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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : LECTURE III. THE FORMATION AND ORDER OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH.

Lectures On The Acts Of The Apostles by John Dick

LECTURE III. THE FORMATION AND ORDER OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH.

Chap. ii.37-47.

As the passage now read refers to the preceding part of the chapter, it is necessary to take a summary view of its contents. Our Lord having, according to his promise, poured out the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, on the day of Pentecost, a mixed multitude of natives and strangers were collected, to whom they published, in their respective languages, |the wonderful works of God.| Some were astonished, and eagerly inquired into the cause of that extraordinary event; while others, from malignity against Jesus and his religion, affirmed that the Apostles were intoxicated. To satisfy the inquiries of the one class, and to repel the accusation of the other, Peter rose with his brethren; and having first shown, by a reference to the national manners, that the supposition of drunkenness at so early an hour was destitute of all probability, he informed the audience, that the event which had now taken place was the fulfilment of a prophecy long since delivered by Joel. He then proceeded to the main purpose of his speech, to prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. With this view, having reminded them of the miracles performed by our Saviour during his public ministry, which were the seal of heaven affixed to his commission, he boldly charges his hearers with the atrocious crime of putting him to death; but affirms that God had restored him to life, and that it was not possible that death should have retained him under its dominion. This fact, which was the point at issue between the Jews, and the Apostles, he establishes by an argument, the validity of which they would hardly venture to dispute; by an appeal to a prophecy of David. After some reasoning, intended to convince them that the passage which he had cited could not be applied to the Prophet himself, he again asserts the resurrection of Christ; and he calls upon the house of Israel, who had been favoured with sensible evidence of his exaltation, to acknowledge |that God had made that same Jesus, whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ.| The effect produced by this discourse is worthy of notice.

It awakened compunction, and an eager inquiry with respect to the course which it was necessary for them to pursue. |Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?| The sentence of death was reluctantly pronounced upon our Lord by the Roman governor, whose conscience attested the innocence of the prisoner at his bar, but who was prevailed upon, by the clamours and menaces of the multitude, to disregard its admonitions. The people, the dupes of their priests and rulers, had conceived the most violent prejudice against Christ as an impostor, and were persuaded that they discovered fervent zeal for the glory of God, and the honour of their holy religion, when they demanded his crucifixion. Some women followed him in the way to Calvary with tears and lamentations; but the deluded, infuriated crowd, beheld his cruel sufferings without pity. In how different a light did their conduct now appear to them, when the evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus flashed conviction on their minds! If ever confusion, remorse, and terror, rushed at once into the bosom of a sinner with irresistible force, it was at this moment, when the Jews learned, that the deceiver whom they had nailed to the cross, the blasphemer whose blood they had shed, was the Redeemer promised to the Church, the Son of the living God, the Lord of heaven and earth. What a crime had they committed! The annals of human guilt could not furnish another of equal atrocity. How dreadful was the punishment which they had reason to expect! Now they remembered their own imprecation, |His blood be on us, and on our children;| and they trembled lest its weight should press them down to the lowest hell. Alarmed and perplexed, tortured with a consciousness of guilt, and dreading the just vengeance of heaven, from which they knew not how to escape, they say to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, |Men and brethren, what shall we do?| They were anxious to hear from these ambassadors of Jesus, whether there was any hope of pardon for so great a crime, any means of protection from the wrath which was ready to overwhelm them.

To this question, Peter, in the name of his brethren, returned the following answer. |Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.| One general remark must occur to every person who considers this answer, that the Jews are directed to Jesus himself for the remission of their sins. That blood only, which they had impiously shed, could wash them from guilt; and thus what is true in reference to sinners in general, was particularly illustrated in the case of those men, that |his blood speaketh better things than that of Abel,| crying to God for the pardon, not for the punishment, of his enemies and murderers. The particular course which he directs them to take, is repentance and baptism. Repentance cannot here signify remorse and sorrow for sin, for these feelings were already working in their breasts. Nor does it mean the relinquishment of their sins, and the amendment of their lives, because, although reformation will be the undoubted result of contrition of heart, yet there was not time to carry good resolutions into effect prior to baptism, to which the repentance here enjoined was a previous step. The penitent Jews appear to have been immediately baptized. In the present case, therefore, repentance is equivalent to that complete change of views and dispositions which is implied in the cordial reception of the gospel, and consists in a perception of the excellencies of the character of Christ, an approbation of the plan of salvation by his righteousness, and a reliance upon his obedience and blood as the foundation of our acceptance and our hopes. Such sentiments and exercises of mind are very different from those, to which the hearers of Peter were accustomed, who had |gone about to establish their own righteousness;| and from those, which are familiar to a natural man, who sees no comeliness or beauty in, the Saviour for which he should be desired, and disdains |to submit to the righteousness of God.| Yet, till this change, to which the heart is so adverse, and which can be effected only by supernatural power, be experienced, we have no interest in the redemption of Christ; for although God has |set him forth as a propitiation for sin,| he becomes actually such to a sinner, only |through faith in his blood.|

With repentance, baptism in the name, or by the authority of Christ, is conjoined; and Peter required it from his hearers for the three following reasons: first, as a solemn and public declaration of the change of their views and dispositions, the baptism of Christ being, like that of John, a baptism of repentance; secondly, as a testimony of their subjection to Jesus, by whom this ordinance was appointed; and, lastly, as a sign and seal of the new covenant, by which the remission of sins is represented to all, and confirmed to those who belong to that covenant.

To encourage his hearers to comply with this exhortation, he sub joined the following declaration or promise. |And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.| When in this book the Holy Ghost is said to be given, the meaning frequently is, that his extraordinary gifts were communicated. This is evident from the cases of those in Samaria who received the word, of Cornelius and his company, and of the disciples of John, who were baptized at Ephesus; and it is observable, that in two of those cases, the persons immediately began to speak with tongues. From these examples, as well as from the consideration, that the words were spoken just after the descent of the Spirit, we may conceive Peter to have assured the Jews, that they should participate of the miraculous gifts which had been conferred upon the Apostles. Yet, as we have no reason to think, notwithstanding the liberal distribution of such gifts in the primitive Church, that they were imparted to every person who believed; it seems proper to interpret the words as referring likewise to the sanctifying influences and comforts of the Spirit, and to consider the Apostle as holding out a promise of these to all, and of extraordinary endowments to such among them as God should be pleased to qualify, in this manner, for the manifestation and establishment of the truth.

|For the promise,| he adds, |is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.| Many commentators suppose, that he alludes to the promise which God made to Abraham, that |he would be a God unto him, and to his seed after him,| with a design to convince the Jews, that by embracing the new religion, they should lose none of the privileges which they enjoyed under the old. The same promise was continued, and gave them and their children a right to baptism, the present seal of the covenant, as both had formerly received the seal of circumcision. If, however, we should rather understand the promise to be that of the Holy Ghost, which the connexion seems to suggest, the same argument may be deduced from it: for if the spirit is promised, not to believers alone, but to their seed, it follows that their seed are taken into the covenant of God, and, consequently, are entitled to that ordinance which represents our participation of its blessings. |Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?| The Jews were plainly given to understand, that the new dispensation in which they were required to acquiesce, was of an enlarged and liberal nature. Its ample treasury of grace was opened to enrich them and their families; and it is farther suggested, that the Gentiles, although they were now |afar off,| should be admitted to a share, when in his own time, |the Lord their God should call them.|

To this exhortation he added |many other words;| the purport of which was to excite them |to save themselves from that untoward generation.| This character is descriptive of the perverseness with which the unbelieving Jews opposed all the methods of divine grace. Our Saviour had formerly illustrated their conduct by the capriciousness and pettishness of children. |Whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.| They were offended at the austerity of the Baptist, and imputed it to the influence of an unsocial, melancholy demon; they were equally displeased with the more open and familiar manners of our Lord, and advanced against him a charge of intemperance and licentiousness. A more complete description of frowardness was never given than the following, in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians. |The Jews,| says Paul, |both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own Prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men.| Whatever means were employed for their good, the effect was still the same, obstinate resistance or sullen contempt. Over this incorrigible race the judgments of heaven were impending. There was indeed, a season allowed for repentance, during which the gospel would be preached to them; but as soon as it should expire, unmingled vengeance would overwhelm the ungodly nation. Peter exhorts the awakened Jews to flee from the wrath to come. Joel had long ago foretold the terrors of the day of the Lord, and the salvation of those who should believe. |I will show wonders in the heavens, and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.|

The success of Peter's sermon is pointed out in the next verse. |Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.| Their |receiving his word gladly,| signifies their believing and embracing, with joy and gratitude, the tidings of salvation through the crucified Jesus. Such is the reception, which the gospel will not fail to meet with from those, who are awakened to perceive and feel their need of its comforts. A philosopher, a speculatist, who looks upon it merely as a theory, may coolly sit down and discuss its evidence; but the bosom of a convinced and trembling sinner throbs with emotions of desire and transport, when he hears its gracious declarations; and he hastens to lay hold of the offered mercy with the same eagerness, with which a criminal, shuddering under the suspended axe of the executioner, accepts the unexpected pardon of his prince. Their obedience to the gospel whs manifested by submission to the ordinance of baptism, in which they at once expressed their faith in Christ, and recognised him as the Lord of their consciences.

We may stop, for a few moments, to consider this transaction as a proof of the sincerity of those converts, of their full conviction of the truth of the gospel. To an acknowledgement of Christ and his religion, the prejudices of education, the example of their friends, the authority of their rulers, and the sacred institutions of Moses, as they were then explained, presented powerful obstacles. They could not become his disciples without the renunciation of early and favourite opinions, and without a sacrifice of principle; and there was every reason to expect, that they should incur the reproaches of their countrymen, as apostates, and experience other effects of their intolerant zeal. Yet these considerations did not deter them from assuming the badge of Christianity; from standing forth as the marked objects of the hatred and scorn of their brethren. And how shall we account for their conduct? It can be explained on no other principle than an irresistible conviction of the truth, a firm belief of the threatenings and promises of the Apostles, the exertion of that almighty energy upon their hearts, which |brings every thought into captivity to Christ.| To these causes we attribute the conversion of those Jews; and we perceive to what extent they operated from the number of the converts. By the accession of three thousand persons, our Saviour was pleased to encourage the Apostles, at their outset; and to give a specimen of the rapid success which should afterwards attend the publication of the gospel.

We have seen how the Christian Church was formed. We are next presented with a view of the conduct of its members, in reference to the doctrines and institutions of the gospel. |And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.| Each of these particulars deserves to be distinctly considered.

The first is their continuance in |the doctrine of the Apostles.| It sometimes happens, that by an artful representation of an object, and a dexterous appeal to his passions, a person is induced to adopt an opinion which he formerly reprobated, and which, upon calm reflection, he will renounce. In the midst of a multitude, a man is hardly master of himself, and is often hurried away by a sympathetic feeling with those around him to form resolutions, which in his cool moments he may see reason to retract. There are instances, too, in which sentiments are embraced, in the hope that they shall be held without trouble or inconvenience, but are abandoned as soon as they are found to be incompatible with reputation and personal safety. The converted Jews had undergone a very sudden change of their views. At the same meeting, at which the pathetic address of Peter operated so strongly upon them, they solemnly declared themselves disciples of Jesus. Yet neither the reflections which they had afterwards leisure to make upon their conduct, nor the difficulties which they soon experienced to be inseparable from their new profession, created any regret at the step which they had taken. The gospel, the more they examined it, appeared the more worthy of all acceptation. Its evidence was strengthened every day by the miracles which were performed before their eyes; and from what passed in their own minds, they felt the same need of its comforts as ever, the same delightful calm, the same ineffable happiness, arising from the belief of its declarations and promises. They continued, therefore, steadfast in the doctrine of the Apostles, fully convinced of its truth, and assured by experience of its excellence.

Luke mentions, in the second place, their steadfastness |in fellowship;| by which is meant the communion of saints in the exercise of evangelical love. The gospel is not a selfish religion. It requires, indeed, every man to take care of his own salvation, and shows it to be of such importance, as to be truly worthy of his care; but it teaches him, at the same time, to take an interest in the temporal and spiritual welfare of his Christian brethren. Upon the basis of brotherly love is reared a system of duties, from the cheerful and conscientious performance of which there results great benefit to the Church, and much honour to religion. By exhorting one another daily, by instructing, and reproving, and comforting, and assisting one another in all good things, Christians fulfil the law of Christ, and act as partakers of the same Spirit, and children of the same Father. In these labours of love the new converts were employed; for, in believing the gospel, they had imbibed that pure spirit of Benevolence, which is now so little known, but in those days made the Gentiles say, |Behold how the Christians love one another.|

Farther, they continued steadfastly in |the breaking of bread.| This phrase does not necessarily mean the Lord's supper, as we shall afterwards see; but being introduced among the religious duties of the primitive Church, it seems, in the present case, to signify that institution, the whole being denominated from a part. Perhaps, the celebration of that solemn ordinance is particularly mentioned, because it was a public and explicit testimony of their attachment to the Saviour, a recognition of their baptismal engagements, an avowal that they gloried in the cross of Christ, which was a stumbling block to their unbelieving countrymen. It is evident that they frequently commemorated his death; but how often they were thus employed, it is impossible to ascertain from this passage. No man in his senses can suppose, that they observed the ordinance as often as they performed the duties of fellowship, and offered up either secret or social prayer. I can find nothing in the New Testament, from which any determinate rule for our conduct can be collected. The arguments for the weekly celebration of the sacred supper, founded on some incidental expressions, are too feeble to authorise the strong and peremptory conclusions which have been drawn from them. Evidence much more ample and decisive would be requisite to justify any religious party, in pronouncing this practice to be a mark of Apostolic purity, and erecting it into a standard, to which other Christians are bound to conform.

In the last place, we are informed that they continued steadfastly |in prayer.| The gospel humbles man, by showing him his meanness and infirmity. It draws him off from presumptuous confidence in himself, and directs him to place his trust and hope in God. Prayer is therefore the natural exercise of a genuine Christian. It is the language of his necessities. It is the voice of his faith imploring relief from the all-sufficiency of his Maker. It is the mean of bringing almighty power to his aid; of deriving from the infinite stores of divine goodness the supply of his wants. Hence the prayer of a Christian is not an occasional exclamation in a moment of alarm, or the effervescence of transient desire; but is founded in a habitual disposition of mind, a permanent sense of weakness and dependence. It constitutes a part of his daily exercise, without which his spiritual life could no more be preserved than his natural life could be sustained without food. By continuing in prayer, the new converts discovered the ardour of their piety, and were enabled to persevere, amidst difficulties and dangers, in the profession of the truth, and in obedience to the institutions of Christ.

I have given what appears to me to be the genuine sense of this passage; and in doing so have paid no regard to the opinion of some writers, that it is a description of the procedure of the first Christians in their religious assemblies. The opinion receives no countenance from the passage itself, would not occur to an impartial reader unacquainted with the theories of disputants, and is chiefly adopted with a view to establish a favourite point, that the Lord's supper was a stated part of the worship of the primitive Church. But if we take the liberty to explain the Scriptures as we please, there is no doubt that we may prove from them any fancy however extravagant.

Let us now consider the love of the primitive Christians, as displayed in the liberality with which they supplied the necessities of their poor brethren. |And all that believed were together, and had all things common, and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.| The expression, |all that believed were together,| does not mean that they were assembled in one place, but that they were united in mind and affection, according to the sense which it bears in some other places of Scripture. |They had all things common.| It has been supposed, that there was a real community of goods among the Christians of Jerusalem; or that every man, renouncing all right to his property, delivered it over to a public stock, to which all had an equal claim. It appears, however, from the story of Annanias and Sapphira, that the disciples were under no obligation, or were bound by no positive law, to dispose of their property for the benefit of the Church; and that after it was sold, they could retain the whole, or any part of the price, provided that they did not, like those unhappy persons, practice dissimulation and deceit: and it is farther evident from the passage before us, that although in many instances they laid down the price at the feet of the Apostles, entrusting them with the distribution, yet they sometimes reserved it in their own hands, and gave it to the indigent, according to their own ideas of their need. These considerations seem to prove, that there was not an actual community of goods in the primitive Church, but that, in consequence of the fervent charity which united the hearts and interests of the disciples, |no man,| as Luke informs us in the fourth chapter, |said that ought of the things which he possessed was his own,| or appropriated them solely to his own use, but readily parted with them for the supply of others. |They parted them to all men, as every man had need.| All things were common, because they were at the service of every man who wanted them. On this ground, one of the Fathers said long after |Among us Christians all things are common,| although the practice of selling possessions, and distributing the price to the poor, was discontinued. There is no evidence, that the conduct of the Church of Jerusalem was followed by any other Church, even in the Apostolic age; but so far as it is an example of generous love, triumphing over the selfish affections, and exciting men to seek the welfare of others as well as their own, it is worthy to be imitated to the end of the world.

The words, upon which I shall next make some observations, are contained in the forty-sixth verse, where we are told, that |they continued daily in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.| Attempts have been made to prove, that |breaking bread| here signifies the celebration of the Lord's supper; and it has been inferred, that there was not only a weekly, but a daily observance of that solemn rite in the primitive Church. This, indeed, is sometimes the meaning of the phrase; but partaking of the Lord's supper is nowhere denoted by the familiar expression of |eating our meat.| I am persuaded, that to a plain reader, who had no darling notion to support, it would never occur that any thing more was intended, than to inform us how the first Christians conducted themselves in their private intercourse. Prompted by brotherly love, they embraced opportunities of frequently meeting together at their common meals; and, on such occasions, they manifested the influence of the gospel, as well as in the more solemn services of religious worship. Joy and innocence presided at their frugal repasts. But it was joy different from that which wine inspires, flowing from an assurance of the favour of God, a sense of his love, which gives a relish to the homeliest fare, and the triumphant hope of immortality. |Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.| At those happy meetings, envy and jealousy did not rankle in the bosoms of the guests, nor were purposes of revenge concealed under the deceitful smile of friendship. All duplicity was banished, and their hearts, purified by divine grace, admitted no sentiments but those of honest, undissembled affection. At their tables they sealed their mutual love, and anticipated the pure felicity, which will circulate from breast to breast in the blessed company, who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

I shall farther take notice only of the sentiments with which the rising Church was regarded by the Jews. It was at once the object of veneration and of esteem. It is said, in the forty-third verse, that | fear came upon every soul.| With respect to external circumstances, the disciples were a despicable company, composed of persons, for the most part, in the lower classes of society, with some illiterate fishermen and publicans at their head. Yet there were such tokens of the presence and power of God in this assembly, that the spectators could not avoid being impressed with awe. The miracles performed by the Apostles astonished the beholders; and although they did not always produce conviction, made them afraid to treat the disciples with disrespect. |Many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles.| At the same time, the character of the first professors of the faith was so amiable, their manners were so pure, and their charity was so unbounded, that they conciliated the good-will of all around them. |They were in favour with the people.| Their faith the people might not approve, but their virtues they could not refuse to commend. |He is a good man,| said the heathens of a peaceable, beneficent neighbour, |but he is a Christian.| The doctrines of our religion may seem mysterious and perplexed, and some of its precepts may be accounted severe; but when it is embodied, if I may speak so, in the conduct of its genuine friends; when it puts on the lovely aspect of meekness, gentleness, and goodness, the hearts of its enemies bear an unequivocal testimony in its favour, and sometimes their lips unwittingly pronounce its eulogium.

Such were the sentiments with which the Jews beheld the primitive Christians; and the impression made upon their minds contributed, through the divine blessing, to bring many of them to the knowledge of the truth. The Church was a growing society. It received daily accessions. The power of God was exerted to carry into effect his purpose of grace with respect to such of the Jewish nation as he had chosen to eternal life. |The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.|

I shall conclude with two or three reflections upon the passage.

First, We have before us the pure and perfect model of a Christian Church. The primitive Church was composed of persons awakened and enlightened by the truth, who, having entered into its communion by baptism, continued regular and steadfast in the ordinances and commandments of Christ, and were united by sincere and ardent love. How dissimilar are those societies, the members of which are associated from the mere accident of local situation, or from caprice and prejudice, without knowledge, and without principle; societies made up of such loose and light materials, that a breath of novelty shall blow them asunder, and the most frivolous offence shall occasion their disunion; societies, which having no common purpose, no mutual bond of connexion, are a chaos of discordant elements, in which envy, jealousy, pride, selfishness, calumny, and evil surmisings, produce perpetual agitation and war? Alas! my brethren, we have all departed, more or less, from the Apostolical standard; and we are not likely to return to it, notwithstanding the schemes of improvement which the fertile invention of the present times is almost daily suggesting, till, as in former days, the Spirit be poured out from on high. Then |the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and tile desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.|

In the second place, The mighty efficacy of the word of God is manifest in the sudden and complete conversion of the Jews. |Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord: and like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces?| Let it not be supposed, that as the occasion was peculiar, the power exerted was unusual, and ought not to be looked for again. |The Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save.| |The residue of the Spirit is with him;| and the same effects are still produced in the conversion of every sinner. Some of the prejudices which influenced the Jews may not be entertained by persons educated in a Christian country; but there are other prejudices equally effectual in blinding the mind, and fortifying the heart against conviction, which it is therefore as difficult to overcome. Did we consider how powerful is the dominion of pride, how firmly the interests of sin are established, and how fascinating is the influence of the world, we should be convinced, that the same energy is exerted in modern conversions, as in those which took place in the beginning of the gospel. Hence, in the most unpromising times, we may hope that the interests of religion shall be maintained; and we should never despair of the ultimate triumph of truth over error. The gospel is |mighty through God| to subdue all opposition. When |the Lord shall send the rod of his strength out of Zion, the people shall be willing in the day of his power.|

In the last place, We are presented with a powerful argument for the truth of the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. Let it only be admitted, that many of the Jews were converted to Christianity soon after its publication; and this is a fact which no man will venture to dispute. By what means, I ask, was their conversion effected? The Apostles, who addressed them were men of no learning, of no influence, and unskilled in the arts of sophistry and eloquence. And what did they require their hearers to believe? Did they not tell them, that the man whom they had crucified a few weeks before was the Son of God; that there was no way of salvation but by his blood; and that God had raised him from the grave, and exalted him to his right hand in heaven? These were not palatable truths. The Jews could not assent to them, without acknowledging themselves to be the vilest wretches upon earth, guilty beyond all other men, and deserving severer punishment; and without giving up their agreeable dreams, their soothing prospects of worldly grandeur. We cannot suppose, then, that they would receive those truths without evidence so strong, as to force conviction upon their minds. That they did receive them, we know; and we learn from this chapter on what grounds they were satisfied. The account is consistent and probable. Infidelity can give no other, which shall not be liable to unanswerable objections. Assuming, then, that the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Apostles, and that they were enabled to speak with new tongues, and to work miracles before the eyes of their countrymen, we may demand, by whom the Spirit was sent. Was it not, as they affirmed, by Jesus of Nazareth, who had suffered as a malefactor without the gates of Jerusalem? And could he have sent him, if he had been still lying in the grave? Did it not hence appear, that he had triumphed over death, and was now proceeding to establish that kingdom which he had shed his blood to obtain? Christians, the Lord is risen indeed. |He hath ascended up on high, and led captivity captive.| Infidels may cavil and blaspheme; but assured by evidence, from which they perversely turn away their eves, that he lives and reigns, we hail him Lord of all. |And he must reign, till all his enemies be put under his feet.| |Arise, O Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; but let them that love thee be as the sun, when he goeth forth in his might.|

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