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most public place, and proclaim "the words of eternal life." Nor was there delay with them.
21. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
22. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,
23. Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.
24. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
25. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
26. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: (for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.)
27. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
28. Saying, Did not we straitly command you, that ye should not teach in this name? and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this maris blood upon us.
29. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
30. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
31. Him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
32. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
If God has raised up Jesus from the dead, there must be witnesses to attest this, and to make it known. We are such witnesses, say the apostles. But you doubt us. We have another witness, the Holy Ghost, with whom God has anointed us, and whom he has given, in various measures, to them that obey him: to them who "obey the truth," and do not contend against his revelation.
For what purpose, then, had he raised up Jesus? He has exalted him to be a Prince and a Saviour: a Prince who should rule his people, and lead them in the way of eternal life; a Saviour, who should give repentance to Israel. For he had come, bearing his Father's message of forgiveness. Like some earthly sovereign, whose subjects had rebelled against him, God has sent a proclamation of pardon, if they will return to their allegiance; and the bearer of his message is his only Son. "Return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you ; and to your God, for he will abundantly pardon." Nay, should any hesitate, and doubt the reality of such good-will; let them know that the very Son who bears the message has suffered in his own body the penalty of their sin; has died, "the just for the unjust, that he might bring them to God."5
Thus was Jesus giving repentance to Israel: giving the means, the opportunity, the invitation, to repent: if they would range themselves under
51 Peter iii. 18.
him as the Prince of life, and acknowledge him as their Saviour from the wrath to come.
There is another gift of repentance, without which every offer of mercy falls barren and unfruitful, like seed scattered on the high-way. There must be the gift of an humble and contrite heart. To the Pharisee, who, when he "went up into the temple to pray," thanked God that he was not as other men, and had not, like them, sins to repent of:—what was it to him or such as him, that Jesus was raised up to be "an Advocate with the Father? that he is the propitiation for our sins?" A new heart and a right spirit must be given him, so that he should perceive his real guiltiness, and smite upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Till then, he would neither feel nor understand that mercy, which had given repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
It is the same, wherever the gospel is preached. He who has given repentance, must also bestow the heart to claim the blessing.
How is it with ourselves? Has he given us eyes to see, and ears to hear, and a heart to understand, that through unbelief his mercy may not be lost upon us? This admits of a simple test, furnished by this very passage. Is he our Prince, and are we ruled by him? Then he is our Saviour, to whom we have committed our souls. Is he our Saviour, who has our souls in trust? Then he is our Prince, and we are ruled by him: we are studying his law; we make his will our standard, and his glory our principal desire.
GAMALIEL'S ADVICE TO THE COUNCIL LEAVES THE APOSTLES AT LIBERTY A. D. 33.
Acts V. 33—42.
33. When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
No wonder, if these rulers were cut to the heart by truths which they could not deny, maintained in their very presence in defiance of their authority. They saw but one remedy; and took counsel to slay the apostles.
Here a higher power interposed. The purposes of God required that the apostles should not be cut off now; nay, that they should be at liberty to declare the truth committed to them. A time would come, when persecution, imprisonment, death itself, would be as seed to the church; would add to the harvest of the gospel. But that time was not yet. The christian church was as yet but smoking flax, or rising flame; a drop of water would quench it, a breath of wind extinguish it. Those means might now arrest its progress, which hereafter would quicken and extend its growth. The doctrine must be preached: must be preached "with the Holy Ghost, and with power," and be received into many hearts: companies of believers must be united, and the christian faith show a real form, and take a substantial existence. It must not be left as a slender stem, which a single arm might tear up; but must firmly fix its roots: then they would extend on every side: its branches would be growing: denied access in one spot, it would force its way elsewhere, and everywhere find some nourishment; would spread its shelter widely, and scatter its "leaves for the healing of the nations." All this was the will of God concerning his gospel; and for this, as we shall see, he provided in an unexpected manner.
34. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space.
35. And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves, what ye intend to do as'touching these men.
36. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody, to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were scattered and brought to nought.
37. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the tawing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished, and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
38. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel, or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even tofight against God.