Acts 12

* The martyrdom of James, and the imprisonment of Peter. (1-5)

He is delivered from prison by an angel. (6-11) Peter departs,

Herod's rage. (12-19) The death of Herod. (20-25)

1-5 James was one of the sons of Zebedee, whom Christ told that

they should drink of the cup that he was to drink of, and be

baptized with the baptism that he was to be baptized with, #Mt

20:23|. Now the words of Christ were made good in him; and if we

suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him. Herod imprisoned

Peter: the way of persecution, as of other sins, is downhill;

when men are in it, they cannot easily stop. Those make

themselves an easy prey to Satan, who make it their business to

please men. Thus James finished his course. But Peter, being

designed for further services, was safe; though he seemed now

marked out for a speedy sacrifice. We that live in a cold,

prayerless generation, can hardly form an idea of the

earnestness of these holy men of old. But if the Lord should

bring on the church an awful persecution like this of Herod, the

faithful in Christ would learn what soul-felt prayer is.
6-11 A peaceful conscience, a lively hope, and the consolations

of the Holy Spirit, can keep men calm in the full prospect of

death; even those very persons who have been most distracted

with terrors on that account. God's time to help, is when things

are brought to the last extremity. Peter was assured that the

Lord would cause this trial to end in the way that should be

most for his glory. Those who are delivered out of spiritual

imprisonment must follow their Deliverer, like the Israelites

when they went out of the house of bondage. They knew not

whither they went, but knew whom they followed. When God will

work salvation for his people, all difficulties in their way

will be overcome, even gates of iron are made to open of their

own accord. This deliverance of Peter represents our redemption

by Christ, which not only proclaims liberty to the captives, but

brings them out of the prison-house. Peter, when he recollected

himself, perceived what great things God had done for him. Thus

souls delivered out of spiritual bondage, are not at first aware

what God has wrought in them; many have the truth of grace, that

want evidence of it. But when the Comforter comes, whom the

Father will send, sooner or later, he will let them know what a

blessed change is wrought.
12-19 God's providence leaves room for the use of our prudence,

though he has undertaken to perform and perfect what he has

begun. These Christians continued in prayer for Peter, for they

were truly in earnest. Thus men ought always to pray, and not to

faint. As long as we are kept waiting for a mercy, we must

continue praying for it. But sometimes that which we most

earnestly wish for, we are most backward to believe. The

Christian law of self-denial and of suffering for Christ, has

not done away the natural law of caring for our own safety by

lawful means. In times of public danger, all believers have God

for their hiding-place; which is so secret, that the world

cannot find them. Also, the instruments of persecution are

themselves exposed to danger; the wrath of God hangs over all

that engage in this hateful work. And the range of persecutors

often vents itself on all in its way.
20-25 Many heathen princes claimed and received Divine honours,

but it was far more horrible impiety in Herod, who knew the word

and worship of the living God, to accept such idolatrous honours

without rebuking the blasphemy. And such men as Herod, when

puffed with pride and vanity, are ripening fast for signal

vengeance. God is very jealous for his own honour, and will be

glorified upon those whom he is not glorified by. See what vile

bodies we carry about with us; they have in them the seeds of

their own dissolution, by which they will soon be destroyed,

whenever God does but speak the word. We may learn wisdom from

the people of Tyre and Sidon, for we have offended the Lord with

our sins. We depend on him for life, and breath, and all things;

it surely then behoves us to humble ourselves before him, that

through the appointed Mediator, who is ever ready to befriend

us, we may be reconciled to him, lest wrath come upon us to the

utmost.
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