ACTS v. 38, 39.
“Refrain from these men and let them alone. for if this
counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if
it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even
to fight against God.”
THESE words of Gamaliel have been lauded on the one
hand as the very embodiment of deep and mature wisdom;
and on the other have been stigmatized as the utterance
of a mean and time-serving selfishness, which waits till the
fortune of parties is decided, and then casts in its lot with
Whatever judgment we pass upon the character of
Gamaliel, there can be but one opinion as to the soundness
of his reasoning. We may suppose that the Holy Spirit
presided over this good counsel of Gamaliel—the most
favourable that could have been given for the infant Church.
I. The success of the Gospel of Christ is an argument
for its Divine origin.
1. The success of the Gospel has been wide and exten-
sive. The spread and hold of the Gospel is a truly won-
derful fact, when we consider its scanty beginnings, and
forlorn prospects. From the number of one hundred and
twenty, its nominal adherents have multiplied into many
2. This success has been inward and radical. Its works
praise it in the gates. The men whom it raises up have
a stamp truly Godlike. Compare the martyrdom of
Socrates with that of Stephen and you will say that while
the face of the one shines like that of a man, the face of the
other shines like that of an angel.
3. This success is prolonged and renewed. The vitality
of Christianity is most impressive—often dying but it is not
II. Some objections to this argument.
1. False religions have had great success in the world.
But the spread of these false religions has been far more
limited than that of Christianity, and they have had no
2. Christianity has not become universal. Had all men
become Christians, it is urged, we would have acknow-
ledged the finger of God. But this would limit the power
of God, and would suppose that He cannot reveal Himself
to one without revealing Himself to all.
III. Some inferences which follow from the success of
1. It is a tribute to Christ’s glory.
2. It is a source of comfort to the Church.
3. It is a motive of conversion to the unbeliever. There
is nothing so mournful as to be at once on the wrong, and
on the losing side.
John Cairns, D.D.