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This distribution to the necessities of others, is the noblest expression of our gratitude to God. The apostle says, "Let us offer to God the sacrifice of praise continually, giving thanks to his name; but to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
The Christian characterized, who has been with
ACTS iv. 13.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
THE two apostles here named, as they went up to the temple at the hour of prayer, met with a cripple, who, having from his birth, been unable to walk, was laid at the gate of the temple, to ask alms of the people, who came thither for devotion. Attentive to the design, for which he was placed there, he seems to have let none pass unsolicited. "Seeing Peter and John about to enter into the temple, he asked alms of them. Instead of giv
ing him money, an article in which they did not abound, they exercised their charity in a more useful way. They said to him; "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And immediately he received strength, went with them into the temple, and joined in the praises of God.
The publicity and notoriety of the miracle rendered it, at once, a topick of common conversation. "The people were filled with amazement, and ran together greatly wondering." The apostles improved the occasion, to demonstrate the divine power and authority of Jesus of Nazareth, who had been rejected as an impostor, and crucified as a malefactor; and to exhort the people to repentance, for the remission of sins in his name. And their preaching, accompanied with so notable a miracle, had a mighty effect. Of those who heard the word, thousands believed, and acknowledged the Saviour.
Alarmed at the miracle and its consequences, the high priest summoned a council, called the apostles before him, and examined them, by what power, and in what name they had done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, answered, "Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel; if we be this day examined concerning the good deed done to this impotent man, by what means he is made whole : Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by HIM doth this man stand before you whole. This is the stone, which is set at nought by you builders, which is become the head of the corner; neither is there salvation in any other." The freedom and assurance, with which the apostles spake, surprised the rulers. It is said, "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they mar velled." They are called unlearned, and ignorant,
or private men, as the word may be rendered; i. e. men of private education. They were not men, who then appeared unlearned and ignorant. The freedom with which they spake, the knowledge which they discovered in the holy scriptures, especially in the ancient prophecies, and the force of their reasoning to prove that Jesus was the Christ, convinced the rulers, that they were, at that time, men of superiour abilities and acquirements. But it was matter of admiration, how these men, who had only had a private education, and never had been instructed in the Jewish schools, should discover such an uncommon degree of knowledge and boldness, to speak and argue in defence of their religion. So the Jews, when they heard Jesus teach in the temple, marvelled, saying, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned ?"" But, it is added, the rulers took knowledge of these men, that they had been with Jesus." This was suf ficient to account for their superiour knowledge and boldness.
It is here observable, that though Christ chose for his disciples, men of private education, yet he sent them not forth to preach his gospel, until they had been for some time, under his own immediate instruction. Paul, whose early education had been superiour, was soon after his conversion, employed in the ministry. But still he was previously instructed in the doctrines of the gospel by Ananias, who was sent to him for that purpose. Even in that day, when uncommon gifts were bestowed the immediate power of the Spirit, a preparatory education was ordinarily required to furnish men for the gospel ministry. Novices were not to be introduced into so great and important an office. The apostle to the Hebrews intimates, that there must be time spent in learning the principles of the oracles of God, and in going on from thence to
more perfect knowledge, before men are qualified to become teachers of others. How absurd is it then, in this day, when prophecy has failed, and the supernatural gift of knowledge has ceased, for the unlearned and ignorant to assume, without a previous education, the work of publick instruction?
But not to enlarge on this incidental thought; what I would especially notice in the words, is the happy influence of an acquaintance with Christ.
The Jewish rulers saw something in these apostles, which appeared marvellous, until they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
We will consider, How the expression of being with Jesus, may be applied to others, as well as to his immediate disciples: And how they, who have been with him, ought to distinguish them
I. The expression of being with Jesus may be applied to many others, as well as to his immediate disciples.
1. It may be applied to all who enjoy the gospel.
Peter and John, and their fellow disciples, were favoured with a personal knowledge of, and admitted to familiar converse with their divine Lord. Being daily in his company, they could hear his excellent instructions, observe his heavenly life, behold his wonderful works, and take a part in his sublime devotions. Happy disciples! How great was their privilege ?-But is yours inferiour? You have his gospel. This communicates to you the instructions which they heard-the works which they beheld-the example which they followed and the devotions in which they joined. In regard therefore to all the purposes of faith, knowledge and virtue, you may be with him, as truely as they were. You think, they had a peculiar advantage in hearing