Acts 8

* Saul persecutes the church. (1-4) Philip's success at Samaria.

Simon the sorcerer baptized. (5-13) The hypocrisy of Simon

detected. (14-25) Philip and the Ethiopian. (26-40)

1-4 Though persecution must not drive us from our work, yet it

may send us to work elsewhere. Wherever the established believer

is driven, he carries the knowledge of the gospel, and makes

known the preciousness of Christ in every place. Where a simple

desire of doing good influences the heart, it will be found

impossible to shut a man out from all opportunities of

5-13 As far as the gospel prevails, evil spirits are dislodged,

particularly unclean spirits. All inclinations to the lusts of

the flesh which war against the soul are such. Distempers are

here named, the most difficult to be cured by the course of

nature, and most expressive of the disease of sin. Pride,

ambition, and desire after grandeur have always caused abundance

of mischief, both to the world and to the church. The people

said of Simon, This man is the great power of God. See how

ignorant and thoughtless people mistake. But how strong is the

power of Divine grace, by which they were brought to Christ, who

is Truth itself! The people not only gave heed to what Philip

said, but were fully convinced that it was of God, and not of

men, and gave up themselves to be directed thereby. Even bad

men, and those whose hearts still go after covetousness, may

come before God as his people come, and for a time continue with

them. And many wonder at the proofs of Divine truths, who never

experience their power. The gospel preached may have a common

operation upon a soul, where it never produced inward holiness.

All are not savingly converted who profess to believe the

14-25 The Holy Ghost was as yet fallen upon none of these

coverts, in the extraordinary powers conveyed by the descent of

the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. We may take encouragement

from this example, in praying to God to give the renewing graces

of the Holy Ghost to all for whose spiritual welfare we are

concerned; for that includes all blessings. No man can give the

Holy Spirit by the laying on of his hands; but we should use our

best endeavours to instruct those for whom we pray. Simon Magus

was ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but cared not at

all to have the spirit and disposition of a Christian. He was

more desirous to gain honour to himself, than to do good to

others. Peter shows him his crime. He esteemed the wealth of

this world, as if it would answer for things relating to the

other life, and would purchase the pardon of sin, the gift of

the Holy Ghost, and eternal life. This was such a condemning

error as could by no means consist with a state of grace. Our

hearts are what they are in the sight of God, who cannot be

deceived. And if they are not right in his sight, our religion

is vain, and will stand us in no stead. A proud and covetous

heart cannot be right with God. It is possible for a man to

continue under the power of sin, yet to put on a form of

godliness. When tempted with money to do evil, see what a

perishing thing money is, and scorn it. Think not that

Christianity is a trade to live by in this world. There is much

wickedness in the thought of the heart, its false notions, and

corrupt affections, and wicked projects, which must be repented

of, or we are undone. But it shall be forgiven, upon our

repentance. The doubt here is of the sincerity of Simon's

repentance, not of his pardon, if his repentance was sincere.

Grant us, Lord, another sort of faith than that which made Simon

wonder only, and did not sanctify his heart. May we abhor all

thoughts of making religion serve the purposes of pride or

ambition. And keep us from that subtle poison of spiritual

pride, which seeks glory to itself even from humility. May we

seek only the honour which cometh from God.
26-40 Philip was directed to go to a desert. Sometimes God

opens a door of opportunity to his ministers in very unlikely

places. We should study to do good to those we come into company

with by travelling. We should not be so shy of all strangers as

some affect to be. As to those of whom we know nothing else, we

know this, that they have souls. It is wisdom for men of

business to redeem time for holy duties; to fill up every minute

with something which will turn to a good account. In reading the

word of God, we should often pause, to inquire of whom and of

what the sacred writers spake; but especially our thoughts

should be employed about the Redeemer. The Ethiopian was

convinced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, of the exact

fulfilment of the Scripture, was made to understand the nature

of the Messiah's kingdom and salvation, and desired to be

numbered among the disciples of Christ. Those who seek the

truth, and employ their time in searching the Scriptures, will

be sure to reap advantages. The avowal of the Ethiopian must be

understood as expressing simple reliance on Christ for

salvation, and unreserved devotion to Him. Let us not be

satisfied till we get faith, as the Ethiopian did, by diligent

study of the Holy Scriptures, and the teaching of the Spirit of

God; let us not be satisfied till we get it fixed as a principle

in our hearts. As soon as he was baptized, the Spirit of God

took Philip from him, so that he saw him no more; but this

tended to confirm his faith. When the inquirer after salvation

becomes acquainted with Jesus and his gospel, he will go on his

way rejoicing, and will fill up his station in society, and

discharge his duties, from other motives, and in another manner

than heretofore. Though baptized in the name of the Father, Son,

and Holy Ghost, with water, it is not enough without the baptism

of the Holy Ghost. Lord, grant this to every one of us; then

shall we go on our way rejoicing.
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