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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Acts 19

Verses 1-41

Acts 19:1 . Paul came to Ephesus, a city of Ionia, built by the Amezones. Its temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the world; but Pompey plundered it of all its riches. This city is now in ruins, with few inhabitants. Smyrna, forty five miles north-west, having a fine port, has taken away its ancient glory. In the time of St. Paul, it was reckoned the glory of all Asia.

Acts 19:2 . Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? The rabbins were grossly dark and deficient in understanding the prophets concerning the glory of Christ, and the Spirit of God; and these disciples had not been perfectly instructed, for John had promised the baptism of the Holy Ghost. John had enjoined the baptism of repentance, as a preparation for the Messiah about to appear: therefore they must now be rebaptized in the name of the Triune God. By St. Paul’s prayer and imposition of hands, the Holy Ghost inspired their hearts with the love of God, and opened their mouths in effusions of discourse and song, as in the house of Cornelius: Acts 10:46.

Acts 19:10 . This [work of daily disputation and preaching] continued for the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia, not Asia minor or Consular Asia, but the province of Asia, which contained the seven churches, heard the word. Poole says, properly speaking, the towns adjacent to Ephesus; quæ circa Ephesum. To localize Paul, and shut him up in one city for two years was impossible. He must go, and wrestle with the rulers of the darkness of this world.

Acts 19:11 . God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul. This power did not forsake him to the end of life. So it was also with the spirit of prophecy; he foretold the circumstances of his own shipwreck with historic accuracy. But while Paul, the great rabbi, shines; what must we think of the humility, the modesty, and piety of St. Luke? While his pen immortalizes others, he keeps himself out of sight. Who can doubt of his inspiration from the meek and lowly Redeemer? He believed in the perfect record, the doomsday book of heaven.

Acts 19:13 . Vagabond jews, exorcists; who affected to heal demoniacs, by invoking the name of the devil. Other jews, more decently invoked the name of Jehovah. Our Saviour seems to allow that those invocations sometimes produced effects, by asking, If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Those invocations contained the essence of diabolical wickedness, and are utterly condemned in the law of Moses.

Acts 19:15 . The evil spirit answered, Jesus I know, γινωσχω , I acknowledge; and Παυλον επισταμαι . I know who Paul is, but who are ye? They escaped naked and wounded, and happy for hypocrites to escape at all. We cannot overcome evil spirits with an arm of flesh.

Acts 19:19 . Many of them used curious arts; magic, sorcery, necromancy, and astrology, Simon Magus practised these things in Samaria. The former of those arts were diabolical; and on judicial astrology, Reflections will be found on Jeremiah 10:0.

They counted the price. The triumph of the name of Jesus rendered their arts openly detestable, and made their books of no value. Those books were very expensive, being written on parchment, and often emblazoned with figures, exhibiting conversations with the dead, &c. When their hearts became touched with grace, they durst not sell those expensive works, for that were to corrupt others. A French bookseller having allowed me to look at his books, I found behind a shelf a manuscript in a beautiful text. He saw me reading it, and came with haste, and took it out of my hands, but with a blush on his cheek. The subject was necromancy. The example of those Ephesians should teach christians to abandon all trades connected with fraud, or intemperance, or profanation of the sabbath day. The children of our heavenly Father must not beg their bread of the wicked one.

Acts 19:24 . Demetrius made silver shrines for Diana. According to Beza these were medals, exhibiting the goddess enthroned in her temple; but some read, “little temples,” or models. These could be suspended to the neck, or hung up in their chambers. This man excited against Paul a dreadful storm of popular fury, in which figuratively he fought with beasts at Ephesus.

Acts 19:34 . Great is Diana of the Ephesians. The Greek mythology disguises the origin of their gods, and makes both gods and men the descendants of Jupiter. Our Saxon kings were all descended from Odin. Strabo, book 12., collects from fabulous history, that Diana was daughter of Jupiter and Latona, and sister of Apollo, born in the island of Delos. In youth, she made a vow of perpetual virginity, and shunned the company of men. Addicting herself to pleasures of the chase, she was surnamed huntress, and the guardian of forests and mountains. She is represented as a nymph, with a bow and a quiver of arrows at her side, and accompanied by young nymphs. Sometimes they represent her in a car, drawn by white stags, holding a torch in her left hand. She is called in heaven Lucina, on earth Diana, in hell Proserpine, or Hecata. Her attributes were much varied by different nations. Sometimes she is represented as a woman with three heads; the right a horse, the middle a boar, and the left a dog. The Sabeans, Job 1:15, in their celestial worship, regard her as the moon, justifying the words of Christ, “Ye worship ye know not what.” Diana of Ephesus was the goddess of nature, whose symbols were the sun and moon; and whom, in one form or another, Asia and the [gentile] world worshipped.

Acts 19:35 . The town clerk: Ογραμματευς , the registrar, or clerk of the peace, a man who knew how to seize on the assembled multitude. He joined their tumultuous voices, that the goddess was great, and was worshipped in all Asia; if that would please them, he gave it in full; but he acquitted the apostles, that they were not robbers of churches, [temples] nor yet blasphemers of the great goddess. To Demetrius, if he had any wrongs, he promised redress in a legal way, and dismissed the assembly, lest the Roman legion should be called in. Truly wisdom is better than might.

REFLECTIONS .

Still following the ambassadors and ministers of Christ from Asia to Greece, and from Greece to Asia again, we find the disciples separated from the world, and a church left behind in every place. God was with his servants, truth carried conviction to the heart, and signs and wonders demonstrated the mysteries of the christian faith. But miracles may be regarded as an excess of grace, granted while the nations had not time to examine christianity, and while their prejudices were strong. And if God had not clothed his servants with divine powers, how could they have subsisted? His ways are diversified. The race of Shem in the islands of the South seas have been converted without miracles. A calm reading of the bible, with much prayer to know the truth, will afford conviction equal to any miracle.

We must also remark the superior glory of the christian religion. The twelve disciples of John had not heard of the Holy Ghost; yet the old testament abounds with promises of his sacred influence. Christianity therefore brought to light the mysteries hid in ages past, and called believers to all the glorious liberties and high privileges of the children of God.

We must next remark the powers and virtues of Jesus’ name. When we view his person and worth, and call upon his name by faith and prayer, God will glorify it in granting us what we ask according to his will. Yes, and all the demons of evil tempers shall be expelled by the virtue of Christ. Oh the other hand they who mock at his name, shall, like the sons of Sceva, be put to confusion.

The apostles preached Christ in a noble spirit. There, was neither weakness nor fear in their ministry. It was so godlike as to make the heathen tremble for their craft and interest. The banner of the cross was exalted above all temples; and hoary idolatry trembled to her foundation. Demetrius, injured in his trade of making models of Diana and her shrine, roused the populace to shout for the safety of the goddess. Ah, shout on, shout on. The softer whispers of truth and grace, the mild and heaven born mien of christianity will shortly demolish all the proud temples of Ephesus.

We admire the good sense of the recorder of the city; and in him, the care of providence over the apostles and their mission. The talent of seizing on an assembled populace, and persuading them to quietness and duty is enviable and happy in a magistrate. A mob may be diverted when it can not be opposed. To fire on a misguided mass of men is often the sudden effect of misguided passion; and the magistrate is never forgiven by his neighbours. Argument and gentle force should first be tried. But in regard to the first planting of christianity, the malice of the priests, the sneers of philosophy, and the fury of the mob, were everywhere the threefold enemies with which the apostles had to wrestle. Lord, make us thankful for ecclesiastical peace, and the quiet of religious worship.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 19". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/acts-19.html. 1835.