They are incensed against him :


he has a glorious vision.

A.M.cir. 4035.
A. D. cir. 31.

52 - Which of the prophets have not 55 But he, being full of the Holy A. M.cir. 4035.

your fathers persecuted ? and they Ghost, looked up stedfastly into hea- An. Olymp. cir. CC11.8. have slain them which shewed before ven, and saw the glory of God, and cir. CCII. 3. of the coming of the "Just One; of whom ye Jesus standing on the right hand of God, have been now the betrayers and murderers : 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens

53 · Who have received the law by the dispo-opened, and the Son of man standing on the sition of angels, and have not kept it.

right hand of God, 54 I 4 When they heard these things, they 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one with their teeth.


4 Ch. 5. 33. ch. 6. 5.- Ezek. 1. 1.

& Dan. 7. 13.

Matt. 3. 16.

* 2 Chron. 36 16. Matt. 21. 35. & 23. 34, 37. 1 Thes. 2. 15.-och. 3. 14.

e Exod. 20. 1. Gal. 3. 19. Heb. 2. 2.

ch. 10. 11.

for no

declarations and institutions ; but also in his actual energetic angels: the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy operations upon their minds.

place. It was not then by the mouths nor by the hands of Verse 52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers angels, as prime agents, that Moses, and through him the persecuted] Ye have not only resisted the Holy Ghost, but people, received the law; but God himself gave it, accompanied ye have persecuted all those who have spoken to you in his with many thousands of those glorious beings. As it is probname, and by his influence : thus ye prove your opposition able they might be assisting in this most glorious solemnity, to the Spirit himself, by your opposition to every thing that therefore St. Paul might say, Gal. iii. 19. that it was ordained proceeds from him.

by angels, diatayeis di' ayysiwy, in the hand of a Mediator. They have slain them, &c.] Isaiah, who shewed before of And as they were the only persons that could appear, the coming of Christ, the Jews report, was sawn asunder at man hath seen God at any time ; therefore the apostle might the command of Manasseh.

say farther, (if indeed he refers to the same transaction, see The coming of the Just One] Tou Arxalou, meaning Jesus the note there,) the word spoken by angels was steadfast, Christ; emphatically called the just or righteous person, not Heb. ii. 2. But the circumstances of this case are not suffici. only because of the unspotted integrity of his heart and life, ently plain to lead to the knowledge of what was done by but because of his plenary acquittal, when tried at the tribu- the angels in this most wonderful transaction; only we learn nal of Pilate, I find no fault at all in him. The mention of from the use made of this circumstance by St. Stephen, that this circumstance served greatly to aggravate their guilt. The it added much to the enormity of their transgression, that character of Just One, is applied to our Lord in three other they did not keep a law, in dispensing of which, the ministry places of Scripture, Acts iii. 14. xxii. 14. and James v. 6. of angels had been employed. Some think Moses, Aaron,

The betrayers and murderers] Ye first delivered him up and Joshua are the angels here intended ; and others think, into the hands of the Romans, hoping they would have put that the fire, light, darkness, cloud and thick darkness were him to death ; but when they acquitted him, then, in oppo- the angels which Jehovah used on this occasion; and to which sition to the declaration of his innocence, and in outrage to St. Stephen refers; but neither of these senses appears sufevery form of justice, ye took and murdered him. This was ficiently natural, and particularly the latter. à most terrible charge ; and one against which they could set Verse 54. They were cut to the heart] ALET PIONTO, they up no sort of defence. No wonder then, that they were were sawn through. See the note on chap. v. 33. instigated by the spirit of the old destroyer, which they never They gnashed on him with their teeth.] They were deter. resisted, to add another murder to that, of which they had mined to hear him no longer ; were filled with rage against been so recently guilty.

him, and evidently thirsted for his blood. Verse 53. By the disposition of angels] Eis diatayas Verse 55. Saw the glory of God] The Shekinah, the apyahwr. After all that has been said on this difficult passage, | splendor or manifestation of the divine Majesty. perhaps the simple meaning is, that there were ranks, diata- And Jesus standing on the right hand of God] In his y2u, of angels attending on the divine Majesty when he gave official character, as Mediator between God and man. the law : a circumstance which must have added greatly to Stephen had this revelation while in the sanhedrin; for as the grandeur and solemnity of the occasion ; and to this, I yet he had not been forced out of the city. See ver. 58. Psal. lxviii. 17. seems to me, most evidently to allude. The Verse 57. They-stopped their ears] As a proof that he chariots of God are twenty thousand, even many thousands of had uttered blasphemy, because he said he He saw Jesus

They stone Stephen ;


he prays for them and expires.

A.M.cir. 4035.
A. D. cir. 31.

58 Aud cast him out of the city, God, and saying, Lord Jesus, e reAn. Olymp. band stoned him : and the witnesses ceive my spirit. cir. CCII. 3. laid down their clothes at a young

60 And he kneeled down, and cried man's feet, whose name was Saul.

with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their 59 And they stoned Stephen, “ calling upon charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

A. M. cir. 4035.
.A. D. cir. 31.
An. Olymp.
cir. CCII.S.


1 1 Kings. 21. 13. Luke 4. 29. Hebr. 13. 12.- Lev. 24. 16.

13. 9, 10. & 17. 7. ch. 8. 1. & 22. 20.-nd ch. 9. 14.

e Ps. 31. 5. Luke 23. 46.ch. 9. 40. & 20. 36. & 21. 5. Matt.

5. 44. Luke 6. 28. & 23. 34.

standing at the right hand of God. This was a fearful proofdence ; and at the same time, shewing the genuine nature of against them; for if Jesus was at the right hand of God, then the religion of his Lord, in pouring out his prayers with his they had murdered an innocent person; and they must infer, || blood in behalf of his murderers ! that God's justice must speedily avenge his death. They Lay not this sin to their charge.] That is, do not impute it were determined not to suffer a man to live any longer, who to them, so as to exact punishment. How much did the could say he saw the heavens opened, and Jesus Christ stand- servant resemble his Lord, Father, forgive them, for they ing at the right hand of God.

know not what they do! This was the cry of our Lord in Verse 58. Cast him out of the city, and stoned him] | behalf of his murderers ; and the disciple, closely copying They did not however wait for any sentence to be pronounced his Master, in the same spirit, and with the same meaning, upon him; it seems they were determined to stone him first, varies the expression, crying with a loud voice, Lord, lay and then prove, after it had been done, that it was done not this sin to their charge! What an extent of benevolence! justly. For the manner of stoning among the Jews, see the And in what a beautiful light does this place the spirit of the note on Lev. xxiv. 23.

Christian religion ! Christ had given what some have supThe witnesses laid down their clothes) To illustrate this posed to be an impossible command, love your enemies; pray whole transaction, see the observations at the end of this for them that despitefully use and persecute you. And Stechapter.

phen shews here in his own person, how practicable the Verse 59. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God] The grace of his Master had made this sublime precept. word God, is not found in any MS. or Version, nor in any He fell asleep.] This was a common expression among of the primitive Fathers except Chrysostom. It is not genuine the Jews to signify death, and especially the death of good and should not be inserted here: the whole sentence literally men. But this sleep is, properly speaking, not attributable reads thus: And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying, to the soul, but to the body; for he had commended his Lord Jesus receive my Spirit! Here is a most manifest proof spirit to the Lord Jesus, while his body was overwhelmed that prayer is offered to Jesus Christ ; and that in the most with the shower of stones cast on him by the mob. solemn circumstances in which it could be offered, viz. when After the word exoluyor fell asleep, one MS. adds sy sienung a man was breathing his last. This is, properly speaking, one in peace; and the Vulgate has in Domino, in the Lord. of the highest acts of worship which can be offered to God ; || Both these readings are true, as to the state of St. Stephen ; and if Stephen had not conceived Jesus Christ to be God, but I believe neither of them was written by St. Luke. could he have committed his soul into his hands?

The first clause of the next chapter should come in here, . We may farther observe, that this place affords a full proof and Saul was consenting unto his death: never was there a of the immateriality of the soul ; for he could not have com- worse division than that which separated it from the end of mended his spirit to Christ, had he believed that he had no this chapter: this should be immediately altered, and the spirit; or in other words, that his body and soul were one amputated member restored to the body to which it belongs. and the same thing. Allowing this most eminent saint to have had a correct notion of theology; and that, being full of the 1. Though I have spoken pretty much at large on the puHoly Ghost, as he was at this time, he could make no nishment of stoning among the Jews, in the note on Lev. mistake in matters of such vast weight and importance; then xxiv. 23. yet, as the following extracts will serve to bring these two points are satisfactorily stated in this verse; 1. the subject more fully into view, in reference to the case of That Jesus Christ is God; for Stephen died praying to him. St. Stephen, the Reader will not be displeased to find them here. 2. That the soul is immaterial; for Stephen in dying, com- Dr. Lightfoot sums up the evidence he has collected on mends his departing spirit into the hand of Christ.

this subject in the following particulars : Verse 60, He kneeled down] That he might die as the 66 I. The place of stoning was without the sanhedrin, acsubject of his heavenly MASTER : acting and suffering in the cording as it is said, bring forth him that hath cursed without deepest submission to his divine will, and permissive provi- || the camp, Lev. xxiv. 14. It is a tradition, the place of ston.

Observations on the punishment


of stoning among the Jews.

ing was without three camps. The Gloss tells us, that the abusing the sacred name with four letters, viz. niny renova A. court was the camp of the Divine Presence; the mountain of Hence it is, that although they oftentimes accused our Sathe temple, the camp of the Levites ; and Jerusalem the | viour as a blasphemer, yet he was not condemned for this, camp of Israel. Now in every sanhedrin, in whatever city, but because he used witchcraft and deceived Israel, and sethe place of stoning was without the city, as it was at Je- duced them into apostacy. And those are reckoned among rusalem.

persons that are to be stoned: He that evilly persuades; and “We are told the reason by the Gemarists, why the place he that draws into apostacy ; and he that is a conjuror. of stoning was without the sanhedrin, and again without three 2. It may farther be questioned, whether our blessed camps, viz. If the sanhedrin go forth and sit without the three martyr was condemned by any formal sentence of the san. camps, they make the place for stoning also distant from the hedrin, or hurried in a tumultuary manner by the people, sanhedrin, partly lest the sanhedrin should seem to kill the and so murdered : it seems to be the latter.” man ; partly, that by the distance of the place, there may 2. The defence of Stephen against the charges produced be a little stop and space of time before the criminal come by his accusers, must be considered as being indirect; as to the place of execution, if peradventure any one might they had a show of truth for the ground of their accusations, offer some testimony, that might make for him : for in the || it would have been improper at once to have roundly denied expectation of some such thing,

the charge. There is no doubt that Stephen had asserted “ II. There stood one at the door of the sanhedrin having and proved Jesus to be the Christ or Messiah; and that the a handkerchief in his hand, and a horse at such a distance as whole nation should consider him as such, receive his docit was only within sight. If any one therefore say, 'I have trine, obey him, or expose themselves to the terrible sensomething to offer in behalf of the condemned person,' hetence denounced in the prophecy of Moses ; whosoever will waves the handkerchief, and the horseman rides and calls not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, back the people. Nay, if the man himself say, I have I will require it of him, Deut. xviii. 19. for they well knew something to offer in my own defence, they bring him back that this word implied, that divine judgments should inevitafour or five times one after another, if it be any thing of bly fall upon them. To make proper way for this conclumoment tha the hath to say.” I doubt they hardly dealt so sion, Stephen enters into a detail of their history, shewing gently with the innocent Stephen.

that, from the beginning, God had in view the dispensation “III. If no testimony arise that makes any thing for him, which was now opening; and that his designs were uniformly then they go on to stoning him. The crier proclaiming before opposed by their impious forefathers. That, notwithstanding him, “ N. the son of N. comes forth to be stoned for such or all this, God carried on his work, first, by revealing his will such a crime. N. and N. are the witnesses against him ; if to ABRAHAM, and giving him the rite of circumcision, which any one have any thing to testify in his behalf, let him come was to be preserved among his descendants. Secondly, to forth and give his evidence.'

Moses and Aaron, in Egypt. Thirdly, to the whole con“ IV. When they come within ten cubits of the place gregation of Israel, at Mount Sinai ; and variously in the where he must be stoned, they exhort him to confess, for so wildernes. Fourthly, by instituting the tabernacle-worship, it is the custom for the malefactor to confess, because every which was completed in the promised land ; and continued one that confesseth hath his part in the world to come, as we till the days of Solomon, when the temple was builded, and find in the instance of Achan, &c.

the worship of God became fixed. Fifthly, by the long race “ V. When they come within four cubits of the place, of prophets raised up under that temple, who had been all they strip off his clothes, and make him naked.

variously persecuted by their forefathers, who departed from “ VI. The place of execution was twice a man's height. the true worship, and frequently became idolatrous ; in conOne of the witnesses throws him down upon his loins ; if he sequence of which God gave them up into the hands of their roll on his breast, they turn him on his loins again. If he enemies, and they were carried into captivity. How far St. die so, well. If not, then the other witness takes up a Stephen would have proceeded, or to what issue he would stone, and lays it upon his heart. If he die so, well. If not, have brought his discourse, we can only conjecture; as the he is stoned by all Israel.

fury of his persecutors did not permit him to come to a con“ VII. All that are stoned are hanged also, 8c.” These clusion. But this they saw most clearly, that from his statethings I thought fit to transcribe the more largely, that the ment, they could expect no mercy at the hand of God, if Reader may compare this present action, with this rule and they persisted in their opposition to Jesus of Nazareth ; and common usage of doing it.

that their temple and political existence must fall a sacrifice “ 1. It may be questioned, for what crime this person was to their persevering obstinacy. Their guilt stung them to condemned to die ? You will say for blasphemy: for we have the heart; and they were determined rather to vent their heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against insupportable feelings by hostile and murderous acts, than in God. But no one is condemned as a blasphemer, unless for penitential sorrow and supplication for mercy. The issue

Stephen's remarkable charity


towards his murderers.

was, the martyrdom of Stephen ; a man, of whom the sacred most forcibly the amiable, forgiving spirit of the martyr; writings give the highest character, and a man who illustrated yet we must not forget that this, and all the excellent qualithat character in every part of his conduct. Stephen is ge- || ties with which the mind of this blessed man was endued, nerally called the proto-martyr, i. e. the First martyr or proceeded from that Holy Ghost, of whose influences his witness, as the word jagtup implies; the person who, at the mind wus full. The prayer therefore shews most powerfully evident risk and ultimate loss of his life, bears testimony to the matchless benevolence of God. Even these most unTRUTII. This honour, however, may be fairly contested, and principled, most impious, and most brutal of all murderers, the palm at least divided between him and John the Baptist. were not out of the reach of us mercy! His Spirit inThe martyrdom of Stephen, and the spirit in which he suf- fluenced the heart of this martyr to pray for his destroyers ; fered, have been an honour to the cause for which he cheer- and could such prayers fail ? No: Saul of Tarsus, in all fully gave up his life, for eighteen hundred years. While probability, was the first fruits of them. St. Augustine has Christianity endures, and it will endure till time is swal- properly remarked, Si Stephanus non orasset, ecclesia Paulowed up in eternity) the martyrdom of Stephen will be the lum non haberet. If Stephen had not prayed, the church model, as it has been, for all martyrs, and a cause of tri- of Christ could not have numbered among her saints, the umph to the church of God.

apostle of the Gentiles. Let this example teach us at once 3. I cannot close these observations without making one the spirit that becomes a disciple of Christ, the efficacy of remark on his prayer for his murderers. Though this shews | prayer, and the unbounded philanthropy of God.


A general persecution is raised against the church, 1. Stephen's burial, 2. Saul greatly oppresses the followers

of Christ, 3–4. Philip the deacon goes to Samaria, preaches, works many miracles, converts many persons, and baptises Simon the sorcerer, 5—13. Peter and John are sent by the apostles to Samaria, they confirm the disciples, and by prayer and imposition of hands they confer the IIoly Spirit, 14—17. Simon the sorcerer seeing this, offers them money, to enable him to confer the Holy Spirit, 18, 19. He is sharply reproved by Peter, and exhorted to repent, 20—23. He appears to be convinced of his sin, and implores an interest in the apostles' prayers, 24. Peter and John having preached the gospel in the villages of Samaria, return to Jerusalem, 25. An angel of the Lord commands Philip to go towards Gaza, to meet an Ethiopian eunuch, 26. He goes, meets and converses with the eunuch, preaches the gospel to him, and baptizes him, 27–38. The spirit of God carries Philip to Azotus, passing through which, he preaches in all the cities till he comes to Cæsarea, 39, 40.

ND *Saul was consenting unto the church which was at Jerusalem ;

his death. And at that time and they were all scattered abroad An. Olymp cir. CCII. 4. there was a great persecution against throughout the regions of Judea cir. CC11. 4.

A.M.cir. 4036.
A. D. cir. 32.
An. Olymp.


A.M. cir. 4036
A. D. cir. 32.

[blocks in formation]


the conclusion of the preceding chapter; so it stands in the Verse 1. Saul was consenting unto his death ] So inve- Vulgate, and so it should stand in every Version. terate was the hatred that this man bore to Christ and his There was a great persecution] The Jews could not bear the followers, that he delighted in their destruction. So blind doctrine of Christ's resurrection ; for this point being proved, was his heart with superstitious zeal, that he thought he did | demonstrated his innocence and their enormous guilt in his God service by offering him the blood of a fellow-creature, crucifixion ; as therefore, the apostles continued to insist whose creed he supposed to be erroneous. The word strongly on the resurrection of Christ, the persecution against ouveudoxwv, signifies gladly consenting, being pleased with them became hot and general. his murderous work! How dangerous is a party spirit, and They were all scattered abroad-except the apostles.] Their how destructive may zeal even for the true worship of God Lord had commanded them, when persecuted in one city, to prove, if not inspired and regulated by the spirit of Christ. flee to another; this they did, but wherever they went, they

It has already been remarked, that this clause belongs to proclaimed the same doctrines; though at the risk and hazard

Saul grievously persecutes


the Christian church.

A. D. cir. 32.

A.D. cir. 32.

A. M. cir. 4036. and Samaria, except the apostles. | 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of A. M. cir

. 4036. An. Olymp.

2 And devout men carried Stephen the church, entering into every house, An. Olymp.

to his burial, and made great lamen- and haling men and women, comtation over him.

mitted them to prison.

cir. CCII. 4.

cir. CCII, 4.

* Gen. 23. 2. & 50. 10. 2 Sam. 3. 31.- ch. 7. 58. & 9. 1, 13, 21.

& 22. 4. & 26. 10, 11. 1 Cor. 15. 9. Gal. 1. 13. Phil. 3. 6. I Tim. I. 13.

of their lives. It is evident, therefore, that they did not flee bury those who were condemned by the sanhedring in the from persecution, or the death it threatened; but merely in burying place of the fathers, as they would not bury the obedience to their Lord's command. Had they fled through guilty with the innocent; and they had a separate place for the fear of death, they would have taken care not to pro- those who were stoned, and for those that were burnt. roke persecution to follow them, by continuing to proclaim According to the Tract Sanh. fol. 45, 46. the stone wherethe same truths that provoked it in the first instance. with any one was stoned, the post on which he was hanged,

That the apostles were not also exiled, is a very remarkable the sword by which he was beheaded, and the cord by which fact; they continued in Jerusalem, to found and organize he was strangled, were buried in the same place with the the infant church; and it is marvellous that the hand of per- bodies of the executed persons. As these persons died under secution was not permitted to touch them. Why this should the curse of the law, the instruments by which they were be we cannot tell; but so it pleased the great Ilead of the put to death were considered as unclean, and accursed, and church. Bp. Pearce justly suspects those accounts in Euse- therefore buried with their bodies. Among the ancients, bius and others, that state that the apostles went very shortly whatever was grateful or useful to a person in life, was orafter Christ's ascension into different countries, preaching dinarily buried with him; thus the sword, spear, shield, &c. and founding churches. He thinks, this is inconsistent of the soldier were put in the same grave; the faithful dog with the various intimations we have of the continuance of of the hunter, &c. &c. And on this principle the wife of a the apostles in Jerusalem; and refers particularly to the follow- Brahman burns with the body of her deceased husband. ing texts, ver. 1, 14, and 25. of this chapter, chap. ix. 26, 27. Made great lümentation over him.] This was never done xi. 1, 2. xii. 1, 2, 3, 4. xv. 2, 4, 6, 22, 23. chap. xxi. 17, 18. over any condemned by the sanhedrin, they only bemoaned Gal. i. 17, 18, 19. ii. 1, 9. The church at Jerusalem was such privately; this great lamentation over Stephen, if the the first CHRISTIan church, and consequently, the boast of the same custom then prevailed as afterwards, is a proof that church of Rome, is vain and unfounded. From this time a Stephen was not condemned by the sanhedrin ; he probably new æra of the church arose. Ilitherto the apostles and fell a sacrifice to the fury of the bigotted incensed mob; disciples confined their labours among their countrymen in the sanhedrin not interfering to prevent the illegal execution. Jerusalem. Now, persecution drove the latter into different Verse 3. Saul made havoc of the church] The word parts of Judea, and through Samaria ; and those who had re- EUMQUVET0, from nu.ziew to destroy, devastate, ravage, sigceived the doctrine of Christ at the pentecost, who had come nifies the act of ferocious animals, such as bears, wolves, . up to Jerusalem from different countries to be present at the and the like, in seeking and devouring their


This feast, would naturally return, especially at the commencement shews with what persevering rancour this man pursued the of the persecution, to their respective countries, and proclaim harmless Christians; and thus we see in him, what bigotry and to their countrymen the gospel of the grace of God. To false zeal are capable of performing. effect this grand purpose, the spirit was poured out at the Entering into every house] For, however it might be to day of pentecost; that the multitudes from different quarters, others, a Christian man's house was not his castle. partaking of the word of life, might carry it back to the Ilaling men and women] Neither sparing age nor sex in the different nations, among whom they had their residence. professors of Christianity. The word oupwv, signifies dragging One of the Fathers has well observed, that “these holy them before the magistrates, or dragging them to justice. fugitives were like so many lamps lighted by the fire of the Committed them to prison.] For, as the Romans alone had Holy Spirit, spreading every where the sacred flame by which the power of life and death; the sanhedrin, by whom Saul they themselves had been illuminated."

was employed, chap. xxvi. 10. could do no more than arrest Verse 2. Devout men carried Stephen to his burial] The and imprison, in order to inflict any punishment short of Greek word suvenoura signifies not only to carry, or rather death. It is true, St. Paul himself says that some of them to gather up, but also to do every thing necessary for the were put to death, see chap. xxvi. 20. but this was either done interment of the dead. Among the Jews, and indeed among by Roman authority, or by what was called the judgment of most nations of the earth, it was esteemed a work of piety, 1 zeal, i. e. when the mob took the execution of the laws into charity, and mercy, to bury the dead. The Jews did not || their own hands, and massacred those whom they pretended

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