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XV.

ril.

At his death he prays for his murderers.

593 laid down their clothes two witnesses,

whose hands were first

upon

him SECT. at a young man's feet,

to put him to death, (Deut. xvii. 7,) laid down whose name was Saul.

their upper garments at the feet of a young man, Acts whose name was Suul, who willingly took the vil. 58. charge of them, to shew how heartily he con

curred with them in the execution. 59 And they stoned And thus they stoned Stephen, who during this 59 Stephen, calling upon furious assault continued with his eyes fixed on God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spi- that glorious vision, invoking his great Lord,

and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my Spiritq; for

important as the trust is, I joyfully commit it 60 And he knecled to thy powerful and faithful hand. And hav-60 down, and cried with a ing nothing further relating to himself which loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their could give him any solicitude, all his remaining

charge. thoughts were taken up in compassion to these

inhuman wretches who were arming themselves
for bis destruction; so that, after having receiv.
ed many violent blows rising as well as he
could into a praying posture, and bending his
knees, he cried out with a loud though expiring

a
voice, O Lord, charge not this sin to their account
with strict severity, proportionable to the weight
of the offence'; but graciously forgive them,

as

the stoning Paul at Lystra, chap. xiv. 19) nive at this great irregularity and outrage. to liave been an act of popular fury, and Hist. of Christianity, p. 137. exceeding the power which the Jews re- 9 Invoking and saying, &c.] This is gularly had; which, though it might have the literal version of the words, 7542 Noextended to passing arapital sentence, (which mivox xai asyovie, the name of God not yet we read nothing of here,) was not suf- being in the original. Nevertheless such a ficient (so far as I can find on the most solemn prayer to Christ, in which a deparicareful renewel examination of all Mr. ing soul is thus solemnly committed into his Biscoe has urged) for carrying it into execuo hands, is such an act of worship, as we cantion without the consent of the Romans. The not believe any good man would have paid Jews were more than once ready to stone to a mere creature. --Bp. Burnet (on the Christ, not only when by their own confes- Articles, p. 48) justly observes, that sion they had not power to put any one to death, Stephen here worships Christ in the very (John xviii. 31,) but when nothing had same manner, in which Christ had but a passed which had the shadow of a legal trial. little while before worshipped the Father on (Compare John viii. 59; X. 31; & seq.) the cross. How far they now might have formed those r Charge not this sin to their account.] express notions of what the rabbies ca'l the The words in the original, un sognsavo jud ment of zenl, I know not; but it is cer- τις την αμαρτιεον ταυτην, seem to have an tain they acted on that principle, and as if emphasis, which, though I have hinted in they had thought, cvery private Israelite the paraphrase, (as well as I could without had, like Phinchas, who is pleaded as an multiplving words, to a degree that in this example of it, a right to put another to circumstance would have been very im. death on the spot, if he found him in a capi- proper,) I could not exactly and naturally tal breach of the divine law; a notion by express in the version. It is literally, Weigh the way, directly contrary to Deut. xvii. not out to them this sin, that is, a punislı6, which requires at least two witnesses in ment proportionable to it; alluding (as capital cases, where there is a legal process. Elsner well observes) to passages of ScripSee Mr. Larner's Credib. Part I. Book !. ture, where God is represented as weighing chap. 2, Vol. I. edit. 3, p. 112-120. Dr. men's characters and actions in the dispensaBenson suggests some probable reasons, tions of his justice and providence. Comwhich might induce Pilatc (who probably pare 1 Sam. ii. S. Job xxxi. 6. Prov. xvi. 2. still continued procurator of Judeu,) to con- : Isai. xxvi. 7. Dan, v. 27. -Sce Elsner.

Observ. Vol. 1. p. 395, 396.

XV.

594 Reflections on the close of Stephen's speech, and his death. SECT. as I do from my very heart. And when he had charge. And when he said this, he calmly resigned his soul into his had said this, he feu

aslecp. Acts Saviour's hand, and with a sacred serenity in VII. 60 the midst of this furious assault he sweetly fell

asleep, and left the traces of gentle composure,

rather than of horror, upon his breathless corpse. Acts

ACTS VIII.1.-And VIII. 1 And Saul, the young man mentioned above,

Saul was consenting at whose feet the witnesses laid down their unto his death. clothes, was so far from being shocked at this cruel scene, that, on the contrary, he was well pleased with his slaughter; being so full of rage and malice against the Christian name, that he thought no severities could be too great for those who thus zealously endeavoured to pro

pagate it.

IMPROVEMENT.

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Ver. THANKFULLY must we own the divine goodness in having ful37 filled this important promise, of raising up a prophet like Moses, a

prophet indeed far superior to him whom God's Israel is on the highest penalties required to hear. May we be all taught by him,

and ever own that divine authority which attends all his doctrines 38 and all his commands ! By him God has given us lively oracles indeed, that may well penetrate deep into our souls, as being well contrived to animate them, and to secure their eternal life.

But (), how many of those who have heard of him, and been baptized into his name, in a more express manner than Israel was

baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, (1 Cor. 8. 2) re39

fuse to hearken to him, and in their hearts turn back into Egypt;

being guilty of practices as notoriously opposite to his precepts, 40, 41 as the idolatry of the golden calf to those of Moses : Long did

the patience of God bear with Israel in succeeding ages, while 42, 43 the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of Remphan diverted their

regards from the worship of their living Jehovah ; but at length he gave them up to captivity. Well have we deserved, by our apostacy from God, to be made proportionable monuments of his wrath ; yet still he continues graciously to dwell among us; and

while the Jewish tabernacle, formed so exactly after the divine 47 model in the mount is no more, and while the more splendid tem

ple which Solomon raised is long since laid in desolation, the most 78, 49 high God, superior to all temples made with hands, infinitely supe.

rior even to heaven itself, continues still to favour us with his presence, and condescends to own us for his people, and to call

himself our God Let us take the most diligent heed that we be 52 not uncircumcised in heart and in ears, and that we do not, after so fatal an example, resist the Holy Spirit, and by rejecting Christ,

incur

44

XV.

Reflections on the close of Stephen's speech, and his death. 595 incur a guilt greater than that of the Jews, who violated the law bect. received through ranks of attendant angels; for that milder and gentler form, in which this divine lavgiver has appeared to us, Ver. will render the ingratitude and guilt of our rebellion far more 53 aggravated than theirs.

The reproofs of the holy inartyr Stephen were indeed plain and faithful, and therefore they were so much the more kind; but instead of attending to so just and so wise a remonstrance, those sinners against their own souls stopped their ears, lift up an outrage- 57 ous cry, and like so many savage beasts rush upon him to destroy him ; overwhelming that head with stones which shone like an angel of God : Fatal instance of prejudice and of rage! But how 56 were all the terrors of this murderous crew, when arined with the jostruments of immediate death, dispelled by the glorious vision of Christ at the right hand of God! Well might he then remain in- 59 trepid, well might he commend his departing spirit into the hands of his divine Saviour, as able to keep what he committed to him until that day. 2 Tim. i. 12.

Let us with holy pleasure behold this bright image of our Redeemer, this first martyr, who following so closely his recent steps, (as he suffered so near the place that had been the scene of his agonies,) appears to have imbibed so much of the same Spirit : Having thus solemnly consigned his soul to Christ, all that remained was, like Christ, to pray for his murderers ; full of compassion for their souls, while dying by their hands, he only said, Lord, 60 lay not this sin to their charge, and then gently fell asleep ; expired in holy composure and serenity of soul, and slept sweetly in the soft bosom of his Saviour.

O Saul, couldst thou have believed, if one had told thee, while 53 thou wast urging on the cruel multitude, while thou wast glorying over his venerable corpse, that the time should come when thou thyself shouldst be twice stoned in the cause in which he died, and triumph in having committed thy soul likewise to that Jesus whom thou wast now blaspheming ! In this instance his dying prayer was illustriously answered : In this instance the lion lies down with the lamb, and the leopard with the kid, (Isa. xi. 6.) and it is most delightful to think, that the martyr Stephen, and Saul that barbarous persecutor, (afterwards his brother both in faith and in martyrdom, are now joined in bonds of everlasting friendship, and dwell together in the bappy company of those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb : (Rev. vii. 14.) May we at length be joined with them, and in the mean time let us glorify God in both !

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