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14. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, "raised his voice," and said unto them, Ye men of Judæa, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words :
Those who did not understand the languages spoken by the apostles, supposed that they were intoxicated. This charge Peter now refutes, by explaining the nature of the miracle, and showing that nothing had taken place but what had been foretold. By its being said that Peter stood up with the eleven, it seems probable that they are the only persons whom he means to vindicate from the aspersion in verse the thirteenth ; and that consequently, they are the only persons who on this occasion spoke in foreign tongues. Peter addresses himself more particularly to Jews, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, because it was among them principally that this mistake prevailed; native Jews being the most likely to regard a foreign language as a jargon.
15. For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day, nine o'clock in the morning.
16. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel ;*
17. And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh : and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams :
18. And on my servants and on my hand-maidens, “ on my men-servants and my maid-servants,” I will pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy.
“ In the last days.” These words do not exactly correspond with the language of the prophecy, where we have, instead of them, the word “afterward.” . Peter, however, interpreted that word to mean the last days, which is a phrase which occurs in other proph. ecies, and is understood to signify the days of the Messiah ;t although some suppose that it refers to a much later period, when the Jews are to be restored to their own land. Prophetic and miraculous powers had now been discontinued for the space of four hundred years, from the time of Malachi to the appearance of Christ. It is highly probable, therefore, that so remarkable a display of those powers as was exhibited on this occasion, would be the subject of prophecy. But those who imagine that this proph* Joel ii. 28.
+ Isa. ii. 2. Theological Repository, Vol. V. p. 119.
ecy refers to the last period of the Jewish state, must suppose that the gift of the Spirit was entirely overlooked, which is very unlikely. .." I will pour out of my Spirit.” The Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit, signifies, as before explained, not a person, but the divine power, exerted in miraculous gifts : these were to be bestowed in such variety and abundance in the present instance, that they are compared to the pouring out of water, which is expended without strict regard to quantity.
6Upon all flesh.” This may signify all mankind, Gentiles as well as Jews, or all classes of persons, people of every age, sex, and condition. Jt is to the latter sense that the words which follow seem to restrict its meaning ; for the prophet proceeds immediately to enumerate the persons included under that general term. *
" And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." To prophesy, signifies sometimes to commuicate religious instruction, as well as to foretel future events. Both senses may be included here, as several of the first Christians of both sexes were qualified to predict as well as to teach.
" And your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." Dreams and visions were methods by which God, in ancient times, communicated notices of his will to prophets and patriarchs. In visions, objects were presented to the imagination, while the prophet was awake, but in dreams, the same thing was done while he was asleep. It is here foretold, that the same mode of divine revelation would be observed under the new dispensation; and accordingly, we have examples of both in the book of Acts. When it is said that the young men should see visions, and the old men dream dreams, we are not to suppose that only visions were to be communicated to the young, and only dreams to the old ; but that visions and dreams were to be communicated to persons of all ages, to young and old.
The next thing which God promises in this prophesy, is, that this Spirit should be poured out upon men-servants and maid-servants. The words in the original denote men-servants and maidservants of the lowest condition, such as were bought or taken in war, that is, slaves. Persons in this condition were to partake of the Spirit, or of miraculous powers. It is added, " and they shall prophesy," but these words are not found in Joel, neither in the Hebrew, nor in the Greek version. The want of them is, howeyer, of little consequence ; for prophesying is plainly implied in the pronrise of the Spirit.
19. And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath ; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke.
20. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.
* Chandler's Dissertation, annexed to his Commentary on Joel, p. 123.
It is the observation of Sir Isaac Newton, in explaining the prophetic language, that the sun's being darkened, the moon's being turned into blood, and the falling of stars, are put for the ceasing of a kingdom or dissolution thereof. Agreeably to this observation, we find, that when the destruction of Babylon is threatened, it is thus expressed; The stars of the heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light : the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. I will shake the heavens, &c. * In terms very similar to these has Jesus, in the gospel of Matthew, foretold the destruction of the Jewish state, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days," say he, “shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” After two such examples, I conceive there will be found little difficulty in supposing, that this language of the prophet Joel was intended to express the total overthrow of the civil and ecclesiastical polity of the Jews. If we examine the several parts of this prophecy separately, and suppose that one phrase was intended to express one thing, and another phrase another, we shall be misled. The whole is to be taken together, and regarded as a highly figurative prediction of a great approaching national calamity.
21. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
They shall be delivered from those calamities, to which the rest of the Jews shall be exposed. To call upon the name of the Lord, is a phrase describing a religious person, and the meaning is, that the worshipper of God, according to the gospel of his Son, shall escape. Accordingly we find from Eusebius, that the Christians, in consequence of a particular revelation, or, more probably, of the warnings already given them by Christ, escaped from Jerusalem, when they saw it about to be besieged, and hereby saved themselves from the calamities which fell upon that devoted city. Peter, having shown that a plentiful effusion of miraculous gifts had been foretold, proceeds to show how they came to be bestowed upon them in particular.
22. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, " Jesus of Nazareth proved unto you to be a man from God,” by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did by him, in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know :
In these words you may observe, that he speaks of Nazareth as the native place of Jesus, and gives him no higher title than that of a man from God, or one who had a divine mission, and was proved to be so authorized by the miracles which he wrought.
* Isaiah xiii. 10, 13.
23. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified* and slain ;
It was an aggravation of the sufferings of Christ, that he was put to death by those enemies of the nation and of true religion, the Romans, who, in the language of the Jews, were called sinners or ungodly men. God however was justified in permitting such an event; for it was foreseen by him, and allowed to take place for wise and important ends.
24. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, “ the bonds of the grave :"
This is a quotation from the Psalms, in the Greek version, which was commonly in use in Judæa at this time; but the Hebrew word signifies either bonds or pains, and the authors of that version preferred the latter.t
Because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
There was no natural impossibility in the case, but it was impossible, because God had foretold that he should be raised from the dead, as Peter proceeds to show in the next verse.
1. The prophecy of Joel, as fulfilled under the Christian dispensation, affords an illustrious proof of the liberal and impartial goodness of the great Father of mankind. For he not only bestows miraculous powers in a great variety of forms, in gifts of tongues, by enabling persons who had never learnt foreign languages, to speak them fluently, in powers of healing, in foretelling future events, in the communication of knowledge of persons or things, by dreams, by visions, and in a variety of other ways, which it is impossible for us at the present day, perhaps, exactly to ascertain, yet such as appeared to his wisdom best adapted to the purposes of divine revelation ; but also confers them on all classes of persons, on the young as well as the old ; the poor as well as the rich; not excepting men-servants, and women-servants, who were, at that time much more degraded than at present, being slaves, the absolute property of their masters. How great is the condescension of the Almighty, in noticing these outcasts of human society : how highly are they exalted by these testimonies of his regard ! Slaves are raised to the dignity of prophets, and of inspired messengers of the divine will to mankind.
* Mr. Wakefield translates, “ when ye had mocked,” reading gordicvles.
Let Christians, then, of the meanest condition rejoice. The disgrace of that condition is removed ; for God has honoured persons in it with the gift of miraculous powers ; hereby assuring them, that they are as much the objects of his regard, as the rich and great; and that, if they take the same pains to serve and please him, according to the advantages which they possess, they shall have the same share in his favour, both now and for ever.
Let those who are distinguished by wealth or honours, learn hence, not to despise their poorer brethren, but draw from this important event the inference suggested by the apostle Paul, that in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither bond nor free, male nor female ; that these distinctions are overlooked, that all are upon a footing of equality, and the meanest and weakest treated with the same degree of respect and affection as the greatest.
2. We see that the faith of those who believe Jesus to be a human being is established on a scriptural foundation : for it corresponds with the language of an apostle, who calls him a man from God, after his resurrection and ascension, and after that apostle had received the Holy Spirit, and would have learnt to correct any mistakes respecting the person of Christ into which he might be supposed to have fallen. The crime which he imputes to the Jews, is not, that they had put to death an angel or superangelic being in human shape, much less the Creator of the world; but a man from God, or a divine messenger, proved to be so by a great variety of miracles. Had their guilt been attended with that higher aggravation, no doubt Peter would have mentioned it at this time, when he was endeavouring to impress them with the heinousness of their crime, as a ground for apprehending the approach of divine vengeance, and a motive for immediate repentance. Let no one, therefore, be ashamed of this faith, or afraid to avow it in the most public inanner ; nor let any one presume to reproach him who does so, with degrading his Master. He follows the example of inspired teachers, and the best friends of Jesus, who, when they speak in plain terms, devoid of metaphor, always represent him as a man.
3. We learn hence, what strong evidence we have for the resurrection of Jesus. Not more that six weeks after the event, in the very place where he had been put to death, in the presence of many persons who had been witnesses of the fact, (if their hands had not actually been stained with his blood,) Peter boldly asserts his resurrection, and declares that he and eleven other persons were witnesses to it, without any one venturing to contradictor oppose him. What better foundation can we have for our faith, than the testimony of friends and the silence of enemies ?
Peter proceeds to show that other prophecies were likewise fulfilled in the history of Jesus of Nazareth, besides that of Joel, and particularly in his resurrection from the dead.
25. For David speaketh concerning him ; I fore