Acts 2:14

A more glorious opportunity than that now presented no man could desire. Peter was the last man in the world likely to let it go unused. He instantly and, no doubt, eagerly appropriated it. In an animated and forcible address he repelled the idea that the apostles were acting under lower excitements, and showed that a new era had dawned upon the race, of which they should hasten to avail themselves. We gather from his words -

I. THAT THE SOURCE OF HUMAN INSPIRATION MAY BE VERY MUCH HIGHER, AS IT MAY BE VERY MUCH LOWER, THAN IS SUPPOSED. (Vers. 15-17.) It is true enough that what passes for Divine inspiration is often nothing more or better than earth-born excitement, mental or moral heats which are kindled by man and not by God - of the flesh, fleshly. This is abundantly proved by the test of time, and, in these cases, the last state is usually worse than the first. But, on the other hand, it sometimes happens that what is ignorantly mistaken for human passion is nothing less than a Divine afflatus. So here: these men "were not drunken;" God was "pouring out his Spirit" upon them. So has it been in the history of the Christian Church. Men that God has raised up and inspired to do his work have been either contemptuously disregarded, or cruelly decried, or systematically persecuted. Such facts as these should make us wait, examine, inquire, before we dismiss as worthless, or denounce as evil, those who profess to speak for Christ in ways other than our own.

II. THAT THE WHOLE HISTORY OF OUR RACE IS OUTSPREAD BEFORE GOD, AND THAT HIS HAND IS LAID UPON IT. (Vers. 17-20.) The Prophet Joel tells us what God will do. His words are necessarily obscure, for only the facts when they have occurred can make clear and plain their full significance. But we perceive that it was God's purpose, looking on to the future of the world, to pour down at one epoch a very rich effusion of his Spirit on the race, and to "show wonders" of the most extraordinary kind before the end of the dispensation. Everything is foreseen, arranged; the eye of God looks on, and all is before him; his hand, too, is stretched out, and at various points he makes his almighty power to be felt.

III. THAT AMID ALL THE ROCKINGS OF REVOLUTION THERE IS ONE PLACE OF UNFAILING SAFETY. (Ver. 21.) "Whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved." Whatever visions are seen, or dreams are dreamed, or prophesyings are uttered on earth; whatever wonders may be wrought in heaven, - the man that makes God his Refuge has no need to fear; he shall be hidden in the everlasting arms of strength and love.

IV. THAT DIVINE PURPOSE IS COOPERATIVE WITH HUMAN FREEDOM. (Ver. 23.) Christ Jesus was "delivered by the determinate counsel," etc.; yet he was not so delivered but that they were "wicked hands" that crucified and slew him. The providence of God makes all things possible to us - the noblest achievements and also the darkest crimes; it is our faithfulness which makes us the agents of the one, and our sin which makes us the perpetrators of the other.


1. That David had predicted the resurrection of Christ (vers. 25-31).

2. That they could bear positive testimony that he had risen from the dead (ver. 32).

3. That prophecy pointed him out as One reigning in power, awaiting the final and complete overthrow of all his enemies (vers. 34, 35). Wherefore let every knee bow to him, every heart be subject to his sway; for

(1) all power as well as all authority is his;

(2) on his side, we are sure of victory and blessedness;

(3) ranged against him, we shall be overcome, with terrible disaster to ourselves. - C.

But Peter standing up with the eleven.
Never was such an audience assembled as that before which this poor fisherman appeared: men of different nations, rapidly and earnestly speaking in their different tongues; one in Hebrew, mocking and saying, "These men are full of new wine"; another inquiring in Latin; another disputing in Greek; another wondering in Arabic; and an endless Babel beside expressing every variety of surprise, doubt, and curiosity. Amid such a scene the fisherman stands up; his voice strikes across the hum which prevails all down the street. He has no tongue of silver; for they say, "He is an unlearned and ignorant man." The rudeness of his Galilean speech still remains with him; yet, though "unlearned and ignorant" in their sense — as to polite learning — in a higher sense he was a scribe well instructed. On whatever other points the learned of Jerusalem might have found Peter at fault, in the sacred writings he was more thoroughly furnished than they; for though Christ took His apostles from among the poor, He left us no example for those who have not well learned the Bible, to attempt to teach it. Yet Peter had no tongue of silver, or of honey, no soothing, flattering speech, to allay the prejudices and to captivate the passions of the multitude. Nor had he a tongue of thunder; no outbursts of native eloquence distinguished his discourse. Indeed, some, if they had heard that discourse from ordinary lips, would not have hesitated to pronounce it dry — some of a class, too numerous, who do not like preachers who put them to the trouble of thinking, but enjoy only those who regale their fancy, or move their feelings, without requiring any labour of thought. Peter's sermon is no more than quoting passages from the Word of God, and reasoning upon them; yet, as in this strain he proceeds, the tongue of fire by degrees burns its way to the feelings of the multitude. The murmur gradually subsides; the mob becomes a congregation; the voice of the fisherman sweeps from end to end of that multitude, unbroken by a single sound; and, as the words rush on, they act like a stream of fire. Now, one coating of prejudice which covered the feelings is burned, and rends away: now, another and another: now the fire touches the inmost covering of prejudice, which lay close upon the heart, and it too gives way. Now, it touches the quick, and burns the very soul of the man! Presently, you might think that in that throng there was but one mind, that of the preacher, which had multiplied itself, had possessed itself of thousands of hearts, and thousands of frames, and was pouring its own thoughts through them all. At length, shame, and tears, and sobs overspread that whole assembly. Here, a head bows; there, starts a groan; yonder, rises a deep sigh; here, tears are falling; and some stern old Jew, who will neither bow nor weep, trembles with the effort to keep himself still. At length, from the depth of the crowd, the voice of the preacher is crossed by a cry, as if one was "mourning for his only son"; and it is answered by a cry, as if one was in "bitterness for his first-born." At this cry the whole multitude is carried away, and, forgetful of everything but the overwhelming feeling of the moment, they exclaim, "Men and brethren, what must we do?"

(W. Arthur, M. A.)

Here we have the report of a sermon preached within a few days of Christ's ascension, addressed to men many of whom knew Jesus Christ, all of whom had heard of His work, His life, and His death, and setting forth the apostolic estimate of Christ, His miracles, His teaching, His ascended condition and glory. We cannot realise, unless by an intellectual effort, the special worth of these apostolic reports contained in the Acts. Men are sometimes sceptical about them asking, How did we get them at all? how were they handed down? This is, however, an easier question to answer than some think. If we take, for instance, this Pentecostal address alone, we know that St. Luke had many opportunities of personal communication with St. Peter. But there is another solution. The ancients made a great use of shorthand, and were quite well accustomed to take down spoken discourses, transmitting them thus to future ages.

I. THE CONGREGATION assembled to listen to this first gospel discourse preached by a human agent was A NOTABLE AND REPRESENTATIVE ONE. They were all Jews or Jewish proselytes, showing how extremely wide, at the epoch of the Incarnation, was the dispersion of God's ancient people. The Divine seed fell upon no unploughed and unroken soil. Pure and noble ideas of worship and morality had been scattered broadcast throughout the world. Some years ago the judgment of Solomon was found depicted on the ceiling of a Pompeian house, witnessing to the spread of Scriptural knowledge through Jewish artists in the time of Tiberius and of Nero A race of missionaries, too, equipped for their work, was developed through the discipline of exile. The thousands who hung upon Peter's lips needed nothing but instruction in the faith of Jesus Christ, together with the baptism of the Spirit, and the finest, the most enthusiastic, and the most cosmopolitan of agencies lay ready to the Church's hand. While, again, the organisation of synagogues, which the exigencies of the dispersion had called into existence, was just the one suited to the various purposes of charity, worship, and teaching, which the Christian Church required.

II. THE BRAVE, OUTSPOKEN TONE OF THIS SERMON evidences the power and influence of the Holy Spirit upon St. Peter's mind. notes the courageous tone of this address as a clear evidence of the truth of the resurrection.

III. Again, the tone of St. Peter's sermon was remarkable because of its ENLARGED AND ENLIGHTENED SPIRITUALITY. It proved the Spirit's power in illuminating the human consciousness. St. Peter was rapidly gaining a true conception of the nature of the kingdom of God. He enunciates that conception in this sermon. He proclaims Christianity, in its catholic and universal aspect, when he quotes Joel as predicting the time when the Lord would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.

IV. Let us look somewhat farther into the matter of this earliest Christian sermon, that we may learn THE APOSTOLIC VIEW OF THE CHRISTIAN SCHEME. What was the conception of Christ's life, work, and ascended state, which St. Peter presented to the astonished multitude? We must not expect, indeed, to find in this sermon a formulated and scientific system of Christian doctrine. St. Peter was as yet far too near the great events he declared, far too close to the superhuman personality of Christ, to coordinate his ideas and arrange his views. Yet his discourse contains all the great principles of catholic Christianity as opposed to that low view which would represent the earliest Christians. as preaching the purely humanitarian scheme of modern unitarianism. St. Peter taught boldly the miraculous element of Christ's life, describing Him as "a man approved of God by mighty works," etc. Yet he did not dwell as much as we might have expected upon the miraculous side of Christ's ministry. And that for a very simple reason. The inhabitants of the East were so accustomed to the practices of magic that they simply classed the Christian missionaries with magicians. The apostles had, however, a more powerful argument in reserve. They preached a spiritual religion, a present peace with God, a present forgiveness of sins; they pointed forward to a future life of which even here below believers possess the earnest and pledge.

V. Again, the sermon shows THE METHOD OF INTERPRETING THE PSALMS AND PROPHETS popular among the pious Jews of St. Peter's time. St. Peter's method of interpretation is identical with that of our Lord, of St. Paul, and of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He beholds in the Psalms hints and types of the profoundest doctrines of the Creed. He finds in the sixteenth Psalm a prophecy of the intermediate state of souls and of the resurrection of our Lord.

(G. T. Stokes, D. D.)

1. We are struck first with the calmness and concentrated force of this address. How difficult the task which St. Peter undertook! He had to speak on the spur of the moment, and to a crowd excited as only an Eastern crowd can be. It is not easy for the most practised orator to catch the ear, and hold the attention of a confused and hostile crowd. Shakespeare means us to recognise consummate skill in Mark Antony's handling of the Roman citizens at Caesar's funeral; but he used flattering words, and he spoke in order to rouse the people against the assassins of Caesar, not against themselves. St. Peter had to address the crowd on a theme which could not be welcome, and to stir them to self-condemnation. Yet we see no trace of hesitation or embarrassment. The speech was as well conceived and compacted as if it had been premeditated for weeks. It soothed the tumult of unfriendly excitement, and stirred a tumult of convicted conscience.

2. An opening for the address was made by the rude jeering of some as to the source of that ardour which glowed in the faces and uttered itself in the words of the brethren. This charge was easily disposed of. It was a fair specimen of the capacity of carnal men to judge spiritual.(1) But St. Peter brushed it away with a sentence. It was enough that it was but the third hour of the day. What Jew would have drunk wine at all on such a morning, and before the morning sacrifice i And even if one or two could be so lost to shame, how absurd to accuse one hundred and twenty! Even the heathen reckoned it disreputable to drink strong wines in the morning. Cicero tells us indeed that the revelry at Antony's villa began at nine o'clock; but this was regarded as the foolish excess of debauchees.(2) But the complete refutation of it was the whole tone and tenor of the address, which was calm and well considered to a marvel. It showed that he and his companions were certainly "not filled with wine, wherein is excess." They were "filled with the Spirit." The apostle gave this as the true explanation, and proceeded at once to illustrate and support it by a felicitous quotation from one of the ancient prophets. He knew that in order to convince it was necessary to proceed on the common ground of Scripture. No one in that multitude, however prejudiced or impatient, could object to the citation from Joel. What St. Peter taught was the beginning of a fulfilment of Joel's prophecy. It was the sign of a new era; the inauguration of a time, the length of which no man could define, but ending with a "great and terrible day of the Lord." Such was the exordium of St. Peter's speech. We can see the mockers silenced, some of them, let us hope, ashamed. The crowd ceased to sway and shout, listening to the calm, clear, strong statement which carried with it such a ring of certainty.

3. Then the speaker, pursuing his advantage, addressed himself to the main theme. The Spirit had come upon them, that they might preach Christ with power. The apostles never dragged in their great theme abruptly or awkwardly. Here St. Peter found a starting-point for preaching Jesus in the concluding words of the passage he had cited from Joel, "Whosoever should call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Who was the Lord, whose "great and notable day" should terminate the dispensation of the Spirit? St. Peter and his colleagues were prepared to say and prove that it was Jesus. And then for the first time the sin of the crucifixion was charged on the conscience of the Jews, the fulness of the gospel made known. Not a few of those present had joined in the cry, "Crucify Him!" That had not been, however, spontaneous; but had been stirred up by the rulers. And now that hot blood had cooled there must have been sore misgivings, which the apostle soon deepened. He reminded his hearers of "the mighty works and wonders and signs" by which God had accredited His prophet. He appealed to their own knowledge of those things; and their silence intimated that they could not dispute the fact.

4. Having gained the point, St. Peter proceeded to show who the prophet Jesus was —(1) By reference to His crucifixion. Was this fatal to a claim of Messiahship? Peter would once have said so; but now he stood there prepared to show that it formed an essential part of the proof that He was indeed the Christ. It was God's purpose, and was predicted in the ancient oracles. Jewish teachers had turned away from a suffering to an exclusively glorious Messiah. But none the less was He so predicted, and none the less was the fulfilment secured by God's "determinate counsel." Therefore was Jesus delivered into the hands of those who hated Him, who crucified Him by the hand of "men without the law" — the Roman soldiers. But it was really on the Jews and their children that the blood of the Just One lay — "Ye did crucify and slay."(2) Then, in a breath, the speaker announced a fact which gave a new turn to the whole history in the resurrection of the Crucified One. "Whom God raised up," etc. This, indeed, had been announced immediately after; but a counter story had been set afloat that the body had been stolen. These conflicting rumours had left the whole matter in a haze of doubt. But, before adducing witnesses, St. Peter referred again to the Old Testament. With a fine skill which the Holy Ghost had taught him, he prepared the Jews for receiving evidence, by showing that it was far from incredible, since it had been clearly foretold in one of the prophetic Psalms. Of course this did not prove that Jesus was that Christ. But, if it could be proved that Jesus had risen, His fulfilment of this oracle would go far to place it beyond doubt that He was the Messiah. And then the proof was adduced. Pointing to the Christian company, St. Peter said boldly, "This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses." How could any fact of the kind have better attestation?(3) The argument had to be carried one step further; and the speaker, not knowing how long the crowd might continue to listen, proceeded at once to say that the risen Jesus was exalted by the right hand of God. On this point, too, St. Peter found support in the Old Testament — "Jehovah said to Adonai" (Psalm 110.). Every one knew who was meant by Jehovah: but who was Adonai? David could not have meant himself, for he was not his own Lord; far less could he have given such a title to any of the kings of the earth. The Spirit had inspired him to sing thus of the Lord Christ, and the proof of His ascension was before the eyes of the multitude. On the followers of Jesus, and on them only, had descended the new energy from heaven.

5. Thus the proof was completed at every point. There was no declamation but compact statement and close reasoning, leading up to the conclusion that God had made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ. And now the Christians beheld the crowd no longer mocking, but subdued, ashamed, conscience-stricken. Pricked in their hearts, many cried out, "What shall we do?" A welcome interruption! It showed St. Peter that he had struck the right chord, and that the Holy Spirit was speaking through him to the people. It enabled him to follow up his address with a very pointed application, and a very earnest appeal. They could not undo their own act, but God had done that already. This, however, they might and should do without delay:(1) "Repent." — It was not enough to be pricked in heart. Repentance is more than vexation with one's self, or even poignant sorrow. The apostle bade them reconsider the whole matter, and so change their minds regarding the Nazarene, and consequently their attitude.(2) "And be baptised every one of you unto the remission of sins." — This implied that they should believe, and confess their faith-for faith is always allied with repentance unto life, and is the instrument of forgiveness. Those who sincerely repented of their rejection of Jesus, must now believe in Him as the Christ; and in token thereof were called to join the company of His followers by openly receiving that baptism, which Christ had authorised them to administer. The consequence of this would be, that they would obtain not only pardon, but the Holy Ghost; for the promise was to their nation first, though also, God be praised, to the Gentiles — "as many as the Lord our God shall call."

6. Such was the speech of St. Peter; and the result was glorious. The fisher of men let down a good net into the deep, and caught a great draught — drew to the shore of faith and peace three thousand souls. He wrought no miracle to astonish and impress them. It was better that no sign or prodigy performed by the apostles should interfere with the direct and solemn application of truth to the conscience. He performed no ceremony. The notion of a Christianity that trusts to ceremonial and celebration was quite foreign to the apostolic conception. The speaker prevailed by the word of his testimony. The three thousand felt the power of the truth and yielded to it — the Spirit of the Lord disposing and enabling them so to do. Thus they repented, believed, were baptized, were pardoned, were quickened to newness of life.

7. In one day! It was the typical and significant day of our dispensation, a day which should be expected to repeat itself. True, there cannot be a second descent of the Holy Spirit, any more than there can be a second incarnation of the Son. But the Church should ask and look for a continuance of the mighty working of the Holy Ghost, and so for conversions by thousands. The Church wants no other means of increase than those by which it was founded —

(1)the fire of the Holy Ghost, and

(2)the testimony of anointed witnesses in sound speech that cannot be gainsaid, testifying to Jesus, the Saviour, that He is the Christ of Israel, and the Lord of all.

(D. Fraser, D. D.)

The wondering, the questioning, and the mockery compelled the apostles to explain. So have young Christians often been constrained by what they saw or knew to attempt work for which they had little inclination. In making this appeal the apostles —

I. HAD A LEADER. All had been speaking with tongues, and when that sign had answered its first purpose it was necessary for one to appeal to the intelligence of all. Peter now "stood up."

1. A man of confidence and quick decision. What a change since his denial.

2. A man who could command attention. For this end he "lifted up his voice." Having to plead for Christ and truth, he gladly used his best powers.

3. A man of knowledge; "be it known unto you." Some were guessing and misinterpreting, and honesty demanded a hearing for one who said he had certain knowledge.

4. A man of words. "Hearken to my words." He proceeded to prove what he had boldly affirmed. In this he is an example. He gave the sense of Scripture, and did his work with sobriety and earnestness, and without reflections on the spirit of the crowd.

II. HAD TO REBUT ERROR. There were misconceptions which had to be removed, and in doing this Peter did not mock the mockers, or show irritation. He calmly and kindly rooted out error that truth might take its place. Note that —

1. Peter denied the false charge of drunkenness, but not as a malicious calumny, but as the actual opinion of intelligent men. "As ye suppose." In this way we may introduce an argument against the false doctrines of the day. But denial was not enough, so —

2. He gave a clear reason — the hour was too early and too sacred for intoxication. Religious controversy ought to be based on undeniable facts. Yet this was not enough, so Peter —

3. Interpreted the facts which the mockers had misinterpreted. It was the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy. Would that all preachers would meet the demand for facts by the positive truth of the Word of God.

III. REALISED THAT THERE IS GIVEN TO BELIEVERS WHAT MEN'S NATURAL SUPPOSITIONS MISREPRESENT. It was natural for men to think that they could explain the strange signs; but the error was brought home in due time. How many to-day are like this multitude. They observe the profession and zeal of Christians, and hear about their experiences, but put it all down to superstition, weakness, or delusion.

(W. Hudson.)

The restoration of Peter was fully recognised by his brethren. They felt bound to imitate Christ's conduct. He knew what underlay the weakness of His servant, and having received him to favour, sent him forth with fresh power to feed the lambs, etc. Whom God receives, let no man refuse. A tempted Christian may fall, but if he repent, his fellow Christians should receive him back. Let us contemplate —


1. He preached upon the day of Pentecost. All the memories of God's goodness in seedtime, summer, and autumn, were then occupying the minds of the Hebrews. And Peter rose to appropriately publish God's glorious gospel of mercy.

2. His audience was peculiarly stimulating. Like Simeon they waited for the consolation of Israel. They had come from distant parts, and presented, in their diversified wants, a type of the world's necessities. Following the law they found the gospel. The law was a schoolmaster that brought them to Christ. An appreciative assembly has a stimulating effect upon any orator; and this audience, composed of devout inquirers, anxious to learn the whole truth about Christ, was sufficient to give the eloquence of true earnestness of Peter's preaching.

3. His position was that of spokesman for and defender of his brethren.

4. He preached under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost and with a tongue of fire.

II. THE SERMON THAT PETER DELIVERED. We cannot say it was a great sermon, in the modern sense. There is no profound and far-reaching grasp of Divine truth; no display of mental and spiritual genius; no soaring flight of imagination; none of those marvellous revelations which are given in Isaiah and Ezekiel; none of those mighty sentences, lightning-like in their flash, thunder-like in their sound, that rolled from the mouth of Cicero or Demosthenes; and certainly none of that loud-coloured grandiloquence, which is so much admired by a sensation-loving world. The preaching of Peter, or Paul, or Christ, is usually destitute of these artistic qualities, and yet conspicuously fitted to serve its heavenly purpose. The characteristics of Peter's sermon are very distinct.

1. It was Scriptural. His subject was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He brings a text from Joel (Acts 2:28-32), to show that the Spirit was promised, and should have been expected in some such way as that in which He had actually come. The use which Peter makes of his proof-text is simple, yet skilful; displays good powers of reasoning, and above all, reveals a clear knowledge of the Scriptures; and the finishing stroke brings out, most happily, the grand design of God in His wonderful promise, and its more wonderful fulfilment — "That whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

2. Most faithful. The trumpet at his mouth gave no uncertain sound. He spake no smooth things, and minced no truth to suit fastidious tastes. Speaking, though he was, against the great men of his nation, and among an excited populace, who had a few weeks ago destroyed his Master, the earnest preacher was unconscious of timidity, and he did not hesitate to tell them plainly, that they had taken with wicked hands and crucified and slain the Lord's anointed. Harsh words, no doubt; but words like the hammer that breaks the rocky heart. And the man who would preach the Word of God with true faithfulness to his fellow-sinners must be prepared at any risk to expose and condemn every sort of wickedness.

3. Evangelical. It contained very prominently the three R's which Rowland Hill has made proverbial in our country(1) Ruin by the fall. The apostle gave prominence to the ruinous effects of sin. Jerusalem sinners had committed an awful crime in killing the Son of God.(2) Redemption through the death of Jesus.(3) Regeneration through the power of the Holy Spirit. "Repent, and be baptized," etc.

III. THE SUCCESS OF PETER'S SERMON. We find it very difficult to realise the impression produced. There is nothing like it in modern times. People assemble in great crowds to hear the best of preachers, and go away in a state of stolid indifference. From week to week the whole preaching of the Christian sabbath, in every village and town, passes over without the smallest degree of spiritual excitement. We surely need more of that earnest, heaven-reaching prayer, that will bring the Spirit of God, like a rushing mighty wind, to fill our house and every heart with spiritual animation. This was the prime result of Pentecostal preaching. Thousands of sleeping souls were awakened. We have heard of men sailing towards the rapids of Niagara, all unconscious of danger, until they felt their boat quiver in the struggling water, and stars away with alarming speed. In a moment they were filled with anxiety, and began to pull and cry with all their might for safety. So with Jerusalem sinners under the sermon of Pentecost. The whole crowd was shaking like fields of corn in the autumn wind, or tossing like troubled waves upon the stormy ocean. And with one loud cry that went ringing through the holy city, and up to the Holy God, they said, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Blessed question from a sinner's heart! And the question must have gone with a grateful thrill to the preacher's heart, as it surely went like a shout of triumph to the heart of Jesus on the throne. We have read somewhere of a Russian prince, coming in the course of hunting to a river's side, where a few peasants had brought to the bank a person apparently drowned. The prince had previously been reading some directions which had been issued by a humane society, about the mode of restoring animation to people who have been rescued from under water. He leaped from his horse, stripped off his flowing robes, gave instructions to the peasants how to assist, and commenced the work of rubbing the cold limbs of the unfortunate man with all his might. The work was continued by the prince for a whole hour, without any appearance of success. At length the lifeless-looking bosom began to heave and give signs of animation. On seeing which, the prince looked up, with beaming countenance, and exclaimed: "This is the happiest moment of my life." He had saved a man from death. Not less would it be a happy moment for the heart of Elisha, when he felt the flesh of the Shunamite's child waxing warm, and saw him open his eyes in life and happiness. But we can believe it was even a happier moment for the apostle of Christ on the day of Pentecost, when the people cried, "What shall we do?" and so gave signs of being raised from spiritual death to Christian vitality. No time was lost in telling the inquirers their path of duty. "Look to Jesus and be saved."

(J. Thompson, A. M.)

Mark the course of a river like the Thames; how it winds and twists according to its own sweet will. Yet there is a reason for every bend and curve: the geologist, studying the soil and marking the conformation of the rock, sees a reason why the river's bed diverges to the right or to the left; and so, though the Spirit of God blesses one preacher more than another, and the reason cannot be such that any man could congratulate himself upon his own goodness, yet there are certain things about Christian ministers which God blesses, and certain other things which hinder success.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. The gospel is not a system of doctrines, a code of laws, still less a fabric of fancies or theories: it is a record of facts. It is this characteristic which makes it —(1) So satisfactory; we can plant the foot firmly upon it, for it is founded upon a rock.(2) So universal: not the religion of a few philosophers, capable of arguing out deep truths or of rising to lofty mysteries, but the religion of a world, as suitable to the simple as to the learned.

2. And as the gospel rests upon fact, so also it prompts to action. No sooner is the persecutor of the Church struck to the earth by the bright light of the Divine presence than we hear him asking, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" And no sooner does the jailer at Philippi recognise in his prisoners the servants of the Most High God, than he asks the practical question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And no sooner does the astonished multitude hear from Peter's lips the explanation of the marvellous sign which has gathered them to listen, than they exclaim, "Men. and brethren, what shall we do?" What they heard was a narrative of facts: what they understood by it was a summons to action. God grant to us also a spirit of faith in gospel fact, a spirit of readiness for gospel action!

3. St. Peter sets us the example of repeating a text for his sermon. The Bible then was the Old Testament. Out of it Christian teachers were able to plead for God and to prove the gospel. In our thankfulness for the New Testament we must never learn to despise the Old. St. Peter's text was taken from Joel. That Book was probably composed 850 years before Christ. The prophets of the Old Testament were not instructed to reveal the long interval which should elapse between the two advents. The delay of the second coming was not even a revelation of the gospel. Each age was to expect it. The taunt, "Where is the promise of His coming?" was to have scope to operate, because no generation was to be made aware that the advent might not take place within its duration. And thus it is that Joel here speaks of the outpouring of the Spirit as a sign of the last days. The gospel age, however long it has continued or may continue, is the dispensation of the last times: after it comes none other, and itself is to be viewed as one whole, from the redemption which contained in itself not the promise only but the germ of all, until the coming of the very kingdom of heaven in power and great glory. "In the last days, saith God," etc.

4. After this quotation the discourse addresses itself pointedly to the audience. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words. A Man, as you deemed Him, and as He was, has within these few weeks been put to death by you; the blood of that Man is at this moment upon your hands!" But was, then, that murder effectual? No; "God raised Him up because it was not possible that He should be holden of death." Not possible, by reason of His Divine nature. Not possible, because the voice of inspired prophecy had declared the contrary (Psalm 16.). Could words like these have found their full accomplishment in their human author? The words which David thus spake, he spake as God's prophet. For himself the words could only express that assurance of a life beyond death, the hope of the saints. But in relation to Christ the words have a fuller meaning. His soul was recalled from its brief sojourn in Hades, before it bad taken up its abode there as a recognised inmate. Of this revival from death we His apostles are the witnesses. Now, therefore, the events of this day become intelligible and natural. The risen Saviour hath fulfilled His promise. He promised to send — He hath sent — His Holy Spirit upon His disciples. And hereunto agree those other words of the Psalmist, "The Lord said unto my Lord," etc. That prophecy, like the former, points, not to David, but to David's Son; even to Him who is as truly the Lord of David in right of His Godhead, as He is the Son of David by reason of His manhood. "Therefore let every family of Israel know," etc.

5. Such was the discourse, to which blessing was vouchsafed such as has been granted to no other. God works where and as and by whom He will; choosing oftentimes the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. We may read St. Peter's words unmoved. But not so did they to whom he addressed himself. Compunction was the first fruit of his preaching. Conscience now awoke. The sign before them was a sign of power: how could this be, save by the hand of God? But beyond this, it was a sign foretold by Jesus. All things had come to pass, even as He had said to them. Yes, all is now clear and consistent, though the inference is one of shame and condemnation for themselves. "When they heard, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter," etc. We will not answer the question now, rather let it press upon us as a question of deep moment for ourselves. Hearing of Christ caused —

I. COMPUNCTION. What they heard was extremely simple. It was nothing more than what we have all heard ten thousand times. The words of Zechariah were fulfilled, "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn." They had pierced Him, and now the arrow of conviction pierced them.

1. I know not that any words of man could bring to our minds the same conviction of sin without the grace of God by His Holy Spirit. And yet we do read of such a crime as that of "crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to an open shame." The Epistle to the Hebrews even says of such persons that "it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance." God grant, therefore, that, in its worst form, that of actual apostasy, none of us may yet have committed it! But there are approaches to that crime. There are those who make very light of the purposes for which Christ died, who contradict and go against the very object of that death; that He might put away sin; that He might redeem us from all iniquity. Is there no one here who ever helped to undo Christ's dying work in another person's soul? who ever tempted another person to commit sin; either by ridiculing his scruples, or by making the way to sin known to him, or by suggesting to his mind sinful images, or raising in his mind sinful desires? That man, whoever he is, has done worse things than even the Jews who gave Jesus to be crucified. Nothing, however cruel, done to the body, can be so heinous as the least injury done to the soul. Alas! there are those now amongst us who have more cause to be "pricked in their heart" than ever had those men on the day of Pentecost.

2. And if not in this gravest sense, yet which of you has not cause to be sorrowful when he thinks of his Lord and his God? What is a day to you but one succession of slights done to your Saviour? How did it begin? Was not your morning prayer a poor, cold, reluctant service? And so the day went full of anything and everything rather than the thought and the love of Christ; full of the world, of vanity, of self. Then have not you, have not we all, cause to feel compunction, and to cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner"?

II. THIS COMPUNCTION MAY WELL WORK IN US ANXIETY; the conviction of sin the desire for direction. "What shall we do?" It is the want of this desire which make our meetings for worship too often cold and lifeless. What would preaching be, if it were in deed and in truth addressed to a number of human hearts, every one of which was inwardly asking, "What must I do? Preaching is a finger-post marking the traveller's way, and saying to wayfaring men, "This is the way; walk ye in it!" Let us come together, Sunday by Sunday, in this spirit; crying, "What shall I do?" and doubt not but your cry will be heard: if man should fail you, God Himself will be your preacher; your inward ear shall hear the voice of His Spirit, warning, counselling, comforting, according to your need.

(Dean Vaughan.)

Peter's sermon is something strikingly fresh in the history of preaching. Moses, Joshua, the prophets, the Baptist, Christ had preached, but this preaching was in many respects a new thing in the earth.

1. The occasion was new — the spiritual excitement of the disciples, produced by Divine influence and leading to strange thoughts.

2. The substance was new. It was not a prophetic or a present, but an historic Christ who had risen from the grave to the throne of the universe. No one had ever preached Christ in this form before.

3. The impression of the sermon was new. In analysing the discourse we find —


1. The negative part includes three distinguishable points.(1) A categorical denial: "These men are not drunken." It is a libel.(2) An intimation of the groundless-ness of the charge: "As ye suppose." It was a mere empty assumption.(3) A suggestion of high improbability: "Seeing it is but the third hour."

2. The positive part asserts that the phenomenon was the effect of Divine inspiration: "It shall come to pass," etc. The days of the Messiah are "the last days"; no other dispensation of mercy will succeed them. The passage teaches that these last days —(1) Would be connected with an extraordinary effusion of the Spirit, not limited —

(a)To any class.

(b)To any sex.

(c)To any age.(2) Would be connected with prodigious revolutions. The words "I will show wonders," etc., may probably be regarded as a highly poetic representation of what would follow, in government and churches, the working out of Divine ideas and spiritual influences (Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 34:4).(3) Would be succeeded by a notable day — probably the destruction of Jerusalem as a type of the Judgment.(4) Would be connected with a possibility of salvation to all who seek it.

II. AN ARGUMENT FOR CONVICTING THE HEARTS OF THE HARDENED — an argument resolving itself into four facts.

1. That Jesus had wrought miracles among them while living.

2. That His crucifixion was only the working out of the Divine plan. So great is God that He can make His greatest enemies serve Him.

3. That His resurrection, which they could not deny, was a fact which accorded with their Scriptures. In this quotation from the Psalms Peter —(1) Assumes that the document which he quotes will be admitted by them as of Divine authority.(2) Takes for granted that the document refers to the resurrection of some one of distinguished excellence.(3) Reasons that the resurrection of the distinguished one predicted could not be David.(4) Concludes that the resurrection predicted must have referred to Christ.


1. To the only blessings that could meet their case: Divine pardon and Divine influence.

2. To the course of conduct essential to the attainment of those blessings.

3. To the precious promise of heaven to encourage them in the course of conduct required.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Homiletic Monthly.
I. ADAPTATION TO CIRCUMSTANCES. There was a startling event; the sermon applied its lessons. It was spontaneous: Peter had no time to prepare a history or even notes.

II. A SCRIPTURAL BASIS. The main points were proved by the Bible. Nature and experience are important, but do not carry conviction like the living Word.

III. UNSPARING REBUKE OF SIN. Their guilt was so pressed home that they were "pricked in their hearts."



(Homiletic Monthly.)

Turn water into a proper receptacle, and its power is well-nigh overwhelming. Turn fire into its proper channel, and it proves an unparalleled power. And these elements thus controlled and brought into their legitimate course, will prove a blessing to man, but left uncurbed, though still a power, it is destructive in its character. Even so it is with impulsiveness, if sanctified by God's grace, and thus turned within the divinely appointed channel of redemption, it will prove a great blessing to an individual and those with whom he associates; but left uncurbed, it becomes a destructive power to happiness, peace, usefulness, and real success.

(W. H. Blake.)

The true preacher has nothing to fear from any rival, for the human voice has no adequate substitute. Even a gospel written is not equal to a gospel spoken. The heart will not disdain any instrument of expression, but the instrument which it loves with all its love is the human voice — all instruments in one, and all inspired.

(J. Parker.)

If a man is able to produce beautiful roses and delight his congregation with them Sunday after Sunday, by all means let him produce them: only let him take care to make his roses as God makes His — never a rose without a thorn, to prick the conscience of the hearer, and to spur him onward in his Divine life. Let the sermon please if possible; but, like Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, it ought to prick the consciences of men.

(J. C. Jones.)

In some churches the creed and commandments are painted so grand, in such fantastic characters, and with such perplexing convolutions, that a plain man cannot possibly make them out; and the truth is sometimes treated in the pulpit by the preacher as the painter has painted it — the language is so grand, and the rhetoric so gorgeous, that the people fail to realise the truth it may be supposed to embody.

We are often told with great earnestness what is the best style for preaching; but the fact is, that what would be the very best style for one man would perhaps be the worst possible for another. In the most fervid declamation, the deepest principles may be stated and pressed home; in the calmest and most logical reasoning, powerful motives may be forced close upon the feelings; in discussing some general principle, precious portions of the text of Scripture may be elucidated; and in simple exposition, general principles may be effectively set forth. Let but the powers given to any man play with their full force, aided by all the stores of Divine knowledge which continuous acquisition from its fountain and its purest channels can obtain for him, and, the fire being present — the fire of the Spirit's power and influence — spiritual effects will result. The discussion about style amounts very much to a discussion whether the rifle, the carbine, the pistol, or the cannon, is the best weapon. Each is best in its place. The great point is, that every one shall use the weapon best suited to him, that he charge it well, and see that it is in a condition to strike fire. The criticisms which we often hear amount to this: We admit that such-an-one is a good exhortational preacher, or a good doctrinal preacher, or a good practical preacher, or a good expository preacher; but because he has not the qualities of another — qualities, perhaps, the very opposite of his own — we think lightly of him. That is, we admit that the carbine is a good carbine; but because it is not a rifle, we condemn it; and because the rifle is not a cannon, we condemn it.

(W. Arthur, M. A.)

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