Acts 5

* The death of Ananias and Sapphira. (1-11) The power which

accompanied the preaching of the gospel. (12-16) The apostles

imprisoned, but set free by an angel. (17-25) The apostles

testify to Christ before the council. (26-33) The advice of

Gamaliel, The council let the apostles go. (34-42)

1-11 The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was, that they were

ambitious of being thought eminent disciples, when they were not

true disciples. Hypocrites may deny themselves, may forego their

worldly advantage in one instance, with a prospect of finding

their account in something else. They were covetous of the

wealth of the world, and distrustful of God and his providence.

They thought they might serve both God and mammon. They thought

to deceive the apostles. The Spirit of God in Peter discerned

the principle of unbelief reigning in the heart of Ananias. But

whatever Satan might suggest, he could not have filled the heart

of Ananias with this wickedness had he not been consenting. The

falsehood was an attempt to deceive the Spirit of truth, who so

manifestly spoke and acted by the apostles. The crime of Ananias

was not his retaining part of the price of the land; he might

have kept it all, had he pleased; but his endeavouring to impose

upon the apostles with an awful lie, from a desire to make a

vain show, joined with covetousness. But if we think to put a

cheat upon God, we shall put a fatal cheat upon our own souls.

How sad to see those relations who should quicken one another to

that which is good, hardening one another in that which is evil!

And this punishment was in reality mercy to vast numbers. It

would cause strict self-examination, prayer, and dread of

hypocrisy, covetousness, and vain-glory, and it should still do

so. It would prevent the increase of false professors. Let us

learn hence how hateful falsehood is to the God of truth, and

not only shun a direct lie, but all advantages from the use of

doubtful expressions, and double meaning in our speech.
12-16 The separation of hypocrites by distinguishing judgments,

should make the sincere cleave closer to each other and to the

gospel ministry. Whatever tends to the purity and reputation of

the church, promotes its enlargement; but that power alone which

wrought such miracles by the apostles, can rescue sinners from

the power of sin and Satan, and add believers to His

worshippers. Christ will work by all his faithful servants; and

every one who applies to him shall be healed.
17-25 There is no prison so dark, so strong, but God can visit

his people in it, and, if he pleases, fetch them out. Recoveries

from sickness, releases out of trouble, are granted, not that we

may enjoy the comforts of life, but that God may be honoured

with the services of our life. It is not for the preachers of

Christ's gospel to retire into corners, as long as they can have

any opportunity of preaching in the great congregation. They

must preach to the lowest, whose souls are as precious to Christ

as the souls of the greatest. Speak to all, for all are

concerned. Speak as those who resolve to stand to it, to live

and die by it. Speak all the words of this heavenly, divine

life, in comparison with which the present earthly life does not

deserve the name. These words of life, which the Holy Ghost puts

into your mouth. The words of the gospel are the words of life;

words whereby we may be saved. How wretched are those who are

vexed at the success of the gospel! They cannot but see that the

word and power of the Lord are against them; and they tremble

for the consequences, yet they will go on.
26-33 Many will do an evil thing with daring, yet cannot bear

to hear of it afterward, or to have it charged upon them. We

cannot expect to be redeemed and healed by Christ, unless we

give up ourselves to be ruled by him. Faith takes the Saviour in

all his offices, who came, not to save us in our sins, but to

save us from our sins. Had Christ been exalted to give dominion

to Israel, the chief priests would have welcomed him. But

repentance and remission of sins are blessings they neither

valued nor saw their need of; therefore they, by no means,

admitted his doctrine. Wherever repentance is wrought, remission

is granted without fail. None are freed from the guilt and

punishment of sin, but those who are freed from the power and

dominion of sin; who are turned from it, and turned against it.

Christ gives repentance, by his Spirit working with the word, to

awaken the conscience, to work sorrow for sin, and an effectual

change in the heart and life. The giving of the Holy Ghost, is

plain evidence that it is the will of God that Christ should be

obeyed. And He will surely destroy those who will not have Him

to reign over them.
34-42 The Lord still has all hearts in his hands, and sometimes

directs the prudence of the worldly wise, so as to restrain the

persecutors. Common sense tells us to be cautious, while

experience and observation show that the success of frauds in

matters of religion has been very short. Reproach for Christ is

true preferment, as it makes us conformable to his pattern, and

serviceable to his interest. They rejoiced in it. If we suffer

ill for doing well, provided we suffer it well, and as we

should, we ought to rejoice in that grace which enabled us so to

do. The apostles did not preach themselves, but Christ. This was

the preaching that most offended the priests. But it ought to be

the constant business of gospel ministers to preach Christ:

Christ, and him crucified; Christ, and him glorified; nothing

beside this, but what has reference to it. And whatever is our

station or rank in life, we should seek to make Him known, and

to glorify his name.
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