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at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

At his death he prays for his murderers.

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XV.

laid down their clothes two witnesses, whose hands were first upon him SECT. to put him to death, (Deut. xvii. 7,) laid down their upper garments at the feet of a young man, Acts whose name was Saul, who willingly took the VII. 58. charge of them, to shew how heartily he concurred with them in the execution.

59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spi

rit.

And thus they stoned Stephen, who during this 59 furious assault continued with his eyes fixed on that glorious vision, invoking his great Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit q; for important as the trust is, I joyfully commit it 60 And he kneeled to thy powerful and faithful hand. And hav-60 down, and cried with a ing nothing further relating to himself which not this sin to their could give him any solicitude, all his remaining charge. thoughts were taken up in compassion to these

loud voice, Lord, lay

inhuman wretches who were arming themselves
for his 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
voice, O Lord, charge not this sin to their account
with strict severity, proportionable to the weight
of the offence; but graciously forgive them,

the stoning Paul at Lystra, chap. xiv. 19) to have been an act of popular fury, and exceeding the power which the Jews regularly had; which, though it might have extended to passing a capital sentence, (which yet we read nothing of here,) was not sufficient (so far as I can find on the most careful renewed examination of all Mr. Biscoe has urged) for carrying it into execution without the consent of the Romans. The Jews were more than once ready to stone Christ, not only when by their own confession they had not power to put any one to death, (John xviii. 31,) but when nothing had passed which had the shadow of a legal trial. (Compare John viii. 59; x. 31; & seq.) How far they now might have formed those express notions of what the rabbies cal the judgment of zeal, I know not; but it is certain they acted on that principle, and as if they had thought, every private Israelite had, like Phinchas, who is pleaded as an example of it, a right to put another to death on the spot, if he found him in a capital breach of the divine law; a notion by the way, directly contrary to Deut. xvii. 6, which requires at least two witnesses in capital cases, where there is a legal process. See Mr. Lardner's Credib. Part I. Book I. chap. 2, Vol. I. edit. 3, p. 112–120. Dr. Benson suggests some probable reasons, which might induce Pilate (who probably still continued procurator of Judea,) to con

as

nive at this great irregularity and outrage.
Hist. of Christianity, p. 137.

4 Invoking and saying, &c.] This is
the literal version of the words, {πinaλb-

vor na ayola, the name of God not being in the original. Nevertheless such a solemn prayer to Christ, in which a departing soul is thus solemnly committed into his hands, is such an act of worship, as we cannot believe any good man would have paid to a mere creature. -Bp. Burnet (on the Articles, p. 48) justly observes, that Stephen here worships Christ in the very same manner, in which Christ had but a little while before worshipped the Father on

the cross.

Charge not this sin to their account.] The words in the original, μn snonç avτας την αμαρτίαν ταύτην, seem to have an emphasis, which, though I have hinted in the paraphrase, (as well as I could without multiplying words, to a degree that in this circumstance would have been very improper,) I could not exactly and naturally express in the version. It is literally, Weigh not out to them this sin, that is, a punishment proportionable to it; alluding (as Elsner well observes) to passages of Scripture, where God is represented as weighing men's characters and actions in the dispensations of his justice and providence. Compare 1 Sam. ii. S. Job xxxi. 6. Prov. xvi. 2. Isai. xxvi. 7. Dan. v. 27. See Elsner. Observ. Vol. I. p. 395, 396.

594

SECT.

XV.

Acts VIII. 1

Reflections on the close of Stephen's speech, and his death.

asleep.

ACTS VIII. 1.—And

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 fell 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. 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 propagate it.

Ver.

IMPROVEMENT.

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 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.

38

But O, 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. x. 2) refuse 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

39

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 44 while the Jewish tabernacle, formed so exactly after the divine 47 model in the mount is no more, and while the more splendid temple which Solomon raised is long since laid in desolation, the most 78, 49 high God, superior to all temples made with hands, infinitely superior 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,

Reflections on the close of Stephen's speech, and his death.

595

XV.

incur a guilt greater than that of the Jews, who violated the law SECT. received through ranks of attendant angels; for that milder and gentler form, in which this divine lawgiver 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 martyr 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 armed with the instruments 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 58 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 happy 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!

END OF THE SEVENTH VOLUME.

E. BAINES, PRINTER,

LEEDS.

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