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Reflections on the trial of the twelve apostles.
563 and it shall be for a testimony against them. (Matt. x. 18.) And sket. such was this repeated admonition which these holy prisoners then at the bar gave to the judges of Israel: Still they urge the divine authority of their mission ; still they proclaim him as head of the 30, 31 church and world, whom these very men had so lately crucified in so outrageous and contemptuous a manner. They point to him, whoin these priests and rulers had insulted on the cross, as now eralted at the right hand of God, and urge them to seek repentance and remission of sin, from him, to whom they had denied the common justice due to the meanest of men, the common humanity due to the vilest of criminals in their dying moments, giving him in the thirst of his last agonies vinegar mingled with gall. (Mat. xxvii. 34.)
Thousands of the people had fallen under this charge ; and Jesus the Prince had taken them under bis protection. Jesus the Saviour had washed them in his blood. But by wbat is too frequently the fatal prerogative of greatness, these princes of Israel 33 had hearts too high for the discipline of wisdom, and were engaged against these bumble ministers of the Son of God ; who nevertheless addressed them with all the respect which fidelity would allow, and could gladly have poured forth their blood for the salvation of those who so cruelly thirsied for it. They gnashed on these faithful ambassadors with their teeth, as if they would have devoured them alive; and justly will gnashing of teeth be the eternal portion of those who thus outrageously rejected the counsel of God against themselves. (Luke vii. 30.)
But God raised up a guardian for the apostles, where perhaps 34 they least expected it ; and the prudence of Gamaliel for a while checked the fury of bis brethren : So does God sometimes use the natural good sense and tcmper of those who do not themselves receive the gospel, for the protection of those who are faithfully devoted to its service. Gamaliel bad attentively observed former events ; 35--37 which is indeed the way to learn the surest lessons of wisdom, which are to be learnt any where but from the word of God. He had seen some ruined by their seditious zeal ; and let those who call themselves Christians take heed ; how they rashly rise up against legal authority, lest taking the sword they perish by it. (Mat. xxvi. 52.) Judiciously does be admonish the council to take heed lest 39 they be found fighters against God. May divine grace ever guard us from that fatal error into which all who oppose the gospel, whatever they may imagine, assuredly fall! They cannot indeed dissolve it, but they dash themselves in pieces against it. Be wise therefore O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth ! (Psal. i1. 10.)
For reasons of State, the apostles were to be scourged, though 40 their judges were inwardly convinced that it was at least possible their message might be divine. Deliver us, O Lord, from that policy which shall lead us to imagine any evil so great as that Vol. VII.
56€ The foreign Jews complain that their widows are neglected. sect. which may offend thee! The punishment which these excellent
men suffered was infamous, but the cause in which they endured it rendered it glorious ; nor could those stripes be half so painful to their flesh, as an opportunity of thus approving their fidelity to their Lord was delightful to their pious souls : Well might they triumph in bearing the scourge for him who bore the cross, and died on it for them. Let us arm ourselves with the same mind, if in a severer sense than this we should be called for his sake to resist unto blood.
The choice of the seven deacons. Stephen preaches Christ, and
after disputing with some of the Jewish societies, is brought before the Sanhedrim. Acts VI. 1--12.
a murmuring of the
Acts VI. I.
Acts VI. 1. NOW in those days of which we have been AND in those days
speaking, and some time after the fact last of the disciples was recorded bad fallen out, the number of the disci- multiplied, there arose VI. 1. ples being multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Hellenists or Grecians, that is, of those Hebrews,
Grecians against the converts to the gospel wtio being foreign Jews their widoirs,were negand coming from the western countries, used lected in the daily mi
a Grecians, that is, --- foreign Jews, interest should be in question on such an &c.] This, for reasons which may be seen occasion, and not merely that of those at large in Dr. Benson's History, appears who came from Syria.—Beza interprets to me by far the most probable of the seven the word, as denoting only circumcised opinions mentioned by Fabricius, (in his proselytes; but I think, without any reaBiblioth. Grec. lib. iv. cap. 5. note q. See Drus. in loc. Vol. III. p. 226.) as well as that which is b Their widows were neglected.] The generally allo-ced by all the best commenta- apostles undoubtedly acted a very faithful tors. (See Critic. Magn. in loc.) That part in the distribution of money raised by of Mons. Fourmont, (Hist. Acud. Roy. the sale of lands : (See note c on chap iv. Vol. III. p. 105.) that they were Syrians, 37. § 10. p. 549.) But as Lord Barringdepends on uncertain and improbable con ton well observes, (Miscell. Sacr. Abstract, jectures, either that the Acts were written p. 11. they could not do all things. Pero in Syriac, or anuaçet read for cançat, haps they intrusted some who had been persons belonging to Helena Queen of the proprietors of the estates sold, wbo would Adiabeni. (See Wolf. in loc.). As there naturally have some peculiar regard to were so many Jews who used the Greek the necessity of their neighbours, as being translation of the Bible, who might there- best acquainted with them ; and, if any fore very properly be denoted by this suspicions arose as to the sincerity of their word, it is extremely probable, their united character, and the reasonableness of
The apostles propose, that some be chose for this service. . 593
daily ministration of the charities that were
ve by the sale of estates having been
in some measure have affected their usefulness.
sequence, should leave the important care of dis-
complaints, unless some further measures be 3 Wherefore, bre- taken by common
consent. Therefore, bre-3 thren, look
thren, as you easily see how inconvenient it
their pretensions, these strangers would work, to me!dle as little as possible with (coleris paribus) be least capable of giving controversies about church order and govern. satisaction.
ment, or any other circumstantial points that c Having called the multitude of the dis- have unhappily divided the Protestant ciples together.] Dr. Whitby has solidly world. Yet I hope I shall give no offence proved on this heart, that by these we are by observing, that no just argument can to understand, not(as Dr. Lightfoot imagin- be drawn from the actions of the apostles, ed,) the rest of the hundred and twenty, but with their extraordinary powers and crethe whole body of Christian converts, they dentials to the rights of succeeding ministers being the persons to whom satisfaction destitute of such powers and credentials. was then due.
It would however have been happy for the d Seven men.) Mr. Mcde thinks this an church in every are, had its ordinary minisallusion to the seven archangels, whoin he ters taken the same care to act in concert supposes the great courtiers of heaven; and south the people committed to their charge, many other texts, produced in support of and to pay all due deference to their nathat rabbinical opinion, scem almost as little tural rights, which the apostles themselves, to the purpose as this.
extraordinary as their commission and ofe Whom we may set over this affair.) 1 fice was, did on this and other occasions. apprehend, the apostles speak here of what The theree grand canons, that all things was to be the joint act of themselves and should be done decently, in charity, and lo the whole church, as to be sure, after they edification, duly attended to, would superhad cxercised the trust for a while, it would sede the nccessity of ten thousand which have been most indecent to have devolved have been made since, and perhaps, if it on any, but such as they should have rightly weighed, would be found absolute, approved. It is a maxim with me in this ly to vacate a great part of them.
Seven deacons are chose and ordained.
SECT. to attend to the management of it. And we, 4 But we will give in the mean time, being freed from this great to prayer, and to the
ourselves continually incumbrance, will constantly attend to prayer, ministry of the word. VI. 4. and to the ministry of the word, which is our
grand business, and which we could be glad to
prosecute without interruption. 5 And the speech the apostles made was pleasing 5 And the saying to all the multitude, who were called together pleased the whole mul
titude: and they chose upon this occasion; and having deliberated a Stephen, a little upon the choice that was to be made, they of taith and of the Holy elected seven, to be set apart to the office of Ghost, and Philip, and
Prochorus, and Nica. deacons, whose names were as follows, There
nor, and Timon, and
repose this confidence ; and accordingls they and when they had
And the word of 7 And the consequence was, that the matter of
God increased; and the complaint being thus removed, and the apostles
Stephen, a man full of faith, &c.] Mr. that the founder of this sect, considering Fleming (in his Christology, Vol. II. p. how common the name was, might be 166.) endeavours to prove, that Stephen some other person so called, or else (as Mr. was one of the seventy, but it seems quite L'Enfant conjectures, that some of his a precarious conjecture. The termination words or actions being misinterpreted might of most of these names makes it probable be the occasion of seduction, under the authey were Hellenists; a supposition which thority of so rencrable a name as his. also agrees very well with the occasion of We may observe by the way, that it is their election.
evident the word proselyte here signifies, & Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch.] Some one who by circumcision had entered himancient writers tell us, that hc fell into er self into the body of the Jewish people ; ror in the decline of life, and became the for none imagine Nicolas, to have been founder of the sect of the Nicolailuns, men what is commonly called a proselyle of the tiored Rer. ii. 6, 15. (See Euseb. Eccles. gate, no uncircumcised person being yet adHist. lib. iii cap. 29. and Iren. lib. i. cap. mitted into the Christian church. 26.) But it seems much more probable,
Stephen works miracles, and the Jews dispute with him. 567 number of the disci. more entirely at leisure to attend to the great sect. ples multiplied in Jes and peculiar duties of their office, the word of rusalem greatly; and a great company of the God grew, and the number of disciples in and priests were obedient about Jerusalem was greatly multiplied; and io vi. 7. to the faith.
particular, what might seem very surprising, a
called to resign out of regard to it.
Grace to the superior bonours of an evangelist
narv miracles and great signs among the people.
were done by him, there arose some of the synagogue, which is called the syna zoque of the gogue which is called sthat of the Libertines, as Libertines, and Cyre- having been the children of freed men, that is,
certain of the
h A great multitude of priests, &c.] We most convincing proofs of which they learn from Ezia, chap. iii. 36-39, that saw before their eyes in their own temple. four thousand two hundred and eighty. —Some would render Fokus Oxno, a nine priests returned from the captivity; nimerous boull, as if it intimated, that, the number of which was now probably after mutual conferences with each other, much increased.- see no foundation they agreed to come over in a body ; which in the authority of any ancient copies, for might be the case : but, as the original rcading with Casaubon, Xab Tuy vEyEWg, does not determine that positively, I have and explaining it as if it were rau 'Toves kept to i hat seemed a more literal version: ?wy ospewe, and some of the priests. It is for which reason also I cannot, with indeed wonderful, that a great multitude of Heinsins, render ox? 3. vfftur, many priests them should embrace the gospel, considers of the lower rank. ing what peculiar resentments they must i The superior hopuurs of an evangeliat, expect from their unbelieving brethren, and &c.] It plainly appears from the forethe great losses to which they must be ex- going history of the institutive of the office posed in consequence of being cast out of that it was not as a deacon that he preached; their office; (as it is not to be imagined, but the extraordinery gifts of the Spirit be that, when Christians were cast out of the received, eminently qualified him for that synagogues, they would be retained as work: And no doubt, many Christians, temple-ministers :) But the grace of God not statedly devoted to the ministry, and was able to animate and support them a who e furniture was far inferior to him, gainst all. And it is very probable the would be capable of dcclaring Christ and miracle of rending the veil of the temple, his gospel 10 strangers in an editying and and the testimony of the guards to the useful manner, and would not fail accord. truth of the resurrection, (which some of ingly to do it, as Providence gave them a the chief of that order heard, and might call and opportunity. perhaps be whispered to some others,) k Full of grace and of porer.) So many might contribute considerably toward their valuable copies read x16, instead of conversion, in concurrence with the mira. 7158W5, that I thought myself obliged to culous gifts and powers of the apostles, the follow them. See Dr. Mill in loc.