on Acts 2 :37
When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart - This powerful, intelligent, consecutive, and interesting discourse, supported every where by prophecies and corresponding facts, left them without reply and without excuse; and they plainly saw there was no hope for them, but in the mercy of him whom they had rejected and crucified.
What shall we do? - How shall we escape those judgments which we now see hanging over our heads?
on Acts 2 :37
Now when they heard this - When they heard this declaration of Peter, and this proof that Jesus was the Messiah. There was no fanaticism in his discourse; it was cool, close, pungent reasoning. He proved to them the truth of what he was saying, and thus prepared the way for this effect.
They were pricked in their heart - The word translated were "pricked," κατενύγησαν katenugēsan, is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly denotes "to pierce or penetrate with a needle, lancet, or sharp instrument"; and then "to pierce with grief, or acute pain of any kind." It corresponds precisely to our word "compunction." It implies also the idea of sudden as well as acute grief. In this case it means that they were suddenly and deeply affected with anguish and alarm at what Peter had said. The causes of their grief may have been these:
(1) Their sorrow that the Messiah had been put to death by his own countrymen.
(2) their deep sense of guilt in having done this. There would be mingled here a remembrance of ingratitude, and a consciousness that they had been guilty of murder of the most aggravated and horrid kind, that of having killed their own Messiah.
(3) the fear of his wrath. He was still alive; exalted to be theft Lord; and entrusted with all power. They were afraid of his vengeance; they were conscious that they deserved it; and they supposed that they were exposed to it.
(4) what they had done could not be undone. The guilt remained; they could not wash it out. They had imbrued theft hands in the blood of innocence, and the guilt of that oppressed their souls. This expresses the usual feelings which sinners have when they are convicted of sin.
Men and brethren - This was an expression denoting affectionate earnestness. Just before this they mocked the disciples, and charged them with being filled with new wine, Acts 2:13. They now treated them with respect and confidence. The views which sinners have of Christians and Christian ministers are greatly changed when they are under conviction for sin. Before that they may deride and oppose them; then, they are glad to be taught by the obscurest Christian, and even cling to a minister of the gospel as if he could save them by his own power.
What shall we do? - What shall we do to avoid the wrath of this crucified and exalted Messiah? They were apprehensive of his vengeance, and they wished to know how to avoid it. Never was a more important question asked than this. It is the question which all convicted sinners ask. It implies an apprehension of danger, a sense of guilt, and a readiness to "yield the will" to the claims of God. This was the same question asked by Paul Acts 9:6, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and by the jailor Acts 16:30 "He ...came, trembling, ...and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The state of mind in this case - the case of a convicted sinner - consists in:
(1) A deep sense of the evil of the past life; remembrance of a thousand crimes perhaps before forgotten; a pervading and deepening conviction that the heart, and conversation, and life have been evil, and deserve condemnation.
(2) Apprehension about the justice of God; alarm when the mind looks upward to him, or onward to the day of death and judgment.
(3) an earnest wish, amounting sometimes to agony, to be delivered from this sense of condemnation and this apprehension of the future.
(4) a readiness to sacrifice all to the will of God; to surrender the governing purpose of the mind, and to do what he requires. In this state the soul is prepared to receive the offers of eternal life; and when the sinner comes to this, the offers of mercy meet his case, and he yields himself to the Lord Jesus, and finds peace.
In regard to this discourse of Peter, and this remarkable result, we may observe:
(1) That this is the first discourse which was preached after the ascension of Christ, and is a model which the ministers of religion should imitate.
on Acts 2 :37
2:37 They said to the apostles, Brethren - They did not style them so before.