Acts 7* Stephen's defence. (1-50) Stephen reproves the Jews for thedeath of Christ. (51-53) The martyrdom of Stephen. (54-60)1-16 Stephen was charged as a blasphemer of God, and anapostate from the church; therefore he shows that he is a son ofAbraham, and values himself on it. The slow steps by which thepromise made to Abraham advanced toward performance, plainlyshow that it had a spiritual meaning, and that the land intendedwas the heavenly. God owned Joseph in his troubles, and was withhim by the power of his Spirit, both on his own mind by givinghim comfort, and on those he was concerned with, by giving himfavour in their eyes. Stephen reminds the Jews of their meanbeginning as a check to priding themselves in the glories ofthat nation. Likewise of the wickedness of the patriarchs oftheir tribes, in envying their brother Joseph; and the samespirit was still working in them toward Christ and hisministers. The faith of the patriarchs, in desiring to be buriedin the land of Canaan, plainly showed they had regard to theheavenly country. It is well to recur to the first rise ofusages, or sentiments, which have been perverted. Would we knowthe nature and effects of justifying faith, we should study thecharacter of the father of the faithful. His calling shows thepower and freeness of Divine grace, and the nature ofconversion. Here also we see that outward forms and distinctionsare as nothing, compared with separation from the world, anddevotedness to God. 17-29 Let us not be discouraged at the slowness of thefulfilling of God's promises. Suffering times often are growingtimes with the church. God is preparing for his people'sdeliverance, when their day is darkest, and their distressdeepest. Moses was exceeding fair, "fair toward God;" it is thebeauty of holiness which is in God's sight of great price. Hewas wonderfully preserved in his infancy; for God will takespecial care of those of whom he designs to make special use.And did he thus protect the child Moses? Much more will hesecure the interests of his holy child Jesus, from the enemieswho are gathered together against him. They persecuted Stephenfor disputing in defence of Christ and his gospel: in oppositionto these they set up Moses and his law. They may understand, ifthey do not wilfully shut their eyes against the light, that Godwill, by this Jesus, deliver them out of a worse slavery thanthat of Egypt. Although men prolong their own miseries, yet theLord will take care of his servants, and effect his own designsof mercy. 30-41 Men deceive themselves, if they think God cannot do whathe sees to be good any where; he can bring his people into awilderness, and there speak comfortably to them. He appeared toMoses in a flame of fire, yet the bush was not consumed; whichrepresented the state of Israel in Egypt, where, though theywere in the fire of affliction, yet they were not consumed. Itmay also be looked upon as a type of Christ's taking upon himthe nature of man, and the union between the Divine and humannature. The death of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, cannot break thecovenant relation between God and them. Our Saviour by thisproves the future state, #Mt 22:31|. Abraham is dead, yet God isstill his God, therefore Abraham is still alive. Now, this isthat life and immortality which are brought to light by thegospel. Stephen here shows that Moses was an eminent type ofChrist, as he was Israel's deliverer. God has compassion for thetroubles of his church, and the groans of his persecuted people;and their deliverance takes rise from his pity. And thatdeliverance 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 thissame has God advanced to be a Prince and Saviour. It does not atall take from the just honour of Moses to say, that he was butan instrument, and that he is infinitely outshone by Jesus. Inasserting that Jesus should change the customs of the ceremoniallaw. Stephen was so far from blaspheming Moses, that really hehonoured him, by showing how the prophecy of Moses was come topass, which was so clear. God who gave them those customs by hisservant Moses, might, no doubt, change the custom by his SonJesus. But Israel thrust Moses from them, and would havereturned to their bondage; so men in general will not obeyJesus, because they love this present evil world, and rejoice intheir own works and devices. 42-50 Stephen upbraids the Jews with the idolatry of theirfathers, to which God gave them up as a punishment for theirearly forsaking him. It was no dishonour, but an honour to God,that the tabernacle gave way to the temple; so it is now, thatthe earthly temple gives way to the spiritual one; and so itwill be when, at last, the spiritual shall give way to theeternal one. The whole world is God's temple, in which he isevery where present, and fills it with his glory; what occasionhas he then for a temple to manifest himself in? And thesethings show his eternal power and Godhead. But as heaven is histhrone, and the earth his footstool, so none of our services canprofit Him who made all things. Next to the human nature ofChrist, the broken and spiritual heart is his most valuedtemple. 51-53 Stephen was going on, it seems, to show that the templeand the temple service must come to an end, and it would be theglory of both to give way to the worship of the Father in spiritand in truth; but he perceived they would not bear it. Thereforehe broke off, and by the Spirit of wisdom, courage, and power,sharply rebuked his persecutors. When plain arguments and truthsprovoke the opposers of the gospel, they should be shown theirguilt and danger. They, like their fathers, were stubborn andwilful. There is that in our sinful hearts, which always resiststhe Holy Ghost, a flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and warsagainst his motions; but in the hearts of God's elect, when thefulness of time comes, this resistance is overcome. The gospelwas offered now, not by angels, but from the Holy Ghost; yetthey did not embrace it, for they were resolved not to complywith God, either in his law or in his gospel. Their guilt stungthem to the heart, and they sought relief in murdering theirreprover, instead of sorrow and supplication for mercy. 54-60 Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or soencouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the righthand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there.Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. OurLord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are totrust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this hasbeen our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die.Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was verygreat, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would notlay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as everany man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fellasleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as muchcomposure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake againin the morning of the resurrection, to be received into thepresence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share thepleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.
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