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50.

Hath not my hand made all

these things?

In this sublime language the Deity, by the prophet Isaiah, expresses his universal presence, and declares that the manifestation of his perfections cannot be limited to any place. This quotation was very properly made by Stephen, in order to convey to the Jews this useful admonition, that they set too high a value upon their temple, when they supposed that God could be worshipped in no other place. Having now given a brief account of the dispensations of God to his countrymen, and shown how ill they behaved under them, he proceeds to reproach the Sanhedrim, in very severe but just terms, with imitating the conduct of their ancestors.

51.

Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did so do ye.

These are figurative or metaphorical terms, borrowed by Stephen from the Old Testament, to express the perverse and wicked spirit of the Jews. To be uncircumcised, was a reproach among that people, and therefore this term, like other terms of that nature, came in course of time to be applied to the disposition as well as the person. To be uncircumcised in heart and ears, is to refuse to hear the divine commands, or, when heard, to obey them. With this crime the Jews were justly chargeable, for rejecting Jesus of Nazareth, who came to them with a divine commission; and in doing this they copied but too closely the wicked example of their ancestors.

52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One," of the just

man," of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers:

Jesus was put to death by Pilate the Roman go vernor; nevertheless, as it was done at the instigation of the Jews, and in opposition to his own judgment, repeatedly expressed, they might justly be called his betrayers and murderers. He is foretold by the prophet Isaiah, liii. 11. under the character of the righteous servant of God, and it is to him, probably, that Stephen refers, when he says that they slew those who foretold the coming of the Just One.

53.

Who have received the law by the disposition, by the ministrations, of angels, and have not kept it.

I have already had occasion to observe to you, in the course of this chapter, that the Jews called any instrument employed to execute the divine purposes, or to communicate the divine will, an angel, and that Stephen uses the term in this sense, when he calls the voice that spake to Moses from the bush, and from Sinai, an angel of God. In the same sense, the law may be said to be received by the ministration of angels, because it was communicated to the children of Israel, or to Moses, by these miraculous voices. To violate a law delivered to them in this extraordinary manner, was a great aggravation of their offence.

54% When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart; and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

55. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the son of man standing on the right hand of God.

This which Stephen saw was no real appearance, but merely a visionary representation, existing wholly within his own mind, intended to express the divine approbation of his present conduct, and to furnish him with fortitude for his approaching trial. He was now standing before the Jewish Sanhedrim, in a covered room, where the sky, probably, was not visible. We are told, indeed, that he looked towards heaven; but no more was meant by this than that he directed his eyes upwards. That it was a divine vision, is sufficiently intimated by its being said that he was full of the Holy Spirit, that is, abounded in miraculous communications; the very same phrase that is applied by Luke to Christ before the vision of the temptation in the wilderness. In this vision Stephen seemed to see some glorious symbol of the divine presence, and Jesus standing on, or at, the right hand of God. That one who had reproved them with so much severity for their vices should pretend to divine visions, was more than they could bear.

57.

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Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

58. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him:

This was an act of popular fury, without any legal conviction, and therefore in the highest degree dis. graceful to a court of justice.

And the witnesses, i. e. the false witnesses, upon whose accusation Stephen was

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brought to the council, laid their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

This is the first time that the name of this illustrious person occurs in this history, and on this occasion not much to his honour. He took care of the clothes of those who, with savage fury, put Stephen to death.

59. And they stoned Stephen, crying out, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, "receive my life."

The word God has been very improperly inserted in this verse in our translation, as it is not found in the original. Stephen, having just been favoured with a vision in which he saw Jesus, and retaining the impression of it still strong upon his mind, perhaps, still seeing him at the moment when he was dying, is naturally led to address him, requesting him to accept of his life, which he surrendered in his cause. But no argument can be adduced, from the extraordinary circumstances in which Stephen was at this time, for addressing prayers to Christ in general.

60. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge; and when he had said this he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting unto his death.

This was sufficiently evident from what was before said of his taking care of the clothes of the witThis sentence, which begins the next chap

nesses.

ter, ought to have closed the seventh.

REFLECTIONS.

1. Let us ever keep in mind the representation here given of the universal presence of the Deity. He cannot be confined to any place, much less to such places as men erect for addressing him. He resides at the same time in every part of the universe, and may be worshipped every where. To him every place is alike, nor are prayers or praises offered to him in one place more acceptable than those which are offered in another. If in former times he manifested himself in particular places only, it was not because his perfections were limited to them, but to accommodate himself to the weak conceptions of mortals. How venerable and awful is the Being who possesses this attribute of omnipresence! How infinitely exalted above human conceptions! Consider the works of God, and conceive, if you can, how great their number, how vast their extent; in them the Deity constantly resides, and manifests every where his vital energy. Stretch your thoughts beyond the visible creation, into boundless space, he follows you wherever you go, and exists beyond where your thoughts can penetrate. Who will presume to think that he can please such a Being by erecting a spacious temple for his worship, when the universe itself cannot contain him? Let us never approach him but with reverence, nor address him, where ever it may be, but with the profoundest awe.

2. The courage and intrepidity of Stephen deserve particular notice. We hear him charging the whole Jewish council with being the betrayers and murderers of the just one, a righteous man and eminent prophet. What could induce a private individual, standing alone and unprotected, to accuse his judges, who had his life in their hands, of so base a crime, when their conduct

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