Page images

suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.


[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

THE writer of the Acts of the Apostles sets forth, in his introductory sentences, that the book is meant to be a continuation of a “former treatise.” It is addressed to a certain “Theophilus," and since, among the other books of the New Testament, the third Gospel is written to a person of the same name, it is natural to take these compositions to be the work of the same author, and the unvarying tradition of antiquity has ascribed both works to St Luke. Leaving however, for the present, the consideration of this tradition, and turning to the contents of the book, we find that the author describes his earlier work as a “treatise of all that Jesus began both to do and teach until the day in which He was taken up” (Acts i. I, 2). This description accords exactly with the character and contents of St Luke's Gospel, and, moreover, the opening sentences of the Acts are an expansion and explanation of the closing sentences of that Gospel. They define more completely the “promise of the Father" there mentioned, they tell us how long the risen Jesus remained with His disciples, they describe the character of His communications during the forty days, and they make clear to us, what otherwise would have been difficult to understand, viz. how it came to pass that the disciples, when their Master had been taken from them, “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke xxiv. 52). When we read in the Acts of the two men in white apparel who testified to the desolate gazers that the departed Jesus was to come again as He had been seen to go into heaven, we can comprehend that they would recall His words (John xiv. 28),

“I go away and come again unto you. If ye loved me ye would rejoice because I said, I go unto the Father," and that they would be strengthened to act upon them.

Thus, from the way in which this second account of the Ascension supplements and explains the former brief notice in the Gospel, it seems natural to accept the Acts as a narrative written with the purpose of continuing the history of the Christian Church after Christ's ascension, in the same manner in which the history of Christ's own deeds had been set forth in the Gospel. Now the writer declares that his object in the first work had been to explain what "Jesus began to do and teach.” He had not, any more than the other Evangelists, aimed at giving a complete life of Jesus, but only an explanation of those principles of His teaching, and those great acts in His life, on which the foundations of the new society were to be laid. If then the second book be meant to carry on the history in the same spirit in which it had been commenced, we shall expect to find in it no more than what the disciples began to do and teach when Jesus was gone away from them. And such unity of purpose, and consequently of treatment, is all the more to be looked for because both books are written to the same person.

That the Acts of the Apostles is a work of this character, a history of beginnings only, will be apparent from a very brief examination of its contents. We are told by the writer that Christ, before His ascension, marked out the course which should be taken in the publication of the Gospel. “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” Taking these words for his theme the author directs his labour to shew in what manner the teaching of the Apostles was begun in each of these appointed fields of labour, and he does no more. He mentions the eleven Apostles by name at the outset, to imply thereby that each one took his due share in the work, of evangelization, though it will not come within the historian's purpose to describe that share. And with like brevity he relates how the Apostolic band was completed by the election of Matthias into the place of Judas. This done, he turns to his proper theme,

« PreviousContinue »