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1 Homiletic Glance at the Acts of
Able expositions of the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, describing the manners, custoins, and localities described by the inspired writers; also interpreting their words, and harmonizing their formal discrepancies, are, happily, not wanting amongst us. But the eduction of its WIDEST truths and highest suggestions is still a felt desideratum. To some attempt at the work we devote these pages. We gratefully avail ourselves of all exegetical helps within our reach ; but to occupy our limited space with any lengthened archaeological, geographical, or philological remarks, would be to miss our aim; which is not to make bare the mechanical process of the study of Scripture, but to reveal its spiritual results.
SECTION EIGHTH.-Acts ii. 41-47.
“ Then they that gladly received his word were baptized : and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”-Acts ii. 41-47.
SUBJECT :-The Pentecost the culminating period in the system
WO of the features which we have said characterized this
day of Pentecost, this Grand Epoch of the redemptive economy, namely, a new manifestation of the Divine Spirit, and a new order of religious ministry, have already engaged our attention. We now proceed to notice the last, which is-
" Then they that gladly received his word were baptized : and the same
HOMILETIC GLANCE AT THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” As the result of Peter's wonderful sermon, a form of society rises which had never appeared on earth before. New forces act upon the social natures of men, and bring them together from new feelings, and for new engagements, and purposes. There is a new society before us. New, at least, in many respects. The ekkinola receives new elements, throbs with new impulses, assumes new proportions, sets itself to new functions, and exerts new influences upon the world.
The passage presents several things in relation to this new society.
First: The incorporating principle of this new society. What was it that brought those " three thousand souls” into close fellowship with themselves, and with the existing body of Christ's disciples? What was the magnet that drew together and centralized into a loving unity these souls, which a few hours before were so discordant and antagonistic ? The answer is at hand. (1) The apostle's word. It was that sermon of Peter's that did the work, the sermon which demonstrated to their conviction the Messiahship of Him whom they, by wicked hands, had “ crucified and slain.” (2) The apostle's word received. This word, had it not been received, would have died away in silence, without any effect. They received it. They were convinced of its truth, and accepted it as a Divine reality. (3) The apostle's word received gladly. Then they that gladly received his word,” &c. They gladly received his word, for whilst his word convinced them of their enormous wickedness, it also assured them of God's readiness to pardon and to save. This word thus received, then, was the uniting power that broke down all social barriers, and made their profoundest sympathies mingle and run in one direction. The Messiahship of Christ which Peter's word now demonstrated, is the rock-truth on which the Church of God is built. “Upon this rock," says Christ, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”* ObserveSecondly: The introductive ceremony to this new society,
* See my Homiletic Commentary in loco.
“ They were baptized.” Baptism we regard as a symbolical ordinance-an ordinance designed to express a twofold truth of vital moment—the moral pollution of humanity, and the necessity of an extraneous influence in order to cleanse its stains away. These truths, these sinners felt under Peter's mighty sermon ; and, as a most seeming and proper thing, they were admitted into communion with the disciples by an impressive symbolic declaration of them. As to the mode in which they were baptized, this is a trifle that is only interesting to those sects who live upon such rites. When it is remembered that Jerusalem had only the fountain of Siloam to supply its population with water, and that its supplies were always scanty—that “the three thousand” were baptized in one day which had passed its noon before the operation had commenced, and that the thousands of course included both sexes—it requires a larger amount of credulity than we profess to have to believe that they were all immersed in water. However, what matters it? The mode of the act is nothing, the spirit is everything. Observe
Thirdly : The unremitting services of this new society. “ They continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." The day of Pentecost is over, the incorporation of these thousands into the Church has taken place, and Luke continues now to give a history of their subsequent life. “They were," he says, "continuing stedfastly in the teaching of the apostles, and the fellowship, and in breaking of the bread, and in the
The article which our translators omitted, stands before each substantive, and gives, therefore, a distinct significance to each. (1) They were persevering, for such is the meaning of this word "stedfastly," in the teaching. The word “ doctrine ” does not mean the thing taught, but the act of teaching They were constant in their attendance on the teaching of the apostles. After Peter's great sermon, he had much more to say; and after their conversion, they had much more to learn. This new society was a society of * This reading we consider more true to the meaning than our version.
students. They "inquired” in the house of the Lord. They regularly attended the teaching, as distinguished from all other teachings of men, and as designating, perhaps, the highest teaching of the apostles. What teaching was theirs ? What a privilege to study in the apostolic college. (2) They were persevering in the fellowship. They appreciated the communion of saints. Meetings for mutual counsel, exhortations, and spiritual intercourse, they constantly attended. They regarded themselves as members of a brotherhood whose rules they were bound to obey, and whose interest they were bound to promote. In this fellowship, like the saints of old, they “spake often one to another.” They considered one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” They exhorted "one another daily.” They endeavored to “edify one another," and, perhaps, they confessed their "faults one to another." There is a blessed fellowship in the true Church. (3) They were persevering in the breaking of bread.
" And in breaking of bread." Whether this refers to the eucharist (the Lord's Supper), or the agapo (love feasts), or their common social meal, is a question still in dispute amongst critics. The name, however, of this service, “the breaking of bread,” inclines us to believe that the Lord's Supper is meant; for it is said, “ Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it." And with His disciples whom He joined on their way to Emmaus, He was known to them by the “breaking of bread.” “The bread of the Hebrew,” says a modern expositor, “was made commonly into cakes, thin, hard, and brittle, so that it was broken instead of being cut. Hence, to denote intimacy or friendship, the phrase "to break bread together,' would be very expressive in the same way as the Greeks denoted it, by 'drinking together' (ovuróciov).” It has been supposed that the Lord's Supper was observed once a week by the early Christians. (Matt. xxvi. 26; Luke xxiv. 30; Acts xx. 7; 1 Cor. xi. 23.) (4) They were persevering in the prayers. The prayers here, designate, we think, certain services for prayer which were recognized amongst them-prayer-meetings or prayer-services. They were a praying community.
Thus much for their services. “The whole,” to use the language of another, “ may be summed up as consisting in apostolical teaching, mutual communion, and common prayer." Observe
Fourthly: The distinguishing spirit of this new society. The spirit that animated the converts who formed this new brotherhood of souls was distinguished (1) By reverence. “ Fear came upon every soul.” Whilst they were profoundly happy, there was no frivolous hilarity in their natures, a reverential awe had settled on their being. The cause of this reverence is expressed in the words, “ many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.” They felt that God was near, that His hand was on them. (póßoc !) A deep feeling of solemnity and wondrous awe pervaded their minds ; like the old patriarch, who, roused from his dream, felt “how awful is this place.” The spirit was distinguished (2) By generosity.
“ And all that believed were together, and had all things common : and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” They were together; not, perhaps, locally, for no house could contain the multitude, but spiritually. They were one in spirit, they were together in soul. What one felt, all felt. They wept with those that wept; they rejoiced with those that rejoiced. Like Christ and His apostles, they had all things common; they put their property into a common stock, "and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” Here is generosity. Selfishness has no place in this new community. The new commandment is supreme. The benevolence which inspired them was a benevolence that made sacrifices. "They sold their possessions and goods.” The love of property in them gives way to the love of man. The law of social Christianity enjoins the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak, the rich to help the poor,
and all to bear each other's burden, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
This benevolence adjusted itself to the occasion. The circumstances of the persons assembled on this occasion required such an effort as this. Many of them came from distant regions, and who had come unprepared to settle down in Jerusalem, and many of them, too, of the poorer