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employment, he inquired of him whether he loved him more than the rest of the apostles ; mildly reproving him for his over-confident resolution. Peter whom fatal experience had taught humility, modestly answered, #. none knew so well as himself the integrity of his affections; thou nowest the hearts of all men, nothing is hid from thee, and therefore thou knowest that I love thee. The question was three several times repeated by our blessed Saviour, and as many times answered by the epostle: it being but just that he, who by a threefold denial, had given so much reason to question his affection, should now by a threefold confession, give more than common assurance for his sincere love for his Master; and to each of these confessions, our great Redeemer added this signal trial of his affection, “Feed my sheep.” Our dear o having thus engaged Peter to a cheerful compliance with the dangers that might attend the discharge of his office, particularly intimated to him the fate that would attend him; telling him, that when he was young, he girt himself, lived at his pleasure, and went wherever his fancy directed him ; but when he should reach the term of old age, he should stretch forth his hands, and another should gird and bind him, and lead him whither he had no desire to go; intimating, as the evangelists tell us, by what death he would glorify God, and seal the truth with his blood. St. Peter was not averse to drinking the bitter cup; and making his confession as public as his denial, that he might therefore testify the sincerity. of his sorrow and contrition for his great offence. And seeing John following, he asked his great Master what should be his fate, and whether he, who had been the object of his Master's love in his life time, should not have as honourable a death as he that denied him P. To which Jesus replied, it deth not concern thee how I shall dispose of events with regard #. him; he shall see the destruction of the Jewish nation, and then go down in peace to the chambers of the dust. Our blessed Saviour soon after appeared to his diciples at Jerusalem, and took his last farewell of them, who had constantly attended him during his public ministry amongst the sons of men. He now led them out as far as Bethany; a small village on mount Olivet, where he briefly told them; that they were the persons he had chosen to be the witnesses both to his death and resurrection; a testimony which they should publish in every rt of the world : in order to which he would after his ascension to heav. £n, pour out his spirit upon them in an extraordinary manner, that they might be the better enabled to struggle with that violent rage and fury with which the doctrine of the gospel would be opposed by men and devils; adding, that in the mean time they should return to Jerusalem, and there wait till those miraculous powers were given from on high. . This discourse being finished, he laid hands upon them, and gave them his solemn benediction; during which he was taken from them, and received up unto the regions of the heavenly Canaan, Our glorious Redeemer having left this vale of misery and ascended into the blissful habitations of immortality, the apostles began to act in conformity to the power and commission they had received from him.– The first object that engaged their attention after their return to Jerusalem, was to fill up the vacancy in their college, lately made by the unhappy fall and apostacy of Judas. In order to this they called together the church, and entered into an upper room, when Peter, as president of the assembly, proposed to them the choice of a new apostle. He put them in mind that Judas, one of the disciples of their great and beloved Master, being betrayed by his covetious and insatiable temper, had lately fallen from the honour of his place and his ministry; that this was no more than what the prophets had long since foretold should come to pass ; and that the care of the church which had been committed to him, should der
wolve upon another; that therefore it was highly necessary that some open, son who had been familiarly conversant with the blessed Jesus, from first to last, and consequently, a competent witness both of his doctrine and miracles, his death, resurrection, and ascension, should be substituted in his room, and appointed to that high office. In order to which, two candidates were proposed, Joseph, called Barsabas, and Matthias, both qualified for the great and important office of the apostleship; and having prayed that the Diviae Providence would immediately guide and direct their choice they cast lets, and the lat fell upon Matthias, who was accordingly admitted into the number of the twelve apostles of our Lord. This vacancy being filled up in the apostolic college, they spent their time in prayer and meditation, till the feast of Pentecost; when the promise of their great Master in sending the Holy Ghost was fulfilled. The Christian assembly were met as usual, to perform the public service of their worship when suddenly a sound, like that of a mighty wind, rushed in upon them, representing the powerful efficacy of that Divine Spirit, which was now to be communicated to them; after which there appeared small flames of fire, which, in the shape of cloven tongues, descended and sat upon the head of each of them, to denote that their enjoyment of this gift should be eanstant and perpetual, and not like the prophets of old, who were inspired only at some particular times and seasons: upon which they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, which, in an instant, enabled them to speak fluently several languages they had never learned, and probably never, heard till this time. * As this surprising transaction had different effects on the minds of the audience, same considering it as the effect of a miracle, and others to the 5. and strength of new wine; the apostles thereupon all stood up, and eter, in the name of the rest, undertook to confute this injurious calumny : he told them that this scandalous slander proceeded from a spirit of malice and falsehood; that their censure, was as uncharitable as it was unjust ; that it was early in the morning, and therefore, not a time for drinking, especially on a day set apart for devotion ; that these extraordinary and miraculous effects were but the accomplisment of an ancient prophécy, which the Almighty had expressly declared should be fulfilled in the times of the Messiah; that Jesus of Nazareth had evidently proved himself to be that great prophet, the Son of the Most High, by many unquestionable miracles, of which they themselves had been aye-witnesses; and though, by the permission of Omnipotence who had determined by this means to bring about the redemption of mankind, they had wickedly crucified and slain him, yet God had raised him from the dead. * • Though this was the first speech St. Peter ever made in public, it deeply affected the audience, and every word, like a dagger pierced them to the heart; so that they cried out, “Men and Brethren, what shall we do Po" To which Peter answered, “ The only way to expiate your guilt, and obtain pardon for the many sins you have committed, and acquire the gifts of the Holy Ghost, is to repent sincerely, and to be baptized into the religion of this crucified Saviour.” -- o A short time after this wonderful conversation, Peter and John going up to the temple about three in the afternoon, near the conclusion of one of the solemn hours of prayer, they saw a poor impotent cripple near forty years of age, who had been lame from his birth, lying at the beautiful gate of the temple, and asking alms of those who entered the sacred edifice. This miserable object moved their compassion ; and Peter beholding him with attention, said, “The riches of this world, the silver and gold so highly coveted by the sons of men, are not in my power to bestow; but I possess the power of restoring life and health, and am ready to assist thee.” Then taking the man by the hand, commanded him in the name of Jesus of Aazareth to rise up and walk. Immediately the nerves and sinews, were enlarged, and the several parts of the diseased members performed their natural transactions: upon which the man accompanied them into the temple, walking, leaping, and praising God for his cure.
An event so strange and extraordinary, filled the minds of the people with admiration, and their curiosity drew them round the apostles to view the men who had performed it. Peter, seeing the multitude gathering round them took the opportunity of speaking to them in the following manner: “Men and brethren, this remarkable cure should not excite your admiration of us, as if we had performed it by our own, power ; it was wrought in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, our crucified Master, by the power of that very Christ, that holy and just Person, whom you yourselves denied, and delivered to Pilate, nay, and preferred a murderer before him, when the governor was desirous of letting him go : but though you have put him to death, yet we are witnesses that he hath raised him again from the dead, and that he is ascended into heaven, where he will remain till the great and tremendous day of general restitution.” * While Peter was speaking to the people in one part of the temple, John was, in all probability, doing the same in the other: and the success plainly indicated how powerfully the preaching of the apostles was ; five thousand persons embracing the doctrine of the gospel, and acknowledging the crucified JEsus for their Lord and Redeemer.
The attention and envy of the rulers of Israel could not fail of being excited at such amazing success from the preaching of the apostles; aecordingly,the priests and Sadducees repaired to the Roman magistrate, and in
...timated to him, that, in all probability, this concourse of people would
prove the cause of a tumult and insurrection. Upon this information, the *aptain seized on the apostles, and cast them into prison. The next day they were carried before the Jewish Sanhedrim ; and being asked by what power and authority they had done this, Peter, boldly answered, * Beit known unto you and to all the descendants of Jacob, that this miracle was wrought wholly in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom ye yourselves have crucified and slain, and whom the Almighty hath raised again from the dead. This is the stone which you builders refused, and which is beeome the head of the corner: nor is there any other way by which you, or any of the sons of men can be saved, but by this crucified Saviour, the Lord JEsus Christ.”
After beholding the apostles with a kind of astonishment, the court remembered that they had seen them with Jesus of Nazareth, and there. fore ordered them to withdraw, whilst they debated amongst themselves what was proper to be done: it was impossible to deny the miraele, for is was performed before all the people, and the person on whom it was wrought, was no stranger in Jerusalem. They therefore resolved to sharge them strickly not to preach any more in the name of Jesus: accordingly, they were again called in and acquainted with the resolution of the council: to which the apostles answered, “That they had received a commission from heaven, to declare to all nations what they had seen and heard, it was certainly their duty to obey God rather than man.” • Although this was a fair appeal to the consciences of their very judges; yet these rulers of Israel, instead of being satisfied with it, would in all probability have proceeded to a greater violence, had not the people's veneration for the apostles checked their malice; so that all they dared to do, was to enforee their menaces, and suffer them to depart. * This intrepidity of the apostles had the desired effect: the church int. creased'exceedingly; and that so great a company, especially the poor and needy, might be maintained, the professors of the religion of the holy JEsus sold their estates, and brought the money to the apostles, that they might deposit it in one common treasury, and from thence supply the sers eral exigencies of their Poor brethren. * * * * * *
We find, however, that hypocrisy was not unknown among the professors of religion, even in these primitive times. Ananias and his wife Sapphlra, having embraced the doctrine of the gospel, pretended to follow the free and generous spirit of these times, by consecrating and devoting their estate to the honour of God, and the necessities of the church. Accordingly, they sold their possessions, and brought part of the money and laid it at the apostles' feet; hoping to deceive them, though guided by the spirit of Omnipotence: but Peter, at his first coming in, asked Ananias how he could suffer Satan to fill his heart with such enormous wickedness, as to think to deceive the Holy Ghost? That before it was sold, it was wholly in his own power; and afterwards the money entirely at his own disposal: so that this action was capable of no other interpretation, than that he had not only abused and injured man, but mocked the Almighty himself, who he must know was privy to the most secret thoughts of his heart. No sooner had the spostle finished, than Ananias, to the great terror of all that were present, fell down dead by a stroke from heaven; and not long after his wife came in, whom Peter reproved in the same manner he had done her husband, adding that she should immediately end her life in the same awful manner; upon which she was smitten with the hand of Omnipotence, and fell down dead; sharing with her husband in the punishment, as she had before in the henious crime. - This remarkable instance of severity, filled all the converts with fear and trembling, and prevented in a great measure that hypocrisy and dissimulation, by which others might flatter themselves to deceive the church. But such instances of severity were very extraordinary; the power of the apostles was generally exerted in works of mercy and beneficence towards the sons and daughters of affliction ; they cured all kinds of diseases, and east out devils ; so that they brought the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that the shadow, at least, of Peter as he sed by, might cover some of them: well knowing, a single touch or ..". either of the apostles was sufficient to remove a disease of the most inveterate nature. However, these stupendous works of the apostles, and the growing numbers of the church, alarmed the rulers of Israel, who seized the apostles and cast them into prison. Their power, however, was limited, and like the drop of a bucket to the ocean, when opposed to the Almighty arm of the great Jehovah. The prison doors, though fastened with the utmost caution, opened of themselves at the approach of a messenger from the court of heaven, who commanded the apostles to leave the dungeon repair to the temple, and preach the glad-tidings of the gospel to the people in Jerusalem. When the officers returned in the morning, they found the prison doors shut and guarded, but the prisoners gone. This remarkable circumstance greatly alarmed them, and they repaired to the council to acquaint them with what had happened. The rulers were astonished at the news; but hearing that the apostles were teaching in the temple, they sent an officer to bring them, without the least violence to their persons, before the Sanhedrim. Their orders were soon obeyed, and the disciples of Jesus placed before the same court, by which their Master had been so lately condemned. Being thas brought before the Sanhedrim, the high priest asked the apostles how they dared to propagate a doctrine they had lately so strictly eharged them not to preach : to which Peter, in the name of the rest replied. “We certainly ought to obey God rather than man; and though you have so barbarously and contumeliously treated the Saviour of the world, yet God hath raised him up to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give both repealance and remission of sins; and of these things beth we
are witnesses, together with the miraculous powers which the Holy Ghost hath conferred on all Christians.” - ... ... As the Apostles delivered this answer with remarkable boldness, it exasperated the council, and they began to consult how they might destroy them: but Gamaliel, a grave and learned counsellor, after commanding the apostles to withdraw, desired them to proceed with caution in an af. fair of this nature; reminding them, that several persons had already raised parties, and drawn great numbers of persons after them; but that every one of them had miscarried, and all their designs were rendered abortive without the interposition of that court. That they would therefore do well to let the apostles alone; for if their doctrines and designs were of human invention they would come to nothing; but if they were of Gcd, all their powers and policy would be of no effect. , The council were satisfied with this prudent and rational advice, and af. ter commanding the apostles to be scourged, they strictly charged them to preach no more in the name of Jesus, and set them at liberty : but this tharge had little effect on the disciples of the blessed Jesus; they returned home in triumph, rejoicing that they were thought worthy to suffer in " ... so righteous a cause, and to undergo shame and reproach for so kind and so powerful a Master. . . . , Hitherto the church at Jerusalem had been tossed with gentle storms, but now it was overtaken by a violent tempest, which commenced with the death of the proto-martyr Stephen, and was now carried on with greater violence; nor did it end but with the dispersion of the disciples, by which means the glad-tidings of the gospel, which had till then been confined to Judea, and the professors of it hid in secret places, was now preached to the Gentile world and an ancient prophecy fulfilled which says, “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Thus does the Almighty bring good out of evil, and cause the malicious intentions of the wicked to redound to his praise, in the further spreading of the truth. - - * The followers of the blessed Jesus being thus dispersed, Philip the deacon retired to Samaria, where he preached the gospel, and confirmed his doctrine by many miraculous cures, and casting out devils. In this city was one Simon, who, by magic arts and diabolical sorceries, was beheld ... with admiration by the people; and some considered him as the great power of God, a name he blasphemously gave himself, pretending to be the first and chief deity, or what every nation considered as the supreme God. This wicked mortal, hearing the sermons of Philip, and beholding the miracles wrought by him, became a convert to the religion of Jesus, and was baptized with the others who had embraced Christianity. Several of the Apostles who continued at Jerusalem, were soon informed of the remarkable success of Philip's ministry at Samaria, and thought it necessary to send him assistance. Accordingly, Peter and John were députed to this infant church, who having prayed and laid their hands on the new converts, they received the Holy Ghost. Such miraculous gifts astonished the magician, and desirous of obtaining the same privilege, he offered the disciples money to invest him with this power, that on whomsoever he laid his hands they might receive the Holy Ghost; but Peter, who perceived the insincerity of his heart, rejected his offer with scorn and detestation. “ Thy money, said that great apostle, perish with thee. And as thy heart is full of hypocrisy and deceit, thou canst have no share nor pertion in so great a privilege. Thou wouldest do well to repent for so monstrous a crime, and sincerely apply thyself to seek the Almighty, that the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee; for 1 perceive that thy temper and disposition of mind is still vicious and corrupt, and that thou art yet bound by the chains of iniquity, and in a state displeasing to ...the Almighty, and dangerous to the welfare of § own soul.” W