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2. There are many instances related in the Scriptures, in which the truth of that text may be seen, 66 surely the wrath of man shall praise thee,-the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain" (Psa. lxxvi. 10); but perhaps none are more striking than that recorded in this portion. God permitted that the hatred of the Jewish rulers should appear to have its own way; while in fact it was only the means by which the will of the Lord was accomplished, in extending the preaching of the gospel, to the praise of His glory in the conversion of souls. The wrath of man was allowed to go forth, so far as its progress conduced to God's praise; but all the excess of rage that remained in the heart beyond that degree of it was restrained from power, and the very restraint contributed to promote the praise. Thus the violence of the Sanhedrim could not extend to take the lives of the apostles; who, though the most prominent of Christ's disciples, remained in the midst of the danger, magnifying the grace of God by which they were supported :—and while Saul was persecuting the Lord's people, his extreme enmity was restrained by his conversion. The same principle may be seen in all the dealings of God, when permitting even the smallest degree of persecution to any of his people; every inquiry may be made the means of glorifying his grace and power. It is the wisdom of those who are suffering for religion's sake, to watch for the special occasions of giving glory to God, which the circumstances of their trial may produce; under the assurance that when the purposed praise of the Lord shall have been accomplished through the suffering, the remainder of man's wrath will be restrained.
When I am exposed to inconvenience and distress, through the angry opposition which my religious convictions may produce, do I seek to turn the circumstances into an occasion for promoting the glory of God?
3. There is a contrast brought before the mind by the statements in the second and the third verses of this chapter, which shews the boldness given by the Spirit of Christ, by the side of the boldness that belongs to the spirit of the world. The devout men who performed the
office of burying Stephen with all due respect, even in the midst of such a storm of rage as was then just let loose upon all who professed the faith of Jesus, were bold indeed in venturing to stand forward at such a time for such a purpose. They must have been supported by the power of the Spirit in fulfilling this duty of christian love. The conduct of Saul was bold also; but it was rather the cowardly boldness which seizes the opportunity of gratifying personal passion when the power happens to be within reach, without any present risk of personal danger. It is easy to be bold in oppressing the weak, and in injuring those who are unable to offer resistance; but it is not easy publicly to do an act of duty which is very likely to produce the painful results of suffering and contempt: and this is rendered still more difficult, when such reasons might be assigned for leaving the duty undone as might justify the tendency to act rather on the safer side. Such was the case with respect to the burial of Stephen. If the worst possible consequence had resulted to his body, and it had been exposed to insult, or torn to pieces, a timid christian might have considered that his soul was beyond the reach of his enemies, who could thus injure none but themselves. Such reasoning however did not influence the conduct of his brethren in Christ Jesus, whose affectionate boldness made them brave death themselves, rather than fail in that which was felt to be a pious duty to Stephen and to the church.
In my christian profession am I only bold and faithful when no bad consequences are likely to result to myself from my faithfulness? or am I rather anxious to allow my sense of duty to overcome timid reasonings, even with the risk of personal inconvenience?
4. From the conduct of the first christians in preaching the Gospel only to the Jews, and even amongst them only to a particular class, we may gather a painful lesson as to the inveterate nature of party spirit when it is once established in the human heart. The gospel expresses the largeness and freeness of God's love of the world, in giving his own son to die for sinners; but that this love should
reach beyond the limit of his covenant with Abraham as understood by his children was a thought which could not find its way into the heart of a Jew; and we shall see that it required a new manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit to force its entrance into hearts so narrowed. Such a lesson should not be lost upon us, since we have to struggle against the same inveterate nature, and to concur with the Holy Spirit in dispossessing us of hearts equally prone to narrowness and party spirit.
Do I act as if I supposed that any particular opinions or disabilities take persons out of the influence of that Gospel of love which I profess to believe, and which it is my duty to communicate to others?
Thou holy God, who art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, have mercy upon me, and keep me ever from the power of evil in my natural heart. Check, controul, restrain the uprisings of sin within me; and by thy providence so order the circumstances around me, that no occasion may be given for the indulgence of my evil passions with impunity. Enable me to discover how thou workest thine own will, even by the instrumentality of wicked men; and teach me to recognize thy mercy in permitting those trials which I feel it hard to bear. Endue me with christian courage to manifest my love to the Lord Jesus, and to his people, even when there may be danger of painful results; and keep me from the boldness of conscious power in following evil. Enlarge my heart, that its love may extend even wherever thy love has extended, in giving thine own Son to die for the sins of the world; and let me not think any to be excluded from the blessings of the gospel whom thou hast not excluded in the largeness of thy love to the whole world in Jesus Christ our Saviour. AMEN.
The Gospel preached to the Samaritans. PLACE.-Samaria.
TIME.-About May, A.D. 37.
May God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me the Holy Spirit, that I may understand this portion of His Holy Word, and profit by it. AMEN.
ACTs, chap. VIII. verses 5 to 25.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ 6 unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things 7 which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were posssessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, 8,9 were healed. And there was great joy in that city. 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 10 some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, 11 saying, "This man is the great power of God." 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 king
dom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both 13 men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs, [signs and great miracles,] which were done.
14 Now when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might 16 receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them : 17 only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they 18 their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost 19 was given, he offered them money, saying, "Give me also this power, 20 that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost." But
Peter said unto him, "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast 21 thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter for thy heart is not right in the sight 22 of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if 23 perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." 24 Then answered Simon, and said, "Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none
of these things which ye have spoken come upon me." And they, when 25 they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
When so many of the disciples of Christ were driven into distant lands by the persecution against them at Jerusalem, Philip, one of the seven Deacons recently appointed (chap. vi. 1-5), went to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed the gospel of Christ to the people there. Great attention was given to his preaching, and there was a general consent to his doctrine, when the people saw the miracles by which he established the truth of what he taught. These were of the same kind as had been wrought by our Lord himself: many persons under the influence of evil spirits were relieved from their power, the spirits making them cry violently when they left them; a number of palsied persons were cured, and many lame persons had the use of their limbs. This was so general, that it occasioned great rejoicing throughout the place.
There lived in that city a man of the name of Simon, who at the time of Philip's arrival had been in the habit of practising the magic art; (for which reason he has been called Simon Magus, that is, the Magician). He had bewildered the minds of the Samaritans by his cunning; and pretended to be some important person. The deluded people of all classes were accustomed to consider him as greater even than he claimed to be, and looked upon him as exercising the power of God: so great was his influence, that he could do what he liked with them, as he had been very long exercising his magical devices amongst them. But though the gospel had to contend in the hearts of the Samaritans with so deeply-rooted an influence for evil, yet it completely triumphed; for as soon as they believed the doctrine taught by Philip, respecting the kingdom of God's grace and glory, and the power of Jesus Christ, both men and women gave up their adherence to the sorcery of Simon, and were received by baptism into the Church of Christ.
When Simon perceived the effect of this new preaching, he himself joined the Church: making a profession of