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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Acts 8

 

 


Verse 1

60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Ver. 1. And Saul, &c.] It is all one to hold the sack and to fill it, to do evil or to consent to it.

And Saul was consenting to his death] Gr. αναιρεσει, "to his murder;" for it was no better, Acts 12:2; Acts 5:33. Damnari, dissecari, suspendi, decollari, piis cum impiis sunt communia. Varia sunt hominum iudicia: ille faelix qui iudice Deo absolvitur, saith Erasmus concerning Berquin, the martyr, burnt in Germany. Dorotheus witnesseth, that when Stephen was stoned, there were 2000 other believers put to death the same day. Certain it is, that after Mr Rogers had broken the ice here under Queen Mary, there suffered in like sort, one archbishop, four bishops, 21 divines, eight gentlemen, 84 craftsmen, 100 farmers, servants, and labourers, 26 wives, 20 widows, nine virgins, two boys, and two infants; in all 277. Some say a great many more.

And they were all scattered] To the Church’s great advantage, which, like the sea, what ground it loseth in one place, it getteth in another. So at Melda in France (10 miles from Paris), Brissonet, the bishop thereof, desirous of a reformation, put away the monks and called in the help of various godly ministers. But being persecuted by the Sorbonists, he soon fell off from the profession of the truth; and those good ministers (Faber, Farelhs, Ruffus, and others) were driven into various other places of France, where they planted various churches; the destruction of one being the edification of many. {a} Farellus, one of those afore mentioned ministers, was God’s instrument of gaining the inhabitants of Geneva, Lausanne, Novocoma, &c.

{a} Unius Ecclesiae destructio multarum fuit aedificatio. Scultet. Annal.


Verse 2

2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

Ver. 2. Carried Stephen] συνεκομισαν, On their shoulders, lamenting, with knocking their breasts, &c., as the word κοπετον imports: no whit afraid of those mad murderers. So the primitive Christians would not be kept from visiting the confessors in prison, Tamet si multis terroribus minis, et periculis interdictum erat, as Chrysostom witnesseth in his oration of the two martyrs. So certain good people took up and buried the bodies of Ursula and Mary, two noble virgins, burnt at Delden in Lower Germany, which the executioner could in no wise consume with fire, but left them lying on the ground. And the like is reported touching the hearts of Zuinglius and Cranmer.


Verse 3

3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Ver. 3. Made havoc of the church] Being (as some think) that ravening wolf of the tribe of Benjamin, prophesied of by Jacob, Genesis 49:27.


Verse 4

4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

Ver. 4. {See Trapp on "Acts 8:1"} Trucidabantur et multiplicabantur, saith Austin. They were never the fewer for being slain. Plures efficimur quoties metimur, saith Tertullian. Ecclesia totum mundum sanguine et oratione convertit, saith Luther; the Church converts the whole world by her sufferings and prayers.


Verse 5

5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

Ver. 5. Then Philip] Not Philip the apostle (for they all abode at Jerusalem, Acts 8:1), but Philip the deacon. He that is faithful in a little shall be made master of more.


Verse 6

6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

Ver. 6. And the people, &c.] A corrupt place, and bewitched by the sorceries of Simon Magus; yet even there God had a people. Justin Martyr was of this city.


Verse 7

7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.

Ver. 7. Crying with a loud voice] To show that they went out perforce, and with a very ill will.


Verse 8

8 And there was great joy in that city.

Ver. 8. And there was great joy] So there was at Berne; for when the reformation was first received they pardoned (for joy) two condemned persons and called home all their banished. So there was at Geneva; the inhabitants whereof, upon the like occasion, stamped new money with this inscription, Post tenebras lux. After the night, daybreak. So also there was among the Helvetians, who caused the day and year when reformation began among them to be engraved in a pillar, in letters of gold, for a perpetual memory to all posterity, A. D. 1528.


Verse 9

9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:

Ver. 9. Which beforetime, &c.] Or, which was master of the magicians, προυπηρχεν. Sed quae traduntur de modo disceptationis Petri cum Simone Mago δραματικα potius quam ιστορικα esse videntur.

Bewitched the people] Gr. εξιστων. Carried them out of themselves, as in an ecstasy, so that they were more his than their own.

Some great thing] Such a blab the devil had blown up there, as a small wind may blow up a bubble.


Verse 10

10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.

Ver. 10. This man is the great power of God] Epiphanius saith that this varlot (knave) called himself God the Father and the Son, and his harlot Helena (a horrible thing to be spoken) the Holy Ghost. Justin Martyr witnesseth, that he had near unto Rome a statue erected, with this inscription, Simoni Deo sancto, To Simon the holy God. Prodigious boldness and baseness!


Verse 11

11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

Ver. 11. He had bewitched them with sorcery] It happened in the year of grace 434, that a certain seducer, who called himself Moses, persuaded the Jews in Crete that he was sent from heaven with commission to repossess them of the Promised Land. Him therefore they gladly followed (a great sort of them) with their wives and children to the seaside; where he bade them to cast themselves after him from a steep rock into the sea. This they did, and there perished many of them; and many more had done, but that (by a providence) sundry were caught up by Christian fishermen there present at that time, and carried safe to land. These, after they were recovered, carried notice to their fellows, how fearfully they had been deluded by the devil, who had impersonated Moses; and various of them, moved by their late calamity, became Christians. In the year 759, certain Persian magicians persuaded themselves and many others, that if they sold all they had and cast themselves naked from the town wall, they should fly up to heaven immediately; perierunt hac insania permulti, saith the historian. Many perished by believing this senseless lie. (Funccius in Chronol.)


Verse 12

12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Ver. 12. They were baptized both men and women] Who were admitted to baptism on this condition, that their infants also and their whole families should be consecrated to God; for so runs the covenant, Genesis 17:7. If any ask why Christ and the apostles did not set down plainly, that infants were or might be baptized it is answered that none (then) questioned the lawfulness of it, because it was generally done. Again, if when infants were brought to be baptized (as they were brought to Christ to be blessed) the apostles had rejected them, the believing Jews (and others) would have excepted, and demanded why they might not as well be baptized, as once they were circumcised? and the apostles would have given them an answer. St Peter, speaking of baptism, limiteth it thus: "Baptism sayeth, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but," &c., 1 Peter 3:21. Would not the evangelist here as well have said, men and women were baptized, only infants were not. If it be further objected, that it is in vain to give the sacrament to infants that understand not what is done to them, we answer, that the same may be said touching the sacrament of circumcision, which yet was done to infants, by God’s appointment. Thus to object therefore, is to "charge God foolishly," Job 1:22. Again, were Christ’s parables uttered in vain, because not presently understood? Or was it to no purpose that he laid his hands upon infants and blessed them? is it in vain to give medicine to children, fools, or mad men, that know not what we do to them?


Verse 13

13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Ver. 13. Simon himself believed] As the devils also believe, with a historical faith, a mere flash, which therefore soon came to nothing.

And when he was baptized] Pity that that fair water was spilt upon so foul a face. But circumcision avails nothing without faith that works by love. Unregenerate Israel is to God as Ethiopia, Amos 9:7. Baptism to such is not God’s mark, but the devil’s brand.


Verse 14

14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

Ver. 14. They sent Peter and John] Those pillars, Galatians 2:9, to confirm Philip’s doctrine, and found a church by their apostolic authority.


Verse 15

15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

Ver. 15. The Holy Ghost] That is, those extraordinary gifts of tongues, healing, &c.


Verse 16

16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Ver. 16. For as yet he was fallen upon none of them] sc. In those extraordinary gifts of tongues and miracles.


Verse 17

17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

Ver. 17. Then laid they their hands on them] After the manner of the priests, who laid their hands on the beast that was to be sacrificed, and so consecrated them to God.


Verse 18

18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Ver. 18. He offered them money] As Simoniacs still do their corrupt patrons, so crucifying Christ afresh between two thieves. Benefices are now bestowed, saith one, non ubi optime, sed ubi quaestuosissime, not ewhere best but most profitable. As if a man should bestow so much bread on his horse, because he is to ride on him, &c.


Verse 19

19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

Ver. 19. Give me also this power] Base spirits have low conceits of the high things of God. The stream riseth not above the spring. Omnia Romae venalia; all things at Rome are soluble and saleable.


Verse 20

20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Ver. 20. But Peter said unto him] Philip took him for a right honest man, and baptized him; but Peter soon smelt a fox, and drew him out of his den into the open light. Hypocrites shall be sooner or later detected; their name must rot.

Thy money perish with thee] So said that noble Italian marquis, Caracciolus, to the Jesuit that tempted him to revolt for money. {a} Let their money perish with them, said he, that esteem all the gold in the world worth one day’s society with Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit; and cursed be that religion for ever that goes that way to work.

{a} His Life by Crashaw.


Verse 21

21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Ver. 21. Thou hast neither part nor lot] Neque pars, neque sors, no manner of interest in this faith, much less in this sacred office of preaching, and laying hands upon others. ( Dictio proverbialis.) The Jews boast, that in Portugal and Spain they have millions of their race to whom they give complete dispensation to counterfeit Christianity, even to the degree of priesthood; and that none are discovered but some hot spirits, whose zeal cannot temporize. Are not these perfect Simoniacs?


Verse 22

22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

Ver. 22. Repent therefore] Repentance is post naufragium tabula, it is the fair daughter of a foul mother, i.e. sin, which (if not repented of) will soon work our ruth)distress) and ruin. {a}

If perhaps the thought] επινοια to be cured by μετανοια. Thought is not free; but if evil, must be reversed by repentance, or will undo us for ever, Jeremiah 4:14.

{a} εχθρου πατρος φιλτατον τεκνον. De Pompeio Romani.


Verse 23

23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

Ver. 23. Thou art in the gall, &c.] The apostle alludeth to Deuteronomy 29:18. Sin is a bitter potion, a deadly poison, which therefore we must quickly cast up again by confession, ere it get to the vitals. Simon Magus is here convinced by the very show of godliness, under which he hoped to have lurked; as the fish sepia is betrayed by the black colour which she casteth out to cover her.


Verse 24

24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

Ver. 24. Pray for me] Some from these words conclude his effectual conversion. He trembleth at God’s justice, and imploreth his mercy. Haec certe non minima sunt poenitentiae signa, saith judicious Calvin; these were no small signs of sound repentance.


Verse 25

25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

Ver. 25. When they had testified] That is, with great gravity and liberty declared. ( διαμαρτυρομενοι.)

In many villages of the Samaritans] Accounting with Luther, that vilissimus pagus est palatium eburneum in quo est pastor et credentes aliqui; the meanest village may become an ivory palace, by having in it a faithful pastor and some few believers.


Verse 26

26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

Ver. 26. Which is desert] Which way is desert, that is, less frequented, because uphill and downhill. So is the way to heaven, and therefore little travelled.


Verse 27

27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,

Ver. 27. Candace] This, saith Pliny, was a common name to the Ethiopian queens, as Caesar was to the Roman emperors. Her country might haply be that large region of Nubia, which had from the apostles’ time (as it is thought) professed the Christian faith; but hath again above a hundred years since forsaken it, and embraced instead of it, partly Mahometanism, and partly idolatry; and that by the most miserable occasion that might befall, namely, famine of the word of God through lack of ministers.


Verse 28

28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

Ver. 28. Sitting in his chariot, read] Time is to be redeemed for holy uses. Pliny seeing his nephew walking for his pleasure, called to him, and said, Poteras hasce horas non perdidisse; You might have better bestowed your time than so. Nullus mihi per otium dies exit, A day pased in leasure is nothing to me, saith Seneca. And Jerome exhorted some godly women, to whom he wrote, not to lay the Bible out of their hands, until being overcome with sleep, they bowed down their heads, as it were to salute the leaves below them with a kiss.


Verse 29

29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

Ver. 29. Then the Spirit said] sc. By revelation, or secret inspiration.


Verse 30

30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

Ver. 30. And heard him read] He read as he rode. Pliny was always reading or writing, or doing something, quo ad vitam communem aliquem fructum ferre posset, whereby he might benefit himself or others. Mr Bradford the martyr held that hour of his life lost, wherein he had not done some good with his hand, tongue, or pen. Seneca saith, I have no time to spare or spend idly; I see men do not so much lack time as waste it. {a} This they would not do, if they considered that upon this little point of time hangs the crown of eternity. Oh, make much of time, said Thomas Aquinas, especially in that weighty matter of salvation. Oh, how much would he that now lies frying in hell rejoice, if he might have again but the least moment of time, wherein to make his peace with God!

{a} Non parum habemus temperis, sed multum perdimus.


Verse 31

31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

Ver. 31. How can I, except some man] The mathematics are so called, because they cannot be learned without a teacher. No man is αυτοδιδακτος in heavenly literature. He that here is scholar to himself, hath a fool to his master.


Verse 32

32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

Ver. 32. The place of the Scripture] The parcel, saith the Syriac, פמוקא; the partition or section, say the Hebrews, הפטרה. Among us, Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, first divided the Bible into chapters in such sort as we now account them; Robert Stephens into verses, imperitissime plerunque textum dissecans, saith Scultetus, not doing so well as he might.


Verse 33

33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

Ver. 33. His judgment was taken away] That is, he was set safe from his enemies, that judged and executed him. He rose, and reigneth in despite of them.

And who shall declare his generation] Saeculum eius. (Beza.) Or can tell how long his kingdom shall last? for being raised from the dead, he dieth no more. He may as well die at the right hand of his Father as in the hearts of his children.


Verse 34

34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

Ver. 34. I pray thee of whom] Incredible gain is to be gotten by conference in all arts; so here. All Christ’s scholars are ζητητικοι, questionists, though, not question sick, as those triflers in Timothy, 1 Timothy 6:4.


Verse 35

35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Ver. 35. And preached unto him] Of preaching we may say in comparison of other ordinances, for the getting of knowledge, as David did of Goliath’s sword, there is none to that.


Verse 36

36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

Ver. 36. What doth hinder] He stood not upon the reproach of Christian religion, what the courtiers at home would censure of him. He would hardly suffer death for Christ that cannot suffer little breath for him.


Verse 37

37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Ver. 37. Is the Son of God] Both by eternal generation, Proverbs 8:22-30, and by hypostatical union, Matthew 3:17.


Verse 38

38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

Ver. 38. And he baptized him] Set Christ’s mark upon him, that seal of the new covenant. The Jacobites (a kind of mongrel Christians in Asia) sign their children, many in the face, some in the arm, with the sign of the cross, imprinted with a hot burning iron, at or before baptism; but we have not so learned Christ.


Verse 39

39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

Ver. 39. Went on his way rejoicing] Bernard, for a certain time after his conversion, remained, as it were, deprived of his senses, by the excessive consolations he had from God. Cyprian confesseth to Donatus, his friend, that before his conversion he thought it was impossible for him to change his manners, and to find such comfort as now he did in a Christian life. He beginneth thus, Accipe quod sentitur antequam discitur. Augustine saith the same of himself (Confess. vi. 12.)


Verse 40

40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

Ver. 40. At Azotus] A city of Palestine, called anciently Ashdod, whence the Anakims could not be driven out, Joshua 11:22.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 8:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/acts-8.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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