Acts 2


The day of pentecost being arrived, and the disciples assembled,

the Holy Spirit descended as a mighty rushing wind, and in the

likeness of fiery tongues sat upon them; in consequence of

which, they were all enabled to speak different languages,

which they had never learned, 1-4.

An account of persons from various countries who there present,

and were astonished to hear the apostles declare the wonderful

works of God in their respective languages, 5-12.

Some cavil, 13,

and are confounded by Peter, who asserts that this work is of

God; and that thereby a most important prophecy was fulfilled,


He takes occasion from this to preach Jesus to them, as the true

Lord and only Messiah, 22-36.

The people are alarmed and convinced, and inquire what they

shall do, 37.

He exhorts them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus,

that they may receive remission of sins and the gift of the

Holy Spirit, 38-40.

They gladly receive his word, about three thousand are baptized

and added to the Church in one day; they continue steadfast in

the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, 41, 42.

The apostles work many miracles; and the disciples have all

things in common, and live in a state of great happiness and

Christian fellowship, 43-47.


Verse 1. When the day of pentecost was fully come] The feast of

pentecost was celebrated fifty days after the passover, and has

its name πεντηκοστη from πεντηκοντα, fifty, which is compounded

of πεντε, five, and ηκοντα, the decimal termination. It

commenced on the fiftieth day reckoned from the first day of

unleavened bread, i.e. on the morrow after the paschal lamb was

offered. The law relative to this feast is found in Le 23:15, 16,

in these words: And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after

the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the

wave-offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the

morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days. This

feast was instituted in commemoration of the giving the law on

Mount Sinai; and is therefore sometimes called by the Jews,

shimchath torah, the joy of the law, and frequently

the feast of weeks. There is a correspondence between the giving

of the law, which is celebrated by this feast of pentecost,

together with the crucifixion of our Lord, which took place at the

passover, and this descent of the Holy Spirit, which happened at

this pentecost. 1. At the passover, the Israelites were delivered

from Egyptian bondage: this was a type of the thraldom in which

the human race were to Satan and sin. 2. At the passover Jesus

Christ, who was typified by the paschal lamb, was sacrificed for

the sin of the world, and by this sacrifice redemption from sin

and Satan is now procured and proclaimed. 3. On the pentecost, God

gave his law on Mount Sinai, accompanied with thunderings and

lightnings. On the pentecost, God sent down his Holy Spirit, like

a rushing mighty wind; and tongues of fire sat upon each disciple,

in order that, by his influence, that new law of light and life

might be promulgated and established. Thus, the analogy between

the Egyptian bondage and the thraldom occasioned by sin-the

deliverance from Egypt, and the redemption from sin-the giving of

the law, with all its emblematic accompaniments, and the sending

down the Holy Spirit, with its symbols of light, life, and power,

has been exactly preserved. 4. At the Jewish passover, Christ was

degraded, humbled, and ignominiously put to death: at the

following festival, the pentecost, he was highly glorified; and

the all conquering and ever during might of his kingdom then

commenced. The Holy Spirit seems to have designed all these

analogies, to show that, through all preceding ages, God had the

dispensation of the Gospel continually in view; and that the old

law and its ordinances were only designed as preparatives for the


They were all with one accord in one place.] It is probable that

the ALL here mentioned means the one hundred and twenty spoken of

Ac 1:15, who were all together at the election of Matthias.

With one accord, ομοθυμαδον; this word is very expressive: it

signifies that all their minds, affections, desires, and wishes,

were concentred in one object, every man having the same end in

view; and, having but one desire, they had but one prayer to God,

and every heart uttered it. There was no person uninterested-none

unconcerned-none lukewarm; all were in earnest; and the Spirit

of God came down to meet their united faith and prayer. When any

assembly of God's people meet in the same spirit they may expect

every blessing they need.

In one place.-Where this place was we cannot tell: it was

probably in the temple, as seems to be intimated in Ac 2:46,

where it is said they were daily ομοθυμαδονεντωιερω, with one

accord in the temple; and as this was the third hour of the day,

Ac 2:15, which was the Jewish hour of

morning prayer, as the ninth hour was the hour of evening

prayer, Ac 3:1, it is most probable that the

temple was the place in which they were assembled.

Verse 2. A sound from heaven] Probably thunder is meant, which

is the harbinger of the Divine presence.

Rushing mighty wind] The passage of a large portion of

electrical fluid over that place would not only occasion the

sound, or thunder, but also the rushing mighty wind; as the

air would rush suddenly and strongly into the vacuum occasioned by

the rarefaction of the atmosphere in that place, through the

sudden passage of the electrical fluid; and the wind would follow

the direction of the fire. There is a good deal of similarity

between this account and that of the appearance of God to Elijah,

1Ki 19:11, 12, where the

strong wind, the earthquake, and the fire, were harbingers of

the Almighty's presence, and prepared the heart of Elijah to hear

the small still voice; so, this sound, and the mighty rushing

wind, prepared the apostles to receive the influences and gifts

of the Holy Spirit. In both cases, the sound, strong wind, and

fire, although natural agents, were supernaturally employed.

See Clarke on Ac 9:7.

Verse 3. Cloven tongues like as of fire] The tongues were the

emblem of the languages they were to speak. The cloven tongues

pointed out the diversity of those languages; and the fire seemed

to intimate that the whole would be a spiritual gift, and be the

means of bringing light and life to the souls who should hear them

preach the everlasting Gospel in those languages.

Sat upon each of them.] Scintillations, coruscations, or flashes

of fire, were probably at first frequent through every part of the

room where they were sitting; at last these flashes became

defined, and a lambent flame, in the form of a cloven tongue,

became stationary on the head of each disciple; a proof that the

Spirit of God had made each his temple or residence. That unusual

appearances of fire were considered emblems of the presence and

influence of God, both the Scriptures and the Jewish writings

amply prove. Thus God manifested himself to Moses, when he

appointed him to deliver Israel, Ex 3:2, 3; and thus he

manifested himself when he delivered the law on Mount Sinai,

Ex 19:16-20. The Jews, in order to support the pretensions of

their rabbins, as delivering their instructions by Divine

authority and influence, represent them as being surrounded with

fire while they were delivering their lectures; and that their

words, in consequence, penetrated and exhilarated the souls of

their disciples. Some of the Mohammedans represent Divine

inspiration in the same way. In a fine copy of a Persian work,

entitled Ajaceb al Makhlookat, or Wonders of Creation, now before

me, where a marred account of Abraham's sacrifice, mentioned

Ge 15:9-17, is given, instead of the

burning lamp passing between the divided pieces of the victim,

Ge 15:17, Abraham is represented standing between four fowls,

the cock, the peacock, the duck, and the crow, with his head

almost wrapped in a flame of lambent fire, as the emblem of the

Divine communication made to him of the future prosperity of his

descendants. The painting in which this is represented is most

exquisitely finished. This notion of the manner in which Divine

intimations were given was not peculiar to the Jews and Arabians;

it exists in all countries; and the glories which appear round the

heads of Chinese, Hindoo, and Christian saints, real or supposed,

were simply intended to signify that they had especial intercourse

with God, and that his Spirit, under the emblem of fire, sat upon

them and became resident in them. There are numerous proofs of

this in several Chinese and Hindoo paintings in my possession; and

how frequently this is to be met with in legends, missals, and in

the ancient ecclesiastical books of the different Christian

nations of Europe, every reader acquainted with ecclesiastical

antiquity knows well. See the dedication of Solomon's temple,

2Ch 7:1-3.

The Greek and Roman heathens had similar notions of the manner

in which Divine communications were given: strong wind, loud and

repeated peals of thunder, coruscations of lightning, and lambent

flames resting on those who were objects of the Deities regard,

are all employed by them to point out the mode in which their gods

were reported to make their will known to their votaries. Every

thing of this kind was probably borrowed from the account given by

Moses of the appearance on Mount Sinai; for traditions of this

event were carried through almost every part of the habitable

world, partly by the expelled Canaanites, partly by the Greek

sages travelling through Asiatic countries in quest of philosophic

truth: and partly by means of the Greek version of the Septuagint,

made nearly three hundred years before the Christian aera.

"A flame of fire seen upon the head of any person was, among the

heathens, considered as an omen from their gods that the person

was under the peculiar care of a supernatural power, and destined

to some extraordinary employment. Many proofs of this occur in the

Roman poets and historians. Wetstein, in his note on this place,

has made an extensive collection of them. I shall quote but one,

which almost every reader of the AEneid of Virgil will recollect:-

Talia vociferans gemitu tectum omne replebat:

Cum subitum, dictuque oritur mirabile monstrum.

Namque manus inter, maestorumque ora parentum.

Ecce levis summo de vertice visus Iuli

Fundere lumen apex, tactuque innoxia molli

Lambere flamma comas, et circum tempora pasci.

Nos pavidi trepidare metu, crinemque flagrantem

Excutere, et sanctos restinguere fontibus ignes.

At pater Anchises oculos ad sidera laetus

Extulit, et coelo palamas cum voce tetendit:

Jupiter omnipotens___

Da auxilium, pater, atque haec omina firma.

VIRG. AEN. ii. v. 679.

While thus she fills the house with clamorous cries,

Our hearing is diverted by our eyes;

For while I held my son, in the short space

Betwixt our kisses and our last embrace,

Strange to relate! from young Iulus' head, )

A lambent flame arose, which gently spread >

Around his brows, and on his temples fed. )

Amazed, with running water, we prepare

To quench the sacred fire, and slake his hair;

But old Anchises, versed in omens, rear'd

His hands to heaven, and this request preferr'd:

If any vows almighty Jove can bend,

Confirm the glad presage which thou art pleased to send.


There is nothing in this poetic fiction which could be borrowed

from our sacred volume; as Virgil died about twenty years before

the birth of Christ.

It may be just necessary to observe, that tongue of fire may be

a Hebraism: for in Isa 5:24,

leshon esh, which we render simply fire, is literally

a tongue of fire, as the margin very properly has it. The Hebrews

give the name of tongue to most things which terminate in a blunt

point: so a bay is termed in Jos 15:2,

lashon, a tongue. And in Jos 15:5, what appears to have

been a promontory is called leshon hayam, a tongue of

the sea.

It sat upon each] That is, one of those tongues, like flames,

sat upon the head of each disciple; and the continuance of the

appearance, which is indicated by the word sat, shows that there

could be no illusion in the case. I still think that in all this

case the agent was natural, but supernaturally employed.

Verse 4. To speak with other tongues] At the building of Babel

the language of the people was confounded; and, in consequence of

this, they became scattered over the face of the earth: at this

foundation of the Christian Church, the gift of various

languages was given to the apostles, that the scattered nations

might be gathered; and united under one shepherd and

superintendent (επισκοπος) of all souls.

As the Spirit gave them utterance.] The word αποφθεγγεσθαι seems

to imply such utterance as proceeded from immediate inspiration,

and included oracular communications.

Verse 5. Devout men, out of every nation] Either by these we are

simply to understand Jews who were born in different countries,

and had now come up to Jerusalem to be present at the passover,

and for purposes of traffic, or proselytes to Judaism, who had

come up for the same purpose: for I cannot suppose that the term

ανδρεςευλαβεις, devout men, can be applied to any other. At

this time there was scarcely a commercial nation under heaven

where the Jews had not been scattered for the purpose of trade,

merchandize, &c., and from all these nations, it is said, there

were persons now present at Jerusalem.

Verse 6. When this was noised abroad] If we suppose that there

was a considerable peal of thunder, which followed the escape of a

vast quantity of electric fluid, and produced the mighty rushing

wind already noticed on Ac 2:2, then the whole city must have

been alarmed; and, as various circumstances might direct their

attention to the temple, having flocked thither they were farther

astonished and confounded to hear the disciples of Christ

addressing the mixed multitude in the languages of the different

countries from which these people had come.

Every man heard them speak in his own language.] Use may

naturally suppose that, as soon as any person presented himself to

one of these disciples, he, the disciple, was immediately enabled

to address him in his own language, however various this had been

from the Jewish or Galilean dialects. If a Roman presented

himself, the disciple was immediately enabled to address him in

Latin-if a Grecian, in Greek-an Arab, in Arabic, and so of the


Verse 7. Are not all these-Galileans?] Persons who know no other

dialect, save that of their own country. Persons wholly

uneducated, and, consequently, naturally ignorant of those

languages which they now speak so fluently.

Verse 8. How hear we every man in our own tongue] Some have

supposed from this that the miracle was not so much wrought on the

disciples as on their hearers: imagining that, although the

disciples spoke their own tongue, yet every man so understood what

was spoken as if it had been spoken in the language in which he

was born. Though this is by no means so likely as the opinion

which states that the disciples themselves spoke all these

different languages, yet the miracle is the same, howsoever it be

taken; for it must require as much of the miraculous power of God

to enable an Arab to understand a Galilean, as to enable a

Galilean to speak Arabic. But that the gift of tongues was

actually given to the apostles, we have the fullest proof; as we

find particular ordinances laid down by those very apostles for

the regulation of the exercise of this gift; see 1Co 14:1, &c.

Verse 9. Parthians] Parthia anciently included the northern part

of modern Persia: it was situated between the Caspian Sea and

Persian Gulf, rather to the eastward of both.

Medes] Media was a country lying in the vicinity of the Caspian

Sea; having Parthia on the east, Assyria on the south, and

Mesopotamia on the west.

Elamites] Probably inhabitants of that country now called

Persia: both the Medes and Elamites were a neighbouring people,

dwelling beyond the Tigris.

Mesopotamia] Now Diarbec in Asiatic Turkey; situated between the

rivers Tigris and Euphrates; having Assyria on the east, Arabia

Deserta with Babylonia on the south, Syria on the west, and

Armenia on the north. It was called Padan-aram by the ancient

Hebrews, and by the Asiatics is now called Maverannhar, i.e. the

country beyond the river.

Judea] This word has exceedingly puzzled commentators and

critics; and most suspect that it is not the true reading. Bishop

Pearce supposes that ιουδαιαν is an adjective, agreeing with

μεσοποταμιαν, and translates the passage thus: the dwellers in

Jewish Mesopotamia. He vindicates this translation by showing that

great numbers of the Jews were settled in this country: Josephus

says that the ten tribes remained in this country till his time;

that "there were countless myriads of them there, and that it was

impossible to know their numbers."-μυριαδεςαπειροικαιαριθμω

γνωσθηναιμηδυναμεναι. See Ant. lib. xv. c. 2, s. 2, and c. 3, s.

1; Bell. Jud. lib. i. c. 1, 2. This interpretation, however

ingenious, does not comport with the present Greek text. Some

imagine that ιουδαιαν is not the original reading; and therefore

they have corrected it into Syriam, SYRIA; Armeniam, ARMENIA;

ινδιαν, INDIA; λυδιαν, LYDIA; ιδουμαιαν, IDUMEA; βιθυνιαν,

BITHYNIA; and κιλικιαν, CILICIA: all these stand on very slender

authority, as may be seen in Griesbach; and the last is a mere

conjecture of Dr. Mangey. If Judea be still considered the

genuine reading, we may account for it thus: the men who were

speaking were known to be Galileans; now the Galilean dialect was

certainly different from that spoken in Judea-the surprise was

occasioned by a Jew being able to comprehend the speech of a

Galilean, without any interpreter and without difficulty; and yet

it is not easy to suppose that there was such a difference between

the two dialects as to render these people wholly unintelligible

to each other.

CAPPADOCIA] Was an ancient kingdom of Asia comprehending all

that country that lies between Mount Taurus and the Euxine Sea.

PONTUS] Was anciently a very powerful kingdom of Asia,

originally a part of Cappadocia; bounded on the east by Colchis;

on the west by the river Halys; on the north by the Black Sea;

and on the south by Armenia Minor. The famous Mithridates was

king of this country; and it was one of the last which the Romans

were able to subjugate.

ASIA] Meaning probably Asia Minor; it was that part of Turkey in

Asia now called Natolia.

Verse 10. PHRYGIA] A country in Asia Minor, southward of Pontus.

PAMPHYLIA] The ancient name of the country of Natolia, now

called Caramania, between Lycia and Cilicia, near the

Mediterranean Sea.

EGYPT] A very extensive country of African bounded by the

Mediterranean on the north; by the Red Sea and the Isthmus

of Suez, which divide it from Arabia, on the east; by Abyssinia

or AEthiopia on the south; and by the deserts of Barca and

Nubia on the west. It was called Mizraim by the ancient Hebrews,

and now Mesr by the Arabians. It extends 600 miles from north to

south; and from 100 to 250 in breadth, from east to west.

LIBYA] In a general way, among the Greeks, signified Africa; but

the northern part, in the vicinity of Cyrene, is here meant.

CYRENE] A country in Africa on the coast of the Mediterranean

Sea, southward of the most western point of the Island of Crete.

Strangers of Rome] Persons dwelling at Rome, and speaking the

Latin language, partly consisting of regularly descended Jews and

proselytes to the Jewish religion.

Verse 11. Cretes] Natives of Crete, a large and noted island in

the Levant, or eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, now called


Arabians] Natives of Arabia, a well known country of Asia,

having the Red Sea on the west; the Persian Gulf on the east;

Judea on the north; and the Indian Ocean on the south.

The wonderful works of God.] Such as the incarnation of Christ;

his various miracles, preaching, death, resurrection, and

ascension; and the design of God to save the world through him.

From this one circumstance we may learn that all the people

enumerated above were either Jews or proselytes; and that there

was probably none that could be, strictly speaking, called

heathens among them. It may at first appear strange that there

could be found Jews in so many different countries, some of which

were very remote from the others; but there is a passage in

Philo's Embassy to Caius which throws considerable light on the

subject. In a letter sent to Caius by King Agrippa, he speaks of

to the holy city of Jerusalem, not merely as the metropolis of

Judea, but of many other regions, because of the colonies at

different times led out of Judea, not only into neighbouring

countries, such as Egypt, Phoenicia, Syria, and Coelosyria, but

also into those that are remote, such as Pamphylia, Cilicia, and

the chief parts of Asia as far as Bithynia, and the innermost

parts of Pontus; also in the regions of Europe, Thessaly, Boeotia,

Macedonia, AEtolia, Attica, Argos, Corinth, and the principal

parts of Peloponnesus. Not only the continents and provinces (says

he) are full of Jewish colonies, but the most celebrated isles

also, Euboea, Cyprus, and Crete, not to mention the countries

beyond the Euphrates. All these (a small part of Babylon and some

other praefectures excepted, which possess fertile territories)

are inhabited by Jews. Not only my native city entreats thy

clemency, but other cities also, situated in different parts of

the world, Asia, Europe, Africa; both islands, sea coasts, and

inland countries." PHILONIS Opera, edit. Mangey, vol. ii. p. 587.

It is worthy of remark that almost all the places and provinces

mentioned by St. Luke are mentioned also in this letter of King

Agrippa. These, being all Jews or proselytes, could understand in

some measure the wonderful works of God, of which mere heathens

could have formed no conception. It was wisely ordered that the

miraculous descent of the Holy Ghost should take place at this

time, when so many from various nations were present to bear

witness to what was done, and to be themselves subjects of his

mighty working. These, on their return to their respective

countries, would naturally proclaim what things they saw and

heard; and by this the way of the apostles was made plain; and

thus Christianity made a rapid progress over all those parts in a

very short time after the resurrection of our Lord.

Verse 13. These men are full of new wine.] Rather sweet wine,

for γλευκους, cannot mean the mustum, or new wine, as there

could be none in Judea so early as pentecost. The γλευκος,

gleucus, seems to have been a peculiar kind of wine, and is

thus described by Hesychius and Suidas: γλευκοςτοαποσταγματης

σταφυληςπρινπατηθη. Gleucus is that which distils from the

grape before it is pressed. This must be at once both the

strongest and sweetest wine. Calmet observes that the ancients had

the secret of preserving wine sweet through the whole year, and

were fond of taking morning draughts of it: to this Horace appears

to refer, Sat. l. ii. s. iv. ver. 24.

Aufidius forti miscebat mella Falerno.

Mendose: quoniam vacuis committere venis

Nil nisi lene decet: leni praecordia mulso

Prolueris melius._____

Aufidius first, most injudicious, quaffed

Strong wine and honey for his morning draught.

With lenient bev'rage fill your empty veins,

For lenient must will better cleanse the reins.


Verse 14. Peter, standing up with the eleven] They probably

spoke by turns, not altogether; but Peter began the discourse.

All ye that dwell at Jerusalem] οικατοικουντες would be better

translated by the word sojourn, because these were not inhabitants

of Judea, but the strangers mentioned in Ac 2:9-11, who had come

up to the feast.

Verse 15. But the third hour of the day] That is, about nine

o'clock in the morning, previously to which the Jews scarcely ever

ate or drank, for that hour was the hour of prayer. This custom

appears to have been so common that even the most intemperate

among the Jews were not known to transgress it; Peter therefore

spoke with confidence when he said, these are not drunken-seeing

it is but the third hour of the day, previously to which even the

intemperate did not use wine.

Verse 16. Spoken by the prophet Joel] The prophecy which he

delivered so long ago is just now fulfilled; and this is another

proof that Jesus whom ye have crucified is the Messiah.

Verse 17. In the last days] The time of the Messiah; and so the

phrase was understood among the Jews.

I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh] Rabbi Tanchum says,

"When Moses laid his hands upon Joshua, the holy blessed God said,

In the time of the old text, each individual prophet prophesied;

but, in the times of the Messiah, all the Israelites shall be

prophets." And this they build on the prophecy quoted in this

place by Peter.

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy] The word prophesy

is not to be understood here as implying the knowledge and

discovery of future events; but signifies to teach and proclaim

the great truths of God, especially those which concerned

redemption by Jesus Christ.

Your young men shall see visions, &c.] These were two of the

various ways in which God revealed himself under the Old

Testament. Sometimes he revealed himself by a symbol, which was a

sufficient proof of the Divine presence: fire was the most

ordinary, as it was the most expressive, symbol. Thus he appeared

to Moses on Mount Horeb, and afterwards at Sinai; to Abraham,

Ge 15:1-21; to Elijah, 1Ki 19:11, 12. At other times he

revealed himself by angelic ministry: this was frequent,

especially in the days of the patriarchs, of which we find many

instances in the book of Genesis.

By dreams he discovered his will in numerous instances: see the

remarkable case of Joseph, Ge 37:5, 9; of Jacob, Ge 28:1, &c.;

Ge 46:2, &c.; of Pharaoh, Ge 41:1-7; of Nebuchadnezzar,

Da 4:10-17. For the different ways in which God communicated

the knowledge of his will to mankind, see the note on Ge 15:1.

Verse 18. On my servants and on my handmaidens] This properly

means persons of the lowest condition, such as male and female

slaves. As the Jews asserted that the spirit of prophecy never

rested upon a poor man, these words are quoted to show that, under

the Gospel dispensation, neither bond nor free, male nor female,

is excluded from sharing in the gifts and graces of the Divine


Verse 19. I will show wonders] It is likely that both the

prophet and the apostle refer to the calamities that fell upon the

Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the fearful signs and

portents that preceded those calamities. See the notes on

Mt 24:5-7, where these are distinctly related.

Blood, fire, and vapour of smoke] Skirmishes and assassinations

over the land, and wasting the country with fire and sword.

Verse 20. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon

into blood] These are figurative representations of eclipses,

intended most probably to point out the fall of the civil and

ecclesiastical state in Judea: See Clarke on Mt 24:29.

That the SUN is darkened when a total eclipse takes place, and that the

MOON appears of a bloody hue in such circumstances, every person


Verse 21. Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be

saved.] The predicted ruin is now impending; and only such as

receive the Gospel of the Son of God shall be saved. And that none

but the Christians did escape, when God poured out these

judgments, is well known; and that ALL the Christians did escape,

not one of them perishing in these devastations, stands attested

by the most respectable authority. See Clarke on Mt 24:13.

Verse 22. A man approved of God] αποδεδειγμενον, celebrated,

famous. The sense of the verse seems to be this: Jesus of

Nazareth, a man sent of God, and celebrated among you by miracles,

wonders, and signs; and all these done in such profusion as had

never been done by the best of your most accredited prophets. And

these signs, &c., were such as demonstrated his Divine mission.

Verse 23. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel] Bp.

Pearce paraphrases the words thus: Him having been given forth;

i.e. sent into the world, and manifested by being made flesh, and

dwelling among you, as it is said in Joh 1:14; see also

Ac 4:28.

Kypke contends that εκδοτον, delivered, does not refer to GOD,

but to Judas the traitor "the Jews received Jesus, delivered up to

them by Judas; the immutable counsel of God so permitting."

By the determinate counsel, ωρισμενηβουλη; that counsel of God

which defined the time, place, and circumstance, according

(προγνωσει) to his foreknowledge, which always saw what was the

most proper time and place for the manifestation and crucifixion

of his Son; so that there was nothing casual in these things, God

having determined that the salvation of a lost world should be

brought about in this way; and neither the Jews nor Romans had any

power here, but what was given to them from above. It was

necessary to show the Jews that it was not through Christ's

weakness or inability to defend himself that he was taken; nor

was it through their malice merely that he was slain; for God had

determined long before, from the foundation of the world,

Re 13:8, to give his Son a sacrifice for sin; and the

treachery of Judas, and the malice of the Jews were only the

incidental means by which the great counsel of God was fulfilled:

the counsel of God intending the sacrifice, but never ordering

that it should be brought about by such wretched means. This was

permitted; the other was decreed. See the observations at the

end of this chapter. See Clarke on Ac 2:47.

By wicked hands have crucified and slain] I think this refers to

the Romans, and not to the Jews; the former being the agents, to

execute the evil purposes of the latter. It is well known that the

Jews acknowledged that they had no power to put our Lord to death,

Joh 18:31, and it is as well known that the punishment of the

cross was not a Jewish, but a Roman, punishment: hence we may

infer that by διαχειρωνανομων, by the hands of the wicked, the

Romans are meant, being called ανομοι, without law, because they

had no revelation from God; whereas the others had what was

emphatically termed ονομοςτουθεου, the law of God, by which

they professed to regulate their worship and their conduct. It was

the Jews, therefore, who caused our Lord to be crucified by the

hands of the heathen Romans.

Verse 24. Whom God hath raised up] For, as God alone gave him up

to death, so God alone raised him up from death.

Having loosed the pains of death] It is generally supposed that

this expression means, the dissolving of those bonds or

obligations by which those who enter into the region of the dead

are detained there till the day of the resurrection; and this is

supposed to be the meaning of chebley maveth, in

Ps 116:3, or

chebley sheol, in Ps 18:5, and in 2Sa 22:6, to

which, as a parallel, this place has been referred. But Kypke has

sufficiently proved that λυεινταςωδιναςθανατου, signifies rather

to REMOVE the pains or sufferings of death. So Lucian, De Conscr.

Hist., says, "a copious sweat to some, ελυσετονπυρετον,

REMOVES or carries off the fever." So STRABO, speaking of the balm

of Jericho, says, λυειδεκεφαλαλγιαςθαυμαστως-it wonderfully

REMOVES the headache, &c. That Christ did suffer the pains and

sorrows of death in his passion is sufficiently evident; but that

these were all removed, previously to his crucifixion, is fully

seen in that calm manner in which he met it, with all its attendant

terrors. If we take the words as commonly understood, they mean

that it was impossible for the Prince of Life to be left in the

empire of death: his resurrection, therefore, was a necessary

consequence of his own Divine power.

Instead of θανατου, of death, the Codex Bezae, Syriac, Coptic,

and Vulgate, have αιδου, of hell, or the place of separate

spirits; and perhaps it was on no better authority than this

various reading, supported but by slender evidence, that, He

descended into hell, became an article in what is called the

apostles' creed. And on this article many a popish legend has been

builded, to the discredit of sober sense and true religion.

Verse 25. For David speaketh concerning him] The quotation here

is made from Ps 16:8-11, which contains a most remarkable

prophecy concerning Christ, every word of which applies to him,

and to him exclusively. See the notes there.

Verse 26. And my tongue was glad] In the Hebrew it is

vaiyagel kebodi, "And my glory was glad:" but the evangelist

follows the Septuagint, in reading καιηγαλλιασατοηγλωσσαμον,

what all the other Greek interpreters in the Hexapla translate

δοξαμον, my glory. And what is to be understood by glory here!

Why the soul, certainly, and not the tongue; and so some of the

best critics interpret the place.

Verse 27. Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell] ειςαιδου, in

hades, that is, the state of separate spirits, or the state of the

dead. Hades was a general term among the Greek writers, by which

they expressed this state; and this HADES was Tartarus to the

wicked, and Elysium to the good. See the explanation of the word

in the notes, See Clarke on Mt 11:23.

To see corruption.] Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt

return, was a sentence pronounced on man after the fall: therefore

this sentence could be executed on none but those who were fallen;

but Jesus, being conceived without sin, neither partook of human

corruption, nor was involved in the condemnation of fallen human

nature; consequently, it was impossible for his body to see

corruption; and it could not have undergone the temporary death,

to which it was not naturally liable, had it not been for the

purpose of making an atonement. It was therefore impossible that

the human nature of our Lord could be subject to corruption: for

though it was possible that the soul and it might be separated for

a time, yet, as it had not sinned, it was not liable to

dissolution; and its immortality was the necessary consequence of

its being pure from transgression.

Verse 28. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life] That is,

the way from the region of death, or state of the dead and

separate spirits; so that I shall resume the same body, and live

the same kind of life, as I had before I gave up my life for the

sin of the world.

Verse 29. Let me speak freely-of the patriarch David] In Midris

Tillin, it is said, in a paraphrase on the words, my flesh shall

rest in hope, "Neither worm nor insect had power over David." It

is possible that this opinion prevailed in the time of St. Peter,

and, if so, his words are the more pointed and forcible; and

therefore thus applied by Dr. Lightfoot: "That this passage, Thou

shalt not leave my soul in hell, &c., is not to be applied to

David himself appears in that I may confidently aver concerning

him, that he was dead and buried, and never rose again; but his

soul was left ειςαδου, in the state of the dead, and HE saw

corruption; for his sepulchre is with us to this day, under that

very notion, that it is the sepulchre of David, who died and was

there buried; nor is there one syllable mentioned any where of the

resurrection of his body, or the return of his soul εξαδου from

the state of the dead." To this the same author adds the following

remarkable note: I cannot slip over that passage, Hieros. Chagig.

fol. 78: Rab. Jose saith, David died at pentecost, and all Israel

bewailed him, and offered their sacrifices the day following. This

is a remarkable coincidence; and may be easily applied to him of

whom David was a type.

Verse 30. According to the flesh, he would raise up Christ] This

whole clause is wanting in ACD, one of the Syriac, the Coptic,

AEthiopic, Armenian, and Vulgate; and is variously entered in

others. Griesbach rejects it from the text, and Professor White

says of the words, "certissime delenda," they should doubtless be

expunged. This is a gloss, says Schoettgen, that has crept into

the text, which I prove thus: 1. The Syriac and Vulgate, the most

ancient of the versions, have not these words. 2. The passage is

consistent enough and intelligible without them. 3. They are

superfluous, as the mind of the apostle concerning the

resurrection of Christ follows immediately in the succeeding

verse. The passage therefore, according to Bp. Pearce, should be

read thus: Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had

sworn with an oath, of the fruit of his loins, to set on his

throne; and foreseeing that he (God) would raise up Christ, he

spake of the resurrection of Christ, &c. "In this transition, the

words which Peter quotes for David's are exactly the same with

what we read in the psalm above mentioned; and the circumstance of

David's foreseeing that Christ was to be raised up, and was the

person meant, is not represented as a part of the oath; but is

only made to be Peter's assertion, that David, as a prophet, did

foresee it, and meant it."

Verse 31. That his soul was not left in hell] The words ηψυχη

αυτου, his soul, are omitted by ABCD, Syriac, Coptic, AEthiopic,

and Vulgate. Griesbach has left them out of the text, and

Professor White says again, certissime delenda. The passage may be

thus read: "He spake of the resurrection of Christ, that he was

not left in hades, neither did his flesh see corruption." For the

various readings in this and the preceding verse, see Griesbach.

Verse 32. Whereof we all are witnesses.] That is, the whole 120

saw him after he rose from the dead, and were all ready, in the

face of persecution and death, to attest this great truth.

Verse 33. By the right hand of God exalted] Raised by

omnipotence to the highest dignity in the realms of glory, to

sit at the right hand of God, and administer the laws of both


The promise of the Holy Ghost] This was the promise that he had

made to them a little before he suffered, as may be seen in

Joh 14:16, &c., Joh 16:7, &c., and after he had risen from the

dead. Lu 24:49, and which as the apostle says was

now shed forth.

Verse 34. David is not ascended] Consequently, he has not sent

forth this extraordinary gift, but it comes from his Lord, of whom

he said, The Lord said unto my Lord, &c.

See Clarke on Mt 22:44.

Verse 35. Until I make thy foes thy footstool.] It was usual

with conquerors to put their feet on the necks of vanquished

leaders, as emblematical of the state of subjection to which they

were reduced, and the total extinction of their power. By quoting

these words, Peter shows the Jews, who continued enemies to

Christ, that their discomfiture and ruin must necessarily take

place, their own king and prophet having predicted this in

connection with the other things which had already been so

literally and circumstantially fulfilled. This conclusion had the

desired effect, when pressed home with the strong application in

the following verse.

Verse 36. Both Lord and Christ.] Not only the Messiah, but the

supreme Governor of all things and all persons, Jews and Gentiles,

angels and men. In the preceding discourse, Peter assumes a fact

which none would attempt to deny, viz. that Jesus had been lately

crucified by them. He then, 1. Proves his resurrection. 2. His

ascension. 3. His exaltation to the right hand of God. 4. The

effusion of the Holy Spirit, which was the fruit of his

glorification, and which had not only been promised by himself,

but foretold by their own prophets: in consequence of which, 5. It

was indisputably proved that this same Jesus, whom they had

crucified, was the promised Messiah; and if so, 6. The Governor of

the universe, from whose power and justice they had every thing to

dread, as they refused to receive his proffered mercy and


Verse 37. When they heard this, they were pricked in their

heart] This powerful, intelligent, consecutive, and interesting

discourse, supported every where by prophecies and corresponding

facts, left them without reply and without excuse; and they

plainly saw there was no hope for them, but in the mercy of him

whom they had rejected and crucified.

What shall we do?] How shall we escape those judgments which we

now see hanging over our heads?

Verse 38. Peter said unto them, Repent] μετανοησατε; Humble

yourselves before God, and deeply deplore the sins you have

committed; pray earnestly for mercy, and deprecate the displeasure

of incensed justice. For a definition of repentance,

See Clarke on Mt 3:2.

And be baptized every one of you] Take on you the public

profession of the religion of Christ, by being baptized in his

name; and thus acknowledge yourselves to be his disciples and


For the remission of sins] ειςαφεσιναμαρτιων, In reference to

the remission or removal of sins: baptism pointing out the

purifying influences of the Holy Spirit; and it is in reference to

that purification that it is administered, and should in

consideration never be separated from it. For baptism itself

purifies not the conscience; it only points out the grace by which

this is to be done.

Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.] If ye faithfully

use the sign, ye shall get the substance. Receive the baptism, in

reference to the removal of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy

Ghost, by whose agency alone the efficacy of the blood of the

covenant is applied, and by whose refining power the heart is

purified. It was by being baptized in the name of Christ that men

took upon themselves the profession of Christianity; and it was in

consequence of this that the disciples of Christ were called


Verse 39. For the promise is unto you] Jews of the land of

Judea: not only the fulfilment of the promise which he had lately

recited from the prophecy of Joel was made to them, but in this

promise was also included the purification from sin, with every

gift and grace of the Holy Spirit.

To all that are afar off] To the Jews wherever dispersed, and to

all the Gentile nations; for, though St. Peter had not as yet a

formal knowledge of the calling of the Gentiles, yet, the Spirit

of God, by which he spoke, had undoubtedly this in view; and

therefore the words are added, even as many as the Lord our God

shall call, i.e. all to whom, in the course of his providence and

grace, he shall send the preaching of Christ crucified.

Verse 40. Save yourselves from this untoward generation.]

Separate yourselves from them: be ye saved, σωθητε: the power is

present with you; make a proper use of it, and ye shall be

delivered from their obstinate unbelief, and the punishment that

awaits it in the destruction of them and their city by the Romans.

Verse 41. They that gladly received his word] The word ασμενως,

which signifies joyfully, readily, willingly, implies that they

approved of the doctrine delivered; that they were glad to hear of

this way of salvation; and that they began immediately to act

according to its dictates. This last sense is well expressed in a

similar phrase by Josephus: when speaking of the young Israelites

enticing the Midianitish women to sin, by fair speeches, he says,

αιδεασμενωςδεξαμεναιτουςλογουςσυνηεσαναυτοις, Ant. l. iv.

c. 4. Then they who approved of their words consorted with them.

The word is however omitted by ABCD, Coptic, Sahidic, AEthiopic,

Vulgate, the Itala of the Codex Bezae, Clemens, and Chrysostom.

Were baptized] That is, in the name of Jesus, Ac 2:38, for

this was the criterion of a Jew's conversion; and when a Jew had

received baptism in this name he was excluded from all

communication with his countrymen; and no man would have forfeited

such privileges but on the fullest and clearest conviction. This

baptism was a very powerful means to prevent their apostasy; they

had, by receiving baptism in the name of Jesus, renounced Judaism,

and all the political advantages connected with it; and they found

it indispensably necessary to make the best use of that holy

religion which they had received in its stead. Dr. Lightfoot has

well remarked, that the Gentiles who received the Christian

doctrine were baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and

the Holy Ghost; whereas the Jewish converts, for the reasons

already given, were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Were added-three thousand souls.] προσετεθησαν, They went over

from one party to another. The Greek writers make use of this verb

to signify that act by which cities, towns, or provinces changed

their masters, and put themselves under another government. So

these 3000 persons left the scribes and Pharisees, and put

themselves under the teaching of the apostles, professing the

Christian doctrine, and acknowledging that Christ was come, and

that he who was lately crucified by the Jews was the promised and

only Messiah; and in this faith they were baptized.

These 3000 were not converted under one discourse, nor in one

place, nor by one person. All the apostles preached, some in one

language, and some in another; and not in one house-for where was

there one at that time that could hold such a multitude of people?

For, out of the multitudes that heard, 3000 were converted; and if

one in five was converted it must have been a very large

proportion. The truth seems to by this: All the apostles preached

in different, parts of the city, during the course of that day;

and in that day, τηημεραεκεινη, 3000 converts were the fruits of

the conjoint exertions of these holy men. Dr. Lightfoot thinks

that the account in this place is the fulfilment of the prophecy

in Ps 110:1, &c.:

The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand; this

refers to the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Thy people

shall be willing in the day of thy power, Ps 110:3.

This was the day of his power; and while the apostles proclaimed

his death, resurrection, and ascension, the people came willingly

in, and embraced the doctrines of Christianity.

Verse 42. They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine]

They received it, retained it, and acted on its principles.

And fellowship] κοινωνια, community; meaning association

for religious and spiritual purposes, The community of goods

cannot be meant; for this is mentioned Ac 2:44, 45, where it is

said, they had all things common.

And in breaking of bread] Whether this means the holy eucharist,

or their common meals, it is difficult to say. The Syriac

understands it of the former. Breaking of bread was that act which

preceded a feast or meal, and which was performed by the master of

the house, when he pronounced the blessing-what we would call

grace before meat. See the form on Mt 26:26.

And in prayers.] In supplications to God for an increase of

grace and life in their own souls; for establishment in the truth

which they had received, and for the extension of the kingdom of

Christ in the salvation of men. Behold the employment of the

primitive and apostolic Church. 1. They were builded up on the

foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself

being the corner stone. 2. They continued steadfastly in that

doctrine which they had so evidently received from God. They

were separated from the world, and lived in a holy Christian

fellowship, strengthening and building up each other in their most

holy faith. 4. They were frequent in breaking bread; in

remembrance that Jesus Christ died for them. 5. They continued in

prayers; knowing that they could be no longer faithful than while

they were upheld by their God; and knowing also that they could

not expect his grace to support them, unless they humbly and

earnestly prayed for its continuance.

Verse 43. And fear came upon every soul] Different MSS. and

versions read this clause thus, And GREAT fear and TREMBLING came

upon every soul in JERUSALEM. For several weeks past they had a

series of the most astonishing miracles wrought before their eyes;

they were puzzled and confounded at the manner in which the

apostles preached, who charged them home with the deliberate

murder of Jesus Christ, and who attested, in the most positive

manner, that he was risen from the dead, and that God had sent

down that mighty effusion of the Spirit which they now witnessed

as a proof of his resurrection and ascension, and that this very

person whom they had crucified was appointed by God to be the

Judge of quick and dead. They were in consequences stung with

remorse, and were apprehensive of the judgments of God; and the

wonders and signs continually wrought by the apostles were at

once proofs of the celestial origin of their doctrine and mission,

and of their own baseness, perfidy, and wickedness.

Verse 44. And, all that believed] οιπιστευοντες, The believers,

i.e. those who conscientiously credited the doctrine concerning

the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus

Christ, and had, in consequence, received redemption in his blood.

Were together] επιτοαυτο. "These words signify either, in one

time, Ac 3:1; or in

one place, Ac 2:1; or in

one thing. The last of these three senses seems to be the most

proper here; for it is not probable that the believers, who were

then 3000 in number, Ac 2:41, besides the 120 spoken of Ac 1:15,

were used all to meet at one time, or in one place, in Jerusalem."

See Bp. Pearce.

And had all things common] Perhaps this has not been well

understood. At all the public religious feasts in Jerusalem, there

was a sort of community of goods. No man at such times hired

houses or beds in Jerusalem; all were lent gratis by the owners:

Yoma, fol. 12. Megill. fol. 26. The same may be well supposed of

their ovens, cauldrons, tables, spits, and other utensils. Also,

provisions of water were made for them at the public expense;

Shekalim, cap. 9. See Lightfoot here. Therefore a sort of

community of goods was no strange thing at Jerusalem, at such

times as these. It appears, however, that this community of goods

was carried farther; for we are informed, Ac 2:45, that they

sold their possessions and their goods, and parted them to all,

as every man had need. But, this probably means that, as in

consequence of this remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God;

and their conversion, they were detained longer at Jerusalem than

they had originally intended, they formed a kind of community for

the time being, that none might suffer want on the present

occasion; as no doubt the unbelieving Jews, who were mockers,

Ac 2:13, would treat these new converts with the most marked

disapprobation. That an absolute community of goods never obtained

in the Church at Jerusalem, unless for a very short time, is

evident from the apostolical precept, 1Co 16:1, &c., by which

collections were ordered to be made for the poor; but, if there

had been a community of goods in the Church, there could have been

no ground for such recommendations as these, as there could have

been no such distinction as rich and poor, if every one, on

entering the Church, gave up all his goods to a common stock.

Besides, while this sort of community lasted at Jerusalem, it does

not appear to have been imperious upon any; persons might or might

not thus dispose of their goods, as we learn front the case of

Ananias, Ac 5:4. Nor does it appear that what was done at

Jerusalem at this time obtained in any other branch of the

Christian Church; and in this, and in the fifth chap., where it is

mentioned, it is neither praised nor blamed. We may therefore

safely infer, it was something that was done at this time, on this

occasion, through some local necessity, which the circumstances of

the infant Church at Jerusalem might render expedient for that

place and on that occasion only.

Verse 46. They, continuing daily with one accord in the temple]

They were present at all the times of public worship, and joined

together in prayers and praises to God; for it in not to be

supposed that they continued to offer any of the sacrifices

prescribed by the law.

Breaking bread from house to house] This may signify, that

select companies, who were contiguous to each other, frequently

ate together at their respective lodgings on their return from

public worship. But κατοικον, which we translate from house to

house, is repeatedly used by the Greek writers for home, at home,

(see margin,) for though they had all things in common, each

person lived at his own table. Breaking bread is used to express

the act of taking their meals. The bread of the Jews was thin,

hard, and dry, and was never cut with the knife as ours is, but

was simply broken by the hand.

With gladness and singleness of heart] A true picture of genuine

Christian fellowship. They ate their bread: they had no severe

fasts; the Holy Spirit had done in their souls, by his refining

influence, what others vainly expect from bodily austerities. It

may be said also, that, if they had no severe fasts, they had no

splendid feasts: all was moderation, and all was contentment.

They were full of gladness, spiritual joy and happiness; and

singleness of heart, every man worthy of the confidence of his

neighbour; and all walking by the same rule, and minding the same


Verse 47. Praising God] As the fountain whence they had derived

all their spiritual and temporal blessings; seeing him in all

things, and magnifying the work of his mercy.

Having favour with all the people.] Every honest, upright Jew

would naturally esteem these for the simplicity, purity, and

charity of their lives. The scandal of the cross had not yet

commenced; for, though they had put Jesus Christ to death, they

had not get entered into a systematic opposition to the doctrines

he taught.

And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.]

Though many approved of the life and manners of these primitive

Christians, yet they did not become members of this holy Church;

God permitting none to be added to it, but τουςσωζομενους, those

who were saved from their sins and prejudices. The Church of

Christ was made up of saints; sinners ware not permitted to

incorporate themselves with it.

One MS. and the Armenian version, instead of τουςσωζομενους,

the saved, have τοιςσωζομενοις, to them who were saved; reading

the verse thus: And the Lord added daily to those who were saved.

He united those who were daily converted under the preaching of

the apostles to those who had already been converted. And thus

every lost sheep that was found was brought to the flock, that,

under the direction of the great Master Shepherd, they might go

out and in, and find pasture. The words, to the Church, τη

εκκλησια, are omitted by BC, Coptic, Sahidic, AEthiopic, Armenian,

and Vulgate; and several add the words επιτοαυτο, at that tine,

(which begin the first verse of the next chapter) to the

conclusion of this. My old MS. English Bible reads the verse thus:

For so the Lord encresed hem that weren maad saaf, eche day, into

the same thing. Nearly the same rendering as that in Wiclif. Our

translation of τουςσωζομενους, such as should be saved is

improper and insupportable. The original means simply and solely

those who were then saved; those who were redeemed from their sins

and baptized into the faith of Jesus Christ. The same as those

whom St. Paul addressed, Eph 2:8:

By grace ye are saved, εστεσεσωσμενοι; or, ye are those who

have been saved by grace. So in Tit 3:5:

According to his mercy he saved us, εσωσενημας, by the washing

of regeneration. And in 1Co 1:18, we have the words τοις

σωζομενοις, them who are saved, to express those who had received

the Christian faith; in opposition to τοιςαπολλυμενοις, to those

who are lost, namely the Jews, who obstinately refused to receive

salvation on the terms of the Gospel, the only way in which they

could be saved; for it was by embracing the Gospel of Christ that

they were put in a state of salvation; and, by the grace it

imparted, actually saved from the power, guilt, and dominion of

sin. See 1Co 15:2:

I made known unto you, brethren, the Gospel which I preached

unto you, which ye have received, and in which ye stand; and BY

WHICH YE ARE SAVED, διουκαισωζεσθε. Our translation, which

indeed existed long before our present authorized version, as may

be seen in Cardmarden's Bible, 1566, Beck's Bible, 1549, and

Tindall's Testament, printed by Will. Tylle, in 1548, is bad in

itself; but it has been rendered worse by the comments put on it,

viz. that those whom God adds to the Church shall necessarily and

unavoidably be eternally saved; whereas no such thing is hinted by

the original text, be the doctrine of the indefectibility of the

saints true or false-which shall be examined in its proper place.

ON that awful subject, the foreknowledge of God, something has

already been spoken: see Ac 2:23. Though it is a subject which no

finite nature can comprehend, yet it is possible so to understand

what relates to us in it as to avoid those rocks of presumption

and despondency on which multitudes have been shipwrecked. The

foreknowledge of God is never spoken of in reference to himself,

but in reference to us: in him properly there is neither

foreknowledge nor afterknowledge. Omniscience, or the power to

know all things, is an attribute of God, and exists in him as

omnipotence, or the power to do all things. He can do whatsoever

he will; and he does whatsoever is fit or proper to be done. God

cannot have foreknowledge, strictly speaking, because this would

suppose that there was something coming, in what we call futurity,

which had not yet arrived at the presence of the Deity. Neither

can he have any afterknowledge, strictly speaking, for this would

suppose that something that had taken place, in what we call

pretereity, or past time, had now got beyond the presence of

the Deity. As God exists in all that can be called eternity, so he

is equally every where: nothing can be future to him, because he

lives in all futurity; nothing can be past to him, because he

equally exists in all past time; futurity and pretereity are

relative terms to us; but they can have no relation to that God

who dwells in every point of eternity; with whom all that is past,

and all that is present, and all that is future to man, exists in

one infinite, indivisible, and eternal NOW. As God's omnipotence

implies his power to do all things, so God's omniscience implies

his power to know all things; but we must take heed that we meddle

not with the infinite free agency of this Eternal Being. Though

God can do all thinks, he does not all things. Infinite judgment

directs the operations of his power, so that though he can, yet he

does not do all things, but only such things as are proper to be

done. In what is called illimitable space, he can make millions of

millions of systems; but he does not see proper to do this. He can

destroy the solar system, but he does not do it: he can fashion

and order, in endless variety, all the different beings which now

exist, whether material, animal, or intellectual; but he does not

do this, because he does not see it proper to be done. Therefore

it does not follow that, because God can do all things, therefore

he must do all things. God is omniscient, and can know all things;

but does it follow from this that he must know all things? Is he

not as free in the volitions of his wisdom, as he is in the

volitions of his power? The contingent as absolute, or the

absolute as contingent? God has ordained some things as absolutely

certain; these he knows as absolutely certain. He has ordained

other things as contingent; these he knows as contingent. It would

be absurd to say that he foreknows a thing as only contingent

which he has made absolutely certain. And it would be as absurd to

say that he foreknows a thing to be absolutely certain which in

his own eternal counsel he has made contingent. By absolutely

certain, I mean a thing which must be, in that order, time, place,

and form in which Divine wisdom has ordained it to be; and that it

can be no otherwise than this infinite counsel has ordained. By

contingent, I mean such things as the infinite wisdom of God has

thought proper to poise on the possibility of being or not being,

leaving it to the will of intelligent beings to turn the scale.

Or, contingencies are such possibilities, amid the succession of

events, as the infinite wisdom of God has left to the will of

intelligent beings to determine whether any such event shall take

place or not. To deny this would involve the most palpable

contradictions, and the most monstrous absurdities. If there be no

such things as contingencies in the world, then every thing is

fixed and determined by an unalterable decree and purpose of

God; and not only all free agency is destroyed, but all agency of

every kind, except that of the Creator himself; for on this

ground God is the only operator, either in time or eternity: all

created beings are only instruments, and do nothing but as

impelled and acted upon by this almighty and sole Agent.

Consequently, every act is his own; for if he have purposed them

all as absolutely certain, having nothing contingent in them, then

he has ordained them to be so; and if no contingency, then no free

agency, and God alone is the sole actor. Hence the blasphemous,

though, from the premises, fair conclusion, that God is the author

of all the evil and sin that are in the world; and hence follows

that absurdity, that, as God can do nothing that is wrong,

WHATEVER IS, is RIGHT. Sin is no more sin; a vicious human action

is no crime, if God have decreed it, and by his foreknowledge and

will impelled the creature to act it. On this ground there can be

no punishment for delinquencies; for if every thing be done as God

has predetermined, and his determinations must necessarily be all

right, then neither the instrument nor the agent has done

wrong. Thus all vice and virtue, praise and blame, merit and

demerit, guilt and innocence, are at once confounded, and all

distinctions of this kind confounded with them. Now, allowing the

doctrine of the contingency of human actions, (and it must be

allowed in order to shun the above absurdities and blasphemies,)

then we see every intelligent creature accountable for its own

works, and for the use it makes of the power with which God has

endued it; and, to grant all this consistently, we must also grant

that God foresees nothing as absolutely and inevitably certain

which he has made contingent; and, because he has designed it to

be contingent, therefore he cannot know it as absolutely and

inevitably certain. I conclude that God, although omniscient, is

not obliged, in consequence of this, to know all that he can know;

no more than he is obliged, because he is omnipotent, to do all

that he can do.

How many, by confounding the self and free agency of God with a

sort of continual impulsive necessity, have raised that necessity

into an all-commanding and overruling energy, to which God himself

is made subject! Very properly did Milton set his damned spirits

about such work as this, and has made it a part of their endless


Others apart sat on a hill retired,

In thoughts more elevate; and reasoned high

Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate;

Fixed fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute,

And found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost.

PARAD. LOST, b. ii. l. 557.

Among some exceptionable expressions, the following are also

good thoughts on the flee agency and fall of man:-

___________I made him just and right,

Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.

Not free, what proof could they have given sincere

Of true allegiance, constant faith or love,

When only what they needs must do appeared,

Not what they would? What praise could they receive?.

Useless and vain, of freedom both despoiled,

Made passive, both had served NECESSITY,

Not ME.________

So without least impulse or shadow of fate,

Or aught by me immutably foreseen,

They trespass, authors to themselves in all

Both what they judge, and what they choose, for so

I formed them free, and free they must remain

Till they enthrall themselves: I else must change

Their nature, and revoke the high decree

Unchangeable, eternal, which ordained

Their freedom; they themselves ordained their fall.

Ibid, b. iii. l. 98, 103, 120.

I shall conclude these observations with a short extract from

Mr. Bird's Conferences, where, in answer to the objection, "If

many things fall out contingently, or as it were by accident,

God's foreknowledge of them can be but contingent, dependent on

man's free will," he observes: "It is one thing to know that a

thing will be done necessarily; and another, to know necessarily

that a thing will be done. God doth necessarily foreknow all that

will be done; but he doth not know that those things which shall

be done voluntarily will be done necessarily: he knoweth that they

will be done; but he knoweth withal that they might have fallen

out otherwise, for aught he had ordered to the contrary. So

likewise God knew that Adam would fall; and get he knew that he

would not fall necessarily, for it was possible for him not to

have fallen. And as touching God's preordination going before his

prescience as the cause of all events this would be to make God

the author of all the sin in the world; his knowledge

comprehending that as well as other things. God indeed foreknoweth

all things, because they will be done; but things are not

(therefore) done, because he foreknoweth them. It is impossible

that any man, by his voluntary manner of working, should elude

God's foresight; but then this foresight doth not necessitate the

will, for this were to take it wholly away. For as the knowledge

of things present imports no necessity on that which is done, so

the foreknowledge of things future lays no necessity on that which

shall be; because whosoever knows and sees things, he knows and

sees them as they are, and not as they are not; so that God's

knowledge doth not confound things, but reaches to all events, not

only which come to pass, but as they come to pass, whether

contingency or necessarily. As, for example, when you see a man

walking upon the earth, and at the very same instant the sun

shining in the heavens, do you not see the first as voluntary, and

the second as natural? And though at the instant you see both

done, there is a necessity that they be done, (or else you could

not see them at all,) yet there was a necessity of one only before

they were done, (namely, the sun's shining in the heavens,) but

none at all of the other, (viz. the man's walking upon the earth.)

The sun could not but shine, as being a natural agent; the man

might not have walked, as being a voluntary one." This is a good

argument; but I prefer that which states the knowledge of God to

be absolutely free, without the contradictions which are mentioned

above. "But you deny the omniscience of God."-No, no more than I

deny his omnipotence, and you know I do not, though you have

asserted the contrary. But take heed how you speak about this

infinitely free agent: if you will contradict, take heed that you

do not blaspheme. I ask some simple questions on the subject of

God's knowledge and power: if you know these things better than

your neighbour, be thankful, be humble, and pray to God to give

you amiable tempers; for the wrath of man worketh not the

righteousness of God. May he be merciful to thee and me!

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