Acts 3Observe here, 1. The remarkable diligence and industry of St. Peter and the other apostles in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the third hour of the day on the feast of Pentecost, that is, at nine o'clock in the morning, St. Peter preached a sermon, Acts 2:14 which by the blessing of the Holy Spirit accompanying it, converted three thousand souls. Here at three o'clock in the afternoon on the same day, (as the learned Dr. Lightfoot notes) he preached a second sermon, which converts five thousand more. This affords at once a good precedent, and a good encouragement to the apostles successors, the ministers of Christ, to the end of the world, for the preaching twice upon the Lord's day: If, in the room of three and five thousand souls, we be instrumental for the conversion of one single soul, it is infinitely worth the indefatigable pains and diligence of our whole lives.
Observe, 2. The place which the apostle preaches in, the temple; thither the apostles went, not to offer sacrifice, but to inform the Jews, that the law of sacrifices was now abolished by the death of Christ; not to communicate with them in their antiquated worship, but that they might have a larger field to sow the seed of the gospel in.
Observe, 3. The circumstance of time, at the hour of prayer. In all ages, since God had a church in the world, there have been stated times and places for solemn public worship; by which means a sense of God and religion has been preserved and kept up in the world, which otherwise would be in danger of being lost.
The worship of God in the closet will not do this, because it is unseen; but stated, solemn, public worship, glorifies God most, and he accepts it best, The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. The apostles went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer Ps 87:2. Sine stationibus no staret mundus.
Observe here, 1. The condition of this person.
1. He was poor, even to beggary; but poverty is no sign of God's disfavour, nor doth exclude any from partaking of the best of blessings.
2. He was born a cripple, not lamed by casualty or accident, but lame from his mother's womb.
3. He had continued a cripple forty years, The man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed. Acts 4:22. Consequently the cure was the harder, and the person cured the more credible witness against them that cavilled at his cure.
Observe, 2. The wonderful mercy and goodness of God towards this poor cripple; his miseries and calamities, his lameness and poverty, are over-ruled by God for good to him, even for the best good; namely, for bringing him to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and salvation by him.
O how good is God at making up all our losses and exceeding not only our deserts, but our expectations also! This poor man only begged an alms, but God gives him his limbs; yea, gives him his Son and salvation by him. Thus we receive of God daily more than we can either ask or think.
Observe, 3. The apostle's advice to the lame man, and his ready compliance with that advice. Look on us, says St. Peter; he doth not say, believe on us, but look on us, and believe on Christ. This the apostle spake to quicken his attention and excite his hope. As if St. Peter had said; "You look upon many others as able to relieve your necessities; now look on us, and see what we can do for you:" Accordingly he fastened his eyes upon the apostle, and beheld them as expectant of relief.
Here note, 1. The great mercy of God that was mingled with this poor man's affliction; though he was lame, he was not blind. He could and did stedfastly behold the apostle, with a fixed eye both of body and mind.
Note, 2. That what the cripple could do, he must and did do, towards his own healing; he could not move a foot, but he could fix his eye. We are spiritual cripples, labouring under a moral impotency; being without strength, Rom 1:6.
But God expects the exercise of our faculties, and the use of our endeavours in order to our recovery, help, and healing. As the cripple looked up to the apostles, so may we look up to the ministers of God: hear them, and apply to them, and place ourselves under to word dispensed by them; for he that made us without ourselves, will never save us without ourselves; but we must work out our own salvation, Phil 2:12.
Observe here, 1. The poverty of this great apostle St. Peter, and his holy contempt of the world; silver and gold he had none; his pretended successor the pope upon his election says the same; but with as little sincerity as he says, Nolo episcopari: The apostle's poverty was real, not fictitious. The holiest, the wisest, and best men, are seldom the wealthiest. Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give. As if he had said, "I have no money to give thee but that which is better than money: I have received power from Christ to cure and heal diseases, and having received it freely, I will give it freely: Therefore, in the name of Jesus; that is, by the power of Jesus, whom in contempt ye call Jesus of Nazareth, be healed, rise up and walk."
Observe, 2. The nature of the miracle here wrought: it was
1. Public and open, not done in a corner, but before all the people at a public time, (Pentecost) and at a public place (the gates of the temple.) The miracles, that is, the lying wonders wrought in the church of Rome, will not bear the light. Miracles are by them most pretended to, where people are most ignorant, and a dark shop is fittest for their false wares.
2. Instantaneous and sudden; Immediately his feet and ankle-bones received strength. This evidently shews it to be God's work, he was perfectly cured, and instantly cured, though he was lame from his birth, and had continued lame above forty years. All things are easy, yea, equally easy, to an Almighty power: If God speaks but the word, the lame shall leap as an hart, Isa 35:6.
Observe, 3. The humility and faith of this great apostle discovered in the manner of the cure; his humility, in not disdaining to touch and take hold of, and lift up this poor cripple from the ground; his faith in being fully persuaded of Christ's presence, relying upon his power, and depending upon his promise, Mr 16:18. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. The apostles had not a power at their pleasure to work miracles; but when God pleased to work them, he made it known to them by inspiration, and put them upon it.
Observe, 4. How the poor cripple piously ascribes the praise of this miracle to God only: He leaped and praised God, not the apostles. No instrument must rob God of his glory; we may pay and gratify the messenger, but must return our prime and principal thanks to our benefactor. No doubt the cripple returned thanks to the apostle, but his prayers unto God only. To conceal God's mercies is ingratitude; to attribute them to second causes is sacrilege.
Observe here, 1. As soon as ever the poor cripple received strength, all the people beheld him praising and blessing God.-
Learn hence, That the very first appearances of the power and mercy of God, towards ourselves or any of ours, should put us upon the works of praise and rejoicing. We truly say, "Better late than never;" but it is best to be early in every good work, especially in the noblest and most angelical work; namely, that of thanksgiving and praise. My voice shalt thou hear, says David, betimes in the morning: my praying voice, my praising voice.
Observe, 2. The influence and effect that this miracle had upon the minds of the multitude; it occasioned wonder, but did not produce faith. They wondered, but not believed. Miracles will confirm faith, but not alone beget it. The Spirit's extraordinary works may produce astonishment; but it is the work of the Spirit that must produce faith.
Observe, 3. How the apostle abaseth himself and his fellow disciples, that he might exalt Christ; he will not suffer the least part of the praise and glory of this miracle to stick to their own fingers, but gives it all to Christ. Think not that we by pure power and holiness have made this man to walk. The Jews had a conceit, that extraordinary holiness would enable a man to work miracles: The apostle denies it: For though there be a great difference betwixt miraculous faith and justifying faith, ye true justifying faith has a miracle in it, though not so obvious to sense, requiring the same power to work it in us, which raised up Christ from the dead, Eph 1:20.
Learn hence, That Christ's power, not is apostles' holiness, was the cause of all the miracles that were wrought by them. Why look you so earnestly upon us, as though by our holiness we had made this man to walk? Through faith in his name, is this man made strong, Acts 3:16.
Observe her, 1. How St. Peter lays hold upon this opportunity, (when the people are gathered together to gaze upon this lame beggar) to preach a second awakening sermon to the Jews; in which he rebukes them sharply for their cursed contempt of Christ, and the horrible indignities offered to him.
1. They denied him although he was an holy and Just One.
2. They delivered him up to Pilate when he was inclined to let him go.
3. They preferred Barabbas, the worst of men, and a murtherer, before Jesus, the best of men, and a Saviour.
4. They murthered the Messias, called the Prince of life, because he came to bring life into the world.
Where note, that though probably none of the Jews then and there present, did actually nail Christ unto his cross, yet they having given their consent unto it, they are charged with killing the Lord of life. A plenary and full consent to the sins of others, makes us deeply guilty of others' sins: Ye delivered up and denied the Holy One; ye have crucified the Lord of life. Acts 3:15
Observe, 2. How St. Peter ascribes the whole of his miracle to the power of faith; Through faith in his name, and the faith which is by him, hath given this man perfect soundness in the presence of you all Acts 3:16.
Faith is twice named in this one verse, because of the apostle's faith in working the miracle, and the cripple's faith in receiving of it, says Dr. Lightfoot: But questionless, it was chiefly the apostle's faith; for the lame man shewed no faith in Christ before he was healed; he expected an alms, but little thought of receiving the use of his limbs; but the apostle's firmly relying on the power and promise of Christ for healing, did believe that Christ could and would help and heal him.
Learn hence, That as it is the property and preogative of God to do great things, it is the duty and property of faith to expect great things from God; great expectations from God honour the greatness of God: We dishonour God as much or more, when we believe little, as when we do little.
A great God and a small faith suit not well together; accordingly St. Peter here, knowing the all-sufficiency of Christ's power, exerts strength of faith, and through faith in the name of Christ, makes this man whole.
Observe here, 1. How careful the apostle was, not to drive these murtherers of Christ (and consequently the worst of men) to despair, but to draw them to repentance; in order to which,
1. He mitigates their sin, imputing it rather to ignorance and blind zeal, than to malice.
2. He is charitable as to impute it to the ignorance of the Pharisees their rulers also.
3. He calls them brethren, though guilty of so great a mistake in their judgment, and fault in their practice. Now brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.
Learn hence, That God used the ignorance of some, and malice of others, for his own glorious ends, in accomplishing the fore-ordained and fore-told death of our Redeemer.
Observe, 2. St. Peter acquaints them, to keep them from despair, that God hath decreed the sufferings of Christ for man, and by his prophets fore-told them, who, as they spake by one Spirit, did all speak the same things, as if they had all spoken out of one mouth. So that what the Jews did, he tells them, was, though unknown to them, a fulfilling of ancient prophecies and promises for man's redemption. Those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath now fulfilled.
The death and sufferings of Christ, with all the circumstances relating thereunto were all ordained by God, and foretold by the prophets; which though it doth not excuse his murtherers from the guilt of a dreadful sin, yet may be improved as an argument to keep them from despair. What God before had shewed, he hath now fulfilled.
The apostle, like a wise physician, having discovered to the Jews the danger of their disease in the foregoing verses, now directs them to the only effectual remedy, viz Repentance: Repent and be converted; that is, repent of your rejecting Jesus Christ, and be converted to Christianity. To repent, doth denote a change in the mind and judgment: and to be converted, a change in the life and conversation. The exhortation doth denote our duty, and supposes our ability also, by the assistance of that grace, which will never be wanting to sincere endeavours. They were subjects recipient of that vis gratia verticordia, as St. Austin calls it, "The heart-changing power of the grace of God which could and did enable them to convert and turn to God.
Note farther, How this duty of repentance is urged from the effect and fruit, and profitable consequents of it.
1. Your sins shall be blotted out, a metaphor taken from creditors which have the books of accounts in which all debts and reckonings are set down.
2. The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; by which some understand more generally the times of the gospel, others more particularly understand it of the time of Jerusalem's destruction; as if St. Peter had said, "Know, O my brethren, that the time of Christ's coming to Jerusalem to execute vengeance on his murtherers, is now at hand! Repent therefore speedily of what you have done, that those dreadful days to his enemies, may be days of refreshment to you." But the days of refreshment are thought by most to signify the day of judgment, which will be a day of refreshing ot all penitent sinners; because thay shall then enjoy a complete and full absolution from all their sins.
Note here, 1. That almighty God has his book of remembrance, in which he writes down all the sins which every person commits, in order to their accusation and charge.
2. That it is the great wisdom, interest and duty of every person, to take care that he gets his sins now blotted out of God's debt book, as ever he hopes that the reckoning day may be a day of refreshing to him.
3. That without repentance, conversion, and turning unto God, there will be no forgiveness, comfort, or refreshment from him. Repent, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshment shall come.
4. That a complete absolution and full discharge from all sin is not yet enjoyed, till the day of judgment. We are in this life continually subject to new sins; and consequently are daily contracting new guilt, whereby arise new fears; so that a soul has not a full rest till the final absolution be pronounced at that solemn day.
Here St. Peter enforces his exhortation to repentance with a strong motive; namely, the certainty of Christ's coming to judge the world. God shall send Jesus, this Jesus whom we preach to you, visibly, to justify and glorify all penitentt and pardoned sinners, whom yet the heaven must contain till the restitution of all things; that is, to the end of the world, when the whole creation which now groaneth will be delivered, and man particularly restored to God, to himself, and to a blessed immortality.
Learn hence, That Christ, being ascended into heaven in our human nature, shall abide and continue there until the restitution of all things, and his corporal presence here on earth is not to be expected, until he has put all his enemies under his feet. Now if his body be, and must continue in heaven, surely then it is not in the sacrament, and the Papist's dream; who ascribe to Christ's human nature the property of a Godhead; namely, to be in ten thousand places at one and the same time, contrary to the nature of a human body. If the heavens must contain Christ, Christ must be contained in heaven, and then his presence in the sacrament doth not draw him from heaven; his bodily presence is in heaven, his spiritual presence with his people in the sacrament.
These words are recorded, Deut 18:15. and here by St. Peter pertinently applied unto Christ, to convince the unbelieving Jews, that he is the true and only Messiah, the great Prophet and Teacher of his church, whose doctrine it was highly dangerous to condemn, though out of the mouth of such contemptible persons as he and St. John appeared to be unto them.
Where note, 1. Christ, according to his prophetic office is largely described, and that three ways.
1. By his title, a prophet; one that by his office is to declare the whole will of God to man.
2. By his type, a prophet like unto Moses: one that went between God and the people as Moses did; carrying God's mind to them, and returning their mind to God.
As Moses was faithful in the execution of his office, so was Christ.
As Moses confirmed his doctrine by miracles, so did Christ.
As Moses brought Israel out of literal Egypt, so Christ brings us out of spiritual Egypt, whereof the Egyptian bondage was a figure.
3. By his stock and original, from which according to the flesh he sprang; I will raise him up from among thy brethren. Christ honoured the nation of the Jews, and the tribe of Judah with his nativity. Thus this great prophet is described.
Note, 2. A strict injunction to hear and obey this great prophet; hear him only, hear him universally. The word (him) is to be understood exclusively, him and none but him; that is, in the same manner that we hear him; him for his own authority's sake; his ministers for his sake, as speaking from him and in his name: And we must hear him universally, in all things; every command is to be obeyed, none to be disputed, be the duty commanded never so difficult, and the sin forbidden never so tempting.
Note, 3. A severe commination. The soul that will not hear shall be cut off; that is, God will severely revenge himself upon the stubborn and disobedient.
Learn hence, 1. That the Lord Jesus Christ is constituted and appointed by God to be the great prophet and teahcer of his church: he reveals the will of God perfectly, powerfully, persuasively, plainly, and infallibly.
Learn, 2. That it is the duty of all to hear and obey the voice of this great prophet, and this under the penalty of eternal destructionn: Every soul that will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
That is, "All the prophets from Moses to Samuel, and particularly Isaiah, the evangelical prophet, did fortell the coming and kingdom of the Messias, the special mercies to them that believe on him, and the destruction of those that reject him."
Where note, That Samuel is mentioned as the first prophet between them, because he was the first prophet after Moses that wrote his prophecy, and first erected the schools of the prophets.
Learn hence, That Christ ws the sum of the law, as well as the substance of the gospel, all the legal sacrifices pointed at him, all the prophets prophesied of him, and received their completion in him. He was Abel's sacrifice, Isaac's Ram, Isaiah's Emmanuel, Daniel's Holy One, Zachary's Branch, and Malachi's Angel.
Still observe, How sweetly St. Peter invites and encourages these murtherers of Christ to repentance; the worst of men must neither be driven to despair, nor to be too hastily despaired of. He tells them, they were the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with whom God first entered into covenant; and consequently they were children of the covenant, and also children of the prophets; that is, the people to whom God primarily and chiefly sent the prophets. So great were the prerogatives of the Jews, that they are called the children of the prophets, children of the prophets, children of the promise, children of the covenant, children of the kingdom. But the higher a people are exalted by spiritual privileges, the lower they fall if they miscarry.
Here note, 1. That the offer of Jesus Christ, and eternal salvation by him, was first made to the people of the Jews, because they were the children of the covenant; that is, the only people in visible communion with God throughout the whole world.
Note, 2. The benefit offered; God's Son is raised up; that is, either,
1. authorised, consecrated, and appointed to be a Saviour; or
2. Raised from the grave.
You crucified him with wicked hands; but behold the divine clemency!
He is first offered to you his crucifiers: God has sent his Son, in the preaching of the gospel, first to you; and tis not to take vengeance on you, but to bless you: He being the great High Priest, blesses you authoritatively and effectually; and the blessing he dispenses is not a temporal blessing as you expected, a pompous Messiah, a secular kingdom, but spiritual, in turning souls from sin to God: He offers to bless you by turning every one of you from your iniquities.
Oh! that we would all subserve Christ in that great work! He is the principal agent; let us be subordinate instruments, by practising holiness ourselves, and promoting holiness in others.
Learn, 2. That to be turned by Christ from our iniquities, is the greatest blessing we can receive from him; because 'tis a spiritual blessing, a fundamental blessing, a comprehensive blessing, and endearing blessing, an everlasting blessing.
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