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LECTURE LXXXHI.- xxiv. 17-27.
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
ASCENSION OF JESUS, A.D. 33.
Acts i. 1-11.
The book on which we are now entering, entitled the Acts of the Apostles, may be considered as the second part or volume of the gospel according to St. Luke. In his former narrative he had related the events of the life and ministry of Jesus.. And now he continues his account, and describes the establishment and progress of the religion of Christ : dedicating his treatise to the same disciple, “the most excellent Theophilus,” to whom he had before addressed his gospel.
It was needful that such an account should be preserved ; and we may be assured that St. Luke wrote under the influence and direction of the Holy Ghost. At the same time he was peculiarly qualified for the purpose, having been the companion of St. Paul during a great part of his journeys and ministrations.1
1 See Acts xvi. 10.
1. The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2. Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen :
3. To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God :
4. And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
5. For John truly baptized with water ; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
6. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7. And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you : and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The apostles had come together, by command, doubtless, of the Lord, that they who had been witnesses of his humiliation might also be witnesses of his glory. And on this, the last opportunity of intercourse, they show the strong feelings of their minds as Jews, zealous for the honour of their nation. They inquire, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? This had been their expectation from the first; and after his de
cease, one ground of their lamentation was, “We trusted it had been he that should have redeemed Israel.” 2 We looked through him for restoration to national liberty and power. And now those hopes are gone.
The answer of our Lord, though not plain or decisive, would lead to the belief that the time will come when a kingdom shall belong once more to Israel. He does not say: Israel “knew not the time of his visitation,” and Israel is cast off for ever : but he says: It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
The present concern, was duty: the present business, that which was to be immediately fulfilled. The kingdom of Christ was to be established in the world, and these were to establish it. Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you : and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Thus should be accomplished what had been spoken from the first. The church should be raised upon its founder's grave. He had declared, (John xii. 24,) “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." All might have supposed, as the chief priests and Pharisees supposed, and as the apostles themselves had feared, that when he died upon the cross, his influence would also die : that nothing more would be heard re2 Luke xxiv. 21.