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ing to the church, to lead them to avoid pretense and hypocrisy, and to beware of robbing God.
Not to the early church only, but to all future generations, this example of God's hatred of covetousness, fraud, and hypocrisy, was given as a dangersignal. It was covetousness that Ananias and Sapphira had first cherished. The desire to retain for themselves a part of that which they had promised to the Lord, led them into fraud and hypocrisy.
God has made the proclamation of the gospel dependent upon the labors and the gifts of His people. Voluntary offerings and the tithe constitute the revenue of the Lord's work. Of the means entrusted to man, God claims a certain portion,the tenth. He leaves all free to say whether or not they will give more than this. But when the heart is stirred by the influence of the IIoly Spirit, and a vow is made to give a certain amount, the one who vows has no longer any right to the consecrated portion. Promises of this kind made to men would be looked upon as binding; are those not more binding that are made to God? Are promises tried in the court of conscience less binding than written agreements of men!
When divine light is shining into the heart with unusual clearness and power, habitual selfishness relaxes its grasp, and there is a disposition to give to the cause of God. But none need think that they will be allowed to fulfil the promises then made, without a protest on the part of Satan. He is not pleased to see the Redeemer's kingdom on earth
He suggests that the pledge made was too much, that it may cripple them in their efforts
to acquire property or gratify the desires of their families.
It is God who blesses men with property, and He does this that they may be able to give toward the advancement of His 'cause. He sends the sunshine and the rain. He causes vegetation to flourish. He gives health, and the ability to acquire means. All our blessings come from His bountiful hand. In turn, he would have men and women show their gratitude by returning Him a portion in tithes and offerings,- in thank-offerings, in freewillofferings, in trespass-offerings. Should means 'flow into the treasury in accordance with this divinely appointed plan, - a tenth of all the increase, and liberal offerings, there would be an abundance for the advancement of the Lord's work.
But the hearts of men become hardened through selfishness, and like Ananias and Sapphira, they are tempted to withhold part of the price, while pretending to fulfil God's requirements. Many spend money lavishly in self-gratification. Men and women consult their pleasure and gratify their taste, while they bring to God, almost unwillingly, a stinted offering. They forget that God will one day demand a strict account of how His goods have been used, and that He will no more accept the pittance they hand into the treasury than He accepted the offering of Ananias and Sapphira.
From the stern punishment meted out to those perjurers, God would have us learn also how deep is His hatred and contempt for all hypocrisy and deception. In pretending that they had given all, Ananias and Sapphira lied to the lIoly Spirit, and
as a result, they lost this life and the life that is
.. anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.' Let truth-telling be held with no loose hand or uncertain grasp.
Let it become a part of the life. Playing fast and loose with truth, and dissembling to suit one's own selfish plans, means shipwreck of faith. “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.”: He who utters untruths, sells his soul in a cheap market. His falsehoods may seem to serve in emergencies; he may thus seem to make business advancement that he could not gain by fair dealing; but he finally reaches the place where he can trust no one.
Himself a falsifier, he has no confidence in the word of others.
In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the sin of fraud against God was speedily punished. The same sin was often repeated in the after-history of the church, and is committed by many in our time. But though it may not be attended by the visible manifestation of God's displeasure, it is no less heinous in His sight now than in the apostles' time. The warning has been given; God has clearly manifested His abhorrence of this sin; and all who give themselves up to hypocrisy and covetousness may be sure that they are destroying their own souls. * Rev. 21:27.
3 Eph. 6:14.
Before the Sanhedrim
It was the cross, that instrument of shame and torture, which brought hope and salvation to the world. The disciples were but humble men, without wealth, and with no weapon but the word of God; yet in Christ's strength they went forth to tell the wonderful story of the manger and the cross, and to triumph over all opposition. Without earthly honor or recognition, they were heroes of faith. From their lips came words of divine eloquence that shook the world.
In Jerusalem, where the deepest prejudice existed, and where the most confused ideas prevailed in regard to Him who had been crucified as a malefactor, the disciples continued to speak with boldness the words of life, setting before the Jews the work and mission of Christ, His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Priests and rulers heard with amazement the clear, bold testimony of the apostles. The power of the risen Saviour had inThis chapter is based on Acts 5:12-42.
deed fallen on the disciples, and their work was accompanied by signs and miracles that daily increased the number of believers. Along the streets where the disciples were to pass, the people laid their sick “on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by night overshadow some of them.” Here also were brought those vexed with unclean spirits. The crowds gathered round them, and those who were healed shouted the praises of God, and glorified the name of the Redeemer.
The priests and rulers saw that Christ was extolled above them. As the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection, heard the apostles declaring that Christ had risen from the dead, they were enraged, realizing that if the apostles were allowed to preach a risen Saviour, and to work miracles in His name, the doctrine that there would be no resurrection would be rejected by all, and the sect of the Sadducees would soon become extinct
. The Pharisees were angry as they perceived that the tendency of the disciples' teaching was to undermine the Jewish ceremonies, and make the sacrificial offerings of no effect.
Hitherto all the efforts made to suppress this new teaching had been in vain; but now both Sadducees and Pharisees determined that the work of the disciples should be stopped, for it was proving them guilty of the death of Jesus. Filled with indignation, the priests laid violent hands on Peter and John, and put them in the common prison.
The leaders in the Jewish nation had signally failed of fulfilling God's purpose for His chosen people. Those whom the Lord had made the de