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1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
Ver. 1. Are these things so? ] A Fire hearing Stephen should have, but his death was beforehand resolved on.
2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
Ver. 2. The God of glory ] Before whom seraphims (those heavenly salamanders) clap their two wings, as a double scarf, on their faces, as not able to bear his brightness, Isaiah 6:2 ; or as men are wont to clap their hands on their eyes, in a sudden flash of lightning. Sol reliqua sidera occultat, quibus et lumen suum faenerat, saith Pliny, ii. 6.
3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
Ver. 3. Get thee out, &c. ] Both Abraham’s great temptations began thus. See Trapp on " Gen 12:1 " See Trapp on " Gen 12:2 " See Trapp on " Gen 12:3 " &c.
4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
Ver. 5. No, not so much as ] A holy proverb:Deuteronomy 2:5; Deuteronomy 2:5 ; "Even to the treading of the sole of the foot." The first purchase that Abraham made was for a burial place.
6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.
Ver. 6. Four hundred years ] Beginning at the birth of Isaac.
7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
Ver. 7. And serve me in this place ] Servati sumus ut serviamus, Luke 1:74 . The redeemed (among the Romans) was to be at the service of the redeemer all his days.
8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
Ver. 8-18 ] See Trapp on " Gen 17:11 " See Trapp on " Gen 37:28 " See Trapp on " Gen 41:37 " See Trapp on " Gen 42:1 " See Trapp on " Gen 45:4 " See Trapp on " Gen 45:16 " See Trapp on " Gen 46:27 "
9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him , and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
19 The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.
Ver. 19. Dealt subtilly ] "Let us deal wisely," saith he, Exodus 1:10 ; "subtilly," saith this text, κατασοφισαμενος . The world’s wisdom is but subtilty, sophistry, fallacy. And God took this wizard in his own craftiness, 1 Corinthians 3:19 ; for your labouring men have the lustiest children.
20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:
Ver. 20. Exceeding fair ] Passing pretty, a proper child, as the apostle hath it, Hebrews 11:23 . Justin maketh mention of his beautiful personage; and by this, as by an instrument, God moved his parents first, and then the princess, to pity and preserve him. The Greek word αστειος , here rendered fair, signifies fine, trim, elegant, so as citizens are at the time when trimmed up in their bravery upon days of festivity.
21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
Ver. 21. See Trapp on " Exo 2:5 "
22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
Ver. 22. And Moses was learned ] See my Common Place of Arts. Lactantius saith of Tertullian, that he was in omni genere doctrinae peritus, skilful in all kinds of learning. Jerome saith of him, that his works contained cunctam seculi doctrinam, all the learning of the world; better may this be said of Moses and his writings.
23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
Ver. 23. See Hebrews 11:24 . See Trapp on " Heb 11:24 "
It came into his heart ] sc. By an impulse of the Holy Spirit; for till then it seems he had slighted them; but now he began to be sick of the affliction of Joseph, whereby he was even broken to shivers, as the Hebrew word Shevarim signifies, Amos 6:6 .
24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him , and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
Ver. 24. And avenged him ] Wherein haply he was too hasty to do justice before his time; which might cost him and cause him forty years’ exile in Midian.
25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
Ver. 25. But they understood not ] For by this time they through long and hard oppression (which makes even a wise man mad, Ecc 7:7 ) had well nigh forgotten the promise of deliverance out of Egypt; and having been born in hell (as the proverb is) they knew no other heaven.
26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
Ver. 26. Sirs, ye are brethren ] In this Egypt of the world, all unkind strifes should easily be composed, did we but remember that we are brethren.
27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
Ver. 27. He that did the wrong ] None so ready to except and exclaim, as the wrong doer; the patient replies not.
28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
Ver. 28. Wilt thou kill me, &c. ] If this Hebrew had been well pleased, Moses had not heard of his slaughter; now in choler all will out. If this man’s tongue had not thus cast him in the teeth with blood, he had been surprised by Pharaoh, ere he could have known the fact was known; now he grows jealous, flees and escapes. No friend is so commodious in some cases as an adversary.
29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
Ver. 29. Then fled Moses ] And by being banished, was the better fitted to be king in Jeshurun.
30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.
Ver. 30. See Exodus 3:2 .
31 When Moses saw it , he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it , the voice of the Lord came unto him,
Ver. 31. He wondered at the sight ] How many come to the ordinances to see and to be seen! they may hear that, with Moses here, that may do them good for ever.
32 Saying , I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
Ver. 32. See Exodus 3:6 .
33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
Ver. 33. Put off thy shoes ] Thy fleshly affections, and be wholly at my disposal, in the business whereabout I shall send thee.
34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
Ver. 34. I have seen, I have seen ] To my grief and regret. God is said to suffer in the sufferings of his people. The Father, Isaiah 63:9 , the Son, Acts 9:4 , the Holy Ghost,1 Peter 4:14; 1 Peter 4:14 .
35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
Ver. 35. By the hands ] That is, by the authority and conduct. Hands are not here taken for service, but ruledom; and Christ is set above Moses, asHebrews 3:5; Hebrews 3:5 .
36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
Ver. 36. And in the wilderness ] Where their garments were no whit the worse for wearing. Why then should we question the incorruptibility of our bodies at the resurrection?
37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
Ver. 37. Like unto me ] See Trapp on " Act 3:22 "
38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
Ver. 38. Lively oracles ] That is, life giving oracles. The law is said to be the "strength of sin,"1 Corinthians 15:56; 1 Corinthians 15:56 . But this is by accident through our corruption.
39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
Ver. 39. Thrust him from them ] The present government is always grievous, Αει το παρον Βαρυ as Thucydides observeth. Alleva iugum, Allevo iugum, lighten the yoke, lighten the yoke, said those in Rehoboam’s days, that were all for a relaxation.
40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Ver. 40. Make us gods ] That is, an image, or representation of God. This was not to keep their promise, Exodus 19:8 .
41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
Ver. 41. And offered sacrifice to the idol ] That is, to the devil, Psalms 106:37 , who is ειδωλοχαρης , as Synesius calls him. Howbeit the idolaters pretended herein to worship Jehovah, Exodus 32:4-5 . Their idol, if it would not make a god, would make an excellent devil; as the mayor of Doncaster told the wise men of Cockram concerning their ill-shaped crucifix.
42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
Ver. 42. Of the prophets ] The twelve small prophets were in one volume.
43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
Ver. 43. Of your god Remphan ] Amos 5:26 , called Chiun. These are but various names of the same idol; the Hebrews calling it by one name, the Egyptians by another. See Selden de Diis Syris.
44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
Ver. 44. Our fathers had the tabernacle ] He had made answer to their first accusation touching blasphemous words against the law. Now for the tabernacle and temple, he takes off that too; and showeth that God’s worship is not now to be tied to any one place more than another.
45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
Ver. 45. Brought in ] This argued and aggravated their levitatem plus quam desultoriam, monstrous giddiness in running after strange gods, having the true God so near them as never any people had. (Beza.) It might be said of them as it was once of Baldwin the apostate, that he had religionem Ephemeram, for each day a new religion: or as Lactantius writeth of some idolaters in his time, that they feigned what they pleased, and then feared what they feigned.
46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
Ver. 46. Who found favour ] This he made more account of than of his crown and sceptre, Psalms 4:6 . Like as when he gave Ziba the lands of Mephibosheth, Ziba begged a further and better boon; "I humbly beseech thee that I may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king," 2 Samuel 16:4 . What is air without light? or daily bread without pardon of sin? God’s favour sugars all comforts.
47 But Solomon built him an house.
Ver. 47. But Solomon built him a house ] A stately house indeed, one of the seven wonders of the world (how basely soever Florus writeth of it, out of his deep and desperate hatred of that nation and their religion): far beyond that Ephesian temple of Diana, built all of cedar, in an apish imitation of it; or the Turks’ mosques, which yet are very magnificent; the Great Turk also never comes into them but (for reverence’ sake to his God) he lays aside all his state and attendance.
48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
Ver. 48. Howbeit, the Most High dwelleth not ] This he subjoineth, because the Jews bore themselves so bold upon the temple, and made such ado about it, as if God were tied to it (as the Chinese chain their gods, that they may be sure of them), crying, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord," when they little respected the Lord of the temple. The disciples also were taxed with this error, Matthew 24:1 , and thought that the temple and the world must needs end together; quasi absque stationibus non staret mundus. But our Saviour undeceiveth them there.
49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
Ver. 49. Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool ] And accordingly there are Bona throni good of the throne and bona scabelli, good of the footstools, as the schools distinguish. God and his graces are the good things of his throne: earth and outward comforts are the good things of his footstool. These we may have, but not love (God hath put all things under our feet, Psa 8:6 ). Those we must covet and aspire unto. But with most men today the word and the world may seem altered and inverted; earth is their throne, and heaven is their footstool; so little they look after this, and so much that. The Duke of Alva said, he had so much to do on earth, that he had no time to look after heaven.
50 Hath not my hand made all these things?
Ver. 50. Hath not mine hand made all these things? ] Therefore I need not your handiwork, though I am pleased to accept of it; which you are to look upon as a wonderful condescension. "God humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in earth," Psalms 113:6 . If he look out of himself upon the saints and angels (how much more upon us!) it is a condescension.
51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did , so do ye.
Ver. 51. Ye stiffnecked, &c. ] Henry Lawrence, martyr, being required to put his hand in subscribing to his answers, he wrote these words under the bill of their examination, Ye are all Antichrist, and him ye follow, and here his hand was staid, and sentence read against him.
And uncircumcised in heart ] Ye that to your sinews of iron have added brows of brass; to your natural hardness, that which is habitual: being more tough than timber that hath long lain soaking in the water, having brawny breasts and horny heartstrings.
52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Ver. 52. Of whom ye have been now the betrayers, &c. ] This was to deal plainly and freely with them; this was Mordaci radere vero, to tell them the naked truth, whatever it cost him. Let those tigers tear him with their teeth which now they were whetting; he hath but a life to lose, and lose it he cannot in a better cause, &c.
53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it .
Ver. 53. And have not kept it ] The Jews were so far from being a law to themselves, αυτονομοι (as the Thracians are said to be), that (more like the Athenians) whereas they had excellent laws, but naughty natures, Moribus suis quam legibus uti mallent, they lived not by their laws, but by their lusts rather. (Val. Max.)
54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
Ver. 54. They were cut to the heart ] But that I believe that God and all his saints will take revengement everlasting on thee, I would surely, with these nails of mine, be thy death, said friar Brusierd in a conference with Mr Bilney, martyr. Another friar of Antwerp, preaching to the people, wished that Luther were there, that he might bite out his throat with his teeth. a Plutarch relateth of the tigers, that if any one do but strike up a drum in their hearing, they grow stark mad, insomuch as at length they tear their own flesh. So, many savage people are extremely disquieted at the hearing of the word, and that merely through their own corruption; like as it is not the tossing in a ship, but the stomach that causeth sickness; the choler within, and not the waves without.
a Erasm. Epist. xvi.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
Ver. 55. And Jesus standing ] As ready to revenge the injuries done to his proto-martyr. Christus stat ut Vindex, sedet ut Iudex. Christ stands as a defender, and sits as a judge.
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Ver. 56. Behold, I see, &c. ] Christ as man could see as far into heaven as Stephen now did, who could not therefore but stand stoutly to it. Creatures of an inferior nature will be courageous in the eye of their masters. A believer by the eye of his faith, through the perspective of the promises, may also see into heaven. But what a tale is that which the monkish writers tell of Mulfin, Bishop of Salisbury, whom (because he displaced secular priests and put in monks) they make to be a very holy man; and report of him that when he lay a dying, he cried out suddenly, "I see the heavens open, and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God," and so died. (Speed, 335.)
Standing on the right hand ] Showing by that posture how ready he is to appear for his people. And surely if it could be said of Scipio, that Rome could not fall while Scipio stood, neither would he live to see Rome fall; how much more truly may it be said of Christ, that neither shall the Church fall while Christ standeth at the right hand of his Father, neither can Christ stand there, his Church falling.
On the right hand of God ] As Christ is at the right hand of the Father, so is the Church at the right hand of Christ, Psalms 45:9 .
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
Ver. 57. Ran upon him ] Being acted and agitated by the devil, who had now wholly possessed them; so that they were even satanized, and transformed into so many breathing devils.
58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him : and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
Ver. 58. And stoned him ] As a blasphemer. Our proto-martyr in Queen Mary’s days was Mr Rogers; as in Germany Henry and John, two Augustine monks, were the first that were burnt for Lutheranism. (Scultet. Annul.) They suffered at Brussels, A.D. 1523, and sang in the flames. He was a bold Israelite that first set foot into the Red Sea, saith one. These proto-martyrs shall be renowned to all posterity.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God , and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Ver. 59. And they stoned Stephen ] Bembus wrote a dainty poem concerning Stephen, and therein hath this verse, much admired by Melancthon.
" Ibat ovans animis, et spe sua damna levabat. "
He saw heaven through that shower of stones. Becket’s friends advised him to have a mass in honour of St Stephen, to keep him from the hands of his enemies. He had so, but it profited him not.
Lord Jesus, receive, &c. ] Luther’s last prayer was this, "My heavenly Father, thou hast manifested unto me thy dear Son Jesus Christ. I have taught him, I have known him; I love him as my life, my health, and my redemption, whom the wicked have persecuted, maligned, and with injury affected: draw my soul to thee." After this he said, "I commend my spirit into thy hands, thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth," &c.
Lord, lay not this sin, &c. ] Ne statuas. Set it not upon their score, or account. St Augustine is of opinion that this prayer of St Stephen’s was of avail for St Paul’s conversion. He stood when he prayed for himself, he kneeled when he prayed for his enemies; to show (saith one) the greatness of his piety, and of their impiety, not so easily forgiven. He was more sorry for their riot than for his own ruin.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 7". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29