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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary
Acts 7

 

 

Verse 1

CONTENTS

The History of Stephen is continued. He preacheth before the Council; is interrupted in the Midst of his Discourse by his Enemies; dragged forth from before the Council, and stoned.

Acts 7:1

Then said the high priest, Are these things so?

The chapter opens with the demand of the high priest, that Stephen should answer to the charges brought against him; or rather, he takes the matter as already granted, and saith, are these things so? Not in the least overawed by the wonderful sight, which he, and all that sat in the council saw, (as related in the foregoing chapter,) in the glory like an angel on Stephen's countenance; the faithful servant of the Lord, was, in the mind of this time-serving high priest, already condemned. He only waited to hear somewhat, which might, with a little more plausibility, call forth his sentence. Under these impressions, he cried out, as with an holy indignation, are these things so?


Verses 2-16

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 Haran, (3) And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee. (4) Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Haran: 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. (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. (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. (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. (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 favor 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 Canaan, 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 Shechem, and laid in the sepulcher that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem.

We have reason to bless God the Holy Ghost, not only for the occasion which gave rise to this precious discourse of Stephen, but for causing it to be recorded. For, although we have the whole history before, in the word of God; yet the manner in which Stephen, under the full impressions of the Holy Ghost, (see Acts 6:5 and Acts 7:55) delivered this sermon, hath thrown a light upon some parts of it, in a most blessed and interesting manner, and which I hope the Lord will enable us to perceive, as we prosecute the subject.

Stephen begins in a respectful manner, such as became him. For, although the present Sanhedrim was composed of very different characters from those holy men of old, which, at the first institution of the order were appointed and consecrated of God; (compare Numbers 11:16-17 with Acts 4:5-7, see also the Commentary on those verses) yet the order was the same, being of the Lord's appointment. And this holds good in all ages, and upon all occasions, Romans 13:1. I admire the expression Stephen useth, when he calleth the Lord, the God of glory. And I would humbly ask, whether Stephen did not mean the same glorious Person as appeared to Moses in the bush, and which he takes notice of in his discourse, (Acts 7:30) For the appearing to Abraham at the time Stephen speaks of, and the appearing to Moses in the after age of the Church, at the bush, were both on the same covenant concern; and in both, the Lord called himself by the same name, Genesis 15:18; Exodus 3:6. And who this glorious person was, cannot be far to learn. Stephen himself hath explained, (Acts 7:38) He calls him the angel which spake to Moses in the mount. Now that angel which spake to Moses in the mount, expressly called himself Jehovah. See Exodus 3:6. And Christ is both the covenant himself, and the angel or messenger of the covenant, Isaiah 42:6; Malachi 3:1. And had this not been the case, in both these transactions, with Abraham and Moses, as well as upon numberless other occasions, when this angel is said by Stephen, (Acts 7:38) to have spake not only to Moses, but to our fathers, how could the Lord Jesus tell the Jews, as he did tell them, that they had never heard the Father's voice at any time, nor seen his shape? John 5:37. It appears to me I confess, that this decision of the Lord Jesus becomes an unanswerable argument, (in addition to the many other collateral testimonies we have,) that both the manifestations and words, which were made to the old Church before the incarnation of Christ, were by Him, who in the fulness of time, was to openly tabernacle, in substance of our flesh, among his people, and intended as so many intimations, to keep alive the expectation of that glorious event, in the minds of the Lord's people.

Stephen having thus opened his subject at that part, where alone it could be opened, beginning with the God of glory; he takes up the history of the Church at the revelation of the covenant with Abraham, and refers his hearers to the well-known circumstances of the opening of that Covenant-transaction, in the call of Abraham. I need not follow Stephen through the whole of what he hath rehearsed within the compass of those few verses. The whole particulars are all upon record in the life of the patriarch. But I would rather call upon my Reader to remark with me, the several very interesting things Stephen hath stated, in respect to Abraham; and which, more or less, belong to all Abraham's seed, which are also heirs according to the promise, Galatians 3:29.

The Lord called Abraham from his father's house, and from his kindred. The Lord, though promising to give the land, to which he called him for an inheritance to him, and to his seed after him; yet for a long space gave him no possession there, no not a foot's breadth. The Lord, though promising that his seed should be as the stars of the heaven for multitude, yet, for many a year, suffered him to go childless, Genesis 15:1-6. And even when Ishmael was born, the Lord taught him, that this son of the bondwoman, was not the heir, in whom the promise was to be vested, and from whose seed after the flesh the promised seed should come, Genesis 17:18-21.

Pause, Reader, and contemplate the subject spiritually as it is with all the Lord's people; and then say, are not Abraham's children, after the faith, more or less, exercised the same? The call of Abraham was a pattern how the Lord, in after ages, would call the spiritual offspring of his dear Son, Isaiah 44:3-5. They are also called, from their father's house, and from their kindred, in the Adam-nature of a fallen state; and are commanded to forget their own people, and their father's house, when sovereign grace hath opened their eyes to a sense of sin, and a desire of salvation, Psalms 45:10. And as Abraham, at the call of God, went out not knowing whither he went: so Abraham's seed are exercised the same way. By faith like him they are going forth in the strength of Christ, looking for a city which hath foundations whose builder and Maker is God, Hebrews 11:8-10. And how sweet are discovered, in the after fruits of faith, the many exercises of the Lord's tried ones? There can be no real trust in the Lord without faith, Hebrews 11:6. Untried faith is in reality no faith. While the Lord acts only as a promising God; our knowledge of Him, and our dependance upon Him, can only be by faith. But when this promising God becomes a performing God, faith then is lost in enjoyment. So that in fact, during the time of waiting, is the only time for the exercise of this precious gift of a Covenant God in Christ. And, Reader! let me detain you one moment longer to observe, that it is on this account faith is so highly spoken of by God the Holy Ghost, in his blessed word. We read of the precious blood of Christ, 1 Peter 1:19. Of the exceeding great and precious promises, 2 Peter 1:4. And with these (wonderful to tell) is named, precious faith also, more precious than gold, 1 Peter 1:7. And what can be more precious, as a fruit, and effect, of the Lord's grace in the heart of his redeemed, than when a child of God, like Abraham, the great father of the faithful, against hope is enabled to believe in hope, Romans 4:8. Oh! for grace to be so wholly emptied of self, as to be always living upon Christ, walking with Christ, and trusting in Christ! Sweet faith! Lord increase our faith! See 1 Peter 1:7 and Commentary.

In prosecuting Stephen's sermon, I would beg the Reader to observe with me, how this faithful servant of the Lord takes notice of the Lord's grace, in giving Abraham the outlines of the Covenant, which was to run on so many hundred years before the promised seed should come, to whom the promise was made, and in whom the whole was to be fulfilled. There is somewhat very blessed in this; and merits our concern. Abraham himself was not to live to see the accomplishment. Neither Isaac, nor Jacob, the heirs with him of the promise. Neither the patriarchs which followed. But what of that? Though so long an interval was to take place, the thing was the same: and the promise itself certain and sure. The Covenant of circumcision was appointed as an outward sign, or seal, to carry on the assurance of it from father to son. Hence, with this scriptural rite, the Patriarchs handed down in successive generations, this great promise of God, as more precious, yea, infinitely more precious, as the blessed Charter of grace, than rich men transmit to their heirs the titles of their estates, and all their perishing treasures.

And these things induced in the hearts of the Patriarchs, through divine teaching, an holy familiarity and acquaintance with the person, work, and glory of Christ the promised seed. Abraham saw the day of Christ afar off, rejoiced, and was glad, John 8:56. Isaac lived and died, in the full assurance, not only of his own personal interest in the same, but that in him the promised seed should be called: and by faith, blessed Jacob and Esau, concerning things to come, Hebrews 11:18-20. (See Commentary there.) And no less Jacob, when He was a dying, by faith, in the same glorious expectation, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff, Hebrews 11:21. In short, so did all the fathers in succession. They all lived, and they all died, as they had lived, in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them. They cherished the blessed hope; carried it about with them wherever they went, as in their arms, and wore it close to their heart. And thus, the father to the children made known the Lord's truth! Isaiah 38:19. See also Genesis 48:21; Gen_50:24-25.

Reader! do not dismiss this part of Stephen's sermon, in the view of the patriarchs, and their faith in Christ, without first enquiring whether you are among the followers of them, who now through faith and patience inherit the promises. Remember, that the promise to which these holy men of old looked, and which they died in the full assurance of, hath been for many hundred years since fulfilled, in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And now in the possession of those blessed truths, which their faith had in view, but which we have seen accomplished; our faith is now exercised, in looking forward to the sure expectation of all these blessings, resulting from the whole, in grace here, and glory hereafter. Reader! it is precious faith, when we rejoice in hope of the glory of God, Romans 5:2.

I pass over the several records of the Patriarchs, in what Stephen hath just glanced at in those verses, of their going down into Egypt. For, although the events themselves are highly interesting, and would well recompense a long and close attention to them; yet they would far exceed the limits I am constrained to observe, in this Poor Man's Commentary.


Verses 17-29

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 subtlety with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. (20) In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months: (21) And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. (22) And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. (23) And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. (24) And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: (25) For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. (26) And the next day he showed 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? (27) But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? (28) Wilt thou kill me, as thou didst the Egyptian yesterday? (29) Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons.

The time of the promise here alluded to, doth not mean the coming of the promised seed; for this was yet far remote: but the promise, which was to take place, at the end of the four hundred years; when the Lord would deliver his people out of the afflictions of Egypt, and judge that nation (Acts 7:6-7). And how exact the Lord was to his promise, the Holy Ghost hath caused it to be recorded, with peculiar marks of distinction; and enjoined the perpetual remembrance of it in his Church, Exodus 12:41-42. If the Reader finds some little difficulty to reconcile the two different dates of years spoken of on this occasion; that difficulty will cease, by recollecting that the commencement of reckoning, doth not begin at the oppressions of Egypt over Israel, for those cruelties were not exercised until after the death of Joseph. And indeed, the whole sojourning of Israel in Egypt, could not have been more than two hundred and forty years, See Genesis 25:26; Gen_47:9; Gen_50:26. But when, as in this Chapter, and at the promise first given, Genesis 15:13; Gen_15:16, we are to reckon four hundred years; the account of reckoning begins after the birth of Isaac. And for the thirty years the account is taken from Abraham's first sojourning in Egypt, Genesis 12:10 with Exodus 12:40.

The deliverance of Israel from Egypt, beside the history as a matter of fact, and beside the personal mercy of the redemption, to the children of God then; was a sweet type of the Lord's Israel now, and in all ages of the Church; being brought out of the Egypt of sin, by the Person, work, and glory, of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all, and every instance of the Church's bondage, God in Covenant speaks over again the same words, as he graciously said to Abraham: The nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God. They shall come forth, and serve me! What a reviving thought to bondage souls!

If I detain the Reader for a moment in this place, it shall only be to remark, what a beautiful type of the Lord Jesus Moses was, in numberless instances, in relation to his Church and people. The Holy Ghost, by his servant Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews; Heb 3 and Heb 11, hath thrown great light upon this Scripture history, concerning Moses and the Church; and especially, in relation to his being in many points, a type as well as a servant of his Almighty Lord and Savior.

One feature, I particularly beg to notice to the Reader, concerning this man, which to me I confess is striking. Stephen saith, in his account of him that he supposed his brethren would have understood, how that God by his hand would deliver them. Now, we find no notice taken of this apprehension in the mind of Moses, in the history which we have of him at large in Exodus. Nay, on the contrary, when in the after days of Moses' life, and when at the bush, the Lord called him to this service, we find a strong reluctancy on the part of Moses, to go upon so arduous an undertaking. It was very gracious, therefore, in God the Holy Ghost, to put it into the heart and mouth of Stephen, to tell the Church this concerning Moses; for it. opens a very interesting train of thoughts in the mind, and which under divine teaching, cannot fail of becoming highly profitable. In the relation we have of Moses' history, Exodus 2:10-11, the chasm, from Moses being brought from the time of nursing by Pharaoh's daughter, to his being grown, is not filled in with any date; and we are left to form our own conjectures, how long it might have been from his being brought to Pharaoh's daughter, to the time that it came into his heart to visit his brethren. But the Lord the Spirit was pleased to think it important, that the Church should know; and therefore by Stephen we are told, that he was forty years old, when this event took place. Here then evidently we behold, the first impulse breaking out in the mind of Moses under the Lord, of his relationship to Israel, and that Israel in Christ, And I pray the Reader yet further to remark, the very words which God the Holy Ghost useth, for they are striking: it came into his heart, to visit his brethren. How? I would humbly ask, but by the Spirit of the Lord. He was now in the Court of Pharaoh. An adopted son of the King's daughter. But Moses, though all this while, for forty years, insensible as it should seem, to the afflictions of his people; yet could not but know himself by the marks of circumcision in his flesh of the seed of Abraham. These things were smothered, hid away, from the observation, or knowledge even of those in the Court of Pharaoh, who knew his origin; yea, probably Moses would have wished while unawakened by grace, to have forgotten them himself. But, when the Lord put it in his heart, he felt the full tide of Israel's stream, in love to return; and from the same Almighty teaching drew conclusions, that the God of Abraham, which prompted him to deliver his oppressed brethren, must have taught them also! Reader! what a train of the most precious thoughts arise from hence, in proof of grace-union in Christ, and sometimes breaking out in a way perfectly undescribable, in confirmation of it, even before any open work is wrought in the soul by regeneration, as in the instance of Moses, to make us sensible whose we are, and to whom we belong! Reader! Is it not sweet to you? It is to me indeed!


Verses 30-50

And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. (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, (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. (33) Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. (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. (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. (36) He brought them out, after that he had showed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. (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. (38) This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: (39) To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, (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. (41) And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. (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? (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. (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. (45) Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Joshua into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; (46) Who found favor before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. (47) But Solomon built him a house. (48) Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, (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? (50) Hath not my hand made all these things?

Reader! pause to remark, a second forty years in the life of Moses had run out, before those visions of God began, which took place at the bush. What a wonder-working God is Israel's God, in relation to his dealings with his people? We find, that at all ages, at all occasions, and in all departments of life, the manifestations of his love, in the first calls of his grace, have been, and still are, made known. No time, no place, nor circumstances, can preclude their operation. The charter of grace runs in very certain terms: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, John 6:37. In that day that the great trumpet shall be blown, they shall come which were ready to perish, Isaiah 27:13.

I have already, in the opening of this Chapter, made it appear very plain, that it was the Son of God which spake to Moses from the bush: (see Acts 7:2-16. and the Comment upon the passage:) but in this place I would beg to add a short observation further. The inspired writer of the book of Exodus, (Exodus 3:4) saith, that God called unto him out of the midst of the bush. And here Stephen confirms the same, when he saith, that the words spoken were in a Covenant manifestation, as the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. So that it was not simply God, but God in Covenant; not only the glory of God in the person of Christ, but the glory of God's grace in him, John 1:18. And I would not have the Reader overlook, or forget, that this manifestation had such a strong and lasting impression on the mind of Moses, that when he came to die, and as he blessed the tribes of Israel before his death, he dwelt with more affection upon this discovery of Covenant-love to his soul at the bush, than upon any other circumstance in his whole eventful life. As he pronounced his dying benediction, (and which was partly prophetical,) upon the tribe of Joseph, the blessings he prayed for were all founded in the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush: Deuteronomy 33:16, meaning God in flesh; Christ sealing all the blessings of the Covenant. Moses, by faith, beheld the Son of God then in our nature, as in a bush not consumed, because God dwelt in it: and finishing in that nature the whole purposes of redemption. Reader! first impressions of God's revelations in Christ are precious things. A child of God will think of them with holy joy, in the last hours of his dwelling in a body of flesh. And not unfrequently will they arise warm in the soul, when all the powers of nature are growing cold in approaching death.

One word more on this passage. When the Lord speaks of having seen the affliction of his people in Egypt, having heard their groanings, knew their sorrows, and was come down to deliver them; in the commission given to Moses, we must look to an infinitely greater than Moses, and behold the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus which is come down to deliver his people, from more than the Egyptian state of bondage, even from the captivity of sin and hell, and everlasting destruction. And the Lord's people are indeed his people, by every tye which can make them so; from the everlasting betrothing of the Church, through all the time-state of the present existence, and leading into the eternity, which is to follow.

I admire the grace of the Lord, in repeating the assurance, of having perfect knowledge of his peoples' sorrows. I have seen; I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt. Reader! think how since that period, the Lord hath given his Church a more palpable conviction, of the interest he takes in all that concerns his redeemed; in not only knowing, and seeing their afflictions, but by a fellow-feeling, taking part with them in all that belongs to them. Whoso toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye, Zechariah 2:8. In all their affliction, he is afflicted, Isaiah 63:9; Hebrews 5:1-2.

And there is a world of tenderness in the expression, my people. For it not only implies a peculiarity, whereby they differ from all the world beside; but a property, a right, which in every point, distinguishes them from every other nation under heaven. It is indeed a name, to signify the Lord's right in them, and their right in all that belongs to the Lord, by virtue of their relationship, and a oneness of nature in him. Sweetly sung the Church to this union, when she said, I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine. Song of Solomon 6:3.

I forbear to enlarge on the several other parts which Stephen brings forward, in reciting the outlines of the history of the Church. Indeed it cannot be necessary, as the word of God hath the whole very largely set forth, in its proper place. And the subject is too plain to need a comment. If the Reader wishes any further scriptural testimony, in confirmation, I would recommend him, to consult some, or all, of the following scriptures, Exodus 19:3; Exo_19:9-10; Exo_20:2; Deuteronomy 5:2-4; Exodus 33:11; Psalms 83:18; Exodus 24:18; 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:2-13.


Verses 51-60

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. (52) Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: (53) Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. (54) When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. (55) But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, (56) And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (57) Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, (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. (59) And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (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.

I beg the Reader to be very particular, in observing the charge which Stephen brings, of his opponents' resisting the Person, and offices of the Holy Ghost. And I no less beg of him to observe, that he brings the same charge against their fathers. Hence, it will undeniably follow, that it was God the Holy Ghost, who presided over the Church, as well under the Old Testament, as the New. The Reader should carefully cherish those sweet testimonies, to the Almighty agency of the Holy Ghost; (and especially in an age like the present,) as peculiarly blessed. And I pray the Reader to observe, how blessedly and decidedly Stephen speaks, to the character of the Lord Jesus, when calling him the Just One; a well known name among the Israelites, of the Messiah, Zephaniah 3:5; Zechariah 9:9; Acts 3:14; Act_22:14.

Let the Reader remark, for it is well worthy to be remarked, how very differently this sermon of Stephen's wrought, from that of Peter's, on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:37. Here, the bitterness of their hearts was so great, that it could not be concealed, for they gnashed upon him with their teeth. There, the blessed contrition which followed shewed itself, in an earnest cry of the soul; Men and brethren what shall we do? And doth not the Reader immediately discover the cause? Stephen's sermon was not a Jot more pointed than Peter's; for in both, they were charged with murdering Christ, Acts 2:23, But the mighty difference, in the effect of the preaching, arose from the work of God the Holy Ghost, in the one instance; and the want of that Almighty work, in the other. Here lay all the difference. And, as Stephen told his auditory, this was the cause all along, with their fathers, as with them, resisting the Holy Ghost. I very earnestly beg the Reader to consider well the subject. If men, and especially ministers, were but truly sensible of those things, with what earnestness would they seek the influences of the Holy Spirit, from whose grace alone it is, that the word preached, can become profitable in them that hear it. Oh! thou Almighty Lord of thy Church! do thou direct my heart into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ, 2 Thessalonians 3:5.

There are many very blessed and precious things, in this closing scene of the death of Stephen, highly meriting our closest attention; but I can only detain the Reader to mention them. His being full of the Holy Ghost means, fresh manifestations and renewings of the Holy Ghost, shed upon him more abundantly, to prepare him for the cruel and painful death, which he was called to. It is not without a well-founded hope, (and this example serves in proof,) that special and peculiar exercises of the Lord's people are supported, with more than ordinary grace. A dying hour, is sometimes eminently sanctified with living enjoyments in the Lord, Deuteronomy 33:25; Zechariah 14:6-7. What a gracious act of the Lord Jesus, was this manifestation of himself to Stephen, in such a moment? I pray the Reader both to mark the grace of the Lord to his servant; and no less to consider the revelation thereby made to the Church, as it really is, the fullest confirmation of his eternal power and Godhead, Let the Reader notice, how Stephen speaks of him, in his Mediator-character and office, while describing him as the Shechinah, in proof of his divine nature. And I beg him not to overlook the Lord's posture of standing; as if in readiness, both to receive Stephen to his arms, and to execute judgment upon his enemies. And I request the Reader the rather to notice this posture of the Lord Jesus, because, as far as I recollect, after the ascension of Jesus he is always spoken of as sitting, to receive his people, and to behold the destruction of his foes, Mark 16:19; Psalms 110:1. For the right hand of God. See Ephesians 1:20.

I have already (Chapter 6) stated the circumstances relating to the stoning of Stephen, as a full, and decided testimony, in proof that he died a martyr, for his asserting the Godhead of Christ. Hence I add nothing further on that subject in this place. But I must detain the Reader, to call his attention for a moment, to what is said of Saul, who afterwards became the great Apostle Paul. This is the first account we have of him in Scripture. And here we find him, noted by the Holy Ghost, as receiving the clothes of the witnesses, which stoned Stephen. Paul himself, when afterwards speaking of this awful transaction, saith, that he was standing by, and consenting unto his death and kept the raiment of them that slew him, Acts 22:19-20. Reader! what did the grace of God accomplish in this man ? And what cannot the same grace accomplish in every heart of his people? How sweetly the Chapter closeth, in the relation of the death of Stephen? A loud voice like his Lord! And the humble imitation of the Lord's example, praying for his murderers! And was not Christ's prayer heard, and answered on the day of Pentecost! Acts 2:36-37. And in the conversion of Paul, was Stephen's prayer forgotten Reader! Mr 1-16. And mark Stephen's last words. Calling upon God and saying Lord Jesus. So then, Jesus is God.


Verse 60

REFLECTIONS

Reader! let you and I bless God the Spirit, for this most precious sermon of his servant Stephen. Surely God the Holy Ghost would not have caused it to have been so fully recorded, (since we have already the whole subject contained in it, at large in the scriptures before written,) had not this Almighty Teacher in the Church intended from it some sweet instructions, and which are here very particularly set forth. It is our mercy therefore to attend to them, and bless the Lord for his grace in giving them. And what a light is thrown upon the history of Moses, by Stephen's sermon, in that part of it (which without this information we should not have known,) of his early apprehension, that the Lord would use him, as an instrument, for the delivery of his brethren? And what a blessed proof we draw from Stephen's sermon, in addition to the other relations we have in Scripture, that it was the Lord Jesus, which spake to Moses from the bush. Reader! these are sweet things. May you and I learn to prize them very highly; and bless God the Holy Ghost, in having given them to us, by his servant Stephen.

Precious Lord Jesus! be thou eternally loved, and praised, for the grace manifested to thy dying martyr, in such a season of peculiar trial. Oh! let thine whole Church, from age to age, be refreshed in the sweet assurance, such a memorable instance affords, of thy continual presence with thy people. May my soul, and the souls of all thy redeemed, learn from it, how we are to commit our departing spirits into thine Almighty hand, in the hour of death, as unto a faithful Creator!

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 7:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/acts-7.html. 1828.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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