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ever to all ages, as a part of His own word. Thus Almighty God, by His Spirit, guided the first historian of the Christian Church into the truth, and set the first history of the Christian Church among the holy Scriptures, that Christians in all ages might see in the Acts of the Apostles a model of Christian faith, of Christian discipline, and of Christian life; might know what is that apostolical doctrine and fellowship, in which it is our duty and privilege to continue stedfastly, even as it was the duty and privilege of the early Christians.
It is not until we reflect how entire a blank the first years of the Church would be to us, but for what is preserved to us in the Acts of the Apostles, that we in any due measure realize the value of the gift which God, by St. Luke, hath given to us. Only call to mind some few of the many subjects of this book, and thus learn to estimate its witness to the Christian faith and life, such as it once was. The descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost; the discourse of St. Peter, (the very first discourse preached in the Church of Jesus Christ;) the unity of the Church, when "they that gladly received His word were baptized, . . . and they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and
in breaking of bread, and in prayers. all that believed were together, and had all things common." The ordination, first of the deacons, and after, of the elders or priests; the martyrdom of St. Stephen; the mission of the apostles to confirm in Samaria by laying on of hands; Philip and the eunuch; the conversion of St. Paul; the call of Cornelius; the miraculous delivery of St. Peter from prison; the mission of Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles; and all that we read of St. Paul, his preaching, his labours, his journeys, his dangers. Such are some of the varied subjects of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It need not be said how greatly they confirm our faith as Christians and as Churchmen. Ours is thus shewn to be one with the Church of the holy apostles; to have the same faith, the same sacraments. Would that there were the same holiness of life, the same unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, the same love, the same charity, the same selfdenial, the same zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of man. That were to be apostolic indeed, not only to hold the faith which the apostles held, or to minister the sacraments which the apostles ministered; but to live as the apostles lived, to serve God with apostolic
service, to love the brethren with apostolic charity, to chasten ourselves with apostolic selfdenial.
And surely to look back to the inspired records of the early Church is our comfort and strength, no less than our duty. We yearn, it may be, for Christian sympathy, or we are cast down as we see so little signs and traces all around us of the Communion of Saints. We are tempted to faint and to despair; to murmur, it may be, because our lot hath not been cast in this or that age, in this or that branch of the Church; as if, in other circumstances, or with other means of grace, we could have discharged our Christian duties and perfected holiness, whereas now we are unable to do so. This is no doubt a common snare and device of our spiritual enemy, whereby to lead us to sloth and indifference: to sloth as regards our own progress in the spiritual life; to indifference as regards God's truth. And thus we too often go on to omit practical duties, grow careless as regards the exercises of self-discipline and self-denial, and lose our keen sense of the great need and necessity of even the least article of our Christian faith.
Now so far as this temper arises from a wrong and sinful despair, it may be a stay and comfort
to study the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ; to see there what we yearn after realized : purity of faith and purity of life; zeal for the truth, and fervent charity one towards another. Nor may it be without its use to see that there were trials and scandals even in those early days; 'murmurings," because some seemed to be 'neglected in the daily ministration" of alms; jealousy and distrust; and even estrangement for a time between eminent saints of God, such as St. Paul and St. Barnabas. Thus also God would have us to learn our lessons from the times and acts of the apostles; to lock for trials and offences; to be content, if so be, to be misunderstood and misinterpreted; in our acts of charity to meet with murmurings where we had looked for thankfulness; to be viewed with jealousy and suspicion where we feel that our wish and purpose is good and true. Thus may we learn our lessons from the acts of the apostles; our lesson of hope and our lesson of patience: hope for the future, when we see what the Church once was; patience under present trials and scandals, when we read of such in the Church even in her best and purest days, even when apostles were her teachers and rulers.
I have had occasion, in speaking of the other
evangelists, to discourse to you of the uses and blessings of the written gospel; therefore, in discoursing to you of St. Luke, I would turn our thoughts rather to that other book of holy Scripture which, through God's grace, we have received from him. May God give us grace to read the Acts of His holy Apostles, not carelessly, or in a spirit of curiosity, but seriously and solemnly, so as to draw from them their manifold lessons of faith, piety, and duty.
There is one, and one only, pattern for us to follow, the pattern of the early Church of Jesus Christ; when the words of the apostles of Jesus Christ were yet fresh in men's ears; when the graces of the Holy Spirit were shed abroad in men's hearts, and bore fruit in' men's lives. Our lot is cast in evil days: all around us is coldness and hardness of heart, unbelief, distrust, profaneness; men have rent asunder the one body of Jesus Christ, which is the Church; men deny the one faith, which was once (for all) delivered unto the saints; and they who should be one are estranged from each other; still there are times to which we may look back, earlier times of unity, purity, and peace, such as we read of in the Acts of the Apostles: there we may learn our lessons of faith, practice, disci