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of Judea and Samaria. Thus the persecution, as we shall see, instead of crushing the infant church, tended to strengthen and enlarge it; and added another to the numerous instances in which "the wrath of man" is made, under providential direction, to minister to the praise of God.
2. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house; and haling men and women committed them to prison.
4. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
Thus God's gracious purpose was promoted even by the enmity which persecuted these first believers. To whatever place or country they fled, where their connexions might be settled, or they might find a refuge among friends—wherever protection was offered them, they made a return of infinite value: they told the glad tidings of redemption; they spoke of what God had done; how he had remembered his people Israel, and fulfilled the promises which had kept them so long in expectation. And they would explain the evidence on which they had themselves received this truth; the facts which confirmed it; and how, rather than renounce the faith which they had embraced, and forfeit the peace which it had brought them, they had left their country, and their homes, and all that was dearest to them in the world, "looking for a better country, an inheritance eternal in the heavens." They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.
And this, not by a direct commission.2 The apostles did not, as in other cases, set them apart for the work, and lay their hands upon them, and send them forth with fasting and prayer. Such a commission would not be given to the general body of believers. The influencing motive was in themselves; in their own hearts. They had received the truth, the great truth, that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself:'' that as there is, on the one hand, "no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;" so likewise, there is salvation in no other: "for there is no other name under heaven given amongst men, whereby we must be saved."
This truth they had themselves received; and because they had received it, they were now scattered abroad, driven from their homes.
Though, therefore, they had no express commission, like the apostles; they had feelings like the apostles; like them, they "could not but speak the things which they had seen and heard." For they would find their friends, to whom they had come, in the very state from which they had been themselves so recently delivered: that state described by St. Paul, "resting in the law,3 and making
2 This evidently appears from the circumstances of the case, and is implied by the phrase used both here and in Acts xi. 20, evayyeki&fievoi rdv \6yov, carrying the word of glad tidings. Hammond has an elaborate note to this effect.
3 Romans xi. 17, &c.
their boast of God, but through breaking the law dishonouring God:" "going about to establish their own righteousness, and ignorant of God's righteousness:"4 depending upon ordinances and ceremonies, which were merely a lifeless form; with none of the temper and disposition which belongs to the kingdom of heaven: not poor in spirit: not pure in heart: not meek: not merciful: but proud, unholy, sensual, uncharitable. Such was the general character of the Jewish people, as it appears disclosed in the New Testament. Such, then, would be the character of those friends and connexions among whom the Christians had taken refuge, who were now scattered abroad. And surely there was great reason why they should preach the word among these, and tell them of that blood by which "all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses:" should tell them of that Spirit which is able to "turn the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just;" and to renew them in righteousness and true holiness, "after the image of him that created them."
Doubtless, they might have failed to do this. It is easier to go with the stream, and to suffer others to be carried down it, than to encounter and resist its force. And these might have followed the smoother path, and have allowed others to remain undisturbed in their errors, if the Spirit of God had not been strong within them, if the love of 4 Romans x. '6.
Christ had not powerfully constrained them. But they were thus constrained; and, therefore, they went everywhere preaching the word; declaring, that God had visited his people; had rememhered his mercy, and fulfilled the promise made to Abraham; that their eyes had seen his salvation.
It is, in fact, one of the divine properties of the christian faith, that it contains within itself a provision by which it is diffused and extended. Its seed is in itself. The Christian loves his Saviour, and therefore is zealous for his glory. That glory is promoted when his religion is extended; therefore the Christian is zealous in extending it. The Christian also has an interest in all his fellow. creatures. These are benefited, inestimably benefited, when they are brought to the faith of Christ; and, therefore, the Christian is anxious to bring them over to that faith.
And the same principle which led these first disciples to make known the tidings of the gospel, wherever they were scattered abroad, will operate in every disciple in every age and place. He will not be silent or unconcerned when those among whom he may be cast, in his family or in his neighbourhood, are ignorant or careless of truths, which have made him "wise unto salvation." He will both desire and endeavour to lead others into ways, which he knows to be ways of "joy and peace:" and, still further, which he knows to be the only ways of safety to the soul.
THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED SUCCESSFULLY IN SAMARIA: AND IS RECEIVED BY THE MAGICIAN, SIMON.—A.d. 33.
Acts viii. 5—25.
5. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. , ,.\
6. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
7. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
8. And there was great joy in that city.
9. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
10. To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
11. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
12. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
1 The apostles remained at Jerusalem. This, therefore, was not the apostle Philip, but the deacon.