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 thatthey should drink of the cup that he was to drink of, and bebaptized with the baptism that he was to be baptized with, #Mt20:23|. Now the words of Christ were made good in him; and if wesuffer with Christ, we shall reign with him. Herod imprisonedPeter: the way of persecution, as of other sins, is downhill;when men are in it, they cannot easily stop. Those makethemselves an easy prey to Satan, who make it their business toplease men. Thus James finished his course. But Peter, beingdesigned for further services, was safe; though he seemed nowmarked out for a speedy sacrifice. We that live in a cold,prayerless generation, can hardly form an idea of theearnestness of these holy men of old. But if the Lord shouldbring on the church an awful persecution like this of Herod, thefaithful in Christ would learn what soul-felt prayer is. 6-11 A peaceful conscience, a lively hope, and the consolationsof the Holy Spirit, can keep men calm in the full prospect ofdeath; even those very persons who have been most distractedwith terrors on that account. God's time to help, is when thingsare brought to the last extremity. Peter was assured that theLord would cause this trial to end in the way that should bemost for his glory. Those who are delivered out of spiritualimprisonment must follow their Deliverer, like the Israeliteswhen they went out of the house of bondage. They knew notwhither they went, but knew whom they followed. When God willwork salvation for his people, all difficulties in their waywill be overcome, even gates of iron are made to open of theirown accord. This deliverance of Peter represents our redemptionby Christ, which not only proclaims liberty to the captives, butbrings them out of the prison-house. Peter, when he recollectedhimself, perceived what great things God had done for him. Thussouls delivered out of spiritual bondage, are not at first awarewhat God has wrought in them; many have the truth of grace, thatwant evidence of it. But when the Comforter comes, whom theFather will send, sooner or later, he will let them know what ablessed 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 hasbegun. These Christians continued in prayer for Peter, for theywere truly in earnest. Thus men ought always to pray, and not tofaint. As long as we are kept waiting for a mercy, we mustcontinue praying for it. But sometimes that which we mostearnestly wish for, we are most backward to believe. TheChristian law of self-denial and of suffering for Christ, hasnot done away the natural law of caring for our own safety bylawful means. In times of public danger, all believers have Godfor their hiding-place; which is so secret, that the worldcannot find them. Also, the instruments of persecution arethemselves exposed to danger; the wrath of God hangs over allthat engage in this hateful work. And the range of persecutorsoften 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 wordand worship of the living God, to accept such idolatrous honourswithout rebuking the blasphemy. And such men as Herod, whenpuffed with pride and vanity, are ripening fast for signalvengeance. God is very jealous for his own honour, and will beglorified upon those whom he is not glorified by. See what vilebodies we carry about with us; they have in them the seeds oftheir own dissolution, by which they will soon be destroyed,whenever God does but speak the word. We may learn wisdom fromthe people of Tyre and Sidon, for we have offended the Lord withour sins. We depend on him for life, and breath, and all things;it surely then behoves us to humble ourselves before him, thatthrough the appointed Mediator, who is ever ready to befriendus, we may be reconciled to him, lest wrath come upon us to theutmost.
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