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punishment. They then returned to their own company, to whom they reported what the elders and chief priests had said unto them; upon which they all joined in solemn prayer to God; and, as a token that their prayer was heard, the place was shaken where they were assembled; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and spake the word with all boldness. The believers were so united in sentiment and affection, that they are said to have been of one heart and one soul: those that were rich sold their houses and lands, and brought the money to the apostles, who made distribution to every one according to their necessities.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira you well know: they wanted to appear as pious and well-disposed as others, but God, who knows the secret reserve of every heart, detected them, and made them an awful example of divine justice. May you, my dear children, detest dissimulation which leads to lying : for though there are none who have the power of imme diately discerning the heart, as the apostles had on certain occasions, yet remember that God sees you, and that no lie which can be told can be kept secrét from his all-searching eye; for though liars are not immediately struck dead, as Ananias and Sapphira were, yet, if they do not repent, they will, ere long, have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.
George. What other miracles did the apostles perform?
Aunt. They wrought a great many, the particulars of which are not specified: we are only told in general terms, that the people brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at least, the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them : there came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick persons, and those that were possessed: and they were healed every one. Thus accomplishing what our Lord promised, John xiv. 12, That they should do greater works than his. These miraculous cures excited great veneration in the people for the apostles, and tended to enlarge the kingdom of Christ : for there were numbers added to the church daily.
Lucy. What notice did the high priest and his associates take of the apostles'continuing to preach?
Aunt. They were filled with indignation that their late prohibition was disregarded by the apostles ; and they seized on them, and cast them into the common prison; but the Lord demonstrated that he had all power in heaven and earth. He that has the keys of death and hell, can unlock prisons when he pleases ; for he sent his angel, who opened the prison-doors, and set them at liberty, ordering them to go into the temple, and preach the words of eternal life.
Early in the morning, the apostles went into the temple, and taught the people. The high priest, not knowing of their escape, sent officers to bring them before the council; who, when they returned, reported that all was quiet in the prison, the guards on the watch, and the doors shut, but no man within. The Sanhedrim, upon hearing this, were filled with consternation; but one coming in, and telling them that the apostles were preaching in the temple, they
immediately sent officers to apprehend them. When they were brought before the council, the high priest accused them of filling Jerusalem with the doctrine of Christ, intending to bring his blood upon them. The apostles' defence, though pious and prudent, so enraged the high priest and the rest of the rulers, that they at first took the resolution to put them to death. Maria. And what diverted them from their
Aunt. One of their own council, a doctor of the law and a pharisee, a man of reputation in the city, whose name was Gamaliel, ordered the apostles to be put forth a little, and then advised the council to be cautious how they proceeded against those men; reminding them of false pretenders that had arisen, who, with their followers, had perished; adding, that if this work was of men, it would come to nought, but, if it was of God, they could not overthrow it: for, in that case, they would be found fighting against God. The force of these reasonings so far prevailed, that they changed the sentence of death for that of scourging: and then dismissed them, with a repetition of the former injunction. The apostles departed rejoicing, not that they had escaped death, but that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of their dear Lord and Master, whose gospel they still continued to preach,
Lucy. WHEN I came to reflect on our last conversation, I was astonished to think of the many thousands who had believed in Jesus in so very short a space of time.
Aunt. And they continued daily to increase, so that the apostles found it necessary to choose deacons; whose office should be, to take care of the church's 'stock, to distribute to the poor, visit the sick, and attend to all the civil affairs of the church. They chose seven : their names were Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenus, and Nicolus.
Stephen very much contributed to the progress of the gospel, being filled with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit; and he did great wonders and miracles. His zeal and diligence soon provoked the malice of the Jews, who selected the most learned men to dispute with him, out of the synagogues of the Libertines, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia, so named from the per. sons who founded them, or the places in which they were built. When they found that these men could not overcome him by argument, they hired false witnesses to testify that he had spoken blasphemous words against the holy place and the law: and they brought him before the council. As Moses' face shone when he came down from the mount of God, so did this holy man's before his accusers; for his face was like that of an angel. Being permitted to speak for himself, he took occasion, in a full historical deduction, to point out the treatment which the prophets and holy men of old had invariably received from their fathers; and was proceeding in the application, when, their consciences being stung by the severe truths he had uttered, they fell into the utmost rage and fury; but, amidst all this tumult, Stephen was favoured with a divine prospect of the glory of heaven, and, in a transport, cried out, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. This so exasperated the Jews, that they immediately raised a great noise and clamour, and, rushing upon him with one accord, hurried him out of the city, and stoned him. While the stones were showering down on this holy man, he was calling upon God, saying, Lord Jesus, re. ceive my spirit! And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge! And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Maria. I should not like such a sleep as that.
Aunt. Sleep, my dear, is a beautiful emblem of death. After a day of pain and toil, how welcome is sleep! though it is the image of death, instead of shrinking from it, we gladly embrace it, in a firm belief we shall awake again : so the christián, with the prospect of heaven before him, lies down in the arms of death, satisfied that he shall awake with God.
Lucy. Did any of the christians desert the cause of Christ through fear?
Aunt. We have no account that any one did; though a dreadful persecution ensued, and the most active person in it was Saul, who was born in a Roman city, called Tarsus in Cilicia, about three