The Expositor's Bible

The Acts of the Apostles

Part I

G. T. Stokes

Chapter 6


"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spake forth unto them, saying, Ye men of Judæa, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words."—Acts 2:14

THIS verse contains the opening words of St. Peter’s address to the multitude who were roused to wonder arid inquiry by the miraculous manifestations of Pentecost: That address is full of interest when viewed aright, freed from all the haze which the long familiarity of ages has brought with it. In this second chapter 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. He may have learned from St. Peter’s own mouth what he said on this occasion, and he could compare this verbal report with the impressions and remembrances of hundreds who then were present. But there is another solution of the difficulty less known to the ordinary student of Holy Scripture. The ancients made a great use of shorthand, and were quite well accustomed to take down spoken discourses, transmitting them thus to future ages. Shorthand was, in fact, much more commonly used among the ancients than among ourselves. The younger Pliny, for instance, who was a contemporary of the Apostles, never travelled without a shorthand writer, whose business it was to transcribe passages which struck his master in the books he was perpetually studying. The sermons of Chrysostom were all extemporaneous effusions. In fact, the golden-mouthed patriarch of Constantinople was such an indefatigable pulpit-orator, preaching almost daily, that it would have been impossible to have made any copious preparation. The extensive reports of his sermons which have come down to us, the volumes of his expositions on the books of Scripture which we possess, prove that shorthand must have been constantly used by his hearers.56 Now what would we give for a few shorthand reports of sermons by Clement of Rome, by St. Luke, by Timothy, by Apollos, preached in Rome, Alexandria, or Antioch? Suppose they were discovered, like the numerous Egyptian manuscripts which have of late years come to light, deposited in the desert sands, and were found to set forth the miracles, the ministry, and the person of Christ exactly as now we preach them, what a marvellous confirmation of the faith we should esteem them! And yet what should we then possess more than we already have in the sermons and discourses of St. Peter and St. Paul, reported by an eye- and ear-witness who wrote the Acts of the Apostles?

I The congregation assembled to listen to this first Gospel discourse preached by a human agent was a notable and representative one. There were Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia and in Judaea, -or, as an ancient expositor (Tertullian) puts it, in Armenia57 and Cappadocia, -in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians. The enumeration of the various nationalities listening to St. Peter begins from the extremest east; it proceeds then to the north, from thence to the south, terminating with Rome, which represents the west. 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. St. Paul, in one profound passage of the Epistle to the Galatians, notes that "God sent forth His Son in the fulness of time," that is, at the exact moment when the world was prepared for the advent of the truth. This "fulness of time" may be noted in many directions. Roman roads, Roman law, commerce, and civilisation opened channels of communication which bore the tidings of the gospel into every land. A sweet ginger of our own time, the late Sir Samuel Ferguson, has depicted in his "Lays of the Western Gael" this diffusion of the gospel through the military organisation of Rome. He represents a Celt from Ireland as present at the crucifixion. This may seem at first somewhat improbable, as Ireland was never included within the bounds of the Roman Empire; and yet the poet’s song can be justified from history. Though never included formally within the Empire, Irishmen and Scotch Highlanders must often have served in the ranks of the Roman army, just as at the present day, and especially in India, men of foreign nationalities are often found serving in the ranks of the British army. In later times Irishmen most certainly formed a Roman legion all to themselves. St. Jerome tells us58 that he had seen them acting in that capacity at Treves, in Germany. They were noted for their bravery, which, as Jerome believes, they sustained by consuming human flesh Three hundred years earlier Irishmen may often have enlisted in the service of those British legions which the Romans withdrew from Britain and located in the East; and thus Sir Samuel Ferguson does not pass the bounds of historic credibility when he represents a certain centurion, who had been present at the crucifixion, as returning to his native land, and there proclaiming the tidings of our Lord’s atoning sacrifice:—

"And they say, Centurion Altus, when he to Emania came

And to Rome s subjection called us, urging Caesar’s tribute claim,

Told that half the world barbarian thrills already with the faith,

Taught them by the God-like Syrian Caesar lately put to death."59

The dispersion of the Jews throughout not only the Roman Empire, but far beyond its limits, served the same end, and hastened the fulness of time needed for the Messiah’s appearance. We must remember, however, that the long list of varied nationalities present at this Pentecostal feast were not Gentiles, they were Jews of the dispersion scattered broadcast among the nations as far as Central Asia towards the east, as far as southern Arabia and Aden on the south, and Spain and Britain on the west. The course of modern investigation and discovery amply confirms the statement of this passage, as well as the similar statement of the eighth chapter, which represents a Jewish statesman of Abyssinia or Ethiopia as coming up to Jerusalem for the purposes of devotion. Jewish inscriptions have been found in Aden dating back long before the Christian era. A Jewish colony existed ages before Christ in the region of Southern Arabia, and continued to flourish there down to the Middle Ages.60 At Rome, Alexandria, and Greece the Jews at this period constituted an important factor in the total population.61 The dispersion of the Jews had now done its work, and brought with it the fulness of time required by the Divine purposes. The way of the Messiah had been effectually prepared by it. The Divine seed fell upon no un-ploughed and unbroken 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. Whether, indeed, we consider the persons whom St. Peter addressed, or the machinery they had elaborated, or the diffusion of pure religious ideas they had occasioned, we see in this passage a splendid illustration of the care and working of Divine Providence bringing good out of evil and real victory out of apparent defeat. Prophet and psalmist had lamented over Zion’s ruin and Israel’s exile into foreign lands, but they saw not how that God was thereby working out His own purposes of wider blessing to mankind at large, fitting Jews and Gentiles alike for that fulness of time when the Eternal Son should be manifested.

II The brave, outspoken tone of this sermon evidences the power and influence of the Holy Spirit upon St. Peter’s mind. St. Chrysostom, in his famous lectures on the Acts of the Apostles, notes the courageous tone of this address as a clear evidence of the truth of the resurrection. This argument has been ever since a commonplace with apologists and expositors, and yet it is only by an effort that we can realise how very strong it is. Here were St. Peter and his fellow Apostles standing up proclaiming a glorified and ascended Messiah. Just seven weeks before, they had fled from the messengers of the High Priest sent to arrest their Master, leaving Him to His fate. They had seen Him crucified, knew of His burial, and then, feeling utterly defeated, had as much as possible withdrawn themselves from public notice. Seven weeks after, the same band, led by St. Peter, himself a short time before afraid to confess Christ to a maidservant, boldly stand up, charge upon the multitude, who knew all the circumstances of Christ’s execution, the crime of having thus killed the Prince of Life, and appeal to the supernatural evidence of the gift of tongues, to which they had just listened, as the best proof of the truth of their message, St. Peter’s courage on this occasion is one of the clearest proofs of the truth of his testimony. St. Peter was not naturally a courageous man. He was very impulsive and very sympathetic. He was the creature of his surroundings. If he found himself in the midst of Christ’s friends, he was the most forward to uphold Christ’s cause, but he had not much moral stamina. He was sadly deficient in staying power. His mind was very Celtic in its tone, to draw an illustration from national characteristics. The Celtic mind is very sympathetic, ardent, enthusiastic. It is swept along in moments of excitement, either of victory or of defeat, by the dominating power of numbers. How often has this quality been manifested by the French people, for instance? They are resistless when victorious; they collapse utterly and at once when defeated. St. Peter was just the same. He was sympathetic, ardent, enthusiastic, and fell, in later as well as in earlier age, into the perils which attend such temperaments. He denied his Master when surrounded by the menials of the high priest. He was ready to die for that Master a few hours before, when sitting surrounded by Christ’s disciples in the secrecy of the upper room. Divine grace and the baptism of the Spirit did not at all change his natural character in this respect. Divine grace, whether granted in ancient or in modern times, does not destroy natural character, which is God’s gift to man. It merely refines, purifies, elevates it. We find, indeed, a striking illustration of this law of the Divine life in St. Peter’s case.

One of the most convincing proofs of the truth of the New Testament is the identity of character we behold in the representations given of St. Peter by writers who produced their books quite independently of each other. St. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatians long prior to any of the Gospel narratives. Yet St. Paul’s picture of St. Peter in the Epistle to the Galatians is exactly the same as that drawn by the four Evangelists alike. St. Paul depicts him as the same intensely sympathetic, and therefore the same unstable person whom the Evangelists describe. The brave scene in the upper chamber, and the scene of cowardice and disgrace in the high priest’s palace, were in principle re-enacted twenty years after, about the year A.D. 53, at Antioch. St. Peter was very bold in maintaining the right of Gentile freedom, and hesitated not to live like the Gentile Christians at Antioch, so long as none of the strict Jewish Christians of Jerusalem knew about it. St. Peter wished, in fact, to stand well with both parties, and therefore strove to conciliate both. He was, for the time, a type of that famous character Mr. Facing-two-ways. He lived, therefore, as a Gentile, until some of the Jerusalem brethren arrived at Antioch, when he at once quailed before them and retreated, betraying the cause of Christian freedom, and sacrificing, just as men do still, Christian principle and honesty upon the altar of self-seeking popularity. St. Peter, we therefore maintain, always remained at heart the same character. He was bold and forward for Christ so long as all went well, because he was intensely sympathetic; but he had very little of that power of standing alone which marked St. Paul, and nerved him, even though a solitary witness, when the cause of truth was involved. This somewhat lengthened argument is absolutely necessary to show the strength of our conclusion: that it must have been an overpowering sense of the awful reality of Christ’s resurrection and ascension which alone could have overcome this natural weakness of St. Peter, and made him on the day of Pentecost as brave in proclaiming Jesus Christ to his red-handed murderers as he was bold to propose a new Apostle in place of the hapless traitor to the assembled disciples in the upper chamber. St. Peter evidently believed, and believed with an intense, overwhelming, resistless conviction, in the truth of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, which thus became to him the source of personal courage and of individual power.

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 the prophet Joel as predicting the time when the Lord would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. St. Peter does not indeed seem to have realised all at once the full significance of his own teaching. He did not see that his words applied to the Gentiles equally with the Jews, sounding the death-knell of all national exclusiveness in religion. Had he seen the full meaning of his own words, he would not have hesitated so much about the baptism of Cornelius and the admission of the Gentiles. It has been found true, not only of St. Peter, but of teachers, reformers, politicians, statesmen, that they have not at once recognised all the vast issues and undeveloped principles which lay wrapped up m their original message. The stress and trial of life alone draw them out, at times compelling their authors to regret their earlier actions, at other times leading them to follow out with intensified vigour the principles and movements which they had themselves set in operation. Luther, when he protested against indulgences; Erasmus, when he ridiculed the ignorance of the monks and advocated the study of the Greek New Testament; John Hampden, when he refused to pay ship money; or Bishop Ken, when he declined obedience to the orders of King James II; -none of them saw whereunto their principles would necessarily grow till time had thoroughly threshed their teaching and their actions, separating the husk of external circumstances, which are so variable, from the kernel of principle, which is eternally the same, stern, severe, inexorable, in its operations. So it was with St. Peter, and still earlier with the prophets. They sang of and preached a universal religion, as in this passage, but yet none of them realised the full scope and meaning of the words they had used, till a special revelation upon the housetop at Joppa compelled St. Peter to grasp and understand and apply the principles he had been already proclaiming.

In this respect, indeed, we recognise the greatness, the divinity of the Master Himself towering above the noblest of His followers; above even Peter himself, upon whom He pronounced such an eulogium, and bestowed such privleges. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught this universality of Christianity, and expressly recognised it. St. Peter indeed taught it in this sermon, but he did not recognise the force of his own words. Jesus Christ not only taught it, but realised the meaning of His teaching. It was indeed no part of Christ’s earthly ministry to preach to the Gentiles. He came to the house of Israel alone. Yet how clearly He witnesses, how distinctly He prophesies of the future universality of His kingdom. He heals a centurion’s servant, proclaiming at the same time that many shall come from the east and west, and sit down in the kingdom, while the children of the kingdom shall be cast out. He risks His life among the inhabitants of the city where He had been brought up, in order that He may deliver this truth. He repeats it to the woman of Samaria, in order that He may chase away her national superstition. He embodies it in His great eucharistic prayer for His Apostles and for His Church at large. The more carefully and the more devoutly we study Christ’s words, the more lofty will be our conception of His personality and character, who from the very beginning recognised the full force of His message, the true extent of that Divine society He was about to establish. The avowed catholicity of Christ’s teaching is one of the surest proofs of Christ’s divinity. He had not to wait as Peter waited, till events explained the meaning of His words; from the beginning He knew all things which should happen.

Still the tone of St. Peter’s sermon proved that the Spirit had supernaturally enlightened him. He had already risen to spiritual heights undreamt-of hitherto, even by himself. A comparison of a few passages proves this. In the sixteenth chapter of St. Matthew we have narrated for us the scene where our Lord extracts from St. Peter his celebrated confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," and then soon after bestows upon him the equally celebrated rebuke, "Get thee behind Me, Satan! thou art a stumbling-block unto Me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men." St. Peter, with his horror-struck opposition to the very idea of Christ’s death and suffering, evidently cherished the same notions of the kingdom of God, which Christ had come to establish, as James and John did when they petitioned for the highest place in the Master’s kingdom. This carnal conception of a temporal kingdom and earthly forces and human weapons St. Peter retained when he armed himself with a sword and prepared to defend his Master in the Garden of Gethsemane; and even later still when, after the resurrection, the Apostles, acting doubtless through Peter as their spokesman, demanded, "Dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" But the Spirit was vouchsafed, and new power, of which the Master had spoken, was granted, and that power raised Peter above all such low Jewish ideas, and the kingdom announced to the Jews is no longer a kingdom of earth, with its carnal weapons and its dignities. He now understood what the Master had taught when He witnessed before Pontius Pilate His good confession, "My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is My kingdom not from hence." The carnal conception passes away under the influence of the heavenly solvent, and St. Peter proclaimed a kingdom which was a purely spiritual dominion, dealing with remission of sins and a purified interior life, through the operation and indwelling of the Holy Ghost. The power of the Holy Ghost was shown in St. Peter’s case by the vast and complete change which passed at once over his spiritual ideas and outlook. The thoughts and expectations of the pious Jews of Galilee—the very class from whom St. Peter sprang—were just then shaped and formed by the popular apocalyptic literature of the period, as we have already pointed out in the second chapter. The Second Epistle of St. Peter and the Epistle of Jude prove that the Galileans of that time were careful students of works like the Assumption of Moses, the Book of Enoch, and the Ascension of Isaiah, which agree in representing the kingdom of God and the reign of the Messiah as equivalent to the triumph of the Jewish nation over all foreign dominion and bondage. St. Peter and the other eleven Apostles shared these natural ideas and expectations till the Spirit was poured out, when they learned in a profounder spiritual comprehension to estimate aright the scope and meaning of our blessed Lord’s teaching. St. Peter dwells, therefore, in his sermon on Christ’s person, His sufferings, His resurrection, His ascension, no longer indeed for the purpose of exalting the Jewish nation, or predicting its triumph, but to point a purely spiritual lesson. "Repent ye, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive"—not honour, riches, temporal freedom, but "ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." The subject-matter of St. Peter’s sermon, the change in his tone of teaching, is another great proof of a supernatural force and power imparted on the Day of Pentecost.

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. Some persons have asserted that the earliest Christians were Ebionites,62 and taught a system of doctrine akin to modern Unitarianism. This theory can best be tested by an appeal to the Acts of the Apostles. What, for instance, 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 co-ordinate his ideas and arrange his views. It is a matter of every-day experience that when a new discovery is suddenly made, when a new revelation takes place in the region of nature, men do not grasp at once all the new relations thereby involved, all the novel applications whereof it is capable. The human mind is so limited in its power that it is not till we get some distance away from a great object that we are enabled to survey it in the fulness of its outline. Inspiration assisted St. Peter, elevated his mind, raised his tone of thought to a higher level, but it did not reverse this fundamental law under which the human mind works. Yet St. Peter’s 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 and wonders and signs which God did by Him." Yet he did not dwell as much as we might have expected upon the miraculous side of Christ’s ministry. In fact, the earliest heralds of the Cross did not make as much use of the argument from miracles as we might have expected them to have done. 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 Jewish explanation of the miracles of our Lord is of this description. The Talmudists do not deny that He worked miracles, but assert that He achieved them by a special use of the Tetragammaton, or the sacred name of Jehovah, which was known only to Himself. The sacred writers and preachers refer, therefore, again and again to the miracles of our Saviour, as St. Peter does in the second chapter, as well-known and admitted facts, whatever explanation may be offered of them, and then turn to other aspects of the question. 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 point forward to a future life of which even here below believers possess the earnest and the pledge. We, with our minds steeped in ages of Christian thought and teaching, can have no idea of the convincing self-evidencing force of teaching like that, to a Jew reared up in a system of barren formalism, and still more to a Gentile, with spiritual instincts longing for satisfaction, and which he was expected to satisfy with the bloodstained shows of the amphitheatre or with the immoralities and impure banquetings of the pagan temples. To persons in that condition, an argument derived from a mere wonderful work brought little conviction, for they were well accustomed to behold very marvellous and apparently miraculous actions, such as to this day the wandering jugglers of India exhibit.63 But when they beheld lives transfused by the love of God, and heard pure spiritual teaching such as responded to the profoundest depths of their own hearts, then deep answered unto deep. The preaching of the Cross became indeed the power of God unto salvation, because the human soul instinctively felt that the Cross was the medicine fittest for its spiritual maladies.

V Again, this 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. We can see this in both the quotations which he makes. St. Peter finds in the sixteenth Psalm a prophecy of the intermediate state of souls and of the resurrection of our Lord. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades" is a text which has furnished the basis of the article in the Apostles’ Creed which teaches that Christ descended into hell. It is a pity indeed that the translation which the last revisers have adopted, "Hades" instead of "Hell," was not used in the English translation of the Apostles’ Creed; for the ordinary reading has misled many a thoughtful and serious soul, as if the Creed taught that the pure and sinless spirit of the Saviour had been made partaker of the horrors of eternal misery. Whereas, in truth, the doctrine of Scripture and of the Creed alike merely asserts that our Lord’s spirit, when separated from the body, entered and thereby sanctified and prepared the place or state where Christian souls, while separated from their bodies, await the general resurrection of the just and the completion of their happiness. The doctrine of the intermediate state, as taught by Bishop Pearson and other great divines, is primarily based on two texts, the passage before us and the words of our Saviour to the penitent thief, "To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise". (Lu 23:43) This doctrine accurately corresponds with the catholic doctrine of our Lord’s Person. The Arian heresy denied the true deity of our Lord. The second great heresy was the Apollinarian, which denied His true and perfect humanity. The orthodox doctrine taught the tripartite nature of man, that is, that there was in man, first, a body, secondly, the animal soul which man possesses in common with the beasts, and which perishes at death, and, lastly, the human spirit which is immortal and by which he maintains communion with God. Now the Apollinarian heresy asserted that Jesus Christ possessed a body and a soul, but denied His possession of a spirit. Its theory was that the Divine nature took the place of a true human spirit in Christ, so that Christ was unlike His brethren in this respect, that when the body died, and the animal soul perished, He had no human spirit by which He might enter into Hades, or dwell in Paradise. The Divine nature was the only portion of the Incarnate Lord which then survived. Against this view the words of St. Peter testified beforehand, teaching, by his adaptation of David’s prophecy, that our Lord possessed the fulness of humanity in its threefold division, whereby He was enabled to share the experience and lot of His brethren, not only in this life, but also in the intermediate state of Hades, wherein the spirits of the blessed dead await re-union with their bodies, and expect in hope the second advent of their Lord.64

St. Peter’s interpretation again of the Psalms recognised in David’s words a prophecy of the resurrection: "Neither wilt Thou give Thy Holy One to see corruption,"—a rendering of the New Testament revisers which, however literal, is not nearly as vigorous or suggestive as the old translation, "Neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption." St. Peter then proceeds to point out how impossible it was that this prediction could have been fulfilled in David. David’s flesh undoubtedly did see corruption, because every one knew where his tomb was. St. Peter’s speech here touches upon a point where we can confirm his accuracy out of ancient historians. David was buried, according to ancient writers, in the city of David. (2Ki 2:10) The Rabbis went even further, they determined the time of his death. According to a writer quoted by that great seventeenth-century teacher, Dr. John Lightfoot,65 "David died at Pentecost, and all Israel bewailed him, and offered their sacrifices the day following." After the return from Babylon the site of the sepulchre was known, as Neh 3:16 reports, telling us that Nehemiah the son Of Azbuk repaired the wall over against the sepulchre of David; while still later Josephus66 tells us that Hyrcanus, the high priest, and Herod the Great opened David’s tomb, and removed vast treasures from it. St. Peter’s words on this occasion possess an important evidential aspect, and suggest one of the gravest difficulties which the assailants of the resurrection have to face. St. Peter appealed to the evidence of David’s tomb as demonstrating the fact that he was dead, and that death still held him in its power. Why did not his opponents appeal to the testimony of Christ’s tomb? It is evident from St. Peter’s argument that Christ’s tomb was empty, and was known to be empty. The first witnesses to the resurrection insisted, within a few weeks of our Lord’s crucifixion, upon this fact, proclaimed it everywhere, and the Jews made no attempt to dispute their assertions. Our opponents may indeed say, we acknowledge the fact of the emptiness of the tomb, but the body of Christ was removed by St. Peter and his associates. How then, we reply, do you account for St. Peter’s action? Did conscious guilt and hypocrisy make him brave and enthusiastic? If they say, indeed, Peter did not remove the body, but that his associates did, then how are we to account for the conversations St. Peter thought he had held with his risen Master, the appearances vouchsafed to him, the close converse, "eating and drinking with him after He was risen from the dead"? St. Peter, by his appeal to David’s tomb, and its bearing on the sixteenth Psalm, proves that he believed in no ideal resurrection, no phantasm, -no ghost story, to put it plainly; but that he taught the doctrine of the resurrection as the Church now accepts it.   


[56]  I read the other day the report of an eminent Unitarian divine who was lecturing upon the Gospels. He was upholding the view that it was impossible that reports of the discourses of Christ and of His Apostles could have been handed down in anything like their shape as given in the New Testament, because it was an age without shorthand. The lecturer is an eminent metaphysical and philosophical critic, but he is evidently not versed in the social life of the ancients. Had the lecturer but referred to Prof. J. E. B. Mayor's edition of Pliny's Letters, Book iii., p. 96, he would have found abundant references proving that shorthand was a usual accomplishment among educated men long prior to the Christian era.

[57] Tertullian, Against the Jews, chap. vii.

[58] Adv. Jovin., lib. ii., cap. 7, in Migne's Pat. Lat., t. xxiii., col. 296.

[59] I have worked out this point at some length in Ireland and the Celtic Church, chap. i., pp. 14-20.

[60] The history of the Jewish settlement in the south of Arabia is very little known by the average student of the Acts, and yet it is a wonderful confirmation of its accuracy both here and in the account of the Ethiopian eunuch. This colony existed in Arabia long before the Christian era. They claimed, indeed, to have been a portion of the Jews of the Captivity. They established an independent kingdom in Southern Arabia, which bitterly persecuted the Christians about the year 500. A full account of this little-known persecution, and of the Homerite martyrs who suffered in it, will be found by those curious in such matters in that great monumental work the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists, vols. x. and xii. for October, under the names of St. Arethas and St. Elesbaan. Large quantities of manuscripts about this Jewish colony were discovered some years ago in the mosques of Southern Arabia. A considerable number of Jews still find a place there. See, for an account of the Jewish kingdom in Arabia, an article on Elesbaan, in vol. ii. of the Dictionary of Christian Biography. Gibbon in his forty-second and fiftieth chapters has much about it.

[61] The Jewish cemeteries discovered at Rome date back to the time of our Lord, or even before it. They were the models on which the Christians made the catacombs. The symbols of Judaism appear in the Christian tombs. See Northcote's Epitaphs of the Catacombs, and Brownlow and Northcote's Roma Sotteranea.

[62] The term Ebionite is thus well explained by the Rev. J. M. Fuller in the Dict. Christ. Biog., vol. ii., p. 25: "The term Ebionism expresses conveniently the opinions and practices of the descendants of the Judaizers of the apostolic age, and is very little removed from Judaism. Judaism was for them not so much a preparation for Christianity as an institution eternally good in itself, and but slightly modified in Christianity. Whatever merit Christianity possessed, was possessed as the continuation and supplement of Judaism. The divinity of the old covenant was the only valid guarantee for the truth of the new. Hence the tendency of this class of Ebionites to exalt the old at the expense of the new, to magnify Moses and the prophets, and to allow Jesus Christ to be 'nothing more than a Solomon or a Jonas' (Tertull., De Carne Christi, c. 18); 'Legal righteousness was to them the highest type of perfection; the earthly Jerusalem, in spite of its destruction, was an object of adoration, as if it were the House of God' (Irenæus, Adv. Hær., i., 26); its restoration would take place in the millennial kingdom of Messiah, and the Jews would return there as the manifested chosen people of God."

[63] See Moll's Hypnotism, p. 216, in the "Contemporary Science Series."

[64] See the article on "Apollinaris the Younger" in the Dict. Christ. Biog., vol. i., for a concise account of the Apollinarian heresy.

[65] Horæ Hebraicæ on Acts ii. 29.

[66] See Josephus, Antiqq., XIII., viii., 4; XVI., vii., 1; Wars, I., ii., 5.