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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Acts 2

 

 

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Introduction

CHAP. II.

The apostles, filled with the Holy Ghost, and speaking divers languages, are admired by some; but are derided by others, whom Peter confutes, shewing that the apostles spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus was risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, had poured down the same Holy Ghost, and was the Messias, known to them to be approved of God by his miracles, wonders, and signs: a great number that were converted, are baptized, who afterwards devoutly and charitably converse together, the apostles working many miracles, and God daily increasing his church.

Anno Domini 33.


Verse 1

Acts 2:1. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, It has often been observed, that as our Lord was crucified at one of the great Jewish feasts, it was fit that he should be glorified at another; and this of Pentecost was chosen, with peculiar propriety, as next succeeding that of the passover at which Christ suffered; and also as it was celebrated in commemoration of the giving the law from mount Sinai on that day, (Exodus 19:1-11.) and as the first-fruits were then offered and anointed, (Exodus 23:16. Leviticus 23:17.) To these answered the fuller discovery of the gospel on this occasion, and the anointing the first-fruits of the Christian church by the effusion of the Spirit. The solemnity of the feast, the general expectation of the Messiah, and the length of the days, as it was about the middle of summer, would no doubt bring great numbers to Jerusalem at that time; who, when they returned home, and reported this great event, would naturally make way for the better reception of the apostles, when they came among them. The Jews used to begin their days, as we have often observed, about six o'clock in the evening, and reckoned till that time the next evening, according to Genesis 1:5. By saying therefore that the day of Pentecost was fully come, St. Luke meant that the night was past, and the light of the next morning begun. This was the first day of the week, or the Lord's day, as it is called Revelation 1:10. On the first day of the week our Lord arose from the dead. On that day of the week he appeared to his apostles when they were assembled, for two weeks successively; and, on the first day of the week, the Holy Spirit was first poured out upon the apostles and their company. On that day of the week the apostles and primitive Christians used toassemble for religious worship; and, from the custom and example of those who must needs have known the mind and will of Christ, the Christian church still continues to assemble on that day for religious worship. St. Luke says, they were all with one accord in one place. It is said, ch. Acts 1:14-15 of all the hundred and twenty, all these met with one accord, to choose an apostle, &c. The history is continued, as would appear more plainly if we had not divided it into chapters and verses;—and of the same company it is here said again, they were all met together with one accord in the same place, (for so it should be rendered,) when the Holy Spirit was poured down upon them. It is probable all these hundred and twenty were along with the apostles, when the Holy Spirit was poured down a second time, ch. Acts 4:23-31 and it is evident from ch. Acts 6:3 that several beside the apostles were full of the Holy Spirit, (which is the very phrase in the text, Acts 2:4.) when the Spirit was now poured out;—a phrase, which, in other places, signifies that the Spirit was conferred in the most honourable manner, as well as ina greater degree; that is, that it was given immediately from heaven, and not by the laying on of the hands of the apostles. Again, Why might not the Holy Spirit fall down upon all the hundred and twenty, as well as upon Cornelius and his company? ch. Acts 10:44-46. What seems much to confirm this account of the presence of the hundred and twenty, is St. Peter's speech, Acts 2:16 where he asserts, that, by that effusion of the Holy Spirit, the prophesy of Joel was accomplished in which it was foretold, that the Spirit should be poured out upon women as well as upon men, &c. For one cannot conceive how that prophesy could be already fulfilled, unless the Spirit was shed upon all the hundred and twenty; among whom it is expressly said, ch. Acts 1:14 there was Mary the mother of Jesus, and some other women, who were Christ's disciples. It may perhaps be objected to this interpretation, that the apostles had the highest and the most of the spiritual gifts, and are taken notice of as the only persons who preached to the multitude which then came together. Now it is allowed, that the apostles had the most, and the best of the gifts of the Spirit; but, notwithstanding, the other disciples might have some inferior gifts, and those granted at the same time, in what measure and proportion God saw fit; for there were diversities of gifts and operations, though they all proceeded from one and the same Spirit; and the Spirit could easily distinguish between the apostles and others, though they were all in the same room and company.


Verse 2

Acts 2:2. And suddenly there came a sound It was about 1500 years before this, and, as many think, on this very day of the year, that the law was given of God from Mount Sinai, in the sight andhearing of all Israel; and attended not only with a visible glory, but with pomp also and terror; and now the new law of grace is given to the apostles upon mount Sion; (see on ch. Acts 1:13.) attended likewise with a glory, but communicated, agreeably to the nature of it, in a much more mild, gentle, and familiar manner. For, while they were big with expectations of their ascended Lord's fulfilling his promise, in sending down the so-often mentioned gift of the Holy Spirit, there came all on a sudden a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind, which filled the whole house where they were assembled, as their doctrine was afterwards to fill the whole earth. When Moses had finished all things according to the pattern shewn him on the mount, it is said, Exodus 40:34-35 that a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle; and when Solomon had finished the building of the temple, it is said that the cloud, &c. filled the house of the Lord. 1 Kings 8:10-11. In like manner, when Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, it is said, that his train filled the temple, ch. Acts 6:1. But now the divine Presence had left the temple, and the glory of the Lord rested upon mount Sion, and filled the house where the apostles were assembled.


Verse 3

Acts 2:3. There appeared unto them cloven tongues Besides the great and indispensable use of the gift of tongues to the first preachers of the gospel, the elegance and propriety in the choice of this miracle to attest the real descent of the Spirit who was to teach us all things, can never be enough admired; for words being the human vehicle of knowledge, this appearance was the fittest precursor of the Spirit of truth. When the cloven tongues appeared upon each of the disciples, they were assembled together in a private room sequestered and apart; and it was not till the thing was noised abroad, and the multitude came together, to inquire into the truth of it, that the apostles spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now between this visible descent of the Holy Spirit, and their speaking to the multitude, a considerable time intervened; sufficient to convince the apostles, from the steady durationof the appearance, that it was not natural, but miraculous; and this the original will express, properly rendered by the phrase of SITTING upon each of them; words so inconsistent with a momentary appearance, that it would be trifling with common sense to deduce such an interpretation from oblique circumstances, and collateral reasoning. It may not therefore be improper to consider the evangelical account of this visible descent with a little more exactness. In this place we see the fiery tongues are said to sit upon each of them; and other places of scripture, which mention the like descent of the Holy Spirit in a visible form, describe it in such terms as denote a very different appearance from a sudden flash of lightning. St. Matthew tells us, that the Spirit of God descended like a dove; as birds, when about to settle upon any thing, first hoverupon it with quivering wings: it then lighted upon Jesus. So the same Spirit is said to descend under the appearance of cloven tongues, like as of fire. In this descent, the motion, figure, and colour, are described; and the term of cloven tongues, which the sacred historian employs to describe the motion, proves it to be of some continuance. Let us observe, that the thing seen, like as of fire, on the heads of the apostles, was no more an elementary fire, than the thing seen like a dove on the head of Jesus, was a real dove; for, as only a dove-like motion is intimated in the latter expression, so only a flame-like motion is intimated in the former. And what this was, the historian tells us in effect;—the appearance of cloven tongues. The sudden flash of lightning exhibits to the eye of the beholder only a line of light, angularly broken into several directions, very different from the form of tongues, whether whole or divided. Whenever a flame assumes this appearance, it is become stationary, as this was, which the historian says sat upon each of them; and then, its natural motion being upwards, it represents, when divided length-wise, a pyramidical tongue-like figure cloven; a demonstration that the appearance in question was not momentary, but of some continuance. What in our English Bible is rendered fire, Isaiah 5:24 is, in the original, a tongue of fire. Our old English version has preserved the allusion, and rendered the words like as the fire lighteth up the straw. Tongues of fire properly signify the points of flames, which move nimbly, and lick like tongues. The ancient Romans alluded to this when they spoke of lambent flames. Virgil's fiction, concerning the omen which happened to Iulus, is very pertinent to the present purpose:

Ecce levis summo de vertice visus Iuli Fundere lumen apex, tactuque innoxia molli Lambere flamma comas, et circum tempora pasci. AEn. 2: line 682, &c.

Strange to relate, from young Iulus' head A lambent flame arose, which gently spread Around his brows, and on his temples fed. DRYDEN.

This fire, or divine glory, resting upon the head of each of the persons there assembled, was a lively emblem of one of the most remarkable gifts then conferred. That the tongues were separated, might denote the multiplicity and variety of languages which they should be able to speak; though as all these proceeded from one and the same Spirit, they should all agree in their doctrines: and possibly to denote this unity of the Spirit, the singular it, namely, this fiery appearance, is used after the plural tongues. As the glory rested for some time upon them, it might shadow out the permanency of the gifts then bestowed; in which, as well as in many other particulars, they excelled the Old Testament prophets. Thus was John the Baptist's prediction fulfilled, that Christ should baptize with the Holy Ghost andwith fire, Matthew 3:11. And as the division of tongues at Babel once introduced confusion, so now there was a remedy provided by the gift of tongues at Sion, to bring the Gentiles out of darkness unto light, and to destroy the veil which had been spread over all nations, Isaiah 25:7.


Verse 4

Acts 2:4. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, That is, "all the hundred and twenty." See on Acts 2:1. This effusion of the Spirit, particularlydemonstrated in the gift of tongues, was intended not only as a sign of the apostles' inspiration at this period, but likewise designed for the use of the apostolic mission. Jesus himself expressly tells us so; for, on his leaving the world, he comforts his disciples with this promise: But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me,—unto the uttermost parts of the earth. This is recorded, ch. Acts 1:8 by the evangelic writer, as an introduction to his narrative of the miraculous gift of tongues, which heconsiders as the completion of this promise; and that the power to be received was the power then given; the use of which, as we see, was to enable the disciples to become witnesses unto him, unto the uttermost parts of the earth. We find St. Paul had this power, not only in the fullest measure, but in a proportionable duration; for, endeavouring to moderate the excessive value which the Corinthians set upon spiritual gifts, he observes, that, with regard to the most splendid of them, the gift of tongues, he himself had the advantage of them all.—I thank my God, says he, that I speak with tongues more than you all. The occasion shews, that he considered this his acquirement as a spiritual gift; and his using the present time shews, that he spoke of it as then in his possession. But why did he speak with more tongues than all of them? For a good reason: he was to be the peculiar apostle of the Gentiles, and was to preach the gospel among remote and barbarousnations;whichverycircumstancerenderedthisendowmentmorenecessary to him than the rest of the apostles, whose ministry was circumscribed within more narrow bounds.


Verse 5

Acts 2:5. There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, &c.— There were sojourning, &c. κατοικουντες . Devout or pious men, is a title applied not only to those religious persons who observed the Jewish law, but likewise to those Heathens who had renounced idolatry, and lived a life of piety and holiness. From every nation under heavencan signify no more than "from all the several nations among whom the Jews were dispersed." The Jews were then so numerous, as to have spread through every country; so that, as Agrippa, in Josephus, says, "there was not a people upon earth who had not Jews inhabiting among them." These men were come up to Jerusalem, not only upon account of the festival then celebrating, but in expectation of the Messiah, who was to be manifested about that time accordingto the concurring testimony of the prophets.


Verse 6

Acts 2:6. Every man heard them speak, &c.— Some commentators of note, both antient and modern, have maintained that they spoke only one language, that is, Hebrew, or Syro-Chaldaic; but that the people heard them every one in their own language. This is really making the miracle consist in the hearing, and not in the speaking, and seems so groundless, that it does not need any laboured confutation. Our Saviour promised, Mark 16:17 that they should speak with new tongues, &c. And St. Luke here plainly asserts, Acts 2:4 that they did speak with other tongues, or in other languages. The same thing is either supposed or plainly asserted by St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 12:30 and 1 Corinthians 14:2-39. The mistake seems to have arisen from this and the 8th verse. But St. Luke did not intend to say, that any one of the apostles spoke more languages than one at a time, nor that they spoke one language, and the people heard one or many others; but his plain meaning is, that one of them spoke one language, and another another, and so on; and that different apostles addressed themselves to men of different nations at the same time; or that one apostle addressed himself to men of different nations one after another; by which means all the foreigners heard their own native language spoken distinctly and intelligibly; and not only the languages spoken, but the Christian doctrine also plainly delivered to them in their own language.


Verse 7-8

Acts 2:7-8. Are not all these—Galileans? &c.— See on Matthew 26:73 and on John 1:46. The word διαλεκτος, Acts 2:8 signifies not only what we call a dialect, or different way of speaking the same language, but alsoan entirely distinct language; and perhaps it may be used here to express the propriety and accuracy wherewith these low and uneducated Galileans spoke these different languages. The original in Acts 2:7 is very beautiful, and expressive of the astonishment of the hearers,— Οικ ιδου παντες, &c.


Verse 9

Acts 2:9. Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, Bishop Cumberland takes these to be the remainder of the Jews, who had been carried captive into Assyria, first by Tiglath-Pileser, and afterwards by Salmaneser, and placed in the cities of the Medes,—2 Kings 17:6. See also Genesis 10:22.


Verse 10

Acts 2:10. Strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, That is, Jews and proselytes who were by birth or habitation Romans, but now sojourned at Jerusalem. That there were great multitudes of Jews who dwelt at Rome,is evident not only from Josephus, but from Dio, Suetonius, Tacitus, and, I think we may say, all the Roman authors of that time, not excepting even the poets; and that there were not a few in that great city proselyted to the Jewish religion, sufficiently appears from the Satires of Horace, Juvenal, and Persius. The wonderful works of God, in the next verse, mean the several dispensations of God to mankind in the successive ages of the world, and particularly concerning the resurrection of Christ, and the Messiah's kingdom. The original is expressive, — τα μεγαλεια του Θεου : as if the dispensation of God in Jesus, was the only great and magnificent work of God.


Verse 12

Acts 2:12. And were in doubt, "And they were all in a mixture of amazement and perplexity."


Verse 13

Acts 2:13. These men are full of new wine. Though there was no must or new wine at Pentecost, yet if they preserved the wine cool, it kept sweet a long time, and tasted like must. So Plutarch; "Must, if a vessel be kept in a cool place, will continue sweet, γλευκυ, for a long time." Such wines were remarkably intoxicating. See Isaiah 49:26. Sweet wine, such as the prophet there speaks of, was used in royal palaces for its gratefulness; was capable of being kept to a great age, and consequently was very inebriating. A few generations ago, sweet wines were those most esteemed in England.


Verse 14

Acts 2:14. Dwell Sojourn.


Verse 15

Acts 2:15. Seeing it is but the third hour of the day. Such of the Jews as shamefullyimitatedtheirHeathenneighbours,anddranktoolargelyatthefestival,did not use to take such criminal liberties till after the sacrifices were offered, and the oblations made; but the morning sacrifices had not been now offered, to which, as some think, St. Peter might allude. Josephus tells us, that, on the feast days, the Jews seldom ate or drank till noon; which, if true, would render the calumny here referred to the more incredible.


Verse 16

Acts 2:16. This is that which was spoken, &c.— Respecting this remarkable prophesy, we refer to the notes on Joel 2:28; Joel 2:32 just observing, that if this miraculous effusion of the Holy Spirit had not been foretold, the argument for the truth of Christianity from it, would have been fully conclusive; but as it was referred to in the Old Testament, it might dispose the minds of the Jews still more to regard it, as it was indeed the more remarkable. The reader will not omit to compare the passages in the margin.


Verse 19

Acts 2:19. Vapour of smoke: A cloud of smoke. Doddridge; who paraphrases the passage thus: "Such destructive wars shall arise, as a punishment for the wickedness of those who reject the mercy I offer, that there shall be blood shed in abundance, and fire scattered abroad to consume your cities and villages; so that a cloud of smoke shall ascend from the ruins of them."


Verse 21

Acts 2:21. Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord. See Ezekiel 9:4-6. This context being quoted thus, was a strong intimation that nothing but their acceptance of the gospel could secure them from impending ruin. Brennius has proved, by an ample collection of texts, that calling on the name of the Lord, is often put for the whole of religion; and if it do not here directly signify invoking Christ, which is sometimes used to express the whole of the Christian character, (Comp. Ch. Acts 9:14; Acts 9:21, Acts 22:16. Romans 10:12-13 and 1 Corinthians 1:2.) it must imply, that it is impossible for any who reject him, to pray in an acceptable manner. How awful a reflection! See the note on Joel 2:32.


Verse 22

Acts 2:22. A man approved of God among you "Recommended to you, αποδεδειγμενον εις υμας, pointed out to you, as the object of your highest admiration." Heylin reads it, Whose divine authority was evidenced by God to you, in the powerful effects and wonders, &c.


Verse 23

Acts 2:23. Him, being delivered, &c.— The word εκδοτον, rendered being delivered, signifies one given or surrendered up into the hands of an enemy; and St. Luke intimates by it the free and gracious donation of God the Father, whereby he delivered up his only begotten Son for the redemption of mankind. By wicked hands the Romans are meant, who were the immediate agents in the crucifixion of Christ, yet were only the instruments of the Jewish rage and cruelty in what they did. Heylin renders the verse rather more clearly thus: Him (who was given up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God) you have taken and put to death upon the cross, by the hands of wicked men. Pyle would read, Him, who by the determinate counsel—of God, was given [to you as a Saviour], ye have taken, and crucified. See ch. Acts 4:27-28.


Verse 24

Acts 2:24. Whom God hath raised up, &c.— "But be it known unto you, that God hath abundantly vindicated the honour of this his dear Son, whom you have thus infamously abused, and hath borne a most glorious testimony to his innocence, truth, and dignity; for it is he whom "God hath raised up from the dead, by a miraculous effort of his divine power, having loosedthe bonds in which he lay, when the pains of death had done their work upon him; as indeed it was impossible that he should finally be held under the power of it."


Verse 25

Acts 2:25. For David speaketh concerning him, &c.— It is plain that the phrase εις αυτον here signifies of or concerning him: the particle has the same import, Ephesians 5:32. Elsner upon this place, and Gataker upon the title of Marcus Antoninus's book, which is εις εαυτον, concerning himself, have produced many places from some of the Greek authors, where the preposition εις is understood in the same sense. Mr. Jeffery, in his True Grounds, p. 121 observes from this text, and lays great stress upon it every where, "That the apostle does not make Davidto speak these things first of himself, and then of the Messiah only in a secondary sense, but quotes them as referring to Christ alone." The passages here quoted in the words of the LXX. are something different from the Hebrew, but the sense is much the same; for which we refer to the notes on Psalms 16.


Verse 29

Acts 2:29. His sepulchre is with us unto this day, &c.— The sepulchres of the Jews, in general, were without the city; but the sepulchre of David and his sons was within the city. St. Jerome mentions the remains of David's sepulchre as extant in his time; and it is shewn to travellers even to this day. See Maundrell's Journey, p. 76.


Verse 30

Acts 2:30. According to the flesh, &c.— This is expressed in the original in such a manner, as seems to refer these words not to the loins of David, but to Christ; and so may be an intimation that it was only in respect to his human nature, that the Messiah should descend from David; while there was still a higher nature, in which he was superior to him, and was indeed to be regarded as the Son of God. See Romans 1:3-4.


Verse 33

Acts 2:33. He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. It is said, John 7:39 that the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. See the note on that verse. The Spirit, in his extraordinary and superabundant influences, was reserved as the great donative after Christ's triumph over principalities and powers. When he was ascended up on high, he sent down the greatest gift that ever was bestowed upon mankind, except himself. By this Christ discovered the greatness of his purchase, the height of his glory, the exercise of his power, the certainty of his resurrection and ascension, and the care he took of his church: for in what could he illustrate his character more, thanby letting them see that he made good his last promise, of sending them another Comforter, who should be with them in all their undertakings, to direct them in their doubts, and to plead their cause against all opposition? What still enhanced this gift was, that it was not to continue with them only for a short time, but to abide with them and all his faithful saints for ever. It was to remain with them as a pledge of his love, as a testimony of his truth, as an earnest of his favour now, and of the future inheritance of all the faithful in heaven. See Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 4:32.


Verse 34

Acts 2:34. For David is not ascended It was a truth well known and established among the Jews, that many of the Psalms and other prophetic writings were spoken in the person of the Messiah; and accordingly St. Peter authorises our applying to Christ what had been spoken by David, by shewing, that as it was not compatible with David's character or circumstances, it must relate to the Messiah.


Verse 35

Acts 2:35. Until I make thy foes thy footstool. This text is quoted on the present occasion with the happiest address, as suggesting to the Jews, in the words of David, their great prophetic monarch, how certain their own ruin must be, if they went on to oppose Christ. Elsner on the place has a fine collection of antient passages, referring to the custom of trampling upon the vanquished, dead or alive. See the note on Psalms 110:1.


Verse 37

Acts 2:37. They were pricked in their heart, "Their hearts were pierced with compunction," Κατενυγησαν .


Verse 38

Acts 2:38. Repent, and be baptized They are not only called on here to repent, but a submission also to the ordinance of baptism is required of them; for though on their repenting and believing, they were, according to the tenor of the gospel covenant, entitled to the remission of their sins; yet as Christ had, for wise reasons, appointed this solemn rite, as a token of their taking up the Christian profession in a public manner, there could have been no sufficient evidence of the truth of their repentance and faith, if this precept of Christ had not been obeyed. Vitringa has taken a great deal of pains to shew, that the phrase here translated in the name of Jesus Christ, signifies not only "being numbered among those who are called by his name," but "professing to devote themselves to the glory of it." The miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost were various, as appears from the first epistle to the Corinthians; and were variouslydispensed. If all the persons whom the apostle addresses, received this gift of the Holy Ghost, to one might be imparted the gift of prophesy, to another wisdom, to another the power of working miracles; those who were intended for the propagation of the gospel being endued with the extraordinary gifts; and those who were not separated tothat office receiving only the ordinary ones; but all of them possessing such as were sufficient to manifest their faith, to enable them, if faithful, to persevere in it, to illustrate the gospel dispensation, and to set it in a conspicuous light.


Verse 39

Acts 2:39. For the promise is unto you, &c.— Considering that the gift of the Holy Ghost had been mentioned just before, it seems most natural to interpret this as a reference to the passage in Joel above recited, where God promises the effusion of the Spirit on their sons and their daughters: but if the promise be interpreted as referring to a remoter clause, the forgiveness of their sins, this whole verse must be taken in a greater latitude, as having respect to the encouragement which all future converts and their children had, to expect the benefits of the gospel. This passage makes much in favour of infant baptism, as many writers on the subject have largely shewn. Since St. Peter as yet knew nothing of the intended calling of the Gentiles, he could only mean by the words, to all afar off, that the gospel should be preached to all the dispersed of Israel, in distant nations; but the Spirit of God mighthave a further view. "The words (says Dr. Heylin) refer to time as well as place; the promises also to us and to our children: words which imply a benefit, include the accepting of it: in this sense the word call is used in this verse, and in 1 Corinthians 1:24 that is, they who obey the call."


Verse 40

Acts 2:40. Save yourselves, &c.— That is, "See that you lay these things to heart; receiving them with such regard, as the importance of the case requires. Renounce that obstinate unbelief, in which you join with those who crucified Christ, and be ye saved ( Σωθητε ) from that ruin which will quickly come upon this perverse and depraved generation." See on Acts 2:47.


Verse 41

Acts 2:41. There were added unto them about three thousand souls. The phrase Προσετεθησαν, rendered there were added, emphatically signifies, "to pass over to a body of men;" and implies that these persons renounced their former religious profession, and embraced that of the apostles. Some render it, There came over, or acceded. Elsner, in his note on this place, has shewn, that souls often signifies persons in the Greek and Latin classics. It is commonly said, that the three thousand mentioned in the text, were converted by one sermon. But, it is probable, that, while St. Peter was preaching in the Syriac language, the other apostles were preaching at some small distance, much to the same purpose, in other languages; and it is not to be imagined that none of them but St. Peter should be blessed on that day, as the means of converting souls; not to insist upon it, that he himself might deliver several discourses this day to different audiences, when the concourse of people was so great, and their languages so various. The late sufferings of our Lord, the present miracle of languages, and the authority of the speakers, greatly contributed to this numerousconversion:butallwouldhavebeenutterlyunavailablewithouttheefficacy of the Holy Spirit. This numerous conversion not only confirmed the truth of the apostles, in laying claim to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, but likewise served as a proof to them of the reality of it, and as an encouragement to undertake that office, for which it qualified them. With these credentials from Heaven, even a poor fisherman of Galilee might appear with dignity before the high-priest and sanhedrim of the Jews; asserting boldly, that God had made that Jesus, whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ, and making good this assertion by proving that he was risen from the dead,—strange and supernatural as it might seem,—not only by his own testimony, and that of his brethren, the apostles and disciples of Jesus, by whom he was seen forty days after his passion; but by innumerable instances of a power in like manner superior to nature, derived upon them from him, and exercised bythem in his name. From the scriptures also might the same ignorant Galilean show, against the traditions of the elders, and learning of the scribes, and the prejudices of the whole Jewish nation, that the humble suffering Jesus, was the mighty, triumphant Messiah, spoken of by the prophets; since if, with a reference to the interpretation of those prophesies, any doubt could have arisen among the people, to whose expositions they should submit,—to those of the scribes and elders, or those of the apostles,—the latter had to produce, in support of their authority, the attestation of the Spirit, by whom those prophets were inspired, now speaking through their mouths in all the languages of the earth. And, with regard to that other point, of infinitely harder digestion to the Jews, namely, the calling of the uncircumcised Gentiles to an equal participation of the kingdom of God, and consequently the abolishing of circumcision, and the whole ceremonial law;—the apostles were furnished with an argument to which all the rabbies were not able to reply, by the Holy Ghost bestowing upon the Gentile converts to Christianity, the same heavenly gifts as he had conferred at the beginning upon the believing Jews.


Verse 42

Acts 2:42. And they continued steadfastly, &c.— This may intimate, on the one hand, that many efforts were made to shake their resolution; and, on the other, that, upon fuller inquiry, they found all things as the apostles had represented. Breaking of bread, is a phrase which in the New Testament signifies, both eating common meals and celebrating the Lord's supper. It seems that the Lord's supper was here intended; because it is joined with prayer. They constantly attended upon the teaching of the apostles, in strict communion, and the exercise of the most affectionate friendship towards each other; uniting in the duties of piety, in receiving the Lord's supper, as well as offering up their united prayers and supplications unto God. Dr. Heylin reads after the Vulgate, In the communion of breaking bread.


Verse 43

Acts 2:43. And fear came upon every soul: A reverential fear, mixed with admiration and respect. Dr. Heylin reads the verse, And the minds of all men were struck with awe, at the many wonders and miracles which were wrought by the apostles.


Verse 44-45

Acts 2:44-45. And had all things common; Peculiar reasons made this community of goods eligible at that time; especially as many sojourners, who had come from other parts, would justly be desirous to continue at Jerusalem much longer than they intended when they came up to the feast, in order that they might gain a thorough knowledge of the gospel. But the New Testament abounds with passages, which plainly show, that this was never intended for a general practice: the Gentiles did not fall into it when the gospel came to them; and none of St. Paul's epistles contain intimations or directions for such a practice. The Jewish converts acted thus at this time and place, though not by command, yet doubtless with the approbation of the apostles.Butnonecanreasonablyimaginethatthe number of Christian converts, even then at Jerusalem, is to be accounted for by a desire to share in these divided goods; for it is evident, that as the portion each could have, would be very small, so the hardships to be endured for a Christian profession would soon counter-balance such advantages; and accordingly we find the converts at Jerusalem were soon reduced to such necessitous circumstances, as to need relief by the contributions of their Gentile brethren. Candour would rather lead men to argue the incontestable evidence of the gospel, from its prevailing on the professors of it to part with their estates to relieve persons, who, except in the community of their faith, had no particular claim to their regard. If such instances were numerous, this argument is strengthened in proportion; and if they be supposed few, the objection is proportionably weakened: however, the present is most certainly a noble and eminent instance of that disinterestedness, self-denial, and benevolence, which the gospel was designed to produce in the minds of men; and this is indeed the true Christian spirit, which is carefully to be cultivated bysuch as profess themselves the disciples of Jesus, in everyage and nation; though they are not obliged to exert it in the same kind or degree. See Christ's prayer for the unity of his disciples, John 17 particularly Acts 2:21.


Verse 46

Acts 2:46. They, continuing daily with one accord Hitherto none of the Christian converts neglected the Jewish worship, but frequented the courts of the temple daily, at the usual hours of prayer and devotion. But it is evident from the circumstances of the times, that these converts could not communicate or receive the eucharist in the temple: where then could they receive it, but in their own houses? And as the expression from house to house seems to be peculiar, this particularity cannot be accounted for, but upon supposition that the preceding words relate to the eucharist, because if they refer only to a common meal, the peculiarity is lost, and the expression from house to house is superfluous and unnecessary. Dr. Heylin renders the verse thus, being unanimously constant in their daily attendance upon public worship in the temple, and at the breaking of bread at home, they received nourishment with joy and simplicity of heart. "By the breaking of bread (says he) is meant the celebration of the eucharist; and this, with their worship in the temple, being spoken of as the occasions of their nourishment, we conclude that nourishment to be spiritual: as Hebrews 12:14. 1 Corinthians 3:2; 1 Corinthians 3:23."


Verse 47

Acts 2:47. And having favour with all the people, &c.— Some would translate the original, exercising or shewing charity towards all the people; which the Greek will certainly bear, and which seems to be favoured by the 33rd and 34th verses of the fourth chapter, as well as by the reason of the thing; for as the generality of the Jews were professed enemies to Christ and his disciples, it is not easy to see how they could have been in favour with ALL the people. The Syriac version reads, They gave alms before all the people. The words τους σωζομενους, rendered such as should be saved, signify properly the saved, such as were now saved, or entered in the sure way to salvation. See Acts 2:40 where St. Peter advised them, σωθητε, be ye saved from this untoward generation. A reformed harlot is called, by Sophocles, σωζομενη, one that was saved. Pricaeus quotes the table of Cebes, as using the words οι σωζωμενοι, for the reformed. The abandoned, or incorrigibly wicked, are called the lost, απολλουμενοι , 2 Corinthians 4:3. The reformed or regenerated are here called the saved, σωζομενοι . These two sorts of persons are set in opposition to each other, 1 Corinthians 1:18. 2 Corinthians 2:15. Those who are saved or recovered from sin to holiness, from Satan to God, will, if faithful, be also admitted to eternal salvation; but the word σωζομενους seems here to denote their being saved from sin to the enjoyment of the favour of God through Christ, and to a life of holiness. As Christ was sacrificed at the time of the Jewish passover, so we have observed on the former part of this chapter, that the new law of grace was given from mount Sion, at the same time as when the law of Moses was given from mountSinai,—at the feast of Pentecost, when the apostles having received the first-fruits of the Spirit, gathered in three thousand souls, whom they presented unto God and the Lamb, hallowed or anointed with the unction of the Spirit, as a kind of first-fruits of the new creation. Nor did theywant that innocent festivity and joy usual at the great festival of the Pentecost; for the rich among them sold their possessions and their goods, and raised a plentiful fund for the common benefit of the poorer Christians, while they kept together at Jerusalem; and they with harmony and unanimity not only frequented the temple worship every day, but feasted also together in the true spirit of temperance in their upper rooms, with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God in the most joyous and affectionate manner, and shewing the utmost charity towards all. And then they proceeded to gather in and to complete their great harvest at Jerusalem. Thus were many of the figures and prophesies which went before concerning him, remarkably fulfilled in Christ, and the Christian dispensation.

Inferences drawn from the evangelical account of the descent of the Holy Ghost.—By this miraculous effusion of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, they were qualified for the conversion of mankind; the Christian church was established; and all those graces and excellencies which have made the names of those immediate disciples of our Lord so precious in the Christian world, were at this time poured forth upon them. To this it is that we owe the sanctity of their lives, the purity of their doctrine, the power of their miracles, and all the glorious acts of their martyrdom.

All the other mysteries of the gospel prepare the way for this, when considered in the utmost extent of its efficacy to the consummation of all things: it is the great end of the incarnation, the grand fruit of the death of Christ, and the full accomplishment of all his designs. He had indeed already in some degree formed the body of his new visible church, while he was here on earth, conversing with and instructing his disciples; but by this last act, the descent of the Holy Ghost, he infused a soul into that his mystical body; he endowed it with a vigorous principle of life and action, a heart that might always correspond and sympathize with him, its head. See 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. For the same Holy Spirit then descended upon all the living members of Christ, according to his gracious promise in the last words of St. Matthew's gospel,—almost the last words which he spoke upon earth: Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

This promise, I say, is fulfilled in the mission of the Holy Ghost. Christ is now peculiarly present in his church by his Spirit, which as it formerly descended upon the apostles, so it ever shall descend upon all his true disciples unto the end of the world. The sacred Fountain still stands open, and nothing is retrenched from the bounteous efflux of divine grace, but only the outward prodigies which attended it at the beginning of its course. Now indeed it flows on in general, as some peaceful river, through opened channels, with a silent stream, and marking its way chiefly by the riches it spreads in the parts it passeth through: but the season here celebrated was the time of its grand eruption, if I may so speak, when it rapidly issued forth from the divine source to replenish the apostles, who were the conduits prepared to receive and convey it forward to the later generations. At that time, as was usual upon such extraordinary occasions, it manifested itself even outwardly by sensible representations expressive of its energy, and the effects it produces in the spirits of men.

These sensible representations appeared in the two active elements, air and fire, which kindle and keep up the life of nature. For when the apostles were assembled on the day of Pentecost, that is to say, the day whereon the law was given to the Jews, a double prodigy appeared; a sound was heard from heaven, as of an impetuous wind filling the house; and several distinct flames were seen, one of which resided over each of the apostles. Now these are two proper emblems or symbolical representations; and in order to judge of their significancy, we are to observe, that there is such an analogy and intimate connection between the material and the spiritual worlds, that not only the names of things visible serve to denote things invisible, and are the only names we have for them, which plainly argues a notorious analogy upon which such use of the names is grounded; but also some extraordinary transactions in the higher order pass on and impress themselves upon the lower, so as to affect outward nature in a similar manner; such, I mean, as somehow answer to what is then accomplished in the supernatural state. Thus, for instance, a few weeks before this descent of the Holy Ghost, while our Lord was hanging on the cross, the sun was eclipsed; and, when he expired, outward nature was convulsed with an earthquake. And she sympathized again, yet to a different purpose, in a second earthquake at his resurrection. And now, when his Spirit with the plenitude of divine power was descending upon his apostles, a sound from heaven was heard as of an impetuous wind, and distinct flames were seen over the heads of the apostles.

It will be proper here, as far as our scanty knowledge will permit, to trace out the analogy whereon these two symbols are grounded.

Concerning the first, it has been observed, that among those parts of the material world which are invisible, and whose existence we discover only by their effects, there is scarcely any thing more subtle, more active, and of greater efficacy than wind, that is to say, air in motion, or spirit, according to the primary sense of the word. Hence, in the common use of most languages, the name of wind, or spirit, serves to express those things, which, being not discernible to us by reason of the subtilty or fineness of their substance, are yet conceived to be moved with great agility, and endowed with great force. So naturalists, when they speak of that which is most abstruse, most agile, and most operative, in any liquor or other body, call it spirit. And for the same reason, our souls are called spirits for the subtilty of their nature, and those vital powers wherewith they actuate our bodies.

In regard to our capacity and manner of conceiving things, the holy Scriptures have used this term Spirit to express even the adorable and incomprehensible Deity, signifying his most simple nature, and most powerful energy—his most simple nature, I say, which cannot possibly be the object of any of our senses; and his most powerful energy, which pervades and actuates all things.

This name Spirit, as it is common to the whole Godhead, so it is peculiarly applied to the third person of the ever-blessed Trinity, styled by way of eminence the Holy Spirit; and the spiritual operations of God towards men, are in an especial manner ascribed to him.

Now in all languages commonly known, the operation of a superior mind upon an inferior to raise and invigorate it, is expressed by the metaphor of inspiration, that is to say, breathing into; and the general consent of mankind in the use of this metaphor, demonstrates its fitness and propriety. And therefore when the infinite mind vouchsafed to communicate itself with such plenitude and force to the minds of his chosen servants assembled on the day of Pentecost, this sound from heaven of a mighty rushing wind, or torrent of mysterious air, was a proper symbol to indicate its decent; as the other miraculous appearance by the element of fire, was proper to represent the effects which it produces.

To enlighten, to purify, and to warm, are the properties of fire. Now if we transfer these to the spiritual world, the light of the soul is truth, the purity of the soul is holiness, the warmth or heat of the soul is an active, vigorous ardour to surmount the obstacles, and zealously prosecute the end proposed. The Holy Ghost produces these three effects, and accordingly the Scriptures describe him as a Spirit of truth, of holiness, and of power. As a Spirit of truth, he enlightens the minds of the faithful, and leads them into all truth fit for them to know: as a Spirit of holiness, by an intimate union with their hearts, he reforms them, and makes them holy: as a Spirit of power, he gives them vigour to resist temptation, strength to bear their crosses, and full ability to work out their salvation. We will consider these three properties of the Holy Ghost separately.

First, He is a Spirit of truth; and so our Lord styled him, when he foretold his descent upon the apostles. I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now: howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. Men may teach us divers truths; but to teach all truth is the distinguishing prerogative of the Spirit of God. There are truths, and those too of the utmost importance, which flesh and blood cannot reveal—truths which the world cannot receive; which even the apostles themselves could not bear, much less relish, approve, and fully practise, before they had received the Holy Ghost. Ye cannot bear them now, said Christ, in the passage last quoted; they shock corrupt nature, and our passions recoil at the mention of them. For besides the mysteries of our holy religion, the deep things of God, which cannot be duly apprehended but by minds enlightened by the Spirit of God; besides these, I say, there are many moral truths, whereof we cannot be fully and effectually persuaded, but by the immediate operation of the Holy Ghost: such are those in the beginning of our Lord's sermon on the mount, "That the poor in spirit, the meek, those that mourn and are persecuted, are blessed above other men: that it is better to pull out our eyes, and cut off our hands, than use either in the commission of sin: that our enemies must be loved, and that the most provoking injury ought not only to be forgiven, but requited with benevolence." These, and others that might be named, are certain and saving truths; but no mortal man can convince us of them; I mean with a full, lasting, operative conviction, such as shall determine our practical judgment, and become the habitual rule of our conduct. All demonstration of reason, and arts of persuasion, are vain to this end; and it is in vain that we ourselves endeavour to reason ourselves into these truths. The Holy Ghost only can work this conviction in our minds; and we must seek this conviction from him by prayer, and by opening our minds to his operations, or we shall perish in our errors. The same power only that made our minds, can reform them. That Holy Spirit of God, which at the first creation brooded over the rude chaos, and produced this orderly world out of darkness and confusion, must also preside in our minds to make the new creation of holiness, to bring forth light out of our darkness, truth out of our errors. St. Paul alludes to this, where he says, God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Such are the advantages of the descent of the divine Spirit; such are the privileges to which we are admitted, if we do not love darkness more than light, because our deeds are evil, and we resolve to continue in them. God's school now stands open to all, his Spirit condescends to be our master, our teacher, and will infallibly lead us into all truth, if we devoutly resign ourselves to his direction.

We cannot have a plainer proof of this than in the history given us in this chapter. Consider the apostles; see how wondrous a change was wrought in them by the illumination of this Holy Spirit. Observe what they were before, what after his descent, and thence learn what inestimable advantages we are entitled to by Christianity.

Three long years had the apostles been in the school of Christ, and had tired even his patience with their gross stupidity, and incapacity to apprehend his spiritual doctrine. Though they had made some progress in the way of truth by leaving their little all to follow him: though they daily heard his precepts, and saw his practice, that living comment upon his doctrine—yet nothing could rectify their false notions, nothing could wean them from their vain desires of secular grandeur and magnificence. When our Lord informed them of the necessity of sufferings, the benefits of poverty, the blessedness of persecution, it was all a riddle to them. They understood none of these things; these sayings were hid from them, neither knew they the things that were spoken, Luke 18:34. Even after the resurrection of Christ the cloud was still upon their minds, and they were yet hankering after an immediate possession of worldly grandeur and dominion. Lord, say they, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Acts 1:6. Christ no longer opposed their carnal prejudices, but referred them to the Holy Ghost for full information and conviction.

According to the promise of Christ, the Holy Ghost came. Immediately, all darkness, error, and mistake fled before him. They understood, they believed, they taught, they practised, they were ready to lay down their lives for those truths, which before they could not receive, they could not bear, nor endure. The cross of Christ was no longer an offence to them, but their boast and their glory; and they rejoiced, that they themselves were counted worthy to partake of it, and to suffer shame for his name. Such and so effectual were the fruits of the Spirit, enlightening the minds of the apostles as a Spirit of truth. We are, in the next place, to consider him as a Spirit of holiness. He is not only, by way of eminence, the Holy Spirit, but also the hallowing, that is to say, sanctifying Spirit, whence all holiness in the creatures is derived. It would be endless to mention the places of Scriptures where this property is ascribed to him. It is of more concern, how to explain the precise meaning of the word holiness, which is to be considered in two respects; first, as it is proper to God alone, and, secondly, as it is the privilege and duty of a creature. According to the first sense, we may say, Thou only art holy, as Thou only art the Lord. This holiness peculiar to God, consists in the singularity of his nature, even that surpassing transcendant excellence, which leaves all creatures at an infinite distance beneath his majesty.

It is a common error in men's notions of God, that they conceive of him as one Being among many, greater indeed, and higher, and better than all the rest, but yet as one among others, one that may be named with them, and however superior, yet not absolutely distinct from the rest. This is a wrong conception, for God is not only Unus but Unicus—He is one Alone, the First, without any second or like. But this is a subject to which no speculations can do justice, and which should naturally sink the mind into the profoundest devotion.

Suffice it then to say, that this sublime exaltation and infinite distance of the Creator from the creatures, constitutes his holiness. The Hebrew word signifies separation, and, when applied to God, imports that unconceivable elevation, whereby he is distinguished, and stands alone in his universe. Thus we read; There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside Thee. There is none beside Him: He is a whole genus by himself; and this surpassing, singular excellence, which excludes all possible comparison, constitutes his holiness; and the exercise of it tends solely to the promoting of his own glory. He is glorious in (or by) holiness, says Moses; and the angels incessantly celebrate him by this title, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts: heaven and earth are full of thy glory. The holiness of God is founded, as was said, in the supremacy of his nature; and it is perpetually exercised in maintaining that supremacy, in treating himself worthily, exerting all his attributes, and directing all his acts, to one certain point, which is his glory, the exaltation of his nature, the effulgency of his excellence. The reason why God does all things for his own glory is, because that is the end most worthy of God; his supreme excellence requires it of him as a due to himself by the eternal laws of righteousness: truth and justice make this necessary in God. The glory of God therefore being the end most worthy of God, and all his acts centering therein, all his acts are holy, that is to say, pure from all allay of inferior motives, from every thing that does not inflexibly promote that end.

Such is the holiness of God. The creatures too are holy, when they prosecute the same end that God does, the end for which he created them; that is to say, the glory of God. We call things or persons holy, when they are separated from common use, and dedicated to the service of God, devoted to his glory: to apply them to any other is to profane them. All the laws of God are boundaries set to fence in the way that leads to God's glory; and we never transgress those laws, but we at the same time deviate from it. And therefore St. Paul defines sin to be a falling short of the glory of God. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Holiness, on the contrary, aims all our actions aright, making the glory of God our scope and design. In a word, every action directed to that end, is a holy action, and leads us on towards the participation of the divine glory which we had regard to in performing it; and when it is said that the Holy Ghost sanctifies Christians, the meaning is, that he infuses this general motive, extinguishing the narrow principles of covetousness, pride, and sensuality, and exalting our nature to the noble disinterested purpose of glorifying our Maker.

Those corrupt motives of covetousness, sensuality, and pride, cleave intimately to our souls in the present depraved state, rendering all actions that proceed from them, unholy: and the Spirit of God does then sanctify us, when it disengages us from those corrupt motives. To wash, cleanse, baptize with the Holy Ghost, and sanctify, are commonly synonymous in Scripture; hence the phrase of being baptized with the Holy Ghost, which is elsewhere called being baptized with fire, to signify the universal and intimate purification of the inmost springs of action thereby. With this view the prophet Malachi compares the Spirit to a refiner of gold or silver, destroying the dross, and separating all heterogeneous particles from those metals by force of fire, till they are reduced to perfect purity. Thus the Spirit sanctifies the soul, by abolishing all sordid inclinations, by purging away the multiplicity of carnal desires, and reducing all the powers of the mind to one simple constant pursuit, viz. that of God's glory. This renders the soul holy, that is to say, pure, all of a kind, concentered in the end of its creation, even the glory of its Maker.

To shew how the apostles were thus sanctified, were to relate their history, which is but one continued narrative of their holiness. They were purified from all corrupt principles of action. The love of riches moved them not: for they had all the treasures of the faithful laid at their feet, without any other concern than for the right distribution of them in charity. The love of ease and pleasure moved them not: for their life was spent in incessant labours: they traversed the face of the earth, doing good, and suffering evil in all the parts that they visited. The love of glory and applause moved them not, for they gladly suffered reproach in their Master's cause: and when divine honours were offered to two of them at Lystra, they rent their clothes, and expressed a greater concern for the misplaced reverence of the multitude, than for all the ill usage they had ever met with. And lastly, the love of life itself moved them not, when the glory of God required them to resign it. They rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to die in so great and good a cause. They went cheerfully to death, although the wit and malice of their persecutors had so circumstanced it with a horrid variety of tortures, that only the manner of dying was the punishment, and death itself the deliverance.

Such was the holiness of the apostles: it was the purity of their hearts, the unity of their desires, all meeting in one point, the glory of God.

This one thing only they desired: this one thing only they pursued: they pursued it through poverty, infamy, and distress; through numberless toils and torments. Death in vain came athwart their passage; they leaped the gulph, and were received into glory, that glory for which they had been so zealous.

If we would arrive where they are ascended, we must follow their steps; we must be holy; as they were holy; that is to say, we must absolutely prefer the glory of God to all other considerations; for heaven stands open to none but saints; and without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

That we may not be disheartened in so arduous a work, there are the greatest encouragements, in the third place; namely, that this Spirit of holiness is also a Spirit of power, inspiring zeal, magnanimity, and fortitude, sufficient to surmount all difficulties that occur in the arduous paths of duty. And of this also the apostles were very remarkable instances.

Our Lord, having had a long experience of their natural weakness and pusillanimity, commanded them, when he appeared to them after his resurrection, to live retired for a time, and wait for the promise of the Father. But, said he, ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and then ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. And his prediction was gloriously accomplished as soon as the Holy Ghost came. The zeal which inflamed their hearts, found a ready channel into their tongues: their tongues were as tongues of fire, communicating, through grace, their sacred ardour to the hearts of all that heard them.

That conceit of the ancients, who represented their famous orator as brandishing flames of lightning with a thunder-bolt, was never so nearly verified as in the apostles: they flashed conviction into the minds of their hearers, and bore down all opposition of reluctant passion or prejudice with a force and energy most irresistible. They made those very Jews, who had lately condemned our Lord, and with bloody cries solicited Pilate for his crucifixion, now condemn themselves with bitter remorse and compunction. It is said, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Three thousand were thus converted under the power of the Holy Spirit, in one day and one place; which, considering the natural weakness of the preachers, with the rooted prejudices and noted obstinacy of the audience, we may account one of the greatest miracles of our religion.

The apostles bear witness of Christ, not only before his friends, or even persons indifferent, but before those that murdered him—even those apostles who had deserted him shamefully at his being first seized, so far were they from bearing witness for him at his trial: Peter, in particular, who, trembling before a servant-maid, had three times renounced him with oaths, now standing up with the eleven, lift up his voice and said: Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words. You see he makes no timorous apology, he uses none of the little arts to gain benevolence; but, conscious of the divine authority wherewith he stood invested, he charges his hearers with all the enormity of their crime. Ye have killed (said he) the Lord of life: he tells them, that the person, whom they had with wicked hands crucified and slain, was the Messias; and he proves him to be so, by bearing testimony of his resurrection: him God hath raised up from the dead, whereof we are witnesses. And he backs his own evidence with irrefragable arguments from scriptures, which he at the same time explained with such force and perspicuity, as extorted assent from the most obdurate. Is this the illiterate fisherman? Is this the carnal disciple who presumed to rebuke his Lord, when he first mentioned the cross to him? Is this the fugitive apostate, the abjuring Peter? But with God all things are possible. Peter had now received the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Power, whose property it is to strengthen us with might in the inward man, to create a new heart, and renew a right spirit within us.

Thus have we endeavoured to represent to our readers this Holy Spirit in his operations of truth, holiness, and power. We would now only add a word or two concerning the disposition by which we must prepare our hearts to receive him: and this, as our Lord teaches us, is earnest and persevering prayer. We have his direction, Luke 11. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.—If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to them that ask him? The terms, you see, are very easy, are highly reasonable: if we do not perform them, we shall be without excuse. But if by humble, fervent, incessant prayer, we seek from our heavenly Father the gift of his Spirit, we shall infallibly receive it, we shall be enlightened, purified, and confirmed in all goodness, we shall advance from strength to strength, till, if faithful to death, we become meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The great promise here receives its accomplishment in the mission of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples. We have,

1. The time: when the day of pentecost, the fiftieth from the passover, was fully come, in the morning, they were all with one accord in one place; it being the first day of the week, which they observed in memory of their Lord's resurrection, and was consecrated also now by the pouring out of the Spirit upon them. No longer strifes or discord divided them; united in fervent charity, they waited the fulfilment of their Master's promise. Note; (1.) They who wait upon God in the assembly of his saints, shall find him by his Spirit still present in the midst of them. (2.) God will delight to dwell with those whose hearts, by fervent love, are united in his service.

2. The manner in which the Holy Ghost descended. Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, an emblem of the Spirit's divine energy on the minds of men; and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, signifying the illuminating, warming, and purifying influences of the Spirit upon their souls, and the amazing gift of tongues bestowed upon them, with that freedom of utterance, whereby they were enabled to preach the gospel among all nations; and it sat upon each of them; the Holy Ghost, in all the fulness of his miraculous operations, now taking up his constant residence in them, to qualify them for the arduous service to which they were ordained. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost; not only the apostles, but all the disciples; experiencing such divine joys and consolations as they had never experienced before; and began to speak with other tongues, in all the variety of languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance, suggesting both the matter and words, and enabling them with the greatest copiousness and most forcible energy to declare the wonderful works of God, in the gospel of his dear Son.

2nd, Such an extraordinary occurrence was soon spread abroad, and brought a vast concourse together. We have,

1. The persons. Devout men who dwelt at Jerusalem, out of every nation under heaven; both Jews, and proselytes, who were now assembled at the feast of Pentecost, or, as some suppose, had taken up their residence there, in expectation of the speedy appearing of the Messiah.

2. The amazement which filled them at hearing these men, who were poor illiterate Galileans, speak with such fluency and propriety all the various languages and dialects of their respective countries, Parthians, Medes, &c. They could not, therefore, but with wonder and surprize, observe to each other how astonishing was this miracle, and question what could be the meaning of it, and whether it ushered in the long-expected kingdom of the Messiah? for they heard them speak in their several native tongues the great things of God, respecting the redemption which was in Jesus Christ, and the glorious privileges obtained by his death, resurrection, and ascension, for all believers.

3. Some mocking, said, These men are full of new wine; a cavil most wicked, absurd, and blasphemous. Probably these were inhabitants of Jerusalem, the scribes and Pharisees, who, not understanding the languages which the inspired disciples spoke, thought the whole to be nonsense, and would fain have branded them as drunkards, that they might prejudice the people against them by this most malicious falsehood. Note; There are still too many to whom the great things of God appear unintelligible; and because they are themselves destitute of spiritual understanding, and are perfectly ignorant of divine and experimental truths, they brand the preachers of them as enthusiasts, speaking evil of the things they know not.

3rdly, In answer to the malicious cavil of these enemies to the truth, Peter, the zealous speaker, and now inspired by peculiar influences from on high, arose, and boldly addressed to these mockers the awakening discourse contained in this chapter.

1. He stood up with the eleven, to shew the falsehood of the charge, and to vindicate himself and his brethren from so malicious an accusation: and directing his discourse aloud to the Jews who were present, begs attention to the words of truth and soberness, which he was about to utter. Note; We must not return a sharp answer to a reviling accusation, but with meekness answer those who oppose themselves against us.

2. He denies the calumny, and shews it to be as absurd as malicious. These men are not drunken, as ye suppose and would insinuate, seeing it is but the third hour of the day, but nine o'clock in the morning; and till that hour, on the sabbaths and festivals, the Jews usually did neither eat nor drink; nor was it at all probable, that so many as they were, they should have been guilty of such a debauch, or dare appear intoxicated on so solemn an occasion.

3. He explains to them an affair which they counted so strange, which some admired and others ridiculed. This was the accomplishment of the prophesy of Joel, Ch. Acts 2:28-32 which he cites at large; for though himself inspired, the Spirit was not given to supersede the Scriptures, but to enable us to understand them. God had promised in respect to the last days, the days of the Messiah, which ushered in the last dispensation of grace, I will pour out of my Spirit, in a more extraordinary measure than ever before, upon all flesh, upon Gentiles as well as Jews: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, foretelling future events, Ch. Acts 21:9-10 and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; God in these ways revealing to them his mind and will: and on my servants, and on my handmaidens, on persons of all conditions, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, as from an inexhaustible fountain, and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, dreadful prodigies in the air, which were the prelude to the approaching ruin of the Jewish nation, for their obstinate infidelity and rejection of the Messiah; and signs in the earth beneath, dire presages of impending woes: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke, the blood of the people shed by the invading foe whose devastations should spread through the country, and the smoke of their cities consumed in flames which should obscure the sky. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, suffering unusual eclipses, or looking red, through the dusky clouds of smoke; or this may signify the approaching total dissolution of their government, before that great and notable day of the Lord come, when he shall execute such condign vengeance on his murderers, as no nation, since the burning of Sodom, ever suffered, and when he shall be glorified in his judgments. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever, discerning the signs of these times shall call on the name of the Lord, the Almighty Jehovah, Jesus, spoken of in this prophesy, placing their dependance on him alone for salvation, and in fervent prayer making their application to him for help, and persevering in faith and love to him,—they shall be saved by his power and grace from all the evils they fear in time or eternity, and be made partakers of his eternal glory. Lord, pour out a spirit of prayer and supplication upon me, that I may be of this blessed number!

4. He improves this occasion in order to preach to them Jesus, whose gift this Spirit was, which now was shed abroad so abundantly upon them, entreating their attention to the important truths that he was about to deliver.

[1.] He reminds them of his well-known life and character—Jesus of Nazareth, a name which they gave him by way of reproach, but a man approved of God among you; evidently signalized with his peculiar favour, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which he wrought in proof of his divine mission, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know; bearing his attestation to the character that he assumed; and they themselves had been eye-witnesses of these wonderful works.

[2.] They had, notwithstanding, rejected his credentials, and hung him on a tree. Him, this glorious Messiah, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ordained as a sacrifice to divine justice, ye have taken and seized as a criminal, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain; engaging the Gentile governor to bring him to this ignominious death; and his innocent blood is now upon your heads.

[3.] God had raised him, notwithstanding all their enmity, rage, and malice; having loosed the pains of death, judicially discharging him from the grave, and from all the sorrows of death, which as the substitute of the fallen race, and more especially of them who perseveringly believe, he consented to endure, because it was not possible that he should be holden of them. The dignity of his person, the perfection of his sacrifice, and the prophesies concerning him, rendered it impossible that he should remain longer the prisoner of death; whom by dying he had destroyed, and, as a triumphant conqueror, rose to lead captivity captive.

[4.] He shews that this was foretold by the royal Psalmist, who personating Jesus, the true Messiah, thus speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face; he walked under the constant sense of his Father's presence, and with an eye to his glory; for he is on my right hand, to support and carry me through my arduous undertaking, that I should not be moved with any of the sufferings of life, or the terrors of death. Therefore did my heart rejoice in his power, faithfulness, and love, and my tongue was glad, praising him for the experience of his almighty grace: moreover also, my flesh shall rest in hope, entirely satisfied of a glorious issue, and entering the grave in the fullest assurance of a speedy resurrection; because, or that thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, to abide, like other departed spirits, in the invisible world; nor his body in the dust; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption, and putrify in the tomb: being the holy one of God, and having by a perfect obedience to death, even the death of the cross, completed the great atonement, he had a right to a speedy discharge from that lowest step of his humiliation. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, which lie through the gates of death; and Christ, the first-fruits of those that slept, is gone before; having raised himself to an endless life, and leading his faithful people after him to a glorious immortality: thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance, in that state of bliss and blessedness to which, as Mediator, he should be exalted: and what is here primarily spoken concerning the great Head of the church, is true of every real member of his body mystical perseveringly cleaving to him. (1.) They live for God, designing his glory as their end, and resting upon his promises, his power, and grace, as their abiding support, comfort, and joy. (2.) They die in hope, committing their souls into the hands of a faithful Creator, and rejoicing in the prospect of eternal life and glory which the gospel sets before them, and of which faith assures them.

[5.] He comments on the text that he had quoted. Great and respectable as the patriarch David was, the head of the royal race of Judah, yet he saw corruption; and they, as reasonable men, and his countrymen, if they dispassionately considered these words, must needs be convinced that the Psalmist spake not this of himself; he dying, and being buried, as other men; and his tomb being extant to that day: but being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, Psalms 132:11 that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne, as Israel's king, in the most exalted sense, reigning in the hearts of his believing people—he seeing this before, by the spirit of prophesy, spake of the resurrection of Christ, whom he personates when he says, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus, who lately lay in the grave, the son of David after the flesh, the person of whom he David, as a prophet, speaks, hath God raised up; whereof we all are witnesses: having been his constant followers before his death, and having often seen, conversed, and ate and drank with him since his resurrection, till the day that we beheld him ascend up to heaven.

[6.] The gifts of the spirit were the fruit of his exaltation. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted to the mediatorial throne, and possessed of the most transcendent dignity and glory, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, the purchase of his obedience to death, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear; the flames of fire, and gift of tongues, which appeared to them so strange. And his ascension also David had foretold, Psalms 110:1. For David is not ascended into the heavens, as the Person, in whose name he speaks, evidently was; but the Lord Jesus is gone thither, as he saith himself, The Lord God the Father, said unto my Lord, the Messiah, Sit thou on my right hand, in the highest dignity, and possessed of universal dominion and authority, until I make thy foes thy footstool; until sin, satan, death, and every enemy of the Redeemer and his faithful people, shall be finally and for ever destroyed.

[7.] He warmly applies the matter to their consciences. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, as a truth most infallible and certain, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ; and there could not be a greater aggravation of their wickedness than this, that whom the Lord had glorified, they had crucified; nor a more tremendous consideration, than that he was now exalted to a throne of glory to execute vengeance on all his murderers, who obstinately persisted in their impenitence.

4thly, The power of the Spirit upon the apostles themselves appeared gloriously evident in the boldness wherewith he inspired them, as well as in the miraculous gifts with which he endued them: and we have also a proof of his energetic influence on the consciences of the hearers, accompanying his own word in the mouths of his servants.

1. Many of the hearers, struck with conscious guilt at what they heard, were pricked in their heart with sharp and deep convictions of their sin and danger, and, in great distress of conscience, said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do, to avert the dire vengeance that we have provoked, and to obtain pardon for a deed so atrocious? Note; (1.) When the Spirit of God opens the conscience of the sinner to discern his hell-deserving guilt, his hard heart then is broken with the most fearful apprehensions of his danger. (2.) Ministers are the physicians to whom convinced sinners should apply, and they have balm to cure the mortal wound which sin has made in their souls. (3.) They who truly feel their lost estate, cannot but desire, above all things, to know if yet there may be hope.

2. Peter, in the name of his brethren, said unto them, Your case, however dangerous, is not desperate, Repent—under a sense of redeeming love be deeply humbled for your guilt and ingratitude; and with deep self-abhorrence turn unto the Lord, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ; professing your faith in him as the true Messiah, and sincerely yielding up yourselves to him as his willing subjects; for the remission of sins, purchased by him, and freely bestowed on the chief of sinners; and herewith also ye shall receive the give of the Holy Ghost, of his comforting and sanctifying influences; as also (it is probable) of his miraculous powers in respect to many. For the promise, of pardon and the Holy Ghost, or the great promise made to Abraham and his seed, is unto you, and to your children, his descendants, and to all that are afar off, Jews or Gentiles, even as many as the Lord our God shall call to this high and glorious dispensation—all such shall have the invaluable opportunity of becoming members of the Messiah's peculiar kingdom here below, and of enjoying the higher glories awaiting faithful Christians in his kingdom above. Note; No sinner need despair; the gospel holds forth, through the blood of Jesus, a free pardon to the most guilty of the sons of Adam; and he that believes, shall be saved.

3. The apostle enlarged on this subject. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation; come out from among them, and be ye separate; renounce the false tenets and corrupt practices of the scribes and Pharisees, that you may escape the plagues ready to descend upon this sinful people, abandoned to their infidelity and destruction. Note; They who would be saved among Christ's faithful people, must be separated from the ways of this wicked world, and from the familiar society of careless sinners, shunning their assemblies, as a man dreads the house infected by the plague.

4. Great was the effect produced by this discourse, through the Spirit's mighty energy. No less than three thousand souls immediately embraced, and gladly received, the word of gospel grace; and, believing in a crucified Redeemer now risen from the dead, made open profession of their faith, and were baptized in his name. Note; (1.) The salvation which is by Jesus Christ, is glad news to the sinner who is pricked to the heart with a sense of his guilt and danger. (2.) They who are truly turned to the Lord, will boldly make profession of his name, and join themselves to the society of the faithful, whatever danger or reproach they may be exposed to thereby.

5thly, We have the practice of the primitive church.

1. They were united in holy ordinances. They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, professing their faith in Christ and his gospel, and attending on the apostles ministry and fellowship, maintaining the closest communion with them and each other; and in breaking of bread, celebrating the Lord's supper, and in prayers, social and public, continuing daily with one accord in the temple at the stated hours of service, and praising God for all the inestimable blessings bestowed, through Jesus Christ, upon them. Note; They who have tasted of the blessing of communion with God, will delight to maintain it in the diligent use of all holy ordinances.

2. A solemn awe restrained their enemies from molesting them. Fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles, so that it evidently appeared that God was with them. Note; God can put his bridle in the jaws of persecutors, and say, Touch not my prophets, and do my anointed no harm.

3. A spirit of most noble and disinterested charity appeared among them. All that believed were together; they were of one heart and mind, and assembled in several companies, as many as conveniently could meet in one place, and had all things common, each casting his all into the common stock; and as the necessity of the times was urgent, they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man of their society had need. And as they assembled daily with one accord in the temple, so did they break bread from house to house, provided out of the common stock, eating their meat together with gladness and singleness of heart; fervent in love to each other, thankful to God, and conscious of their own undissembled simplicity and sincerity before him. Note; Who should rejoice, if the children of God do not?

4. They were highly esteemed, and their numbers daily increased. They had favour with all the people; their undissembled piety commanded respect; the miraculous powers with which so many of them were invested, excited reverence; and their charitable actions abounded; and the Lord so eminently blessed their ministrations, that there were added to the church daily such as should be saved, or the saved. See the original Greek, and the note on Acts 2:47.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Acts 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/acts-2.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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