Click here to learn more!
Pricked in Their Heart
September 1st, 1889 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Acts 2:36-37; Acts 2:36-37 .
This was the first public preaching of the gospel after our Lord was taken up into glory. It was thus a very memorable sermon, a kind of first-fruits of the great harvest of gospel testimony. It is very encouraging to those who are engaged in preaching that the first sermon should have been so successful. Three thousand made up a grand take of fish at that first cast of the net. We are serving a great and growing cause in the way chosen of God, and we hope in the future to see still larger results produced by that same undying and unchanging power which helped Peter to preach such a heart-piercing sermon. Peter's discourse was not distinguished by any special rhetorical display: he used not the words of man's wisdom or eloquence. It was not an oration, but it was a heart-moving argument, entreaty, and exhortation. He gave his hearers a simple, well-reasoned, Scriptural discourse, sustained by the facts of experience; and every passage of it pointed to the Lord Jesus. It was in these respects a model of what a sermon ought to be as to its contents. His plea was personally addressed to the people who stood before him, and it had a practical and pressing relation to them and to their conduct. It was aimed, not at the head, but at the heart. Every word of it was directed to the conscience and the affections, It was plain, practical, personal, and persuasive; and in this it was a model of what a sermon ought to be as to its aim and style. Yet Peter could not have spoken otherwise under the impression of the divine Spirit: his speech was as the oracles of God, a true product of a divine inspiration. Under the circumstances, any other kind of address would have been sadly out of place. A flashy, dazzling oration would have been a piece of horrible irreverence to the Holy Ghost; and Peter would have been guilty of the blood of souls if he had attempted it. In sober earnestness he kept to the plain facts of the case, setting them in the light of God's Word; and then with all his might he pressed home the truth upon those for whose salvation he was labouring. May it ever be the preacher's one desire to win men to repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ! May no minister wish to be admired, but may he long that his Lord and Master may be sought after! May none bewilder their people with the clouds of theoretic philosophy, but refresh them with the rain of revealed truth? Oh, that we could so preach that our hearers should be at once pricked in their hearts, and so be led at once to believe in our Lord Jesus, and immediately to come forward and confess their faith in his name! We must not forget, however, to trace the special success of the sermon on the day of Pentecost to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, in which Peter had shared. This it is which is the making of the preacher. Immersed into the Holy Spirit, the preacher will think rightly, and speak wisely; his word will be with power to those who hear. We must not forget, also, that there had been a long season of earnest, united, believing prayer on the part of the whole church. Peter was not alone: he was the voice of a praying company, and the believers had been with one accord in one place crying for a blessing; and thus not only was the Spirit resting upon the preacher, but on all who were with him. What a difference this makes to a preacher of the gospel, when all his comrades are as much anointed of the Spirit as himself! His power is enhanced a hundredfold. We shall seldom see the very greatest wonders wrought when the preacher stands by himself; but when Peter is described as standing up "with the eleven," then is there a twelve-man ministry concentrated in one; and when the inner circle is further sustained by a company of men end women who have entered into the same truth, and are of one heart and one soul, then is the power increased beyond measure. A lonely ministry may sometimes effect great things, as Jonah did in Nineveh; but if we look for the greatest and most desirable result of all, it must come from one who is not alone, but is the mouthpiece of many. Peter had the one hundred and twenty registered brethren for a loving body-guard, and this tended to make him strong for his Lord. How greatly I value the loving co-operation of the friends around me! I have no word, to express my gratitude to God for the army of true men and women who surround me with their love, and support me with their faith. I pray you, never cease to sustain me by your prayers, your sympathy, and your co-operation, until some other preacher shall take my place when increasing years shall warn me to stand aside. Yet much responsibility must rest with the preacher himself; and there was much about Peter's own self that is well worthy of imitation. The sermon was born of the occasion, and it used the event of the hour as God intended it to be used. It was earnest without a trace of passion, and prudent without a suspicion of fear. The preacher himself was self-collected, calm, courteous, and gentle. He aired no theories, but went on firm ground, stepping from fact to fact, from Scripture to Scripture, from plain truth to plain truth. He was patient at the beginning, argumentative all along, and conclusive at the end. He fought his way through the doubts and prejudices of his hearers; and when he came to the end, he stated the inevitable conclusion with clearness and certainty. All along he spake very boldly, without mincing the truth Ye with wicked hands have crucified and slain him whom God has highly exalted. He boldly accused them of the murder of the Lord of glory, doing his duty in the sight of God, and for the good of their souls, with great firmness and fearlessness. Yet there is great tenderness in his discourse. Impulsive and hot-headed Peter, who, a little while before, had drawn his sword to fight for his Lord, does not, in this instance, use a harsh word; but speaks with great gentleness and meekness of spirit, using words and terms all through the address which indicate a desire to conciliate, and then to convince. Though he was as faithful us an Elijah, yet he used terms so courteous and kindly that, if men took offence, it would not be because of any offensiveness of tone on the speaker's part. Peter was gentle in his manner, but forceful in his matter. This art he had learned from his Lord; and we shall never have master-preachers among us till we see men who have been with Jesus, and have learned of him. Oh, that we could become partakers of our Lord's Spirit, and echoes of his tone! Then may we hope to attain to Pentecostal results, when we have preachers like Peter, surrounded by a band of earnest witnesses, and all baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire. When we follow the run of Peter's argument, we do not wonder that his hearers were pricked in their hearts. We ascribe that deep compunction to the Spirit of God; and yet it was a very reasonable thing that it should be so. When it was clearly shown to them that they had really crucified the Messiah, the great hope of their nation, it was not wonderful that they should be smitten with horror. Looking as they were for Israel's King, and finding that he had been among them, and they had despitefully used him, and crucified him, they might well be smitten at the heart. Though for the result of our ministry we depend wholly upon the Spirit of God, yet we must adapt our discourse to the end we aim at; or, say rather, we must leave ourselves in the Spirit's hand as to the sermon itself as well as in reference to the result of the sermon. The Holy Ghost uses means which are adapted to the end designed. Because, beloved, I do desire beyond all things that many in this congregation may be pricked in the heart, I have taken this concluding part of Peter's discourse to be the text of my sermon this morning. Yet my trust is not in the Word itself, but in the quickening Spirit who works by it. May the Spirit of God use the rapier of his Word to pierce the hearts of my hearers! First, note that Peter speaks to his hearers upon their evil conduct to the Lord Jesus; and, secondly, he declares to them the exaltation that God has bestowed upon him. When we have dwelt on these two things, we will notice, in the third place, the result of knowing this grand fact "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." I. First, then, Peter dwelt tenderly, but very plainly, upon THEIR EVIL CONDUCT TOWARDS THE LORD JESUS. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." As a nation, Israel had rejected him whom God had sent. The inhabitants of Jerusalem had gone further, and had consented unto his death; nay, had even clamoured for it, crying, "Crucify him, crucify him." Solemnly had the Jews exclaimed, "His blood be on us, and on our children." None of them had protested against the murder of the innocent One; but many of them had been eager to make an end of him. This Peter, in plain words, charged upon them, and they could not deny it; nor did they pretend to do so. It is well when a sense of guilt compels a man to stand silent under the rebuke of God. We then have hope of him that he will seek for pardon. Men and brethren, we are not in Jerusalem, and the death of our Lord happened more than eighteen hundred years ago; therefore we need not dwell upon the sin of those long since dead. It will be more profitable for us practically to consider how far we have been guilty of similar sins against the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us look at home. Let each one consider his own case. I may be addressing some to-day who have blasphemed the name of the Lord Jesus. I do not suppose that you have been guilty of the vulgar language of blasphemy, which is coarse and revolting, as well as profane; but there are politer methods of committing the self-same crime. Some, with their elaborate criticisms of Christianity, wound it far more seriously than atheists with their profanities. In these days, wiseacres, with their philosophy, derogate from the glory of our Lord's nature, and, with their novel doctrines, undermine his gospel. Denying the atonement, or teaching it as something other than a substitutionary sacrifice, they try to make away with that which is the very heart and soul of the Redeemer's work. Men nowadays drink in opinions which lessen the guilt of sin, and, of course, lower the value of the atoning blood. The cross is still a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. Men do not now accept the words of the Bible as authoritative, nor the teaching of the apostles as final; they set themselves up to be teachers of the great Teacher, reformers of the divine gospel. They do not accept the teaching of the Lord Jesus one half so much as they criticize it. If any here present have been thus guilty, may the Holy Spirit convince them of their sin! Since the Lord God hath made this atoning Jesus both Lord and Christ, and set him on his right hand, any teaching which does despite to him, however learned, however advanced, however cultured it may seem to be, is a grievous sin against the Lord God himself. By such conduct we are, as far as in us lies, again putting the Lord Jesus to death; we are attempting to make away with that which is the very life and glory of Christ. O my hearer, if you have denied his Deity, rejected his atoning blood, ridiculed his imputed righteousness, or scoffed at salvation by faith in him, may you be pricked in the heart as you see that God hath made that same Jesus to be Lord of all! Much more common, however, is another sin against our Lord Jesus namely, neglecting him, ignoring his claims, and postponing the day of faith in him. I trust that none here are willing to die unconverted, or would even dare to think of passing away without being washed in the precious blood; yet, my hearers, you have lived to manhood; to ripe years; perhaps even to old age, without yielding your hearts to the Lord Jesus, and accepting him as your Saviour. To say the least of it, this is a very sad piece of neglect. To ignore a man altogether is, in a certain sense, as far as you are concerned, to kill that man. If you put him out of your reckoning, if you treat him as if he were nothing, if your estimate of life is made as if he were a cipher, you have put your Lord out of existence in reference to yourself. You treat him with empty compliment by observing his day, and hearing his Word; but you have no real regard for him. Is not this a cruel fault? From morning till night your Lord is not in all your thoughts; he never affects your dealings with your fellow-men; you never endeavour to catch his spirit of love, and considerateness, and meekness; and thus, as a Leader and Exemplar, he is dead to you. You have never confessed your sin before him, nor sought for pardon at his hands, nor have you looked to see whether he hath borne your sins in his own body on the tree. O soul, this is base neglect ungrateful contempt! God thinks so much of his Son that he cannot set him too high; he has placed him at his own right hand, and yet you will not spare him a thought! The great God thinks heaven and earth too little for him, and magnifies him exceedingly above all, as King of kings, and Lord of lords; and yet you treat him as if he were of no account, and might be safely made to wait your time and leisure. Is this right? Will you treat your Saviour thus? May this prick you in the heart, and may you cease from this base ingratitude! There are others who have done more than this, for they have rejected Christ. I now allude to those of you who have not been able to resist the appeals made to you by the Lord's ministers. You have felt a good deal felt more than you would like to confess. You have been so inclined to seek the Saviour that you have almost done so; sin has flashed in your face like the flames of Tophet, and in alarm you have resolved to seek salvation; you have gone home to bend the knee in prayer, you have read the Scriptures to learn the way of eternal life; but, alas! an evil companion crossed your path, and the question came, "Shall it be this man or Christ?" You chose the man: I had almost said, you chose Barabbas, and rejected Jesus. A sinful pleasure came before you when you had begun to be serious, and the question arose, "Shall I give up this pleasure, or shall I renounce all hope of Christ?" You snatched at the pleasure, and you let your Saviour go. Do you not remember when you did violence to your conscience? There was an effort about it, as you stifled conviction. You had to put forth a decided act of the will to quench the Spirit of God, and to escape from the strivings of your awakened conscience. I know not to whom this may apply; but I am certain, as certain as Peter was when he spoke to the crucifiers of Christ, that I am speaking to some who have been rejecters of the Lord Jesus Christ, not once nor twice. Some of you have distinctly rejected him almost every Sabbath-day; but especially when the Word of the Lord has been with extraordinary power, and you have felt it shake you, as a lion shakes his prey. Thank God, you are not past feeling yet! I pray you, do not presume upon the continuance of your tenderness. You will not always feel as you have felt: the day may come when even the thunders of God may not be heard by your deafened ear, and the love of Christ will not affect the heart which you have made callous by willful obstinacy. Woe to the man when his heart is turned to stone! When flesh turns to stone, it is a conversion unto eternal death; just as the turning of stone to flesh is conversion to eternal life. God have mercy upon you, and prick you in the heart this morning, while you yet have tenderness enough to feel that you have rejected him whom you ought to embrace with all your heart! I must come a little closer to certain of you, who have forsaken the Lord Jesus Christ. There are a few unhappy persons here this morning, over whom I greatly grieve, because of their wanderings; and yet I am glad that they have not quite forsaken the courts of the Lord's house. These once professed to be disciples of Christ; but they have gone back, and walk no more with him. They were once numbered with us, and went in and out of our solemn assemblies for prayer and breaking of bread; but now we know them not. They were not backward to confess themselves Christians, But now they deny their Lord. In former days they were zealous, and apparently devout; they were quick in the service of God, and sound in their creed. But there came a day I need not describe the circumstances, for they differ in different cases when two roads were before them, and they must go either to the right or to the left; and they took the road by which they turned their back upon Christ, and upon the vitality of godliness. They went off into sin, and apostatized from the faith. We fear "they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." They have gone aside unto crooked ways, and we fear that the Lord will lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. O my backsliding hearer, I hope you are not a Judas; my trust is that you may be a Peter! You have denied your Master, but I hope you will yet weep bitterly, and be restored to your Lord's service. For your good I must bring home your wanderings to you; may the Lord prick you in the heart about them! Why have you left your Lord? Wherein has he wearied you? There may be present persons from the country, or friends from America, who were once glad to be numbered with the children of God, but now they care nothing for God, or his people. Alas! they take part with the adversaries of Christ, and the despisers of his precious blood! Friend, you are here this morning that I may bring your sin to remembrance, and ask you why you have done this thing! Were you a hypocrite? If not, why have you turned aside ? God has exalted to his throne the Saviour, on whom you have turned your back; have you not acted madly in what you have done? The Most High God is on the side of Jesus, and you are avowedly on the other side; is this right, or wise? It is painful to me to speak of these things. I hope it is far more painful for you to hear of them. I want you to feel as David did, when his heart smote him. What have you been doing? Has the Lord Jesus deserved this at your hands? Turn, I pray you, from your evil way, and turn unto the Lord with full purpose of heart. II. After Peter had dwelt upon the sin of his hearers in treating the Lord so ill, he declared to them THE EXALTATION BESTOWED ON HIM BY GOD. The great God loved, and honoured, and exalted that same Jesus whom they had crucified. O my hearers, whatever you may think of the Lord Jesus, God thinks everything of him! To you he may be dead and buried, but God hath raised him from the dead. To God he is the ever-living, the ever well-beloved Christ. You cannot destroy the Lord Jesus, or his cause. If you could do all that the most malicious heart could suggest, you could not really defeat him. Men wreaked their vengeance on him: once they put him to a felon's death, they laid him in the grave, and sealed the stone; but he rose again, for God was on his side. My hearer, whatever you do, you cannot shake the truth of the gospel, nor rob the Lord Jesus of a single beam of his glory. He lives and reigns, and he will live and reign, whatever becomes of you. You may refuse his salvation but he is still a Saviour, and a great one. His gospel chariot rolls on, and every stone which is placed to hinder it is crushed into the earth, and compelled to make a road for him. If you resist the Lord, you do it at your peril; but you do it in vain. You might as well hope to reverse the laws of nature, quench the sun, and snatch the moon from her orbit, as hope to overthrow the cause and kingdom of the Lord Jesus; for God is on his side, and his throne is established for ever. God hath raised his Son from the dead, and taken him up to sit at his right hand, and there he will remain while his enemies shall be made his footstool. By this you may see what evil you have done through rejecting Christ, and may know who he is whom you have neglected refused, and forsaken. Let me remind you that, when we read of our Lord as being at the right hand of God, we perceive that he enjoys infinite felicity. At the right hand of God there are pleasures for evermore; and David said, as the representative of our Lord, "Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance." He who was the Man of sorrows now overflows with gladness. All his work and warfare done, he rests in boundless blessedness. His priestly work being finished, he sits down. No more does be feel the cross and nails, no more does he endure the mockery of cruel eyes and ribald lips. He is full of joy, that joy which be bids his people share when he says, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." His portion is measureless, infinite, inconceivable delight. Can it be that you are opposed to him, and neglect him, while God lavishes upon him more than all the bliss of heaven, and makes him to be the fountain of unspeakable delight to all his redeemed ones? Grieve that you should grieve him whom God thus loads with blessedness. Moreover, remember that at the right hand of God our Lord sits in infinite majesty. Jesus, whom you think little of, Jesus, from whom you turn aside, is to-day adored of angels, obeyed by seraphs, worshipped by just men made perfect. He is the highest in the highest heavens. Do you not hear the blast of heaven's trumpets, which proclaims him head over principalities and powers? Do you not hear the song which ascribes to him honour, and glory, and power, and dominion, and might? My faith anticipates the happy day when I shall stand a courtier in his unrivalled. courts, and behold him, the Lamb upon the throne, reigning high over all, with every knee in heaven and in earth gladly bowing before him. Can it be that you have neglected him whom God hath exalted? Can it be that you have refused him, that you have done despite to him, that you have, as far as you could, put him to death whom Jehovah has made Lord of all? Nor is this all: for the place at the right hand of God, to which he is now exalted, is the place of power. There sits the Mediator, the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus, while his enemies are being subdued under him. Do not believe it, O proudest of doubters, that thou canst take away from Christ any measure of his power! He overrules all mortal things; he directs the movements of the stars; he rules the armies of heaven. He restrains the rage of his adversaries, and what he suffers to be let loose he turns to his glory. All power is given to him in heaven and earth; he reigns in the three realms of nature, providence, and grace. His kingdom ruleth over all, and of his dominion there shall be no end. O sirs, what do our hearts suggest but that we bow at his feet? that we worship him with loving reverence? that we yield to that supreme power which is used for purposes of love? Yet it is this Christ, this mighty Christ, who is set at nought by some of you, so that you run the risk of perishing because you have no heart for him and his great salvation. Learn, next, that he is at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, seated as our Judge. If we refuse him as a Saviour, we shall not be able to escape from him as Judge in the last great day. All the acts of men are being recorded, and in that day, when the great white throne shall be set in the heavens, all things shall be made manifest, and we must stand unveiled in his presence. You have often heard and sung of him whose face was more marred than that of any man, when he was here as a sacrifice for guilty men. If you refuse him, you will have to stand before his bar to answer for it. The most awful sight for the impenitent in the day of judgment will be the face of the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not find that they cry, "Hide us from the tempest," nor "Hide us from the angel-guards," nor "Hide us from their swords of fire," but, "Hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." Love, when once it turns to wrath, is terrible beyond compare. As oil when set on fire blazes with great force, so the meek and loving Jesus, when finally rejected, will exhibit a wrath more terrible than death.
"Ye sinners, seek his grace, Whose wrath ye cannot bear; Fly to the shelter of his cross, And find salvation there."
Perhaps through ignorance you have rebelled; repent, and take another course. You supposed that when you kicked against a sermon, you had only put down the minister's words; but in reality you resisted the Saviour's love. You thought that when you turned away from Christ and his people, it was only leaving a church, and having your name crossed out of a book. Ah, sirs! take heed, for I fear you have left the Lamb of God, and renounced your part in his Book of Life! At the last it may turn out to have been an awful thing to have been put forth from the Church of Christ on earth; for when we, as a church, do our Lord's bidding, that which we bind on earth is bound in heaven. In refusing the Lord's Word, you refuse him who speaks from heaven: you refuse not only his words, but himself, and he shall be your Judge your Judge most just, most holy. Oh, how will you bear it? How will you bear to stand at the bar of the despised Saviour? Peter also showed his hearers that the Lord was greatly exalted in heaven as the Head over all things to his church, for he had that day shed abroad the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes, he comes from Christ, and as the witness of his power. He proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and he bears witness with both. Christ's power was marvellously proved when, after he had been but a little while in heaven, he was able to bestow such gifts upon men, and specially to send the tongues of fire, and the rushing mighty wind, which betoken the energy of the Holy Ghost. He is such a Lord that he can save or destroy. The Christ that died upon the cross hath all things committed into his hands. He can this morning send forth salvation to the ends of the earth, so that multitudes shall believe and live; for him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins. Or, he can turn the key the other way, and shut the door against this untoward generation; for he openeth, and no man shutteth; and he shutteth, and no man openeth. In any case, be ye sure of this, ye Gentiles, even as Peter would have the house of Israel be sure of it, that "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." I notice that, at this time, few writers or preachers use the expression, "Our Lord Jesus Christ." We have lives of Christ, and lives of Jesus; but, brethren, he is THE LORD. Jesus is both Lord and Christ: we need to acknowledge his Deity, his dominion, and his divine anointing. He is "God over all, blessed for ever," and we can never praise him too much. A great and grievous error of the times is a want of reverence for our Lord and his sacrifice. To sit in judgment on his sacred teaching, is to spit in his face; to deny his miracles, is to strip him of his own clothes; to make him out to be a mere teacher of ethics, is to mock him with a purple robe; and to deny his atonement, in philosophical phraseology, is to crown him with thorns, and crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame. Be not guilty of this, my hearers, for God hath made this same Jesus "both Lord and Christ"; let us worship him as Lord, and trust him as Christ. III. Now I come to my closing point, which is, THE RESULT OF KNOWING THIS ASSUREDLY. May I here pause to ask do you know this assuredly? I hope all of you believe that God hath made Jesus Christ, the Mediator, in his complex person, as God-and-man, to be " both Lord and Christ." He was Lord, as God, always; but as God-and-man, he is now Lord and Christ. Manhood and Godhead are in him united in one wondrous Parson, and this Person is "both Lord and Christ." You believe it. But do you so believe it that it is a fact of the utmost importance to you? Will you assuredly believe it, that the man of Nazareth, who died on Calvary, is to-day both Lord and Christ? If you do now believe this, what are your feelings as you review your past misconduct towards him? Does not your past neglect prick you in the heart? If you do not so believe, it is of little use for me to describe what the result of such belief would be, for that result will not take place in you; but if you have so believed, and Jesus is to you Lord and Christ, you will look on him whom you have pierced, and mourn for him. As you recollect your negligence of him, your rejection of him, your backsliding from him, and all your ungrateful acts which show contempt of him, your heart will be ready to break, and you will be seized with a great sorrow, and a hearty repentance. The Lord work it in you, for his Son's sake! Observe, that as the result of Peter's sermon, his hearers felt a mortal sting. "They were pricked in their heart." The truth had pierced their souls. When a man rinds out that he has done a fearful wrong to one who loved him, he grows sick at heart, and views his own conduct with abhorrence. We all remember the story of Llewellyn and his faithful dog. The prince came back from the hunt, and missed his infant child, but saw marks of blood everywhere. Suspecting his dog Gelert of having killed the child he drove his vengeful sword into the faithful hound, which had been bravely defending his child against a huge wolf, which lay there, all torn and dead, "tremendous still in death." Yes, he had slain the faithful creature which had preserved his child. Poor Gelert's dying yell pierced the prince to the heart; and well it might. If such emotions fitly arise when we discover that we have, in error, been ungenerous and cruel to a dog, how ought we to feel towards the Lord Jesus, who laid down his life that we, who were his enemies, might live? I recall an awfully tragic story of an evil couple, who kept an inn of base repute. A young man called one night to lodge. They noticed that he had gold in his purse, and they murdered him in the night. It was their own son, who had come back to gladden their old age, and wished to see whether his parents would remember him. Oh, the bitterness of their lamentation when they found that through the lust of gold they had murdered their own son! Take out of such amazing grief its better portion, and then add to it a spiritual conviction of the sin of evil entreating the Son of God, the perfect One, the Lover of our souls, and you come near the meaning of being "pricked in the heart." Oh, to think that we should despise him who loved us, and gave himself for us, and should rebel against him that bought us with his own blood while we were his enemies! I would to God everyone here, that has not come to Christ, would feel a sting in his conscience now; and would mourn that he has done this exceeding evil thing against the ever-blessed Son of God, who became man, and died for love of guilty men. When we read "they were pricked in their heart," we may see in it the meaning, that they felt a movement of love to him a relenting of heart, a stirring of emotion towards him. They said to themselves, "Have we treated him thus? What can we do to show our horror of our own conduct?" They were not merely convinced of their fault so as to be grieved, but their desires and affections went out towards the offended One, and they cried, "What shall we do? In what way can we acknowledge our wrong? Is there any way of undoing this ill towards him whom we now love?" To this point I would have you all come. I would have you know the meaning of Newton's hymn:
"I saw One hanging on a tree, in agonies and blood, Who fix'd his languid eyes on me, As near his cross I stood.
Sure never till my latest breath Can I forget that look; It seem'd to charge me with his death, Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt, And plunged me in despair; I saw my sins his blood had spilt, And help'd to nail him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did; But now my tears are vain; Where shall my trembling soul be hid? For I the Lord have slain."
Let us tearfully enquire how we can end our opposition, and prove ourselves to be his friends and humble servants. As a consequence of Peter's sermon, preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, these people exhibited obedient faith. They were roused to action, and they said, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" They believed that the same Jesus whom they had crucified was now Lord of all, and they hastened to be obedient unto him. When Peter said, "Repent!" they did indeed repent. If repentance be grief, they grieved at their hearts. If repentance be a change of mind and life, they were indeed altered men. Then Peter said, "Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Take the open and decisive step: stand forth as believers in Jesus, and confess him by that outward and visible sign which he has ordained. Be buried with him in whom your sin is buried. You slew him in error; be buried with him in truth. They did it gladly, they repented of the sin; they were baptized into the sacred name. And then Peter could tell them "You have remission of sins: the wrong you have done to your Lord is cancelled: the Lord hath put away your sin for ever. Remission of sins comes to you through Jesus, whom you slew, whom the Father has raised up. You shall not be summoned before the bar of God to account even for the hideous crime of murdering the Lord, for by his death you are forgiven. In proof of forgiveness you shall now be made partakers of the great gift which marks his ascending power. The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, even upon you his murderers, and you shall go forth, and be witnesses for him." O my hearers, to what a place have I brought you now! If indeed the Holy Spirit has helped you to follow me in my discourse, see where we have climbed! However black your crime, however vile your character, if you have seen the wrong that you have done, if you have repented of having done it because you see that you have sinned against your loving Lord, and if you will now come to him repenting and believing, and will confess him as he bids you confess him in baptism; then you have full remission, and you shall be partakers of the gifts and graces of his Holy Spirit, and henceforth you shall be chosen witnesses for the Christ whom God hath raised from the dead. Beloved, you need no choice speech from me: pure gold needs no gilding, and as I have told you the most wonderful of all facts in heaven or in earth, I let it remain in all its simple grandeur. May God write out this old, old story on your hearts! Oh, that he would issue a new edition of his gospel of love, printed on your hearts! Every man's conversion is a freshly-printed copy of the poem of salvation. May the Lord issue you hot from the press this morning, a living epistle to be known and read of all men; and specially to be read by your children at home, and your neighbours in the same street! The Lord grant that hearts may be pricked by this sermon, for his name's sake! Amen.
Building the Church (Additions to the Church) April 5th, 1874
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
This updated and revised manuscript is copyrighted ã2000 by Tony Capoccia. All rights reserved. “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” - Acts 2:47
We are just coming to the most beautiful season of the year-the spring, when everything around us is shaking off the cold grave clothes of winter, and putting on the beautiful array of a new life. The church of Living God was in that condition at Pentecost, her winter was over, and the flowers appeared on the earth. She enjoyed the spring breezes, for the breath of the Holy Spirit refreshed her garden: there was spring music; the time of the singing of birds had come, for her preachers testified faithfully of Jesus, and so many and varied were the sweet notes which welcomed the new season, that many nations of men heard in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. There was, also, the spring blossoming, the fig tree put forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes perfumed the air, for all around multitudes inquired, “Brothers, what will we do?” and many also professed their faith in Jesus. There were the spring showers of repentance, the spring sunbeams of joy in the Holy Spirit and the spring flowers of newly-given hope and faith. May we see such a springtime in every church of Jesus Christ throughout the world, and arouse ourselves to enjoy so wonderful a season. Let us rise up and our precious lover, and in concert with him let us sow in hope, and look for a rapid budding. The Sun of Righteousness is coming forth as a bridegroom out of his dwelling, and the weary night is melting into the welcome day; let us listen to our lover's voice as he cries to us, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.”
It seems from the text that the additions to the church which were made in the early spring of Pentecost did not always occur in one form, sometimes they came in crowds, and at other times by gradual increase. On one day there were three thousand added-that is an instance of mass conversions, when a nation is born all at once. In such a work we are bound to believe; I mean not merely in the possibility of it, but in the probability of it, for it stands to reason that what would convince one man in a particular condition of heart would as readily convince three thousand or thirty thousand if they were in the same state. Given the same soil, the same seed, the same season, and the same wonder-working God, and I cannot imagine any reason why there would be a limit set to the results. The Holy Spirit is divine, and consequently he knows how to influence all kinds of men and women, and he can by the instrumentalities now in use reach just as many as he pleases.
I remember when I first preached in London a remark made by a friend, which greatly encouraged me at the time, and has proved true in my experience. When he heard that my little country chapel had been filled by the inhabitants of the village in which I had preached, he gave me hope of filling a far larger place in London: “For,” he said, “what will draw two hundred will draw two thousand, and what was useful to a few may be made just as useful to a multitude.” I immediately saw that this was true. When we are dealing with spiritual forces we do not have to calculate by pounds and ounces, or by so much horsepower. We do not have to think of quantity. As an illustration: give me fire, I will not bargain for a furnace, just give me a single candle, and a city or a forest may soon be ablaze. A spark is quite sufficient to begin with, for fire multiplies itself: So give us the truth, a single voice, and the Holy Spirit with it, and no one can say where the sacred blaze will end. One Jonah sufficed to subdue all Nineveh by continually repeating one monotonous sentence of the coming judgment of God, and despite the weakness of our present ministry, if God blesses the gospel, there is no reason why it shouldn't quickly be felt by all of London. The sermon preached by Peter at Pentecost was the arrow of the Lord's deliverance to three thousand people, and there is no reason why the Lord wouldn't cause one of ours to be the same. Three thousand cannot be converted if only a hundred are present to hear; but with this great assembly of ours today, and thousands of smaller ones, within gunshot, why wouldn't their be many brought to faith in Christ? Assuredly the divine Comforter can just as easily bless three million with salvation as he could three individuals.
But it would appear from our text that the additions to the new church, founded on the day of Pentecost, were not always accomplished in mass. The Spirit of God was still with them, but their increase was more gradual. “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” You have seen a heavy shower of rain in the spring: in a moment a big drop has fallen upon the pavement, and before you were ready to escape from it a deluge followed, so plentiful that you half suspected a cloud had burst open right over your head: such a sudden and impetuous shower may serve as an example of the conversion of three thousand souls at once. But at other times rain has fallen gently, and has continued to descend hour by hour, a soft, warm, spring watering, which in its own way and fashion has done its work of blessing quite as surely as the heavier downpour. We must still be very thankful if we don't see three thousand converted in one day; if we see three hundred every day for ten days, or if we see thirty every day for a hundred days; we must always be grateful for all success so long as sinners really come to Jesus. Whether they come in hordes, or one by one, we will welcome them. The woman who lost her money was glad to find one coin, although she would have been even happier to have found a whole purse full if they had been lost.
I want you to think about additions to the church as they used to occur among the early Christians. Certain people today are always talking about the “early church,” and they seem to have some very “strange ideas” about this early church. Their early church was very different from anything we meet with in the Acts of the Apostles, for it was very particular in its architecture, music, and dress.
This “early church” that they perceive could not worship at all unless it had a visible altar, at which gentlemen in gorgeous attire of blue and scarlet and fine linen stood in various poses and bowed and genuflected many times. The “early church,” it seems, believed in baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation, the requirement for the activities and intercessions of an earthly priest, and the receipt of saving grace through sacraments. Well, that may be or may not be, but there was an earlier church which had no such notions, and it is for us to turn away from such false “early churches” and to focus on the earlier church or the earliest church, and there, I promise you, you will find no man-made and church ordained priest, nor any nonsense of saving grace coming through sacraments; but simplicity, and truth, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The early church that is so much admired by Anglicans today was a degenerate vine, a field of wheat and tares, a mass leavened with antichristian error, in a word a baptized heathenism. In its own way, it reestablished the many deities of the heathen, only this time they called them saints instead of gods, putting the Virgin Mary into the place of Venus, and setting up Peter or Paul in the niches formerly occupied by Saturn or Mars. Our present “revived early church” is only Paganism with a trimming of crosses around the edges. We are resolved to return to the primitive church of which we read, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching.” This true “early church” will be our subject this morning, trusting that the Holy Spirit will be with us as with them.
I. First, then, ADDITIONS TO THE CHURCH, WHAT ABOUT THEM? “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
It seems to have been the custom in the earliest times for persons who had been converted to Christ to join themselves with the church of Jesus Christ. From that fact, I feel persuaded that they did not conceal their convictions. It is a strong temptation with many to say, “I have believed in Jesus, but that is a matter between God and my own soul, there is no need that I should tell this to others. Can't I quietly go to heaven and be a Nicodemus, or a Joseph of Arimathea?” To which I reply, Yes, you can quietly go to heaven, and we hope you will do so, but that is a different thing from being cowardly and ashamed of Christ. We will not object to your being a Nicodemus if you will go with him when he carries spices to the grave of Jesus; and you may be a Joseph of Arimathea if you will attend him when he goes boldly to Pilate and begs for the body of Jesus. Neither of these two brethren were cowards after the cross had been set up before their eyes, neither were they ashamed to identify themselves with the crucified Christ. Follow them, not in the infancy of their love, but in its more mature days. Remember, dear friends, the promise of the gospel runs like this, “He that believes in his heart, and confesses Christ with his mouth, will be saved.” Do not, I charge you, neglect half of the command! The gospel commission which we have received is this: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” That is the message as we find it, we did not insert the clause concerning baptism, neither do we dare to leave it out, or advise you to neglect it. I give you the very words of the Savior. Do not, therefore, divide the gospel command in order to throw half of it away, but believe it all and affirm your belief, and be added to the church.
It is quite clear, too, that believers in those days did not try to go to heaven alone. However, there has been a great deal said in these days about simply being a Christian and not joining any particular church, this is clearly a piece of hypocrisy, and in all cases a mistake.
This idea of not joining any one particular church, and instead simply belonging to the “church at large” is often advocated in the name of unity, and yet it is clear to everyone that it is just the opposite of unity, and is intended to put an end to all visible church fellowship. The good people mentioned in our text immediately join the church of the Living God in Jerusalem. I dare say that even in those days, had they criticized the church, they would have found faults in her, certainly within a few weeks there were great faults that had to be remedied; but these converts felt that the group of Christians at Jerusalem was indeed the true church of Jesus Christ, and, therefore, they joined it. All of you can find true churches of Jesus Christ if you choose to look for them. If you wait for a perfect church, you must wait until you get to heaven; and even if you could find a perfect church on earth, I am sure they would not admit you to their fellowship, for you yourself are not perfect. Find those people who are nearest to the Scriptures, who hold the truth in doctrine and in practice, and are most like the apostolic church, and then join them, and you will be blessed for it. Consider the matter, and reflect that if it would be right for you to remain out of church fellowship, it must be right for every other believer to remain in the same condition, and then there would be no visible church on earth at all, and no body of people banded together to maintain and teach Christian commands and practices. Christian fellowship, especially the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and the maintenance of an evangelistic ministry, would become an impossibility, if no one openly declared the Savior's cause. Act then according to your duty, and if you are a Christian, join with Christians; if you love the Master, love the servants; if you love the Captain, unite with the army, and join that regiment of it which you think adheres the closest to the Master's word.
Observe next, that the persons who were reached at Pentecost were added to the church by the Lord.
Does anybody else ever add to the church? Oh, yes, the devil also often shoves in his servants. Who was it that added Judas, and Ananias and Sapphire, and Simon Magus, and Demas to the church? Who was it that snuck in at night and planted weeds among the wheat? That evil spirit is not dead, he is still plenty busy in this department, and continually adds to the church those who are “not” being saved. Satan’s servants are the mixed multitude which infest the camp of Israel, and are the first to fall into lusting; his servants are the Achans who bring a curse on the tribes: his are those of whom Jude wrote about saying, “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.” These false believers adulterate the church, and by so doing, they weaken and defile it, and bring on it much grief and dishonor. When the Lord adds to the church, that is quite another matter.
Moreover, the church itself cannot avoid adding some who should not be received. With the greatest possible care and prudence we will still make mistakes, therefore some are added whom the Lord never added to the church. You have heard Rowland Hill's story of meeting a drunken man in the street one night, who hiccupped and said to him, “How do you do, Mr. Hill? I am one of your converts.” “Yes,” said Rowland, “I would say that you are, but you are not one of God's, or else you would not be drunk.” Converts of that sort are far too numerous, converts of the Preacher, converts of friends, or converts of a watered-down gospel, but not true born again children of the Lord.
Dear friends, I invite all of you who are thinking about joining the church, to search and see whether you are the type that the Lord would add to a church. If you are, you have been converted by the Lord, you have been wounded by the Lord, and you have been healed by the Lord, and in the Lord is your righteousness and trust. It has not been man's doing; whoever may have been the instrument, the Holy Spirit has produced all your works in you. You must have been the subject of a divine intervention; something more than you could do for yourself or any man could do for you must have been formed in you by the Lord. He who made you has made you new. Oh, dear friends, who love the Lord, join in earnest prayer that the Lord would add to the church daily those who are being saved, for we long for such.
Then, the right kind of additions to the church are described in the text by the words, “those who were being saved.” The words of the verse in the King James Bible are not quite a correct translation of the original. I suppose they were borrowed from the vulgar Latin, they are not in the Greek. The translation should be either “The Lord added to the church daily the saved,” or “The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Saved persons were added to the church, and only the saved were fit to be added. We are not authorized to receive into our number those who desire to be saved, as certain churches do: I commend their plan in doing so, but I am sure they have no Scriptural warrant for it. Those who are being saved, in whom the work of salvation has truly begun, are the only proper candidates, and these are spoken of in the forty-fourth verse as “believers.” The proper persons to be added to the visible church of Jesus Christ are those who believe to the salvation of their souls, who are daily experiencing the saving power of the name of Jesus by being delivered from sin, by being saved from the pattern of the world, by being saved in the sense of sanctified from the various corruptions and lusts which rule among the sons of men. These are the sort of persons who should be added to the church. So let the question be asked, “Am I saved? Have I believed in Jesus?” If I have, the process of salvation is going on within me, I am being delivered from the reigning, ruling power of sin each day; I am being kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, and I will be kept and presented in the end spotless before the presence of God with great joy. We set the door wide open to all who are saved, however little their faith may be. The church has no right to exclude any of the saved because their knowledge or experience is not that of advanced believers. If they believe in Jesus and are saved, then the babes belong to the family and ought to be received, the lambs belong to the flock and ought not to be kept outside the fold.
Church membership is not a certificate of advanced Christianity, it is simply the recognition of the profession of saving faith in Jesus Christ. May the Lord add to this church many of the saved, and may we sit at the Lord's table together and sing of redeeming grace and dying love, as those who love the Savior. Come here, you who are the Lord's little ones, but stay far away, you unbelievers and unregenerate ones. Again the text says, “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” They were really “added” to the church. I am afraid certain persons' names are added to the church, but they themselves are not.
They increase our numbers, they are added like figures on a piece of paper, but they do not add to our strength. The church is a vital body, and to add to a vitalized body requires a divine operation. The church is like a tree; if you want to add to a tree you cannot take a dead branch and tie it on, that is not adding to it, but hindering it. To add to a tree there must be some grafting done, which requires skill, and the branch, itself alive, must be knit to the living trunk by a living bond, so that the vital sap of the tree will flow into the grafted branch. A true church is a living entity, and only living men and women made alive by the Spirit of God are fit to be grafted into it, and the grafting must be done by the Lord himself, otherwise it is no true addition to the church of the Living God. Some members are only tied on to the church, and they are neither useful nor an enhancement, just as a dead branch fastened to a tree would add no beauty to it, and would certainly bear no fruit. There must be a living union, so that the life which is in the church will join with the life that is in the man or the woman, and the one life of the one living Spirit will flow through the whole of the body.
When I hear those who profess to be Christians criticizing the churches to which they belong, when I see division and hostility among church members, I can clearly understand that the Lord never added them, and it would be a great mercy to the church if the Lord would take them away. When the Lord adds them, then they are added for time and for eternity, and they can say to the church, “Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” One more point in the text is this, that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” There were additions to the church every day.
Some churches, if they have an addition once in twelve months make as much noise over that one as a hen does when she has laid an egg. Now, in the early church they would not have been contented with so small an increase; they would have gone weeping and mourning all over Jerusalem if there had been additions only once in the year. But, one cries, “If we have an addition every month, isn’t that enough? “Well, it is enough for some people, but when hearts are warm and full of love to Christ, then we want him to be praised from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same, and we long to have added to the church daily those who are being saved; and why not? But, you reply, we are not preaching daily. That may be, but we ought to be; if not daily in the pulpit, there should be the daily preaching of the life, and if all the members of the church were daily teaching of Jesus Christ from house to house, a daily sowing would bring a daily reaping; if we were daily praying with earnestness, and daily using every effort we could by the power of the Holy Spirit, and if daily the church lived in fellowship with her master, we would soon see added to it daily those who were being saved. “Why don’t we see it,” says one, “in many churches?” Why, because many churches do not believe in it. If there were many converts added to them, they would say, “Yes, we hear of a great many additions, but what are they? We hope they will hold on,” or some such unkind remark. If to some churches there would come a large increase, there are brethren who would not believe it to be genuine, and would despise the little ones. God will not cause his children to be born where there is no one to nurse them; he will be sure not to send converts to churches which do not want them. He will not have his lambs snarled over and kept out in the cold for months together to see whether they will howl as wolves or bleat as sheep. He loves to see his people watchful for new converts, and watchful over them. The Good Shepherd would have us feed his lambs, gather them in from the cold field of the world, and carry them to some warm sheltered place, and nurture them for him. When he sees a church ready to do that, then will he send them his lambs, but not till then. II. That brings me to the second point, which is this: UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS MAY WE EXPECT ADDITIONS TO THE CHURCH ON A LARGE SCALE?
Turn to the chapter again and we will have our answer. We may expect additions to every church of the Living God on a large scale when she has first of all a Holy Spirit ministry.
Peter was no doubt a man of considerable natural abilities, he was also a warmhearted, fervent man, the kind of person that would have power over his fellowmen, because of the enthusiasm within him; but for all this Peter had never seen three thousand persons converted until he had been baptized with the Holy Spirit. After the tongue of fire had sat on Peter's head, he became another man from what he had ever been before. If, dear brethren, we are to see large multitudes converted, the power of the preacher must lie in his being filled with the Holy Spirit. I fear that many churches would not be content with a ministry whose power would lie solely in the Holy Spirit. What I mean is this, that they judge a minister by his elaboration of style, or beauty of imagery, or degree of culture; and if he is a man of such refined speech that only a select few can understand him, then he is a favorite with what is considered to be “a respectable church.” Some despise a preacher whom the common people hear gladly, who uses great plainness of speech, and discards the words which man's wisdom teaches. They complain that he is only fit to address the most common among people, and for this they turn their backs on him. They don’t want the fire of the Spirit, but rather the flash of rhetoric; not the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit, but the perfumed wind of “high culture.” The jingle of rhetoric has more attraction for them than the clear sound of the trumpets of the sanctuary. May God have mercy on the church that has got into such a miserable state, and is so lacking in true education, for where a church is educated by the Lord she understands that salvation is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God. Plainness of speech is the perfection of gospel utterance, for that is how the Master himself spoke. Men of studied elocution, who can build up a climax, and cap it with a dainty piece of poetry, are not the men whom God the Holy Spirit honors to be soul-winners. Haven’t you heard fine sermons, which have perfectly charmed you by their beauty, and yet after you have heard them you have felt that if the Lord did bless such sermons to the conversion of anybody it would be a novelty on the face of the earth, for there was such little of Christ in them, and none of the power of the Holy Spirit? Great sermons are often great sins, and “intellectual treats” are frequently a mess of savory mush made from unclean meats.
A Holy Spirit ministry, if Peter is the model, is one which is bold, clear, telling, and persuasive. One which tells men that Jesus is the Christ, and that they have crucified him, and calls on them to repent and turn to the Lord. The truly sent preacher speaks out straight and plain, and home to the conscience, whether men will hear or whether they will refrain. The Holy Spirit minister chooses Jesus for his main theme, as Peter did. He did not speak to them about modern science and the ways of twisting Scripture into agreement with it. He cared nothing for the ramblings of the Rabbis or the philosophies of the Greeks; but he went right on preaching Christ crucified and Christ risen from the dead. When he had preached Christ, he made a pointed personal appeal to them and said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.” He was not afraid to give such an exhortation; he was not like some who say, “We must warn sinners and then leave them; we may preach Christ to them, but may not request them to repent;” but he boldly preached the gospel and left it to his Master to send it home by the power of the Holy Spirit. That was the sort of sermon which God blesses. The man was full of God, and God shone through the man, and worked with him, and forgiveness of sins was sought for and was found through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by a vast number of souls. May God send to all his churches a Holy Spirit ministry!
But if there are to be many additions to the church it must next be a Holy Spirit church. Note that. What is a Holy Spirit church? Well, it is a church baptized into his power, and this will be known first by its being devoted.
Read the 42nd verse: “They devoted themselves.” He will not bless a church which is excited and then relapses, is carried away by every novelty, and does not know what it believes, but a church which lives in Jesus and in his truth.
They were devoted in four points. “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
In the apostle's teaching. They were a doctrinal church, they believed in being devoted to the unmovable truth; they did not belong to the shifty generation of men who plead that their views are progressive, and that they cannot hold themselves bound by a ordinary creed. Dear brothers and sisters, never give up the grand old truths of the gospel. Let no excitement, even though it is the whirlwind of a revival, ever sweep you off your feet concerning the great doctrines of the cross. If God does not save men by truth he certainly will not save them by lies, and if the old gospel is not competent to work a revival, then we will do without the revival; we will keep to the old truth, anyhow, come what may! Our flag is nailed to the pole.
Next they were devoted in fellowship. They loved each other, and they continued doing so. They conversed with one another about the things of God, and they did not give up the conversation. They helped each other when they were in need, and they continued in such kindness. They were true brethren, and their fellowship was not broken.
Next they continued in the breaking of bread , which is a delightful ordinance, and never to be despised or underestimated. As often as they could they celebrated the death of Christ, until he would come again. They delighted the dear memorials of his sacred passion, both in the church and from house to house.
They also remained devoted in prayer. Mark that! God cannot bless a church which does not pray, and churches must increase in supplication if they would increase in strength. Sacred insistent requests must surround the throne of God, and then the blessing will be given. Oh, children of the heavenly King, you hamper the Spirit and hinder the blessing if you restrain prayer. Here were four points, then, in which the church was devoted, and God blessed it.
Note next that it was a united church.
We read of them that they were so united that they had all things in common, and they daily continued with one accord in the church. There were no parties among them, no petty strifes and divisions, they loved the Lord too well for that. The Sacred Dove takes his flight when strife comes in. If you divide the church within itself, you also divide it from the mighty operations of the Spirit of God. Be full of love to one another, and then you may expect that God the Holy Spirit will fill you with blessing. They were a generous church as well as a united church. They were so generous that they threw in their property into a common reserve lest any should be in need. They were not communists, they were Christians; and the difference between a communist and a Christian is this-a communist says, “All that is yours is mine;” while a Christian says, “All that is mine is yours;” and that is a very different thing. The one is for getting, and the other is for giving. These believers acted in such a generous spirit one to another, that it seemed as if nobody considered that what he had belonged to himself, but generously gave of it to the necessities of others. I do not believe the Lord will ever bless a stingy church. There are churches whose minister has fearfully questioned how he will even provide food and clothing for his household, and yet these churches are not very poor. There are churches where more is spent per year for cleaning than they spend on the cause of Christ; and where this is the case no great good will be done. The Lord will never bless a synagogue of misers; if they are misers they may keep their worship to themselves, for God is as a generous God, and he loves to have a generous people.
Again, these people were in such a condition that their homes were holy places.
I want you to notice this, that they were breaking bread from house to house, and ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart. They did not think that religion was meant only for Sundays, and for what men now-a-days call the House of God. Their own houses were houses of God, and their own meals were so mixed and mingled with the Lord's Supper that to this day the most cautious student of the Bible cannot tell when they stopped eating their common meals, and when they began eating the Supper of the Lord. They elevated their meals into diets for worship: they so consecrated everything with prayer and praise that all around them was holiness to the Lord. I wish our houses were, in this way, dedicated to the Lord, so that we worshipped God all day long, and made our homes temples for the living God. A great dignitary not long ago informed us that there is great value in daily prayer in the parish church; he even asserted that, however few might attend, it was more acceptable than any other worship. I suppose that prayer in the parish church with nobody to join in it except the priest and the usher is far more effectual than the largest family gathering in the house at home. This was evidently this gentleman's idea, and I suppose the literature which he was best acquainted with was of such an order as, to have led him to draw that inference. Had he been acquainted with the Bible and such old fashioned books, he would have learned rather differently, and if some one should make him a present of a New Testament, it might perhaps suggest a few new thoughts to him. Does God need a house? He who made the heavens and the earth, does he dwell in temples made with hands? What crass ignorance this is! No house beneath the sky is more holy than the place where a Christian lives, and eats, and drinks, and sleeps, and praises the Lord in all that he does, and there is no worship more heavenly than that which is presented by holy families, devoted to the fear of the Lord.
To sacrifice home worship to public worship is a most evil course of action. Morning and evening devotion in a little home is infinitely more pleasing in the sight of God than all the cathedral pomp which delights the carnal eye and ear. Every truly Christian household is a church, and as such it is competent for the discharge of any function of divine worship, whatever it may be. Are we not all priests? Why do we need to call in others to make devotion a performance? Let every man be a priest in his own house. Are you not all kings if you love the Lord? Then make your houses palaces of joy and temples of holiness. One reason why the early church had such a blessing was because her members had such homes. When we are like them we will have “added to the church those who were being saved.”
I have already mentioned that they were a praying church, and that accounted greatly for the increase. They were a devout church, a church which did not forget any part of the Lord's will. They were a baptized church, and they were a church that continually celebrated the Lord’s Supper, so we can see that they were obedient to Christ in both ordinances. They were also a joyful church. We find that they ate their food with gladness. Their religion was not of the somber type which comes from doubts and fears. They were believers in a risen Redeemer, and though they knew that they would soon be persecuted, they rejoiced so much that everybody could see heaven shining on their faces, and might have known that they believed in the blessed gospel, for they were a blessed people. They were also a praising church, for it is said they “praised God, and they had favor with all the people.” Oh, may the Lord make this church and all the churches around us to be as holy and joyful as that apostolic community.
III. I must conclude with a word on that which I wanted most of all to say: WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES DO THESE ADDITIONS TO THE CHURCH BRING TO US? To you who are to be added to the church tonight, and I thank God that there are so many of you, it involves this responsibility: Do not come in among us unless you are saved. Judge yourselves with honesty, examine yourselves with care, and although you have gone as far as you have, yet tonight, before I give you the right hand of fellowship, if you are conscious that you are not what you profess to be, I do beg you to still stand back. However, if you are the weakest of the weak, and the feeblest of the feeble, yet, if you are sincere, come and be welcomed; but if you are not sincere, do not add to your sin by taking upon you a profession which you cannot keep up, and by declaring a lie before the Lord; for if you do so, remember you will not have lied to man, but to God himself, in daring to affirm yourselves Christians, while you are unbelievers. Come, yes come if you are believers, and when you come, remember that the responsibility which you undertake in God's strength, is that you live to prove that you have really given yourself up to the church, that you intend to serve Christ with all your heart, that you will seek to promote the holiness and unity of the church which you join, and will strive to do nothing to dishonor her good name or to grieve the Spirit of God. In joining the church, pray to continue to be devoted in doctrine and fellowship. Pray for more grace, that you may be filled with the Spirit of God. Do not come in to weaken us, we are weak enough already. Do not come in to adulterate our purity, we have enough impurity even now. Pray that God may make you a real increase to our prayerfulness, to our holiness, to our earnestness, to our higher life, and then come and welcome, and the Lord be with you!
As for us who will receive the converts, what is our responsibility?
First, to welcome them wholeheartedly. Let us open wide the door of our hearts and say, “Come and welcome,” for Jesus Christ's sake. After welcoming them we must watch over them, and when so many are added, double care is needed. Of course, no two pastors can possibly watch over this vast assembly of four thousand five hundred professed believers. Let the watching be done by all the members: by the officers of the church first, and then by every individual. I am very thankful that out of the cheering number to be brought in tonight the larger proportion belong to the families of the church. My brothers and sisters already in Christ, it is fortunate for these young people that they have you to watch over them. Never let it be said that any parent discourages his child, that any guardian discourages the young after they have come forward and avowed their faith. If you notice faults, remember you have faults yourselves: do not mockingly throw their failing in their teeth as some have unkindly done. Guide them and cheer them on. Help their weakness, bear with their ignorance and impulsiveness, and correct their mistakes. I charge you, my beloved sisters, be nursing mothers in the church, and you, my brothers, be fathers to these young people, that they may be enabled by your help through God's Spirit to stay on the path. It is an evil thing to receive members, and never care for them afterwards. Among so many some must escape our supervision, but if all the members of the church were watchful this could be avoided; each would have some one to care for him, each one would have a friend to whom to tell his troubles and his cares. Watch, I pray, watch over the church.
And you older ones, myself included, let our example be such that they can safely follow. Do not let them come into the church and find us cold. Let us try, as we see these young ones coming among us, to grow young again in heart and sympathy. In receiving these new members we ought to have, dear brethren, an access of new strength, and a more vigorous life. The church ought to be giving out more light, for here are fresh lamps. She should be doing more for Christ, here are new workers; she should become stronger, more daring, more useful, for here are newly enlisted bold soldiers. I think, as I see new converts brought in, I see the Lord lighting up new stars to gladden this world's night; I see him swearing in new soldiers to fight Christ's battles; I see him sending out new sowers to sow the fields of the world for the ever-glorious harvest, and I bless and praise and magnify his name with gladness of soul. Heavenly Father, keep them, yes, keep us all, lest any of us, though added to the church on earth, should not be added to the church in heaven. Keep us so that when the muster roll is read for the last time, we who have had our names inscribed among the saints on earth may find them written among the blessed in heaven. May God grant it, and he will have all the glory. Amen.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Acts 2". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30