii. 1.


The apology of Stephen struck the keynote of Christian freedom, traced
out the fair proportions of the Catholic Church, while the actual
martyrdom of Stephen taught men that Christianity was not only the
force which was to triumph, but the power in which they were to
suffer, and bear, and die. Stephen's career was a type of all martyr
lives, and embraces every possible development through which Christ's
Church and His servants had afterwards to pass,--obscurity, fame,
activity, death, fixing high the standard for all ages.

I. We have in this passage, telling the story of that martyrdom, a
vast number of topics, which have formed the subject-matter of
Christian thought since apostolic times. We have already remarked that
the earliest quotation from the Acts of the Apostles connects itself
with this scene of Stephen's martyrdom. Let us see how this came
about. One hundred and forty years later than Stephen's death, towards
the close of the second century, the Churches of Vienne and Lyons
were sending an account of the terrible sufferings through which they
had passed during a similar sudden outburst of the Celtic pagans of
that district against the Christians. The aged Pothinus, a man whose
life and ministry touched upon the apostolic age, was put to death,
suffering violence very like that to which St. Stephen was subjected,
for we are told expressly by the historian Eusebius that the mob in
its violence flung missiles at him. "Those at a distance, whatsoever
they had at hand, every one hurled at him, thinking it would be a
great sin if they fell short in wanton abuse against him."[132] The
Church of Lyons, according to the loving usage of those early times,
sent an account of all their trouble to the brethren in Asia and
Phrygia, that they might read it at the celebration of the Eucharist
for their own comfort and edification. They entered into great
details, showing how wonderfully the power of God's grace was
manifested, even in the weakest persons, sustaining their courage and
enabling them to witness. The letter then goes on to note the
marvellous humility of the sufferers. They would not allow any one to
call them martyrs. That name was reserved to Jesus Christ, "the true
and faithful Martyr," and to those who had been made perfect through
death. Then, too, their charity was wonderful, and the epistle,
referring to this very incident, tells how they prayed "like Stephen,
that perfect martyr, Lord, impute not this sin to them." The memory of
St. Stephen served to nerve the earliest Gallic martyrs, and it has
ever since been bound up with the dearest feelings of Christians. The
arrangements of the Calendar, with which we are all familiar, are
merely an expression of the same feeling as that recorded in the
second-century document we have just now quoted. Christmas Day and St.
Stephen's Day are closely united,--the commemoration of Christ's birth
is joined with that of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, because of a
certain spiritual instinct. Christmas Day records the fact of the
Incarnation, and then we have according to the order of the Calendar
three holy days, St. Stephen's, St. John's, and the Holy Innocents'
Day, which follow one another in immediate succession. Many persons
will remember the explanation of an old commentator on the Calendar
and Liturgy, of which Keble makes a very effective use in his hymns in
the _Christian Year_ set apart for those days. There are three classes
of martyrs: one in will and deed like St. Stephen,--this is the
highest class, therefore he has place next to Christ; another in will,
but not in deed, like St. John the Divine, who was ready to suffer
death but did not,--this is the second rank, therefore his place comes
next St. Stephen; and lastly come the Holy Innocents, the babes of
Bethlehem, martyrs in deed but not in will, and therefore in the
lowest position. The Western Church, and specially the Church of
Northern Europe, has always loved the Christmas season, with its
cheerful fires, its social joys, its family memories; and hence, as it
was in the Church of the second century, so with ourselves, none has a
higher or dearer place in memory, doubtless largely owing to this
conjunction, than the great proto-martyr. Men have delighted,
therefore, to trace spiritual analogies and relationships between
Stephen and Christ; fanciful perhaps some of them are, but still they
are devout fancies, edifying fancies, fancies which strengthen and
deepen the Divine life in the soul. Thus they have noted that
Christmas Day and St. Stephen's Day are both natal days. In the
language of the ancient Church, with its strong realizing faith, men
spoke of a saint's death or martyrdom as his _dies natalis_. This is,
indeed, one of the many traces of primitive usage which the Church of
Rome has preserved, like a fly fixed in amber, petrified in the midst
of her liturgical uses. She has a Martyrology which the ordinary laity
scarcely ever see or use, but which is in daily use among the clergy
and the various ecclesiastical communities connected with that Church.
It is in the Latin tongue, and is called the _Martyrologium Romanum_,
giving the names of the various saints whose memories are celebrated
upon each day throughout the year, and every such day is duly styled
the natal or birthday of the saint to whom it is appropriated. The
Church of Rome retains this beautiful custom of the primitive Church,
which viewed the death-day of a saint as his birthday into the true
life, and rejoiced in it accordingly. That life was not, in the
conception of the primitive believers, a life of ghosts and shadows.
It was the life of realities, because it was the life of eternity, and
therefore the early Christians lived for it, they longed for it, and
counted their entrance upon it their true natal or birthday. The
Church brought the two birthdays of Christ and Stephen into closest
union, and men saw a beautiful reason for that union, teaching that
Christ was born into this lower world in order that Stephen might be
born into the heavenly world. The whole of that dreadful scene enacted
at Jerusalem was transformed by the power of that beautiful
conception. Stephen's death was no longer a brutal murder; faith no
longer saw the rage, the violence, the crushed body, the mangled and
outraged humanity. The birthday of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of
the Master, transfigured the death-scene of the servant, for the shame
and sufferings were changed into peace and glory; the execrations and
rage of the mob became angelic songs, and the missiles used by them
were fashioned into messengers of the Most High, ushering the faithful
martyr through a new birth into his eternal rest. Well would it be for
the Church at large if she could rise to this early conception more
frequently than she commonly does. Men did not then trouble themselves
about questions of assurance, or their Christian consciousness. These
topics and ideas are begotten on a lower level, and find sustenance in
a different region. Men like Stephen and the martyrs of Vienne and
Lyons lived in the other world; it was the world of all their
interests, of all their passionate desires, of all their sense of
realities. They lived the supernatural life, and they did not trouble
themselves with any questions about that life, no more than a man in
sound physical health and spirits cares to discuss topics dealing with
the constitution of the life which he enjoys, or to debate such
unprofitable questions as, How do I know that I exist at all?
Christians then knew and felt they lived in God, and that was enough
for them. We have wandered far enough afield, however; let us retrace
our steps, and seek to discover more in detail the instruction for the
life of future ages given us in this first martyr scene.

  [132] Epistle of the Church of Lyons in Eusebius, _Eccles. Hist._,
  v. 1. This letter relates the earliest Celtic martyrdoms of which
  we have any knowledge. They took place at the annual Convention of
  the Celtic tribes of Gaul, which assembled at Lyons and Vienne.
  These conventions were much the same as the assembly at Tara in
  Meath, where St. Patrick began the work of converting Ireland. See
  my _Ireland and the Celtic Church_, chap. iv., and also p. 9
  above.

II. We have brought before us the cause of the sudden outburst against
Stephen. For it was an outburst, a popular commotion, not a legal
execution. We have already explained the circumstances which led the
Sanhedrin to permit the mob to take their own course, and even to
assist them in doing so. Pilate had departed; the imperial throne too
was vacant in the spring or early summer of the year 37; there was an
interregnum when the bonds of authority were relaxed, during which the
Jews took leave to do as they pleased, trusting that when the bonds
were again drawn tight the misdeeds of the past and the irregularities
committed would be forgotten and forgiven. Hence the riot in which
Stephen lost his life. But what roused the listeners--Sanhedrists,
elders, priests, and people alike--to madness? They heard him
patiently enough, just as they afterwards heard his successor Paul,
till he spoke of the wider spiritual hope. Paul, as his speech is
reported in the twenty-second chapter, was listened to till he spoke
of being sent to the Gentiles. Stephen was listened to till he spoke
of the free, universal, spiritual character of the Divine worship,
tied to no place, bounded by no locality. Then the Sanhedrin waxed
impatient, and Stephen, recognising with all an orator's instinct and
tact that his opportunity was over, changes his note--charging home
upon his hearers the same spirit of criminal resistance to the
leadings of the Most High as their fathers had always shown. The older
Jews had ever resisted the Holy Ghost as He displayed His teaching and
opened up His purposes under the Old Dispensation; their descendants
had now followed their example in withstanding the same Divine Spirit
manifested in that Holy One of whom they had lately been the betrayers
and murderers. It is scarcely any wonder that such language should
have been the occasion of his death. How exactly he follows the
example of our Saviour! Stephen used strong language, and so did
Jesus Christ. It has even been urged of late years that our Lord
deliberately roused the Jews to action, and hastened His end by His
violent language of denunciation against the ruling classes recorded
in the twenty-third chapter of St. Matthew. There is, however, a great
lesson of eternal significance to be derived from the example of St.
Stephen as well as of our Lord. There are times when strong language
is useful and necessary. Christ's ordinary ministry was gentle,
persuasive, mild. He did not strive nor cry, neither did any man hear
His voice in the streets. But a time came when, persuasion having
failed of its purpose, the language of denunciation took its place,
and helped to work out in a way the Pharisees little expected the
final triumph of truth. Stephen was skilful and gentle in his speech;
his words must at first have sounded strangely flattering to their
prejudices, coming from one who was accused as a traitor to his race
and religion. Yet when the gentle words failed, stern denunciation,
the plainest language, the keenest phrases,--"Stiff-necked and
uncircumcised in heart and ears," "Betrayers and murderers of the
Righteous One,"--prove that a Christian martyr then, and Christ's
martyrs and witnesses of every age, are not debarred under certain
circumstances from the use of such weapons. But it is hard to know
when the proper time has come for their employment. The object of
every true servant and witness of Christ will be to recommend the
truth as effectually as possible, and to win for it acceptance. Some
people seem to invert this course, and to think that it is unworthy a
true follower of Christ to seek to present his message in an
attractive shape. They regard every human art and every human motive
or principle as so thoroughly bad that men should disregard and
despise them. Human eloquence, or motives of policy and prudence, they
utterly reject. Their principles lead some of them farther still. They
reject the assistance which art and music and literature can lend to
the cause of God, and the result is that men, specially as they grow
in culture and civilisation, are estranged from the message of
everlasting peace. Some people, with a hard, narrow conception of
Christianity, are very responsible for the alienation of the young and
the thoughtful from the side of religion through the misconceptions
which they have caused. God has made the doctrines of the cross
repugnant to the corrupt natural feelings of man, but it is not for us
to make them repugnant to those good natural principles as well which
the Eternal Father has implanted in human nature, and which are an
echo of His own Divine self in the sanctuary of the heart. It is a
real breach of charity when men refuse to deal tenderly in such
matters with the lambs of Christ's flock, and will not seek, as St.
Stephen and the apostles did, to recommend God's cause with all human
skill, enlisting therein every good or indifferent human motive. Had
St. Stephen thought it his duty to act as some unwise people do now,
we should never have had his immortal discourse as a model for
faithful and skilful preaching. We should merely have had instead the
few words of vigorous denunciation with which the address closed. At
the same time the presence of these stern words proves that there is a
place for such strong language in the work of the Christian ministry.
There is a time and place for all things, even for the use of strong
language. The true teacher will seek to avoid giving unnecessary
offences, but offence sharp and stern may be an absolute duty of
charity when prejudice and bigotry and party spirit are choking the
avenues of the soul, and hindering the progress of truth. And thus
John the Baptist may call men a generation of vipers, and Paul may
style Elymas a child of the devil, and Christ may designate the
religious world of His day as hypocrites; and when occasion calls we
should not hesitate to brand foul things with plain names, in order
that men may be awakened from that deadly torpor into which sin
threatens to fling them. The use of strong language by St. Stephen had
its effect upon his listeners. They were sawn asunder in their hearts,
they gnashed their teeth upon the martyr. His words stirred them up to
some kind of action. The Gospel has a double operation, it possesses a
twofold force--the faithful teaching of it cannot be in vain. To some
it will be the savour of life unto life, to others the savour of death
unto death. Opposition may be indeed unwisely provoked. It may be the
proof to us of nothing else save our own wilfulness, our own folly and
imprudence. But if Christian wisdom be used, and the laws of Christian
charity duly observed, then the spirit of opposition and the violence
of rage and persecution prove nothing else to the sufferers than that
God's word is working out His purposes, and bringing forth fruit
though it be unto destruction.

III. Again, the locality, the circumstances, and the surroundings of
Stephen's martyrdom deserve a brief notice. The place of his execution
is pointed out by Christian tradition, and that tradition is supported
by the testimony of Jewish custom and of Jewish writings. He was tried
in the Temple precincts, or within sight of it, as is manifest from
the words of the witnesses before the council, "He ceaseth not to
speak against _this_ holy place. We have heard him say that this
Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy _this_ place." The mob then rushed
upon him. Under ordinary circumstances the Roman garrison stationed in
the neighbouring town of Antonia, which overlooked the temple, would
have noticed the riot, and have hastened to intervene, as they did
many years after, when St. Paul's life was threatened in a similar
Jewish outburst. But the political circumstances, as we have already
shown, were now different.[133] Roman authority was for the moment
paralysed in Jerusalem. People living at great centres such as Rome
once was, or London now is, have no idea how largely dependent distant
colonies or outlying districts like Judæa are upon personal authority
and individual lives. In case of a ruler's death the action of the
officials and of the army becomes necessarily slow, hesitating; it
loses that backbone of energy, decision, and vigour which a living
personal authority imparts. The decease of the Roman Emperor
synchronising with the recall of Pontius Pilate must have paralysed
the action of the subordinate officer then commanding at Antonia, who,
unaware what turn events might take, doubtless thought that he was
safe in restraining himself to the guardianship and protection of
purely Roman interests.

  [133] See chap. xiii., p. 248, above.

The scene of Stephen's murder is sometimes located in the Valley of
Jehoshaphat, near the brook Kedron, under the shadow of Olivet, and
over against the Garden of Gethsemane. To that spot the gate of
Jerusalem, called the Gate of St. Stephen, now leads.[134] Another
tradition assigns the open country north-east of Jerusalem, on the
road to Damascus and Samaria, as the place consecrated by the first
death suffered for Jesus Christ. It is, however, according to the
usual practice of Holy Scripture to leave this question undecided, or
rather completely disregarded and overlooked. The Scriptures were not
written to celebrate men or places, things temporary and transient in
themselves, and without any bearing on the spiritual life. The
Scriptures were written for the purpose of setting forth the example
of devotion, of love, and of sanctity presented by its heroes, and
therefore it shrouds all such scenes as that of Stephen's martyrdom in
thickest darkness. There is as little as possible of what is merely
local, detailed, particular about the Scriptures. They rise into the
abstract and the general as much as is consistent with being a
historical narrative. Perhaps no spot in the world exhibits more
evident and more abundant proofs of this Divine wisdom embodied in the
Scriptures than this same city of Jerusalem as we now behold it. What
locality could be more dear to Christian memory, or more closely
allied with Christian hope, than the Holy Places, as they are
emphatically called--the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its
surroundings? Yet the contending struggles of Roman Catholics, Greeks,
and Armenians have made the whole subject a reproach and disgrace, and
not an honour to the Christian name, showing how easily strife and
partisanship and earthly passions enter in and usurp the ground which
is nominally set apart for the honour of Christ Jesus. It is very hard
to keep the spirit of the world out of the most sacred seasons or the
holiest localities.

  [134] See _Survey of Western Palestine_, iii., 126 and 383-88,
  where an account is given of the ruins of the ancient church
  erected in honour of St. Stephen by the Empress Eudocia, about
  A.D. 440. It is on the north side of Jerusalem.

Stephen is hurried by the mob to this spot outside the Holy City, and
then they proceed in regular judicial style so far as their fury will
allow them. Dr. John Lightfoot, in his great work _Horæ Hebraicæ_,
dealing with this passage, notes how we can trace in it the leading
ideas and practices of Jewish legal processes. The Sanhedrin and their
supporters dragged St. Stephen out of the city because it was the law
as laid down in Lev. xxiv. 14--"Bring forth him that hath cursed
without the camp." The Jews still retained vivid memories of their
earlier history, just as students of sociology and ethnology still
recognise in our own practices traces of ancient pre-historic usages,
reminiscences of a time, ages now distant from us, when our ancestors
lived the savage life in lands widely separated from our modern homes.
So did the Jews still recognise the nomad state as their original
condition, and even in the days of our Saviour looked upon Jerusalem
as the camp of Israel, outside of which the blasphemer should be
stoned.

Lightfoot then gives the elaborate ceremonial used to insure a fair
trial, and the re-consideration of any evidence which might turn up at
the very last moment. A few of the rules appointed for such occasions
are well worth quoting, as showing the minute care with which the
whole Jewish order of execution was regulated: "There shall stand one
at the door of the Sanhedrin having a handkerchief in his hand, and an
horse at such a distance as it was only within sight. If any one
therefore say, I have something to offer on behalf of the condemned
person, he waves the handkerchief, and the horseman rides and calls
the people back. Nay, if the man himself say, I have something to
offer in my own defence, they bring him back four or five times one
after another, if it be a thing of any moment he has to say." I
doubt, adds Lightfoot, they hardly dealt so gently with the innocent
Stephen. Lightfoot then describes how a crier preceded the doomed man
proclaiming his crime, till the place of execution was reached; where,
after he was stripped of his clothes, the two witnesses threw him
violently down from a height of twelve feet, flinging upon him two
large stones. The man was struck by one witness in the stomach, by the
other upon the heart, when, if death did not at once ensue, the whole
multitude lent their assistance. Afterwards the body was suspended on
a tree. It will be evident from this outline of Lightfoot's more
prolonged and detailed statement that the leading ideas of Jewish
practice were retained in St. Stephen's case; but as the execution was
as much the act of the people as of the Sanhedrin, it was carried out
hurriedly and passionately. This will account for some of the details
left to us. We usually picture to ourselves St. Stephen as perishing
beneath a deadly hail of missiles, raised upon him by an infuriated
mob, before whom he is flying, just as men are still maimed or killed
in street riots; and we wonder therefore when or where St. Stephen
could have found time to kneel down and commend his spirit to Christ,
or to pray his last prayer of Divine charity and forgiveness under
such circumstances as those we have imagined. The Jews, however, no
matter how passionate and enraged, would have feared to incur the
guilt of murder had they acted in this rough-and-ready method. The
witnesses must first strike their blows, and thus take upon themselves
the responsibility for the blood about to be shed if it should turn
out innocent. The culprits, too, were urged to confess their sin to
God before they died. Stephen may have taken advantage of this
well-known form to kneel down and offer up his parting prayers, which
displaying his steadfast faith in Jesus only stirred up afresh the
wrath of his adversaries, who thereupon proceeded to the last
extremities.[135]

  [135] Dr. John Lightfoot in his _Horæ Hebraicæ_ on Acts vii. 58,
  when dealing with this incident, enters into copious details as to
  the Jewish method of execution by stoning.

Stephen's death was a type of the vast majority of future martyrdoms,
in this among other respects: it was a death suffered for Christ, just
as Christ's own death was suffered for the world at large, and that
under the forms of law and clothed with its outward dignity.
Christianity proclaims the dignity of law and order, and supports
it--teaches that the magistrate is the minister of God, and that he
does a divinely-appointed work; but Christianity does not proclaim the
infallibility of human laws or of human magistrates.[136] Christianity
does not teach that any human law or human magistrate can dictate to
the individual conscience, or intrude itself into the inner temple of
the soul. Christianity indeed has, by a long and bitter experience,
taught the contrary, and vindicated the rights of a free conscience,
by patiently suffering all that could be done against it by the powers
of the world assuming the forms and using the powers of law.
Christians, I say, have taught the dignity of law and order, and yet
they have not hesitated to resist and overturn bad laws, not however
so much by active opposition as by the patient suffering of all that
fiendish cruelty and lust could devise against the followers of the
Cross. Just as it was under the forms of law that our Saviour died and
Stephen was executed, and Peter and Paul passed to their rest, so was
it under the same forms of law that the primitive Church passed
through those ten great persecutions which terminated by seating her
on the throne of the Cæsars. Law is a good thing. The absence of law
is chaos. The presence of law, even though it be bad law, is better
than no law at all. But the individual Christian conscience is higher
than any human law. It should yield obedience in things lawful and
indifferent. But in things clearly sinful the Christian conscience
will honour the majesty of law by refusing obedience and then by
suffering patiently and lovingly, as Stephen did, the penalty attached
to conscientious disobedience.

  [136] The termination of St. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians,
  discovered some few years ago, is most instructive on this point.
  It is a litany or liturgical prayer used in the primitive Roman
  Church. Bishop Lightfoot, in his new edition of Clement, vol. i.,
  p. 382, commenting on it, has some very interesting thoughts on
  the relation between early Christianity and the Roman State.

IV. Let us now briefly notice the various points of interest, some of
them of deep doctrinal importance, which gather round St. Stephen's
death. We are told, for instance, that the martyr, seeing his last
hour approaching, "looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the
glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." Surely
critics must have been sorely in want of objections to the historical
truth of the narrative when they raised the point that Stephen could
not have looked up to heaven because he was in a covered chamber and
could not have seen through the roof! This is simply a carping
objection, and the expression used about St. Stephen is quite in
keeping with the _usus loquendi_ of Scripture. In the seventeenth of
St. John, and at the first verse, we read of our Lord that "lifting up
His eyes to heaven" He prayed His great eucharistic prayer on behalf
of His Apostles. He lifted His eyes to heaven though He was in the
upper chamber at the time. The Scriptural idea of heaven is not that
of the little child, a region placed far away above the bright blue
sky and beyond the distant stars, but rather that of a spiritual world
shrouded from us for the present by the veil of matter, and yet so
thinly separated that a moment may roll away the temporary covering
and disclose the world of realities which lies behind. Such has been
the conception of the deepest minds and the profoundest teaching. St.
Stephen did not need a keen vision and an open space and a clear sky,
free from clouds and smoke, as this objection imagines. Had St.
Stephen been in a dungeon and his eyes been blind, the spiritual
vision might still have been granted, and the consolation and strength
afforded which the sight of his ascended Lord vouchsafed. This view of
heaven and the unseen world is involved in the very word revelation,
which, in its original Greek shape, apocalypse, means simply an
uncovering, a rolling away of something that was flimsy, temporary,
and transient, that a more abiding and nobler thing may be seen. The
roof, the pillars, the solid structure of the temple, the priests and
Levites, the guards and listeners, all were part of the veil of matter
which suddenly rolled away from Stephen's intensified view, that he
might receive, as the martyrs of every age have received, the special
assistance which the King of Martyrs reserves for the supreme hour of
man's need. The vision of our Lord granted at this moment has its own
teaching for us. We are apt to conjure up thoughts of the sufferings
of the martyrs, to picture to ourselves a Stephen perishing under a
shower of stones, an Ignatius of Antioch flung to the beasts, a
Polycarp of Smyrna suffering at the stake, the victims of pagan
cruelty dying under the ten thousand forms of diabolical cruelty
subsequently invented; and then we ask ourselves, could we possibly
have stood firm against such tortures? We forget the lesson of
Stephen's vision. Jesus Christ did not draw back the veil till the
last moment; He did not vouchsafe the supporting vision till the need
for it had come, and then to Stephen, as to all His saints in the
past, and to all His saints in the future, the Master reveals Himself
in all His supporting and sustaining power, reminding us in our humble
daily spheres that it is our part to do our duty, and bear such
burdens as the Lord puts upon us now, leaving to Him all care and
thought for the future, content simply to trust that as our day is so
shall our grace and our strength be. Stephen's vision has thus a
lesson of comfort and of guidance for those fretful souls who, not
content with the troubles and trials of the present, and the help
which God imparts to bear them, will go on and strive to ascertain how
they are to bear imaginary dangers, losses, and temptations which may
never come upon them.

Then, again, we have the final words of Stephen, which are full of
important meaning, for they bear witness unto the faith and doctrine
of the apostolic Church. They stoned Stephen, "calling upon the Lord,
and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;" while again a few moments
later he cried, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." The latter
petition is evidently an echo of our Lord's own prayer on the cross,
which had set up a high standard of Divine charity in the Church. The
first martyr imitates the spirit and the very language of the Master,
and prays for his enemies as Christ himself had done a short time
before; while the other recorded petition, "Lord Jesus, receive my
spirit," is an echo likewise of our Lord's, when He said, "Father,
into Thy hands I commend My spirit." We note specially about these
prayers, not only that they breathe the spirit of Christ Himself, but
that they are addressed to Christ, and are thus evidences to us of the
doctrine and practice of the early Church in the matter of prayer to
our Lord. St. Stephen is the first distinct instance of such prayer,
but the more closely we investigate this book of the Acts and the
Epistles of St. Paul, the more clearly we shall find that all the
early Christians invoked Christ, prayed to Him as one raised to a
supernatural sphere and gifted with Divine power, so that He was able
to hear and answer their petitions. St. Stephen prayed to Christ, and
commended his soul to Him, with the same confidence as Christ Himself
commended His soul to the Father. And such commendation was no chance
expression, no exclamation of adoring love merely. It was the outcome
of the universal practice of the Church, which resorted to God through
Jesus Christ. Prayer to Christ and the invocation of Christ were notes
of the earliest disciples. Saul went to Damascus "to bind all that
called upon the name of Jesus" (ch. ix. 14). The Damascene Jews are
amazed at the converted Saul's preaching of Jesus Christ, saying, "Is
not this he that in Jerusalem made havoc of them which called on this
name?" (ch. ix. 21). While again Rom. x. 12 and 1 Cor. i. 2 prove that
the same custom spread forth from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of
the Church. The passage to which I have just referred in the
Corinthian Epistle is decisive as to St. Paul's teaching at a much
later period than St. Stephen's death, when the Church had had time to
formulate its doctrines and to weigh its teaching. Yet even then, he
was just as clear on this point as Stephen years before, addressing
his Epistle to the Church of God at Corinth, "with all that call upon
the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place;" while again, when
we descend to the generation which came next after the apostolic age,
we find, from Pliny's celebrated letter written to Trajan, describing
the practices and ideas of the Christians of Bithynia in the earliest
years of the second century, that it was then the same as in St.
Paul's day. One of the leading features of the new sect as it appeared
to an intelligent pagan was this: "They sang an hymn to Christ as
God." St. Stephen is the earliest instance of such worship directly
addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ, a practice which has ever since
been steadily maintained in every branch of the Church of Christ. It
has been denied, indeed, in modern times that the Church of England in
her formularies gives a sanction to this practice, which is
undoubtedly apostolical. A reference, however, to the collect
appointed for the memorial day of this blessed martyr would have been
a sufficient answer to this assertion, as that collect contains a very
beautiful prayer to Christ, beseeching assistance, similar to that
given to St. Stephen, amid the troubles of our own lives. The whole
structure of all liturgies, and specially of the English liturgy,
protests against such an idea. The Book of Common Prayer teems with
prayer to Jesus Christ. The Te Deum is in great part a prayer
addressed to Him; so is the Litany, and so are collects like the
prayer of St. Chrysostom, the Collect for the First Sunday in Lent,
and the well-known prayer for the Third Sunday in Advent--"O Lord Jesu
Christ, who at Thy first coming didst send Thy messenger to prepare
Thy way."[137] The Eastern Church indeed addresses a greater number
of prayers to Christ directly. The Western Church, basing itself on
the promise of Christ, "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name,
He will give it you," has ever directed the greater portion of her
prayers to the Father through the Son; but the few leading cases just
mentioned, cases which are common to the whole Western Church,
Reformed or unreformed, will prove that the West also has followed
primitive custom in calling upon the name and invoking the help of the
Lord Jesus Himself. And then when Stephen had given us these two
lessons, one of faith, the other of practice; when he had taught us
the doctrine of Christ's divinity and the worship due to Him, and the
practice of Christian charity and the forgiving spirit which flows
forth from it, even towards those who have treated His servants most
cruelly, then Stephen "fell asleep," the sacred writer using an
expression for death indicative of the new aspect which death had
assumed through Christ, and which henceforth gave the name of
cemeteries to the last resting-places of Christian people.

  [137] See on this point a note in Liddon's _Bampton Lectures_,
  14th edition, pp. 531-43, on the worship of Jesus Christ in the
  services of the Church of England.

V. The execution of St. Stephen was followed by his funeral. The
bodies of those that were stoned were also suspended on a tree, but
there was no opposition to their removal, as afterwards in the great
persecutions. The pagans, knowing that Christians preached the
doctrine of the resurrection of the body, strove to prove the
absurdity of this tenet by reducing the body to ashes. The Christians,
however, repeatedly proved that they entertained no narrow views on
this point, and did not expect the resurrection of the identical
elements of which the earthly body was composed. They took a broader
and nobler view of St. Paul's teaching in the fifteenth of 1st
Corinthians, and regarded the natural body as merely the seed out of
which the resurrection body was to be developed. This is manifest from
some of the stories told us by ancient historians concerning the
Christians of the second century. The martyrs of Vienne and Lyons have
been already referred to, and their sufferings described. The pagans
knew of their doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and thought to
defeat it by scattering the ashes of the martyrs upon the waters of
the Rhone; but the narrative of Eusebius tells us how foolish was this
attempt, as if man could thus overcome God, whose almighty power
avails to raise the dead from the ashes scattered over the ocean as
easily as from the bones gathered into a sepulchre. Another story is
handed down by a writer of Antioch named John Malalas, who lived about
A.D. 600, concerning five Christian virgins, who lived some seventy
years earlier than these Gallic martyrs, and fell victims to the
persecution which raged at Antioch in the days of the Emperor Trajan,
when St. Ignatius perished. They were burned to death for their
constancy in the faith, and then their ashes were mingled with brass,
which was made into basins for the public baths. Every person who used
the basins became ill, and then the emperor caused the basins to be
formed into statues of the virgins, in order, as Trajan said, that "it
may be seen that I and not their God have raised them up."[138]

  [138] See Malalas' _Chronographia_, lib. xi., and the article on
  Malalas in the _Dict. Christ. Biog._, where this story is given at
  length.

But while it is plainly evident from the records of history that the
earliest Christians had no narrow views about the relation between the
present body of humiliation and the future body of glory, it is
equally manifest that they paid the greatest attention to the mortal
remains of their deceased friends, and permitted the fullest
indulgence in human grief. In doing so they were only following the
example of their Master, who sorrowed over Lazarus, and whose own
mortal remains were cared for by the loving reverence of Nicodemus and
Joseph of Arimathea. Christianity was no system of Stoicism. Stoicism
was indeed the noblest form of Greek thought, and one which approached
most closely to the Christian standpoint, but it put a ban upon human
affection and feeling. Christianity acted otherwise. It flung a bright
light on death, and illuminated the dark recesses of the tomb through
the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the prospect for humanity which
that resurrection opens up. But it did not make the vain attempt of
Stoicism to eradicate human nature. Nay, rather, Christianity
sanctified it by the example of Jesus Christ, and by the brief notice
of the mourning of the Church for the loss of their foremost champion,
St. Stephen, which we find in our narrative. Such a gratification of
natural feeling has never been inconsistent with the highest form of
Christian faith. There may be the most joyous anticipation as to our
friends who have been taken from us joined with the saddest
reflections as to our own bereavement. We may be most assured that our
loss is the infinite gain of the departed, and for them we mourn not;
but we cannot help feeling that _we_ have sustained a loss, and for
_our_ loss we must grieve. The feelings of a Christian even now must
be thus mixed, and surely much more must this have been the case when
"devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him."

The last results we note in this passage of Stephen's death are
twofold. Stephen's martyrdom intensified the persecution for a time.
Saul of Tarsus was made for a while a more determined and active
persecutor. His mental position, his intellectual convictions, had
received a shock, and he was trying to re-establish himself, and
quench his doubts, by intensifying his exertions on behalf of the
ancient creed. Some of the most violent persecutions the Church has
ever had to meet were set on foot by men whose faith in their own
systems was deeply shaken, or who at times have had no faith in
anything at all. The men whose faith had been shaken endeavoured, by
their activity in defence of the system in which they once fully
believed, to obtain an external guarantee and assurance of its truth;
while the secret unbeliever was often the worst of persecutors,
because he regarded all religions as equally false, and therefore
looked upon the new teachers as rash and mischievous innovators.

The result then of Stephen's martyrdom was to render the Church's
state at Jerusalem worse for the time. The members of the Church were
scattered far and wide, all save the Apostles. Here we behold a
notable instance of the protecting care of Providence over His infant
Church. All save the Apostles were dispersed from Jerusalem. One might
have expected that they would have been specially sought after, and
would have been necessarily the first to flee. There is an early
tradition, however, which goes back to the second century, and finds
some support in this passage, that our Lord ordered the Apostles to
remain in the city of Jerusalem for twelve years after the Ascension,
in order that every one there might have an opportunity of hearing the
truth.[139] His protecting hand was over the heads of the Church
while the members were scattered abroad. But that same hand turned the
apparent trial into the Church's permanent gain. The Church now, for
the first time, found what it ever after proved to be the case. "They
that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word." The
Church's present loss became its abiding gain. The blood of the
martyrs became the seed of the Church. Violence reacted on the cause
of those who employed it, as violence--no matter how it may
temporarily triumph--always reacts on those who use it, whether their
designs be intrinsically good or bad; till, in a widely disseminated
Gospel, and in a daily increasing number of disciples, the eye of
faith learned to read the clearest fulfilment of the ancient
declaration, "The wrath of man shall praise God, and the remainder of
wrath shalt Thou restrain."[140]

  [139] See Eusebius, v. 18; Clem. Alex., _Strom._, vi. 5.

  [140] St. Augustine, in his sermons on the festival of St.
  Stephen, concisely puts the matter thus: "Si Stephenus non nasset,
  ecclesia Paulum non haberet" ("If St. Stephen had not prayed, the
  Church would not have had St. Paul").



CHAPTER XVII.

_SIMON MAGUS AND THE CONVERSION OF SAMARIA._

     "And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto
     them the Christ.... But there was a certain man, Simon by name,
     which beforetime in the city used sorcery, and amazed the people
     of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom
     they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This
     man is that power of God which is called Great."--ACTS viii. 5,
     9, 10.


The object of the earlier part of this book of the Acts is to trace
the steady, gradual development of the Church among the Jews, the
evolution, never ceasing for a moment, of that principle of true
catholic and universal life which the Master implanted within her, and
which never ceased working till the narrow, prejudiced, illiberal
little company of Galileans, who originally composed the Church,
became the emancipated Church of all nations. This process of
development was carried on, as we have already pointed out, through
the agency of the Hellenistic Jews, and specially of the deacons who
were so intimately connected with that class. We have in the last few
lectures surveyed the history of one deacon, St. Stephen; we are now
led to the story of another, St. Philip. His activity, as described in
the eighth chapter, runs upon exactly the same lines. St. Stephen
proclaims the universal principles of the gospel; St. Philip acts upon
these principles, going down to the city of Samaria, and preaching
Christ there. The prominent position which the deacons had for the
time taken is revealed to us by two notices. Philip leaves Jerusalem
and goes to Samaria, where the power of the high priest and of the
Sanhedrin does not extend, but would rather be violently resisted.
Here he is safe for the time, till the violence of the persecution
should blow over. And yet, though Philip has to leave Jerusalem, the
Apostles remain hidden by the obscurity into which they had for a
little fallen, owing to the supreme brilliancy of St. Stephen: "They
were all scattered abroad except the Apostles." The deacons were
obliged to fly, the Apostles could remain: facts which sufficiently
show the relative positions the two classes occupied in the public
estimation, and illustrate that law of the Divine working which we so
often see manifesting itself in the course of the Church's chequered
career, the last shall be first and the first last. God, on this
occasion, as evermore, chooses His own instruments, and works by them
as and how He pleases.

I. This reticence and obscurity of the Apostles may seem to us now
somewhat strange, as it certainly does seem most strange how the
Apostles could have remained safe at Jerusalem when all others had to
fly. The Apostles naturally now appear to us the most prominent
members of the Jerusalem, nay, farther, of the Christian Church
throughout the world. But then, as we have already observed, one of
the great difficulties in historical study is to get at the right
point of view, and to keep ourselves at that point under very varying
combinations of circumstances. We are apt to fling ourselves back, or,
if the expression be allowed, to project ourselves backwards into the
past, and to think that men must always have attributed the same
importance to particular persons or particular circumstances as we
do. We now see the whole course of events, and can estimate them, not
according to any mere temporary importance or publicity they may have
attained, but according to their real and abiding influence. Viewing
the matter in this light, we now can see that the Apostles were much
more important persons than the deacons. But the question is, not how
we regard the Apostles and the deacons, but how did the Sanhedrin and
the Jews of Jerusalem in Stephen's and Philip's time view these two
classes. They knew nothing of the Apostles as such.[141] They knew of
them simply as unlearned and ignorant men who had been once or twice
brought before the Council. They knew of Stephen, and perhaps, too, of
Philip, as cultured Grecian Jews, whose wisdom and eloquence and
persuasive power they were not able to resist; and it is no wonder
that in the eyes of the Sadducean majority, who then ruled the Jewish
senate, the deacons should be specially sought out and driven away.

  [141] The very name Apostle connotes for us an extraordinary
  office and dignity, placing the Twelve upon an exalted plane far
  above all others. But the Jewish Council knew nothing of this. The
  term Apostle was in common use amongst the Jews. To us it seems
  almost presumptuous to apply the name to any but the Twelve,
  though the New Testament applies it more widely. The title Apostle
  was given among the Jews to the legate or Church officer who
  attended on every synagogue and discharged its commands. It was
  also specially bestowed upon the messengers of the Jewish high
  priest or patriarch who collected the temple tax while the temple
  existed, and afterwards the poll tax or tribute paid by every Jew
  throughout the world towards the support of the patriarch and the
  Sanhedrin. The name Apostle is found in this sense in the
  Theodosian Code down to so late a period as the fifth century. Our
  Lord and the early Church simply adopted this title Apostle from
  the synagogue, as they adopted so many other rites and usages,
  baptism, holy communion, the various orders of the ministry, and a
  liturgical service.

The action of the Apostles themselves may have conduced to this. Here
let us recur to a thought we have already touched upon. We are
inclined to view the Apostles as if the Spirit which guided them
totally destroyed their human personality and their human feelings. We
are apt to cherish towards the Apostles the same reverential but
misleading feeling which the believers of the early Church cherished
towards the prophets, and against which St. James clearly protested
when he said, "Elijah was a man of like passions with ourselves." We
are inclined to think of them as if there was nothing weak or human or
mistaken about them, and yet there was plenty of all these qualities
in their character and conduct. The Apostles were older than the
deacons, and they were men of much narrower ideas, of a more
restricted education. They had less of that facility of temper, that
power of adaptation, which learning and travel combined always confer.
They may have been somewhat suspicious too of the headlong course
pursued by Stephen and his fellows. Their Galilean minds did not work
out logical results so rapidly as their Hellenistic friends and
allies. They had been slow of heart to believe with the Master. They
were slow of heart and mind to work out principles and to grasp
conclusions when taught by His servants and followers. The Apostles
were, after all, only men, and they had their treasure in earthen
vessels. Their inspiration, and the presence of the Spirit within
their hearts, were quite consistent with intellectual slowness, and
with mental inability to recognise at once the leadings of Divine
Providence. It was just then the same as it has ever been in Church
history. The older generation is always somewhat suspicious of the
younger. It is slow to appreciate its ideas, hopes, aspirations, and
it is well perhaps that the older generation is suspicious, because it
thus puts on a drag which gives time for prudence, forethought, and
patience to come into play. These may appear very human motives to
attribute to the Apostles, but then we lose a great deal of Divine
instruction if we invest the Apostles with an infallibility higher
even than that which Roman Catholics attribute to the Pope. For them
the Pope is infallible only when speaking as universal doctor and
teacher, a position which some among them go so far as to assert he
has never taken since the Church was founded, so that in their opinion
the Pope has never yet spoken infallibly. But with many sincere
Christians the Apostles were infallible, not only when teaching, but
when thinking, acting, writing on the most trivial topics, or
discoursing on the most ordinary subjects.

II. Let us now turn our attention to Philip and his work, and its
bearing on the future history and development of the Church. Here,
before we go any farther, it may be well to note how St. Luke gained
his knowledge of the events which happened at Samaria. We do not
pretend indeed, like some critics, to point out all the sources whence
the sacred writers gathered their information. Any one who has ever
attempted to write history of any kind must be aware how impossible it
often is for the writer himself to trace the sources of his
information after the lapse of some time. How much more impossible
then must it be for others to trace the original sources whence the
sacred or any other ancient writers derived their knowledge, when
hundreds and even thousands of years have elapsed. Our own ignorance
of the past is a very unsafe ground indeed on which to base our
rejection of any ancient document whatsoever.

It is well, however, to note, where and when we can, the sources
whence information may have been gained, and fortunately this book of
the Acts supplies us with instruction on this very point. A quarter of
a century later the same Saul who, doubtless, helped to make St.
Philip fly on this occasion from Jerusalem, was dwelling for several
days beneath his roof at Cæsarea. He was then Paul the Apostle of the
Gentiles, who bore in his own person many marks and proofs of his
devotion to the cause which Philip had proclaimed and supported while
Paul was still a persecutor. The story of the meeting is told us in
the twenty-first chapter of this book. St. Paul was on his way to
Jerusalem to pay that famous visit which led to his arrest, and, in
the long run, to his visit to Rome and trial before Cæsar. He was
travelling up to Jerusalem by the coast road which led from Tyre,
where he landed, through Cæsarea, and thence to the Holy City. St.
Luke was with him, and when they came to Cæsarea they entered into the
house of Philip the Evangelist, with whom they abode several days.
What hallowed conversations St. Luke must there have listened to! How
these two saints, Paul and Philip, would go over the days and scenes
long since past and gone! How they would compare experiences and
interchange ideas; and there it was that St. Luke must have had
abundant opportunities for learning the history of the rise of
Christianity in Samaria which here he exhibits to us.

Let us now look a little closer at the circumstances of the case. The
place where Philip preached has raised a question. Some have
maintained that it was Samaria itself, the capital city, which Philip
visited and evangelized. Others have thought that it was a city,--some
indefinite city of the district Samaria, probably Sychar, the town
where our Lord had taught the Samaritan woman. Some have held one
view, some the other, but the Revised Version would seem to incline to
the view that it was the capital city which St. Philip visited on this
occasion, and not that city which our Lord Himself evangelized. It may
to some appear an additional difficulty in the way of accepting Sychar
as the scene of St. Philip's ministry, that our Lord's work and
teaching some five years previously would, in that case, seem to have
utterly vanished. Philip goes down and preaches Christ to a city which
knew nothing of Him. How, some may think, could this have possibly
been true, and how could such an impostor as Simon have carried all
the people captive, had Christ Himself preached there but a few short
years before, and converted the mass of the people to belief in
Himself? Now I maintain that it was Samaria, the capital, and not
Sychar, some miles distant, that Philip evangelized, but I am not
compelled to accept this view by any considerations about Christ's own
ministry and its results. Our Lord might have taught in the same city
where Philip taught, and in the course of five years the effect of His
personal ministry might have entirely vanished.

There is no lesson more plainly enforced by the gospel story than
this, Christ's own personal ministry was a comparatively fruitless
one. He taught the Samaritan woman, indeed, and the people of the city
were converted, as they said, not so much by her witness as by the
power of Christ's own words and influence. But then the Holy Ghost was
not yet given, the Church was not yet founded, the Divine society
which Christ, as the risen Saviour, was to establish, had not yet come
into existence; and therefore work like that done at Samaria was a
transient thing, passing away like the morning cloud or the early dew,
and leaving not a trace behind. Christ came not to teach men a Divine
doctrine, so much as to establish a Divine society, and, till this
society was established, the work done even by Christ Himself was a
fleeting and evanescent thing. The foundation of the Church as a
society was absolutely necessary if the doctrine and teaching of
Christ was to be preserved. The article of the creed, "I believe in
the Holy Catholic Church," has been neglected, slighted, and
undervalued by Protestants. I have heard even of avowed expositors of
the Apostles' Creed who, when they came to this article, have passed
it over with a hasty notice because it did not fit into their narrow
systems. And yet here again the Supreme wisdom of the Divine plan has
been amply vindicated, and the experience of the New Testament has
shown that if there had not been a Church instituted by Christ, and
established with Himself as its foundation, rock, and chief
corner-stone, the wholesome doctrine and the supernatural teaching of
Christ would soon have vanished. I am here indeed reminded of the
words and experience of one of the greatest evangelists who have lived
since apostolic times. John Wesley, when dealing with a cognate
subject, wrote to one of his earliest preachers about the importance
of establishing Methodist societies wherever Methodist preachers found
access, and he proceeds to urge the necessity for doing so on
precisely the same grounds as those on which we explain the failure of
our Lord's personal ministry, so far at least as present results were
concerned. Wesley tells his correspondent that wherever Methodist
teaching alone has been imparted, and Methodist societies have not
been founded as well, the work has been an utter failure, and has
vanished away.

So it was with the Master, Christ Jesus. He bestowed His Divine
instruction and imparted His Divine doctrine, but as the time for the
outpouring of the Spirit and the foundation of the Church had not yet
come, the total result of the personal work and labours of the
Incarnate God was simply one hundred and twenty, or at most five
hundred souls. It constitutes, then, to our mind no difficulty in the
way of regarding Sychar as the scene of Philip's teaching, that Christ
Himself may have laboured there a few years before, and yet that there
should not have been a trace of His labours when St. Philip arrived.
The Master might Himself have taught in a town, and yet His disciple's
preaching a few years later might have been most necessary, because
the Spirit was not yet given. The plain meaning, however, of the words
of the Acts is that it was to the city of Samaria, the capital city,
that Philip went; and it is most likely that to the capital city a
character like Simon would have resorted, and not to any smaller town,
as affording him the largest field for the exercise of his peculiar
talents, just as afterwards we shall find, in the course of his
history, that he resorted to the capital of the world, Rome itself, as
the scene most effectual for his purposes.[142]

  [142] Samaria, the capital, was at this period called by the
  Romans Sebaste. Herod the Great rebuilt it in honour of the
  emperors, and erected a splendid temple there, which he
  inaugurated with games and gladiatorial shows. It was a suitable
  spot for the peculiar talents of a man like Simon Magus, as in
  turn it would have been specially repugnant for every reason to a
  strict Jew. But a Divine instinct was leading Philip on to the
  revelation of God's purposes of love and mercy. See Joseph.,
  _Antiqq._, XV., viii., 5; Stanley's _Sinai and Palestine_, p.
  245.

III. St. Philip went down, then, to Samaria and preached Christ there,
and in Samaria he came across the first of those subtle opponents with
whom the gospel has ever had to struggle,--men who did not directly
oppose the truth, but who corrupted its pure morality and its simple
faith by a human admixture, which turned its salutary doctrines into a
deadly poison. Philip came to Samaria, and there he found the
Samaritans carried away with the teaching and actions of Simon. The
preaching of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, and the exercise of true
miraculous power, converted the Samaritans, and were sufficient to
work intellectual conviction even in the case of the Magician. All the
Samaritans, Simon included, believed and were baptized. This is the
introduction upon the stage of history of Simon Magus, whom the
earliest Church writers, such as Hegesippus, the father of Church
history, who was born close upon the time of St. John, and flourished
about the middle of the second century, and his contemporary Justin
Martyr, describe as the first of those gnostic heretics who did so
much in the second and third centuries to corrupt the gospel both in
faith and practice. The writings of the second and third centuries are
full of the achievements and evil deeds of this man Simon, which
indeed are related by some writers with so much detail as to form a
very considerable romance. Here, then, we find a corroborative piece
of evidence as to the early date of the composition of the Acts of the
Apostles. Had the Acts been written in the second century, it would
have given us some traces of the second-century tradition about Simon
Magus; but having been written at a very early period, upon the
termination of St. Paul's first imprisonment, it gives us simply the
statement about Simon Magus as St. Luke and St. Paul had heard it
from the mouth of Philip the Evangelist. St. Luke tells us nothing
more, simply because he had no more to tell about this first of the
celebrated heretics. When we come to the second century Simon's story
is told with much more embellishment. The main outlines are, however,
doubtless correct. All Christian writers agree in setting forth that
after the reproof which, as we shall see, Simon Peter the Apostle
bestowed upon the magician, he became a determined opponent of the
Apostles, especially of St. Peter, whose work he endeavoured
everywhere to oppose and defeat. With this end in view he went to
Rome, as Justin Martyr says, in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, and as
other writers say, in the time of Nero.

There he successfully deceived the people for some time. We have early
notices of his success in the Imperial city. Justin Martyr is a writer
who came close upon the apostolic age. He wrote an Apology for the
Christians, which we may safely assign to some year about 150 A.D. At
that time he was a man in middle life, whose elder contemporaries must
have been well acquainted with the history and traditions of the
previous century. In that first Apology Justin gives us many
particulars about Christianity and the early Church, and he tells us,
concerning Simon Magus, that his teaching at Rome was so successful in
leading the Roman people astray that they erected a statue in his
honour, between the two bridges. It is a curious fact, and one, too,
which confirms the accuracy of Justin, that in the year 1574 there was
dug up on the very spot indicated by Justin, the island in the Tiber,
a statue bearing the inscription described by Justin, "Semoni Sanco
Deo Fidio." Critics, indeed, are now pretty generally agreed that
this statue was the one seen by Justin, but that it was originally
erected in honour of a Sabine deity, and not of the arch-heretic as
the Apologist supposed; though there are some who think that the
appeal of Justin to a statue placed before men's eyes, and about which
many at Rome must have known all the facts, could not have been made
on such mistaken grounds. It is not altogether safe to build theories
or offer explanations based on our ignorance, and opposed to the
plain, distinct statements of a writer like Justin, who was a
contemporary with the events of which he speaks. It seems indeed a
plausible explanation to say that Justin Martyr mistook the name of a
Sabine deity for that of an Eastern heretic. But there may have been
two statues and two inscriptions on the island, one to the heretic,
another to the ancient Sabine god. Later writers of the second and
third centuries improved upon Justin's story, and entered into great
details of the struggles between Simon and the two Apostles, St. Peter
and St. Paul, terminating in the death of the magician when attempting
to fly up to heaven in the presence of the Emperor Nero. His death did
not, however, put an end to his influence. The evil which he did and
taught lived long afterwards. His followers continued his teaching and
proved themselves active opponents of the truth, seducing many
proselytes by the apparent depth and subtlety of their views. Such is
the history of Simon Magus as it is told in Church history, but we are
now concerned simply with the statements put forward in the passage
before us.[143] There Simon appears as a teacher who led the
Samaritans captive by his sorcery, which he used as the basis of his
claim to be recognised as "that power of God which is called Great."
Magic and sorcery have always more or less prevailed, and do still
prevail, in the Eastern world, and have ever been used in opposition
to the gospel of Christ, just as the same practices, under the name of
Spiritualism, have shown themselves hostile to Christianity in Western
Europe and in America. The tales of modern travellers in India and the
East, respecting the wondrous performances of Indian jugglers, remind
us strongly of the deeds of Jannes and Jambres who withstood Moses,
and illustrate the sorcery which Simon Magus used for the deception of
the Samaritans. The Jews, indeed, were everywhere celebrated at this
period for their skill in magical incantations--a well-known fact, of
which we find corroborative evidence in the Acts. Bar-Jesus, the
sorcerer who strove to turn the proconsul of Cyprus from the faith,
was a Jew (Acts xiii. 6-12). In the nineteenth chapter we find the
seven sons of Sceva, the Jewish priest, exercising the same trade of
sorcery; while, as is well known from references in the classical
writers, the Jews at Rome were famous for the same practices.

  [143] The story of the quarrels between Simon Magus and St. Peter
  has been used by the Tübingen school of critics in Germany to
  support their theory of a fundamental opposition between St. Paul
  and St. Peter. See Dr. Salmon's _Introduction_, chap. xix., for a
  full statement of this strange view.

These statements of writers sacred and secular alike have been
confirmed in the present age. There has been a marvellous discovery of
ancient documents in Egypt within the last twelve or fifteen years,
which were purchased by the Austrian government and duly transferred
to Vienna, where they have been investigated. They are usually called
the Fayûm Manuscripts.[144] They contain some of the oldest documents
now existing, and embrace among them large quantities of magical
writings, with the Hebrew formulæ used by the Jewish sorcerers when
working their pretended miracles. So wondrously does modern discovery
confirm the statements and details of the New Testament!

  [144] See about the Fayûm MSS. and their contents a series of
  articles in the Records of the _Contemporary Review_ from December
  1884, and in the _Expositor_ for 1885 and 1888. These Fayûm
  documents go back to the remotest times, one of them being dated
  so long ago as 1200 B.C. It is very curious that this
  extraordinary discovery has been apparently overlooked by the
  great majority of English learned societies.

It is not necessary now to discuss the question whether the
achievements of sorcery and magic, either ancient or modern, have any
reality about them, or are a mere clever development of sleight of
hand, though we incline to the view which admits a certain amount of
reality about the wonders performed, else how shall we account for the
doings of the Egyptian magicians, the denunciations of sorcery and
witchcraft contained in the Bible, as well as in many statements in
the New Testament? A dry and cold age of materialism, without life and
fire and enthusiasm, like the last century, was inclined to explain
away such statements of the Scriptures. But man has now learned to be
more distrustful of himself and the extent of his discoveries. We know
so little of the spirit world, and have seen of late such strange
psychological manifestations in connection with hypnotism, that the
wise man will hold his judgment in suspense, and not hastily conclude,
with the men of the eighteenth century, that possession with devils
was only another name for insanity, and that the deeds of sorcerers
were displays of mere unassisted human skill and subtlety.[145] As it
was with the Jews, so was it with the Samaritans. They were indeed
bitterly separated the one from the other, but their hopes, ideas, and
faith were fundamentally alike. The relations between the Samaritans
and the Jews were at the period of which we treat very like those which
exist between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Ulster,--professing
different forms of the same faith, yet regarding one another with
bitterer feelings than if far more widely separated. So it was with
the Jews and Samaritans; but the existing hostility did not change
nature and its essential tendencies, and therefore as the Jews
practised sorcery, so did Simon, who was a native of Samaria; and with
his sorcery he ministered to the Messianic expectation which
flourished among the Samaritans equally as among the Jews. The
Samaritan woman testified to this in her conversation with our Lord,
and as she was a woman of a low position and of a sinful character,
her language proves that her ideas must have had a wide currency among
the Samaritan people. "The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messiah
cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will declare unto
us all things." Simon took advantage of this expectation, and gave
himself out to be "that power of God which is called Great;"
testifying by his assertion to the craving which existed all through
the Jewish world for the appearance of the long-expected deliverer, a
craving which we again find manifesting itself in the many political
pretenders who sprang up in the regions of more orthodox Judaism, as
Josephus amply shows. The world, in fact, and specially the world
which had been affected with Jewish ideas and Jewish thought, was
longing for a deeper teaching and for a profounder spiritual life than
it had as yet known. It was athirst for God, yea, even for the living
God; and when it could find nothing better, it turned aside and strove
to quench the soul's desires at the impure fountains which magic and
sorcery supplied.

  [145] Moll's work on hypnotism, which we have already several
  times quoted, admits the reality of Eastern magic, accounting for
  the mango trick which Indian jugglers perform, and which every
  Indian resident has seen, on the ground that even vegetables can
  be hypnotised. It may be hard for us to admit it, but such books
  compel us to allow that there may be more in heaven and earth than
  is dreamt of in our philosophy. The presence of the grand heathen
  temple at Sebaste or Samaria would have made it the fitter scene
  for Simon's magical incantations. Magic and Paganism always
  flourished side by side, as we see at Ephesus.

IV. Philip the Evangelist came with his teaching into a society which
acknowledged Simon as its guide, and his miracles at once struck the
minds of the beholders. They were miracles worked, like the Master's,
without any secret preparations, without the incense, the
incantations, the muttered formulæ which accompanied the lying wonders
of the magician. They formed a contrast in another direction too,--no
money was demanded, no personal aims or low objects were served; the
thorough unselfishness of the evangelist was manifest. Then, too, the
teaching which accompanied the miracles was their best evidence. It
was a teaching of righteousness, of holy living, of charity, of
humility; it was transparently unworldly. It was not like Simon's,
which gave out that he himself was some great one, and treated of
himself alone; but it dealt with "the kingdom of God and the name of
Jesus Christ;" and the teaching and the miracles, testifying the one
to the other, came home to the hearts of the people, leading them
captive to the foot of the Cross. It has often been a debated
question whether miracles alone are a sufficient evidence of the
truth of a doctrine, or whether the doctrine needs to be compared with
the miracles to see if its character be worthy of the Deity. The
teaching of the New Testament seems to be plainly this, that miracles,
in themselves, are not a sufficient evidence. Our Lord warns His
disciples that deceivers shall one day come working mighty signs and
wonders, so as to lead astray, if it be possible, even the very elect;
and He exhorts His disciples to be on their guard against them. But
while miracles alone are no sufficient evidence of the truth of a
doctrine, they were a very needful assistance to the doctrines of the
gospel in the age and country when and where Christianity took its
rise. Whether the sorcery and magic and wonders of Simon, and the
other false teachers against whom the Apostles had to contend, were
true or false, genuine or mere tricks, still they would have given the
false teachers a great advantage over the preachers of the gospel, had
the latter not been armed with real divine supernatural power which
enabled them, as occasion required, to fling the magical performances
completely into the shade. The miraculous operations of the Apostles
seem to have been restricted in the same way as Christ restricted the
working of His own supernatural power. The Apostles never worked
miracles for the relief of themselves or of their friends and
associates. St. Paul was detained through infirmity of the flesh in
Galatia, and that infirmity led him to preach the gospel to the
Galatian Celts. He did not, perhaps he could not, employ his
miraculous power to cure himself, just as our Lord refused to use His
miraculous power to turn stones into bread. St. Paul depended upon
human skill and love for his cure, using probably for that purpose
the medical knowledge and assistance of St. Luke, whom we find
shortly afterwards in his company.[146] Miraculous power was bestowed
upon the first Christian teachers, not for the purposes of display or
of selfish gratification, but simply for the sake of God's kingdom and
man's salvation.

  [146] See Acts xvi. 6-10, compared with Gal. iv. 13.

And as it was with St. Paul so was it with his companions. Timothy was
exhorted to betake himself to human remedies to cure his physical
weakness, while when another apostolic man, Trophimus, was sick, he
was left behind by the Apostle at Miletus till he should get well (2
Tim. iv. 20). Miracles were for the sake of unbelievers, not of
believers, and for this purpose we cannot see how they could have been
done without, under the circumstances in which the gospel was launched
into the world. Man's nature had been so thoroughly corrupted, the
whole moral atmosphere had been so permeated with wickedness, the
whole moral tone of society had been so terribly lowered, that the
Apostles might have come preaching the purest morality, the most
Divine wisdom, and it would have fallen on ears so deaf, and eyes so
blind, and hearts so seared and hardened, that it would have had no
effect unless they had possessed miraculous power which, as occasion
demanded, served to call attention to their teaching. But when the
preliminary barriers had been broken down, and the miracles had
fulfilled their purpose, then the preaching of the kingdom of God and
the name of Jesus Christ did their work. Here again a thought comes
forward on which we have already said a little. The subject matter of
Philip's preaching is described in the fifth verse as Christ, "Philip
went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the
Christ," and then in the twelfth verse it is expanded for us into "the
kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ." These two subjects are
united. The kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. The Apostles
taught no diluted form of Christianity. They preached the name of
Jesus Christ, and they also taught a Divine society which He had
established and which was to be the means of completing the work of
Christ in the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles recognised
the great truth, that a mere preaching of a philosophical or religious
doctrine would have been of very little use in reforming the world.
They therefore preached a Church which should be the pillar and ground
of the truth, which should gather up, safeguard, and teach the truth
whose principles the Apostles set forth. To put it in plain language,
the Evangelist St. Philip must have taught the doctrine of a Church of
Jesus Christ as well as of a doctrine of Jesus Christ. Had the
doctrine of Jesus Christ been taught without and separate from the
doctrine of a Church, the doctrine of Christ's person and character
might have vanished, just as the doctrine of Plato or Aristotle or
that of any of the great ancient teachers vanished. But Jesus Christ
had come into the world to establish a Divine society, with ranks,
gradations, and orderly arrangements; He had come to establish a
kingdom, and they all knew then what a kingdom meant. For the Greek,
Roman, or Jewish mind, a kingdom meant more even than it does for us.
It meant in their conceptions a despotism where the king ordered and
did just what he liked. The Romans, in fact, abominated the name king,
and invented the term emperor instead, because for them the word king
connoted what it does not connote for us, the possession and exercise
of absolute power. Yet, for all this, the Apostles preached Christ as
a King and His society as a kingdom, because in that new society which
He had called into existence, the graces, the gifts, the offices of
the society are totally dependent upon and entirely subservient to
Jesus Christ alone.

How wondrously the life, the activity, the fervour and power of the
Church would have been changed had this truth been always recognised.
The Church of Jesus Christ, as regards its hidden secret life, is a
despotism. It depends upon Christ alone. It depends not upon the
State, not upon man, not upon wealth or position or earthly influences
of any kind: it depends upon Christ alone. The Church has often forgot
this secret of its strength. It has trusted in the arm of flesh, and
has relied upon human patronage and power, and then it has grown,
perhaps, in grandeur and importance as far as the world is concerned;
but, as it has grown in one direction, it has lost in the other, and
that the only direction worthy a Church's attention. The temptation to
rely on the help of the world alone has assailed the Church in various
ways. It assails individual Christians, it assails congregations, it
assails the Church at large. All of them, whether individuals,
congregations, or churches, are apt to imagine that power and
prosperity consist in wealth, or worldly position, or the number of
adherents, forgetting that Christ alone is the source of power to the
Church or to individual souls, and that where He is wanting, no matter
what may be the outward appearance, or the numerical increase or the
political influence, there indeed all true life has departed.

V. The results of Philip's teaching and work in Samaria were
threefold.

(1) The Samaritans believed Philip, and among the believers was Simon.
There are some people who teach faith and nothing else, and imagine
that if they lead men to exercise belief then the whole work of
Christianity is done. This incident at the very outset of the Church's
history supplies a warning against any such one-sided teaching. The
Samaritans believed, and so did Simon the Magician, who had for long
deceived them. The very same word is used here for the faith exercised
by the Samaritans and by Simon, as we find used to describe the belief
of the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, or of the Philippian
jailer who accepted St. Paul's teaching amid all the terror of the
earthquake and the opened prison. They were all intellectually
convinced and had all accepted the Christian faith as a great reality.
Intellectual faith in Christ is the basis on which a true living faith
which works by love is grounded. A faith of the heart which is not
based on a faith of the head is very much akin to a superstition. Of
course we know that there are people whose faith is deep-rooted and
fruitful who cannot state the grounds of their belief, but they are
well aware that others can thus state it, that their faith is capable
of being put into words and defended in argument. Intellectual faith
in Christianity must ever be regarded as a gift of the Holy Ghost,
according to that profound word of the Apostle, "No man can say, Jesus
is Lord, but in the Holy Ghost." But intellectual faith in the truth
and reality of Christ's mission may exist in a heart where there is no
sense of sin and of spiritual want, and then belief in Christ avails
nothing. There were cravings after righteousness and peace in
Samaritan bosoms, but there was none in one heart, at least, and that
heart was therefore unblessed. The results of St. Philip's work teach
us that faith is not everything in the Christian life.

(2) Again we find that another result was, that the Samaritans were
all baptized, including their arch-deceiver Simon. Philip, then, in
the course of his preaching of Christ, must have told them of Christ's
law of baptism. The preaching of the name of Jesus Christ and of the
kingdom of God must have included a due setting forth of His laws and
ordinances. We do no honour to Christ when we neglect any part of His
revelation. If God has revealed any doctrine or any practice or any
sacrament, it must be of the very greatest importance. The mere fact
of its revelation by Him makes it of importance, no matter how we, in
our short-sighted wisdom, may think otherwise. Philip set forth
therefore the whole counsel of God, and as the result all the
Samaritans were baptized, including Simon; but then again, as Simon's
case taught that faith by itself availed not to change the heart, so
Simon's case teaches that baptism, neither alone nor in conjunction
with intellectual faith, avails to convert the soul and purify the
character. God offers His graces and His blessings, faith and baptism,
but unless there be receptivity, unless there be consent of the will,
and a thirst of the soul and a longing of the heart after spiritual
things, the graces and gifts of the Spirit will be offered in vain.

(3) And then, lastly, the final and abiding result of Philip's work
was, there was great joy in that city. They rejoiced because their
souls had found the truth, which can alone satisfy the cravings of the
human heart and minister a joy which leaves no sting behind, but is a
joy pure and exhaustless. The joys of earth are always mixed, and the
more mixed the more unsatisfying. The joy of a Christian soul which
knows Christ and His preciousness, which has been delivered by Christ
from deceit and impurity and vice, as these Samaritans had, and which
feels and enjoys the new light thrown on life by Christ's revelations,
that joy is a surpassing one, ravishing the soul, satisfying the
intellect, purifying the life. There was great joy in that city, and
no wonder, for as the poet has well sung, contrasting the "world's gay
garish feast" with God's sacred consolations bestowed upon holy
souls,--

    "Who, but a Christian, through all life
      That blessing may prolong?
    Who, through the world's sad day of strife,
      Still chant his morning song?

    "Such is Thy banquet, dearest Lord;
      O give us grace, to cast
    Our lot with Thine, to trust Thy word,
      And keep our best till last."[147]

  [147] _The Christian Year_, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany.



CHAPTER XVIII.

_THE APOSTLES AND CONFIRMATION._

     "Now when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria
     had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
     who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might
     receive the Holy Ghost: for as yet He was fallen upon none of
     them: only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord
     Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the
     Holy Ghost."--ACTS viii. 14-18.


In the last lecture we noticed the work of Philip in Samaria, the
present one will deal with the mission of the Apostles Peter and John
to complete and perfect that work.

The story, as told in the sacred narrative, is full of instruction. It
reveals the ritual of the apostolic Church, the development of its
organization and practice, the spiritual lessons which the earliest
gospel teachers imparted and the latest gospel teachers will find
applicable. Philip converted the Samaritans and laid the basis of a
Christian Church. Word was at once brought of this new departure to
the Apostles at Jerusalem, because it was a new step, a fresh
development which must have given a great shock to the strict Jewish
feeling, which regarded the gospel as limited by the bounds of
orthodox Judaism. The Apostles may have felt some surprise at the
news, but they evidently must have acknowledged the Samaritans as
standing on a higher level than the Gentiles, for they do not seem to
have raised any such objections to their baptism as were afterwards
urged against St. Peter when he preached to and baptized Cornelius.
"Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised," was the objection of the
Jerusalem Church urged against St. Peter as regards Cornelius. The
Samaritans were circumcised, and therefore this objection did not
apply. The Jews, indeed, of Judæa and of Galilee hated the Samaritans
with a perfect hatred, but neither hatred nor love is ever guided by
reason. Our feelings always outrun our judgment, and the judgment of
the Jews compelled them to recognise the Samaritans as within the
bounds of circumcision, and therefore the Apostles tolerated, or at
least did not except against, the preaching of the gospel to the
Samaritans, and their admission by baptism into the Messianic kingdom.
It is a phenomenon we often see repeated in our own experience. A
brother or a relation alienated is harder to be won and is more
bitterly regarded than a total stranger with whom we may have
quarrelled, though, at the same time, reason, perhaps even pride and
self-respect and regard for consistency, compel us to recognise that
he occupies a different position from that of a perfect stranger. The
conversion of the Samaritans must be viewed as one of the
divinely-appointed steps in the plan of human unification, one of the
divinely-appointed actions gently leading to the final overthrow of
the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile which the earlier
chapters of this book trace for us. How beautiful the order, how
steady and regular the progress, that is set before us! First we have
the call of the strict Jews, then that of the Hellenistic Jews, next
that of the Samaritans, and then the step was not a long one from the
admission of the hated Samaritans to the baptism of the devout though
uncircumcised Gentile, Cornelius. God does His work in grace, as in
nature, by degrees. He teaches us that changes must come, and that
each age of the Church must be marked by development and improvement;
but He shows us here in His word how changes should be made,--not
rashly, unwisely, impetuously, and therefore uncharitably, but gently,
gradually, sympathetically, and with explanations abundantly
vouchsafed to soothe the feelings and calm the fears of the weaker
brethren. This method of the Divine government receives an
illustration in this passage. God led the Church of the first age very
gradually, and therefore we see the apostolic college steadily, though
perhaps blindly and unconsciously, advancing on the road of progress
and of Christian liberality.

We have in this section of primitive Church history a two-fold
division: the action of the Apostles on one side, the attitude and
conduct of Simon Magus on the other. Each division has quite distinct
teaching. Let us in this chapter take note of the Apostles.

I. The Apostles who were at Jerusalem heard of the conversion of
Samaria, and they at once sent thither Peter and John to supervise the
work. The deacons had, for a time, appeared to supersede the Apostles
before the world, but only in appearance. The Apostles retained the
chief government in their own hands, though to the men of the time
others seemed the more prominent workers. The Apostles gave free scope
to the gifts entrusted to their brilliant subordinates, but none the
less they felt their own responsibility as rulers of the Divine
society, and never for a moment did they relinquish the authority over
that society which God had entrusted to them. They felt that Christ
had instituted an organized society with ranks and offices duly
graduated, with officials--of whom they were themselves the
chief--assigned to their appointed tasks, and never did they surrender
to any man their divinely-given power and authority. Philip might
preach in Samaria; but though he was successful in winning converts,
the Apostles claimed the right of inspecting and controlling his
labours. They successfully solved a problem which has often proved a
very troublesome one. They combined the exercise of power with the
free play of enthusiasm, and the result was that the enthusiasm was
shielded from mistakes, and the power was vivified by the touch of
enthusiasm and prevented from falling into that cold, heartless,
ice-like thing which autocratic rule, in Church and State alike, has
so often become. What a picture and guide we here behold for the
Church of all ages! What a needed lesson is here taught! What errors
and schisms would have been avoided throughout the long ages which
have since elapsed, had the example of the apostolic Church been more
closely followed, had power been more sympathetic with enthusiasm, and
enthusiasm more loving, obedient, and submissive as regards authority!

The Apostles recognised their own responsibility and acted upon their
own sense of authority, and they sent forth Peter and John to minister
in Samaria and supply what was wanting as soon as they heard of the
work done by St. Philip. The persons whom the college of Apostles thus
despatched are worthy of notice, and have a direct bearing on some of
the great theological and social problems of this age. They sent Peter
and John. Peter, then, was the messenger of the Apostles,--the sent
one, not the sender. We can find nothing of the supremacy of Peter in
these early apostolic days of which men began to dream in later years.
The supreme authority in the Church and the burden of the Christian
ministry were laid upon the twelve Apostles as a whole, and they, as a
body of men entrusted with co-equal power, exercised their functions.
They knew nothing of Peter as the prince of the Apostles; nay, rather,
when occasion demanded, they sent Peter as well as John as their
delegates. The choice of these two men, just as their previous
activity, depended again upon spiritual grounds, upon their love,
their zeal, their Christian experience, not upon any official
privilege or position which they enjoyed above the other Apostles.

Surely in this view again the Acts of the Apostles may be regarded as
a mirror of all Church history. The pretended supremacy of St. Peter
above his brethren has been the ground on which the claim of Roman
supremacy over all other Christian Churches has been urged. That claim
has been backed up by forgeries like the False Decretals, where
fictitious letters of Popes dating from the first century downwards
have been used to support the papal assertions. But plain men need not
go into abstruse questions of Church history, or into debates upon
disputed texts. We have one undoubted Church history, admitted by all
parties who profess and call themselves Christians. That history is
the Acts of the Apostles, and when we examine it we can find nothing
about St. Peter, his life or his actions, answering in the remotest
degree to that imperial and absolute authority which the papacy claims
in virtue of its alleged descent from that holy Apostle. The Acts
knows of St. Peter sometimes as the leader and spokesman of the
Apostles, at other times as their delegate, but the Acts knows
nothing and hints nothing of St. Peter as the ruler, the prince, the
absolute, infallible guide of his fellow Apostles and of the whole
Church.

Peter and John were the persons despatched as the apostolic delegates
to complete the work begun by Philip. We can see spiritual reasons
which may have led to this choice. Peter and John, with James his
brother, had been specially favoured with Christ's personal
communications, they had been admitted into His most intimate
friendship, and therefore they were spiritually eminent in the work of
Christ, and peculiarly fitted to do work like that which awaited them
in Samaria,--pointing Christian men to the great truth, that eminence
in Christ's Church and cause will evermore depend, not upon official
position or hierarchical or ministerial authority, but upon spiritual
qualifications and the vigour of the interior life. How wonderfully
has the prophecy involved in the pre-eminence of Peter, James, and
John been fulfilled. When we look back over the ages of Christian
labour which have since elapsed, whose are the foremost names? Whose
fame as Christian workers is the greatest? Not popes or princes, or
bishops of great cities, but an Augustine, the bishop of an obscure
African see; an Origen, a presbyter of Alexandria; a Thomas à Kempis
whom no man knows; or presbyters like John Wesley, or George Herbert,
or Fletcher of Madeley, or John Keble;--men like them, holy and humble
of heart, obscure in station or in scenes of labour, they have lived
much with God and they have gained highest places in the saintly army,
because they were specially the friends of Jesus Christ. The world
knew nothing of them, and the men of affairs and the children of time,
whose thoughts were upon rank, and place, and titles, knew nothing of
them; and such men had their reward perhaps, they gained what they
sought; but the despised ones of the past have had their reward as
well, for their names have now become as ointment poured forth, whose
sweet fragrance has filled the whole house of the Lord.

II. And now why were Peter and John sent to Samaria from Jerusalem?
They were doubtless sent to inspect the work, and see whether the
apostolic approval could be given to the step of evangelizing the
Samaritans. They had to form a judgment upon it; for no matter how
highly we may rate the inspiration of the Apostles, it is clear that
they had to argue, debate, think, and balance one side against another
just like other people. The inspiration they enjoyed did not save them
the trouble of thinking and the consequent danger of disputation; it
did not force them to adopt a view, else why the debates we read of
concerning the baptism of Cornelius, or the binding character of
circumcision? It is clear, from the simple fact that controversy and
debate held a prominent place in the early Christian Church, that
there was no belief in the existence of infallible guides, local and
visible, whose autocratic decisions were final and irreversible,
binding the whole Church. It was then believed that the guidance of
the Holy Spirit was vouchsafed through the channel of free discussion
and interchange of opinion, guided and sanctified by prayer. Peter and
John had to go down to Samaria and keenly scrutinize the work, so as
to see whether it bore the marks of Divine approval, completing the
work by the imposition of their hands and prayer for the gifts of the
Holy Ghost. The Apostles duly discharged their mission, and by their
ministry the converts received the gift of the Holy Spirit, together
with some or all of those external signs and manifestations which
accompanied the original blessing on the day of Pentecost at
Jerusalem. This portion of our narrative has been always regarded by
the Church, whether in the East or the West, as its authority for the
practice of the rite of confirmation. The assertion of the Church of
England, in one of the collects appointed for use by the bishop in the
Confirmation Service, may be taken as expressing on this point the
opinion of the Churches--Roman, Greek, and Anglican. "Almighty and
everliving God, who makest us both to will and to do those things that
be good and acceptable unto Thy Divine Majesty; We make our humble
supplications unto Thee for these Thy servants, upon whom (after the
example of Thy holy Apostles) we have now laid our hands, to certify
them (by this sign) of Thy favour and gracious goodness towards them."
Let us reflect for a little on these words. The reference to apostolic
example in this collect is not, indeed, merely to this incident at
Samaria. The example of St. Paul at Ephesus, as narrated in the
nineteenth chapter, is also claimed as another case in point. There we
find that St. Paul came to a place where he had previously laboured
for a short time. He discovered in Ephesus some disciples who had
received the imperfect and undeveloped form of teaching which John the
Baptist had communicated. A sect had apparently been already formed to
continue John's teaching, such as we still find perpetuated amid the
wilds of distant Mesopotamia, in the shape of the semi-Christian
society which there practises daily baptism as a portion of its
religion.[148] St. Paul explains to them the richer and fuller
teaching of Christ, commands them to be baptized after the Christian
model, by one of his attendants, and then, like Peter and John,
completes the baptismal act by the imposition of hands and prayer for
the gift of the Spirit. These two apostolic incidents are not,
however, the only scriptural grounds which can be alleged for the
continued use of confirmation. It might be said that the practice of
the Apostles was not sufficient to justify or authorize confirmation
as a scriptural rite, unless it can be shown that the imposition of
hands, after baptism and as its completion, passed into the ordinary
usage of the early Church. Let me here make a brief digression. The
New Testament cannot be used as a guide-book to the whole life and
practice of the early Church, because it was merely a selection from
the writings of the Apostles and of their companions. If we possessed
everything that the Apostles wrote, we doubtless should have
information upon many points of apostolic doctrine and ritual
concerning which we now can only guess, some of which would doubtless
very much surprise us. Thus, to take an example, we should have been
left without one single reference to the Holy Communion in all the
writings of St. Paul, had not the disorders at Corinth led to grave
abuses of that sacrament, and thus caused St. Paul incidentally to
mention the subject in the tenth and eleventh chapters of his first
epistle to that Church.

  [148] See about this curious sect of the Hemero-baptists
  Lightfoot's _Colossians_, pp. 402-407.

Or to take another case. The _Teaching of the Twelve Apostles_ has
been already referred to and described. It is manifestly a manual
dealing with the Church of apostolic times, and there we find
reference to customs which were practised in the Apostolic Church, to
which no reference, or at least very slight reference, is made in the
Epistles or other books of the New Testament. The Apostles practised
fasting as a preparation for important Church actions, as we learn
from the account of the ordination of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch.
The _Teaching of the Apostles_ shows us that this practice, derived
from the Jews, was the rule before baptism (of this we read nothing in
the New Testament), as well as before ordination (of this we do read
something), and that not only by the persons to be baptized, but by
the ministers of baptism as well.[149] It mentions Wednesday and
Friday fasts as instituted in opposition to the Monday and Thursday
fasts of the Jews; it shows us how the lovefeasts of the Primitive
Church were celebrated, and sheds much light upon the Order of
prophets and their activity, to which St. Paul barely alludes. If we
could regain the numberless writings of the Apostles and other early
Christians which have perished, we should doubtless possess
information upon many other practices and customs of early Church life
which would much surprise us. The New Testament cannot then be used as
an exhaustive account of the Primitive Church; its silence is no
conclusive argument against apostolic origin or sanction as regards
any practice, any more than the Old Testament is to be regarded as an
exhaustive history of the Jewish nation. And yet, though we speak
thus, confirmation or laying on of hands upon the baptized as the
completion of the initial sacrament is not left without notice in the
Epistles. The imposition of hands as the complement of baptism did not
cease with the Apostles and was not tied to them alone, any more than
did the use of water in the sacrament of baptism itself cease with the
Apostles, as some of the Society of Friends have contended, or the
imposition of hands in ordination terminate with apostolic times, as
others have argued. This appears from two passages. St. Paul, in the
twenty-second verse of the fifth chapter of 1 Timothy, when dealing
with Timothy's conduct in the usual pastoral oversight of the Church,
lays down, "Lay hands suddenly on no man." These words referred not to
ordination, for St. Paul had passed from that subject and was treating
of Timothy's ministerial conduct towards the ordinary members of his
flock, directing how he was to care for their souls, reproving
publicly the notorious transgressor, and putting him to open shame. We
admit, indeed, at once that this notice of the imposition of hands may
refer to another use of it which was practised in the early Church.
St. Paul may be referring to the imposition of hands when a lapsed or
excommunicated member was readmitted into the Church; or both uses of
the ceremony, in confirmation as well as in absolution, may be
included under the one reference. But in any case we have another
distinct, though incidental, mention of this rite, and that at a time,
in a manner, and in a book which clearly proves the practice to have
passed into the general custom of the Church. Let us see how this is.

  [149] The order for adult baptism in the Book of Common Prayer was
  drawn up by the divines of the Restoration. They must have been
  well skilled in Christian antiquity, for they lay down expressly
  the same rule as the _Teaching of the Apostles_. They order that
  notice shall be given of an adult's baptism a week at least
  beforehand, that the persons to be baptized may be duly exhorted
  to prepare themselves by prayer and fasting for that holy
  ordinance.

The Epistle to the Hebrews was written by one of the second generation
of Christians, one of the generation who could look back to and wonder
at the miracles and gifts of the apostolic age. The writer of the
Hebrews tells us himself that he was in this position; for when
speaking, in the opening of the second chapter, concerning the danger
of neglecting the Gospel message, he describes it as a "great
salvation; which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was
confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with
them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts
of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will." So that it is evident
that the Church of the Hebrews was the composition of a man who
belonged to a time when the Church had passed out of the fluid state
in which we find it in the earlier chapters of the Acts. It had passed
into a condition when rites and ceremonies and Church government and
ecclesiastical organisations had crystallised, and when men repeated
with profoundest reverence the forms and ceremonies which had become
associated with the names and persons of the earliest teachers of the
faith; names and persons which now were surrounded with all that
sacred charm and halo which distance, and above all else, death, lend
to human memories. There is an interesting passage in Tertullian which
shows how this feeling worked among the early Christians, making them
anxious in divine worship to repeat most minutely and even absurdly
the circumstances of the Church's earliest days. In Tertullian's works
we have a treatise on Prayer, in which he expounds the nature of the
Lord's Prayer, going through it petition by petition, proving
conclusively that Tertullian and the Christians nearest the apostolic
age knew nothing of that modern absurdity which asserts that the
Lord's Prayer should not be used by Christians. He then proceeds to
explain certain useful customs, and to reprove certain superstitious
ceremonies practised by the Christians of his day. He approves and
explains the custom of praying with hands outstretched, because this
is an imitation of our Lord, whose hands were outstretched upon the
cross.[150] He disapproves of the practice of washing the hands before
every prayer, which Tertullian says was done in memory of our Lord's
Passion, when water was used by Pilate to wash his hands, and
designates as superstitious the custom of sitting down upon their
couches or beds after they had prayed, in imitation of Hermas who
wrote the _Shepherd_, of whom it was said, that after finishing his
prayer, he sat down on his bed.[151] Now this last instance exactly
illustrates what must have happened in the case of the second
generation of Christians, to whom the Epistle to the Hebrews was
directed. Men at the end of the second century, when Tertullian lived,
looked back to the Shepherd of Hermas with the same profound reverence
as to the Apostles. They imitated, therefore, every action and
ceremony practised by the Shepherd, whom they regarded as inspired,
reading his writings with the same reverence as those of the Apostles.

  [150] There is no ceremony which proves more conclusively the
  identity between the ritual of apostolic ages and, say, of the
  year 200, than this custom of standing at public prayer with hands
  outstretched. St. Paul, writing to Timothy (1 Tim. ii. 8), says,
  "I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up
  holy hands," and then he prescribes rules for the women. This
  passage will not be understood in its full force till one grasps
  the notion of an early Christian at prayer, as described by
  Tertullian in the treatise on Prayer to which I have referred.
  Tertullian lays down, with other writers of the second century,
  that Christians should pray in public on the Lord's Day standing
  with the hands lifted up and the arms stretched out horizontally.
  On this point the practices of the East and West alike were
  identical, and had not changed one atom from St. Paul's to
  Tertullian's time. From the way some people speak one would think
  that the Christians of the second century were wild
  revolutionaries, who were only too anxious to change the ritual
  derived from apostolic days. Tertullian's works prove that they
  were, on the other hand, almost too slavish in their adherence to
  ancient customs. Human nature is the same in every age, and a
  moment's reflection will show us that whether in England,
  Scotland, or Ireland, the ritual of old-fashioned congregations of
  every denomination is the same to-day as in the seventeenth
  century. A few instances occur to me which illustrate this. Dean
  Hook, in a letter dated April 5th, 1838, tells us that the old
  Presbyterian way of administering the Holy Communion, carrying the
  elements to the communicants sitting in their pews, still existed
  in the parish church of Leeds. The custom had been introduced
  early in the seventeenth century, and never was discontinued,
  notwithstanding a plain rubric forbidding it. I have read that the
  same custom prevailed at St. Mary's in Oxford, when Newman became
  Vicar. Again, down to a few years ago, in the country parts of
  Ulster and Connaught, the separation between the sexes in public
  worship continued among the Methodists, in obedience to John
  Wesley's law made one hundred and twenty years before. It is two
  hundred years since Sternhold and Hopkins' version of the Psalms
  was authoritatively laid aside, and Tate and Brady substituted.
  Yet I have within the last ten years seen Prayer-books in use at
  Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire, with Sternhold and Hopkins attached to
  them. Surely the early Christians were at least as Conservative as
  their modern followers.

  [151] See Tertullian on Prayer, in his Works, vol. i., pp. 188-92,
  as translated in Clark's Ante-Nicene Library.

Human nature is ever the same. The latest sect started in the present
generation will be found acting on the same principles as the
Christians of the apostolic age. The practices and ceremonial of their
first founders become the model on which they shape themselves, and
every departure from that model is bitterly resented. Human nature is
governed universally by principles which are essentially conservative
and traditional.[152] So it must have been with the immediate
followers of the Apostles; they conformed themselves as exactly as
they could to everything--rite, ceremony, form of words--which the
Apostles delivered or practised. And the Apostles certainly delivered
precepts and laid down rules on various liturgical questions, of which
we have now no written record. St. Paul expressly refers to traditions
and customs which he had delivered or intended to deliver, some of
which we know, others of which we know not.[153] Now wherefore have we
made this long excursion into the dim regions of primitive antiquity?
Simply to show that it is _à priori_ likely that the writer of the
Epistle to the Hebrews, and men like him of the second and third
generation of Christians, would have followed the example of the
Apostles, and practised imposition of hands together with prayer for
the gift of the Spirit in the case of those baptized into Christ,
merely because the Apostles had beforetime practised it. And then,
when we come to the actual study of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and
read the sixth chapter, we find our anticipations fulfilled. In the
first two verses of that chapter the writer lays down the first
principles of Christ, the foundation doctrines of the Christian
system, which he takes for granted as known and acknowledged by every
one; they are, repentance from dead works, faith towards God, the
teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of the
resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment. Here the imposition
of hands cannot refer to ordination, because, as all the other points
are matters of personal religion and individual practice, not of
ecclesiastical organisation, so we must restrict the imposition of
hands referred to as a principle of the Christian religion, to some
imposition of hands needful for every Christian, not for the few
merely who should be admitted to the work of the ministry. While,
again, its close connection with baptism clearly points to the
imposition of hands in Confirmation, which the Apostles practised and
the primitive Christians adopted from their example. And then, when we
pass to ecclesiastical antiquity and study the works of Tertullian,
the earliest writer who enters into the details of the practices and
ritual established in the Churches, we find imposition of hands
connected with baptism exactly as stated in the Epistle to the
Hebrews, and viewed as the channel by which the gift of the Holy Ghost
is conveyed,[154] not in the shape of miraculous gifts, but in all
that edifying, consoling, and sanctifying power which every individual
needs, and in virtue of which the New Testament writers, in common
with Tertullian, call baptized men temples of the Holy Ghost and
partakers of the Holy Ghost.[155]

  [152] I was much struck the other day with a modern instance of
  this. The Plymouth Brethren boast themselves as the least
  traditional of sects. They are, however, just at present split all
  the world over into two divisions, the great subject of debate
  being the writings of a Mr. Raven. He has ventured upon some
  perilous speculations concerning the nature of Christ's person. I
  have seen a formal indictment drawn out by his opponents, in which
  his opinions are contrasted with statements in the writings of
  their founder, the late J. N. Darby, which are evidently the final
  authority and standard of appeal for them.

  [153] Thus in 1 Cor. xi. 2 St. Paul says, "Now I praise you that
  ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even
  as I delivered them to you," and then goes on to discuss the
  question of veiling of women, showing the character of the
  traditions thus delivered. With this verse may be compared similar
  references in 1 Cor. vii. 17, 2 Thess. ii. 15 and iii. 9.

  [154] See Tertullian on Baptism, chap. vi., where he says, "Not
  that in the waters we obtain the Holy Spirit, but in the water,
  under the influence of the angel, we are cleansed, and thus
  prepared for the Holy Spirit." And again, in chap. viii. he
  describes the course followed after baptism thus: "In the next
  place the hand is laid on us, invoking and inviting the Holy
  Spirit through the words of benediction." To pass from Tertullian
  to a very different witness, we may note that Calvin in his
  commentary on Heb. vi. 2 says, "This one place abundantly
  testifies that the origin of this ceremony (imposition of hands on
  the baptized) came from the Apostles." He differs from Tertullian,
  however. Calvin does not view it so much as a channel of Divine
  grace as a rite for profession of faith and solemn prayer, and as
  such would have confirmation continued as a necessary complement
  of infant baptism.

  [155] Compare 1 Cor. vi. 19 with Heb. vi. 4, 5.



CHAPTER XIX.

_ST. PETER AND SIMON MAGUS._

     "Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the Apostles'
     hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying,
     Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands, he
     may receive the Holy Ghost."--ACTS viii. 18, 19.


We have in the last exposition endeavoured to explain the origin of
the rite of Confirmation and to connect its development in the second
century with the first notice of its rise in germ and principle at
Samaria. There have been from time to time modifications and changes
in the ordinance. The Church has availed itself of the power she
necessarily possesses to insist upon different aspects of Confirmation
at different periods. The Church of England at the Reformation brought
out into prominence the human side of Confirmation as we may call it,
which views the rite as a renewal and strengthening of the baptismal
vows of renunciation, faith, and obedience, which had fallen too much
out of sight, while still insisting on the Divine side as well, which
regards Confirmation as a method of Divine action, a channel of Divine
grace, strengthening and blessing the soul. Yet no one can imagine
that the Reformers invented a new ordinance because they insisted on a
forgotten and latent side of the old rite. So it was during the second
century and in Tertullian's time. The exigencies of the Christian
Church of that age had led to certain modifications of apostolic
customs, but the central idea of solemn imposition of hands continued,
and was regarded as of apostolic appointment. If we descend a little
lower this is plain enough. St. Cyprian, the contemporary and disciple
of Tertullian, expressly attributes the institution of the rite to the
action of the Apostles at Samaria, a view which is subsequently
attested by those great lights of the ancient Church, St. Jerome and
St. Augustine.[156] As my object is, however, not to write a treatise
on Confirmation, but to trace the evolution and development of
apostolic customs and ritual, and to show how they were connected with
the Church of the second century, I restrain myself to Tertullian
alone.

  [156] The evidence from these writers will be found in a collected
  shape in Bingham's _Antiquities_, book xii., chap. iii., sec. vi.
  St. Augustine, in his Tract VI., on 1 St. John iii., expressly
  deals with the objection that because the Apostles imparted
  miraculous gifts by the imposition of hands, therefore their
  conduct forms no precedent for us. "In the first age the Holy
  Ghost fell on them that believed; and they spake with tongues
  which they had never learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
  These were signs proper for that time; for then it was necessary
  that the Holy Ghost should be thus demonstrated in all kinds of
  tongues, because the gospel was to run throughout the whole world
  in all sorts of languages. But this demonstration once made, it
  ceased." I have above called Cyprian the disciple of Tertullian,
  because we learn from St. Jerome that Cyprian when asking for the
  works of Tertullian always said, "Da Magistrum," "Give me the
  master."

I cannot see how this argument is to be evaded without rejecting the
testimony of Tertullian and denying what we may call the historic
memory and continuity of the Church at the close of the second
century. Upon the testimony of Tertullian we very largely depend for
our proof of the canonicity of the books of the New Testament. Men
when impugning or rejecting Tertullian's witness on this or any
similar question, should bear in mind what the results of their
teaching may be; for surely if Tertullian's clear evidence avails not
to prove the apostolic character of confirmation, it cannot be of much
use to establish the still more important question of the canon of the
New Testament or the authorship of the Gospels and Acts. We think, on
the other hand, that Tertullian's references to this practice are
naturally and easily explained by our theory that the Churches
established by the Apostles followed their example. The first converts
that were made after the Apostles had founded a Church were treated by
the resident bishop and presbyters exactly as the Apostle had treated
themselves. Timothy at Ephesus acted as he had seen St. Paul do.
Timothy completed his converts' baptism by the imposition of hands,
and then his successor followed the example of Timothy, and so
confirmation received that universal acceptation which the writings of
the Fathers disclose.

I. Let us now return to the consideration of the actual doings of
Peter and John at Samaria, and the lessons we may draw from thence as
touching the manner in which men should follow the example left by
them at this crisis in Church history. The Apostles prayed for those
that had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, and then they
laid their hands upon them, and the baptized received the Holy Ghost.
Prayer went before the imposition of hands, to show that there was
nothing mechanical in their proceedings; that it was not by their own
power or virtue that any blessing was granted, but that they were only
instruments by whom the Lord worked. The Apostles always acted,
taught, ordained, confirmed, in the profoundest confidence, the surest
faith that God worked in them and through them. St. Paul in his
address to the elders of Miletus and Ephesus, whom he had himself
ordained, spoke of their ordination, not as the work of man, but of
the Holy Ghost. He pierced the veil of sense and saw, far away and
behind the human instrument, the power of the Divine Agent who was the
real Ordainer. "Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock, in the
which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops." And so again in his words
to Timothy there was not a shadow of doubt when he bid him "stir up
the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of hands:" a
gift which was doubtless no miraculous power, but the purely spiritual
endowment, needful now as in ancient times for the edification and
strengthening of human souls. As it was in ancient times so is it
still, the Church of Christ unites prayer with imposition of hands.
She cannot recognise any difference in the methods of God's dealing
with human souls in apostolic times and in modern ages. Human wants
are the same, human nature is the same, the promises of God and the
ministry of God are the same; and therefore as in Samaria, so in
England, the work of baptism is completed when further prayer is
offered, and the imposition of hands by the chief ministers of God's
Church signifies her holy confidence in the abiding presence and work
of the Divine Spirit.

We desire to insist upon this devotional side of confirmation, because
the rite of confirmation has been too often treated as a mere
mechanical function, just indeed as men in times of spiritual deadness
and torpor come to regard all spiritual functions in a purely
mechanical aspect. The New Testament brought to light a religion of
the spirit; but human nature ever tends to become formal in its
religion, and therefore has persistently striven, and still
persistently strives, to turn every external function and office in a
mechanical direction. The Apostles prayed and then laid their hands
upon the Samaritan converts, and we may be sure that these prayers
were intense personal supplications, dealing directly with the hearts
and consciences of the individuals. Confirmation, united with fervent
prayer, public and private, with searching addresses directed to the
conscience, with personal dealing as regards individual hearts,
followed by public imposition of hands,--surely every one must
acknowledge that such a solemnisation and sanctification of the great
crisis when boyhood and girlhood pass into manhood and womanhood must
have very blessed effects. Experience has, indeed, proved the wisdom
of the ancient Church concerning this ordinance. Confirmation has not
developed itself exactly in the East as we know it in the West. In the
Eastern Church, as amongst the Lutherans of Germany, confirmation can
be administered by a presbyter as well as by a bishop, to whom alone
the Western Church limits the function. But whether in the East or
West, confirmation is regarded as the transition step connecting
baptism and the Eucharist. Christian bodies which have rejected the
ancient customs have felt themselves obliged to adopt a similar
method. Preparation for first Communion has taken the place of
confirmation. There has been the same earnest dealing with conscience,
the same fuller instruction in Christian truth and life, and the one
thing lacking has been that following of the apostolic example in
solemn imposition of hands, which would have thrown back the young
mind to the days of the Church's earliest life, and helped it to
realize something of the continuity of the Church's work and
existence.

Many, as I know, ministering in societies where confirmation after the
ancient model has been rejected, have bitterly lamented its disuse as
depriving them of a solemn appointed time when they should have been
brought into closer contact with the lives, the feelings, and the
consciences of the lambs of Christ's flock. I am bound to confess, at
the same time, that no one is more alive than I am to the many defects
and shortcomings in the modes and fashions in which confirmation is
sometimes viewed and conferred. The mere mechanical view of it is far
too prevalent. Careful and prayerful preparation, systematic
instruction in the field of Christian doctrine, is still in many cases
far too little thought of. Confirmation offers a splendid opportunity
when an earnest pastor may open out to young minds eager to receive
truth, a fuller acquaintance with the deep things of God. Alas! how
miserably such earnest young minds are sometimes met. It is stated
that it was by injudicious treatment at such a time that the ardent,
enthusiastic mind of the late Charles Bradlaugh was alienated from
Christian truth. Intelligent sympathy is what the young desire and
crave for at such seasons. Then it is that the man who has kept his
mind fresh and active by wide and generous study finds the due reward
of his labours. He does not attempt to meet doubts and difficulties by
foolish denunciations. He knows that such doubts are in the air; that
they meet the young in the newspapers, magazines, conversations of the
day. He proves by his instructions that he knows of them and enters
into them. He encourages frank discussion of them, and thus often
proves himself at a very trying time the most helpful and consoling
friend to the young and troubled spirit.

Confirmation, if viewed merely from the purely human side, and if we
say nothing at all about a Divine blessing, offers a magnificent
opportunity for a wise pastor of souls. He will, indeed, treat
different ranks in different ways. A class of ploughboys or of village
lads and girls need plain speaking on the great facts of life and of
the Gospel, while the higher and more educated or sharper inhabitants
of cities and towns require teaching which will embrace the problems
of modern thought, as well as the foundation truths of morals. A
perfunctory repetition of the Church Catechism, as in some parishes,
or a brief study of a portion of the Greek Testament, as in some of
our public schools, is a miserable substitute for that careful
preparation embracing devotional as well as intellectual preparation,
which such an important function demands.[157] Then, again, the method
in which confirmation is administered calls for improvement and
change. The confirmation of immense crowds at central churches tends
to confirm the mere mechanical idea about confirmation. Parochial
confirmations, a confirmation of the young of each congregation in
presence of the congregation itself, that is the standard at which we
should aim. The Church of Rome can give us wise suggestions on this
point. Some time ago I noticed an account of a Roman Catholic
confirmation in the west of Ireland. It was held in a town of twelve
or fifteen thousand inhabitants. The bishop took a week for the
confirmations in that town, examining all the children beforehand,
bringing them thus into direct contact with himself as their supreme
pastor, and assuring himself of the sufficiency of their preparation.

  [157] It seems to me a great pity that, owing to the modern public
  school system, the confirmation of boys of the upper and middle
  classes is almost entirely passing from their own home pastors to
  the masters of public schools, and not always with happy results.
  This tends to increase the hard mechanical view of confirmation
  against which I protest.

II. We have now noted some of the defects connected with modern
confirmations; but the conduct of Simon Magus and this incident at
Samaria remind us that defects and shortcomings must ever exist, as
they existed in the Church of the Apostles. We note here Simon's offer
and St. Peter's address. Simon Magus had believed, had been baptized,
and doubtless had also been confirmed by the Apostles. In the case of
some of the Samaritans, at least, the presence of the Holy Ghost must
have been proved by visible or audible signs, for we are told that
when Simon _saw_ that through the imposition of apostolic hands the
Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money to enable him to do the
same. His offer sufficiently explains the nature of his faith. He was
convinced intellectually of the truth of certain external facts which
he had seen. He knew nothing of spiritual want, or the power of sin,
or a desire for interior peace and sanctity. He looked upon the
Apostles as cleverer jugglers and sorcerers than himself, accessible
to precisely the same motives, and therefore he offered them money if
they would endow him with the knowledge and power they possessed and
exercised. The Acts of the Apostles, as a mirror of all Church
history, thus selects for our instruction an event which sounds a
warning needful for every age.

Simon Magus had a mere intellectual knowledge of the truth, and that
mere intellectual knowledge, apart from a moral and spiritual
conception of it, plunged him into a deeper fall than otherwise might
have been the case. Simon Magus was a typical example of this, and
successive centuries have offered many notable imitations. Julian the
Apostate was brought up as a Christian clergyman, and used to read the
lessons in Church, whence he would adjourn to join in the polluting
rites of paganism; and so it has been from age to age, till in our own
time some of the bitterest opponents of Christianity, at home or in
the mission field, have been those who, like Simon, knew of the Gospel
facts but had tasted nothing of the Gospel life.

We may derive from this incident guidance in a difficult controversy
which has of late made much stir. Men have asserted that Christian
missionaries were giving far too much time to mere intellectual
training of pagans, instead of devoting themselves to evangelistic
work. A writer who has never visited the mission-field has no right to
pass judgment on such a matter. But cannot we read in this passage a
warning against such a tendency? Intellectual conviction does not mean
spiritual conversion. Of course we know that no human effort can
ensure spiritual blessings, but if intellectual training of clever
pagan youths, and not spiritual work, be regarded as the great object
of Christian missions; if the Holy Ghost be not honoured by being made
the supreme lord of heart and life and work, we cannot expect any
blessed results to follow. We read very little in the earliest ages of
the Church about educational missions. The work of education was not
despised. The school of Alexandria from the earliest times held high
the standard of Christian scholarship. But that school, though open,
like all ancient academies, to every class, was primarily intended for
the training of Christian youth, placing before all other studies the
Divine science of theology.

The offer, again, of Simon Magus has given a name to a sin which has
been found prevalent in every age and in every country. The sin has,
indeed, taken different shapes. Simony, throughout the Middle Ages,
was a common vice against which some of the more devout popes strove
long and vigorously. In England and according to English law simony
means still the purchase of spiritual office or spiritual functions.
It would be simoniacal for a bishop to receive money for conferring
holy orders or for appointment to a living. It would be an act of
simony for a man to offer or give money to attain either holy orders
or a living. How then, it may be said, does the unhallowed traffic in
Church livings continue to flourish? Simply because, through
colourable evasions, men bring themselves to break the spirit of the
law while they keep within its strict letter. Simony, however, is a
much more extensive and far-reaching corruption than the purchase of
ecclesiastical benefices. Simony can take subtler shapes and can adapt
itself to conditions very different from those which prevail under an
established Church. Every one recognises, in word at least, the
scandalous character of money traffic in Church offices. Even those
who really practise it, hide from themselves, by some device or
excuse, the character of their action. But the simoniacal spirit, the
essence of Simon's sin, is found in many quarters which are never
suspected. What is that essence? Simon desired to obtain spiritual
power and office, not in the Divine method, but in low earthly ways.
Money was his way because it was the one thing he valued and had to
offer; but surely there are many other ways in which men may
unlawfully seek for spiritual office and influence in the Church of
Christ. Many a man who would never dream of offering money in order to
obtain a high place in the Church, or would have been horrified at the
very suggestion, has yet resorted to other methods just as effective
and just as wrong. Men have sought high position by political methods.
They have given their support to a political party, and have sold
their talents to uphold a cause, hoping thereby to gain their ends.
They may not have given gold which comes from the mine to gain
spiritual position, but they have all the same given a mere human
consideration, and sought by its help to obtain spiritual power; or
they preach and speak and vote in Church synods and assemblies with an
eye to elections to high place and dignity. An established Church,
with its legally-secured properties and prizes, may open a way for the
exercise of simony in its grosser forms. But a free Church, with its
popular assemblies, opens the way for a subtler temptation, leading
men to shape their actions, to suppress their convictions, to order
their votes and speeches, not as their secret conscience would direct
them, but as human nature and earthly considerations would tell them
was best for their future prospects. How many a speech is spoken, how
many a sermon is preached, how many a vote is given, not as the Holy
Ghost directs, but under the influence of that unhallowed spirit of
sheer worldliness which led Simon to offer money that he too might be
enabled to exercise the power which the unworldly Apostles possessed.
The spirit of simony may just as really lead a man to give a vote or
to abstain from voting, to make a speech or keep silence, as it led
men in a coarser and plainer age to give bribes for the attainment of
precisely the same ends. In this respect, again, as warning against
the intrusion of low earthly motives in the concerns of the Divine
society, the Acts of the Apostles proves itself a mirror of universal
Church history.

Then we have the address of St. Peter to this notorious sinner. It is
very plain-spoken. The Apostle had been himself a great sinner, but he
had not been harshly or roughly dealt with, because he had become a
great penitent. St. Peter was most sympathetic, and could never have
spoken so sharply as he did to Simon Magus had he not perceived with
quick spiritual insight the inborn baseness and hollowness of the
man's character. Still he does not cut him off from hope. He speaks
plainly, as Christ's ministers should ever do when occasion requires.
Simon Magus was a man of great influence in Samaria, but there was no
"fear of man which bringeth a snare" about the Apostles, and so St.
Peter fearlessly tells Simon his true position. "He was in the gall of
bitterness and bond of iniquity." He indicates to him, however, the
steps which, whether then or now, a person in that position should
take if he desires to escape from the due reward of his deeds. "Repent
therefore of this thy wickedness." Repentance, then, is the first step
which a man whose heart is not right in God's sight has to take. There
was no hesitation, as we have already remarked when speaking of St.
Peter's preaching at Jerusalem, about pressing upon men the duty of
hearty, sincere repentance, embracing sorrow for sin and genuine
amendment of life. Then having exhorted to repentance, the Apostle
proceeds, "And pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart
shall be forgiven thee." Prayer is the next step. First comes
repentance, then prayer, and then forgiveness. There was nothing in
St. Peter's teaching which lends the least countenance to the modern
error which teaches that an unconverted man should not pray, that his
one duty is to believe, and, till he does so, that his prayer is
unacceptable to God. Simon Magus was as estranged from God as a human
soul could well have been, yet St. Peter's word to him then, and his
word to every sinner still, would be an exhortation to diligent
prayer. "Pray God if perhaps the thought of thine heart shall be
forgiven thee." The exhortation of Peter was blessed, for the time, to
the sinner. It awoke a temporary sense of sin, though it wrought no
permanent change. It has left, however, an eternal blessing and a
permanent direction to the Church of Christ. In his preaching on the
day of Pentecost to the Jews of Jerusalem, he shows us how to deal
with those who are not as yet partakers of the Christian covenant.
"Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus
Christ," was his message to the devout Jews of Jerusalem; "Repent and
pray" is his message to the sinner who has been brought, all unworthy,
into the kingdom of light and grace, but knows nothing of it in heart
and life. St. Peter valued the blessings of belief in Christ and
admission by baptism into His kingdom, but he knew that these benefits
only intensified a man's condemnation if not realized in heart and
lived in practice. St. Peter's visit to Samaria in company with St.
John has much to teach the Church on many other points, as we have
pointed out, but no lesson which can be derived from it is so
important as that which declares the true road for the returning
sinner to follow, the value of repentance, the efficacy of heartfelt
prayer, the supreme importance of a heart right in the sight of God.



CHAPTER XX.

_EVANGELISTIC WORK IN THE PHILISTINES' LAND._

     "But an angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and
     go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem
     unto Gaza: the same is desert. And he arose and went: and behold,
     a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace,
     queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had
     come to Jerusalem for to worship; and he was returning and
     sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet
     Isaiah."--ACTS viii. 26-8.

     "And it came to pass, as Peter went throughout all parts, he came
     down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda."--ACTS ix. 32.


I have united these two incidents, the conversion of the Ethiopian
eunuch and the mission of St. Peter to the people of Lydda, Sharon,
and Joppa, because they relate to the same district of country and
they happened at the same period, the pause which ensued between the
martyrdom of St. Stephen and the conversion of St. Paul. The writer of
the Acts does not seem to have exactly followed chronological order in
this part of his story. He had access to different authorities or to
different diaries. He selected as best he could the details which he
heard or read, and strove to weave them into a connected narrative.
St. Luke, when gathering up the story of these earliest days of the
Church's warfare, must have laboured under great difficulties which we
now can scarcely realize. It was doubtless from St. Philip himself
that our author learned the details of the eunuch's conversion and of
St. Peter's labours. St. Luke and St. Paul tarried many days with St.
Philip at Cæsarea. Most probably St. Luke had then formed no intention
of writing either his Gospel or his apostolic history at that period.
He was urged on simply by that unconscious force which shapes our
lives and leads us in a vague way to act in some special direction. A
man born to be a poet will unconsciously display his tendency. A man
born to be a historian will be found, even when he has formed no
definite project, note-book in hand, jotting down the impressions of
the passing hour or of his current studies. So probably was it with
St. Luke. He could not help taking notes of conversations he heard, or
making extracts from the documents he chanced to meet; and then when
he came to write he had a mass of materials which it was at times hard
to weave into one continuous story within the limits he had prescribed
to himself. One great idea, indeed, to which we have often referred,
seems to have guided the composition of the first portion of the
apostolic history. St. Luke selected, under Divine guidance, certain
representative facts and incidents embodying great principles, typical
of future developments. This is the golden thread which runs through
the whole of this book, and specially through the chapters concerning
which we speak in this volume, binding together and uniting in one
organic whole a series of independent narratives.

I. The two incidents which we now consider have several representative
aspects. They may be taken as typical of evangelistic efforts and the
qualifications for success in them. Philip the deacon is aggressive,
many-sided, flexible, and capable of adapting himself to diverse
temperaments, whether those of the Grecian Jews at Jerusalem, the
Samaritans in central Palestine, or the Jewish proselytes from distant
Africa. Peter is older, narrower, cannot so easily accommodate
himself to new circumstances. He confines himself, therefore, to quiet
work amongst the Jews of Palestine who have been converted to Christ
as the result of the four years' growth of the Church. "As Peter went
throughout all parts, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at
Lydda." This incident represents to us the power and strength gained
for the cause of Christ by intellectual training and by wider culture.
It is a lesson needed much in the great mission field. It has hitherto
been too much the fashion to think that while the highest culture and
training are required for the ministry at home, any half-educated
teacher, provided he be in earnest, will suffice for the work of
preaching to the heathen. This is a terrible mistake, and one which
has seriously injured the progress of religion. It is at all times a
dangerous thing to despise one's adversary, and we have fallen into
the snare when we have despised systems like Buddhism and Hindooism,
endeavouring to meet them with inferior weapons.[158] The ancient
religions of the East are founded on a subtle philosophy, and should
be met by men whose minds have received a wide and generous culture,
which can distinguish between the chaff and the wheat, rejecting what
is bad in them while sympathising with and accepting what is good. The
notices of Philip and Stephen and their work, as contrasted with that
of St. Peter, proclaim the value of education, travel, and thought in
this the earlier section of the Acts, as the labours of St. Paul
declare it in the days of Gentile conversion. The work of the Lord,
whether among Jews or Gentiles, is done most effectually by those
whose natural abilities and intellectual sympathies have been
quickened and developed. A keen race like the Greeks of old or the
Hindoos of the present, are only alienated from the very consideration
of the faith when it is presented in a hard, narrow, intolerant,
unsympathetic spirit. The angel chose wisely when he selected the
Grecian Philip to bear the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, and left
Peter to minister to Æneas, to Tabitha, and to Simon the tanner of
Joppa; simple souls, for whom life glided smoothly along, troubled by
no intellectual problems and haunted by no fearful doubts.

  [158] The primitive Church never made this mistake. The great
  missionaries who dealt with the heathen in the second century were
  profoundly skilled in philosophy, several of them being
  philosophers by profession. Aristides, whose long-lost _Apology_
  has just been recovered, Justin Martyr, and Tatian were Christian
  philosophers in the second century, and consecrated their powers
  to missionary labours. Pantænus, Clement, and Origen, profound
  scholars of Alexandria, took the greatest trouble to understand
  Greek paganism before they proceeded to refute it. I think that
  candidates in training for foreign missions might be taken with
  great advantage through a course of the second century apologists.
  Clement and Origen never poured indiscriminate abuse on the system
  they opposed; their teaching was no bald negative controversy;
  they always strove, like St. Paul at Athens, to ascertain what was
  good and true in their opponents' position, and to work from
  thence. See pp. 214, 215 above, where much the same line of
  thought has been insisted upon.

II. Again, we may remark that these incidents and the whole course of
Church history at this precise moment show the importance of clear
conceptions as to character, teaching, and objects. The Church at this
time was vaguely conscious of a great mission, but it had not made up
its mind as to the nature of that mission, because it had not realized
its own true character, as glad tidings of great joy unto _all_
nations. And the result was very natural: it formed no plans for the
future, and was as yet hesitating and undecided in action. It was with
the Church then as in our every-day experience of individuals. A man
who does not know himself, who has no conception of his own talents
or powers, and has formed no idea as to his object or work in life,
that man cannot be decided in action, he cannot bring all his powers
into play, because he neither knows of their existence, nor where and
how to use them. This is my explanation of the great difference
manifest on the face of our history as between the Church and its life
before and after the conversion of Cornelius. It is plain that there
was a great difference in Church life and activity between these two
periods. Whence did it arise? The admission of the Gentiles satisfied
the unconscious cravings of the Church. She felt that at last her true
mission and her real object were found, and, like a man of vigorous
mind who at last discovers the work for which nature has destined him,
she flung herself into it, and we read no longer of mere desultory
efforts, but of unceasing, indefatigable, skilfully-directed labour;
because the Church had at last been taught by God that her great task
was to make all men know the riches hidden in Christ Jesus. We have in
this fact a representative lesson very necessary for our time. Men are
now very apt to mistake mistiness for profundity, and clearness of
conception for shallowness of thought. This feeling intrudes itself
into religion, and men do not take the trouble to form clear
conceptions on any subject, and they lapse therefore into the very
weakness which afflicted the Church prior to St. Peter's vision. The
root of practical, vigorous action is directly assailed if men have no
clear conceptions as to the nature, the value, and the supreme
importance of the truth. If, for instance, a man cherishes the notion,
now prevalent in some circles, that Mahometanism is the religion
suited for the natives of Africa, how will he make sacrifices either
of time, of money, or of thought, to make the Gospel known to that
great continent? I do not say that we should seek to have sharp and
clear conceptions on all points. There is no man harder, more
unsympathetic with the weak, more intolerant of the slightest
difference, more truly foolish and short-sighted, than the man who has
formed the clearest and sharpest conceptions upon the profoundest
questions, and is ready to decide offhand where the subtlest and
deepest thinkers have spoken hesitatingly. That man does not, in the
language of John Locke, recognise the length of his own tether. He
wishes to make himself the standard for everyone else, and infallibly
brings discredit on the possession of clear views on any topics. There
are vast tracts of thought upon which we must be content with doubt,
hesitancy, and mistiness; but the man who wishes to be a vigorous,
self-sacrificing servant of Jesus Christ must seek diligently for
clear, broad, strong conceptions on such great questions as the value
of the soul, the nature of God, the person of Jesus Christ, the work
of the Spirit, and all the other truths which the Apostles' Creed sets
forth as essentially bound up with these doctrines. Distinct and
strong convictions alone on such points form for the soul the basis of
a decided and fruitful Christian activity; as such decided convictions
energised the whole life and character of the blessed apostle of love
when writing, "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth
in the evil one."

III. Now turning from such general considerations, we may compare the
two incidents, St. Philip's activities and St. Peter's labours, in
several aspects. _We notice a distinction in their guidance._ Greater
honour is placed on Philip than upon Peter. An angel speaks to Philip,
while St. Peter seems to have been left to that ordinary guidance of
the Spirit which is just as real as any external direction, such as
that given by an angel, but yet does not impress the human mind or
supersede its own action, as the external direction does. Dr.
Goulburn, in an interesting work from which I have derived many
important hints,[159] suggests that the external message of the angel
directing Philip where to go may have been God's answer to the
thoughts and doubts which were springing up in His servant's mind. The
incident of Simon Magus may have disturbed St. Philip. He may have
been led to doubt the propriety of his action in thus preaching to the
Samaritans and admitting to baptism a race hitherto held accursed. He
had dared to run counter to the common opinion of devout men, and one
result had been that such a bad character as Simon Magus had crept
into the sacred fold. The Lord who watches over His people and sees
all their difficulties, comes therefore to his rescue, and by one of
His ministering spirits conveys a message which assures His fainting
servant of His approval and of His guidance. Such is Dr. Goulburn's
explanation, and surely it is a most consoling one, of which every
true servant of God has had his own experience. The Lord even still
deals thus with His people. They make experiments for Him, as Philip
did; engage in new enterprises and in fields of labour hitherto
untried; they work for His honour and glory alone; and perhaps they
see nothing for a time but disaster and failure. Then, when their
hearts are cast down and their spirits are fainting because of the
way, the Lord mercifully sends them a message by some angelic hand or
voice, which encourages and braces them for renewed exertion.

  [159] _The Acts of the Deacons_, p. 276. This work discusses
  Philip's dealings with the eunuch at very great length. The reader
  desirous of seeing the spiritual teaching of that incident fully
  drawn out should consult it.

An external voice of an angel may, in the peculiar circumstances of
the case, have directed St. Philip. But the text does not give us a
hint as to the appearance or character of the messenger whom God used
on this occasion. The Old and New Testament alike take broader views
of Divine messengers, and of angelic appearances generally, than we
do. A vision, a dream, a human agent, some natural circumstance or
instrument, all these are in Holy Scripture or in contemporary
literature styled God's angels or messengers. Men saw then more deeply
than we do, recognised the hand of a superintending Providence where
we behold only secondary agents, and in their filial confidence spoke
of angels where we should only recognise some natural power. Let me
quote an interesting illustration of this. Archbishop Trench,
speaking, in his _Notes on the Miracles_, of the healing of the
Impotent Man at Bethesda, and commenting on St. John v. 4, a verse
which runs thus, "For an angel of the Lord went down at certain
seasons into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first
after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole, with
whatsoever disease he was holden," thus enunciates the principle which
guided the ancient Christians, as well as the Jews, in this matter. He
explains the origin of this verse, and the manner in which it crept
into the text of the New Testament. "At first, probably, a marginal
note, expressing the popular notion of the Jewish Christians
concerning the origin of the healing power which from time to time the
waters of Bethesda possessed, by degrees it assumed the shape in which
we now have it." The Archbishop then proceeds to speak of the Hebrew
view of the world as justifying such expressions. "For the statement
itself, there is nothing in it which need perplex or offend, or which
might not find place in St. John. It rests upon that religious view of
the world which in all nature sees something beyond and behind nature,
which does not believe that it has discovered causes when, in fact, it
has only traced the sequence of phenomena, and which everywhere
recognises a going forth of the immediate power of God, invisible
agencies of His, whether personal or otherwise, accomplishing His
will."[160] The whole topic of angelic agencies is one that has been
much confused for us by the popular notions about angels, notions
which affect every one, no matter how they imagine themselves raised
above the vulgar herd. When men speak or think of angelic appearances,
they think of angels as they are depicted in sacred pictures. The
conception of young men clad in long white and shining raiment, with
beautiful wings dependent from their shoulders and folded by their
sides, is an idea of the angels and angelic life derived from mediæval
painters and sculptors, not from Holy Writ. The important point,
however, for us to remember is that Philip here moved under external
direction to the conversion of the eunuch. The same Spirit which sent
His messenger to direct Philip, led Peter to move towards exactly the
same south-western quarter of Palestine, where he was to remain
working, meditating, praying, till the hour had come when the next
great step should be taken and the Gentiles admitted as recognised
members of the Church.

  [160] The verse John v. 4 of the Authorised Version has now been
  relegated to the margin of the Revised Version.

IV. This leads us to the next point. Philip and Peter were both
guided, the one externally, the other internally; but whither? They
were led by God into precisely the same south-western district of
Palestine. Peter was guided, by one circumstance after another, first
to Lydda and Sharon, and then to Joppa, where the Lord found him when
he was required at the neighbouring Cæsarea to use the power of the
keys and to open the door of faith to Cornelius and the Gentile world.
Our narrative says nothing, in St. Peter's case, about providential
guidance or heavenly direction, but cannot every devout faithful soul
see here the plain proofs of it? The book of the Acts makes no attempt
to improve the occasion, but surely a soul seeking for light and help
will see, and that with comfort, the hand of God leading St. Peter all
unconscious, and keeping him in readiness for the moment when he
should be wanted. We are not told of any extraordinary intervention,
and yet none the less the Lord guided him as really as He guided
Philip, that his life might teach its own lessons, by which we should
order our own. And has not every one who has devoutly and faithfully
striven to follow Christ experienced many a dispensation exactly like
St. Peter's? We have been led to places, or brought into company with
individuals, whereby our future lives have been ever afterwards
affected. The devout mind in looking back over the past will see how
work and professions have been determined for us, how marriages have
been arranged, how afflictions and losses have been made to work for
good; so that at last, surveying, like Moses, life's journey from some
Pisgah summit, when its course is well-nigh run, God's faithful
servant is enabled to rejoice in Him because even in direct
afflictions He has done all things well. A view of life like that is
strictly warranted by this passage, and such a view was, and still
is, the sure and secret source of that peace of God which passeth all
understanding. Nothing can happen amiss to him who has Almighty Love
as his Lord and Master. St. Peter was led, by one circumstance after
another, first to Lydda, which is still an existing village, then,
farther, into the vale of Sharon, celebrated from earliest time for
its fertility, and commemorated for its roses in the Song of Solomon
(Cant. ii. 1, Isa. xxxiii. 9), till finally he settles down at Joppa,
to wait for the further indications of God's will.

But how about Philip, to whom the Divine messenger had given a
heavenly direction? What was the message so imparted? An angel of the
Lord spake unto Philip, saying, "Arise, and go toward the south, unto
the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza: the same is desert."
Now we should here carefully remark the minute exactness of the Acts
of the Apostles in this place, because it is only a specimen of the
marvellous geographical and historical accuracy which distinguishes it
all through, and is every year receiving fresh illustrations. Gaza has
always been the gateway of Palestine. Invader after invader when
passing from Egypt to Palestine has taken Gaza in his way. It is still
the trade route to Egypt, along which the telegraph line runs. It was
in the days of St. Philip the direct road for travellers like the
Ethiopian eunuch, from Jerusalem to the Nile and the Red Sea. This man
was seeking his home in Central Africa, which he could reach either by
the Nile or by the sea, and was travelling therefore along the road
from Jerusalem to Gaza. The Acts, again, distinguishes one particular
road. There were then, and there are still, two great roads leading
from Jerusalem to Gaza, one a more northern road, which ran through
villages and cultivated land as it does to this day. The other was a
desert road, through districts inhabited then as now by the wandering
Arabs of the desert alone. Travellers have often remarked on the local
accuracy of the angel's words when directing Philip to a road which
would naturally be taken only by a man attended by a considerable body
of servants able to ward off attack, and which was specially suitable,
by its lonely character, for those prolonged conversations which must
have passed between the eunuch and his teacher. Cannot we see,
however, a still more suggestive and prophetic reason for the heavenly
direction? In these early efforts of the Apostles and their
subordinates we read nothing of missions towards the east. All their
evangelistic operations lay, in later times, towards the north and
north-west, Damascus, Antioch, Syria, and Asia Minor, while in these
earlier days they evangelised Samaria, which was largely pagan, and
then worked down towards Gaza and Cæsarea and the Philistine country,
which were the strongholds of Gentile and European influence,--the
Church indicated in St. Luke's selection of typical events; the
Western, the European destiny working strong within. It already
foretold, vaguely but still surely, that, in the grandest and
profoundest sense,

  "Westward the course of Empire takes its way;"

that the Gentile world, not the Jewish, was to furnish the most
splendid triumphs to the soldiers of the Cross. Our Lord steadily
restrained Himself within the strict bounds of the chosen people,
because His teaching was for them alone. His Apostles already indicate
their wider mission by pressing close upon towns and cities, like
Gaza and Cæsarea, which our Lord never visited, because they were the
strongholds and chosen seats of paganism.[161] The providential
government of God ordering the future of His Church and developing its
destinies can thus be traced in the unconscious movements of the
earliest Christian teachers. Their first missionary efforts in
Palestine are typical of the great work of the Church in the
conversion of Europe.

  [161] See Dean Stanley's _Sinai and Palestine_, p. 263, where this
  thought is further worked out. It is curious that notwithstanding
  the preaching of St. Philip and St. Peter in its neighbourhood,
  Gaza remained true to paganism longer than any other city of
  Palestine. The old Philistine opposition to Israel seems to have
  perpetuated itself in a pagan opposition to Christianity. Even in
  the fifth century, when St. Jerome boasted that Bethlehem was so
  completely Christian that the very ploughmen sang psalms and hymns
  as they laboured, Gaza still remained devoted to idol-worship. The
  inhabitants of Gaza, in union with those of Askelon, even rose in
  rebellion in defence of paganism towards the end of the fourth
  century (see Neander's _Church History_, iii., 105, Bohn's ed.).
  An interesting illustration of its obstinate paganism has come to
  light of late years. There were in Gaza eight public temples of
  idols, including those of the Sun, Venus, Apollo, Proserpine,
  Hecate, Fortune, and Marnas, dedicated to the Cretan Jupiter,
  believed by the people to be more glorious than any other temple
  in the world. All these temples were destroyed by the influence of
  the Empress Eudoxia, about A.D. 400; the words of the edict which
  overthrew the temples of Gaza can be read in the Theodosian Code,
  book xvi., title x., law 16. The statue of Marnas was then hidden
  by the pagans in the sand outside the city, where it was
  discovered in 1880. It is now figured and described in the _Survey
  of Western Palestine_, Memoirs, vol. iii., p. 254. It is
  especially interesting to us Christians, as being a statue which
  was almost certainly seen by St. Philip. See Selden, _De Dis
  Syris_, p. 215, and Murray's _Handbook for Palestine_, pp. 271-73.

V. St. Philip was brought from Samaria, in the centre, to the Gaza
road leading from Jerusalem to the coast; and why? Simply in order
that he might preach the Gospel to one solitary man, the eunuch who
was treasurer to Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians. Here again we have
another of those representative facts which are set before us in the
earlier portion of this book. On the day of Pentecost, Jews from all
parts of the Roman Empire, and from the countries bordering upon the
east of that Empire, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and Arabians, came in
contact with Christianity. Philip had ministered in Samaria to another
branch of the circumcision, but Africa, outside the Empire at least,
had as yet no representative among the firstfruits of the cross. But
now the prophecy of the sixty-eighth Psalm was to be fulfilled, and
"Ethiopia was to stretch out her hands unto God." We have the
assurance of St. Paul himself that the sixty-eighth Psalm was a
prophecy of the ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy
Ghost. In Eph. iv. 8 he writes, quoting from the eighteenth verse,
"Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity
captive, and gave gifts unto men." And then he proceeds to enumerate
the various offices of the apostolic ministry, with their blessed
tidings of peace and salvation, as the gifts of the Spirit which God
had bestowed through the ascension of Jesus Christ. And now, in order
that no part of the known world might want its Jewish representative,
we have the conversion of this eunuch, who, as coming from Ethiopia,
was regarded in those times as intimately associated with India.

Let us see, moreover, what we are told concerning this typical African
convert. He was an Ethiopian by birth, though he may have been of
Jewish descent, or perhaps more probably a proselyte, and thus an
evidence of Jewish zeal for Jehovah. He was an eunuch, and treasurer
of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians. He was like Daniel and the three
Hebrew children in the court of the Chaldæan monarch. He had utilised
his Jewish genius and power of adaptation so well that he had risen
to high position. The African queen may have learned, too, as Darius
did, to trust his Jewish faith and depend upon a man whose conduct was
regulated by Divine law and principle. This power of the Jewish race
leading them to high place amid foreign nations and in alien courts
has been manifested in their history from the earliest times. Moses,
Mordecai and Esther, the Jews in Babylon, were types and prophecies of
the greatness which has awaited their descendants scattered among the
Gentiles in our own time. This eunuch was treasurer of Candace, Queen
of the Ethiopians. Here again we find another illustration of the
historical and geographical accuracy of the Acts of the Apostles. We
learn from several contemporary geographers that the kingdom of Meroë
in Central Africa was ruled for centuries by a line of female
sovereigns whose common title was Candace, as Pharaoh was that of the
Egyptian monarchs.[162] There were, as we have already pointed out,
large Jewish colonies in the neighbourhood of Southern Arabia and all
along the coast of the Red Sea. It was very natural, then, that
Candace should have obtained the assistance of a clever Jew from one
of these settlements. A question has been raised, indeed, whether the
eunuch was a Jew at all, and some have regarded him as the first
Gentile convert. The Acts of the Apostles, however, seems clear enough
on this point. Cornelius is plainly put forward as the typical case
which decided the question of the admission of the Gentiles to the
benefits of the covenant of grace. Our history gives not the faintest
hint that any such question was even distantly involved in the
conversion and baptism of the Ethiopian. Nay, rather by telling us
that he had come to Jerusalem for the purpose of worshipping God, it
indicates that he felt himself bound, as far as he could, to discharge
the duty of visiting the Holy City and offering personal worship there
once at least in his lifetime. Then, too, we are told of his
employment when Philip found him. "He was returning, and sitting in
his chariot read Esaias the prophet." His attention may have been
called to this portion of Holy Scripture during his visit to the
temple, where he may have come in contact with the Apostles or with
some other adherents of the early Church. At any rate he was employing
his time in devout pursuits, he was making a diligent use of the means
of grace so far as he knew them; and then God in the course of His
providence opened out fresh channels of light and blessing, according
to that pregnant saying of our Lord, "If any man will do God's will,
he shall know of the doctrine." The soul that is in spiritual
perplexity or darkness need not and ought not to content itself with
apathy, despair, or idleness. Difficulties will assault us on every
side so long as we remain here below. We cannot escape from them
because our minds are finite and limited. And some are ready to make
these difficulties an excuse for postponing or neglecting all thoughts
concerning religion. But quite apart from the difficulties of
religion, there are abundant subjects on which God gives us the
fullest and plainest light. Let it be ours, like the Ethiopian eunuch,
to practise God's will so far as He reveals it, and then, in His own
good time, fuller revelations will be granted, and we too shall
experience, as this Ethiopian did, the faithfulness of His own
promise, "Unto the righteous there ariseth up light in the darkness."
The eunuch read the prophet Esaias as he travelled, according to the
maxim of the rabbis that "one who is on a journey and without a
companion should employ his thoughts on the study of the law." He was
reading the Scriptures aloud, too, after the manner of Orientals; and
thus seeking diligently to know the Divine will, God vouchsafed to him
by the ministry of St. Philip that fuller light which he still grants,
in some way or other, to every one who diligently follows Him.

  [162] See the article "Meroë" in Smith's _Dictionary of Greek and
  Roman Geography_, for a long account of the land whence the eunuch
  came.

And then we have set forth the results of the eunuch's communion with
the heaven-sent messenger. There was no miracle wrought to work
conviction. St. Philip simply displayed that spiritual power which
every faithful servant of Christ may gain in some degree. He opened
the Scriptures and taught the saving doctrine of Christ so effectually
that the soul of the eunuch, naturally devout and craving for the
deeper life of God, recognised the truth of the revelation.
Christianity was for the Ethiopian its own best evidence, because he
felt that it answered to the wants and yearnings of his spirit. We are
not told what the character of St. Philip's discourse was. But we are
informed what the great central subject of his discourse was. It was
Jesus. This topic was no narrow one. We can gather from other passages
in the Acts what was the substance of the teaching bestowed by the
missionaries of the Cross upon those converted by them.[163] He must
have set forth the historic facts which are included in the Apostles'
Creed, the incarnation, the miracles, death, resurrection, and
ascension of Christ, and the institution of the sacrament of baptism
as the means of entering into the Church. This we conclude from the
eunuch's question to Philip, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me
to be baptized?" Assuredly Philip must have taught him the appointment
of baptism by Christ; else what would have led the eunuch to propound
such a request? Baptism having been granted in response to this
request, the eunuch proceeded on his homeward journey, rejoicing in
that felt sense of peace and joy and spiritual satisfaction which true
religion imparts; while Philip is removed to another field of labour,
where God has other work for him to do. He evangelised all through the
Philistine country, preaching in all the cities till he came to
Cæsarea, where in later years he was to do a work of permanent benefit
for the whole Church, by affording St. Luke the information needful
for the composition of the Acts of the Apostles.[164]

  [163] Justin Martyr's _Dialogue_ with Trypho the Jew was written
  about a hundred years after the eunuch's conversion. It is a good
  specimen of the methods adopted by the early Church in dealing
  with the Jews. St. Philip's teaching was doubtless of much the
  same kind. Justin upheld the application to Christ and its
  fulfilment in Him alone of the fifty-third of Isaiah, repeatedly
  quoting large portions of it, in the _Dialogue_, as, for instance,
  in chap. xiii. The apology of St. Stephen furnished the model upon
  which all subsequent missionaries to the Jews framed their
  arguments. They all dealt largely with the transitory and typical
  character of the Levitical law. The apologies addressed to the
  Gentiles were quite different, as was natural. They dealt with the
  true nature of God, the conceptions men ought to form of Him, and
  the immoralities of the pagan deities. The newly-discovered
  _Apology_ of Aristides, which I have described in the preface,
  dating from about 124 A.D., set a fashion which we find reproduced
  in Justin Martyr, Tatian's _Oration to the Greeks_, and in
  Tertullian's Apology and Address, _Ad Nationes_. The moral proofs
  of Christianity and its adaptation to the soul's wants are their
  leading topics. I have treated more of this point in the preface.

  [164] The eunuch's name, according to Ethiopian tradition, was
  Indich or Indicus. He is believed by the Abyssinians to have
  converted Queen Candace, and then to have departed into India,
  where he taught in Ceylon. See Ludolf's _History of Ethiopia_,
  book iii., chaps. i. and ii.; and Bzovius' continuation of
  Baronius' _Annals_, A.D. 1524, where there is a long
  correspondence between the pope and the king of Abyssinia in that
  year. The Abyssinians retain to this day a great many Jewish
  customs mixed with their Christianity. The Abyssinian tradition is
  incorrect, however. Modern Abyssinia is not the same as the
  ancient Meroë. The conversion of Abyssinia is due to the labours
  of a shipwrecked merchant in the time of St. Athanasius, and
  derived its faith from Egypt. The Coptic Church retains still many
  Jewish rites. See "Ethiopian Church" in _Dict. Christ. Biog._,
  vol. ii.

VI. Let us in conclusion note one other point. Our readers will have
noticed that we have said nothing concerning the reply of Philip to
the eunuch's question, "What doth hinder me to be baptized?" The
Authorized Version then inserts ver. 37, which runs thus: "And Philip
said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he
answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
While if we take up the Revised Version we shall find that the
Revisers have quite omitted this verse in the text, placing it in the
margin, with a note stating that some ancient authorities insert it
wholly or in part. This verse is now given up by all critics as an
integral part of the original text, and yet it is a very ancient
interpolation, being found in quotations from the Acts as far back as
the second century. Probably its insertion came about somehow thus,
much the same as in the case of John v. 4, to which we have already
referred in this lecture. It was originally written upon the margin of
a manuscript by some diligent student of this primitive history.
Manuscripts were not copied in the manner we usually think. A scribe
did not place a manuscript before him and then slowly transcribe it,
but a single reader recited the original in a scriptorium or
copying-room, while a number of writers rapidly followed his words.
Hence a marginal note on a single manuscript might easily be
incorporated in a number of copies, finding a permanent place in a
text upon which it was originally a mere pious reflection. Regarding
this thirty-seventh verse, however, not as a portion of the text
written by St. Luke, but as a second-century comment or note on the
text, it shows us what the practice of the next age after the Apostles
was. A profession of faith in Christ was made by the persons brought
to baptism, and probably these words, "I believe that Jesus Christ is
the Son of God," was the local form of the baptismal creed wherever
this note was written. Justin Martyr in his first _Apology_, chap. 61,
intimates that such a profession of belief was an essential part of
baptism, and this form, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of
God," may have been the baptismal formula used in the ritual appointed
for these occasions. Some persons indeed have thought that this short
statement represented the creed of the Church of the second century.
This raises a question which would require a much longer treatment
than we can now bestow upon it. Caspari, an eminent Swedish
theologian, has discussed this point at great length in a work which
the English student will find reviewed and analysed in an article by
Dr. Salmon published in the _Contemporary Review_ for August 1878,
where that learned writer comes to the conclusion that the substance
of the Apostles' Creed dates back practically to the time of the
Apostles. And now, as I am concluding this volume, an interesting
confirmation of this view comes to us from an unexpected quarter. The
_Apology_ of Aristides was a defence of Christianity composed earlier
even than those of Justin Martyr. Eusebius fixes the date of it to the
year 124 or 125 A.D. It was at any rate one of the earliest Christian
writings outside the Canon. It has been long lost to the Christian
world. We knew nothing of its contents, and were only aware of its
former existence from the pages of the Church History of Eusebius. Two
years ago it was found by Professor J. Rendel Harris, in Syriac, in
the Convent of St. Catharine on Mount Sinai, and has just been
published this month of May 1891 by the Cambridge University Press. It
is a most interesting document of early Christian times, showing us
how the first Apologists defended the faith and assailed the
superstitions of paganism. Professor Harris has added notes to it
which are of very great value. He points out the weak points in
paganism which the first Christians used specially to assail.
Aristides' _Apology_ is of peculiar value in this aspect. It shows us
how the first generation after the last Apostle was wont to deal with
the false gods of Greece, Rome, and Egypt. It is, however, of special
importance as setting forth from a new and unexpected source how the
early Christians regarded their own faith, how they viewed their own
Christianity, and in what formularies they embodied their belief.
Professor Harris confirms Dr. Salmon's contention set forth in the
article to which we have referred. In the time of Aristides the
Christians of Athens, for Aristides was an Athenian philosopher who
had accepted Christianity, were at one with those of Rome and with the
followers of Catholic Christianity ever since. Aristides wrote
according to Eusebius in 124 A.D., according to Professor Harris in
the earliest days of Antoninus Pius, that is, before 140 A.D.; but
still we can extract from his _Apology_ all the statements of the
Apostles' Creed in a formal shape. Thus Professor Harris restores the
Creed as professed in the time of Aristides, that is, the generation
after St. John, and sets it forth as follows:--

    We believe in one God Almighty,
    Maker of Heaven and Earth:
    And in Jesus Christ His Son,

      *   *   *   *   *

    Born of the Virgin Mary.

      *   *   *   *   *

    He was pierced by the Jews,
    He died and was buried:
    The third day He rose again:
    He ascended into Heaven.

      *   *   *   *   *

    He is about to come to judge.[165]

      *   *   *   *   *

  [165] _Texts and Studies_, edited by J. A. Robinson, M.A.
  (Cambridge: University Press, 1891). There are several passages in
  Justin's _Dialogue_ with Trypho which seem to be extracts from the
  primitive Creed. Thus in chap. xvii. we read the following words
  of Justin to Trypho: "For after you had crucified Him ... when you
  knew that He had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven." In
  chap. xxxviii. Trypho objects to Justin: "For you utter many
  blasphemies, in that you seek to persuade us that this crucified
  Man was with Moses and Aaron, and spoke to them in the pillar of
  the cloud; that He became man, was crucified, and ascended up to
  heaven, and comes again to earth and ought to be worshipped." The
  date of the _Apology_ of Aristides is fixed by the Armenian
  version of the _Chronicle_ of Eusebius at 124 A.D. The _Paschal
  Chronicle_ apparently assigns it to 134 A.D.

This _Apology_ of Aristides is a most valuable contribution to
Christian evidence, and raises high hopes as to what we may yet
recover when the treasures of the East are explored. The _Diatessaron_
of Tatian was a wondrous find, but the recovery of the long-lost
_Apology_ of Aristides endows us with a still more ancient document,
bringing us back close upon the very days of the Apostles. As this
discovery has only been published when these pages are finally passing
through the press, I must reserve a farther notice of it for the
preface to this volume.



INDEX.


  Abercius, St., vi.

  _Acta Sanctorum_, 111, 162.

  _Acts of the Apostles_, authenticity of, 11.

  ---- authorship of, 8, 11.

  ---- title of, 1.

  Altus, centurion, 110.

  Ananias and his wife, chap, xi., 225-228.

  Antinomians, 134.

  _Apocryphal Acts_, 2.

  ---- _Gospels_, 79.

  Apollinarian heresy, 124.

  Apostles' Creed, 417.

  _Apostolic constitutions_, 201.

  Arian heresy, 124.

  Aristides' _Apology_, see Preface and 400, 419.

  Aristotle's _Ethics_, 132, 298.

  Arnold, Dr., 306.

  Arnold, Matthew, _Sonnets_, 151, 178.

  _Ascension of Isaiah, The_, 119.

  Assumption of B. V. Mary, 68.

  _Assumption of Moses, The_, 119.

  Athanasius, St., 270, 291, 416.

  Augustine, St., _Letters_, 195, 242, 386.


  Barcochba, 157.

  Barlaam and Joasaph, viii.

  Barnabas, early life of, 218.

  ---- personal appearance of, 219.

  Baxter, 134, 137.

  Bede, _Eccles. Hist._, 294.

  Beveridge, 134.

  Bingham, _Antiquities_, 67, 386.

  Bollandists, 111, 162.

  Brady, Tate and, _Psalms_, 381.

  Brownlow and Northcote, _Roma Sotteranea_, 112.

  Buddhism, 400.

  Bull, 134.

  Bunting, Jabez, 3.

  Burgess, Rev. H. W., LL.D., xiii.

  Burnet, Bishop, _Commentary on the Thirty-Nine Articles_, 192.

  Butler, Bishop, 18.

  Bzovius, _Continuation of Baronius' Annals_, 415.


  Calvin, 384.

  Candace, 411, 412.

  Capes, Rev. W. W., M.A., _The Age of the Antonines_, 154.

  Cardinals, College of, 280.

  Cato, _de Re Rustica_, 58.

  Cave, _Lives of Fathers_, 219.

  Charteris, Dr., 11.

  Chrysostom, St., 113.

  Cicero, _Tusc. Disp._, 56, 298.

  Cistercians, 174.

  Clarke, Adam, 3.

  Clement of Alexandria, 286, 344.

  Clement of Rome, 3, 273, 280, 400.

  Clementine literature, 79.

  Coke, Thomas, 3.

  Columbanus, St., 7.

  Confirmation, rite of, chaps. xviii., xix.

  _Contemporary Review_, 199, 359, 417.

  Conybeare and Howson, _Life and Epistles of St. Paul_, 217.

  Coptic Church, 416.

  Cornelius à Lapide, 242.

  Court of the Gentiles, 158.

  Crisp, Tobias, Dr., _Sermons_, 134.

  Crispin, St., 161.

  Cyprian, St., 386.

  Cyprus, 216.

  Cyril, St., of Jerusalem, 66.


  Darby, J. N., 382.

  David, tomb of, opened, 125.

  Deacons, choice and work of, chaps. xiii., xiv.

  De Voguë, _Le Temple de Jérusalem_, 158, 165.

  _Dictionary of Christian Biography_, xi, 2, 16, 25, 32, 65, 79,
        112, 120, 125, 157, 239, 257, 259, 270, 274, 342.

  ---- ---- _Antiquities_, 144.

  ---- ---- _Greek and Roman Geography_, 412.

  _Didache_, 97, 139, 149, 377.

  Douket, in _Rev. des Quest. Hist._, viii.


  Ebionites, 120.

  Emania, 110.

  Egypt, 38.

  _Enoch, Book of_, 25, 28, 119.

  Epiphanius, _on Weights and Measures_, 66.

  Ethiopian eunuch, chap. xx.

  Eusebius, _Chronicle of_, vii, 65, 419.

  ---- _Hist. Eccles._, viii, 9, 79, 102, 156, 323, 344, 418.

  Eutychianism, 48, 314.

  _Expositor, The_, 359.


  Fabricius, _Cod. Apoc._, 79.

  ---- _Cod. Pseud. V. T._, 25.

  _False Decretals_, 373.

  Fayûm MSS., 359.

  Ferguson, Sir S., _Lays of Western Gael_, 110.

  _Fingal and its Churches_, 6.

  Fisher, _Marrow of Modern Divinity_, 134.

  Fox, George, 185.

  Franciscans, 163.

  Friends, Society of, 185, 186.

  Fuller, Rev. J. M., 120.


  Gamaliel, 232-242.

  Gate of Temple (Chulda), 158.

  Gaza, 401.

  Gibbon, _History_, 57.

  Golden Gate, 158.

  Goulburn, Dean, _Acts of the Deacons_, v., 404.

  Gwynn, Dr., 2.


  Hadrian, Emperor, 66.

  Hall, S. C., 5.

  Harnack, _Texte u. Untersuch._, x, xi.

  Harris, Professor, vii, viii, 418.

  Helena, Empress, 66.

  Herzog, _Encyclopædia_, 137, 181, 278.

  Hippolytus, vii.

  Hook, Dean, 381.

  Howard, John, 291.

  Hyreanus, 125.


  Indich, 415.

  Irenæus, 13, 276, 286.

  ---- _Adv. Hær._, 121.

  Irish longevity, 5.

  Irvingites, 198.


  Jason and Papiscus, xi.

  Jerome, St., x, xii, 6, 110, 194, 386.

  Jesuits, 152.

  John, St., _Acts of_, 2.

  Jortin, 232.

  Josephus, _Antiqq._, 125, 174, 198, 217, 235, 236, 238,
        251, 274, 354.

  ---- _Wars_, 125, 158, 198.

  _Jubilees, Book of_, 25, 28.

  Judas Iscariot, 80, 81.

  Julian the Apostate, 393.

  Justin Martyr, ix, x, xi, 275, 355, 400, 414, 417.


  Keble, John, _Christian Year_, 21, 227, 324, 368.

  Kingsley, Charles, 206.

  Kitto, _Bib. Cyclop._, 25, 181, 278, 282.


  Le Bas and Waddington, _Voyage Archéolog._, 270.

  Le Blant, 297.

  Leslie, Charles, _Short and Easy Method with the Deists_, 77.

  Lewin, _Fasti Sacri_, 196, 248.

  Liddon, Canon, _University Sermons and Bampton Lectures_,
        55, 340.

  Lightfoot, Bishop, _Apostolic Fathers_, 274.

  ---- ---- _Clement of Rome_, 166, 335.

  ---- ---- _Essays_, 268.

  ---- ---- _Supernatural Religion_, 239.

  ---- ---- _Commentaries on Epistles_, v, 195, 269, 376.

  Lightfoot, Dr. J., _Horæ Hebraicæ_, 64, 84, 97, 125, 147, 158,
        177, 181, 182, 233, 260, 272, 333, 335.

  Lipsius, Professor, 25.

  Locke, J., 402.

  Lucian, 278.

  Ludolf, _Hist. of Ethiopia_, 415.

  Luke, St., authorship of Gospel, 10.

  _Lyons, Epistle of the Church of_, 8.


  Mahometanism, 314, 402.

  Malalas, _Chronographia_, 342.

  Marcion, 10, 270.

  Marnas, the God of Gaza, 410.

  Martial, _Epigrams_, 312.

  _Martyrologium Romanum_, 325.

  Matthias, election of, 73, 77, 78, 79.

  Maurice, F. D., 206.

  Mechitarites, viii.

  Mede, Joseph, _Works of_, 64, 67, 84.

  Meroë, 412.

  Metaphrastes, Simeon, vi, 218.

  Meyer on the Acts, 98, 217, 230.

  Mill, J. S., _Logic_, 132.

  Milles, Bishop, _Works of St. Cyril_, 67.

  Milman, _History of the Jews_, 217.

  Mithraism, 32.

  Mivart, St. George, _Genesis of Species_, 60.

  Moll, Dr. A., on _Hypnotism_, 100, 123, 230, 360.

  Montanists, 154.

  _Monumenta Franciscana_, 163.

  _Muratorian Fragment_, 7.


  Nelson, _Fasts and Festivals_, 79.

  Neo-Cæsarea, 266.

  Nestorianism, 48.

  New Testament, Canon of, 16.

  Newman, Cardinal, 381, 206.

  Newton, Robert, 3.

  Nicanor, Gate of, 158.

  Nicodemus, 240.

  Nicolas, proselyte of Antioch, 286.

  Northcote, _Epitaphs of the Catacombs_, 112.

  Novatianus, 237.

  Novatian heresy, 237.

  Novatus, 237.


  Origen, 79, 101, 400.

  Otto, _Corp. Apologet._, x.

  Overbeck, x.


  Palmer, William, 237.

  Pantænus, 400.

  Papias, 80.

  Papiscus, xi.

  Patrick, St., _Confession_, xii.

  ---- his family, 281.

  Paul, St., _Acts of_, 2.

  ---- at Thessalonica, 37.

  Peregrinus Proteus, 278.

  Peter, St., _Acts of_, 2.

  ---- character of, 71.

  Phelps, W. E. C., xiii.

  Philip, St., chaps. xvii.-xx.

  Philo, 30.

  Photius, vi.

  Pilate, Pontius, 250.

  Pitra, Card., _Analecta Sacra_, viii, 240.

  Pliny, _Letters_, 108, 180, 274, 276.

  Plymouth Brethren, 133, 198, 382.

  Polycarp, 3, 274.

  ---- teaching of, 14.

  Pothinus, 9.

  Powerscourt, Lady, _Letters and Papers of_, 198.

  Prudentius, 158.


  Quadratus, _Apology of_, vii, viii, ix.

  Quaresmius, Fr., _Terræ Sanctæ Elucidatio_, 67.

  Quinctilian, 298.


  Ramsay, Professor, _Historical Geog. of Asia Minor_, 103.

  ---- in _Jour. Hellenic Studies_, vi.

  Reformers, 152.

  Rénan, viii, 53.

  _Revue Archéologique_, 175.

  Robinson, J. A., _Texts and Studies_, 419.

  Routh, Dr., _Reliquiæ, Sacræ_, 81.


  Salmon, Dr., _Introduction to N.T._, 2, 8, 10, 11, 69, 79, 358.

  ---- in _Cont. Review_, 417.

  ---- _Sermons_, 135.

  Sanday, Dr., 10.

  Savings Banks, 205.

  Schaff, _Theological Encyclopædia_, v, 296.

  Schwegler, x.

  Scillitan Martyrs, 15.

  Second coming of Christ, discussion about, 36.

  Selden, _De Synedriis_, 181, 278, 295.

  _Shepherd of Hermas_, 97, 382.

  Shushan Gate, 158.

  Simon Magus, chaps. xvii., xix.

  Simony, 394.

  Solomon, _Psalms_ of, 25.

  Speratus, St., 15.

  Stanley, Dean, _Sinai and Palestine_, 354.

  Stephen, St., chaps. xiv., xv., xvi.

  Sternhold and Hopkins, _Psalms_, 381.

  Stewart and Tait, _The Unseen Universe_, 47.

  Stillingfleet, 134, 137.

  Stoics, 153, 342.

  Stokes, G. T., _Celtic Church_, 111, 282, 323.

  ---- ---- _Norman Church_, 163, 282.

  _Survey of Western Palestine_, 331.


  Tacitus, _Annals_, 58, 130.

  _Talmud_, 175.

  Tatian, vii, 65, 400, 415, 419.

  Taylor, Jeremy, _Holy Living_, 89.

  Telemachus, St., 56.

  Tertullian, 3, 7, 56, 109, 381, 382, 384, 386, 415.

  ---- _De Carne Christi_, 121.

  _Texts and Studies_, viii, 419.

  Theodoret, _Eccles. Hist._, 57.

  Theodosian Code, 348.

  Theophylact, 81.

  Thomas, St., _Acts_ of, 2.

  Tischendorf, _Acta Apoc._, 79.

  Tractarian movement, 237.

  _Transactions of the Society of Bibl. Arch._, 166, 202.

  Trench, Archbishop, _Notes on the Parables_, 47.

  ---- ---- _Notes on the Miracles_, 405.

  _Twelve Apostles, Teaching of_ (see Didache), 97, 139, 149, 377.


  _Unseen Universe, The_, by Messrs. Stewart and Tait, 47.


  Vatican Council, 265.

  Vaughan, C. J., D.D., _The Church of the First Days_, 226, 317.

  Victor I., Pope, 14.


  Watson, Richard, 3.

  Wesley, John, 3, 137, 291, 381.

  Wilberforce, William, 291.

  Williams, Dr., 134, 135, 137.


  Zeller, _Acts of the Apostles_, 230, 326.





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