,'~ ,. "- il
HEROES OF THE CROSS.
EDITOR OF KIND WORDS,"
AUTHOR OF "THE LIFE OF JESUS FOR TOUNG PEOPLE," ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY MESSRS. J. AND G. NICHOLLS.
SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION, 56, OLD BAILEY.
NEW YORK: THOMAS NELSON & SONS.
52, BLEECKER STREET.
SHE favour with which The Life of Jesus for
Young People was received, has induced me
in this volume to treat The Acts of the Apos-
tles in the same manner as I did the Gospels in that.
Bearing in mind that I was. writing for the young, I
have endeavoured to tell the story of the apostles' lives
as recorded in 'The Acts,' in such a manner as to
suggest some of the many lessons which they teach.
I have not intended to include the epistles except so
far as referring to them for throwing light on certain
portions of 'The Acts.' I would strongly recommend,
however, that Paul's epistles should be read in con-
nection with his residence at those places from which
he wrote, or at those where the Churches existed which
It will thus be seen how completely the practice of
the apostle agreed with his precepts; and many passages
in The Acts' and in the Epistles will help to explain
I trust the work may prove interesting and instruc-
tive to young students of the Bible, especially to those
of them who may have commenced instructing others.
For more advanced minds and hearts I have not
written: but I can commend such, as well as my
readers generally, to study carefully when they have
the opportunity, that truly valuable and trustworthy
work, "The Life and Epistles of St. Paul," by Cony-
beare andHowson; to which I have been greatlyindebted
in the preparation of these pages, and in company with
which I have spent very many delightful hours.
I have called the apostles the First Heroes of the
Cross." Since them there have been many Christian
heroes, and the days of heroism have not yet passed.
The heroism of the apostles was not the performance
of gallant acts by daring impulse, but the quiet per-
formance of daily duty, in meek dependence on their
Lord and Master, to whose service they had devoted
themselves. To such heroism the same Master calls
us, and with His promised help our lives cannot fail of
being heroic. The circumstances of our lives are not
under our control, but the spirit in which we shall
discharge the duty devolving on us, is.
May we, stimulated by the heroism of the early
apostles, seek to do our Lord's will; so shall our
actions be inspired by the same Spirit that made their
lives sublime, and thus shall we too become in very
truth "HEROES OF THE CROSS."
Ananias and Sapphira 28
Antioch, Success of the
Gospel at 79
Ascension, The 1
Beggar Healed, The 17
Common Purse, A 26
Deacons Appointed .38
Demoniac Girl, The 140
Exorcists Confounded, The 177
First Prayer Meeting, Tho 3
First Missionary Journey,
Herod, Judgment on 95
James, Death of 83
Tudas, The Fate of 7
Matthias Chosen 8
Paul and Barnabas de-
serted by John 106
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra 113
Paul and Barnabas Retrace
their Steps 118
Paul and Barnabas attend
the Council at Jerusalem 123
PaulandSilasgo intoEurope 136
Paul and Silas at Philippi 137
Paul and Silas at Thessa-
Paul and Silas at Berea 152
Paul at Athens 153
Paul at Corinth 161
Paul at Ephesus .167-169
Paul at Miletus 188
Paul at Tyre .191
Paul at Philip's House 195
Paul's Last Visit to Jeru-
Paul in the Temple with
the Nazarites 199
Paul seized by the Mob 200
Paul addresses the Mob 201
Paul before the Sanhedrim 205
Paul conspired against 207
Paul's Journey by Night
to Casarea 208
Paul before Felix 211
Paul before Felix and
Paul before Festus .217
Paul before Agrippa 220
Paul's Voyage to Rome 225
Paul Shipwrecked 236
Paul at Malta 237
Paul at Rome 246
Pentecost, The Day of 9
Peter's Address 12
Peter and John in the
Peter and John before the
Peter Healing the Sick
Peter's Vision .
Peter Indignant with the
Peter deliveredout ofPrison
Philippian Jailer, The
Saul's Early Life
Saul's Escape from Da-
Saul in a Trance
30 Saul and Barnabas go to
Saul and Barnabas on their
75 First Missionary Journey
84 Saul's Change of Name
45 Simon Magus'.
143 Strife between Paul and
90 Temple of Diana
50 Timothy .
54 Town Clerk of Ephesus
64 Woman's Influence
1NDEX TO ALhLUSTRATIONS'.
African Corn Ships 227
Agabus . ... 196
Antioch . 77
Ascension, The. (Frontispiece)
Athens :...... 154
Corinth . .. 161
Cornelius. .. 69
Cyprus . .100
Damascus . .. 125
Elymas ... 103
Ephesus, Ruins of 170
Eutychus . 186
Greek Altar . 132
Herod's Death .. .97
Jerusalem ..... 121
JourneybyNight to Casarea209
Lasea . 228
Paul and Silas at Philippi. 143
Paul at Athens ..... 158
Paul Addressing the Mob
on the Stairs of the Tower202
Paul Leaving Sidon 226
Paul Shipwrecked. 235
Paul and the Viper .. 239
Paul and Publius. 241
Peter's First Sermon 12
Peter and John in the Temple 16
Peter Healing the Sick. 31
Peter's Vision .. .71
Peter's Delivery fromPrison 85
Rhoda. . 92
Saul's Conversion 55
Saul's Escape from Damascus62
Stephen, Death of 43
Tarsus . 49
Temple of Diana 171
Thessalonica .. 148
Tyre, Ruins of..... ... 191
A N that memorable day, when Jesus
led His disciples out as far as Beth-
any, and ascended to heaven from
their midst, they watched His re-
treating form with mingled feelings.
They tried to pierce the clouds that
now hid their Lord from them; and
they would peer into the future, in which events of so
much importance, and in which they were to take their
part, were as yet hidden from them.
They looked steadfastly toward heaven, worshipping
But now that Jesus had ascended, it was no time
for mere contemplation and abstraction, it was theirs
For years they had been with Jesus learning the
nature of His kingdom which was to be set up in the
world, and their duty in regard to it: often had they
THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
sat at His feet admiring the wisdom and the tender-
ness of the words which fell from His lips; and in
moments of retirement they had been lost in wonder
in pondering over all that they had heard or known
of their Divine Master.
But now active duties devolved on them, the mantle
of their ascended Lord had fallen on them: they must
take up His work where He left it.
The end for which they had been trained now ap-
peared; the reason why the Lord chose them as His
companions and taught them with so much care,
striving with such patience against the ignorance of
their minds, and with such forbearance against the
waywardness of their hearts, was now manifest. The
Master had departed, and the disciples must carry
on His work. It was no time for them to be lost
in thought, as they were reminded by two angels:-
Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into
" heaven ? said they to the disciples, this same Jesus,
" who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come
"in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."
Roused somewhat to a sense of their duty by these
remarks, the disciples wended their way back across
the, mount of Olives to Jerusalem, talking together of
the wonderful past, and, with some misgivings, of the
unknown future. Entering the city, they went up into
an upper room,-possibly the one where they had so
recently eaten the last supper, for it was not every one
who would care to shelter the disciples of Him who had
incurred the murderous hatred of the chief priests and
scribes. Mourning for their departed Lord, and with
a dread, undefined sense of what lay before them, they
THEIR FIRST 'X~mT1NG FOR PRAYER.
unitedly poured out their hearts in prayer to Him who
had now ascended up on high, henceforth to make
intercession for His people.
Prayer was thus their first united act; and how more
appropriately could they have commenced their great
work ? Here was a band of eleven men, most of them
of humble birth, and none of them now of any position,
to whom was committed the ministry of the kingdom
They had trusted in their Master's power, but now
He had left them, and they had not as yet received
At the first appearance of danger they had fled from
His persecutors; and now the chief priests and
scribes, having destroyed the great Teacher of the
new doctrine, would try and stamp it out among His
Had the disciples trusted in their own strength,
such thoughts as these would have daunted them; but
they betook themselves to prayer, and relied on the
almighty Father for guidance and support. Strength-
ened by the thought that He who was for them was
greater than all who could be against them, they
recalled such words of their Lord's as they remem-
bered, that seemed especially full of comfort to them
now. John would be likely to quote as much of that
memorable last discourse as he was able, which he has
recorded at such length;* and whilst the more timid
would point out the trials that were to assail them, the
more hopeful would dwell on the promised presence
and help of their Master in the midst of them all.
Chapters xiv. xv. xvi. xvii.
THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
Then, the more energetic and heroic, getting some
glimpse.of the honour and glory of their work, would
remind one another that they were to be the "lights of
the world" and the salt of the earth;" and that He
who had called them to enlighten the world with
their preaching, and to season it with their piety,
would Himself enable them to carry out His own
The presence of Mary and the other women was a
source of strength and comfort. The disciples could
not soon forget their faithful attachment to their Lord;
they well knew that when all forsook Him and fled they
remained near Him; they had not forgotten that these
sisters were the last at the cross and the first at the
sepulchre; and their quiet faith and calm self-possession
at this time must have been helpful to the disciples.
The thought that these women were prepared to take
up the reproach of the cross and to cast in their lot
with the Lord's followers, must have moved the heart of
any of the men who might have been ready to despair
at the magnitude of their work.
After this first meeting .for prayer broke up, no
further mention is made of the Lord's mother and her
friends, but they must have often met with the disciples;
and as each recalled some assuring promise or loving
act of Jesus, we may be sure that these faithful follow-
ers had some tender words to record which He had
addressed to them.
Mary, especially, would be able to interest them
with reminiscences of His childhood and youth and
of His more private life; and if, henceforth, she and
others were to have little to do with the active minis-
tries of the gospel, the example of their strong faith
and.of their tender love would never be lost on their
In that early age, and in all subsequent ages, women
have had more to do with establishing. Christ's kingdom
in the world than we are apt to imagine. Their "quiet-
ness and rest" have not only been their own strength,"
but have contributed much to the strength of others.
After the first meeting in the upper room, the dis-
ciples were not idle. Though the promised Spirit
was not yet poured out upon them, their minds were
filled with thoughts of their coming work, which in
some way they were trying to realize.
As they remembered the words which Jesus had
spoken to them before He ascended, Ye shall receive
"power, after that the Holy Ghbst is come upon you:
"and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem
"and in all Judaea, and in all Samaria, and unto the
"uttermost parts of the earth," some idea of the vast-
ness of their work must have opened up to them.
Judaea they knew something about, and Samaria they
had passed through with their Lord; but what about
the uttermost parts of the earth ? What were they?
How far did the earth extend ? As Jerusalem was
filled with Jews and strangers from foreign lands, we
can well imagine the disciples moving quietly amongst
these, gathering what information they could; and we
can even picture them with some rude map before
them, tracing out the position of those countries of
which they had heard, as well as the more remote ones
of which before, perhaps, they had scarcely known the
THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
A few days after the ascension, the disciples, to the
number of about one hundred and twenty, again met;
this time to elect one to take the place of Judas among
the twelve. Peter introduced the matter, and standing
up, said :-
Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have
"been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth
" of David spake before concerning Judas, who was
"guide to them that took Jesus. For he was num-
" bered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
"Now this man purchased a field with the reward of
" iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in
"the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it
" was known unto.all the dwellers at Jerusalem; inso-
" much as that field is called in their proper tongue,
" Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it
"is written in the .book of Psalms,f 'Let his habita-
"tion be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and
"his bishoprick [office] let another take.'
Wherefore of these men which have companies
" with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and
" out among us, beginning from the baptism of John,
"unto that same day that He was taken up from us,
" must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His
Thus the very first business which the disciples had
to do was to repair the breach made in their number
by the treachery and inconsistency of one of them-
selves; and ever since then there have been false pro-
fessors who have hindered the spread of religion, and
have brought it into disrepute.
*Ps. xli. 9. t Ps. 1xix. 25. Ps. cix. 8.
THE FATE OF JUDAS. 7
The fate of this wretched man-the associate and
companion of Jesus-shows to what depths any
cherished sin may sink a man. He expended his ill-
gotten gains in the purchase of a field, in which he
hanged himself; but the rope breaking, he perished
miserably, as Peter described.
Thus his possession became his burial ground; and
followers of Judas in avarice and worldliness, now and
always, bury the better part of their nature in their all-
HE disciples having selected two good
men, both of whom they considered
qualified to succeed to the apostleship in
the place of Judas,-Barsabas, surnamed
Justus, and Matthias,-they prayed to
God, who knows the hearts of all men,
to direct them to choose the better.
Then they cast lots, and the lot falling
on Matthias, he was numbered with the
It was usual to fix the offices of the
priests by lot, and from very ancient
times* solemn appeals were thus made to God to
guide men's choice in important matters. Those who
fear God now, and are in doubt how to act, appeal
to Him to guide them, but without casting lots.
It was now ten days since the ascension, and the day
of Pentecost had come.
This was a solemn festival of the Jews, so called
because it was observed on the fiftieth day after the
Passover. It was called, too, the feast of the harvest,t
because it was the time chosen for returning thanks
for the harvest, and also the day of first-fruits, because
Prov. xvi. 33. t Exod. xxiii. 16.
THE DAY OF PENTECOST.
the Jews presented to God the first-fruits or the new
corn made into loaves. On this day was commemo-
rated the giving of the law on Sinai;' and to the Jews
this was a season of so great importance that no dis-
tance was too far to travel, and no expense too great
to incur, in order to be present at Jerusalem at this
The synagogue was beautifully decorated with choice
flowers, and services were there held, morning, afternoon,
and evening, during the two days of holy convocation.
All work was laid aside except such as was necessary
to prepare for the feast; and the Jews thronged the
synagogue to offer their sacrifices and their thanks.
In celebrating the offering of the first-fruits, the
priests called to mind their deliverance from the bon-
dage of Egypt; t and in commemorating the delivery
of the law on Sinai, each one read for himself the
whole book of Ruth, to impress on his mind the neces-
sity of praising God for His commandments, and of
observing them in his own life.
The feast was being celebrated by the Jews as
usual;-crowds had come from distant parts of the
earth as before, though, perhaps, now in unusually large
numbers,-and there was no outward indication that
anything was about to happen to distinguish this feast
from all others that had preceded it.
But there was a new era to be proclaimed; this
fiftieth day from the Passover was to commemorate
the shedding of the blood of the Paschal Lamb, the
offering of a sacrifice for the whole world. This feast
of first-fruits was to witness the offering to the Lord of
Num. xxviii. 26. t Deut. xxvi. 5-11.
THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
the harvest, of fruit, the seed of which Christ Him-
self had sown; and a deliverance from sin-a worse
tyrant than Pharaoh-was now to be recorded. On this
day was to be commemorated with praise the giving
of another law, not from Sinai, but from Calvary; a
law, not of ceremonial observance, costly sacrifice, and
priestly interference, but of forgiveness through Christ,
and of communion with God by His Spirit.
This was not first made known in the temple to the
priests and Levites, who were offering the sacrifices of
the crowds that thronged the sacred building; but in
an upper room, where the few humble and despised
apostles and disciples of Jesus had met with one ac-
cord to worship Him. Suddenly they'heard "a sound
"from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled
" all the house where they were sitting." Then they saw
tongues, as of fire, darting hither and thither, like light-
ning in the air, till they seemed to rest over each one
of them; and then they were all filled with the Holy
Ghost, so that they began to speak in foreign tongues
of which they had no previous knowledge whatever.
Rumours of these miraculous powers soon spread
through the city, and Jews from various foreign lands,
who had come up to the feast, hastened to ascertain
if the reports were true.
Jews from Parthia, from Media,-descendants of those
who had remained behind in that country after the
return from the captivity,-and from Elam and all
parts of Persia heard the Persian language spoken
as if by natives of their own land; dwellers from
Mesopotamia, that large district lying between the
Euphrates and Tigris, listened to as pure Syriac as
THE OUTPOURIN(T OF THE SPIRIT.
was ever spoken; Jews from Cappadocia and Pontus
and other provinces further west of Asia Minor,
heard their own dialect, probably a mixture of Greek
and Syriac; those from Phrygia and Pamphylia, other
provinces of Asia MIinor where Greek was spoken,
heard their own language; strangers all the way from
Egypt and from other parts of Africa listened for the
first time to their own Coptic in the holy city; those
from Arabia gladly detected their own familiar Arabic;
and Jews from Rome were addressed in their polished
This was the first preaching of the word; this was
the first outpouring of the Spirit, and the scene was
worthy of the event.
This vast, picturesque crowd, representing by their
language and costume so many countries of the world,
separating itself into distinct nationalities, each gather-
ing round those disciples who spoke the language most
familiar to them, and hearing truths of which they had
remained in ignorance, made up a scene such as the
world had never before seen.
Confusion of tongues fell on the men of old as a
punishment for sin; but now gifts of speech were
conferred on the disciples to proclaim a full pardon for
all sin through the Messiah.
Well may the Jews have marvelled when they
heard these Galileans, these men of proverbially rough,
unpolished manners and corrupt Syrian dialect, speaking
fluently in seven or eight difficult languages, and some
dialects of these even still more difficult. Some of the
hearers were struck with awe, but others who were
ever ready to solve the mysterious by their own shallow
12 THE FrIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
surmisings, mocked and said that drunkenness ac-
counted for this wonderful facility of speech in un-
Then Peter,* lifting up his voice, indignant at the
charge, and desiring to reach as many as could possibly
hear him, addressed them. As they were all Jews he
spoke to them as such. He showed them that their
very traditions applied the pro-
phecy of Joel, which he quoted
(Joel ii. 28, 29), to the outpour-
ing of the Spirit which should
take place in the days of the
Messiah, and then charged them with crucifying Him
in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But though they
had slain Him, death could not hold Him; for He
had risen as David their own king had foretold, as they
themselves had witnessed; and in proof of which He
had that day poured out His Spirit upon them, as they
Acts ii. 14-36.
THE NEW CONVERTS.
had both seen and heard. He then solemnly warned
them that, God had made that same Jesus, whom
ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ."
When Peter had finished, a deep impression was
made on the crowds who heard him. Their consciences
were aroused, their hearts were touched, they felt they
had rejected this Jesus, and in their anxiety they said
to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and
"brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to
them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in
" the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
"and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For
"the promise is unto you, and to your children, and
"to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our
" God shall call."
Convinced of sin, they gladly received the message
of mercy and forgiveness, and three thousand were at
once baptized. The new converts,-these first fruits
of the gospel,-continued with the apostles both in
worship and in social intercourse, witnesses of the
many signs and wonders which were wrought.
Those that had possessions sold them and gave the
proceeds to a common fund from which all were
supported; for many would now be deprived of the
hospitality and bounty of their former friends.
Thus did these first Christians live together in all
simplicity and love; not omitting their daily worship
in the temple, but now indeed as disciples of Him who
was greater than the temple; praising God with their lips
for their newly found joy, and by their lives, in com-
mending their Christianity to those who observed them;
so that fresh additions to the Church were daily made.
14 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
In this wonderful manner did God ordain that the
gospel should be first preached. Selecting a time when
Jerusalem was filled with Jews from other lands, the
gospel message would be taken by them to their
countrymen, and thus would the way be prepared for
its preaching unto the'ends of the earth.
The apostles would avail themselves of their contact
with these strangers to obtain important and interest-
ing information about those lands which should
afterwards be visited by missionaries of the Cross.
The command given to them to go to the uttermost
part of the earth was a proof of the boundlessness of
God's grace; and the direction to begin at Jerusalem,
convinced them of His tender forgiveness.
Jerusalem had had the blessed privilege of our
Lord's ministry, but it had rejected it and crucified
Him; and now He would show that He is ready to
forgive the greatest sinners.
The apostles therefore must offer the gospel to all
the Jews in the city.
NE day as Peter and John were going up to
the afternoon service of the temple, which took
place at three o'clock, they noticed a lame man,
a beggar whom his friends brought every day
and placed in a position convenient to ask alms
from those who entered the temple.
It was customary in the East for beggars thus
to congregate around places of worship, as men's
hearts would be more disposed to show mercy
when on their way to seek favour from the
God of mercy.
For many long years had this beggar taken
up his position, for he had been lame from his
birth, and was now forty years old. A miserable
object anywhere, he must have looked most
abject, huddled up under the Beautiful Gate. His dirty
rags must have been a sad contrast to the gleaming
Corinthian brass of which the gate was made, and to
the bright golden leaves with which it was overlaid;
whilst his crouched-up form must have looked insig-
nificant indeed beside that noble gate towering above
him to the height of seventy-five feet.
As Peter and John were entering the temple, the
beggar accosted them, as he had often done others.
But with how different a result I
16 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
Both stopped and fastened their eyes upon him, and
Peter said, Look on us." Then the beggar, with no
other expectation than the gift of a few coins, did as
he was directed; and Peter said to him, "Silver and
"gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee:
"in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up
Poor man! he had gone for years up to God's house
with no other desires
than worldly ones, but
Ii, .l..ll. now he is to get that
which he never sought;
i and so many since, like
'; 'l 'l him, have gone with no
I 'N higher motives, but have
'. 'I been met with the mes-
sage of mercy, and have
Y ii, learned to use the tem-
.IN. ple aright.
To encourage the beg-
gar, and to help him to
S make the effort to rise,
Peter took him by the
-- ... right hand and lifted him
up, and as he did so, his
feet and ankles, which had hitherto been powerless,
were made strong. Filled with a new strength and
with an indescribable joy, the beggar leaped about as a
hart; then, somewhat sobered, he tried to walk as
others, and found that he was able; and then, with
grateful gladness he accompanied Peter and John into
Is. xxxv. 6.
THEJ BEGGAR IN THE, TEMPLE.
the temple, though too full of joy to restrain himself
from showing it by leaping about.
His voice too acquired new power; accustomed only
to whine for alms, it now rang with notes of praise, so
that the attention of those who were in the temple was
directed to him. When the truth flashed across their
minds that this was no other than the lame beggar,
they were fairly staggered; but when, on closer ex-
amination, they were satisfied of his identity, and that
the place he occupied for years was now vacant, their
wonder knew no bounds. Soon the news of the cure
spread, and as the beggar seemed indisposed to part
company with Peter and John, a great number of
people gathered together. They were now in Solomon's
Porch,-a covered walk on the east side of the temple,
about twenty feet wide, paved with marble of varied
colours, roofed with costly cedar, and supported by
pillars of solid marble. There were double rows of
these walks on the three sides of the temple, whilst on
the south there were three rows. Cool, and sheltered
alike from the heat and storm, these walks were much
used; and now, on the supposed site of Solomon's temple,
were the Jews to hear of a greater than Solomon.
Taking occasion of the wondering crowd before him
-and for this had God brought them together-Peter
began to address them. With becoming modesty he
disclaimed any power or holiness of his own in the
cure of the lame man, and attributed it to the God of
their fathers having glorified Jesus, whom they had
That name which they had reviled was the name,
through faith in which the lame man had been made
18 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
strong. Peter then called, on them to repent and be
converted, urging that Moses had declared that "a
"prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of
"your brethren, like unto me,"* and showing that all
the prophets from Samuel had foretold those days
which were now come to pass.
Though they had put Jesus to death, now that He had
ascended to heaven, of which event they, the apostles,
had been witnesses, God had sent Him to bless them
by exhorting them to turn from their sins, and by
assuring them of His pardon.
As this was the first miracle wrought by the hands
of the apostles, it will be well to notice that it was in
the name of Jesus of Nazareth that they bade the lame
man to walk. Jesus Himself had performed His mi-
racles through His own power; but the apostles here,
as Moses and the prophets of old, proceeded only by
Divine power given them for the purpose.
The consequences of this miracle were great; the
hearts of the apostles themselves were much strength-
ened when they found the Spirit so much with them,
fulfilling so entirely the gracious promises of their Lord;
and the disciples generally must have been cheered
at seeing that the mantle of the Saviour had fallen
so manifestly on the apostles, as he had promised.l
The Sanhedrim too were greatly moved, but in
Whilst the crowd were listening to the preaching of
It is interesting to consider in how many particulars Moses
resembled Christ. Jortin has noted thirty-nine points of re-
T John xiv. 12.
Peter, members of the Sanhedrim, who had heard of
the miracle, and now saw how eagerly the people
gathered round. the apostles, thought it was high time
to put a stop to these things. The priests could ill
bear to be held up to the people as the murderers of
Jesus; while the Sadducees, who denied the resurrec-
tion of the dead, were greatly incensed to find this doc-
trine so boldly proclaimed and so generally accepted.
They saw in the spread of that truth the undermining
of their influence as a sect. Up to this time they had
been increasing in numbers and importance: they had
been able to hold their own in scholarly arguments
with other sects; but there was that about the preach-
ing of the apostles that they could not withstand. It
was only a selfish dread of loss of authority that made
them grieved at the preaching of the apostles; for
surely there was nothing to cause grief in the truths
the apostles taught. On.the contrary, there was much
to rejoice over. The Sadducees said there was no future
world; but this brought no comfort to those poor
creatures whose lot in life was unfortunate and
wretched. Why then had they been born? they
might well ask.
The Sadducees said there was no resurrection. What
hope could they have in the prospect of death ? What
comfort in saying farewell to a loved one who was
dying, if there was to be no meeting beyond the
grave? Nay; why were our hearts made of such
tender fibres, if death was for ever to quench our
These and many other such thoughts would come
surging through the mind as the people contrasted the
20 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
Sadducees' cold, hopeless doctrine of despair with the
blissful and cheering truth that this world was not the
only one, nor the better one; that there was another,
where happiness and love reigned for ever.
No wonder, then, that the people listened eagerly to
the preaching of Peter, and readily believed what he
Under subjection to the Roman yoke on one hand,
and oppressed on the other by the requirements of a
ceremonial law, enforced by a set of priests who showed
no sympathy in their office, and would not ease the
burden by so much as a little finger, the people wel-
comed this new teaching which made them subjects of
a more loving sovereign than Caesar, and brought them
into relationship with a more merciful High-Priest than
any that had presided over their Sanhedrim.
'S- 0 wonder, then, that many, as they list-
ened to the apostles, believed, until their
number amounted to at least five thou-
>'1- sand; and no wonder, also, that the
Sanhedrim, jealous of their authority
l' and influence, should determine to silence
these popular preachers.
S They had no difficulty in persuading
Sthe captain of the guard of soldiers
(which was kept stationed in the An-
tonia Tower, to be ready in case of any religious or
political outbreak), that the assembling of such crowds
of people, listening to a new teaching which was highly
subversive of authority, would be likely to lead to a
breach of the peace.. Accordingly, at- the instance of
the Sanhedrim, the apostles were arrested and detained,
possibly within the tower of Antonia.
It was now eventide; and as this was the first im-
prisonment to which any of them had been subjected,
some alarm was naturally felt by the believers as to the
fate of the apostles. Peter and John, however, had no
fear: they experienced the truth of the promise, "at
evening time it shall be light ,*; and, though under
Zech. xiv. 7.
22 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
confinement, they passed a far less anxious night than
those who had given orders for their imprisonment. It
was one thing to give an order, and another to justify
it before the council; it was easy enough to put them
in prison, but not so easy to prove they were deserving
Next morning the council, or Sanhedrim, assembled.
Besides the ordinary members, there was present
Annas, who, though not then high-priest, retained the
title, as he had held office for many years. Five of his
sons, and some of his sons-in-law were at one time and
another high-priests, so that although Annas was now
deposed by an order from Rome, he still possessed con-
siderable influence. Caiaphas, the high-priest of the
year; John, a celebrated rabban, or doctor;* and
Alexander, an Egyptian Jew of much influence, were
present at the council.
Having had Peter and John set before them, they
asked them, "By what power, or by what name, have
ye done this ? "
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, Ye
"rulers of the people, and elders of Israel! if we this
" day be examined of the good deed done to the im-
"'potent man, by what means he is made whole; be
" it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel,
" that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom
" ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by
"him doth this man stand here before you whole. This
"is the stone which was set at nought of you builders,
" which is become the head of the corner. Neither is
" there salvation in aiy. other : for there is none other
His name is found in the Talmud,
THE APOSTLES BEFORE THE SANHEDRIM.
C name under heaven given among men, whereby we
"must be saved."
Thus did Peter not only justify what they had done,
but declared that unless the council believed in the same
Jesus whom they had hitherto rejected, there was no
salvation for them. Such bold speaking astonished the
elders: they had had many offenders before them at
various times, but none had ever addressed them in
that manner. It was not any great power of intel-
lect or of eloquence that enabled Peter thus to speak,
for they saw he was unlearned and unused to speaking.
Some of the council remembered seeing Peter and John
with Jesus, and they would call to mind some of the
miracles which He had wrought. They remembered that
the subjects of His healing power remained in their own
neighbourhood, so that no objection on the ground of
insufficient identity or of imposture could be urged;
and here, standing by, was the impotent man whom
they had known by sight for so many years. They
could not gainsay the fact that a miracle had been
wrought, and, deeply read as many of the elders were
in the history of their race, they could call to mind
no instance in which any impostors or false prophets
had had the gift of miraculous healing.
Causing Peter and John to retire, the council con-
ferred among themselves as to the best course to take;
for not only were the two most concerned interested in
their decision, but the Jews generally, who had listened
to Peter preaching, or who had heard of the miracle,
were waiting to hear their decision.
Their credit was at stake, and therefore they could
not deny that a miracle had been wrought, for that fact
24 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
was testified by thousands of witnesses. Instead, how-
ever, of investigating that truth which had been so
Divinely and miraculously attested, they thought to
silence it altogether; and when Peter and John were
again admitted, they charged them not to speak at
all nor teach in the name of Jesus."
This then was the result of their conference !
A weaker appearance no council ever presented than
the Sanhedrim when they announced their decision.
They did not attempt to dispute what the apostles
said, nor did they assign any reason for their judg-
Apart from any teaching or from any greater good,
surely it was an advantage to have some one in the city
who from a love of humanity would relieve some of the
pitiable objects that obtruded themselves on public
notice. But, no beggars might grovel in their poverty
and infirmities, so long as the power and influence of
the council remained unaffected. Men who could be
thus blind to all but selfish considerations were ripen-
ing for that destruction which our Lord foretold would
happen to them.
One can almost fancy a smile of derision passing over
the face of Peter as he listened to their charge. Both
Peter and John at once declared that they must hearken
unto the voice of God rather than of man, and that
they should continue to speak of the things which they
had seen and heard.
Then the councillooking veryominously and solemnly
at the apostles, threatened them with dire consequences
if they should continue to preach; and that was all they
could do. They could not punish them in any way, for
PETER AND JOHN RELEASED.
they had done nothing worthy of punishment; and
they knew, moreover, that the people were praising
God for that which the apostles had done.
As soon as Peter and John were released, they went
to their friends, who were waiting anxiously the result
of their examination by the Sanhedrim. Minutely did
the apostles describe what had taken place: John would
not fail to tell how boldly Peter had addressed the
council, and both would exultingly narrate how com-
pletely the charges against them had broken down.
When the disciples heard this good news they
returned thanks to God who had not allowed His
enemies to triumph; and they prayed that increasing
boldness of speech, and power to work miracles, might
be granted unto the apostles.
Undeterred by the persecution that already had
troubled them, and undismayed by what might await
them, the apostles desired grace to continue in their
work and not to be withdrawn from it. They foresaw
trial and danger, but if God was with them they could
go cheerfully forward. Then, as an earnest that He
had heard them, the place where they were assembled
was shaken, and their hearts were filled with the Holy
Animated by one spirit, the whole company, of be-
lievers had but one desire, and that was to live for Him
who had called them into His kingdom, and to His
work. They had common aims in this world and com-
mon hopes for the next, and that the temporal wants
of all might be supplied, they gave their money
to one common fund. Bound to one another by sym-
pathy and love, and to their Lord by grateful remem-
26 THE FIRST HEROES' OF THE CROSS.
brance of what He had done for them, they cheerfully
gave up for His service all that He had given them.
Rich men had become possessed of eternal wealth, and
they readily parted with all their worldly gains; owners
of houses and land, who had become heirs of an eternal
inheritance, sold their possessions and handed the pro-
ceeds to the apostles; and it may be safely said that
those who gave the most derived the greatest happiness
from their gifts. They lived in an atmosphere of
love from which they sought to banish selfishness.
There was no Judas among them now, and he who kept
the purse cast no longing eye on the money as it was
brought in, nor as it was paid out.
Great as was the liberality of those who contributed,
the claims on the funds were also great. The apostles,
who had now quite given up their worldly occupations
for the sake of preaching, must, of course, be supported.
Then some who had embraced the gospel would find
their old friends forsaking them and their means of ex-
istence gone; whilst others, who had come to Jerusalem
from a distance, and had become converted through the
preaching of the apostle, would wish to throw in their
lot with the Lord's people, rather than return to their
own land where the name of Jesus was not known.
We may be sure that those who could work did so,
for they were filled with the Spirit of God, which never
encourages idleness. The necessities of all were met,
and distribution was made unto every man according
to his need. This goodly band of believers, existing
from the supplies of a common fund to which all had
contributed as much as they possessed, was a great
proof of the power of the love of God over men's hearts.
They might have all been kept alive by a miraculous
supply of food, but it was evidence of a greater miracle
that so many should part with that which men hold
Though we are not now called on to act as these early
Christians did, we must admire their devotion; and it
is our duty now so to yield ourselves to the service of
God as to offer to Him whatever talents or gifts He
may have bestowed upon us.
Among those who sold their possessions was Joses,
surnamed by the apostles Barnabas, which meant The
Son of Consolation," or of "Exhortation," as some
prefer to translate it. Either term would be appro-
priate, for he was a cheerful, hopeful Christian, and
one gifted with the power of speech, as we shall see
hereafter when we find him as the colleague and com-
panion of Paul.
Barnabas was a native of Cyprus, an island in the
Mediterranean, and a Levite, so that he had been
brought up in the service of the temple. He had
embraced Christianity, and had made up his mind to
continue with the disciples; so he sold the land of
which he was possessed, and unreservedly gave the
money to the apostles.
OULD that all had acted as sincerely as
Barnabas. A certain man, Ananias, and
his wife Sapphira, sold some of their pro-
perty, and keeping back part of the price
of it, brought the remainder to the apos-
tles, and pretended it was all they had received.
Now there was no law to compel any one to sell
his property to increase the common fund; nay, the
free way in which the people acted made the gifts all
the more acceptable, and their conduct all the more
This man and his wife wanted to have the credit for
being as liberal as the rest, without exercising the
self-denial which the others had shown. Covetousness
in their hearts led to hypocrisy and deceit in their acts,
and having committed themselves to this mean and
despicable course, they determined to continue it.
Peter was enabled to read the heart of Ananias, and he
asked him why he had thus acted. By pretending that
he had brought the whole of the money that he had
received, Ananias tempted the Holy Spirit under whose
guidance the apostle was acting. Ananias had there-
fore lied, not so much unto men as unto God; and it
was necessary to show that He could not be deceived.
ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRi.
When Ananias heard Peter's words he fell down dead,
and this very solemn event filled the minds of all who
heard of it with fear.
-The young men who were present wound up the
body in the clothes it had worn, and buried it.
About three hours afterwards, Sapphira, not knowing
the fate of her wretched husband, came before Peter.
To ascertain whether she had concurred in her hus-
band's guilt, he asked her if they had sold their land
for the sum which they had paid in, and she un-
hesitatingly replied, Yes."
Then Peter-actuated, doubtless, by a Divine im-
pulse-said to her, How is it that ye have agreed
"together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold,
" the feet of them which have buried thy husband are
"at the door, and shall carry thee out."
The unhappy woman had no time to feel the shock
of the news thus imparted, for she at once fell down
dead, and the young men who had buried her husband
took her out and laid her beside him. They were
partners in guilt whilst living, "and in their death
they were not divided."
This solemn judgment brought fear on the Church,
as it led them to see how truthful and sincere it
behoved them to be; and also on those who had not
joined the Church, as they could not but perceive that
God, in destroying these people, had confirmed the
truth of the apostles' doctrine.
From a community separated from the world, and
which was to regenerate it, every element of deceit and
hypocrisy must be expelled, and therefore had God
spoken in this loud voice of solemn warning.
30 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
Numbers now flocked wherever the apostles preached,
and not only did they tell of the mercy of God, but
they also gave evidence of it by healing those who
were in any way diseased or afflicted. Persons who
were not able rightly to understand the matters in
dispute between the Sanhedrim and the apostles could
not but see that great good was being done; whilst the
more thoughtful of them were obliged to confess that
God, who alone could work miracles, was confirming
and owning all that His servants did in His name.
Country people who came into Jerusalem, either to
attend the temple services or on business, saw and
heard what was being done, and hurried back to tell
their afflicted friends that relief was possible for them.
Accordingly, through all the gates that led into the
city, might be seen companies of persons bringing
in their sick and diseased friends. Such a stream
of human misery had never flowed into the city before.
The halt and the maimed, mustering all their strength,
hobbled on; those possessed of evil spirits were led, in
charge of those who loved them; bedridden ones who
had long been given up as incurables; palsied ones
who had lost the use of their limbs; those whom
disease and acute suffering had deprived of all strength
were carried along on their beds by sympathising
friends-all animated, from the reports they had heard,
by a hope that there was relief for them.
Anxiously, and as swiftly as the condition of these
poor patients would allow, did the crowd push on.
Hope, which had died out in many hearts, now seemed
to fill them with a new vigour, as they either pressed
on, or urged their friends to bear them yet swifter.
C ~a~b I
i-d t,;;ege~ i:
PETER E]JALINHI THE 9I1OE.
now kindled with a new light as they thought of the
wonders that had been wrought; and the sight of
those they met, whom they knew, returning home in
the possession of all their powers, who but a short
time before were as helpless as they, filled them with
an ecstasy of delight which for a time made them
forget their pain.
Nor were they disappointed. Though the city pre-
sented the appearance of a vast hospital, and though
the number of patients was far too great for the
apostles to visit personally, no one was left uncured.
Those who could approach Peter, did so, and were
instantly relieved; but the bedridden were put down
on their couches and beds in the streets, and as Peter
walked up and down amongst these afflicted ones, his
shadow fell upon them, and they were cured.
Thus did Peter* typify the blessings which
should come with the kingdom of Christ, who was
described as the shadow of a great rock in a weary
No wonder, then, that many believed in what the
apostles taught. Those who were healed, with their
friends, and those who crowded the streets when the
miracles were wrought, made up a vast number. The
opposition of their enemies was raised, especially
among the Sadducees, and they had the apostles ar-
rested and confined in the common prison.
But vain is the opposition of man, however powerful,
against the will of God.
At night the angel of the Lord opened the prison
doors, and commanded them to go to the temple and
Meaning a rock or stone. t Isaiah xxxii. 2.
34 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
preach the word of eternal life. Early in the morning
they obeyed the Divine message.
Meanwhile the council had assembled, to determine
how they were to put down these men who opposed
them so successfully. They sent their officers to bring
the offenders before them; whilst they waited, looking
as solemn and imposing as they could. At length the
officers returned with the astounding intelligence that
they found the prison safely secured and duly in
charge of the keepers; but when they entered, the
prison was empty.
Here was a blow to their pride and dignity How
humiliating for these important persons to be so de-
ceived and trifled with!
Before they had recovered from their mortification,
a messenger came to them saying that those whom
they had imprisoned were in the temple, teaching the
Full of wrath they sent and had them brought
before them; but they were careful to direct that no
violence should be used towards them, as they feared
the people, who were now so well disposed towards the
apostles that they might have stoned any that used
them roughly in the streets. When the council had
their prisoners before them, the high-priest, in mingled
tones of anger and sarcasm, said, Did not we straitly
command you that ye should not teach in this
name ? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your
doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon
us." The council had soon forgotten how, when
clamouring for the death of Jesus, they had been willing
to take upon themselves the guilt of shedding His blood.
Peter, not caring to notice the contemptuous way in'
which the high-priest had spoken of Jesus, replied,
"We ought to obey God rather than men. The God
of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and
hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His
right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to
give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is
also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them
that obey Him." In this short, concise manner did
Peter defend his fellow-apostles, preach the gospel, and
charge' the council with the death of Jesus. The effect
on their minds was very great. They were so exas-
perated with the apostles that they began to consult
about slaying them.
But there was one of the Sanhedrim less hasty and
far wiser than his colleagues: his name was Gamaliel, a
doctor of the law, a grandson of the celebrated Hillel,
who had been president of the council. This man was
a Pharisee, and so well versed was he in all that related
to Jewish law and teaching that he was the second to
whom the name of Rabban" was given--a title of
the highest eminence among the doctors. So great an
influence did Gamaliel wield in the council and among
the Jews, that when he died, in the year A.D. 52, he
was honoured with a public funeral, and it was said
afterwards of him, that from the time Rabban Ga-
maliel died the honour of the law failed, and purity
and Pharisaism died."
Gamaliel rose in his place, and having had the
apostles removed to some distance, he urged the council
to be very careful what they did to these men. He
36 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
instanced the case of two impostors, Theudas and
Judas of Galilee, who had set up some pretensions,
but had come to a miserable end, with all their fol-
lowers, and he advised that the apostles should be let
alone : for if they, too, were impostors they would come
to naught, but if God was with them it was useless to
oppose them, as to do so would be fighting against
This wise counsel prevailed; the members all agreed
with Gamaliel, but, wishing to save their credit and to
show their authority, they had the apostles beaten, and
then dismissed them, commanding them not to speak
in the name of Jesus.
The apostles left the council, and instead of feeling
indignant at the treatment they had received, they
rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame
for His name.
It was the first time any of them had been beaten;
but any indignity or pain they might have felt,was
solaced by the remembrance of their Master's words:
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteous-
So far from obeying the council, the apostles became
more indefatigable than ever; for not only did they
daily preach in the temple, but they went from house
to house, wherever little knots of believers were gathered
together, confirming their faith and telling them more
about Jesus, in whom they now trusted.
att. v. 10.
r,. ,. : ,. :
' < . , ,' ,
UT it was not all peace and harmony
among the believers. Their number
I had now so multiplied that it was a work
'. of some considerable difficulty so to pro-
portion the amount awarded from the
S' .-., common fund that there should be no
discontent nor complaint; and espe-
cially was this the case among Jews,
g- who had so many grounds of jealousy
Se against one another. The Jews of Jeru-
salem would think themselves superior to Jews
born in other lands, and these foreign Jews would be
ready to assign motives of jealousy for anything that
seemed to operate against them. Thus it was that a
dispute arose among the Grecian Jews, or Hellenists,
because they thought that their widows were not so
well cared for as were those of the Hebrews. The
apostles had already felt this burden too great for
them, and now they called the disciples generally toge-
ther, and said it was not reasonable that their time
should be occupied in administering the funds out of
which they were all supported, and in settling ques-
tions or complaints arising therefrom. They told
them to choose from among themselves seven men,
38 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
well known for their wisdom and honesty, and more-
over, full of the Holy Ghost, who should look after
this business, whilst they, the apostles, freed from this
responsibility, would be better able to give them-
selves to meditation and prayer, and thus be more
fitted for preaching the word.
This advice commended itself to the whole multitude,
and they chose as deacons, Stephen, Philip, Prochorus,
Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas-all men of
Grecian names, thus showing the Hellenists that there
was every wish, on the part of the apostles, to treat
them fairly. The apostles ratified their choice, and
praying for all needful grace for these new officers,
they laid their hands on them, and set them apart for
The wisdom of this step was soon apparent, for the
number of disciples still further increased-many even
of the priests, renouncing their prejudices and Judaism,
Little is known of any of these deacons, except two:
Philip, who was also an evangelist, and Stephen, who
soon drew down upon himself the wrath of his enemies.
A man of deep piety and great natural energy, Stephen
soon distinguished himself by the miracles which he
wrought: and not only so, but he was most zealous in
defending the faith against any who attacked it. The
foreign Jews, who came to Jerusalem to the various
feasts, had synagogues of their own, where they met
with their own countrymen. There were many such,
the members of separate synagogues, and just now
some of them took a very active part in opposing
ARREST OF STEPHEN.
These were some of the Libertines,* or freedmen of
Italy; of the Cyrenians and Alexandrians, from Africa;
and of those from Cilicia and other parts of Asia.
The whole of them, however, proved no match for
Stephen, who spoke with a wisdom and power which
they could not resist. Then, as they could not pre-
vail against him by fair argument, they resorted to
artifice and lies, and induced men to swear that they
had heard him use blasphemous words against Moses
and against God. Of course the Sanhedrim were quite
ready to take up any charge against any of the Christians,
so there was no difficulty in getting Stephen arrested
and brought before them. False witnesses appeared
who swore that Stephen had said that Jesus would do
away with the customs of Moses, and destroy the
temple,-that sacred building within whose precincts
they then were assembled, for their Hall Gazith, or
the. Stone Chamber, was situated partly within the
The high-priest asked Stephen if these charges were
true; but, before he began his reply, the council were
struck with his appearance, for his face looked like
that of an angel.
There is a diversity of opinion as to who these Libertines
were, but it is generally supposed that they were Roman slaves
or their descendants, who had been manumitted, or made free
(Libertini). The Romans had, in their wars, captured many
thousands of Jews, but as they adhered so closely to their faith,
and refused to give up their peculiar habits, their conquerors
were glad to get rid of them. Tacitus says they were banished
from Rome; 4000 were sent under arms as soldiers, and the
rest were liberated and had to quit Rome by a certain day.
40 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
In wrapt attention they listened whilst Stephen
made his defence.*
He began with the early history of their race, show-
ing how that their father Abraham and his descendants
had no possession in the land which was promised to his
seed after him; that Joseph was an exile in Egypt;
that Moses, their great lawgiver, who led the Jews
through the wilderness, had foretold the coming of
Jesus when he said, A prophet shall the Lord your
God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me;
Him shall ye hear."f
He showed them that all their history pointed to
Christ; that the law did not keep their fathers from
idolatry; and then, referring to the immediate charge
against himself, he reminded them that the tabernacle
of the wilderness, and the temple which Solomon built,
were but types of that vast spiritual temple which
Christ should rear, and which their own prophet Isaiah
foresaw when God said unto him, "Heaven is my
throne, and earth is my footstool." $
Up to this point the council listened with interest,
and even satisfaction, for Stephen had been recounting
their history as God's chosen people, of which they
were never tired of hearing; but when he told them
that the Messiah had come for the whole world, and
that, consequently, henceforth their exclusive privileges
would cease, they manifested signs of impatience and
Then Stephen, full of the Divine Spirit, abruptly
breaking away from his narrative, administered a ter-
* Acts vii. f Deut. xviii. 15, 18.
$ Isa. lxvi. 1.
TRIAL OF STEPHEN.
ribly severe, yet proper, rebuke. He told them they were
stiffnecked and wilfully obstinate; that they had ever
resisted the Holy Ghost; that, like their fathers, who
had persecuted the prophets, they had put to death the
Just One, whom they should have welcomed as the
long-looked-for Messiah; and that they who had re-
ceived the law, and were supposed to be its highest
exponents, had failed to keep it.
This was more than they could bear. To have such
heinous guilt brought home to them by one who was
their prisoner filled them with such fury that, forget-
ting their dignity as judges, and their reputation as
wise and pious men, they gnashed on him with their
teeth, and looked the fierce things which their passion
prevented them from expressing.
What a contrast did Stephen'present! Unmoved
by the rage and hate of his enemies, he looked up
stedfastly to heaven, where he was so soon to enter,
and saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
waiting to receive hint. Filled with ecstasy at the
glorious vision, he exclaimed, "Behold! I see the
heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the
right hand of God."
This was enough; the charge of blasphemy was fully
established. They shrieked at him, and, stopping their
ears, ran upon him, and hurried him out of the city to
It is hard to believe that such could have been the
conduct of the great Jewish Sanhedrim-so despicable,
so unjust, so impetuous.
It is not clear whether the Sanhedrim had at this
Most critics think that they were deprived of this power
42 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
time the power of putting any one to death; but, at any
rate, when it suited their purpose, they had, only a
short time before, denied their right, when they told
Pilate, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to
Now they forgot this; they thought not of jus-
tice or right, but, true to their nature of observing
small Mosaic laws, whilst they violated great moral ones,
they remembered it was not lawful t to stone any one
within the city, so they hurried Stephen beyond it.t
before this time; but Dean Milman, who has gone deeply into
the subject, says that the position and influence of the San-
hedrim were at this time undefined, and that probably there
was some confusion on the question of their right to inflict
John xviii, 31. t Lev. xxiv. 14.
$ Two spots are pointed out as the scene of Stephen's death:
one, to the north of the city through the Damascus gate; the
other, through the gate, now called St. Stephen's, to a place
near the brook Kedron, over against the garden of Gethsemane.
-CONYBEARE AND HOWSON.
HOSEN witnesses, according to Jewish law,*
were appointed to throw the first. stone at the
5'i"ti- Th t e t----t
."i. '-' T, bi-,W]_, =
laid ( W:Uo tI~.rLj.EU ii ~-~-~-
--- .,i..t th i e .:, ren:i 9t, Ln tL-ir U11 ..1.,r,:,- .
missiles, the council gladly assisting in the
deadly work. Undismayed by the thought of his
approaching death, and undisturbed in soul -by the
0 Deut. xvii. 6, 7.
44 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
pains which shot through his poor, suffering body,
-as one stone after another came upon him, crush-
ing bone after bone, opening fresh wounds, from which
his life's blood ebbed away, and laying bare each
quivering nerve-this holy man, supported by the same
Spirit in death as had enabled him to be so faithful a
witness in life, called upon God, saying, "Lord Jesus,
receive my spirit." Then, feeling that a few more
blows would end his sufferings, and remembering how
his Master, with whom he would so shortly be, forgave
His enemies, he knelt down and cried with a loud
voice, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
It was all he could say-his strength was exhausted;
then, as though no pain racked his bruised and bleeding
form, and as peacefully as though he were lying down
to rest after a hard day's toil, he sweetly fell asleep.
Devout men came, and taking up the mangled form
of the first Christian martyr, buried it with great
The persecution of the Christians now began in real
earnest. Just as some wild animals are urged on to
greater fury when blood is once shed, so the Jews
seemed to be driven to a frenzy of persecuting hatred
after the death of Stephen.
Foremost among the persecutors was the young man
Saul,'who had consented with delight* to his death,
and who now, savage as a wild beast,f invaded the
sanctity of homes, and without any formal charge bore
off to prison unoffending men and women.
So the word in the original signifies, Acts viii. 1.
t Made havoc implies ravaging as a wild beast.
The believers fled before such terrible persecutions,
except the apostles, who still remained at Jerusalem,
for God had a work for them yet to do there, and He
would protect them until it was accomplished.
Little did Saul or any of the council suppose that
their efforts to stamp out Christianity would be the
very means designed by God for its furtherance. Yet
so it was : for the disciples, fleeing in every direction,
carried with them the gospel, and preached it wherever
Philip the deacon went down into Samaria, to the
capital, and preached Christ there.
This was as Jesus had directed; the gospel was first
to be preached at Jerusalem, that those who had been
guilty of His death might have the first offer of His
mercy: afterwards it was to be made known among
The Samaritans, when they heard Philip and saw the
miracles which he did, readily believed. Persons pos-
sessed with unclean spirits, and those who were palsied
or lame, were healed; so that the pulse of the city beat
with new life, and men's hearts were filled with joy.
Even one who had himself possessed great influence
among the people, and who must have felt that Philip
was likely to supplant him entirely, believed on the word
which Philip spake. This was Simon Magus, so called
because he was a magician or sorcerer. Naturally a very
clever man, he had studied the arts and mysteries of
magic and witchcraft, and had obtained some know-
ledge of the natural sciences. He is mentioned by
* Luke xxiv. 47.
46 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
Josephus and many ancient writers as a man of extra-
ordinary power; and it is probable that he was pos-
sessed of Satanic influence, so as to be able to exhibit
"power, and signs, and lying wonders."* At any
rate he had acquired an ascendancy over the minds of
the people, to such a degree that they ascribed to him
He had completely bewitched them, but now he him-
self was obliged to confess that a greater than he was
before the people. Simon saw the miracles which Philip
wrought, and, when he contrasted their genuineness
with his deceptions and illusions, he believed that what
the Evangelist said was true, and he was baptized.
The great success attending Philip's preaching soon
became known at Jerusalem, and the apostles sent down
Peter and John. On a former occasion John desired
that fire from heaven might destroy the Samaritans;t
but now he prayed with Peter, that the Holy Ghost
might descend upon the people, for hitherto they had
not received those extraordinary gifts which had been
vouchsafed to the other disciples at Jerusalem. Then
the apostles laid their hands on the new converts, who
received the Holy Ghost in answer to their prayers.
When Simon 1Magus saw this, he offered money to
the apostles, hoping, by this means, to secure the power
of imparting the Holy Ghost to those on whom he
should lay his hands. But Peter, indignant at his
thinking that the gift of God could be purchased with
money, told him that his heart was not right in God's
sight, and urged him to repent, as he was still in his
* 2 Thess. ii. 9.
t Luke ix. 54.
sins. Then Simon, more terrified at the consequences
of his sins than truly penitent for them, desired Peter
to pray for him, that all evil might be averted. Many,
like Simon, profess to serve God, desiring to make a
worldly gain out of their religion. Yet, so gracious is
the Lord, that those who have been full of hypocrisy and
selfishness are accepted by Him, if they truly repent.
The apostles preached in several of the Samaritan
villages, and afterwards returned to Jerusalem.
After this the angel of the Lord directed Philip to
go down- to Gaza. This city was situated about sixty
miles south-west from Jerusalem, and had once been
strong and populous. Its destruction had been fore-
told by Zephaniah,* and now, compared with its former
magnificence, it was little more than a desert. Philip
might have longed for a greater sphere of usefulness;
he might have wished for crowded congregations; but
led by the Spirit of God, he found his work; and we
always shall find ours, if we too give ourselves up to
On his way to Gaza he fell in with a man of
great authority, the treasurer of Candace, the queen of
Ethiopia. He was a proselyte to the Jewish religion,
and he was now returning from Jerusalem, where he had
been to worship. Sitting in his chariot, he was well
employed in reading God's word and trying to under-
stand it. Here then was Philip's work. Directed by
the Spirit of God, he ran towards the chariot, and en-
quired of the Ethiopian if he understood what he was
reading. His reply showed in what a hopeful, because
* Zeph. ii. 4.
48 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
teachable, frame of mind he was,-" How can I,
except some man should guide me ?" and he then de-
sired Philip to come up into the chariot and instruct
him. He had been reading of Jesus being led as a
sheep to the slaughter, as described in the fifty-third
chapter of Isaiah (ver. 7 and 8); and he wanted to know
whether the prophet was speaking of himself, or of some
other man. Philip, taking up that passage, preached
unto him Jesus, and showed him that He was "the
Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world."
The Ethiopian was deeply impressed, and, presently,
whilst riding along, they came to some water, when
he inquired if anything hindered his being baptized ?
Philip replied, "If thou believes with all thine
heart thou mayest." The treasurer expressed his firm
belief in Jesus, and he was forthwith baptized.
Then the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, so
that the Ethiopian was left alone; yet not alone, for
he now had Jesus with him, and he went on his way
So do all, who put their trust in Jesus, find Him their
best travelling companion. They go rejoicing on their
way to His home, where there are joys for evermore.
Philip was'next seen at Azotus, or Ashdod, only about
twenty-five miles north of Gaza, where he preached;
and in all the neighboring cities, till he reached
COesarea,where he doubtless had a house: for there will
he be met with hereafter.
j :- "_
01PG )TER VXIX.
UT now the ranks of the apostles were to
receive their most eminent recruit; the preach-
ers of the word were to receive into their num-
ber one who in labour should exceed them all.
Saul came under the notice of the apostles at
Stephen's death, for which shameful event he, with
others, was responsible.
-50 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
This Saul, who had for some time given himself up
to persecuting the disciples, waxed hotter and hotter
against them in deadly hatred.
Before he comes under our notice as an apostle let us
briefly trace his career. He was born about the time of
the commencement of the Christian era, at Tarsus, a city
of Cilicia, in Asia Minor. His father was a Hebrew of
the tribe of Benjamin, and, at some period of his life be-
fore the birth of his son, he had settled in Asia, but,
although he was a Hellenist, so far as living in a Grecian
country and speaking the Grecian language were con-
cerned, he adhered most closely to the Hebrew theology,
and cherished the ways and habits of the Jews.
Cilicia was now under the Roman sway; however,
Tarsus felt the yoke but lightly, as it was a free city (urbs
liberal and as such was governed by its own magis-
trates, and was not occupied by a Roman garrison.
During the civil wars the father of Saul probably ren-
dered some service for which he was rewarded in being
made a Roman citizen; but neither this great dignity,
which might have thrown him into closer contact with
Roman authorities, nor the associations of a Grecian
city, removed in any way his Jewish prejudices, or led
him to depart from the way of his fathers.
He was a strict Pharisee, and all the stricter, perhaps,
because there were so many influences around him to
tempt him to relax his opinions. He had his infant son
circumcised on the eighth day, according to the law of
Moses, which law was the guide of young Saul's life.
Nothing is known of his mother; but, ere yet he
could comprehend their meaning, Saul was doubtless
lulled to sleep by her, or by some one who took her place,
SAUL'S EARLY LIFE.
with the Psalms of David. As his intellect dawned and
expanded, he had related to him all the wondrous stories
of God's people of old: how the patriarchs and kings
and prophets had lived and died. The father's teaching
was strengthened by reference to the good boys of
Hebrew history-the infant Samuel and the youthful
Josiah; and, if his impetuous, boyish nature went out
rather to more daring or adventurous heroes, it would
be sure to be pointed out to him, that strength and
bravery seldom prospered when directed against God's
own chosen people, who had been the especial objects
of His care and love, and were so still. In compliance
with a useful custom of the Jews,* as soon as he was
old enough his father sought out for him a trade-not
necessarily to follow as a means of livelihood, but as a
useful accomplishment that was honourable in itself,
and might some day prove of service. The goats of the
country furnished hair which, when made into hair-
cloth, or cilicium, proved an admirable material for
tents. The trade in this hair-cloth was very great, and
Saul was taught the art of weaving it. Saul's father,
a rigid Pharisee himself, brought up his son to feel
that, though they were living under foreign rule, and
had lost that glory and prestige that once belonged to
them, the Jews were still God's chosen people, and
that in His sight a Jew was dearer than a Roman or a
At about the age of thirteen the father decided that
his son's education should be completed at Jerusalem,
There was a Jewish proverb that said, He that teacheth
not his son a trade doth the same as if he taught him to be a
52 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
under the care of some teacher of the law. The boy
had often heard of the Holy City and of all the memorable
events of which it had been the scene; he had been
told of the festivals and of the crowds of pilgrims who
gathered at them, and he naturally looked forward to the
time when he should go up to Jerusalem. His father
sought out the best teacher that could be had, and
placed him under the care- of Gamaliel.
At that time the learned Jews, or rabbins, were
divided into two schools: the one founded by Hillel,
who made tradition of as much importance as the law;
the other by Schammai, who rejected tradition, and
taught only that which the law of Moses warranted.
The first of these schools was now the more influential;
it was presided over by Gamaliel, the grandson of
Hillel, a man as celebrated for the eminence of his
learning as for his pureness of life. Both these schools
were Pharisaic, but in the case of Gamaliel there was
an absence of that intolerant pride and prejudice, and
an honesty and candour most unusual among Pharisees.
This wise man has already been referred to, for it was
he who, by his judicious remarks, caused the liberation
of Peter and John.*
The Jewish doctors met together in the schools with
the students of the law.t The former discoursed and
See page 36.
t "At the meetings of learned men some passage of the
Old Testament was taken as a text, or some topic for dis-
cussion propounded in Hebrew, translated into the vernacular
tongue by means of a Chaldee paraphrase, and made the
subject of commentary; various interpretations were given;
aphorisms were propounded; allegories suggested; and the
SAUL AND GAMALIEL.
discussed among themselves, and were questioned by
the students whenever any difficulty arose.
The intercourse was free: the old men laid them-
selves out to benefit the young men; and the young
men, who were alive to the privilege, made the most of
such opportunities of storing their minds with some of
the wisdom of their teachers.
Thus did young Saul sit at the feet of Gamaliel;
and, apart from the public instruction he derived from
him, he probably had the advantage of private inter-
How long he remained at Jerusalem is uncertain;
but when he returned to Tarsus his convictions as a
Jew and as a Pharisee were greatly strengthened. In
his native city he would have frequent occasion to
display the learning which he had acquired in religious
disputation with other young men; and, as we may be
sure, from what we know of him afterwards, that his
intellect was keen, he would be able to hold his own
amongst his companions and associates.
Hence, when he came up to Jerusalem to take part
himself in the festivals, he would not be one to be lost
in a crowd. In the dispute which had arisen with
Stephen, Saul doubtless took a part, for those of the
synagogue of Cilicia were among the number; and we
opinions of ancient doctors quoted and discussed. At these
discussions the younger students were present, to listen
or to inquire, or, in the sacred words of St. Luke, 'Both
hearing them and asking them questions,' for it was a pecu-
liarity of the Jewish schools that the pupil was encouraged
to catechise the teacher. Contradictory opinions were ex-
pressed with the utmost freedom."-CoN:BEARE AND HowsoN,
vol. i. p. 57.
54 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
have seen that at the death of the martyr he figured
This, then, was the man who was now possessed with
a determination to exterminate the Christian believers.
Breathing out vengeance he went to the high-
priest for letters to take with him to Damascus,
in order that he might have authority to bring any
Christians whom he might find there, bound to Jerusa-
lem. The high-priest, delighted to secureso learned
and so zealous a man, furnished him with the letters;
and Saul set out, accompanied by attendants sufficiently
numerous to overcome force if any resistance were
He pushed on, probably on horseback; and at length
the white houses of Damascus gleamed before him in
the sunlight. It was midday, and the sun's rays came
down upon the travellers with scorching heat. They
should have found shelter under the shade of some
trees, or by the side of some cool stream, but Saul's
heart burnt even with a more fiery heat than did the
sun; and he was gloating over the destruction which he
should so soon be able to bring about, when, suddenly,
there shone around the travellers a light brighter than
the noonday sun. Saul fell to the ground, and then
heard a voice, saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutest
thou me?" He replied, "Who art thou, Lord?"
And the Lord said, "I am Jesus whom thou per-
secutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the
With all Saul's learning his heart had been in dark-
ness, and it needed this heavenly light to show him
how sinful his conduct had been. Then did he see
SAUL ON HIS WAY TO DAMASCUS.
that in persecuting the disciples he had been per-
secuting Jesus Himself, and then did he feel how hope-
less was his mission in opposing himself to Him.
Trembling and astonished, he cried, Lord, what
wilt thou have me to do ?" and the Lord replied,
" Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee
what thou must do."
Saul's companions and attendants, meanwhile, were
struck dumb with astonishment. They had seen the
light and had heard a voice, but could neither dis-
tinguish the Person who spake nor the words He
Saul arose from the ground and opened his eyes,
and lo he was blind.
He groped about with his hand, until his friends
saw that he had lost his sight, and then they led him on
How different an entry into the city from that which
Saul had anticipated !
Armed with power from the high-priest, he had pic-
tured the terror and destruction which he should pro-
duce; now he is led in through the city gate, a blind,
helpless traveller. Consumed with bigot's zeal he had
pushed on to the city in mad haste, eager for his
deadly work; now he had ceased to be a bigot.
He had determined to root out from Damascus
all faith in Jesus, by scattering those who believed
in Him; but before he arrived there he was met
by Jesus, and he entered the city-himself a humble
Damascus is, perhaps, the oldest city in the world.
From the time of Abraham, whose steward, Eliezer,
58 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
was born there,* it was celebrated in history as the
scene of many memorable events; whilst its size and
importance as a place of merchandise always gave it a
Even now it continues to be one of the finest cities
of Syria, with a population of between 120,000 and
Situated at the eastern foot of the Anti-Libanus
mountain, it is watered by two streams, Barrada and
Fiellel-the Abana and Pharpar of Scripture-which
invest it with a beauty few cities possess. Viewed
from afar, Damascus has been described resting
within the desert circumference, like an island of Para-
dise, in the green enclosure of its beautiful gardens."
Within the city, the effect is no less beautiful. Its
massive buildings of white stone, in the midst of well
cultivated gardens adorned with flowers, and cooled with
running streams or playing fountains, make Damascus
a place of enchantment.
But now this ancient city was to be rendered still
more renowned in its connection with that man who
was being led into it deprived of sight. Turning in to
the street called "Straight," a long, broad thoroughfare,
running from east to west of the city, they took Saul to
the house of one Judas.
Here for three days did Saul reside. Deprived of
sight, and therefore not able to see what was passing
around him, his mind turned its vision inwardly, and in
those long hours of darkness he doubtless reviewed his
past life. God, however, perhaps mercifully, kept his
* Gen. xv. 2.
soul from despondency by some glimpse or hint of
what his future life might be.
Saul took no food during the three days, but He
who had called him was his support and stay.
The residence of Saul in the city had created no stir,
but it was the subject of a vision to God's servant
Ananias, who lived at Damascus.
The Lord appeared to him, and said, Arise, and go
into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in
the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus; for,
behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man
named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him,
that he might receive his sight."
. Ananias replied that he knew what a persecutor this
man had been,-as if the Lord did not know that also;
but the Lord then silenced all objection by saying to
him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me,
to bear my name before the- Gentiles, and kings, and
the children of Israel: for I will show him how great
things he must suffer for my name's sake."
Rejoicing at the good news, that Saul was now one of
themselves, Ananias went at once to the house of Judas,
and sought him out. "Brother Saul," said he to him,
" the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the
way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest
receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."
Immediately there dropped from his eyes as it had
been scales. He received his former powers of sight,
and powers of spirit such as he had never had. He was
forthwith baptized; and then, taking food, he felt him-
self revived and strengthened.
AUL commenced his ministry at once by
going to the synagogue and preaching; and
when the people heard him proclaiming that
Christ was the Son of God, and remem-
bered that he had been instrumental in de-
stroying others who had so believed, they were
greatly amazed. The news soon spread, and
people crowded to hear him: both those who were
Christians, and those who had formerly looked upon
him as a champion in defending the "old religion.
When these latter heard for themselves that Saul was
indeed a Christian, they entered into disputation with
him; but, proving no match for him, who, always
naturally gifted, was now filled with the Holy Ghost,
they retired, confounded but not convinced.
Now it was that there occurred an interval in the life
of Saul about which nothing is known, and to which
the historian Luke does not even refer in the Acts."
He retired into Arabia for the greater part of three
years. Whether this retirement was to prepare him
for his great life work, or whether it was that he might
spread the gospel in parts where it was unknown, we
cannot tell; we may be sure that He who led him into
* Gal. i. 17, 18.
that retirement had His own wise purposes in view, and
that the time was well employed.
Saul returned to Damascus and to his work, until
at length the Jews were so exasperated, that one so cele-
brated should have become a Christian, and that he
should preach and discuss without any one of them
being able to gainsay him, that they determined on his
At this time Damascus was under the power of Are-
tas, king of Petra, and his officer, the ethnarch or
governor, was in charge of the city. The Jews were
sufficiently in favour with him to persuade him to help
them in their designs on the life of Saul. He supplied
soldiers from the garrison, who watched the city walls
night and day; the Jews themselves helping in the
work. The conspiracy was too extensive to remain a
secret, and it soon came to the ears of Saul and the
disciples. Selecting a somewhat unguarded part, and
favoured by the darkness of the night, they let down
Saul in a basket from a window that overhung the city
wall. When he safely reached the ground, the disciples
went away, thankful for the escape of their brother;
whilst he struck out at once for Jerusalem, some 150
miles to the south.
If his manner of entering the city had been so dif-
ferent from what he might have expectedit to be, surely
such a way of leaving it had never entered his imagina-
tion. But this was only one of the many things "he
When Saul arrived at Jerusalem, he sought out the
disciples;'but they, not having heard of his conversion,
2 Cor. xi. 32.
62 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
I I Tu namast-us fbz 4av-
Zmrrar uuxlev Atas the hdnug
hrept fbe ]Difig uf 1:410 Dma-
steues W44rk a g~arrisau, do-
siva-us fu appreheund Ime:
Auird tlur"44l a WivAaw
iu frbaslhet 1t s let xla=
lth txre Wall, atd eSpaired
his h4aud8.'-2 )gtahiafas
SAUL TN A TRANCE.
naturally were afraid to have anything to do with one
who had been to them the object of so much terror,
and the cause of so much persecution.
Barnabas, however, ever ready to act as the Son of
Consolation, quieted the disciples' fears, and took Saul
by the hand.
As he was a native of Cyprus, which was connected
in many ways with Cilicia, where Saul was born, he
might have known him in former days: and as a fellow.
countryman, he would be more ready to believe the
statement of Saul than the Jews.. Satisfied that the
Lord had indeed called him to the work, Barnabas led
him to Peter and James, and recorded all that had
happened since Jesus appeared to Saul in the way.
The apostles received him warmly; and after the first
natural restraint was over, they would talk together
hopefully of the future. The last time they had seeni
one another was probably at the stoning of Stephen;
now they met as apostles of the same Saviour. Very
tenderly would any reference be made to the death of
the proto-martyr, but they would recall his dying
prayer, and thank God that it had been answered so
soon, and that, pardoned of this and all his other sins,
Saul was now living for the same Lord for whom
But Saul could not be idle. He mixed with the
disciples, and took every opportunity of preaching
the word of life. He met the philosophers from Greece,
and disputed with them so successfully that, thinking
they could only silence him by killing him, they took
steps for that purpose. But that was not to be.
One day, as Saul was praying in the temple, he fell
64 THE FIRST HEROES O~ THE CROSS.
into a trance, when Jesus appeared unto him, and told
him, that in Jerusalem the Jews would not receive his
testimony concerning Him, but that he must depart and
labour amongst the Gentiles. This Saul told to the
disciples, and they took him down to Caesarea and
thence sent him to Tarsus.
He was now visiting his native place for the last time.
With what feelings would he wander through the scenes
of his earlier days 1 How strange it would be to him
to encounter his friends and relations! What a change
had come over him how little over them. How would
he desire them to believe on Jesus; and, apart from any
efforts in private, how earnestly would he labour in pub-
lic, preaching and disputing among his fellow townsmen.
Meanwhile, Peter was travelling about in various
directions, preaching the gospel, and encouraging those
who had already embraced it. Amongst the latter class
were some people of Lydda, a town about twenty miles
north-west of Jerusalem, whom Peter visited. Whilst
in the town, he met with a poor man named Eneas, who
was quite helpless with palsy, and had kept his bed for
eight years. Peter said to him, Eneas, Jesus Christ
maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed; when
lo immediately that poor palsied frame received new
life, and those feeble limbs new strength, and, springing
from that bed on which he had spent so many weary
hours, he proceeded at once to make it. What a labour
of love was that for him.! How delightful to feel his
frame pulsing with health What a blessing to think
that now he would be able to sleep at night with com-
fort, instead of tossing to and fro on his couch, from
whichhe had been unable to rise.
Many of his fellow-townsmen, and those from the
plain of Sharon beyond, came to see the subject of so
great a miracle; and as he would not fail to tell them
that it was Jesus who had made him whole, many
believed on Him forthwith.
About ten or twelve miles from Lydda was Joppa,
on the sea coast. It was of very ancient origin, and
had existed, at all events, from the time of Joshua.*
Here it was that Jonah came, when fleeing from God, and
here he embarked in that ill-fated ship which, through
his disobedience, was well nigh wrecked. The town is
prettily situated on a hill, which rises from the shore;
but, like many seaport towns, the houses close to the
sea are crowded together and inhabited by people who
get a precarious living. It was so at this time, doubt-
less: there were many poor people in the place, some
relatives of sailors who sailed from the port, the small
wages of whom could ill supply their families with food
in their absence; others, the widows and orphans of
those who had perished at sea. Poverty existed, too,
in other classes than the maritime, to be found easily
enough by any one who had the desire to relieve it.
Such an one was Tabitha, a good woman of Joppa,
whose Greek name was Dorcas.
With a heart full of love to the poor whom she met
but half clothed,-widows unable to clothe themselves
or their children,-she set to work employing her time
in making up suitable garments for thesepoor creatures.
She laboured so long and to such good purpose that,
when at length she was taken ill and died, there was
a great mourning in the town.
Josh. xix. 46.
66 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
She was not the only one who loved God, for there
were disciples who had, doubtless, helped her in her
work, and had told the poor of the love of Jesus, which
had prompted any efforts that had been put forth in
their behalf. The disciples had heard that Peter was
at Lydda-had doubtless heard of the palsied man
being healed; nay, Eneas may have used his new
powers of limb in walking over to Joppa, and thus
have told them himself. At all events, they sent two
men to Lydda, and requested Peter to come to them at
once. Peter lost no time in acceding to the request,
and when he arrived, he soon found in what esteem
Dorcas had been held. She had been laid in an upper
chamber, probably the largest room in the house, and
there, standing round her, were a number of these
poor widows, whose grief at her death was no less
sincere than their gratitude for her life, for they had
brought, in proof of her goodness and love, the gar-
ments that Dorcas had made for them.
Peter must have instantly thought of that memorable
occasion when he was present with his Master under
somewhat similar circumstances; but he must have
contrasted the difference between the sorrow that
was assumed then by those who were hired, and
that displayed now by those who sincerely felt it.
Still, as Jesus had done, so did Peter: he had the
room cleared, and, when alone, he knelt down and
prayed; then, turning to the body, he said, Tabitha,
Immediately she opened her eyes and sat up: then
Peter gave her his hand, lifted her up, and calling in
Mark v., and "Life of Jesus," p. 150.
RAISING OF DORCAS.
the widows and friends who had been waiting anxiously
outside the door, he presented her alive.
Great was the joy in Joppa that day, for the news
soon spread; and not only was there joy on account of
Dorcas, but many believed on Jesus and found for
themselves true happiness.
Little did this good woman imagine, when working
quietly at home and thinking of her Saviour, that He
would make her the instrument of so much usefulness,
and still less did she suppose that she would become
the subject of so much renown.
May we so live that, when we die, some at least will
feel our loss, and that our good deeds may live after us !
Interested in what he had seen at Joppa, Peter
tarried there many days. Some of the friends of
Dorcas, from gratitude, would have been delighted to
entertain Peter, as would others of the saints, but he
took up his abode with one Simon, a tanner. Peter
cared nothing for the occupation of his host, though
the trade was so despised that it was subject to certain
vexatious regulations, one of which was, that if before
a tanner was married he had concealed the nature of
his business, the marriage was void.
Now had the Churches rest throughout Judaea and
Galilee and Samaria. The Jews had of late been so
engrossed by a threatened violation of their temple,
that they ceased for a time to persecute the Christians.
Caligula, the Roman emperor, had ordered his statue
to be erected in the temple at Jerusalem, and on the
Jews objecting to so shameful a desecration of their
holy place, he had marched an army from Syria to
carry out his design. When the Jews saw that all
86 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
opposition was hopeless, they were filled with dismay,
and going out in vast numbers to meet the Roman
general, they prevailed on him to desist.
The time of peace which followed for the Churches
was blessed to them; "walking in the fear of the
Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Ghost," they greatly
N the history of the Christian
SChurch, this time of rest and
quiet was chosen by God as
the period of a great event.
Hitherto none had been bap-
tized but Jews, Samaritans,
and proselytes to Judaism;
but now henceforth the Gen-
Stiles were to be freely ad-
Smitted to the Church without
First becoming Jews, and
q- I / without, therefore, having to
- r observe circumcision or any
other part of the Mosaic law.
Like most truly great and
-.. important events this new era
was ushered in very quietly.
How little did the world know how great a blessing
was being inaugurated for it!
Away up in Casarea, some seventy miles north-west
of Jerusalem, lived a Roman soldier, named Cornelius.
Part of the Roman army consisted of the Italian band-
a force of about a thousand native Italian soldiers.
One hundred of these men were garrisoned at Caesarea,
70 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
under the command of Cornelius. He was a devout
man, who loved God himself and brought up his house-
hold in His fear: he was very liberal with his means in
doing good to the poor; and as, from his position, he
had much power and authority, he used them for the
good of those around him. One day, as he was engaged
in prayer-as was his daily habit-he saw in a vision an
angel of God coming to him. It was about the ninth
hour of the day-the Jewish hour of prayer-that is, at
three in the afternoon: a time, therefore, when he could
not be deceived by the mists and shadows of night.
The angel, addressing him, said, Cornelius, thy prayers
"and thine alms are come up for a memorial before
" God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one
" Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one
" Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea-side: he
" shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do."
When the angel departed, Cornelius called to him
two of his household servants, and a pious soldier who
waited on him, and he told them all that had hap-
pened. Rejoicing with their master that God was about
to bless him, they made their preparations at once,
and set out for Joppa, a distance of thirty miles.
On the next day, about noon, as the men drew near
to Joppa, Peter went up to the housetop to pray-a.
place suitable for retirement and meditation. Peter
felt very hungry and would have eaten food, but the
midday meal was not ready. He fell into a trance and
saw a vision: heaven appeared to him opened, and from
it was let down, as it were, a great sheet tied at the
four corners, and containing all manner of beasts and
birds and reptiles. Then he heard a voice addressed to
him, "Rise, Peter; kill, and eat." But Peter said,
"Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that
" is common or unclean."
Then the voice replied, "What God hath cleansed
that call not thou common." This was done three
times, and the vessel was received up again into
Whilst Peter was wondering what was intended by
this vision (for he well knew that God thereby meant
to teach him some important truth), the servants of
Cornelius had arrived, and were at the door, inquiring
for him. Before any message could be sent up to
Peter, the Spirit of God said to him, Behold three
"men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down,
" and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent
"them." Peter at once went down to the strangers,
and inquired the cause of their visit; and he must
have been rather surprised at their answer. They said,
72 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
" Cornelius the Centurion, a just man, and one that
" feareth God, and of good report among all the nation
" of the Jews, was warned from God by a holy angel
" to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of
"thee." Peter then felt that the explanation of his
vision was connected with that of Cornelius, and get-
ting some glimpse of the words, What God hath
cleansed, that call not thou common," he admitted the
strangers into the house and entertained them, lodging
them for the night. This, one would think, was only
ordinarily polite, after these men had travelled so far, but
the Jewish law forbade such association with Gentiles.
No doubt the meal which was set before the guests
was a plain one; but simple as was the fare, the act of
Peter sitting down with those Roman servants of Cor-
nelius was significant of a world-wide blessing. It was
the first breaking down of that middle wall of partition
which had kept the Jews as a nation specially favoured
of God. It was a type that the kingdom of heaven
was open to all believers," and that all men were to be
invited to sit down to the gospel feast.
Thus Peter began to interpret the vision. By the
Jewish law, animals were separated into clean and
unclean,* and the Jews themselves were separated from
every other nation, all others being, as it were, unclean
and unfit to associate with. But now Peter was assured
that all God's creatures were clean, and that henceforth
there were to be no exclusive privileges for the Jews,
but that the gospel was to be offered alike to all. As
Peter meditated for the rest of the day on this enlarged
* Lev. xi. 2-27; Deut. xiv. 3-20.
sphere for the gospel, and called to mind the parting
words of Jesus, how that repentance and remission of
" sins should be preached in His name among all
" nations, beginning at Jerusalem,"* he felt the time
had come for them to try and realise the greatness of
their work, and to carry out their Lord's design.
In this centurion, who was a Roman-a representa-
tive of the foremost Gentile nation-Peter saw fore-
shadowed the conversion of the Gentile world.
Next morning, Peter, accompanied by certain of the
brethren from Joppa, set out with the servants of the
centurion for Caesarea; and gladly did those devout
Romans hear from the lips of Peter, as they went along,
things concerning the kingdom of Christ. On the
following day, when they arrived, they found Cornelius
eagerly expecting them; and not only so, but he had
called together his kinsmen and friends, that they too
might hear the blessed words which he felt were in
store for them.
As Peter was entering the house, Cornelius fell
down at his feet to do him homage; but the apostle,
raising him, said, "Stand up; I myself also am a man."
Then Peter went in, and finding a company assembled,
said that it was not lawful for a Jew to defile him-
self by associating with people of other nations, but
that God had recently shown him that no man was
common in His sight, and therefore should not be in
the sight of any fellow-man. When Peter inquired
why he had been sent for, Cornelius narrated the story
of his vision, and concluded by saying that he and his
1 Luke xxiv. 47.
74 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
friends were assembled there to hear what message
God had for them through Peter.
The apostle, seeing that they were anxiously wait-
ing to hear the truth of God-whatever it might be-
preached unto them the gospel. He showed them
that God was no respecter of persons; but that
everywhere he that lived a holy life was accepted
through Jesus Christ. He told them what Jesus had
done; how He had suffered; and how He had appeared
to them after His resurrection; and that He had com-
manded them to preach to the people that through His
name whoever believed in Him should receive the
remission of their sins.
These Gentile people were ready to receive at once
the gospel message, which they now heard for the first
time, and, whilst Peter was speaking, the Holy Ghost
fell on all present, confirming in so sudden a manner
the truth of the apostle's words. They had the gift of
tongues conferred on them, and at once began praising
God in languages they had never learned. The Jewish
disciples who had come from Joppa were astonished at
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles, but they
could not gainsay the fact; then said Peter, Can any
"man forbid water, that these should not be baptized,
" who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we ? "
Of course there was no reason against it. God had
accepted these men in an especial manner, for they
received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized, and
not afterwards, as was usually the case, and those whom
God accepts surely men may not reject.
There is something very interesting about this cen-
turion: he had led so devout a life, he had long sought
PETER INDIGNANT WITH THE BRETHREN AT JERUSALEM. 75
God in the best way he could; he had ruled his
household in God's fear, so that his servants were
devout, and he had persuaded his friends to assemble
to hear the gospel, which had been blessed to their souls.
This holy man, this first Gentile convert now stands
before us, not so much as a captain of the Italian
band, as the foremost of a vast host who have followed
Jesus as their great Captain.
Bat the grace of God is so much fuller than that of
even the best of men. The apostles and brethren at
Jerusalem heard that the Gentiles received the word of
God, and instead of praising Him that His kingdom
was thus extending, they thought Peter had done very
wrongly in receiving Gentiles into their fellowship: a
proof, at all events, that the apostles never thought
him infallible, or looked upon him as divinely pre-
eminent. When he made his appearance at Jerusalem,
these brethren who still thought that the gospel was to
be confined to converted Jews, took him to task for
associating with, and preaching to, men who were un-
circumcised. Peter, respecting their prejudices, from
which he himself had so recently been freed, instead
of feeling very indignant (as he might have done),
that they should desire thus to restrain the grace of
God, told them of his vision, of the visit of the three
men to Cornelius, of his return with them to Caesarea,
and of the descent of the Holy Spirit. And then he
followed up this recital by saying to them, Foras-
"much then as God gave them the like gift as he
" did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ;
" what was I, that I could withstand God ?"
What indeed? This telling question put the matter
76 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROS8.
in a new light: they had nothing to oppose; and when
they saw that the work was the Lord's, they glorified
Him that He had granted to the Gentiles repentance
unto life. Still, all were not so far enlightened. Those
who were scattered at the persecution of Stephen, and
had gone as far as Phenice and Cyprus in the Medi-
terranean sea, and to Antiochin Syria, preached only to
the Jews wherever they went, not having heard of
Peter's vision, and not yet understanding that the
Gospel was for the whole world.
But there were some from the island of Cyprus, and
from Cyrene, a province and city of Libyan Africa,
who, whether they had heard of Peter's vision-or,
which is more likely, had not heard thereof-were
directed to preach the gospel to others than the Jews.
They came to Antioch, that city of ancient renown, but
now to be the scene of greater glories than it had
.- . -
-T,.NTIlCH wvas t.he c.tl:,r:, I
of:, n o yr" it S,' Ou,:' 'A' it 7 __
Greatest cities; perhaps,
next.to Rome and Alexandria, the chief city of the
world at that time.
It was built about 800 years B.C., by Seleucus Ni-
canor, the first Syro-Grecian monarch after Alexander
the Great, and called by him after the name of his
father Antiochus. Few monarchs have ever had so
great a passion for building; he seemed determined
78 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
that posterity should never forget his name and those
of his parents, for he built no less than nine Seleu-
cias," which he called after himself, sixteen cities which
he named after his father Antiochus, and six which
bore the name of his mother Laodicea.
But of all these, this Antioch was the most im-
portant. The site of the city was well chosen for a
capital. Situated on the Orontes river, which emptied
itself into the sea, it was, from its harbour of Seleucia,
in communication with Greece and the countries
washed by the Mediterranean; whilst from behind, it
was approached through the open country beyond
Lebanon by the caravans from the east; in the same
direction also access was had to the great rivers Eu-
phrates and Tigris.
The builder of so many cities was not likely to
neglect his own capital; so he adorned it with most
splendid buildings, both public and private. The
Orontes flowing through it was used to make it more
beautiful, and the well-known fertility of the soil
aided to render it indeed lovely. Running streams
and fountains, trees and gardens, fruit and flowers, set
off the masonry and architecture, and rendered Antioch
a most attractive place of resort. Accordingly, in
addition to those whom commerce brought to the city-
merchants from every land-it became the seat of
Greek learning and literature; and rich Romans, with
their pomp and luxury, came to reside there.
It is no wonder therefore that so agreeable a place
should have been the resort of pleasure seekers; and
so completely did its inhabitants give themselves up to
worldly enjoyment, constantly frequenting its. theatres
SUCCESS OP THE GOSPEL AT ANTIOCH.
and race-courses, and indulging in all kinds of luxuries
and vices, that at last it became noted as one of the
most depraved of cities.
But apart from its connection with either Greece or
Rome, Antioch possesses a deep interest for us.
In the waters of Orontes the great apostle Paul was
baptized; here Luke the evangelist was born; and
now events were to happen with which both of them
would be closely connected, the one as preacher and
missionary of the cross, the other as its historian.
It was very natural that these Grecian preachers
who had come to Antioch should wish to make their
brethren acquainted with the gospel; accordingly they
at once began to address them. The hand of the Lord
was with them, and though the Greeks knew nothing of
divine power, they could not but be struck with the
energy and force with which the disciples addressed
them, qualities so seldom met with at Antioch in
connection with the teaching of any religion. Nor did
they speak in vain; for a great many of their hearers
believed, and turned unto the Lord." They forsook
their old ways, turned from their heathen gods,-if
they had worshipped any,-turned from the frivolities
and amusements of that gay city, and gave themselves
up to the precepts and requirements of the new
This was indeed a triumph of the gospel; and so
important a one, that, when tidings of it came to
Jerusalem, the brethren there were amazed. That these
men from Cyprus and Cyrene, whose names are not
preserved to us, ordinary members of the Church at
Jerusalem, and having no official rank,-simply lay-
80 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
men,-that they should, of their own accord, have
gone to this gay city Antioch, of all places, and there
have preached the gospel to the uncircumcised Greeks
with great success, was indeed a wonderful event-
so much so, that the Church sent forth Barnabas to
Antioch, that he might satisfy himself as to the
genuineness of the work, and, if necessary, lend his
aid in carrying it on. The Church did well to send
Barnabas, for besides being a kind-hearted and judi-
cious man, he was himself a native of Cyprus, and,
if he did not actually know the disciples who had been
thus labouring so successfully, he would feel a great
interest in their work.
When Barnabas arrived, he was soon convinced of
the truth of the glorious news he:had-heard. He
" saw the grace of God,"-it was, s.o manifest in the
conversation and behaviour of the new converts, that
he was indeed rejoiced. He addressed the new dis-
ciples, and exhorted them to cleave unto the Lord, and
not to be led away by the temptations of their city,
nor by the persecution of their friends. Not only did
he confirm those who had already embraced the gospel,
but, by his persuasive preaching-for he was called
"the son of exhortation "-many others believed.
The work was now growing so rapidly that more help
was necessary; for, besides addressing the people in
public, the disciples had much to do in private, an-
swering questions, removing difficulties, giving, advice,
and generally looking after those who had so entirely
altered the course of their life as to need a great deal
Barnabas at once thought of Saul, who was now at
BELIEVERS FIRST CALLED CHRISTIANS.
his native place, and had been there for some time;
and setting out he travelled to Tarsus with all speed.
Saul was as much surprised as delighted when Bar-
nabas called on him. The last time they had met
was at Jerusalem, when Barnabas so kindly took his
friend by the hand, and succeeded in removing from the
minds of the brethren the suspicions with which they
How Saul had been employing himself in the mean-
time we are not told, though doubtless he spoke to his
friend of the subject. He could not fail to be inter-
ested in what Barnabas had to communicate, and in
the request he had to make, and he at once showed
his zeal for God, and his friendship for Barnabas, by
forthwith returning with him to Antioch.
There they laboured together for a whole year, until
they had formed the believers into a well-ordered
church, which they regularly instructed; whilst con-
tinuing to exhort those who were still unconverted.
At length the number of believers grew so great and
important as to draw on them much attention. The
philosophers and clever men ofAntioch were celebrated
for inventing names of derision, and for exercising
their wit in nicknaming any who made themselves
peculiar; and, as it was now well known in the city that
the followers of the true religion were always preaching
about Christ as their leader, they called them, now for
the first time, Christians.
Though ridicule was associated with the name at
first, we know it has become now the most glorious
name by which any of us can be known. Ever since,
it has represented all that was noblest in character,
THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
bravest in endurance, and grandest in enterprise; and
now far higher than the names of sect or denomination
to which we may belong, stands this glorious title
by which Christ's followers are everywhere known, and
which alone they will bear in His kingdom above.
This name of itself will invest the city of Antioch
with an interest for us, which mere grandeur or mag-
nificence would never have done.
So does God often make the ridicule, as well as the
wrath of man, to praise Him.
By-and-by, as news came up to Jerusalem of the pro-
gress of the Church, disciples and prophets found their
way there. One of these, Agabus, on whom the gift
of prophecy had been bestowed on the day of Pente-
cost, foretold that there should be a famine throughout
Judaea, which afterwards came to pass in the reign of
Claudius Caesar, in the year 44.
Then the conduct of the Church at Antioch must
have impressed their enemies with some idea of the
noble acts which God's Spirit always prompts, and
must have gone far to remove any prejudice which the
disciples at Jerusalem entertained against their Gentile
brethren; for as soon as they heard of the famine, every
disciple, without exception, contributed as much as his
means would allow towards the support of their poor
suffering brethren at Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas
were wisely chosen to take the contributions to the holy
city, and right gladly did they undertake the duty.
After they had fulfilled their ministry, for which they
were specially sent, they returned from Jerusalem, ac-
The Greeks say that he suffered martyrdom at Antioch,
and they have observed his festival.
DEATH OF JAMES.
companies by'John, whose surname was Mark. This
young man's mother, Mary, was sister to Barnabas, so
that it must have been very pleasant for the uncle and
nephew to be thus engaged in the same glorious work.
Whilst the Christians at Antioch were thus rejoicing
in their success, those at Jerusalem were plunged into
The king, Herod Agrippa, grandson of that Herod
the Great who had slaughtered the young children, *
seemed to have inherited the same cruel and pitiless
nature. He began a course of persecution, and soon his
wicked fury fell upon the apostles, hoping thereby the
more easily to rid the land of the new sect. He seized
James, the son of Zebedee, and brother of John, and
had him mercilessly put to death by the sword.t
Little did James himself or any of the apostles think
that their Master's promise to him would be so soon
fulfilled! He and his brother I had both declared they
were ready to drink of the cup which Jesus drank ; but
he then knew nothing of the cup of persecution which
would be prepared for them both.
James had been present at the transfiguration, and
had witnessed the ascension; but now he was taken to
see Jesus glorified, and to be with Him for ever.
The wicked Jews rejoiced at the death of the apostle,
as they had done at the death of his Master; and, when
Herod saw that his persecuting hatred was making him
popular, he determined to go on with his bloody work.
Matt. ii. 16.
t An ancient writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, says, that the
man who led James to trial was so struck by his firm behaviour
that he became a Christian and was himself beheaded.
+ Mark x. 35.
84 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
He next seized Peter, selecting him because he had
been very conspicuous, and had by his discourses made
himself very obnoxious to the Jews. Perhaps Herod
was induced by some of the Sanhedrim to select Peter
as the next object of his cruelty.
It was the time of the passover when he arrested
Peter and put him into prison. He would not bring
him for trial during the feast, as that would have dis-
pleased the Jews, who affected to keep their minds
free from all excitement during that holy week, that
they might worship God without disturbance. But
after the seven days, during which the feast lasted,
were over, and before the pilgrims from afar had dis-
persed homewards, Herod intended to bring Peter forth
and put him to death. During the week the king was
feeding himself on vanity with the thought of his in-
creasing renown, and the Sanhedrim and others of the
Jews were rejoicing at the thought that this bold and
obstinate apostle would now be silenced. But what
were the apostles themselves doing ?
With heavy hearts they sought each other's com-
pany, that they might, by mutual sympathy, solace
one another under their heavy trials.
James had been beheaded, and now Peter only
awaited a similar fate: the one was beyond the need
of all help, but God might yet deliver the other if they
The brethren and sisters met together continually,
and prayed that Peter might yet be spared to them
and to the Church, and scarcely an hour elapsed after
his arrest but some one was kneeling in prayer on his
PETER IN PRISON,
Peter, meanwhile, was in prison, securely guarded,
as the king vainly thought. To make his imprison-
ment doubly secure, and thus to show the Jews his
full determination to please them, he had four quater-
nions of soldiers-four guards of four each-appointed
to take charge of- the prisoner. These, by dividing
the twelve hours into watches of three hours, which
was usual with the Roman soldiery, would always
allow of four being on guard. Two of these watched
without the prison, and the other two were on duty
within, having their prisoner between them, chained
by one wrist to each of them.
Thus did Peter spend the days of the Passover, ex-
pecting that at their close the fate of James awaited
him, little knowing that prayer was being offered for
him continually, and still less that God would answer it.
The last night of the feast had come; on the morrow
Peter might be led forth to trial and death. But the
thought did not unnerve him; on the contrary, he
slept as sweetly as if he had been in bed at home,
instead of on the cold stones of a cheerless dungeon,
and as though he were tended by loved friends instead
of being guarded by stern soldiers. As an old writer
has said, he slept well, having a good cause that he
suffered for, and a good conscience that he suffered
with." With the approval of a good conscience, and
with God's smile, we can lay us down in peace and
sleep" anywhere, feeling sure that He maketh us
dwell in safety."
But deliverance was at hand, and he who was
thought to be so near his death would soon be free,
and would ere long hear of the death of his persecutor.
88 THE FIRST HEROES OF THE CROSS.
As Peter was sleeping, so soundly and so quietly
that his guards may have yielded to the unusual
drowsiness with which they were probably visited, a
bright light filled the prison, and then an angel ap-
peared, and touching Peter gently on the side, raised
him up, saying, "Arise up quickly." The chains fell
from his hands, and he was free from the custody of
the two soldiers. Peter, of course, had thrown aside
his outer garment whilst in prison, and had loosened
his inner one; the angel, therefore, said to him, Gird
"thyself and bind on thy sandals; cast thy garment
" about thee, and follow me." This Peter did: then the
angel led him out of the prison; he, meanwhile, not
realizing his deliverance, but fancying he saw a vision.
They passed the first guard,* and then the second,
who had stationed themselves at some little distance
from each other, the better to watch the door of the
prison; but now they, probably, like their companions,
were overcome with sleep. Then they came to the
massive iron outside gate, that was well bolted and
barred; but of its own accord this swung open before
them, and they were then out in the city. The angel
further led Peter through one street clear of the prison,
and then departed from him, leaving him to pursue
But not before he was conscious of his position.
By this time he understood that he had been miracu-
lously delivered, and as he gratefully realized the fact,
he said to himself, Now I know of a surety, that the
Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me
* This is the meaning of ward.
THE MEETING AT MARY'S HOUSE.
out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expecta-
tion of the people of the Jews:"
Where should he go at this time of night ? There
were many houses that would gladly welcome him;
but the house of Mary, the mother of John, whose
surname was Mark, the companion and kinsman of
Barnabas, was, probably, near at hand. To it, there-
fore, he at once went and loudly knocked, not sup-
posing that any one was awake at that hour.
But there were a great many awake within the
house, and for a good purpose. Earnestly as Peter's
friends had prayed for his deliverance ever since his
arrest, their anxiety had become intense on this the
night before his trial.
They had assembled at Mary's house in large
numbers, and had been engaged in prayer for some
time. One after another had prayed, and as each
hour went by, and the morrow came surely on, they
seemed not to be able to cease praying or to break
up their sad meeting. There was comfort in address-
ing their heavenly Father, who was able to save, even
though, as some were beginning to fear, He would
not see fit to do so. As the night advanced, and the
city was hushed in silence, they were startled by a loud
knocking at the door of the vestibule or porch. In-
stantly the hearts of some of the friends sank within
them. Mary's house was known as a house of meeting
for the disciples; it was suspected that some of them
would be assembled there, and now Herod had sent
his officers to arrest one of their number. However,
the knock must be answered, and a young girl, named
Rhoda, came to ask who was there. She was, pro-