Acts 7

* Stephen's defence. (1-50) Stephen reproves the Jews for the

death of Christ. (51-53) The martyrdom of Stephen. (54-60)

1-16 Stephen was charged as a blasphemer of God, and an

apostate from the church; therefore he shows that he is a son of

Abraham, and values himself on it. The slow steps by which the

promise made to Abraham advanced toward performance, plainly

show that it had a spiritual meaning, and that the land intended

was the heavenly. God owned Joseph in his troubles, and was with

him by the power of his Spirit, both on his own mind by giving

him comfort, and on those he was concerned with, by giving him

favour in their eyes. Stephen reminds the Jews of their mean

beginning as a check to priding themselves in the glories of

that nation. Likewise of the wickedness of the patriarchs of

their tribes, in envying their brother Joseph; and the same

spirit was still working in them toward Christ and his

ministers. The faith of the patriarchs, in desiring to be buried

in the land of Canaan, plainly showed they had regard to the

heavenly country. It is well to recur to the first rise of

usages, or sentiments, which have been perverted. Would we know

the nature and effects of justifying faith, we should study the

character of the father of the faithful. His calling shows the

power and freeness of Divine grace, and the nature of

conversion. Here also we see that outward forms and distinctions

are as nothing, compared with separation from the world, and

devotedness to God.
17-29 Let us not be discouraged at the slowness of the

fulfilling of God's promises. Suffering times often are growing

times with the church. God is preparing for his people's

deliverance, when their day is darkest, and their distress

deepest. Moses was exceeding fair, "fair toward God;" it is the

beauty of holiness which is in God's sight of great price. He

was wonderfully preserved in his infancy; for God will take

special care of those of whom he designs to make special use.

And did he thus protect the child Moses? Much more will he

secure the interests of his holy child Jesus, from the enemies

who are gathered together against him. They persecuted Stephen

for disputing in defence of Christ and his gospel: in opposition

to these they set up Moses and his law. They may understand, if

they do not wilfully shut their eyes against the light, that God

will, by this Jesus, deliver them out of a worse slavery than

that of Egypt. Although men prolong their own miseries, yet the

Lord will take care of his servants, and effect his own designs

of mercy.
30-41 Men deceive themselves, if they think God cannot do what

he sees to be good any where; he can bring his people into a

wilderness, and there speak comfortably to them. He appeared to

Moses in a flame of fire, yet the bush was not consumed; which

represented the state of Israel in Egypt, where, though they

were in the fire of affliction, yet they were not consumed. It

may also be looked upon as a type of Christ's taking upon him

the nature of man, and the union between the Divine and human

nature. The death of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, cannot break the

covenant relation between God and them. Our Saviour by this

proves the future state, #Mt 22:31|. Abraham is dead, yet God is

still his God, therefore Abraham is still alive. Now, this is

that life and immortality which are brought to light by the

gospel. Stephen here shows that Moses was an eminent type of

Christ, as he was Israel's deliverer. God has compassion for the

troubles of his church, and the groans of his persecuted people;

and their deliverance takes rise from his pity. And that

deliverance was typical of what Christ did, when, for us men,

and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. This Jesus,

whom they now refused, as their fathers did Moses, even this

same has God advanced to be a Prince and Saviour. It does not at

all take from the just honour of Moses to say, that he was but

an instrument, and that he is infinitely outshone by Jesus. In

asserting that Jesus should change the customs of the ceremonial

law. Stephen was so far from blaspheming Moses, that really he

honoured him, by showing how the prophecy of Moses was come to

pass, which was so clear. God who gave them those customs by his

servant Moses, might, no doubt, change the custom by his Son

Jesus. But Israel thrust Moses from them, and would have

returned to their bondage; so men in general will not obey

Jesus, because they love this present evil world, and rejoice in

their own works and devices.
42-50 Stephen upbraids the Jews with the idolatry of their

fathers, to which God gave them up as a punishment for their

early forsaking him. It was no dishonour, but an honour to God,

that the tabernacle gave way to the temple; so it is now, that

the earthly temple gives way to the spiritual one; and so it

will be when, at last, the spiritual shall give way to the

eternal one. The whole world is God's temple, in which he is

every where present, and fills it with his glory; what occasion

has he then for a temple to manifest himself in? And these

things show his eternal power and Godhead. But as heaven is his

throne, and the earth his footstool, so none of our services can

profit Him who made all things. Next to the human nature of

Christ, the broken and spiritual heart is his most valued

51-53 Stephen was going on, it seems, to show that the temple

and the temple service must come to an end, and it would be the

glory of both to give way to the worship of the Father in spirit

and in truth; but he perceived they would not bear it. Therefore

he broke off, and by the Spirit of wisdom, courage, and power,

sharply rebuked his persecutors. When plain arguments and truths

provoke the opposers of the gospel, they should be shown their

guilt and danger. They, like their fathers, were stubborn and

wilful. There is that in our sinful hearts, which always resists

the Holy Ghost, a flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and wars

against his motions; but in the hearts of God's elect, when the

fulness of time comes, this resistance is overcome. The gospel

was offered now, not by angels, but from the Holy Ghost; yet

they did not embrace it, for they were resolved not to comply

with God, either in his law or in his gospel. Their guilt stung

them to the heart, and they sought relief in murdering their

reprover, instead of sorrow and supplication for mercy.
54-60 Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so

encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right

hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there.

Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. Our

Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to

trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has

been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die.

Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was very

great, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would not

lay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as ever

any man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fell

asleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as much

composure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake again

in the morning of the resurrection, to be received into the

presence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share the

pleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.
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