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themselves might be delivered from them. This Peter tells them in the next verse.
38. Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins : and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The repentance to which Peter here exhorts his hearers, is not a general reformation of character and conduct, although the word sometimes undoubtedly has that meaning, but a change of principles upon a particular subject, namely, the divine mission of Jesus. Nor does the remission of sins, here promised as the consequence of repentance and baptism, signify the removal of moral guilt in general, but merely a recovery from that sinful state to which all men, whether Jew or Gentiles, are represented as being reduced, so long as they are out of the Christian covenant. This sense of the word repentance occurs in other parts of the book of Acts, as xvii. 20. ( But the times of this ignorance God winked at," where heathen idolatry is spoken of, “ but now commandeth all men every where to repent ;' that is, to abandon their idolatrous errors, and to embrace the Christian religion. And in the same manner, xxvi. 20, when Paul says of himself to Agrippa, that he showed first to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance, he means that they should forsake their errors as Jews or heathens, receive the Christian religion which God now offered to them, and walk in a manner becoming their new profession. The remission of sins is here connected with baptism, in the same manner as, in other passages, with the blood of Christ ; not because the one, any more than the other, removed the guilt arising from the commission of crimes, but be. cause men who were before reckoned sinners, ceased to be esteem- . ed so, upon their profession of the Christian religion, or upon their entering into the Christian covenant. It may be further observed on this passage, that men are exhorted to be baptized into the name of Christ only ; which affords a strong presumption that this was the original form of baptism ; and that the Holy Spirit is called a gift, which implies that it was a power and not a person. The gift was usually bestowed upon believers in early times, and was regarded as a proof of their being the covenantpeople of God.
39. For the promise, i. e. of the Holy Spirit, is unto you and to your children, “ to your offspring,” and to all that are afar off, to the Jews in foreign countries, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
By " afar off,” some suppose Peter to refer to the Gentiles, who are so described by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians, where, speaking of Gentiles and Jews, he calls them those who were afar off, and those who were nigh. But Peter
could have no idea of the communication of miraculous powers to the Gentiles at this time; for it required an express revelation from God to instruct him in that part of the Christian dispensation, His design was evidently to encourage the Jews to expect miraculous powers upon the profession of Christianity, because the promise of the Spirit had been made to them and to their offspring, in whatever part of the world dispersed, to whom the gospel was offered. This was part, but by no means the whole, of what Peter said to them on the present occasion; for he instructed them further in the Christian religion, and exhorted them, by embracing it, to save themselves from impending calamities.
40. And with many other words did he testify, i. e. bear testimony to the truth of Christianity, and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
It appeared, from the above prophecies of Joel, that dreadful calamities were threatened to the Jews, and that the time for inflicting them was now arrived, because the miraculous powers which were foretold as preceding the event appeared to be bestowed. The apostle, therefore, exhorts his hearers to separate themselves from their countrymen, by embracing Christianity, and to save themselves from the calamities which were coming upon unbelievers. Christians, it seems, were promised exemption from the sufferings of the Jews, and actually escaped them.
41. Then they that received his word were baptized, not upon the spot, but in some other place, and the same day there were added about three thousand souls.
That is, so many persons were added to the number of one hundred and twenty before mentioned. The word “gladly," which appears in our translation, is omitted in some of the best manuscripts and versions, and is, therefore probably an interpolation.*
42. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, " constantly attended to the apostles' doctrine," and to fellowship, and to breaking of bread, and to prayers.
The word we render fellowship has two senses, and may either signify friendly intercourse, or the distribution of property, a virtue for which the first Christians were remarkable, and which is noticed below. There is a like ambiguity in the phrase, breaking of bread, which may either signify eating their common meals, or celebrating the Lord's supper, but, as it accompanies prayers, it is most probable that it refers to the Lord's supper,
* See Griesbach, 2nd edition.
which the first Christians celebrated every Sunday, if not more frequently.
43. And fear came upon every one, and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
The fear mentioned in the first clause of the verse, is to be regarded as the consequence of what is mentioned in the last. Many extraordinary miracles were performed by the apostles, and therefore all men were impressed with awe of the divine power.
44. And all that believed were together, not in one place, but united in different societies, and had all things common ;
45. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
This was a remarkable effect of their faith in Christ, and showed the little value which they placed upon temporal possessions, when compared with the eternal inheritance promised to them in the gospel. Their joy in the clear evidence of a future state of happiness for good men, given them by this new doctrine, was so great, that their worldly property seemed of no value, any further than as it afforded them an opportunity of dividing it with their brethren, and of administering to the wants of those who were in distress. This community of goods could not be the work of a day, but must have required some time to accomplish it.*
46. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, “at home," did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, with purity of heart.”'
That is, with hearts free from all ambitious, impure, or selfish designs. The writer is describing their public and private conduct. In regard to the former, they frequented the temple, to praise God for his invaluable blessings, and at home, they ate their meat with joy, and spent an irreproachable life.
47. Praising God, and having favour with all the people; or, “praising God with thankfulness before all the people,"
This seems better adapted to the connexion than the common translation. This was their employment at home, in the presence of their acquaintance, as well as in the temple.
* Mosheim, in a dissertation on this subject, has endeavoured to show that the expressions used by the historian are not to be interpreted literally of a community of goods, but relate to the liberality of the first Christians to teach other, in giving a Targe share of their substance for the support of their necessitous brethren. See Simpson on Internal Evidence, p. 283.
And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved, “such as were saved.”
The language of the writer in the original, expresses what had already taken place. All men were saved who believed in the gospel of Christ; for they were thereby delivered from their former errors, which exposed them to the judgments of God and to many evils. And all that the writer means is, God daily added new converts to the number of the disciples. This is an instance, among many others which occur in the New Testament, of the term “ saved” being applied not to deliverance from future misery, about the probability of which it was impossible for any one to decide at present; but to deliverance from present and temporal evil. In this sense is the word continually used in Paul's epistles.
1. We may observe that the reception of the gospel by three thousand persons, in one day, is a glorious evidence of its truth and divine origin. For the apostle appeals to the character of Jesus, as a prophet working miracles to prove his divine mission, and to his resurrection from the dead, as facts well known among them; and the appeal is made very soon after his crucifixion and death, and in the very city where they were said to have taken place. When persons embrace Christianity upon being reminded of these things, it is a clear admission of the facts; it is an acknowledgment on their part that they believed them to be true; and when this is done by so many, and in so short a time, it shows that a proof was plain and clear, level to every understanding; whence this unavoidable inference follows, that what produced conviction in this manner, among persons who had the best opportunity for examining and every motive for inquiry, must be true. No instance can be produced from the beginning of the world of facts, received in these circuinstances, proving false. Let every man carefully consider these points, and fairly resist the inference to which they lead, if he can.
2. The liberality of these early Christians is a just specimen of the temper which the gospel produces, and deserves our imitation. They distributed their substance to all that had need, and retained no more for themselves than was requisite for procuring the necessaries of life. This was the natural consequence of a high degree of joy in the prospect of a blessing far more valuable than any earthly comfort, and of gratitude to that Being who had promised to bestow it. Let us manifest the same temper; not, indeed, by establishing a community of goods, which the experience of mankind has shown to be an encouragement to the idle and dissolute, and to furnish opportunities to the fraudulent for carrying on their devices, and therefore calculated to increase, rather than diminish, the miseries of life ; but by showing a becoming indifference to temporal good things, by regarding them as of comparatively little value, and employing them freely in doing good, especially in promoting the great design of the gospel. Eternal life is of the same value to us as to the first Christians, and the goodness of God is equally great in bestowing it. Therefore, having the same motives for gratitude and joy, we ought to manifest the like exertions. This is the most substantial and acceptable way of showing our esteem for the gospel of Christ. We ought not, however, to omit,
3. To express our gratitude to God in words, by praising him continually for his goodness. Riches are bestowed only upon a few, and they only can express their gratitude by acts of charity and beneficence; but praise is an easy tribute, which may be offered by every one who has a heart to feel, and a tongue to speak. It belongs not exclusively to any class of men, but is incumbent upon all men of every condition ; for they are all under equal obligations.
Cure of the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the temple.
Acts iii. 1—26.
1. Now Peter and John went up together into the temple, at that hour of prayer which is the ninth hour.
There were three hours of prayer in a day, nine o'clock, twelve, and three in the afternoon, or the ninth hour. This was the last of them.
2. And a certain man, lame from his mother's womb, was carried, whom they placed daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
3. Who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms.
4. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us.
He intended hereby to awaken his attention, and, by leading him to consider who they were, to prepare his mind for the exercise of that faith in the divine power which was necessary for receiving the favour of a miraculous cure.
5. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.