Sitting in a semicircle, the Sanhedrin saw only half way round the question of right. So they commanded Peter and John not to speak and teach in a certain Name. This was because it would surely seem as if they must have been in the wrong in their idea of religion if the apostles were right. For by the religion of the apostles great signs were given, while with their religion there was only discussion of nice points of Mosaic law.
At first when great spiritual truths are presented only a few can see them. Those few are always fired by those truths with boldness to speak them, which is wonderful. Truth is a fire that burns by itself. The only fuel it needs is words. Keep on speaking or thinking as we are led and the fire keeps on burning. One has to tell the strongest and fiercest ideas he has in his mind in order to get wholly on fire. There are some fierce truths under the cover of these simple texts of Acts 4:19-31, which will kindle a wonderful flame of immortal light and beauty within us if we will read them.
The first is that no one ever needed to be taught anything. The highest doctrine of the archangels is known to the roughest human mind. They are closed pages or open ones, according as he expresses what he knows or keeps still.
To open a class with the knowledge that everyone knows exactly as much as the teacher will help the teacher to express himself more powerfully. Peter and John spoke out the folded judgment of the Sanhedrin. It is only clasping the covers down on a wonderful book when people talk about colds and coughs, and cheating. These things not being true will not kindle that wonderful fire which such words as eternal health, immortal safety, everlasting increase, will kindle.
The Sanhedrin knew exactly what was right. They did not express it. The apostles did express it, and at once, the Sanhedrin let them go. Even a horse will not hurt you if you tell him what is right. A lady was telling of how she spoke to a runaway horse about obeying God and not fear, and her idea stopped him at once. Another was telling of speaking to a tramp who has seized her, about the God of right not letting him do any harm, whereupon he suddenly let her go and ran away. Both those ladies thought the ideas silently within their own minds. It was appealing to what the beast and the man both knew in common. Even the stones know what is right and will give us our freedom if we speak to them. The intelligence of right is everywhere and in everything. Intelligence is Omnipresent. What shall we do to make the beasts and the stones do the right they already know? Speak to them. “Without the word nothing is made” manifest.
And when once we begin to speak what is right and true, there is no stopping our utterance. It keeps getting fiercer and hotter till the houses are shaken where we are speaking. The earth that seems so immovable shall itself “reel to and fro like a drunker man,” saith the Scripture, when everyone speaks forth what he has kept silent about so long.
The Indian whispers to his pony and he speeds like the wind. What does he tell him? He speaks to that intelligence that is more fleet than light and it lifts the willing limbs to fly to the rocks of protection. The jockey in the Country Fair has unwittingly given the secret of making the prize horse. He told him that he must win, for the family needed the money with which to get out of debt. The love in the horse is God. Is anything too hard for love? Intelligence is love.
The apostles only spoke just Truth enough to set themselves free. They might have spoken enough to set the Sanhedrin free. Why did they not speak so much? Just as Jesus Christ said, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”
Intelligence as to what is exactly right always blunts the intelligence of what is wrong. Have you never been surprised when acting innocently and in good faith to see how many ideas people would hunt up to devise against you? “Lying in wait for the righteous to condemn them for a word.” But when their judgment is appealed to be your knowing exactly what is right they cannot think of another thing, and what they have said of evil falls into nothingness, is forgotten. Lies are nothing. Evil devices are nothing. They fall of their own weight if you hold fast to your knowledge of what is right.
“Right is right as God is good,
And right the day will win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.”
Because the apostles knew in their hearts, and the Sanhedrin knew in their hearts, and it was spoken very definitely, the Sanhedrin could not think of a single other thing to do by which to hurt the apostles. So they let them go.
There will come a time when your enemies cannot think of another thing against you. And what they have already devised will not count against you. It will be something for them to work out of themselves. History records that this Sanhedrin and the Roman emperors and high officers who persecuted the Christians all met most horrible fates. What was such a sequel the sign of? Simply of not expressing what was right. What is this law of hardship and suffering which causes the silence as to what mankind knows to be right? It is the law of shadows. As the darkness gets darker when the sun is hidden by the earth, so the hardship gets harder when the expression of what we know is hidden. We must either speak boldly or think loudly what we know is right.
You will notice that the apostles never took any credit to themselves for having cured a man over forty years old of a congenital deformity. They took it as much for granted that the name Jesus Christ would work through them to heal as that the man Jesus Christ had worked healing. They had easy faith for healing. They had not such easy faith for their own defense, however, and were utterly astonished that their appeal to the judgment of the Sanhedrin had set them free. Just as soon as they arrived at a place in mind where they would expect to be kept as free from danger as they were to be full of healing power, they would get easily out of every kind of danger and would absolutely escape martyrdom.
Evidently, the apostles never had the confidence in their doctrine to defend them that they had to support and heal them. That they were finally martyred is evidence that they had no great faith in God as absolute safety.
Here they convened together to give thanks unto God for all that had been done and to ask for still further help. We cannot ask too greatly of the Spirit of God. The only fault is that we do not ask enough. We often say: “All I ask is for just enough to do this or that.” That sort of an idea is worse than not asking anything. It carries the idea of limitation. It is an intimation that God is so stingy that He will be pleased at our asking so much less than He expected we would draw upon Him for. Whoever has made such an expression had very economical, miserly people around him when he was young. He is “about forty years old” in ankle twisting, like this man Peter and John healed.
The apostles here asked for the most stupendous gifts. They asked that wonderful signs might be given them that the whole earth might know they were right.
Before they stated exactly what they wanted, they described the character, and nature and works of their God. This was fuel to the fire of their spirit. We can see by this principle of describing in such glowing and extravagant language the nature and office of their spirit, that the same principle operates when we describe evil. There is but one principle. Principle means unvarying and logical sequence. The unvarying logical sequence of describing the power of God in the very highest and most majestic language the mind can bring forth, is to set fire more and more to our spirit within us until it makes outside things obey us exactly. Hezekiah won a mighty battle by first describing his God mightily. The reformers have increased pauperism and crime by describing these things as “terrible,” “enormous,” “fearful,” “increasing.” This talk feeds their belief and outside things have to act it out. The same principle holds good in everything. There is but one principle. The same principle operates with the prizefighter as with the preacher of righteousness. One thinks highly of his strength and the other thinks powerfully of Satan one moment and of God the next. Each meets in life what he describes.
There is your son; you look at him with a miserable regret that those bad boys have such a hold on him. They come into your mind as terrible. When you speak of them, you tell how strong their influence is. This way of thinking and speaking has to show out. Do you hear that voice near you saying, “Look unto Me”? (Isaiah 45-22) Turn and describe Jesus Christ as having all the power in creation. Tell what a mighty influence the Jesus Christ this moment is exercising over and in and through your boy. Rise higher and higher in your magnifying. These words will have a sequence; that sequence, still another. On with the praise of the Omnipotent Jesus! The very house may shake when you are talking to that Presence.
Now, where is the power of two, or four or nine boys over your boy? Nowhere. And those boys, are they bad as you thought? No, by no means! They suddenly take new turns – take to study, to trades, to thinking. You were utterly responsible for all they seemed to do before by not describing them as Jesus Christ saw them. Swedenborg says the angels looking at us see only our virtues — our faults are blank to them.
“But,” you say, “the boys were bad before I saw them as bad.” Because you saw what someone else had thought, you caught a memory that had followed them around from somewhere or someone. Why did you not have stamina enough to think for yourself instead of picking up other people’s notions?
The fifth affirmation of Science would be a good one for you to hold often: “I am governed by the law of God, and cannot sin, cannot suffer for sin, nor fear sin, sickness or death.”
This principle is God. It rules everything. Describe yourself, keep on describing yourself, and you will become externally just what you describe. Many people are poorly thought of by their neighbors because they once used to describe themselves as less thought of than someone else – or less successful than someone else. Other people feel their self–description. For one to say, “I am prosperous and powerful and strong and great,” is to give every thought in his mind a chance to enlarge itself. The slumbering malice of his nature may rise right up and appropriate that, “I am powerful and strong,” and all his virtues may stand back in amazement. So do his neighbors when his malice gets to acting out. Here is when the name Jesus Christ is the Savior. Malice cannot get any hearing at all – it is converted into love by the name Jesus Christ. These apostles described their God nobly as Creator and Governor and Keeper, but they said that all their noble description applied to God as the Jesus Christ of man, the meek and mighty lover of all people, seeing in them all nothing to condemn.
This trait lies very low, very deep, very hidden in mankind. It must be warmed out of its hiding place in us by the most brilliant and glorious description we can make. To the Jesus Christ in the world, to the Jesus Christ in each mind — hidden but living — SPEAK!
This is “Jesus Christ in you the hope of Glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
Not till after many of these wonderful descriptions of Spirit did the mighty signs follow the apostles. They increased in power, and strength and wisdom daily. They became – filled and blazing with spiritual power. They became the increasing successes of the world. They would not have been known as anyone, and today would have been as unknown as were their cousins and grandfathers, had it not been for their describing God as Jesus Christ.
Emerson tells us that largeness of influence, and largeness of power, is demonstrated only by the healthy constitution. Eric is capable of reaching Newfoundland because he has just such a store of energy and health, of mind and body; but Biorn and Thorfin will – sail farther and reach Labrador and New England because their store of power is greater. Without the doctrine of Jesus Christ in you might be a Boswell; with it you might be a Shakespeare of originality and grandeur. Without this character within you warmed into shining appearance, you might be a whining invalid. With the description of this hidden glory within you, wooed forth into the splendor of its highest demonstration, you are King of kings and Lord of lords.
Elisha described God mildly and sweetly. He went about his prayers as modestly as a simple girl. His healing power, his comforting force, ceased with his martyrdom. But Jesus — “I am the Light of the world,” (John 8:12) “I am with you always” (Jeremiah 42:11) — the Life of the ages. The dead of the misty past shall rise and walk in his Life. The living and the dead of the momentous present may be healed and rise triumphant now into glorified Life; future nations and armies are destined to live and transfigure in the light of His Name.
And all who know only the Jesus Christ power and purpose within themselves shall be Jesus Christ. For we are that which we know and we do that which we are. Therefore, knowing only Jesus Christ, we are that character, and being that character we do His works.
He, to whom the principle of meekness and majesty, non condemnation and nonresistance, exhibited by Jesus Christ seems far off and almost impossible because of education or personal traits, must call himself into the circle out of his half-exposed powers of trust to the Name without reasoning why, till the power of it breaks forth some day.
“The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My Name,” (John 14:26) is the final victory for which the soul longs, and presses to demonstrate. All the earth was made to be under our feet — not by strife and competition, but by the easy faith of the soul in its right to dominion. No other way ever marked out has the soul’s acquiescence save that which is herein taught by this chapter. Knowing this will win – who shall hesitate to undertake to cast himself into that trust in it, which the apostles showed forth? Who will hesitate to cast himself into an infinite trust in it, far out of the reach of that trust of the apostles? Who is afraid to trust his life, his talents, his powers, his time, his money, his reputation, to this Spirit of Love and Power and Light, knowing no other name, no other object, no other friend or foe, time or circumstances, save it alone?
In the last days of confidence in material things the Angel or Spirit shall stand in the sun proclaiming to mankind that all things have the spirit of wisdom lying deep waiting our praises to spring forth into loving obedience.
The Sanhedrin forbids us to teach that all things are filled with intelligence, and can understand our speech. The hard Sanhedrin itself yielding to speech is demonstration against its beliefs. If that fossilized body could dissolve from its sternest purpose by an appeal to its judgment, even the hardest of stones may melt into milk for our refreshment.
Disease, age, death, and poverty — these will yield up their treasures. Buddha, the wise, caught a hint of this doctrine: “I now will seek a noble law unlike the worldly methods known to man. I will oppose disease, and age and death, and strive against the mischief wrought by these on men.
It is a fierce truth to tell, but it is fuel to the fires of power when we say that there is as much intelligence in the rock as in the brain of man – in the fly as in the archangel – for intelligence is Omnipresent, Omnipotent God – absent from nothing in majesty, love, and responding kindness.
The two are dropping great secrets to them that believe in their wisdom. The stars are letting fall the words, men have waited for ages to hear. They promise, and teach and foretell. The commonest things are not what they seem. They are God in their substance, God in their wisdom, God in their love. There is no place, where there is more God than another. “If I make my bed in hell, Thou art there.” (Psalms 138:8) Believest thou this? To believe it is life and the power of the Holy Ghost. There is nothing so joyous to believe as that all is God.
August 7, 1892