« PreviousContinue »
THERE is no evidence that the title “ The Acts the date of the book at about A. D. 63. It is also of the Apostles," affixed to this book, was given probable that it was written at Rome. In chap. by divine authority, or by the writer himself. It xxviii. 16, Luke mentions his arrival at Rome is a title, however, which, with a little variation, with Paul. As he does not mention his deparhas been given to it by the Christian church at ture from this city, it is to be presumed that all times. The term “Acts" is not used, as it is it was written there. Some have supposed that sometimes with us, to denote decrees or laws, but it was written at Alexandria in Egypt, but of it denotes the doings of the apostles. It is a that there is no sufficient evidence. record of what the apostles did in founding and The canonical authority of this book rests on establishing the Christian church. It is worthy the same foundation as that of the gospel by the of remark, however, that it contains chiefly a same author. Its authenticity has not been called record of the doings of Peter and Paul. Peter | in question at any time in the church. was commissioned to open the doors of the Chris- This book has commonly been regarded as a tian church to both Jews and Gentiles (see note, history of the Christian church, and of course Matt. xvi. 18, 19); and Paul was chosen to bear the first ecclesiastical history that was written. the gospel especially to the Pagan world. As But it cannot have been designed as a general these two apostles were the most prominent and history of the church. Many important transacdistinguished in founding and organizing the tions have been omitted. It gives no account of Christian church, it was deemed proper that a, the church at Jerusalem after the conversion of special and permanent record should be made of Paul ; it omits his journey into Arabia, (Gal. i. their labours. At the same time, occasional no- 17 ;) gives no account of the propagation of the tices are given of the other apostles ; but of their gospel in Egypt, or in Babylon, (1 Pet. v. 13 ;) of labours elsewhere than in Judea, and of their the foundation of the church at Rome; of many death, except that of James, (Acts xii. 2,) the of Paul's voyages and shipwrecks, (2 Cor. xi. sacred writers have given no informaticn.
25 ;) and omits to record the labours of most of All antiquity is unanimous in ascribing this the apostles, and confines the narrative chiefly to book to Luke, as its author. It is repeatedly the transactions of Peter and Paul. mentioned and quoted by the early Christian The design and importance of this history writers, and without a dissenting voice is men- | may be learned from the following particulars :tioned as the work of Luke. The same thing 1. It contains a record of the promised descent is clear from the book itself. It professes to have and operations of the Holy Spirit. The Lord been written by the same person who wrote the Jesus promised that after he had departed to gospel of Luke, (chap. i. 1;) was addressed to heaven, he would send the Holy Ghost to carry the same person, (comp. ver. 1, with Luke i. 3 ;) | | forward the great work of redemption. (John and bears manifest marks of being from the same xiv. 16, 17 ; xv. 26 ; xvi. 7-14.) The apostles pen. It is designed evidently as a continuation were directed to tarry in Jerusalem until they of his gospel, as in this book he has taken up were endued with power from on high. (Luke the history at the very time where he left it in xxiv. 49.) The four gospels contained a record the gospel. (Ver. 1, 2.)
of the life, instructions, death, and resurrection Where, or at what time, this book was written, of the Lord Jesus. But it is clear that he conis not certainly known. As the history, how-templated that the most signal triumphs of the ever, is continued to the second year of the resi- / gospel should take place after his ascension to dence of Paul at Rome, (Acts xxvii. 31,) it was heaven, and under the influence of the Holy evidently written about as late as the year 62 ; Spirit. The descent of the Spirit, and his inand as it makes no mention of the further dealings Auence on the souls of men, was a most imporwith Paul, or of any other event of history, it tant part of the work of redemption. Without seems clear that it was not written much after an authentic, an inspired record of that, the that time. It has been common, therefore, to fix account of the operations of God the Father, Son, and Spirit, in the work of redemption, would ing of the truth, and chiefly by a simple statenot have been complete. The purposes of the ment of the death and resurrection of Jesus Father, in regard to that plan, were made known Christ. The “ Acts of the Apostles” contains clearly in the Old Testament; the record of the highest models of preaching, and the purest what the Son did in accomplishing it, was con- | specimens of that simple, direct, and pungent tained in the Gospels; and some book was need manner of addressing men, which may be exful that should contain a record of the doings of pected to be attended with the influences of the the Holy Spirit. As the gospels, therefore, may Holy Spirit. It contains some of the most tender, be regarded as a record of the work of Christ to powerful, and eloquent appeals, to be found in any save men, so may the Acts of the Apostles be language. If a man wishes to learn how to preach considered as a record of the doings of the Holy well, he can probably acquire it nowhere else so Spirit in the same great work. Without that, readily as by giving himself to the prayerfui the way in which the Spirit operates to renew and profound study of the specimens contained and save, would have been very imperfectly in this book. At the same time we have here a known.
view of the character of the true church of 2. This book is an inspired account of the Christ. The simplicity of this church must character of true revivals of religion. It records strike every reader of the Acts.” Religion is the first revivals that occurred in the Christian represented as a work of the heart; the pure church. The scene on the day of Pentecost was and proper effect of truth on the mind. It is one of the most remarkable displays of divine free from pomp and splendour, and from costly power and mercy that the world has ever known. and magnificent ceremonies. There is no appaIt was the commencement of a series of stupen- ratus to impress the senses, no splendour to dous movements in the world to recover men. dazzle, no external rite or parade adapted to It was the true model of a revival of religion, draw the affections from the pure and spiritual and a perpetual demonstration that such scenes worship of God. How unlike to the pomp and as have characterized our own age and nation parade of pagan worship! How unlike the vain especially, are strictly in accordance with the and pompous ceremonies which have since, alas ! spirit of the New Testament. The entire book crept into no small part of the Christian of the Acts of the Apostles records the effect of church! the gospel when it comes fairly in contact with 5. In this book we have many striking and the minds of men. The gospel was addressed to impressive illustrations of what the gospel is every class. It met the Jew and the Gentile, the fitted to produce, to make men self-denying and bond and the free, the learned and the ignorant, benevolent. The apostles engaged in the great the rich and the poor ; and showed its power enterprise of converting the world. To secure every where in subduing the mind to itself. It that, they cheerfully forsook all. Paul became was proper that some record should be preserved a convert to the Christian faith, and cheerfully of the displays of that power; and that record for that gave up all his hopes of preferment and we have in this book. And it was especially honour, and welcomed toil and privation in proper that there should be given, by an inspired | foreign lands. The early converts had all things man, an account of the descent of the Holy | in common, (chap. ii. 44;) those “which had Spirit, a record of a true revival of religion. It curious arts," and were gaining property by a was certain that the gospel would produce ex course of iniquity, forsook their schemes of illcitement. The human mind, as all experience gotten gain, and burned their books publicly shows, is prone to enthusiasm and fanaticism ; (chap. xix. 19 ;) Ananias and Sapphira were and men might be disposed to pervert the gospel punished for attempting to impose on the aposto scenes of wild-fire, disorder, and tumult. That tles by hypocritical professed self-denials, (chap. the gospel would produce excitement, was weli | v. 1-10;) and throughout the book there occur known to its author. It was well, therefore, that constant instances of sacrifices and toil to spread there should be some record to which the church the gospel around the globe. Indeed, these great might always appeal as an infallible account of truths had manifestly seized upon the early the proper effects of the gospel; some inspired Christians: that the gospel was to be preached standard to which might be brought all excite to all nations; and that whatever stood in the ments on the subject of religion. If they are in way of that was to be sacrificed; whatever toils accordance with the first triumphs of the gospel, | and dangers were necessary, were to be borne ; they are genuine ; if not, they are false.
and even death itself was cheerfully to be met, 3. It may be further remarked, that this book if it would promote the spread of true religion. shows that revivals of religion are to be expected This was then genuine Christianity ; this is still in the church. If they existed in the best and the spirit of the gospel of Christ. purest days of Christianity, they are to be ex 6. This book throws important light on the pected now. If by means of revivals the Holy | Epistles. It is a connecting link between the Spirit chose at first to bless the preaching of the Gospels and the other parts of the New Testatruth, the same thing is to be expected still. If ment. Instances of this will be noticed in the in this way the gospel was at first spread among Notes. One of the most clear and satisfactory the nations, then we are to infer that this will be evidences of the genuineness of the books of the the mode in which it will finally spread and New Testament, is to be found in the undesigned triumph in the world.
coincidences between the Acts and the Epistles. 4. The Acts of the Apostles contains a record This argument was first clearly stated and illusof the organization of the Christian church. trated by Dr. Paley. His little work illustrating That church was founded simply by the preach- it, the “Horæ Paulinæ,” is one of the most un