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which might not naturally be suggested by the circumstances of the case, and for which, therefore, divine aid could be wanted; but that, being conscious to himself of possessing extraordinary miraculous powers, manifested by the late event, and especially by the gift of tongues, he acquired thence an extraordinary degree of. courage, to assert in the presence of the council what he then declared ; namely, that Jesus Christ, whom they had crucified, was the author of the miracle about which they were inquiring; that God had raised him from the dead, and that, therefore, they were guilty of a great crime in putting him to death. Nothing but the fullest persuasion that he was countenanced by divine authority could have enabled him to hold this language, in such a situation.
Jesus is here and elsewhere called Jesus of Nazareth; a strong presumption that that town was the place of his nativity, and not Bethlehem, as some accounts would lead us to suppose. For as it appears, from John vii. 42, that the Jews expected their Christ to come from Bethlehem, had he really been born there, no doubt can be entertained that his disciples would have named him after that place, Jesus of Bethlehem, in order to remove the objections of the Jews, and to give greater credibility to his clainis.
11. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
A stone at the head of the corner connects and binds together the whole building, and, therefore, occupies the most important and conspicuous place in it. To such an exalted situation does Peter say that Jesus is now raised, in the structure which God is erecting; being the head of the Christian church, and superior to all former prophets and messengers. The evidence of this exaltation is his being raised from the dead; an honour conferred on no preceding prophet, and his enabling his followers to perform such extraordinary miracles as the present. This language is taken from Ps. cxviii. 22, and is used by David respecting himself, whose exaltation to the throne of Israel had been opposed by the rulers of that nation; but is applied, by way of accommodation, both by Jesus and his apostles, to the Messiah.
12. Neither is there restoration to soundness in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we may be saved.
To be saved, in the New Testament, frequently signifies the same thing as to be cured. Thus Christ says more than once to persons upon whom he had performed miraculous cures, Thy faith hath saved thee. When Peter, therefore, says here that there is salvation in no other name than that of Jesus, he means that miraculous cures, or deliverance from bodily maladies, can be accomplished by no authority but his. This sense of the passage connects extremely well with the preceding circumstances, which cannot be said of the common interpretation, which supposes an eternal and not a temporal deliverance to be here spoken of; for Peter, being asked
in what name the cure had been performed, replies, In the name of Jesus; and adds, that such cures can be performed in no other name.
13. Now when they saw the freedom of speech of Peter and John, and discovered that they were unlearned and common men, they wondered ; and they recollected that they had been with Jesus.
The common translation of this verse is particularly unhappy, because it represents the apostles as ignorant men, a character which they did not deserve, and which the council did not mean to give them; for they probably had as much, if not more, knowledge of religion and the Scriptures than most other men of their station in life. That they had some pretensions to knowledge, appears from their works, one of them having written a history of Christ, and the other, two epistles, preserved to the present day. All that the words of the original imply is, that they were unlearned and common persons, in opposition to the council, which was composed of men of learning and high rank. The behaviour of such persons, when brought before their superiors, especially in a court of justice, is commonly timid and embarrassed ; but the two apostles, conscious of being supported by divine power, spoke with a freedom which could not be expected from their station, and excited the astonishment of their hearers, who knew not whence it proceeded. That some of the members of the Sanhedrim should recollect having seen them with Jesus, is what might be expected : since they themselves used occasionally to attend upon his ministry, and we are expressly told that John was known to the high-priest, at the time when he followed Jesus to his trial.
14. And beholding the man which was cured standing with them, they could say nothing against it, “ against them.”
It was in vain to deny the reality of the miracle; for the man himself, upon whom it was performed, appeared before them, and was probably well known to them all.
15. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
16. Saying, What shall we do to these men ? for that indeed a notable, 6 an undoubted," miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell at Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it :
17. But that it, i. e. this matter, spread no further among the people, let us strictly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name, “ about this name," i. e. about Jesus.
They imagined that a prohibition from so respectable a body of men as the Jewish Sanhedrim, accompanied with a threatening of severe punishment, in case of disobedience, would effectually deter the apostles from saying any thing respecting Jesus and his resurrection. But they found that they had to do with men who considered themselves as under the direction of higher authority, and who would not encourage them, for so much as a moment, to hope that they would submit to their injunctions.
18. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach about the name of Jesus.
They required them henceforth to be totally silent, both in public and private, respecting the character and doctrine of Jesus.
19. But Peter and John answered, and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
We appeal to your own judgment, whether it be consistent with piety towards God to obey man rather than God. If not, you deliver to us injunctions which you yourselves must acknowledge that we cannot, as faithful servants of the Divine Being, comply with. This language strongly implies that they had the authority and command of God, for teaching the people about the name of Jesus; and the same thing is as strongly implied in the next verse.
20. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
Your own judgment, we conceive, will acquit us of doing wrong in disobeying your orders; but, whether it do so or not, we cannot decline to publish what we have seen and heard on this subject, when enjoined by such high authority. This reply contained a very plain intimation that they were resolved not to comply with the prohibition which had been given them; but the council were afraid to punish their disobedience, and contented themselves with renewing their threatenings, and dismissing them.
21. So, when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing, or, “ not finding," how they might punish them, because of the people :
They could devise no method of punishing them, which would not give offence to the people, who saw no fault in their conduct, but, on the contrary, were highly pleased with it, considering them as having performed a great and beneficent miracle.
For all men glorified God for that which was done.
Although the apostles, who appeared to perform the miracle, had attributed it to Christ, yet the people rightly judged that the power for this purpose, must have been originally derived from God, and that to him the praise was due.
22. For the man was above forty years old on whom this miracle of healing was showed.
His age rendered his lameness notorious, and the reality of the miracle unquestionable.
1. This story may teach us what advantage the truth derives from inquiry and discussion. The authenticity of the account rested at first upon the testimony of friends alone, upon the evidence of persons, who, having seen the man before and after his cure, were satisfied that a miracle had been performed, and were thereby induced to embrace the Christian religion : but, in consequence of the officious zeal of some who were desirous of discrediting the account, we have now the testimony of enemies as well as of friends in its favour. The whole Jewish Sanhedrim, composed of the ablest and most learned men in the nation, are obliged, after the strictest examination, to acknowledge the fact, and dismiss the apostles with a command to suppress it. To evidence thus supported, nothing can be opposed: when persons of such different interests and views acknowledge the same thing, it must be true. Let no one, then, be alarmed at any severe investigation which the evidences and doctrines of Christianity are likely to undergo, either from friends or foes. For the inquiries of its friends can do it no harm, and the attacks of its foes will only serve to establish it on firmer ground.
2. The courage of the apostles in defence of the gospel of Christ, is highly commendable, and worthy of imitation. They hesitate not to attribute a miracle, about which they are questioned, to one who had been crucified as a malefactor; they scruple not to speak of him as a divine prophet, and the great Messiah, before the highest court of justice in the kingdom, and to accuse that court of the foulest crime in putting to death this divine messenger. When prohibited from speaking of him in private or public any more, they declare that piety to God forbids their compliance with the injunction. How manly and noble is this conduct! How becoming the disciples of Jesus, and the messengers of the Most High; and how happily calculated to inspire others with the like resolution! Surely it must shake the confidence of their opponents, and awaken their inquiries to discover what could give ordinary persons so much courage, and lead many of them to the acknowledgment of the truth. It is to men, who like them profess or defend the truth, undaunted by authority, unterrified by danger, at the hazard of their liberty and lives, that we are indebted for that degree of light and knowledge which we now possess, and without their services we must have remained, like our ancestors, in the darkness of popish superstition or pagan idolatry. Ye noble army of apostles, confessors, and martyrs, ye are the benefactors and saviours of mankind! We will revere
your memories, and hold your actions in everlasting remembrance, and pray to God to inspire us with a portion of your spirit.
3. The courage of Peter, in particular, on this occasion, affords a strong presumptive argument in favour of the truth of the gospel-history. Peter, who was once terrified at the voice of a servant-maid calling him a disciple of Jesus, and disowned any relation to him three times in the space of an hour, confirming his declarations with oaths and curses; this same Peter, a few weeks afterwards, has acquired courage to make a voluntary confession of his relation to his Master before the Jewish Sanhedrim, and can listen undismayed to their threats of punishment. What can have produced so wonderful a change ? If he once manifested more than ordinary timidity, what has now given him a degree of courage above his station ? Allow the truth of the facts mentioned in the preceding part of the history, that his Master, having been crucified, rose from the dead, and that he himself received extraordinary miraculous powers in his name, and his conduct will appear consistent and natural : the change has an adequate cause ; but without such a cause, it is inexplicable.
4. Let us ever keep in remembrance that Jesus Christ is raised to the head of the corner. All the angels of God, that is, all the messengers and prophets of God sent to the human race, are commanded to worship him, that is, to pay him homage, as possessing superior rank and authority to themselves. The like respect let us also show him, by admitting no rites or ceremonies into Christian worship, which he has not commanded or authorized, whether of Jewish or pagan origin, of earlier or later date. What he has enjoined let us observe, though kings and magistrates, councils, synods, and parliaments may condemn it; knowing that Christ alone is head of the Christian church, and that the allegiance which we owe to him requires us to oppose all rival claims.
The apostles returning from the council, pray for support in preaching the gospel, and are answered by an effusion of the Holy Spirit.
Acts iv. 23–37.
23. And being go, they went to their own company, “ to their own friends,” and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
Under these terms the Jewish Sanhedrim is described, because it consisted principally of such persons.
24. And when they heard that they lifted up their