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good measure, ascribe the great progress the new religion made among the priests, of whom a great crowd submitted to THE FAITH, (oxλoc-úπηкоνоν,) soon after, Acts vi. 7, and among the Pharisees likewise, whom we find, A.D. 48, among the Judaizing teachers of the Church, Acts xv. 5; and they further supported Paul, (the pupil of Gamaliel,) against the Sadducees in council, A.D. 59, and upon the very plea urged by Gamaliel on this occasion. "If a spirit, or angel, spake to him, let us not fight against GOD," Acts xxii. 3, xxiii. 2.


The Apostles, to be relieved from the drudgery of serving at tables, or superintending the daily distributions of the charitable fund, recommended to the Church the appointment of Deacons, to assist them as almoners. And accordingly, seven persons, of approved character, and full of the HOLY SPIRIT, (which was necessary to enable them to distinguish true from false objects of the public charity,) were proposed by the brethren, and after prayer and imposition of hands, appointed by the Apostles, Acts vi. 1-6, about A.D. 35.


These Deacons acted also as Evangelists, and assisted the Apostles in preaching the Gospel. Stephen, the first of them, full of faith and power, did great signs and wonders among the people, ver. 8. Philip preached the Gospel in Samaria, &c. soon after, Acts viii. 5, xxi. 8. And the last, Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch, is said to have founded the heresy of the Nicolaitans, censured in the Apocalypse, Rev. ii. 6—15. The HOLY SPIRIT sometimes admitting a false Deacon into the Church, as CHRIST himself a false Apostle among the twelve; that "the approved might be manifested," by resisting the heresies and schisms of such, 1 Cor. xi. 18, 19. Need we then wonder, or complain, that such subsist at the present day in THE CHURCH?


There was then in Jerusalem a body of African and Asiatic Jews, who had a synagogue called "the Libertines," most pro

It is remarked by Gilpin, that, whether by accident or design, in eight or nine editions of the English Bible, between A.D. 1650, and A.D. 1680, the word karaornσομεν, we appoint," is mistranslated " ye appoint;" transferring the appointment from the Apostles to the brethren.

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bably from Libertina, a city of Africa. These zealots for the Mosaical law, disputed with Stephen; and "not being able to resist the wisdom and spirit with which he spake," when foiled in argument, as was natural*, they formally prosecuted him before the Sanhedrim, having formed a party of the people against him, and suborned false witnesses to charge him with blasphemy against the Holy place, or temple, and against the law of Moses and of GOD; for that "they had heard him say, that this JESUS OF NAZARETH, whom he preached, should destroy the temple, and change the law," Acts vi. 9—14.

When Stephen was brought before the council, to answer these charges, GOD himself was pleased to witness their vanity or falsehood, by shewing the same singular and uncommon sign of his approbation of Stephen, as formerly of Moses, after his second conference with God on Sinai, whose face then shone with great brightness, Numb. xxxiv. 29-35. For all the council, looking stedfastly upon Stephen, saw his face resembling the face of an angel, ver. 8—15. This was a glory which none of the Apostles ever received.

On this occasion, Stephen received also a double portion of the Divine wisdom and spirit; for he most undauntedly retorted their own charges upon the accusers themselves; convicting them of fighting against GOD; and by murdering HIS SON, and breaking HIS LAW, contributing themselves to destroy their temple, and change their law. This he proved, by entering into a copious detail of their rebellions, from the first origin of their race, in a most masterly historical speech, which is a perfect commentary on our Lord's last speech in the temple, Matt. xxiii.

1. He celebrated the piety and faith of Abraham, their illustrious ancestor, when the GOD OF GLORY was pleased to call him from the idolatry of his fathers, at first from Ur of the Chaldees to Charran †, and again, from thence to Canaan ; and to establish with him and his chosen seed, the covenant of circumcision, and the promise of the future inheritance of the land of Canaan, Acts vii. 1—8.

2. The evil spirit of their ancestors first broke out in the

Solinus, in his Natural History of the bear, observes, Ursis caput debile est, vis maxima in lumbis. An apt description of disputants, "weak in head, but strong in arms," to stone those whom they cannot confute.

See those two cal's explained before Vol. I. p. 108, 109.

case of the renowned patriarch Joseph, whom the envy of his brethren sold as a slave into Egypt; but who afterwards proved the saviour and protector of his family, when he relieved them in the famine, and settled them in Egypt, seventy-five souls *, where they flourished till their subsequent bondage after his death, which continued till the time of Moses; who was wonderfully preserved at his birth, and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter, and educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, ver. 9-22.

3. He next shewed the ingratitude of their ancestors, and their rejection of this great deliverer, Moses, at first, when he offered to mediate between them, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? and their subsequent rejection of him, and rebellion against their TUTELAR GOD, the angel that appeared to him in the bush, under whose guidance Moses brought them forth out of Egypt, with great signs and wonders, to Mount Sinai, where they received the lively oracles of THE LAW; but during Moses' absence in the Mount, they made the golden calf, to lead them back to Egypt, in his stead, and offered idolatrous sacrifices thereto.

That even Moses himself, at the first promulgation of THE LAW, communicated to the Church, or congregation in the wilderness, GOD's intention of raising up to them another prophet like Moses," in word and deed," in legislation and miracles; to whom they should be bound to "hearken," under pain of incurring Divine chastisement.

This Prophet, from the resemblance, he plainly intimated to be JESUS OF NAZARETH, ver. 23—41.

4. That for the rebellion of the golden calf, or worshipping the true God under an Egyptian idolatrous symbol, he gave them up to worship false gods, to serve the host of heaven, during their wanderings of forty years in the wilderness, with which they were punished, when they worshipped the gods of the Moabites and Midianites, "Moloch t," or "Baal peor," the sun, as the procreative power of nature; and “Chiun †,” or "Remphan †," the dog-star, the fertilizing power of the

* See this number of seventy-five souls, reconciled with the seventy of the OLD TESTAMENT, Gen. xlvi. 27, before, Vol. I. p. 143, 144.

See this difficult prophecy of Amos, v. 25-27, explained and reconciled with Stephen's account, Vol. II. p. 405. And compare Deut. iv. 15-19, and Numb. xxv. 3, 2 Kings xxiii. 5.

Nile, described by the Prophet Amos; and that even after their settlement in the promised land, they retained and enlarged their Egyptian idolatries, adding thereto those of the neighbouring nations, the Sidonians, Syrians, &c. on the other side: for which repeated idolatrics and rebellions, GOD threatened them with "captivity, beyond Damascus and beyond Babylon," which was fulfilled in the Assyrian captivity of the ten tribes, and the Babylonian of the two remaining, foretold even from the time of Moses; which should lead them, as he plainly intimated, to dread the last, or Roman captivity, foretold also by him, which was destined to destroy their holy place and nation, and to change their laws, unless they repented, ver. 42, 43.

5. To lessen their superstitious veneration for their temple, he recounts its origin, whence it appeared,

1. That Abraham and the Patriarchs worshipped GOD acceptably before either tabernacle or temple was built. 2. That the tabernacle was not built till the time of Moses; and that, after a model furnished by God himself, and therefore equally venerable as the temple, and that this moveable tabernacle continued all the days of Joshua, and the succeeding judges, till David's reign, without any want of a temple. 3. That David was precluded from building the temple, because he had been a man of blood; which was therefore reserved for his son Solomon, who was a man of peace. 4. That Solomon himself, in his dedication, and the prophets, corrected their gross ideas of THE DEITY, as if THE MOST HIGH, whom the heaven of heavens could not contain, whose throne is heaven, and the earth his footstool, could be confined within the precincts of an earthly temple, built with men's hands; or that He would accept any but a pure and spiritual worship, (1 Kings iii. 27-30; Isa. lxvi. 1, 2,) such as was really inculcated by the law of Moses, ver. 44-50.

From these premises he draws his most severe and pointed conclusion:

"Ye stiff necked, or stubborn yeneration, boasting of your carnal circumcision, as Abraham's children, but uncircumcised in heart and ears, in spirit and in obedience, ye do always,

* See the foregoing explanation of Moses' prophecies, Vol. II. p. 209, &c.

from the earliest times to the present, struggle against the HOLY SPIRIT, following the example of your fathers.

"Which of the Prophets did not your fathers persecute? and even slay those that foretold of the coming of the JUST ONE? of WHOM ye have now become betrayers and murderers *;" ye who boast that ye received THE LAW through innumerable ranks of angels, with the utmost pomp of Divine majesty, (Deut. xxxiii. 2,) but have not kept it!It is ye therefore, and not I, that are destroying the temple, and changing the law, ver. 51-53.

"When they heard these bitter but unanswerable reproaches, they were cut through their hearts, as with a saw, and they gnashed on him with their teeth," in token of the most ungovernable rage and fury; but still they could not convict him, because his vindication was grounded throughout upon their OWN SCRIPTURES, and they could not deny the historical facts with which he charged them, ver. 54.

But as GOD had attested his innocence at the beginning of the trial, so now THE HOLY SPIRIT, of which he was full, THE FATHER and THE SON, rewarded him at the close of it, with the beatific vision, for his good confession, which he also witnessed as a faithful witness, treading in the steps of his LORD and MASTER; for looking stedfastly into the heaven he saw the glory of GOD, and JESUS standing at the right hand of GOD, and said, "Lo, I behold the heavens opened, and THE SON OF MAN standing on the right hand of God," thus fulfilling, early, in part, OUR LORD'S prophecy at his iniquitous trial, Matt. xxvi. 64. See p. 210 of this volume.

Without waiting any longer for the deliberation and judgment of the council, or for any formal sentence of death, as in CHRIST'S case, these frantic zealots, exclaiming with a loud voice, that he had spoken blasphemy, and stopping their ears, not to hear a word more in his defence, rushed unanimously upon him, in a tumultuous manner, and hurrying him out of the city, for fear of being prevented by Pilate and the temple guard, they stoned Stephen, calling upon †, and saying, LORD

How strikingly does this resemble OUR LORD's reproachful conclusion, Matt. xxiii. 32-38.

The English Bible supplies "calling upon GOD;" but the context plainly requires,

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