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faith, he was baptized; and thus admitted, he became a constant follower of Philip, being now bewildered and astonished at the miracles wrought by him, just as the Samaritans had been before with the magical devices he himself had used; (the same word is used in the Greek for what was called in the ninth verse“ bewitched,” and here “wondered”). Most probably le imagined Philip to be a magician like himself, but one who so far exceeded his own powers, as to make him at a loss to know how he could produce by art such wonderful effects as sprung from the divine power imparted to Philip.
The apostles, who were continuing at Jerusalem in spite of the persecution of their enemies, were soon informed that the people of Samaria had become disciples of the gospel of Christ; and immediately they deputed two of their number to visit the infant church, to encourage and strengthen the new disciples : the two apostles who went upon this mission were Peter and John. On arriving at Samaria they found that, though the people who were converted had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet no such evident manifestations of the presence of the Holy Ghost had appeared amongst them, as had been bestowed upon former occasions. (Acts ii. 4, 43 ; iv. 31.) The apostles therefore prayed that the Holy Spirit might thus be given to them, and then they laid their hands upon the disciples; who accordingly received the Holy Ghost in the same manner as had occurred before, of which plain tokens were afforded at the time.
Simon, who had been so astonished at the power of the miracles performed by Philip, was now still more struck with the effect produced by the laying on of the hands of the two apostles. He still entertained the notion that the procuring of the manifestation of the Holy Ghost was a power of the same kind as that to which he had so long pretended; and he offered to give Peter and John a sum of money, if they would convey to him a power like that which they seemed to possess, so that he might be able to lay his hands on persous for the Holy Spirit to come
Peter replied with an indignant reproof. He told him that his perishing money would bring his soul to destruction, since he imagined that the peculiar gift of God was to be obtained by money. It was plain that Simon had nothing at all to do with the power of the gospel, for his heart was double--not sincere in the sight of God. Peter bid him repent of his great offence, and give himself to prayer to God, to see if it were possible that the wicked device of his heart might be pardoned; for Peter told him he saw that he was among the christians at Samaria, like an idolatrous person among the Jews, “a root that beareth gall and wormwood” (Deut. xxix. 18); and that, though outwardly baptized, he was still inwardly a bond slave under the power of unrighteousness.
Simon was alarmed at these fearful rebukes; and asked the apostles to pray to the Lord on his behalf, entreating that the terrible things which Peter had spoken might not come upon him. Unhappily the account which has been given by the earliest christian writers of this man's subsequent life, too plainly proves that all the Apostle said about his miserable condition was fully verified.
After having established a good evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit, and explained the truth of Jesus Christ at Samaria, Peter and John went back to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to the inhabitants of many Samaritan villages which lay in their road.
1. We have seen that the christian Jews had hitherto kept the knowledge of the Gospel amongst those of their own nation, and even amongst a particular class of them. Here however we find that it is extended to another nation, one step removed beyond the limits of Jewish privileges, and yet not considered by the Jews in the same light as the Gentiles, who had no mixture of the blood of Abraham, and were in the Jewish mind entirely excluded from the Abrahamic covenant. The Apostles did not disavow this act of Philip, sanctioned as it was by the success with which God had been pleased to bless it; though the surprize and objection expressed by them afterwards upon the conversion of the gentile Cornelius (Acts xi. 1–4, 18), shews that they were still unprepared for the general admission of all nations to the offer of salvation by Christ. This gradual extension of the Gospel blessings is one proof of the tenderness with which God treats even the prejudices and mistakes of his people, when they are sincere and really entertained for his honour, as were the jewish feelings of the Apostles. “ He knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are but dust;" and in requiring of us to return from the wanderings of our own ways, he allows us time, and leads us gradually by gentle ascents when a more abrupt road would drive us back. This should affect us so as to produce the greater readiness in giving up all the narrow prejudices that too often stand in our way in promoting his glory.
QUESTION. Do I readily allow my mind to receive the conviction that I may be wrong in opinions I yet hold, arising from the remembrance that I have been wrong in opinions I once held?
2. Philip must have been specially directed by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to the people of Samaria : for according to human wisdom, it would have seemed a work of greater difficulty to oppose the established influence of the magician Simon, than to have gone to a people living only in ordinary habits of idolatry or worldliness : yet his preaching was singularly successful. The conversion of the soul is a work to be done “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord; and the history of the planting of the gospel amongst many nations of the earth has taught the same lesson to the pride of man's understanding that may be gathered from this first missionary work in the city of Samaria. There is no greater likelihood of the conversion of one set of people than of another-all are equally averse by nature to the gospel-salvation, and each that receives the gospel must be equally drawn to Christ by the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit. Under the teaching of this truth however, we may observe from experience, that the more distinctly defined the principles of evil may have become in any mind, the more plainly the principles of gospel truth oppose them, and therefore leave no alternative but a decided choice of the one or of the other. It appears that in the midst of all the delusion through which the Samaritans were “ bewitched,” there was a simple-hearted sincerity in them,
that was drawn by the Holy Spirit to accept the truth, and therefore to give up falsehood. How different was this from the case of Simon, whose “heart was not right in the sight of God:” the application of his case we must consider separately.
Is my heart sincere in holding the opinions I do? and am I fully persuaded in my own mind that they are conformable to the truth of the Gospel, and opposed to the falsehood of worldly principles ?
3. The case of Simon is most instructive in its application to the less manifest devices, not of sorcery, but of worldliness in its mode of dealing with the religion of the gospel. To worldly minds, the results of a holy walk and conversation in the professors of spiritual religion (when observed so that they cannot be denied), seem but higher attainments of the art by which they have themselves endeavoured for a long time to make their neighbours believe that they were some great ones;" —performing certain evident duties, and some occasional acts of display in goodness, which establish for them a character that their conduct is as the
of God.” It not unfrequently happens that the example of real spiritual christians induces some worldly people to adopt the profession of spiritual religion, and to strive after the same outward standard of conduct that is raised by the true children of God; but they go the wrong way to work, as Simon did, because they do not know that the power of holiness is the gift of the Spirit of God, and they attempt to produce the same results without Him. When these efforts are directed to lead others into the same delusion, and when self-mortification is exercised in order to attain to high advancement by that means (like the meritorious fasting of the Pharisees and Romanists, and the purchase of pardons by penance and large almsgiving), then it is evident that it is supposed that the gift of God may be obtained upon the same principle as Simon imagined, when he offered money to the apostles for the purchase of their power. The mind
however be deceived and led into such a state as this, without the existence of hypocrisy, or at least
without being conscious of having put on a false appearance of religion in the beginning; yet the mixing amongst the people of God, as being such—the assuming the character of a spiritual christian without dependance upon the Holy Spirit for grace, seems to expose a person to the danger at least of finding that his heart is not right before God. This was the point of difference between Simon and his followers :—they compared evil with good and turned, as their hearts were convinced that what they had believed was evil, and what was now offered to them was goodtheir hearts were sincere. Simon, on the contrary retained his own notions of the benefit of his art; and valuing the gospel as a means of improvement in it, he professed to believe while his heart was unchanged on the great principle of gospel truth—the spiritual nature of divine grace in Christ : his heart therefore was not right in the sight of God-it was not sincere; therefore he had no part nor lot in the matter of salvation by the word of God. the turning point in his case :-with how many others will it also prove in the day of account to have been the turning
my heart right in the sight of God? Does He perceive that while I profess to be a sinner, I feel that I am so ?--that while I profess to depend solely on his grace, I do not in reality rest on the merit of my own works for salvation?—that while I deny myself in some of my conduct apparently for Christ's sake, I do not consider my selfdenial as purchasing that which can only be the gift of the Holy Spirit ?
4. But was not Simon sorry for his fault? Alas ! how many a reprobate sinner, loving his sin and hating the power that will not tolerate it, has under reproof cried to a christian-Oh
pray for me, that what you say may not happen to me!' This was all that Simon said; while Peter had told him to give himself to prayer, and to turn away from his wickedness. To ask for the prayers of Peter, and for the turning away of just punishment was no echo to the call for his own prayers, and for the turning away from the cause of punishment. Yet such is often