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THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH INCREASES.
IMPRISONED AND EXAMINED BY THE SANHEDRIM.
From Acts, Chap. v.
AND by the hands of the Apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.
And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
And believers were the more added to the LORD, multitudes both of men and women;)
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.
Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation.
And laid their hands on the Apostles, and put them in the common prison.
But the angel of the LORD by night opened the prisondoors, and brought them forth, and said,
Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and hey 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.
But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,
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.
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.
Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: (for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned :)
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
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 man's blood upon us.
Then Peter and the other Apostles answered, and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
The God of our Fathers raised up JESUS, whom ye slew, and hanged on a tree?
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.
And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
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;
And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
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, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
After this man rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the taxing,, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him,. were dispersed.
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:
But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found to fight against God
And to him they agreed: and when they had called the Apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of JESUS,, and let them go
And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach JESUS Christ.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
After the death of Ananias and Sapphira, hypocrites were intimidated, and sincere believers encouraged.
We find that the people in general entertained the highest veneration for the Apostles. Peter beheld those who came to be cured by him with a compassionate wish to relieve them, and in full assurance that the power of CHRIST was sufficient to do it, and that the LORD would honour his Ministers as he had promised to do, he pronounced with FAITH His blessed Name, which the afflicted heard with transport and confidence, and soon found the benefit of trusting to its efficacy; for whether their distempers were of the body or mind, every one was perfectly restored to health and tranquillity. Thus did the LORD, in remembrance of his promise, put honour upon his Apostles, by performing through them more wonderful works than he himself did, during his abode on earth: for it was certainly a greater, or at least a more striking proof of Divine power inherent in him, that he could employ so many people as instruments of his will, than appeared from the performance of miracles by his own hand.
When the Apostles were thrown into prison, it soon appeared that the malice and rage of the most powerful man is impotent against those whom GoD supports; and when examined and threatened by the chief priests, they continued firm to their principles; and, far from being terrified by the unjust and cruel usage they had met with, or the threatenings of their adversaries, they rejoiced greatly, that they were so honoured in the course of Divine providence, as to be accounted worthy to suffer for CHRIST, and to be exposed to infamy for the sake of
his holy name; rightly judging, that a punishment of this kind was likely in the end to become a glory to them when borne for the sake of him who, though so divinely great and so perfectly happy, had submitted not only to stripes, but to death for them.
How wonderful are the ways of Providence! Who would have expected, that amongst the members of the Sanhedrim should be found a guardian and pleader for the Apostles? What an encouragement is this to Christians, to bear persecution for the sake of CHRIST, if it falls to their lot; and much more to submit to the common misfortunes and inconveniences which attend a religious course of life, with confidence in Divine protection!
SEVEN DEACONS APPOINTED TO ASSIST THE APOSTLES
IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE PUBLIC CHARITY. THE TRIAL AND MARTYRDOM OF STEPHEN.
From Acts, Chap. vi. vii.
AND in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.