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JANUARY 21. SUBJECT THE BELIEVING PEOPLE. (Acts ii. 32–47.) OUR present Lesson calls attention to Peter's fervent appeal and its results.
32, 33. Peter affirms that he and his brother-Apostles were witnesses both of the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. "Shed forth (lit. poured out), Joel ii. 17, was literally fulfilled.
34. David is not ascended. Though so illustrous a sovereign and saint, and the progenitor of the Messiah, he did not visibly ascend to heaven, as did Elijah, and as did the Lord Jesus. He went down to the grave ; but before doing so, he predicted the exaltation of the Messiah (Ps. cx. 1; Matt. xxii. 41-16).' On My right hand-an Orientalism for a position of influence (Matt. XX. 21).
35. Thy footstool (R.V. the footstool of thy feet). To put the foot on the neck of the enemy indicated complete subjugation (Josh. x. 24). • 36. There is wonderful force in the emphatic order of the Greek original, «* That both Lord and Christ hath God made this Jesus whom ye crucified.” Note the contrast between the way in which the Jews had dealt with Jesus, and the honourable recognition which the Father had accorded. Crucified -the last word of the sermon, would sink deeply into the consciences of the people, and, applied by the Spirit, would lead to that repentance which the following verses describe.
37. Stung with remorse, they appealed to Peter and to the rest of the Apostles for spiritual direction. When men are truly penitent, they will turn from their sing with horror and shame, and earnestly ask Christian friends and ministers for counsel and prayer.
38. Repent, Mark i. 16; Luke xxiv. 47; be baptized—Matt. xxviii. 19; Acts i. 48, xix. 5; 1 Peter iii. 21; in the name of Jesus Christspecially fitting for the Jews who believed in God, while the enlarged formula in Matt. xxviii. 19, “ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost" was more suitable for Gentile converts from idolatry. Remission of sinsforgiveness is only through Christ (Acts iv. 12); gift of the Holy Ghost (viji. 17, X. 47) means here the ordinary rather than the extraordinary gift Divine.
39. To you (Jews); your children (posterity, Gal. ii. 16); all that are afar off-not simply to Jews living in remote countries, but to all-men of all races-afar off from the Holy Land-for Christ had said, “Go, teach all nations." The atonement is universal in its provisions; the call is world. wide: the promise of the Father embraces all His children; the love of God is broad as humanity; the influence of the Holy Spirit is co-extensive with the outreach of Redemption. As many as the Lord our God shall call-lit. shall call unto Him.
40. Many other words-implying that we have only an abstract of this powerful discourse. The word testify might be appropriately translated it charge,” as it is actually rendered in 1 Tim. v. 21 ; 2 Tim. ii. 14, iv. 1. Uatoward-lit. crooked, Deut. xxxii. 5; Luke üi. 5 ; Phil. ii. 15.
41. Gladly receive, &c. (R.V., after oldest MSS., omits gladly). Three thousand souls-lit. And there were added on that day about 3,000 souls-i.e.. to the 120 of whom the Church consisted when the day began. A glorious ingathering of first-fruits to wave before the Lord! Only four years before there had been a similar rush to the baptism of John (Matt. ii. 5, xi. 12). Few of the converts were of the ruling class (Acts iv. 1). Many Hellenistic Jews were converted (Acts vi. 1). These converts were probably the unknown founders of the Churches of Damascus, Alexandria, and Rome. The great number of baptisms on this occasion seems to favour Affusion rather than Immersion. The word baptism in Scripture usage includes every mode of ceremonial purification.
42. Apostles' doctrine-new converts need instruction; fellowshipthey also need sympathy ; breaking of bread-both in the Lord's Supper and in the Love feasts (Agapæ), see 1 Cor. x. 16, xi. 20; Jude 12. We must
not infer, because wine is not mentioned here and elsewhere, that “communion in one kind” has Scripture warrant, for St. Paul speaks of the bread and the cup as parts of one sacred whole; prayers (lit. the prayers)--not stereotyped forms of prayer, but devotional seasons recurring at fixed hours (Acts
43, 44, 45. Fear (holy restraint, solemn awe); wonders and signs (ver. 22) were wrought continually, as the Greek tense implies ; all things common. Here was the realised ideal of a holy, loving communism (Luke xii. 33) ;—"a society founded, not on the law of self-interest and competition, but on sympathy and self-denial. They had all things common, not by compulsory abolition of the rights of property (ver. 4), but by the spontaneous energy of love (Plumptre).
46, 47. See their unity, joy, and benevolence of spirit; their purity of aim; their conscientious observance of the rites of religion ; their wonderful success in daily winning souls, for “the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved” (R.V.)
Learn :-(1) The Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. (2) Little children are included in the covenant of love, v. 39. (3) It is God's will that His people should “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
JANUARY 28. SUBJECT—THE HEALING POWER. (Acts iü. 1-11.) OUR Lesson tells us of the Healing of the Lame Man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
1. Went up (lit. were going up) together (should be omitted here and transferred to the last verse of chap. ii.). Probably about the same age, Peter and John were united in sacred friendship. The Temple stood on Mount Moriah, and therefore they would have to go up to it. Hour of prayerninth—i.e., 3 p.m., the hour of the evening sacrifice (Dan. vi. 10; Ps. lv. 17). Three times a day, 9 a.m., 12 noon, 3 p.m. were the ordinary times of prayer ; in extraordinary instances, seven times a day (Ps. cxix. 164). Both usages were adopted in the Christian Church so early as the second century, while even so late as Bede (A.D. 701) we find seven canonical hours for devotion in Western Christendom. Is this an age of prayer ?
2. Man (that was, R.V.) lame, was carried (lit. was being carried)-i.e., periodically, every day for nearly forty years (chap. iv. 22). He would be known to all. Gate . . . . Beautiful--probably the Susa gate, on the east, so named from the old historic connection between Judah and Persia ; made of fine Corinthian brass or bronze ; surpassed in worth the other gates covered with gold and silver; and so massive that twenty men were required to open or shut it (Josephus).
3. Alms is singular number, anciently spelt almesse ; German, almosen= a gift of charity ; both derived from the Greek eleémosyné. The approaches of the Temple, like those of modern mosques, were commonly thronged with infirm and other mendicants (John ix. 8). Similarly in Christendom.
4, 5. Fastening his eyes. The gaze was one which read character and discerned “faith to be healed” (1 Cor. xii. 10; Acts xiv. 9). Look on us. That the poor cripple might read in their countenances, sympathy and consciousness of power. Expecting--not immediate healing, but charitable help.
6. Compare Matt. x. 9 with Acts i. 45. No money of their own, though treasurers for the Church. 6. What I have, that give I thee.” (R.V.) No egotism or boasting here; for immediately he adds: “In the name of Jesus,' See Mark vi. 13, xvi. 18; John v. 2, 14, vii. 12, ix. 7, 8, xix. 19. He had doubtless heard of Jesus, and witnessed His power to heal, but had not personally applied. How reluctant to believe, even when most needy! The best MSS. have only the last verb walk.
7. Took him by the right hand. True benevolence is not only not afraid of contact with suffering ones, but actually, as in the case of the Great Physician, makes this tangible expression of sympathy a means of brotherly
helpfulness. Lifted him up. We should " give a hand to help a brother." Much depends on tact as well as personal kindness. Always take “the right hand.” DIany a good deed is spoilt by being done the wrong way. His feet and ankle bones received strength. The original words are found nowhere else in the New Testament. They are technical medical terms. Luke speaks with the precision of a professional man: literally, His soles and anklebones were consolidated—i.e., the flaccid tissues and muscles became firm and vigorous.
8. See R.V. A graphic description of the exercise, and the joy of the exercise, of the new-found powers of this healed one! First, the upward spring of energy ; secondly, the successful effort to stand for the first time in his history; thirdly, the tentative effort to walk step by step; fourthly, the combination of steady walking with occasional exultant bounds. “The lame shall leap as a
(Is. xxxv. 6). Note, the first place he enters is the Temple, to offer thanks to God.
9-11. All the people-Temple crowded with worshippers at the evening sacrifice; saw him-knew him well, and were witnesses of his miraculous
Jewish authorities admit this (iv. 16). Solomon's Porch, or portico, was outside the Temple on the east side. No account of any such porch in Solomon's own Temple, but Josephus says there was a cloister in Herod's Temple called after Solomon. It consisted of a double row of Corinthian colamns, 37 feet high. It was, like the porticoes in all Greek cities, a favourite place of resort, especially as it faced the morning sun in winter (John x. 23). Luke's account must have been written before the fall of Jerusalem, or he would not have employed the phrase is called -an anachronism if the Temple no longer existed.
Learn: (1) No malady can be of too long standing to baffle the Great Physician. Here is a forty year old cripple completely healed ; made as strong as if he had never been impotent; and filled with inexpressible joy. Does not this miracle symbolise that the oldest and most inveterate sinner is not beyond the reach of Omnipotent Mercy? He may yet be saved, for Christ is “ mighty to save,” yea, "able to save to the uttermost." (2) If men desire salvation they must put themselves in the way. Go to the Temple. Appeal to God's servants. Believe in the Divine graciousness. Frame for a better life (Hosea v. 4). (3) There are things infinitely more precious than silver or gold. Health is one ; SALVATION is another, infinitely so (Mark viii. 36). (4) All healing, saving power comes from Jesus. This miracle was wrought, as every other true miracle, in the name and by the power of the Lord Jesus. There is redemption for all, and He invites all weary of sin to come to Him for rest. So condescending and loving is He, that He includes children in His gracious invitations, saying, “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Memoirs and Recent Deaths.
MRS. ESTHER BOLTON Ir was remarked to me upwards of twelve months ago, by a gentleman in Rochdale, unconnected with our denomination, but intimately acquainted with its local history, that no church in that borough had suffered so much during the past few years by the death of useful men, as had our church in that town. Earnest, reliable, common-sense men, liberal in their gifts to their own church, and untiring in their efforts to benefit it, had been removed from its fellowship. In this memoir we have to chronicle the departure of one of a younger generation, a daughter of one of the worthies referred to, who would, had she been spared, in all human probability have rendered very useful service to the cause of God.
Esther Bolton was the eldest daughter of the late James Howarth, of Rochdale. She was born May 4, 1855. Her parents were decidedly pious. Her father was superintendent of our Sunday-school in Water-street, and by him
she was early taken there as a scholar. She was quick and intelligent, and grew up with a reverence for things divine. In time she became a teacher. She possessed qualities which fitted her for maintaining order. She was decided in her views and in her mode of expressing them ; but was blessed with a kind, loving heart.
We have no information concerning her spiritual state at this period, nor is there any time that could be fixed upon as the date of her conversion. Her case belongs to the class in which the truth early makes an impression on the mind, and which under the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit restrains from sin, and generates a disgust for it, and at the same time leads to a loving trustfulness in the Lord Jesus. One of those cases in which a change is wrought in the sympathies and tendencies of the heart, though it is difficult to trace the process.
In the summer of 1879 she became united in marriage to Mr. George Bolton, une of our attached friends at Mount Gilead. During the second year of her married life it was observed that her health was failing. She had up to this time been actively engaged along with her brother in the management of the business left by their father. Her health giving way hastened arrangements for her removal to Littleborough, where it was thought the change would have a beneficial effect. It was also about this time that the project for erecting a chapel at Littleborough was rapidly taking shape. In this she was deeply interested, and consented to be one of the four friends to officiate at the laying of the corner-stones. When the chapel was opened in November, 1881, no one was more delighted than herself. Living a mile and a half from Mount Gilead, which likewise involved a toilsome ascent, and very trying to one in delicate health, she could only occasionally attend there; but the new chapel was within easy distance of her residence. She meant it to be her religious home. Some. times she talked about what she meant to do in the school, and for the chapel, when her health was re-established. She never missed a service when able to attrnd.
lu the winter of 1881, it became manifest to many of her friends that the failure of her health was serious, and that unless a speedy change came about her work would soon be done on earth. Christian friends visited her, whom she was always glad to see, and always glad to join with them in prayer. One afternoon, when her minister's wife and younger daughter were with her, the child sang and played “Jesus, lover of my soul.” Mrs. Bolton was much affected, and testified that that hymn was very dear to her, having been the means sometime before of strengthening her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the summer of this year she was sanguine of her recovery, and even made preparations to go from home. Her strength, however, continued to decrease; she had frequent severe attacks of pain, and it became plain to those about her that she was fast journeying to her long home. In July she was confined to her room, where she received every attention from her husband and their friends. For some time she had been under medical treatment, but the case was evidently hopeless; she steadily got worse. Mrs. Milburn was sent for to go from Leeds to see her dying friend. She was glad to find that Mrs. Bolton's confidence in Jesus as a loving and a sufficient Saviour had greatly increased. As the outer man grew weaker, the inner one was renewed day by day. On one occasion she called Mrs. Milburn to her bedside, and said, “Pray with me." On being asked if there was anything she particularly desired to be prayed for, she said in reply, “I am all right, but I want you to pray that my faith may be kept strong, and that I may always be looking to Jesus, and trusting in Him." On another occasion when speaking to her about the love of Jesus, she said with
an outburst of feeling not usual to her, “Oh, bless Him, bless Him, I do love Him!” Her sufferings at times were very great, and increased her longing to depart. On the 27th of July her wish was granted : lifting both hands upward she expired, trusting in the Lord.
Mrs. Bolton was much esteemed by those who knew her, as is testified by a number of letters lying before me from ministers who have travelled in the Rochdale circuit. She had a keen insight into character, and possessed a sound judgment. She was a woman of high principle, and had a sincere desire to do right. She had a strong love for those things which are noble, and just, and pure, and true. Anything inconsistent with Christian principle had her abhor. rence. She was a good wife, who looked well after the affairs of her own house; a firm friend, whose pleasant looks and cordial words always spoke a welcome. In her church relations she was a devout worehipper, and always scrupulously and promptly fulfilled all her engagements, carrying her religion into little matters, so-called, as well as those of greater importance. We mourn her loss, but at the same time bless God for that Gospel which gives us the assurance that those who die in its faith are with the Lord Jesus, and gives us the hope that we shall see them again.
J. C. M.
NANCY MOVEIGH DIED at Ballyclare, County Antrim, Ireland, in the month of February, 1882, aged 94 years.
The writer has not any information of the early life of our departed friend; but at the time of our first appointment to this station in the year 1843 she said she had received spiritual good, and soon after joined our society. Being in humble circumstances at the time of her husband's death, she removed from the town to reside with her sister; their income was very limited, but God is a rich Provider, who does not suffer His children to want any good thing, and raised up kind friends to assist her occasionally. When the late Rev. J. Argue was stationed in Ballyclare, she was a great favourite with him, and the kindness then shown to Nancy was often spoken of by her to the writer. When I read their letters to her the tears would roll down her cheeks; she would thank God and say she had not words to express her gratitude for all the kind. ness of Mr. and Mrs. Argue to her.
When the writer from time to time visited her in her humble home, it was no common treat to him ; no complaint escaped her lips, she seemed to have no wants, no temptations, and little pain of body. She still held fast her confidence in Christ, and knew she was “ accepted in the Beloved.” She said that during the silent hours of night when sleepless she lay in meditation on the goodness of God and His loving care of her all through life, and that she did thank and praise His name for His great kindness to her.
Miss Argue writes to me in a letter of Nancy's experience as follows: “ She said she could not fix on any special time when peace was spoken to her soul, and this often troubled her, that others could be assured of the time when they first enjoyed the blessings ; ‘But by their fruits ye shall know them.' It is not often we meet with a more beautiful Christian character; she has taught many lessons to others of true thankfulness to God for His mercies. Nancy used to say to me that God gave her a double blessing with everything she had.” In another letter Miss Argue writes: “ That the lesssons taught by Nancy while she and her brother were children will never be forgotten by them.” I have often thought her to be one of the most happy Christians I have ever met in humble life. She seemed to live above earth and its turmoil. She had a very good memory, and could always converse on spiritual things with great clearness and sense.