"Go, stand and speak in the temple"
In the fifth chapter of Acts is given an account of Peter's healing work, an account which contains a demonstration of understanding that is among the greatest recorded as having been performed by the apostles. It states that the multitude "were healed every one," and that the effect of this wonderful work upon that entire community was very great. So great was the impression made upon the people of that time that the record goes on to say the indignation or envy of the sect of the Sadducees was excited, and they placed the apostles in the common prison. The Sadducees were then the so-called aristocracy of the church, opposed to the Pharisees' methods and doctrines, believing neither in the resurrection nor in any teaching which did not definitely originate with Moses. It will be seen how eagerly such a mental state would seek to restrain, and even imprison, those who expressed such spiritual understanding and demonstrated such power to heal as did Peter and the other apostles.
But the thought that could serve in such healing work is necessarily receptive to the angel-thought that would free the prisoner; and so the Scripture says, "The angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." The prompt obedience of the apostles was followed by more teaching in the temple and by a repetition of the Sadducees' attempt to stop the work, by the wise counsel of Gamaliel, the Pharisee, and by the release of the apostles after suffering violent persecution, but not death.
There are many wonderful lessons in this experience which may be an inspiration and comfort to every Christian Scientist. Among the more helpful ones is the lesson to be gained from the angel's words, "Go, stand and speak in the temple." Even as the angel of the Lord came to those prisoners in the night, so is the same angel bidding us daily leave the prison of erroneous thinking and "go, stand and speak in the temple." It may be that we, too, sometimes experience the "darkness; doubt; fear," which Mrs. Eddy says on page 592 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" constitute the belief of night. But, even so, right there in the night stands our angel. And when we contrast the atmosphere of the temple, "the superstructure of Truth; the shrine of Love" (ibid., p. 595), with the atmosphere of our false imprisoning beliefs, we should be only too glad to enter into the temple "early in the morning," as did the apostles. Once there, our efforts along the line of good activity must bring our ultimate release and our increased usefulness, as surely as it brought those merited rewards to Peter and his companions.
As the angel presented their course of action to the apostles, there were three forms of procedure to be observed. They were to go, to stand, and to speak. It would be well were we, too, to follow such directions. First, we need to go. Obviously, if we would be active in the temple of God, we must first get there. The going may involve our leaving some dear but false conditions of thought. Our prison doors may be composed of worldly ambition, selfish desire, pride, self-pity, self-condemnation, or any other false mental sense that lacks love. There is no place for these in "the superstructure of Truth;" and we shall never reach that holy state of consciousness if we persist in retaining them. Prison doors so constituted will remain closed, firmly and securely, until we dissolve their fastenings by removing these impediments. In the case of Peter and the apostles, it was the Sadducees who in belief had locked the prison door; but only in belief. The clear understanding and firm purpose of those God guided workers could and did dissolve even the envy and violence of their would-be antagonists. But the power to overcome was born of love and its effects on the thoughts of Peter and his friends. They had already unloosed their own prison doors by daily living their love for God; and this enabled them to free themselves from the persecuting thoughts of others. Neither fear nor resentment found any place in that prison. It is safe to say that it was not night to Peter's consciousness. He and his companions were free and ready to go when the angel bade. The Sadducees' power to persecute could not continue in the presence of Love, demonstrated in the absence of fear and resentment.
After they reached the temple "early in the morning," the next command was to "stand." There in the "light; symbol of Truth; revelation and progress,"—Mrs. Eddy's definition of "morning," on page 591 of Science and Health,—they were to "stand." Sometimes, when we have gotten out of our prisons, there seems to be a great temptation to sit, to let go mentally, to feel that we merit material rest from spiritual thinking; but this is a grave error. Having demonstrated our understanding and reached the experience of seeing "morning" in the temple, we must proceed to the "revelation and progress" which is our opportunity and real reward. Revelation and progress do not involve labor; they involve growth, unfolding. Having pushed through the soil, the little plant in the garden is ever active, ever growing, pushing upward to the sun, progressing toward its bloom or fruitage. So must we. There is no other way. To yield to the temptation to inactivity at any time is error, just as much so after we feel we have made a demonstration as when we were in need of release. It was the disciples' determination to stand that won their further victory. Having gotten out of prison, surely they could not have been censured if they had taken themselves to some place less antagonistically active; but they recognized the necessity of proving their faith in the presence of the enemy—and this they did. And not only they, but we, have reaped a rich reward from their faithfulness.
The last activity in this particular experience was to obey the command to "speak." One dictionary defines the word "speak" as "to express in any way." It does not necessarily require oral expression, then, to obey this command. We often say of a picture or a piece of work, "It speaks for itself," meaning not that it utters words, but that it intelligently expresses ideas by its appearance or its obvious purpose. So should we. Peter and the disciples taught by word of mouth, because that was their mission. They also expressed by their daily living their faith and understanding. We should be prepared to do both, but always the latter; and if guided to do so, the former also. Standing in the temple, we can speak every minute of the day by expressing peace, kindness, compassion, patience, love, and holiness to a weary and needful world of humanity. This may be our sweet joy and our crown of happiness. Surely our cup "runneth over." And finally, in each experience, we too may know that great privilege of which we read Peter and the apostles availed themselves after this most unhappy time, the privilege of rejoicing. Each demonstration necessarily contains much of joy, much to be grateful for, much that inspires.
May the angel so open all prison doors that the atmosphere of the temple shall pervade individual experience, until we see and realize the resurrection morn in its glory, with increase of blessings to all.