Acts 8* Saul persecutes the church. (1-4) Philip's success at Samaria.Simon the sorcerer baptized. (5-13) The hypocrisy of Simondetected. (14-25) Philip and the Ethiopian. (26-40)1-4 Though persecution must not drive us from our work, yet itmay send us to work elsewhere. Wherever the established believeris driven, he carries the knowledge of the gospel, and makesknown the preciousness of Christ in every place. Where a simpledesire of doing good influences the heart, it will be foundimpossible to shut a man out from all opportunities ofusefulness. 5-13 As far as the gospel prevails, evil spirits are dislodged,particularly unclean spirits. All inclinations to the lusts ofthe flesh which war against the soul are such. Distempers arehere named, the most difficult to be cured by the course ofnature, and most expressive of the disease of sin. Pride,ambition, and desire after grandeur have always caused abundanceof mischief, both to the world and to the church. The peoplesaid of Simon, This man is the great power of God. See howignorant and thoughtless people mistake. But how strong is thepower of Divine grace, by which they were brought to Christ, whois Truth itself! The people not only gave heed to what Philipsaid, but were fully convinced that it was of God, and not ofmen, and gave up themselves to be directed thereby. Even badmen, and those whose hearts still go after covetousness, maycome before God as his people come, and for a time continue withthem. And many wonder at the proofs of Divine truths, who neverexperience their power. The gospel preached may have a commonoperation upon a soul, where it never produced inward holiness.All are not savingly converted who profess to believe thegospel. 14-25 The Holy Ghost was as yet fallen upon none of thesecoverts, in the extraordinary powers conveyed by the descent ofthe Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. We may take encouragementfrom this example, in praying to God to give the renewing gracesof the Holy Ghost to all for whose spiritual welfare we areconcerned; for that includes all blessings. No man can give theHoly Spirit by the laying on of his hands; but we should use ourbest endeavours to instruct those for whom we pray. Simon Maguswas ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but cared not atall to have the spirit and disposition of a Christian. He wasmore desirous to gain honour to himself, than to do good toothers. Peter shows him his crime. He esteemed the wealth ofthis world, as if it would answer for things relating to theother life, and would purchase the pardon of sin, the gift ofthe Holy Ghost, and eternal life. This was such a condemningerror as could by no means consist with a state of grace. Ourhearts are what they are in the sight of God, who cannot bedeceived. And if they are not right in his sight, our religionis vain, and will stand us in no stead. A proud and covetousheart cannot be right with God. It is possible for a man tocontinue under the power of sin, yet to put on a form ofgodliness. When tempted with money to do evil, see what aperishing thing money is, and scorn it. Think not thatChristianity is a trade to live by in this world. There is muchwickedness in the thought of the heart, its false notions, andcorrupt affections, and wicked projects, which must be repentedof, or we are undone. But it shall be forgiven, upon ourrepentance. The doubt here is of the sincerity of Simon'srepentance, not of his pardon, if his repentance was sincere.Grant us, Lord, another sort of faith than that which made Simonwonder only, and did not sanctify his heart. May we abhor allthoughts of making religion serve the purposes of pride orambition. And keep us from that subtle poison of spiritualpride, which seeks glory to itself even from humility. May weseek only the honour which cometh from God. 26-40 Philip was directed to go to a desert. Sometimes Godopens a door of opportunity to his ministers in very unlikelyplaces. We should study to do good to those we come into companywith by travelling. We should not be so shy of all strangers assome affect to be. As to those of whom we know nothing else, weknow this, that they have souls. It is wisdom for men ofbusiness to redeem time for holy duties; to fill up every minutewith something which will turn to a good account. In reading theword of God, we should often pause, to inquire of whom and ofwhat the sacred writers spake; but especially our thoughtsshould be employed about the Redeemer. The Ethiopian wasconvinced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, of the exactfulfilment of the Scripture, was made to understand the natureof the Messiah's kingdom and salvation, and desired to benumbered among the disciples of Christ. Those who seek thetruth, and employ their time in searching the Scriptures, willbe sure to reap advantages. The avowal of the Ethiopian must beunderstood as expressing simple reliance on Christ forsalvation, and unreserved devotion to Him. Let us not besatisfied till we get faith, as the Ethiopian did, by diligentstudy of the Holy Scriptures, and the teaching of the Spirit ofGod; let us not be satisfied till we get it fixed as a principlein our hearts. As soon as he was baptized, the Spirit of Godtook Philip from him, so that he saw him no more; but thistended to confirm his faith. When the inquirer after salvationbecomes acquainted with Jesus and his gospel, he will go on hisway rejoicing, and will fill up his station in society, anddischarge his duties, from other motives, and in another mannerthan heretofore. Though baptized in the name of the Father, Son,and Holy Ghost, with water, it is not enough without the baptismof the Holy Ghost. Lord, grant this to every one of us; thenshall we go on our way rejoicing.
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