Acts 5* The death of Ananias and Sapphira. (1-11) The power whichaccompanied the preaching of the gospel. (12-16) The apostlesimprisoned, but set free by an angel. (17-25) The apostlestestify to Christ before the council. (26-33) The advice ofGamaliel, The council let the apostles go. (34-42)1-11 The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was, that they wereambitious of being thought eminent disciples, when they were nottrue disciples. Hypocrites may deny themselves, may forego theirworldly advantage in one instance, with a prospect of findingtheir account in something else. They were covetous of thewealth of the world, and distrustful of God and his providence.They thought they might serve both God and mammon. They thoughtto deceive the apostles. The Spirit of God in Peter discernedthe principle of unbelief reigning in the heart of Ananias. Butwhatever Satan might suggest, he could not have filled the heartof Ananias with this wickedness had he not been consenting. Thefalsehood was an attempt to deceive the Spirit of truth, who somanifestly spoke and acted by the apostles. The crime of Ananiaswas not his retaining part of the price of the land; he mighthave kept it all, had he pleased; but his endeavouring to imposeupon the apostles with an awful lie, from a desire to make avain show, joined with covetousness. But if we think to put acheat upon God, we shall put a fatal cheat upon our own souls.How sad to see those relations who should quicken one another tothat which is good, hardening one another in that which is evil!And this punishment was in reality mercy to vast numbers. Itwould cause strict self-examination, prayer, and dread ofhypocrisy, covetousness, and vain-glory, and it should still doso. It would prevent the increase of false professors. Let uslearn hence how hateful falsehood is to the God of truth, andnot only shun a direct lie, but all advantages from the use ofdoubtful 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 thegospel ministry. Whatever tends to the purity and reputation ofthe church, promotes its enlargement; but that power alone whichwrought such miracles by the apostles, can rescue sinners fromthe power of sin and Satan, and add believers to Hisworshippers. Christ will work by all his faithful servants; andevery one who applies to him shall be healed. 17-25 There is no prison so dark, so strong, but God can visithis people in it, and, if he pleases, fetch them out. Recoveriesfrom sickness, releases out of trouble, are granted, not that wemay enjoy the comforts of life, but that God may be honouredwith the services of our life. It is not for the preachers ofChrist's gospel to retire into corners, as long as they can haveany opportunity of preaching in the great congregation. Theymust preach to the lowest, whose souls are as precious to Christas the souls of the greatest. Speak to all, for all areconcerned. Speak as those who resolve to stand to it, to liveand die by it. Speak all the words of this heavenly, divinelife, in comparison with which the present earthly life does notdeserve the name. These words of life, which the Holy Ghost putsinto your mouth. The words of the gospel are the words of life;words whereby we may be saved. How wretched are those who arevexed at the success of the gospel! They cannot but see that theword and power of the Lord are against them; and they tremblefor the consequences, yet they will go on. 26-33 Many will do an evil thing with daring, yet cannot bearto hear of it afterward, or to have it charged upon them. Wecannot expect to be redeemed and healed by Christ, unless wegive up ourselves to be ruled by him. Faith takes the Saviour inall his offices, who came, not to save us in our sins, but tosave us from our sins. Had Christ been exalted to give dominionto Israel, the chief priests would have welcomed him. Butrepentance and remission of sins are blessings they neithervalued nor saw their need of; therefore they, by no means,admitted his doctrine. Wherever repentance is wrought, remissionis granted without fail. None are freed from the guilt andpunishment of sin, but those who are freed from the power anddominion of sin; who are turned from it, and turned against it.Christ gives repentance, by his Spirit working with the word, toawaken the conscience, to work sorrow for sin, and an effectualchange in the heart and life. The giving of the Holy Ghost, isplain evidence that it is the will of God that Christ should beobeyed. And He will surely destroy those who will not have Himto reign over them. 34-42 The Lord still has all hearts in his hands, and sometimesdirects the prudence of the worldly wise, so as to restrain thepersecutors. Common sense tells us to be cautious, whileexperience and observation show that the success of frauds inmatters of religion has been very short. Reproach for Christ istrue preferment, as it makes us conformable to his pattern, andserviceable to his interest. They rejoiced in it. If we sufferill for doing well, provided we suffer it well, and as weshould, we ought to rejoice in that grace which enabled us so todo. The apostles did not preach themselves, but Christ. This wasthe preaching that most offended the priests. But it ought to bethe constant business of gospel ministers to preach Christ:Christ, and him crucified; Christ, and him glorified; nothingbeside this, but what has reference to it. And whatever is ourstation or rank in life, we should seek to make Him known, andto glorify his name.
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