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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.
Simon was one of those impostors, who in all ages and countries have taken advantage of men's ignorance and credulity, and bewitched them with sorceries. They employ certain arts, perhaps they are acquainted with certain secrets of nature, formerly less understood than now; and persuade the multitude that they possess more than human power. In this fraudulent vocation Simon was unusually successful. They all gave heed to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
The arts, however, which he may have practised and the wonders he performed were very different from the miracles which attested the words of Philip. These astonished the people; and they believed him preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, and were baptized, both men and women.
Simon himself believed also. He saw that a power belonged to Philip of which he knew nothing. He was aware of the hollowness of his own pretensions, and was more able than others to judge of the real power possessed by Philip. So he followed the rest, and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
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:
15. Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16. For as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
17. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
Not all, probably, of those that had been baptized; but some selected from the rest, who were to be employed in continuing the work which Philip had begun. Because the gift of the Spirit, here conferred, is not the sanctifying influence promised by Peter, (Acts ii. 38,) to all who should "repent, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." It appears from what follows, that the gifts now received were the extraordinary powers which the apostles possessed, and had the privilege of communicating to such as they saw fitted for the purpose of extending the kingdom of Christ. Such powers as are described in Acts xix. 6, "When Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied."
The sight of this power awakened in the mind of Simon recollections of a trade which he ought to have forgotten.
18. And when Simon saw, that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19. Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
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.
21. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
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.
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.
We were told that Simon himself believed. He could not avoid believing that a power was with Philip which does not belong to man. But such belief was very different from that faith which converts the heart. His mind was still set upon this present world; and a great temptation was before him. He, perhaps, had formerly been used to communicate the secrets of his magic for a certain price; and the thought still haunted him, that all things might be turned to gain.
That, however, which to him was everything, was to the apostles nothing. They had few affections left for things below, even lawful things: much less could Simon's unlawful offer have any temptation for them. But it opened to them the state of his heart, and enabled them to disclose it to himself. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter. Know ye not, that so many of us as were
3 Rom. vi. 3.
Gal. vi. 14.
Rom. vi. 11.
baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death," being "crucified to the world," and dead to sin ? Thou hast neither part nor lot in him, if thine heart is still set on this world, enslaved to this world alive to it and its gain, but not to God and his righteousness. Nay, the bond of thine iniquity is more strongly rivetted than ever, inasmuch as the things which might have been for thy deliverance, have become unto thee an occasion of falling.
We might hope, from Simon's reply, that conscience was not extinguished in his heart. Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. But we should gladly have found him lamenting his sin, as well as dreading its consequences. And the traditions of ancient history lead us to fear that he did not repent, with any real change of heart, of this his wickedness; that he went on from bad to worse, and the bond of his iniquity was never broken. He had desired to employ for his own purposes, for profit and honour to himself, those gifts of the Spirit which were bestowed for the advancement of God's glory, and the salvation of men. And he leaves an awful example to those especially who are engaged in sacred duties, that they guard against any selfish principle, any unholy motive, which might mix itself with their ministrations. For this is guilt of the same species, if not of the same heinousness, as Simon's. And under such a reflection, what need have all to pray that the
thoughts of their hearts may be forgiven; that the Lord may pardon the sins of his people, and mercifully look upon their infirmities.
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.
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,
28. Was returning, and sitting in his chariot, read Esaias the prophet.
29. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
This is a beautiful example of the watchful providence of God, waiting to be gracious: waiting to bestow fresh gifts at the proper season. It explains the text which says, "To him that hath shall be given." For here is set before us a person who, though living in a distant and heathen country, though charged with authority and duty there, still left all at the appointed time, and came up to