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Christ, preparing his apostles for the beholding of his ascension, gathereth them together unto the mount Olivet, commandeth them to expect in Jerusalem the sending down of the Holy Ghost, and promiseth after a few days to send it: by virtue whereof they should be witnesses unto him, even to the utmost parts of the earth. After his ascension they are warned by two angels to depart, and to set their minds upon his second coming: they accordingly return, and, giving themselves to prayer, choose Matthias apostle in the place of Judas.
Anno Domini 33.
Acts 1:1. The former treatise— This former treatise, undoubtedly, means the gospel, which was written by St. Luke, and dedicated by him to Theophilus. See the note on Luk 1:3.All in this verse, cannot mean every one of the miracles and sermons which Jesus wrought and preached. See John 20:30-43.20.31; John 21:25. By all, therefore, we must understand only all that was necessary to be recorded, to establish the divine mission of Christ, and to convince mankind. All that Jesus began to do and teach, is a Hebraism, frequently used by the sacred writers, and particularly St. Luke; and signifies only "all that he did and taught." The phrase, however, may refer here to the account which he had given of Christ's ministry, from the beginningand first rise of it, (as he speaks, ch. Acts 1:2-44.1.3.) to the ascension (with which he concludes his gospe
Acts 1:2. Through the Holy Ghost had given, &c.— By the influence and assistance of the Holy Spirit, with which he himself was anointed, "the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily." It is no wonder, considering how short a history we have between Christ's resurrection and ascension, that this should be the only place which speaks of his acting by the Spirit after he arose from the dead. His breathing on the apostles, and saying, Receive ye the Holy Spirit, Joh 20:22 confirms the interpretation that we have given. In the third verse St. Luke expresses, in general terms, what Christ said to his apostles during the forty days of his continuance with them upon earth. But in the 2nd, 4th, and following verses, he declares what Christ said on the day of his ascension. He had brought his former account down to that day; and from that day began the Acts of the Apostles.
Acts 1:3. Shewed himself alive by many infallible proofs,— By infallible proofs are meant such proofs as amount to a demonstration, and cannot admit of the least doubt. Thus the actions of speaking, walking, eating, and drinking, are the undoubted proofs of life; and it should be observed, that the disciples had the same infallible proofs of Christ's being alive after his passion, as they ever had of his being alive before it. They saw him, saw the particular marks of identity in his person and countenance, in his hands, feet, and side, which had been pierced at his crucifixion. They saw him also eat what they themselves gave him; a piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb. They heard him speak, and were by him commanded to handle him, and see that he had flesh and bones,—a command, which doubtless they obeyed, for the words, as ye see me have, strongly imply, that theyhad received the satisfaction offered them, by feeling his hands and feet. Certainly these were infallible proofs, as the sacred writer asserts: but what increases their certainty, is, that they were frequently repeated; not for one or two days, but for the space of forty days together. Whoever takes a view of the method and order in which the several proofs of the resurrection were laid before the apostles, must confess, that, as Christ required of them a reasonable and well-grounded faith, so did he pursue the most proper and effectual means for attainingthat end. For this purpose, instead of bearing down their reason, and dazzling their understanding bya full manifestation of himself all at once, we see him letting in the light upon them by little and little, and preparing their minds, by the gradual dawning of truth, to bear the full lustre of the Sun of righteousness rising from the grave; to consider and examine, and know that it was he himself; and to assure the world that it was impossible they could be deceived. And most certainly, never was evidence more fairly offered to consideration; never was the inquiry put into a more rational method, as, indeed, there never were any facts which could better bear the test. Speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, implies the giving them full instructions concerning the nature of his spiritual kingdom; which, before his resurrection, they did not rightly understand. Dr. Heylin observes on this passage, that "the Greeks weave long periods, by connecting many clauses with relative pronouns, participles, and prepositions, in one sentence; which, according to the genius of our language, should be divided into several sentences; whose brevity facilitates the attention of the reader, by holding it less in suspence." I therefore scruple not, says he, "frequently to change the grammatical construction of the original, and sometimes insert a word or two, that I may render the sense more intelligible, which is the principal purpose of my interpretation." Conformably to this remark, he reads the present passage thus: Acts 1:3. He had soon after his passion, shewed them himself alive with indubitable evidences, appearing to them forty days and discoursing with them concerning the kingdom of God. Acts 1:4. [One day in particular] being present with them, when they were assembled, he ordered them not to depart, &c. The reader will find in the note, on ch. Act 10:41 an answer to the objection raised from Christ's confining his appearance, after his resurrection, to his disciples and friends.
Acts 1:4. That they should not depart, &c.— This seems a plain intimation that, after our Lord had met his disciples in Galilee, he appointed the apostles to meet him in Jerusalem, or perhaps accompanied them thither, and as man spent his last days on earth there; doing his last honour to the place where the Godhead had in a peculiar sense chosen to dwell, and where the most solemn ordinances of his worship had been administered. There is nothing for the words saith he, in the original, but they are plainly implied, and we have many examples in the best Greek writers of such a change in the persons speaking. Many others occur in the sacred writers. Compare Luke 5:14.Acts 17:3; Acts 17:3; Acts 23:22.Genesis 26:7; Genesis 26:7. Deuteronomy 2:13. This is the rather to be observed, as it may account for many prophesies of Christ in the Old Testament, where he is introduced as speaking on a sudden in an abrupt manner; which is not so usual in modern and western writers.
Acts 1:5. Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost— Baptism was a rite of initiation, by which disciples were admitted not only among the Jews, but also among other nations. John the Baptist adopted this rite after the Jewish manner, making use of water for this purpose: but Christ's disciplesbeing designed for an office of a superior nature, to disseminate the gospel all over the world, and to govern the church of Christ after his departure, were instated and initiated into their office in a superior manner, God himself sending down theHoly Ghost in a visible form for this purpose. But something more than the mere consecration of the apostles was intended by this miraculous appearance; for bythese means, he gave testimony to the truth of all that Christ had said to the apostles: he declared, that whatsoever they should teach was the effect of immediate and infallible inspiration; and he gave them both knowledge of the divine will, and courage to preachit, in opposition to every obstacle which power, or wealth, or learning, or danger, or death, could throw in their way.
Acts 1:6-44.1.8. Lord, wilt thou at this time, &c.— The disciples seem to have expected, that, when the Spirit was in so extraordinary a manner poured out, and the world, according to Christ's prediction (John 16:8.) convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, the whole nation of the Jews would own him for the Messiah, and so not only throw off its subjection to the Romans, but itself rise tovery extensive and perhaps universal dominion. The word αποκαθιστανεις, rendered wilt thou restore, intimates the shattered and weakened state in which Israel now was. Dr. Heylin renders the clause more properly, Wilt thou re-establish the kingdom of Israel at that time? namely, when they should be baptized, as was promised just before. Our Lord's answer, though calculated to repress an improper curiosity, yet may intimate, that the kingdom should at length be restored, though not immediately, or with all the circumstances which they imagined. "It will not beof any use to you, in your work, to know the times or the seasons for the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Besides, this is one of the things which the Father hath thought fit to conceal from mortals in the abyss of Omniscience. This only is of importance for you to know, that you shall receive miraculous powers after the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and that by these powers you shall bear witness unto me with great success."
Acts 1:9. A cloud received him, &c.— That is, some bright appearance like a cloud, accompanied by angels. It was for majesty, and not for necessity, that our Lord used the ministration of angels on this occasion. See 2 Kings 2:11. Our Lord ascended into heaven from the mount of Olives, at or near the place where he had been apprehended and bound, and whence he had been led away like a felon to be tried for his life, insulted, scourged, and condemned to crucifixion. He now goes off in triumph from the same mountain into a place and state worthy of his innocence and infinite dignity. See the note on Luk 24:50 and the Reflections on that ch
Acts 1:10-44.1.11. Behold two men, &c.— Two angels in human form. As Christ's resurrection had been honoured with the appearance of angels, it is natural to expect that his ascension into heaven would be so likewise. The angels spake of our Lord's coming to judgethe world at the last day, a description of which he himself had given in his life-time: For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels. Matthew 16:27. Wherefore the cloud whereon our Lord now ascended, being the same with that in which he is to come again, was more bright and pure than the clearest lambent flame; for it was the glory of God, that is, the Shechinah, or visible symbol of the divine presence, which appeared to the patriarchs in antient times, which filled the temple at its dedication, 2Ch 7:3 and which cannot be beheld in its greater splendour by mortal eyes. As our Lord ascended up into the skies, the flaming cloud which surrounded him, leaving a large track of light behind it, marked his passage through the air, but gradually lost its magnitude in the eyes of those who stood below, till, soaring high, he and it vanished out of their sight. In this illustrious manner did our Saviour depart, after having finished the grand work which he came down upon earth to execute; a work which God himself, in the remotest eternity, contemplated with pleasure, which angels antiently with joy described as to happen, and which, through all eternity to come, shall, at periods the most immensely distant from the time of its execution, be looked back upon with inexpressible delight by every inhabitant of heaven: for, though the little affairs of time may vanish altogether and be lost, when they are removed far back by the endless progression of duration, this object is such, that no distance, however great, can lessen it.The kingdom of God is erected upon the incarnation and sufferings of the Son of God,—the kingdom and city of God, comprehending all the holy and faithful beings that have been, or ever shall be, in the universe, made happy by goodness and love; and therefore none of them can ever forget the foundation on which their happiness stands firmly established. In particular, the faithful of the human species, recovered by this labour of the Son of God, will view their Deliverer, and look back on his stupendous undertaking, with high ravishment, while they are feasting without interruption on its sweet fruits, ever growing more delicious. The other holy and faithful members of this city of God will likewise contemplate it with perpetual pleasure, as the happy means of recovering their faithful kindred who were lost, and as a grand confirmation of the whole rational and divine system, in their subjection to him who liveth and reigneth for ever, and whose favour is better than life.
Acts 1:12. A sabbath day's journey.— That is, about a mile. See the note on Luke 24:50.
Acts 1:13-44.1.14. They went up into an upper room,— This might be rendered into the upper room. There was in Jerusalem an upper room in which the apostles had been used to assemble with their Lord, where they had eaten the last supper with him, and where perhaps they had assembled since his resurrection, and been favoured with his company. Such a room many of the richer and more devout Jews used tohave in their houses for religious exercises. Some say, that this room where the apostles assembled, was upon mount Sion, where Epiphanius asserts there was afterwards a Christian church built: that the gospel should go out from mount Sion, was agreeable to the prophecies, Isaiah 2:3.Micah 4:2; Micah 4:2. See also the note on Luke 24:52.
Acts 1:15. The number of the names, &c.— Of the persons. See Rev. ch. Act 3:4 and Virg. AEn. 6: ver. 763. An hundred and twenty was the number of a Jewish council. It is very likely that most of the disciples who met our Lord in Galilee after his resurrection, did either live in Galilee, in the remotest parts of Judea, or in Samaria, and were not now in Jerusalem.
Acts 1:16. Men and brethren,— Literally, men brethren. So chap. Acts 2:29. See chap. Acts 7:2. Some have taken this for a Hebraism; and it is true, that it was usual with the Hebrews; but it was used also by the politest Greeks,—Xenophon, Homer, Herodotus, &c. Instead of must needs have been fulfilled, Dr. Heylin reads must be fulfilled. His place must be supplied by a new election, as in the sequel. See Acts 1:20.
Acts 1:18. Now this man purchased a field, &c.— It means, Occasioned the purchasing a field. It is worth observing, that an action is sometimes said in scripture to be done by a person who was the occasion of doing it. See Genesis 42:38. Exodus 23:8. Romans 14:15. 1Co 7:16 and 1 Timothy 4:16. To what has been said in the note on Mat 27:5 on the death of Judas, we subjoin the following observationsof different writers. Casaubon observes, that Judas hanged himself; but the rope breaking, he fell down, and, by the fall, broke his belly. He supposes therefore, that St. Matthew relates only the beginning of the history, and St. Luke the conclusion. Stephanus, in his Lexicon, says, that when Judas had put the rope about his neck, throwing himself forward from the place where he stood, he burst his belly by the shock which he received; and with this opinion Dr. Whitby seems to agree. Hensius interprets the word απηγξατο in Matthew, he was suffocated by the anguish of his mind; to which he applies what is said by the LXX. 2Sa 17:23 and Job 7:15 and adds, "such a suffocation is wont to occasion a rupture;" which he thinks is applicable to St. Luke's account. Gronovius understands the word to signify he hung himself, but then he interprets the expression πρηνης εγεντο, falling headlong, in a passive sense, as if Judas's body, when dead, was cut down by some other person, and so burst by the fall. Lastly, Perizonius, agreeing with Hensius, understands St. Matthew as speaking only of a suffocation arising from a melancholy disorder; which sense of the word he proves from a variety of examples, But then he supposes, that thisdid not kill Judas, who afterwards threw himself down from an eminence upon his face, and broke his belly by the fall; which is what is referred to by St. Luke.
Acts 1:19. And it was known, &c.— Aringhius mentions a funeral inscription dug up in the Via Nomentana, by which it appears that the fate of Judas became a proverbial form of cursing. See his Roma Subterran. p. 436. The best critics seem universally to read this verse in a parenthesis, considering it not as the words of St. Peter, but of the historian. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, that the potter's field was the place where Judas hanged himself; and that it was not only bought with the money for which Judas had sold his Master, but stained also with the traitor's blood. See on Matthew 27:7-40.27.8.
Acts 1:20. And his bishoprick let another take.— And let another take his office. Heylin.
Acts 1:22. Must one be ordained, &c.— They must reasonably and modestly conclude, that it was fit the number of apostles whom Christ first chose, should be kept up, perhaps in allusion to the twelve tribes of Israel. But it is impossible, as well as quite unnecessary, that we at this distance of time should be able to assign a reason why the two afterwards mentioned, and no more, were proposed as candidates. Perhaps a longer and more intimate acquaintance with our Lord, might entitle them to a preference on this occasion.
Acts 1:23. Joseph called Barsabas, &c.— That this Joseph was a different person from Joses, surnamed Barnabas, mentioned ch. Act 4:36 will appear more than probable, when it has been considered, first, that the character of Barnabas is given chap. 4: as if he had no where been mentioned before: secondly, this Joseph was surnamed Justus; but we nowhere find that Barnabas was so named,
Acts 1:24. Which knowest the hearts— See Proverbs 15:11. 1 Samuel 16:7. Jeremiah 17:10.
Acts 1:25. That he might go to his own place.— That is, to the place and state of lost souls. It was a maxim among the Jews, "He who betrayeth an Israelite, shall have no part in the world to come." The term his own place, or his due or appointed place, was very frequently used by the primitive Christians, who meant thereby to express a man's going presently after death into his proper place and state of happiness or misery. In the epistle ascribed to Barnabas, it is said, that good men go to the place appointed for them; and Clemens Romanus observes, that St. Peter suffered martyrdom, and went into the place of glory which was due to him, that is, his own, through the Blood of Christ. Ignatius says, "all things have an end; death and life are set before us, and every one must go unto his own place." Compare with this, what our Lord himself had said of Judas, Matthew 26:24.John 6:70-43.6.71; John 6:70-43.6.71; John 17:12. The word rendered part is κληρον, which signifies a lot, and may refer to the lots mentioned in the next verse.
Acts 1:26. And they gave forth, &c.— This was, no doubt, most impartially adjusted, though we know not in what particular method. The honour which God had in peculiar instances conferred on inquiries by lot, (see Jos 7:14-15. 1 Samuel 10:20-9.10.21.) and the custom of fixing the offices of the priests in the temple, while in waiting there, by lot, (1Ch 24:5-7 and Luke 1:9.) might lead them to this turn of thought; or, very probably, they might have received an express revelation from heaven in respect to their mode of proceeding. Thus the number of the apostles of the circumcision was filled up again before the effusion of the Holy Spirit,—that the Spirit might fall on Matthias in the same manner as upon the other eleven; and that he might not only have like spiritual gifts, and miraculous powers, but that they might be conferred at the same time, and in the same conspicuous and honourable mann
Inferences drawn from the character and conduct of Judas Iscariot. We have already made some reflections on the history of Judas. See on Matthew 26 : &c. From that character and conduct we now further observe, there arises "a strong proof of the truth of the Christian religion." For in Judas we have a man, who in three respects particularly answers three distinct and most remarkable prophesies, and who, being thoroughly acquainted with the most secret conduct and views of the Lord Jesus, was therefore capable of detecting any fraud or imposture which might have been supposed to be carrying on by him;—and yet this man, after having delivered up Christ through the strength of the temptations of avarice, ambition, and resentment, no sooner finds the consequence of what he had done, than his conscience, taking the alarm, makes him in the strongest manner retract, and attest his Master's innocence, before those very rulers, to whom he had betrayed him but a few hours before; and to whom it is evident he had made no discovery of imposture, since they would not have failed, as well to have reproached him with it when he returned the money, as to have urged it against Jesus upon his trial, which yet they never did: and this man, finding that his retracting his evidence, or at least declaring the innocence of Jesus, had no effect with the chief priests, speedily put an end to a miserable being in an excess of grief and remorse. I have sinned, cried he, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood! an attestation to the innocence of Christ, so circumstanced, that it is scarcely possible to suppose a stronger; which nothing but the most thorough conviction could have extorted, as nothing but the deepest remorse could have hurried him on to so desperate a death, which, according to the idea of the Talmudists, was the punishment usually inflicted by the divine vengeance on such persons as bore false witness against their neighbours.
And Judas bore false witness against his Master and his God! Stirred up to a deed so execrable, by the vile temptation of miserable covetousness, he followed the blessed Jesus, not to partake of the riches of his spiritual kingdom, but in hopes of temporal power and wealth. As soon as he perceived the golden dreams vanish which he had formed, that there was no hope of temporal advantage from Christ, nay, that Christ was privy to the secret designs of his malevolent heart, full of resentment for his disappointed purposes, he, for a few silver pence, betrays his Master, whose innocence he perfectly knew, whose power he had fully experienced, and whose goodness and love had charms enough, one should think, to have engaged any heart but a covetous one.
And how do we see the crime of Judas, black and horrid as it is, daily re-acted upon earth, and repeated among professing disciples of Christ! How many are there, who prefer gold and temporal interest to their God, their Saviour, and their souls, and, strangely perverse, set so exorbitant a value on the gifts, as to forget, as to despise, as to betray the Giver! Covetousness is a crime above measure odious in the sight of God; whose liberal bounty freely extended to all his creatures, abundantly shews his abhorrence of it. Christ has given a particular charge against it, "Take heed and beware of covetousness." St. Paul has stigmatized it with the opprobrious name of idolatry. It robs God of the heart; it robs our fellow-creatures of their due; it injures the poor and afflicted; and, what is worst of all, it robs the soul of everlasting bliss. Take heed therefore, and beware of covetousness.
One powerful reason to incline us to do so,—a reason which should make the covetous heart bleed drops of blood, is, that the most execrable and horrid villany that ever was thought of, ever was heard of under the sun, was owing to covetousness; namely, the betraying to crucifixion the innocent Lamb of God. Nor let us suppose ourselves above the power of this lust; for who shall presume to be secure, when a disciple, an apostle, a preacher of righteousness, a worker of miracles, was yet seduced to sell his Master and his soul upon so sordid a consideration as thirty pieces of silver! This ought to put us all upon our guard; and the fate of Judas stands as a monument and perpetual admonition to all who make gold their god, and the fine gold their confidence.
We may observe again with respect to Judas, that, though never conscience was more distressed than his, yet was his sorrow wholly unavailing; and that for this plain reason, because he would not, he could not, (given over, as he then was, to a reprobate mind) fly for mercy to the blessed Lamb of God. Convinced that he had betrayed that Lamb to his crucifiers, and conceiving that there could be no grace for a wretch like him, he abandoned himself to all the horrors of despair, and, full of his own aggravated guilt, could bear the light no longer, but rushed from temporal into eternal punishment. For repentance by no means consists solely in, nor is its truth and efficacy to be gathered merely from, the inward anguish and sufferings of the mind. It is possible that these may be the most intense, and yet the sorrow utterly inefficacious. For such was the case of Judas, and such has been the case of many despairing sinners: they have seen their own guilt in its utmost horror, and most aggravated circumstances; and may have been ready with Judas to make restitution of their ill-gotten gains, and freely to confess their fault: but then they have been devoid of that humble and earnest application to the bleeding Redeemer, which is the only source of hope to the repenting soul; and which, as it is the only means whereby we obtain pardon, so it is the only means which can prevent or cure despair. This teaches us the heinous, the unspeakable guilt of self-murder; which is a voluntary cutting ourselves off from all possibility of the Redeemer's mercy, a voluntary plunge into woe eternal, and misery unutterable. This fatal step for ever deprived Judas of hope and pardon, and he sunk into endless sorrow, and into the world of darkness, where there is no repentance, and where the doom is irrevocably sealed.
Upon the whole, from this example of Judas, we who, like him, are of the visible church of Christ, should take especial heed, that we deceive not ourselves by depending upon our outward privileges, while our hearts are not right before God, and our intentions are warped and biassed by worldly attachments. It behoves us to be especially careful, that we adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour by a suitable conduct; otherwise the excellence of our profession will serve only the more to enhance the severity of our future condemnation: and as Judas perished in the more extreme anguish, because he had been so particularly favoured by his Lord and Master, so shall we perish with aggravated confusion if we disobey a doctrine which is perfective of our higher happiness, and despise a Saviour who bled only to bless and to save. Judas could not bear the stings and arrows of his reproaching conscience; and all guilt, sooner or later, will find conscience as busy as it was with him. Let then the sinner reflect, who has lived days, and months, and years, in utter neglect of the God who created him,—of the Redeemer who died for his soul.—Let him think, what extremity of anguish will seize his soul, when death gives the last summons, and the future world is opening on his view! Ungrateful to his Father, his Saviour, his immortal Friend; neglectful of his own infinitely valuable interest, enslaved to concupiscence and sin, every circumstance of condemnation will crowd upon his mind; while his affrighted and tormented conscience anticipates the punishment to come. Let no man doubt of that punishment; the despairing sinner is a living proof: he carries his own hell with him; a worm within, which never dieth; a flame which never shall be quenched. It can only now be quenched; and now quenched only by one sovereign stream, the precious blood which flowed from the Lamb of God, when, betrayed by his own familiar friend, he died a willing sacrifice for the sins of the world.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, St. Luke, the supposed penman of this book, addresses it, as he had done his gospel, to Theophilus his noble catechumen.
1. He reminds him of the former treatise which he had written for his edification and instruction, containing an account of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, laying the foundation of that Christian church on which they were to build, until the day in which he was taken up, continuing to instruct them in the nature of his kingdom, after that he, through the Holy Ghost, which the Father gave without measure unto him, had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen, commissioning them to preach his gospel, and, according to the plenitude of his power, enabling them for the arduous work.
Note; They who teach, must do: a minister's practice must be correspondent with his precepts.
2. He mentions some of those many infallible signs which Jesus gave of his resurrection. He shewed himself to his disciples alive, convinced them fully of the identity of his person, was seen of them several times, in different places, during the forty days that he continued on earth; ate, drank, and conversed freely with them, instructing them in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, informing them of the nature of his kingdom, the powers they should be endued with, the success of their ministry, and the glory which was prepared for all the faithful.
3. Christ ordered them, at one of their solemn meetings, not to depart from Jerusalem, whither they had probably come from Galilee, after they had seen him on the mountain where he appointed them to meet him; but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me, fully and confidently expecting that Spirit whom the antient prophesies had foretold should be abundantly poured out in the days of the Messiah, and of whom he had so often spoken to them before his departure, as the Comforter whom he would send unto them from the Father, to enable them for the glorious work which was before them. For John truly baptized with water, and that was all he pretended to do; but ye, according to his declarations, shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence; receiving such abundant measures of light, grace, wisdom, courage, and utterance, as effectually to carry them through every difficulty, and make them successful in spreading the gospel, in defiance of all opposition. Note; We must patiently wait, and then we shall assuredly see the salvation of God.
2nd, The apostles had net yet quite dropped their expectations of the Messiah's temporal kingdom, and the resurrection of Jesus probably flattered them with new hope.
1. They put the question therefore to him, whether at this time he would restore again the kingdom to Israel, raising the Jewish people to the highest pitch of grandeur, and bringing all the kingdoms of the earth in subjection to them: so hard is it to eradicate early prejudices.
2. Christ checks their vain curiosity. And, as the Spirit, which should be given them, would shortly rectify these mistakes, he tells them it was not for them to know the times or the seasons when those great expected revolutions should be brought about, which the Father hath put in his own power, and which are secrets concealed in the divine mind. Note; (1.) Secret things belong unto God. Curiosity to be wise above what is written, is foolish as well as fruitless. (2.) The uncertainty in which it has pleased God to leave us concerning future events, is graciously ordered, to the intent that we might be always prepared for that which God hath prepared for us.
3. He assures them, that poor, illiterate, and despicable instruments as they appeared, they should be endued with the most astonishing spiritual powers, through the mighty influence of the Holy Ghost, which should come upon them; when filled with zeal, courage, and wisdom, which none of their adversaries could gainsay or resist, they should be witnesses unto him, asserting his character as the divine Messiah, bearing testimony to his resurrection, publishing the glad tidings of salvation through his name, and confirming the truth of their words by the attestation of the most amazing miracles; beginning at Jerusalem, then going to the Samaritans, among whom, before, they had been withheld from preaching; and afterwards spreading the glorious gospel to the ends of the earth, not only among the dispersed Jews, but among the Gentiles also. Note; Gospel ministers must preach Jesus Christ, bearing witness to his grace and glory, and publishing to all, the free and full redemption, which is obtained for lost sinners through his infinite merit and intercession.
4. When he had spoken these things, while they beheld, earnestly regarding him, and duly attentive to the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, he was taken up; and with eager looks they followed him, till a cloud received him out of their sight; and, amid congratulating angels, he ascended to the throne of his glory. May I follow thee, Lord, with the eyes of faith now, and, when it shall please thee, ascend to behold thee face to face.
5. An angelic vision appears to them, as they stood gazing towards heaven after their dear Lord as he went up, willing to catch the last possible glimpse of him, and keeping still their eyes fixed on the place where he became invisible to them. Two celestial spirits in human forms, arrayed in white apparel, the emblem of their purity and grandeur, stood by them, and kindly addressed them, saying, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven, as if you expected your Lord and Master to return quickly to you? This same Jesus, which was delivered for your offences, and died on a tree, and is now taken up from you into heaven, and exalted to the mediatorial throne, shall so come in like manner, at the last day of his appearing and glory, in the clouds of heaven, attended by his angelic hosts, as ye have seen him go into heaven. O that we may be ready to meet him in that great day! O that the expectation of it may powerfully and continually influence our minds!
3rdly, We have,
1. The place whence our Lord ascended, the mount Olivet, about a mile from Jerusalem. There his sufferings began in the garden, and thence he entered into his glory as a triumphant conqueror, in full view of that devoted city, for which judgment was now prepared.
2. The return of the disciples. They came back to the city according to their Master's orders, and when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, for greater secrecy. In that room probably they chiefly spent their time, with one accord, in prayer and supplications for the coming of that Comforter who was promised. The eleven apostles are particularly mentioned, all of whom kept close together, with the women, who had approved their fidelity, love, and zeal, in a very distinguished manner, and Mary the mother of Jesus, concerning whom we hear no more mention ever after; and his brethren, those of Christ's kinsmen who now believed on him, (see Matthew 13:55-40.13.56.) with many others. Note; (1.) It is good for the disciples of Jesus to unite together: the world is closely leagued against them. They need therefore maintain the closest fellowship with each other. (2.) Prayer is the blessed and constant employment of God's people; and especially in all seasons of particular trial, when their faith and patience are called into exercise, they have need to redouble their supplications. (3.) Nothing can be denied to the united prayers of the faithful, who, with one accord, surround a throne of grace in the name of Jesus.
4thly, At one of those solemn meetings, where about a hundred and twenty of the disciples were assembled, Peter, the zealous servant of his Lord, stood up in the midst of them; not affecting to sit, as their master or superior, but proposing a matter to them as his equals. We have,
1. His speech. He addresses them as his friends, companions, and brethren in Christ; and having an important proposal to make to them, he reminds them of the fulfilment of the scripture in the wickedness and miserable end of Judas the traitor. As aggravations of his guilt, St. Peter observes,
[1.] The high dignity to which he was advanced. He was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry; and this but the more aggravated his sin and ruin. Note; Many are numbered with us, who are not of us; but a name to live, while persons are really dead in trespasses and sins, will avail nothing.
[2.] His sin was treachery. He was guide to them that took Jesus, a ringleader in iniquity, as apostates usually prove.
[3.] His end was notorious. His money, the wages of unrighteousness, served only to buy a field to bury strangers in; and, driven by the devil and a despairing conscience, he went and hanged himself: when the rope, or the place on which he hung, giving way, he fell; and his belly bursting asunder, his bowels gushed out; a fearful exit! of which great notice was deservedly taken; the fact being publicly known in Jerusalem, and noised abroad, insomuch that the people called the field purchased by this money, Aceldama, or The field of blood, with respect to the innocent blood, of which it was the price; perpetuating thereby the infamy, not only of the traitor who sold his Master, but of the rulers who tempted him to this atrocious deed. [See the Annotations.]
[4.] He cites the book of Psalms, in which the prophesy relating to Judas was found. Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein, Psa 69:25 and his bishoprick let another take, Psalms 109:8.
[5.] He proposes to them, according to this prophetic word, that the sacred college should be filled up by the addition of one to their number, out of those who had approved themselves from the beginning faithful; and had been among the first who followed Jesus, and privy to all the transactions concerning him, from the time when he was baptized of John in Jordan, till his ascension to glory; that he might with them be a witness of his resurrection, of that grand article of faith, as well as of all the other glorious things relative to Christ's divine mission and character. Note; (1.) None should be admitted into the ministry, but such as for a season have proved their fidelity to Christ, in a course of holy walking with him. (2.) They who have known Christ, and the power of his resurrection in their souls, cannot but make him the subject of all their discourses.
2. The church, approving the proposal, nominated two, Joseph and Matthias; and not knowing which to prefer, they applied to God, the Searcher of hearts, by prayer for direction, that he would be pleased to shew them which of these he had chosen to take part of that ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place, the dire abode prepared for fallen angels and rebellious sinners. Note; In our emergencies, we should never fail to look up to God for direction. Having commended the matter to God's determination, they solemnly cast lots; when the Lord, at whose disposal the lot is, Pro 16:33 appointed Matthias, who was thenceforward numbered with the eleven apostles.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Acts 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany