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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 work 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.
Stephen had been accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses. He shows how little he deserves this accusation by the honour which he ascribes to Moses. And then he turns the argument against his opposers, as the Lord Jesus himself had done. He had upbraided his Jewish adversaries, because, professing to follow Moses, they had not understood his words. (John v. 45, 46.) "Do not think that I will accuse you unto the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye
would have believed me: for he wrote of me." In the same manner Stephen reminds them, how Moses had declared, that God should raise a prophet
3 Amos v. 25-27. "Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch, (an idol of the Philistines,) and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts."
up unto them of their brethren, like unto him: him should they hear. That prophet had now been raised up; yet they refused to hear him.
Nay, neither had Moses been obeyed by their fathers in the wilderness, though an angel spake to him in mount Sinai, and though he received the living oracles, the words of the living God,―the commandments" which if a man do he shall even live in them." Yet him they would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt.
It is therefore nothing new, if the people should have rejected God's messenger: if the builders should have refused the stone, which God had made the corner-stone; if they should have disbelieved his promises, and rebelled against his will. that was with God at Sinai, was opposed; they thrust him from them. Neither would it be new, if they despised the good things intended for them; for so their fathers had in their hearts preferred Egypt rather than Canaan. Neither would it be new, if they were to draw down God's anger upon themselves, by refusing his mercy; or if they should be deserted by him, because they "did not like to retain him in their knowledge." God gave up their ancestors to worship the host of heaven: so he might once more turn, and give up them. He had sent their ancestors into captivity beyond Babylon. Let them beware, lest a worse thing fall upon them; lest God should bring calamity upon their place and
4 Lev. xviii. 5.
5 Rom. i. 28.
nation, "the which whosoever heareth, his ears should tingle.""
Stephen then reminds them of the advantages, great every way," which they had enjoyed, which yet had not availed to keep their hearts with God, or prevent their rebellion.
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.8
45. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus? into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
46. Who found favour with God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.1
47. But Solomon built him an house.
48. Howbeit, the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,2
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?
51. 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 per
6 Jerem. xix. 4.
7 Or, "tent of the testimony," as it is called, Numb. v. 15. "At even, there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire," the witness or testimony of God's presence with them.
secuted? and they have slain them which shewed 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.
So entirely is the history of the Jewish nation, a history of man's perverseness. They were a stiff-necked people, who would not bear the yoke. They were circumcised according to the letter; consecrated to God by the outward rite; but their heart was uncircumcised, not devoted to him; their ears were turned to the false prophets who corrupted his word. They had persecuted the men of God who "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," and shewed before of the coming of the Just One: whom now they had bribed Judas to betray, and urged Pilate to execute, and so filled up the measure of their iniquities. God had dealt with them, as he had dealt with no other nation. He had given them the law by the disposition, or ministration, of those spirits who "do his pleasure:"* and these commands they had trampled under foot, and "done despite unto the Spirit of grace."
We see, in all this, the effects of that transgression which alienated man from God, and caused the natural heart to be at enmity against Him. Let it ever be remembered, that the rebuke which Stephen pronounces against the Jews, may not be 2 So St. Paul speaks of the law as "ordained by angels," Gal. iii. 19 and Heb. ii. 2, "the word spoken by angels."
3 2 Pet. i. 21.
4 Ps. ciii. 21.
deserved by the Jews alone. In order to resist the Holy Ghost, it is not necessary to ill-treat prophets, or put to death God's messengers. We resist the Holy Ghost, when we resist what the prophets have spoken: we crucify the Son of God afresh, when we yield ourselves up to commit the sins for which he died. The Jews received the law by the disposition of angels: we have received it from Him to whom angels bow. And "if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven."5
DEATH OF STEPHEN.-A. D. 33.
ACTS vii. 54-60.
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 stedfastly 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.
The Lord, then, whose cause Stephen was defending, does not desert his servants in the time
5 Heb. xii. 25.