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subdue the enemies of him whom David had represented; the opposers of David's son and David's Lord.
Such is one great use of scripture. It encourages and consoles, whilst it directs and governs. It supports the Christian during his whole progress. It warns him of the enemies which he must encounter, and teaches him to expect the difficulties which he finds.
32. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
33. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
34. Neither was there any among them that lacked : for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35. And laid them down at the apostles'feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
36. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
37. Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
"The kingdom of heaven," as the Lord had said, "is like unto treasure hid in a field : the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field."3 Joses had found that treasure, hid 3 Matt. xiii. 44.
in the apostles and the doctrine which they were proclaiming. The desire of this absorbed all other affection; and having land, he sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles feet. What! that he might purchase the kingdom of heaven? that he might take eternal life in exchange? No. But he joined himself with the apostles in one common interest, and all contributed together whatever might promote the object of their hearts' desire. The apostles were themselves engaged in bearing that testimony which they were especially appointed to bear; in "preaching through Jesus the resurrection of the dead." They were occupied in declaring the truth as it had been revealed to them; in confuting adversaries, in baptizing those who were convinced; in regulating also the operations of the society now formed, and daily increasing. And as these must be supported, must live; and had left their ordinary means of livelihood ;— and as many, no doubt, of the converted brethren, were also deprived of theirs :— provision was made for them that lacked, by the generosity of others. As many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need. They had discovered a new country: there, from this time, were their thoughts, their affections fixed: the apostles were to lead them into it; those already of the apostles' party were to accompany them; and nothing should be spared which might advance the common cause, and bring them all to the promised land.
There is nothing extraordinary in all this. It is merely a proof that they were sincere. Such was the natural effect of believing what these Christians believed. Treasure was laid up for them in heaven : and where their treasure was, there was their heart also. Thenceforward the things of this world were only valuable to them, as they might be used to promote their own salvation and that of others. And may all learn, in their different circumstances, so to " make to themselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when this world fails, they may be received into everlasting habitations."4
DECEIT AND DEATH OF ANANIAS AND
Acts V. 1—11.
1. But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2. And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Mention had been before made of Joses, or Bar
4 Sec Luke xvi. 9.
nabas, who having land, sold it, and gave up the price to the use of the apostles. The motive which actuated him, might as justly actuate all the disciples. All had the same reason for zeal and disinterestedness. Therefore, not to do as he and many others did, would look like a want of zeal: would lower in the esteem of the infant society those who refused to follow such an example. Not that any such sacrifice was required: there was no obligation laid on any. While the land remained, it was "their own :" and after it was sold, the price was "in their own power." But those who did thus part with houses or lands for the Lord's sake, must needs appear to advantage.
Ananias with Sapphira his wife felt this. It grieved them to be held in inferior esteem. And this shows that grace had not possession of their hearts. Otherwise they would have been indifferent, comparatively indifferent, towards public opinion. If there were any sufficient reason why they should retain a part of their property, they would have retained it. Like St. Paul, they would have thought it "a very small thing to be judged of men, or of man's judgment: for that He who judged them is the Lord."1 But there was no such reason: they could plead none: the only reason was that they loved and valued their possessions, and had not faith enough to resign what they loved and valued, and to look for treasure in heaven. Therefore they sold a possession, and kept back part 1 1 Cor. iv. 3.
of the price, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles feet. They had two objects in view: the reputation of zeal and liberality; and the reservation of a private store.
"Love not the world," says St. John, "nor the things that are in the world." Of the things which are in the world, those two which are commonly most esteemed, most dearly purchased, and most hardly parted with, are property, and good repute; the favour of the party with which men live. These two things were a snare to Ananias and Sapphira. The love of God and heaven was not strong enough to prevail over the love of the world. Satan took advantage of their state of heart; he saw it open and prepared to receive him ;2 so he entered in, and hurried them to their destruction.
3. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4. While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all those that heard these things.
6. And the young men arose, wound him up,3 and carried him out, and buried him.
2 See Matt. xii. 44.
3 In linen clothes for his burial. When Lazarus was raised, he " came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes." Burials, in the East, take place immediately after death.