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THE

FAMILY EXPOSITOR.

THE ACTS OF THE HOLY APOSTLES, WRITTEN BY ST. LUKE.

SECT. XVI.

The Christian converts, being dispersed by persecution, go into other parts and preach the word. Philip the deacon goes to Samaria, where many embrace the gospel, as Simon the sorcerer also professes to do, and on that profession is baptized. Acts VIII. 1-13.

xvi.

Acts

ACTS VIII. 1.

Acts VIII. 1. AND at

that time there was a great

ND in that very day in which this inhuman śect.

AND persecution against the

murder was committed on Stephen, who church which was at led the van in the glorious army of martyrs, Jerusalem ; and they there was a great persecution excited against the vill. 1 were all scattered abroad throughout the church of Jerusalem, which continued to rage for regions of Judea and some time ; and such was the severity with Sanaria, except the which they were pursued by their malicious eneapostles.

mies, that all the principal members of the
church were dispersed through the regions of
Judea and Samaria", except the apostles, who
with undaunted resolution were deterınined to
continue at Jerusalem, how extreme soever
their danger might prove, that they might there
be ready to serve the interest of the church, as

there should be occasion.
2 And devout men And Stephen was no sooner left for dead, but
carried

2 certain devout men', had the courage to shew

themselves

a They were all dispersed, &c.] Perhaps licly cxccuted as a blasphemer, was an exit was then, that Ananias went to Damas- pression of zeal and piety which might cus, chap. ix. 10. while others, after they justly entitle them to this honourable chahad preached the gospel in the neighbour- facter. Thus Luke calls Joseph of Ariing parts, travelled on to Phænicia, and mathca a benevolent and upright man, when Cyprus, and Antioch, chap. xi. 19. he speaks of the generous and courageous

b Devout men.) Dr. Benson thinks, (as regard he shewed to the body of Jesus; Dr. Hammond in loc. and Mr. Baxter, Vol. (Luke xxiii. 50.) It is possible, the manIV. p. 864. did,) that these were proselytes ner in which these decout men celebrated as he also imagines Stephen to have been ; the funeral of Slephen, might be urged but I can find no proof of either. Such a by the enemies of christianily, as an excuse token of respect to one who had becn pub- for farther severitics.

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3

16

Saul is outrageous in his zeal against the gospel. SECT: themselves openly as the friends of that holy carried Stephen to his .

burial, and made great and excellent man, whose blood had been

lamentation over him. Acts anrighteously shed; and accordingly gathering VIII. 2. round the corpse while it lay exposed to public

infamy and abuse, they carried Stephen forth
[to his burial] with solemn funeral procession,
and made great lamentation for him, mourning
that the church had lost so excellent an instru-
ment of usefulness, though he himself was so
much a gainer by it, as to be the object of con-
gratulation rather than condolence.

3 As for Saul, he But Saul, whom we mentioned before, like

made hovock of the some furious beast of prey, made havock of the church, entering into church without mercy c; not only breaking in every house, and halupon public assemblies, but entering into houses ing men and women,

committed them to pri-
and dragging from them, without any respect son.
either to age or sex, men and women (whom] he
committed to prison, for no pretended crime but

that of having embraced the gospel.
4. Nevertheless God over-ruled all this cruelty

4 Therefore they

that were scattered aand rage, to subserve his own wise and gracious broad,

every purposes : for they who were dispersed went where preaching the about into several parts, preaching the word d word. wherever they came ; and in many places they were remarkably successful, to which the consideration of their being persecuted for conscience

sake might in some measure help to contribute. 5 And we have particularly one instance of it down to the city of

5 Then Philip went in Philip the deacon e; who, after the death of

Samaria, his beloved brother and associate Stephen, came

weit

to

c Like some furious beast of pray, made that, for his fidelity and diligence in his havock of the church.] Wolfius observes, inferior office, he was raised to the work (Cur. Philol. in loc.) That this is the most of an evangelist. (Compare chap. xxi. 8. proper signification of glupacovila, which is and 1 Tim. iii. 13.) But to infer from often applied to the savages of the desert. hence, that they, who are ordained to the

d Preaching the word.] There is no room office of deacons, have by virtue of that a to inquire, where these poor refugees had right to preach publicly, is not only untheir orders. They were endowed with grounded, but seems contrary to the reason miraculous gifts; and if they had not been so, assigned by Peter for choosing deacons,chap. the extraordinary call they had to spread the vi. 2-4. Besides, Apollos preached be. knowledge of Christ wherever they came, fore he was baptized, therefore much less among those who were ignorant of bim, can we imagine, he was ordained. (See would abundantly justify them in what they Acts xviii. 24, 25.) And Grotius justly did.

observes, that in circumstances like these e Philip the deacon.) We are sure, it any private person might do it. (Compare was not Philip the apostle, both as he con- chap. xi. 20. and see Owen of Ordination, tinued at Jerusalem, and as this Philip had p. 63.) As for Dr. Hammond's criticism not the powerof communicating the miracu- on the words

and

ευαγγελιζεσθαι, lous gift of the Holy Spirit by laying on of as if the former signified public preaching, hands. (Compare ver. 14, 15, 17.) It and the latter teaching in a way of private must therefore be the deacon, no other of converse, it is sufficiently confuted by comthat name beside the apostle having been paring verse 5 and 40. chap. xi. 20. xiii. mentioned in this history. Some think 32. xiv. 15. and many other passages.

κηρύσσειν

1 Сато

xvi.

Acts

The church is dispersed, and Philip goes to Samaria.

17 Samaria, and preached to the city of Samaria f; and knowing that all szcT: Christ unto them.

distinction between the people of that country
and the Jews was now removed, freely preached

Christ unto them, and proclaimed him as the VIII. 5. 6 And the people promised Messiah. And the people who inha-6 with one accord gave bited that city, notwithstanding their natural he il punto those things prejudices against the Jews, unanimously attendwhich Philip spake, hearing and seeing the ed to the things that were spoken by Philip ; as miracles which he did. they not only heard the rational, convincing,

and pathetic words which he spake, but were
eye-witnesses of what he wrought in confirma-

tion of his doctrine, and saw the astonishing
7 For unclean spi- miracles which he performed. For unclean 7

7 rits, crying with a loud voice, came out

spirits which had possessed many, crying with a of many that were loud voice, came out of them at Philip's como possessed with them, mand; and many others who were paralytic and many taken with palsies, and that were

and lame, and laboured under the most obstilame, were healed. nate disorders, were immediately healed. And 3

8. And there was there was great joy in that city, on account of great joy in that city. those benevolent miracles which were perform

ed by Philip in it, and of that excellent doc-
trine which he preached among them, contain-
ing such welcome tidings of pardon and eternal

salvation.
9 But there was a But at the time in which the gospel was thus 9
certain
Simon, which before brought by Philip to them, a certain man, named
time in the same city Simon was before in that city, who had made
used sorcery, and be himself very remarkable by using the unlawful
arts of magics, by means of which he had per-

man

formed

witched

f Came to the city of Saznaria.] For the principles and history see Dr. Pridemur, origin of the Samaritans, and the differ- Connect. Vol. I. p. 174. & seq. It is inences between them and the Jews, see deed possible, he might profess himself of note g on John iv. 9. Vol. VI. p. 162. It that sect; but I think the word Mayevwn is certain, they were better prepared to re- imports much more, and amounts to the ceive the gospel, than most of the Gentile same with one who used inchantments, prenations, as they worshipped the true tending, in consequence of them, to exert GOD, and acknowledged ibe authority of some supernatural powers ; whereas the the Pentateuch; and as we do not find, word Magus (at lcast about Christ's time) that they had either such notions of the seems to have signified much the same Messiah's lemporal reign as the Jews, or with our English word Suge, and to dehad received the Sadducean principles, note a proficient in learning, and especially which were both very strong prejudices in astronomy, and other branches of natuagaiost the christian scheme. (Sec Dr. ralphilosophy, lo which the Persian Magi Benson's History, Vol. I. p. 153.) It is addicted to themselves, and so gave name not improbable, that the city here spoken to many who were far from holding the of was Sichem, where Christ himself had peculiarities of that sect. (Compare note a preached in the beginning of his ininistry; on Mat. ii. 1. Vol. VI p. 77. Yet, as ma(John iv. 5. 40. seq.) which was for ny natural philosophers pretended also to be many years the capital of that country. magicians in the common sense of the word See Joseph. Antiq. lib. xi. cap. 8. § 6. among us, and might make their natural

8 Using the unlawful arts of magic.] knowledge subservient to that pretence, Dr. Benson thinks pceyevwy to be entirely when it was mere imposture, it is not imof the same signification with May, and probable, that they generally called themintended to tell us, that this Simon was selves Magi; and so the verb unyevwy might one of the scct of the Magi, for whose come lo signify the making use of unlaceful

was some

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18 Simon the sorcerer professes to believe, and is baptized. SECT. formed such things as were exceeding marvel- witched the people of xvi. Jous and astonishing to the whole nation of Sa- Samaria, giving out Acts maria, pretending himself to be some extraor- great one: VIII. 9. dinary person ", possessed of supernatural pow

10 ers: To whom they all paid great regard, from 10 To whom they

the least to the greatest, saying, This man is all gave heed, from the surely the great power of God, the long-ex- least to the greatest,

, pected Messiah, and (if we may so speak) the great power of God. Omnipotence itself incarnate, or he could never

.11 11 do such wonderful things. And they paid this tl And to him they

had regard, because regard to him, not on seeing one or two extra- that of long time he ordinary facts, but because he had for a long time had betwitched them astonished them with the lying wonders that with sorceries. he wrought by (his] enchantments. But when they gave credit to Philip, preaching, believed Philip, preachi

12 But they 12

the things concerning the kingdom of God, and ing the things conthe important truths connected with the name of cerning the kingdom Jesus Christ, they embraced the gospel in great of God, and the name

of Jesus Christ, they numbers, and were baptized both men and women.

baptized both 13

And Simon himself also believed the truth of men and women. that doctrine which this divine messenger taught', though his heart was not savingly when he was baptized, transformed by its power; and being baptized he continued on a profession of that faith, he always kept Philip, and wondered, near to Philip, beholding with amazement the beholding the miracles

and signs which were great and powerful miracles which were wrought done. by him “, with which he was himself as much transported as the Samaritans had formerly been at the sight of his magical performances.

were

13 Then Simon him. self believed also: and

with

IMPROVE

arts, (as it plainly does here) while the is far from expressing the emphasis of the noun, from whence it was derived, might phrase. still retain a more extensive and innocent i Simon himself also believed.) Perhaps, as signification.

Mr. L'Enfant and Limborch conjecture, h Some extraordinary person.] Irenæus he might think Philip an abler magiciun tells us, (lib. i. cap. 20.) that Simon than himself, and hope, by pretending to be boasted, he had appeared to the Samari- his disciple, he might have an opportunity tans as the father, to the Jews as the Son, of learoing his superior arts. and to the Gentiles as the Holy Spirit; and k Beholding with amazement, &c.] It Justin Martyr, that he asserted, all the seems with particular elegance and pronumes of God were to be ascribed to him, priety, that the same word, which had been and that he was God above ali principality, used to express the manner in which the power, and virtue. (See Just. Mort. Spol. Samaritans were affected with Simon's enii. p. 69. & Dial. p. 319.) Lut, if he chantments, ver. 9, L.) is here used to de. ever made these pretences, it was probably scribe the impression which Philip's mira. after this time; for before it, he seems cles made on bim, it being there expressed to have been entirely a stranger to the first by fisuv and iş axtyczu, andhere by :f15c7o. elements of the christian doctrine, to It seeins therefore quite wrong to transwhich these blasphemics reier. The ver- late the former infatuated, and the latter sion of 1727 renders n drepos Ty Olss transporteri, as the author of the aboveperahn, the pienipotentiary of Gou; but that mentioned version has done.

Reflections on the progress of the gospel under persecution.

19

IMPROVEMENT.

xvi.

It was honourably and well done of these devout men, to pay sect. this last token of respect to the remains of this first martyr in the Christian cause, by carrying him to his funeral with solemn Acts pomp and public lamentation, though he died like an infamous VIII. %. criminal. Our ever-living and victorious Lord, no doubt, took it well at their hands, and they will be recompensed at the resurrection of the just, vihen that mangled body which they deposited in the grave shall be transformed into the glorious image of bim for whom he gave it up to destruction, and to whose immediate and faithful care he committed the far nobler and more important part.

The wrath of man, O Lord, shall praise thee, (Psal. Ixxvi. 10.) It was particularly made to praise thee in this instance, by sending out the gospel-missionaries, who, during the short repose of the i church, had been qualifying for their work, and dispersing them through all the neighbouring countries : Had the calm continued longer, while they were so happy in the love and fellowship of each other, they might bave been too much inclinable to build their tabernacles at Jerusalem, and to say, It is good for us to be here (Mat. xvii. 4.); such deligh ful mutual converse might have engaged them to prolong their abode there to future months, and 4 perhaps years : In mercy to the churches therefore, and even to themselves, whose truest happiness was connected with their usefulness, were they, like so many clouds big with the rain of heaven, driven different ways by the wind of persecution, that so they might empty themselves in fruitful showers on the several tracts of land through which they went preaching the gospel.

But the remainder of the wrath of this cruel Saul, and the rest i of the persecutors, was so restrained in the midst of its career, that the apostles, who of all others seemed the most obnoxious persons, were for the present secure in Jcrusalem ; the power of Christ wrought secretly for their defence, and, by some unknown operation, either softened or awed the minds of those who (humanly speaking) bad it in their power to add their blood to that of Stephen. Thus was our Lord's prediction fulfilled with regard to them, in some of the most pressing dangers that could be imagined, that not a hair of their head should perish, (Luke xxi. 18.); and thus was their fidelity and courage approved, by their continued residence even in this bazardous situation, till Providence gave a farther signal for their removal : In this, and in that, they were no doubt directed by supernatural influence, and we may admire their dutiful obedience to those commands, the particular reasons of which we cannot now fully trace. Vol. VIII.

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