THE ACTS, III.
you denied him against the face of Pilate," (so Dr. Hammond,) "in defiance of his reasonings with you." (Pilate had determined to let him go, but the people opposed it, and over-ruled him.) "You were worse than Pilate, for he would have released him, if you had let him follow his own judgment. You denied the Holy One, and the Just, who had approved himself so, and all the malice of his persecutors could not disprove it." The holiness and justice of the Lord Jesus, which are something more than his innocency, were a great aggravation of the sin of those that put him to death. (3.) "You desired a murderer to be released, and Christ crucified; as if Barabbas had deserved better at your hands, than the Lord Jesus; than which a greater affront could not be put upon him." (4.) You killed the Prince of life. Observe the antithesis: "You preserved a murderer, a destroyer of life; and destroyed the Saviour, the Author of life. You killed him who was sent to be to you the Prince of life, and so not only forsook, but rebelled against, your own mercies. You did an ungrateful thing, in taking away his life, who would have been your Life. You did a foolish thing, to think you could conquer the Prince of life, who has life in himself, and would soon resume the life he resigned."
3. He attests his resurrection as before, ch. 2. 32. "You thought the Prince of life might be deprived of his life, as any other prince might be deprived of his dignity and dominion, but you found yourselves mistaken, for God raised him from the dead; so that in putting him to death, you fought against God, and were baffled. God raised him from the dead, and thereby ratified his demands, and confirmed his doctrine; and rolled away all the reproach of his sufferings, and for the truth of his resurrection, we are all witnesses."
4. He ascribes the cure of this impotent man to the power of Christ; (v. 16.) His name, through faith in his name, in that discovery which he hath made of himself, has made this man strong. He repeats it again, The faith which is by him hath given him this soundness. Here, (1.) He appeals to themselves concerning the truth of the miracle; the man, on whom it was wrought, is one whom ye see, and know, and have known; he was not acquainted with Peter and John before, so that there was no room to suspect a compact between them; "You know him to be a cripple from a child. The miracle was wrought publicly, in the presence of you all; not in a corner, but in the gate of the temple; you see in what manner it was done, so that there could be no juggle in it; you had liberty to examine it immediately; and may yet. The cure is complete, it is a perfect soundness; you see the man walks and leaps, as one that has no remainder either of weakness or pain." (2.) He acquaints them with the power by which it was wrought. [1.] It is done by the name of Christ, not merely by naming it as a spell or charm, but it is done by us as professors and preachers of his name, by virtue of a commission and instructions we have received from him, and a power which he has invested us with; that name which Christ has above every name; his authority, his command, has done it; as writs run in the king's name, though it is an inferior officer that executes them. [2.] The power of Christ is fetched in, through faith in his name, a confidence in him, a dependence on him, a believing application to him, and expectation from him, even that faith which is δἰ ἀυτοῦ—by him, which is of his working; it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of Christ; and it is for his sake, that he may have the glory of it; for he is both the Author and Finisher of our faith. Dr. Lightfoot suggests, that faith is twice named in this verse, because of the apostles' faith in doing this miracle, and the cripple's faith in receiving it; but I suppose it relates chiefly, if not only, to the former. They that wrought this miracle by faith, derived power from Christ to work it, and therefore returned all the glory to him. By this true and just account of the miracle, Peter both confirmed the great gospel-truth they were to preach to the world—that Jesus Christ is the Fountain of all power and grace, and the great Healer and Saviour; and recommended the great gospel duty of faith in him, as the only way of receiving benefit by him. It explains likewise the great gospel-mystery of our salvation by Christ; it is his name that justifies us, that glorious name of his, The Lord, our Righteousness; but we, in particular, are justified by that name through faith in it, applying it to ourselves. Thus does Peter preach unto them Jesus, and him crucified, as a faithful friend of the Bridegroom, to whose service and honour he devoted all his interest.
III. He encourages them to hope that, though they had been guilty of putting Christ to death, yet they might find mercy; he does all he can to convince them, yet is careful not to drive them to despair. The guilt was very great, but,
l. He mollifies their crime by a candid imputation of it to their ignorance. Perhaps, he perceived by the countenance of his hearers, that they were struck with an exceeding horror, when he told them that. they had killed the Prince of life, and were ready either to sink down, or to fly off, and therefore he saw it needful to mitigate the rigour of the charge, by calling them brethren; and, well might he call them so, for he had been himself a brother with them in this iniquity; he had denied the Holy One, and the Just, and sworn that he did not know him; he did it by surprise; and for your parts, I know that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers, v. 17. This was the language of Peter's charity, and teaches us to make the best of those whom we desire to make better. Peter had searched the wound to the bottom, and now he begins to think of healing it up, in order to which it is necessary to beget in them a good opinion of their physician; and could any thing be more winning than this? That which bears him out in it, is, that he has the example of his Master's praying for his crucifiers; and pleading in their behalf, that they knew not what they did. And it is said of the rulers, that if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. See 1 Cor. 2. 8. Perhaps some of the rulers, and of the people, did therein rebel against the light and the convictions of their own consciences, and did it through malice; but the generality went down the stream, and did it through ignorance; as Paul persecuted the church, ignorantly, and in unbelief, 1 Tim. 1. 13.
2. He mollifies the effect of their crime—the death of the Prince of life; this sounds very dreadful, but it was according to the scriptures, (v. 18.) the predictions of which, though they did not necessitate their sin, yet did necessitate his sufferings; so he himself saith, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer. You did it through ignorance, may be taken in this sense; "You fulfilled the scripture, and did not know it; God, by your hands, hath fulfilled what he shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer; that was his design in delivering him up to you, but you had views of your own, and were altogether ignorant of that design; you meant not so, neither did your heart think so. God was fulfilling the scripture, when you were gratifying your own passions." Observe, It was not only determined in the secret counsel of God, but declared to the world many ages before, by the mouth and pen of the prophets, that Christ should suffer, in order to the accomplishment of his undertaking; and it was God himself that shewed it by them, who will see that his words