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ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
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 come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. ACTS v. 38, 39.
THE largest and deepest river which we know, either in the old world or the new, may be traced to a fountain head, from whence it issued in a narrow channel. It dilates and expands as it flows, and (receiving continual accessions from tributary streams) it pursues its course through whole provinces, watering and fertilizing the lands through which it passes, till at length it discharges itself into the ocean. It is pleasant thus to trace the
great effects produced from comparatively trifling causes in the natural world, and the same spirit of inquiry should direct our researches in the moral world. Amidst the general taste for history and antiquities, let. the origin and first establishment of Christianity occupy some portion of our attentive consideration.
We are now to enter upon the second period into which I have divided these Lectures on the first eleven chapters of the Acts. These eleven chapters contain, I think, nearly the whole account of the first planting of the Christian Religion; the remainder of the Book being chiefly devoted to the travels of St. Paul. I have confined myself to these eleven chapters, that I might not interfere with the admirable work of Archdeacon Paley, entitled the "Horæ Paulinæ," a work which deserves the highest enconiums, since it has brought forward much additional evidence in support of Christianity; a work, which fully proves the authenticity of the epistolary writings of the New Testament, or not one point in ten would so exactly tally.
Before I divide the period we are now to consider, permit me to make one remark, respecting the continuance of the Apostles at Jerusalem, long after the ascension of their Lord. In the progress of these Lectures, we
shall find, that after some months had elapsed, a violent persecution arose, which occasioned them to be scattered abroad throughout distant countries. Let us for a moment suppose, that this dispersion had taken place immediately on the ascension of our Lord; they would doubtless have preached the doctrines they professed, in the countries to which they were driven, and would probably have dwelt especially on the great fact of the resurrection, which had recently taken place; but who in Samaria, in Ethiopia, or in Europe, would have credited their unsupported assertions? There were none in those countries that could either support or confront them; consequently, no proof could appear of the truth of the doctrines they asserted. But while they remained in Jerusalem, in the very spot where all these events had taken place, meeting daily the murderers of Jesus, whose interest it was to prove the whole story to be a falsehood; if there it was acknowledged to be genuine, if there it was irrefragably and undeniably admitted, then might they hope for success in distant parts, and spread, the religion of Jesus wide as the habitable earth. I think the detention of the Apostles at Jerusalem, for many months, (probably a whole year,) after the ascension, most strikingly displays the wisdom of the divine counsels. While
they remained there, every thing external, relating to the spread of the gospel, seemed at a stand, but all was working to effect this important end.
I have dwelt the longer on this remark, as I believe it has not been touched upon by any commentator, and I confess it never struck my own mind till very lately.
We may divide the period of time we are now to illustrate, into five parts.
I. We shall consider the cure performed by Peter and John, at the beautiful gate of the temple.
II. The discourse delivered by Peter on this occasion.
III. The events which followed this miracle.
IV. The awful punishment of false professors.
V. The consultation of the Jewish Sanhedrim, respecting the treatment of the Apostle's introducing the words of my text, " 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 come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
I. Let us consider the miracle wrought by the Apostles in favour of the lame man.
In the beginning of the third chapter, we read that Peter and John went up to the temple, at the ninth hour; (answering to three o'clock in the afternoon, the time appointed for the evening sacrifice;) and a certain man, lame from his birth, was daily carried to the gate which was called beautiful, to beg alms of those who passed through. This gate was of very singular materials. Most of you know that the city of Corinth was once laid in ashes. All the brass, the silver, and the gold, together with every other metal found there, was melted down into one common mass; this was called Corinthian brass, and it was valued by the ancients above gold. It was of this metal that the gate here mentioned was formed, and as it was otherwise highly decorated, it obtained the name of the beautiful gate. This was the grand entrance into the temple, and I consider this circumstance as worthy of notice, since it proves the publicity of the miracle there performed; it was not wrought at a private door of the temple, where there might have been some pretence of deception; but, in the presence of many, who were well acquainted with the person who was cured; for, we are told, he was forty years of age, con. sequently, must have been well known to