Acts 5:41


And they departed, etc.

I. THE NAME OF CHRIST the source of it. No such spirit in the world. Heroism may sustain strength, but does not give joy, unless it is like the apostles'. Had not the Name been Divine, how could it have produced such fruits in such men?

II. THE TEACHING AND PREACHING, both in the temple and at home, must be in the martyr spirit. We must expect to suffer some dishonor. But such a spirit invincible and victorious.

III. THE HONOUR OF THE CHURCH over against the honor of the world. "Counted worthy." God's reckoning. Spiritual worthies. The joy was not only a secret joy, it was the foretaste of heaven. Enforce the example. - R.









They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer. &&&
I. THE BITTER ANTAGONISM OF WICKED MEN TO THE TRUTH, AS SEEN IN THEIR DESPERATE ATTEMPTS TO ARREST ITS PROGRESS IN THE WORLD. The history of truth has ever been one of trial and conflict. He who was "The Truth" had to contend with the antagonism of men; and the noble army of martyrs shows how desperate and determined have been the attempts of cruel, wicked men to arrest the course of truth. Arrayed against the apostles was —

1. Social status. The Founder of Christianity was of humble origin, the apostles were of the common people; and of course the high priest and the rulers could not consent to be taught by them. So for ages persons of social rank and great worldly wealth have not favoured Christianity, but rather hindered it.

2. Legal might. The judges and the lawyers, who ought to have defended them, sided against them; and for centuries history repeated itself in this particular, and the strong arm of the law, instead of being extended to defend the truth, has drawn the sword to persecute and destroy.

3. Mental power. At the council there was the elite of the intelligence of the Jewish nation. And from that time until now there have been men of brilliant powers arrayed against the truth — powers worthy of a nobler employment and end. Polished and poisoned have been the arrows that have been shot at the army of the Cross.

4. Sympathy of numbers. Many believed, but many did not believe. Truth has always been in the minority, so far as numbers are concerned. Error has usually gained the show of hands. Men with high and holy purposes must expect comparative loneliness. It was so with the Master, largely so with the apostles, and has been so more or less with all intellectual giants and true moral reformers.

5. Antiquity. They were Nonconformists, and the Jews would feel the utmost disdain for those who dared to dissent from their national establishment. Those who opposed the apostles venerated Abraham and Moses; but Christ they regarded as an innovator and a sower of sedition. Error has still pretext for pleading that antiquity is on its side; for sin is as old as Eden. All these things were arrayed against the truth, and yet it won its way. And if these things could not impede it when it was a streamlet, shall they succeed now that it is a mighty river? If alien and hardy hands could not uproot the truth when it was a newly-planted sapling, shall any hands be able to lift it now it is a deep-rooted mighty tree? God is on the side of truth, and its early victories are a pattern and pledge of its constant and complete triumph over all antagonistic forces.

II. THE SUBLIME HEROISM OF HOLY MEN FOR THE TRUTH, AS SEEN IN THEIR DETERMINED LABOURS TO ACCELERATE ITS PROGRESS IN THE WORLD. Notice —

1. Its nature.(1) They could endure pain. They were not Stoics, but sensitive, generous men; and yet they endured torture even joyfully.(2) They could endure shame. Christ had endured the Cross and shame for them, and for Him they could endure.(3) They could brave dangers. It was no use for the council to threaten them. They were prepared to lose their liberty, and even life, rather than deny the name which to them was above every name.

2. Its secret. They were not fanatics, but calm, cool, and common-sense men.(1) They were witnesses of the facts they attested to. They knew they had "not followed cunningly devised fables," they had "seen," and "heard" and "felt" the things they proclaimed; and the council might as well have tried to argue them out of their own existence as out of their belief in the Lord Jesus.(2) They were filled with the Holy Ghost. Natural courage, physical pluck, would not have been enough to lead them to endure and hold out as they did; they required supernatural courage, and they had it. They were strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.(3) They were inspired by a mighty name. Oh the power of a name! Poets, patriots, warriors, etc., have been stimulated and inspired by great and illustrious names; but here is "a name that is above every name," that has been more uplifting among men than any other lever name in the world.

(F. W. Brown.)

I.Those OBLIGED to suffer.

II.Those WILLING to suffer.

III.Those ABLE to suffer.

IV.Those PERMITTED to suffer.

(Hartman.)

I. WHAT THE APOSTLES FELT.

1. Not mere resignation. It is reckoned a high Christian grace not to murmur at afflictive providences, but to submit — not trying to pierce the inscrutable, but saying, "Thy will, not mine be done."

2. Not mere acquiescence. This is a grace higher still, involving as it does the confession that God's will is good will, and God's way, however painful, the best way. Its language is, "All things work together for good," etc.

3. But joyfulness — perhaps the highest grace possible, being exultation that at whatever personal cost God's will is done. Certainly the most difficult grace to exercise, and one which goes clean contrary to all the tendencies of our nature. We naturally love ease, prosperity, honour; but when we are enabled to rejoice as the apostles did in pain, adversity, and ignominy we are more than conquerors.

II. HOW TO ACCOUNT FOR IT.

1. Not on the ground of the expectation of ulterior benefit. Many a man has rejoiced in the trouble and suffering which would certainly issue in wealth or honour. Witness the conduct of warriors and explorers. The apostles could gain nothing except further suffering.

2. Not on the ground of a hope of heaven. This has been the support of many a Christian martyr and sufferer, is quite legitimate, and was a source of comfort often to the apostles themselves, but it does not seem to have been taken into account here.

3. But on the ground that Christ counted them worthy to suffer for His name. It was suffering —

(1)For Christ's sake.

(2)By Christ's appointment.

(3)With Christ's support.

(J. W. Burn.)

American National Preacher.
The history of the Church, as given in the Acts of the Apostles, shows the enmity of the carnal mind towards God. But the persecution to which the apostles were subject has its bright, no less than its dark side. It shows us the integrity — the courage of these men of God. Many have hazarded life from love of worldly honour and glory; self, in some form or other, has been the prompting motive; and they have won the applause of man. But a higher and nobler feeling has induced the followers of Christ to go to the prison and stake.

I. THE SITUATION OF THESE MEN OF GOD. The circumstances in which they were placed were harassing and painful. The whole weight of the civil power was brought to bear upon them. They were also put to shame. They were men of high moral sensibility, and keenly felt the degradation attached to a public whipping, as if they had been robbers, yet they rejoiced. But what fault had they committed? They were punished because they preached pardon to the guilty, and salvation through Christ to them that believe.

II. THE JUDGMENT THEY FORMED OF THE TREATMENT THEY RECEIVED. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of their Lord and Master.

1. May this not have arisen from the conviction that opposition would redound to the Saviour's glory? They knew that His cause would in the end prevail, however it might for a season be hindered.

2. Moreover, they might have formed their judgment on a principle that regarded themselves. They knew that their ascended Lord had foretold the certainty of persecution, and now in the fulfilment of the prediction, they saw an evidence of the truthfulness of their Great Master, and of their relation to Him. They therefore rejoiced in the grace of God.

III. ON WHAT GROUNDS AND BY WHAT MEANS MAY WE REJOICE IF WE SHOULD BE CALLED TO SUFFER FOR THE NAME OF CHRIST? It is still true, that through much tribulation we are to enter the kingdom of God. Children have been persecuted by their parents for the sake of their piety and religious zeal. Servants have been mocked and dismissed from their situations on account of their faith. Tenants have been turned out of their houses and farms because they have obeyed the voice of conscience. And not a few have suffered in their trade, because they have followed their convictions in the worshipping of God.

1. If we would be associated with the apostles in this case, we must reckon by faith — not by sight. A man may resign himself to the observance of the established usages of society, he may conform to the standard of the world's morality; but he will never submit to reproach for the name of Christ, unless he sees His Divine excellency, and loves Him in sincerity.

2. Again, if we would account it joy to be persecuted for the sake of Christ, our eye must be single in His cause.

3. In a word, finally, you must seek for a constant supply of the spirit of grace. These men of God were filled with joy in the Holy Ghost.

(American National Preacher.)

I. Many people can imagine Church workers feeling pleasure under certain conditions and experiences of their work — in its hours of success, and scenes of glad acceptance and sympathetic reception; but hardly any, without careful thought, could understand men professing themselves as happy after enduring such an ordeal as the apostles had just passed through. Yet let me point you to analogies. First take the case of the scholar, the man who loves and pursues knowledge for its own sake. Have we not heard of men who are content, nay, supremely happy in toiling on steadily and silently for years, wrapped up in and devoted to enlarging their ever-increasing stores of information? Such there have been and are, who deny themselves all other pleasures, even health, not to speak of worldly advantage or social advancement, who work on in silence and solitude, finding their one joy in their enthusiastic devotion to this their only object in life. Or take the case of the man of science. Not the man who studies literature or law or history, but the man who is engaged in wresting fresh secrets from nature; not in order to patent an invention and make a large fortune, but who loves nature and science for their own sake, whose one object seems to be making constant additions to the number of known facts or verified laws and operations. Again, have we not read of travellers and explorers perfectly possessed by their life of adventure; ever seeking to scale heights which no one else has reached, to penetrate further into unknown regions, and who for this purpose have endured almost incredible hardship and toil; to whom labours well-nigh superhuman seemed as nothing, who would face with readiness situations where they verily went with their lives in their hands? I might go on to speak of the love of the soldier, the engineer, the artist, the musician, for their callings. For we shall find that the greatest men in every sphere of life have had, as it were, a perfect passion for their profession, and have followed it not for any outside reward or emolument it might bring, but for its own sake. Now, may I take Christianity as a profession, and give the widest interpretation to the true Christian work? Is it quite impossible for the Christian worker to find such an interest in the work itself, apart from any hope of reward, as a scholar, an artist, a soldier finds in his profession? The true artist has a pure and enthusiastic love for art; the scholar's one object in life is knowledge; what, then, is the Christian worker's means and object of rejoicing? Must it not be in the increase of goodness? Christ and Christianity have but one object — the righteousness of man, the placing of good in the stead of evil. Notice how different the conduct of the apostles now from what it was previous to the resurrection. Then, at the advent of a few armed men, they had fled in terror and deserted their Master. Now, they were joyfully prepared to suffer persecution and death on His behalf. What had produced the change? What but a revelation of the true nature of their Master?

II. With joy is closely allied peace. Peace is the inward state of feeling of which holy joy is the manifestation. The Christian lives in two spheres — in the world and also in Christ. In the first sphere he must be in a state of conflict with much he finds around him. But he lives also in close communion with his Master; and so far as he tries to do his Master's service, to obey His will, to be led by His Spirit, he is at peace. We are all, in one way or another, seeking for happiness. Physical life depends on conformation to the laws of nature. Spiritual life depends on conformation to the Spirit of God. The object of the will of Gad is righteousness, goodness, truth. This, if we would have peace, must be the object of our wills also. Hence, in the pursuit of goodness, even in the midst of tribulation, shall we find joy.

(W. E. Chadwick, M. A.)

Unless a grain of mustard-seed be bruised, the extent of its virtue is never acknowledged. For without bruising it is insipid, but if it be bruised it becomes hot, and it gives out all those pungent properties that were concealed in it. Thus every good man, so long as he is not smitten, is regarded as insipid, and of slight account. But if the grinding of persecution crush him, instantly he gives forth all the warmth of his savour, and all that before appeared to be weak and contemptible is turned into godly fervour, and that which in peaceful times he had been glad to keep from view within his own bosom, he is driven by the force of tribulation to make known.

( St. Gregory.)

Guy de Brez, a French minister, was prisoner in the Castle of Tournay, in Belgium. A lady who visited him said she wondered how he could eat, or drink, or sleep in quiet. "Madam," said he, "my chains neither terrify me nor break my sleep; on the contrary, I glory and take delight therein, esteeming them at a higher rate than chains and rings of gold, or jewels of any price whatever. The rattling of my chains is like the effect of an instrument of music in my ears — not that such an effect comes merely from my chains, but it is because I am bound therewith for maintaining the truth of the gospel."

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